Dune…yes you should read it

Hello boys and girls, today we are going to talk about Dune. For those of you asking yourself ‘What’s Dune’ or ‘What is this guy talking about?’ maybe even ‘Did he move to a desert?’….shoot yourself. Ok that was a little below the belt, that being said I am assuming most of you will be aware at least of the masterpiece that is Dune. Maybe you haven’t read it, but you will be aware of it.

So what is Dune? Yes it is a book and yes it is the first in a six book sci-fi series, but what ELSE is Dune? Well for one (correct at the time of writing) it is the best selling sci-fi book of all time, not many books can say that for themselves. It is also one man’s last ditch attempt to get published. The legend goes that there was no publisher willing to take on Dune as it was too long, too grand, too different. Then a small automotive book publisher said ‘yeah, why not’ and since then every other publishing house has probably been kicking themselves.

First released in 1966, Dune is truly a work of science fiction genius that, in my limited view, is yet to be rivalled by ANY other book in the same category. I will start with a brief sort of summary/review and my thoughts trying to steer clear of any spoilers. If I DO add any spoilers they will be towards the end and preceded by a warning. (But seriously if you haven’t read it…what are you still doing here? Go read it and then you can have you own opinion.)

Dune is complete at just over 528 pages in its 50th anniversary edition paperback reprint. It is by no means a short or easy read, but it is certainly worth the work. At it’s heart Dune is a story about a boy who has to become a man. Along his way he will see tragedy, love, war, defeat, victory, death, power…and maybe even the future. Born into a long unfolding prophecy, a strange chain of events thrusts him towards its centre with only one way out. He must accept his ‘fate’ and kick some serious ass.

A lot of people draw many things from the subtext of this book, things about past political situations with middle eastern countries. Environmental concerns, even in some peoples thoughts drug induced brain farts for inspiration. Above all else though, this book is a boys wet dream in novel form. A boy of 15 is essentially made out to be a God…he gets to fight, have essentially any woman of his choosing and ultimately *I cannot say because I promised no spoilers* something even cooler than all of that.

The first third of the book is largely scene setting and isn’t all that fast, but that’s ok in my opinion. Some books need that and this is one of those books. There are three major houses (not dissimilar to GOT in that regard) that we need to get to know. There are rules of the universe, reasons why technology has gone the way it has, reasons why war is fought the way it is. The spice needs to be explained, the prophecy needs some groundwork. Yes the opening isn’t jet fuelled adrenaline on speed, but it is needed. Once you get past this chunk you are rewarded. Not long after the Atredies family arrive on their new home of Arrakis the shit hits the fan and it is all guns blazing until the conclusion.

I have read the entire series and I would recommend that any fan of sci-fi epics does the same. If you cannot stomach a long series though, I would at least suggest you REALLY consider reading Dune as a standalone. Because of the series structure, with the possible exception of book two, you really can view this as a simply fantastic stand alone sci-fi war novel. Attach the rest of the series and it becomes a millennia spanning space opera of epic proportions.

I cannot put into words exactly WHAT I enjoyed so much about this book, but I did, and I think most of you would too. To paraphrase one of the characters of the lost boys ‘How can twenty billion sci-fi readers be wrong Michael?’

Ja Ne.

The Dark Tower, thoughts so far

Hello readers, internet people and the poor ones who stumbled upon this post completely accidentally. I welcome you all with equal vigour.

Today I thought I might write a little about my thoughts so far on the Dark Tower series by Stephen King. I have previously written about The Gunslinger which is the first book, now however, I have finished the second and am making headway into the third. It seemed an appropriate time to revisit this wonderful little series. Well it isn’t little is it, it is seven books long and some of them are really rather big books, but I digress.

So, what has changed for me since I last wrote about this? Well the first book and the second book are really very different beasts. I greatly enjoyed the first book, though I didn’t feel it really had much of an ending. That is not a slight against the book really as Mr King did say in many ways it is just one big book. With that in mind, I think it is fine that the book ends like the end of a chapter rather than a book. The first book was about Roland and his adventures in the waste land, it read like a mix between a western movie and a YA adventure book. Right up my alley, lots of guns and gratuitous violence and just a few monsters. Great fun all in all.

The second book is entirely different, it is very character driven. Vast sections of the fairly sizeable book concentrate on the development and ‘Drawing’ of each of three characters. There is still adventure and gun toting, but if nobody told me I would not have thought they were part of the same series. I still enjoyed the second book but it was very different an experience.

The third book so far, seems to be, more of a return to the first in style. Something I am more a fan of personally, I was never one for story driven novels. That being said it is kind of a blend of the two earlier books in many respects and it does intrigue me as to how the future of the series is going to pan out.

All in all I am enjoying the series so far and am very intrigued to see where it goes. I am hoping for some set ups and pay offs starting in book one and ending in book seven but only time will tell if that will happen. I hope it does, seven books is a big undertaking. Previously the longest series I read was Dune but this really does dwarf that collection of books.

Have any of you read the Dark Tower? If so lend me your thoughts (without spoilers) in the comments.

And the tower was closer.

Ja Ne.

The Dark Tower’s Gunslinger is Eli?

Is it just me folks? Or?

Well let’s come back to that thought a little later in the article shall we? What a way to start, with a question, how horrendous of me. Assuming that you, the reader, would want to answer my questions. Anyway, on with the show as they say.

I have just started reading the dark tower series by Stephen King. I have never read any King before which shocks a lot of people, since it shook me too, and this is supposed to be his Opus…I thought why the hell not start here.

So far, I am thoroughly enjoying it, I am about half way and it is traveling along at a rip-roaring pace. Lots of blood and guts and shooting. Also a healthy dose of implied sex or at least implied sexiness. Why is this a big thing for me? Well not because I am a blazing pervert but because of a documentary I watched many years ago.

When I was knee high to a grasshopper I used to play a lot of video games, I wasn’t very good, but I used to play them. One of my personal all time favourite horror games was Silent Hill 2, and I happened to have the collectors edition with all the making of and the such, well my brother did…it was his console after all.

So I sat down and watched the making of and they talked about horror and how there are two things every human is always thinking about. Sex and death, if you mix the two together that creates terror, that is where real horror comes from. Stirring you deeply emotionally in the pit of your soul. Some call Stephen King the (wait for it) king of horror, this sexy death mix hints to me that maybe he is.

So what was I talking about at the beginning of this article then anyway? Is it just me folks…or is the gunslinger very reminiscent of Eli from ‘The Book of Eli’. Technically of course it is the other way around as the film I have mentioned was made a long, long time after the first Dark Tower book was released.

Now maybe this is just a coincidence, or maybe it is a sincere form of flattery but I found it interesting enough to put my thoughts down here. So in the book of Eli he uses knives more than guns but the general persona of the character and the back drop of the sort of wild west dessert that it is set in…rings a little similar.

This is in no way an insult to either, I am enjoying the book and I really love that film, but there you go. What do you think? Any similarity or is it just me? Answers on a postcard…or at least a comment at the end of this post.

Ja Ne. You will never catch the man in black

1984…need I say more?

Good afternoon good chaps and chappets,

Today I have come to tell you that I have read, for the first time in my reading life, something that most people would call a classic. Jane Austen it may not be but few if any could argue that George Orwell’s 1984 isn’t a classic.

The general notion of the book and its over arching ideas have been known to me, as I suppose they have to most people not living under rocks, for a very long time. It has been something that I always thought I should want to read…but never went out and actually read, that is, until now.

It took me just over a week to work my way through and by gosh did I enjoy it. It may seem an odd thing to provide a book review to 1984 now. So many years after it has been released and read by millions, but very few books make you want to stand on a rooftop and shout about how good they were, so when I found out that this was one such book, this is the nearest I own to a rooftop to shout from.

1984 (for those of you who do live under rocks) tells the story of Winston, a man deeply disatisfied with his existence. He lives in a dystopian version of the world where Big Brother makes most dictatorships in the real world look like a walk in the park with candy floss.

‘Thoughtcrime’ is the only crime, daring to think that Big Brother isn’t great or isn’t all powerful or really just having any thought which isn’t what Big Brother would want you to think. If you are found guilty of this then you will be taken and ‘vaporised’ which essentially means written out of history, considered never to have existed at all.

I won’t delve deeper into the story here in the event that anyone who hasn’t read it will go and do just that after reading this.

So, why did I like this book so much? First and foremost it must be said that the calibre of writing in this book is nothing short of exceptional. There are many schools of thought about the way novellists used to all be from well-to-do families and have Oxford or Cambridge degrees. I certainly don’t want to go on record and say I think we should go back to this way of picking writers (not least because I am an uneducated man from a working class background) but there is something to be said of it in regards to this book. The writing along with whatever editing was done is nothing short of phenomenal, in my opinion, which makes for a fantastically fluid read.

The story telling is also exemplary. The world is clearly very well thought out and comes across with perfect uniformity in all descriptions given. There is never a lapse in character or an event or description which seems jarring. Once you start reading you are IN Big Brother’s Oceania and you do not leave it until the book is done.

In todays day and age with politics stumbling over itself as awfully as it is the book may well enjoy a resurgence of popularity as against a changing political backdrop it really is just the ticket.

My only complaint, and this is also a warning, and a note of encouragement. Is that towards the end of Part 2 of the book there is a long chapter. When I say long I mean LONG, far longer than any other chapter in the book and it follows Winston reading a book. Thus, you are reading a very long chapter about another person reading a very long chapter. For me that was the only part of the book I struggled with, I didn’t enjoy reading it, I didn’t really feel it was necesary to have been included and for me, without it, I would have probably supported the book even more. Please do read on however as the ending is really some of the most tense writing I have ever read. You would regret not finishing this book.

Still, it remains to be said that 1984 has quite possibly become my new ‘greatest book ever read’ toppling the previous one that sat there.

What else can I say? Go and read this book, well that and, I suppose I should finish with: I loved Big Brother.

Writers who write different genres to you?

Good afternoon fellow internet consumers,

I thought I would write a blog today about something that has been on my mind for a few days. As many of you will know when I am not writing this blog, I am writing books for young people and almost always these books are fantasy, sci-fi or a mixture of the two.

I was recently introduced to two new writers and they both surprised me by saying they didn’t write fantasy at all. It isn’t what they read and it isn’t what the write and/or want to write. They like to write about the ‘real world’ about relationships between people in our reality. Things which would either be considered chic-lit (sorry to anyone that term frustrates…I didn’t make it up) or perhaps literary fiction.

Some of you who are far less judgemental than me may be asking yourselves why the fact they said this has been weighing on my mind? Well I shall embark upon the tail now and hopefully we can all learn something, myself included.

When I read and indeed when I write, I use that time as escapism. I exist in this world, which forgive me if you do not share my opinion, is just a little bit droll really. I do not own an Airship, a pirate ship or a spaceship. I am not a daring adventurer fighting with dragons and saving princesses. I am not nor can I be the great fabled hero of light who inherits a crystal that allows me to vanquish all monsters…I could go on but I think I have driven my point home.

I think what I am trying to say is that if I wanted to escape into a world where I can go to a coffee shop, meet a handsome stranger or have a trouble relationship with a family member. Well, I would just put my book down and experience my real life. So whenever I pick up a pen to write I escape off to a wonderful and far more exciting world than the one I live in and frankly I cannot understand people who don’t.

After I thought about this for a while I decided that this probably said more about me as a person and any chips I have ony my shoulders than it did about people who don’t write fantasy. In short should we judge people who don’t write the same things as us or indeed don’t see the world in the same way that we do? I think we probably shouldn’t, because the world would be a jolly borring place if we were all the same.

P.s. Even after this period of self reflection…I will probably always still find people who don’t like fantasy a little bit strange.
Ja Ne.

Writers are arrogant?

Hello one and all, is it Wednesday already? The keen eyed observers amongst you will notice that it is in fact not. That being said I have a busy day tomorrow and I am not technically minded enough to figure out how to delay the posting of this until tomorrow, so here we are.

Lately I have been trying to read far more than I have in the past, finishing a book a week or thereabouts and as such…I have read quite a lot.

The problem with reading a lot is that sometimes you read something and you think, god that wasn’t very good. You notice large gaping holes in the story, you find prose that you think is horrible and you are left thinking, how did this get published? Aren’t I better than this? Why am I not published!

And in there my friends lies the dark side, you might be right in some instances as there have certainly been books published that were not very good at all, but in other instances you will be very wrong.

Regardless of if you think your writing is  better than this writing or that writing you must  remember this. You are not a publisher, you are not a marketer and you will probably never know as much as those people do about selling books. If you are not published and the author of this book you think isn’t as good as yours is there is one of two possible things going on.

  1. You really are the next best thing, you just haven’t been discovered yet. (This one is unlikely mind you.)
  2. You have not written a publishable book. (much more likely).

Maybe your writing is better than this other author and maybe it isn’t but that isn’t really the point. The point is that for whatever reason a publisher and an agent and bookshops have seen fit to sell this authors book, but they haven’t seen that with yours.

Never let your arrogance turn you to the dark side of believing the publishing world is out to get you and you will never be accepted as an author. Believe in what you write but LEARN from what you read. Let the reading you do inform your craft and in time, with persistence and skill you will reach your goal.

So I shall leave you with this, never look down on another authors work, especially if you are only doing so out of jealously. Learn what you can from it, learn what the publishing world is looking for, apply that where possible and reap the rewards.

Ja Ne.

How to read more, a beginners guide

One of my recent posts talked about the importance of reading as an author, and although I don’t want to give any spoilers to anyone who is yet to read it, I mentioned that usually a bigger reader is a better writer.

With that in mind I think there is no better time to discuss HOW you can go about reading more quickly, so following are my tips and advice to you.

Please note there are more than likely numerous places online with information on how to actually read faster, i.e. more words per minute, this is not that place.

Option 1: Set a page goal. This is what I do, I aim to read 50 pages of fiction everyday. To some people that may not seem a lot but to someone who used to read a chapter or less a day, it is a huge change. Reading 50 pages a day means I will finish an average 400 page book in 8 days. (Note, some books have different font and some books are, due to language used etc easier or harder to read than others. Please use your own judgement, you may easily read 60 pages a day of a young adult book but 40 may be better for a vast and deep adult sci-fi story.)

Option 2: Time yourself. This is great for dealing with the problem of different font sizes. Set yourself a goal to read for ten minutes a day, thirty minutes a day or maybe even an hour or more. If you make this time every day you will soon see the pages consumed increase and even if it is only a little, you will make constant progress until the book is finished. (Note, this need not all be at once, you could spend 10 minutes in the morning, 10 on your lunch break and 10 when you get home in the evening to total your 30 minute goal.)

Option 3: Read multiple books at once. Sometimes you aren’t tired of reading, you are tired of reading THE SAME THING. If you have two books on the go at once you can read a few pages or a chapter of one, when you feel yourself wanting to stop you can read something else and it may peak your interest again. For me I can only do this with one fiction and one non fiction, but for some people keeping track of two stories isn’t difficult.

Finally remember, reading should be fun and not a chore, if reading for more than a few minutes a day takes the fun out of it for you…well then don’t do it! Don’t let other people dictate to you how much you should read, if little and often works for you do that, if a whole book a day works then do that.

Hopefully you found some of these tips helpful, if they help you finish a book leave a comment and let me know!

I will leave you with this; terror made me cruel, but books made me kind.

Ja Ne.