Friday, April 27, 2012

On Books and being a "book person"

I was chatting last on a mini-podcast to support the Horror Reading list I'm doing over at Geek Syndicate, and was asked about the idea behind it. I sort of waffled a bit about wanting to look at other genres, and being a bit snobby about things I know little about, but I've been dwelling on it a bit since and so I thought I'd try and lay out recent relationship with books.

The thing is, way back, I've always been a prolific reader. My parents will tell how I pretty much vanished into books in my early teens and stayed there until I left for university. At university I read and read, and even after I left university I accumulated books at a great rate largely thanks to the large about of second hand bookshops that proliferated around the University area of Leeds. The thing was, looking back, I think the volume was high but the range was narrow. I read Science Fiction, and pretty much nothing else, picking up an unhealthy disdain for Fantasy and Horror as genres along the way. Whilst I rarely re-read the same book (there's a few beloved exceptions) I suspect I was reading a lot of similar material and a lot of crap with spaceships on the cover, although I did manage to find some non-SF fiction I love to this day.

This really reached a peak in 1997, where I spent a long time hospital with very little else to do but devour fiction, although this did let me discover George MacDonald Fraser's Flashman series so at least it wasn't all spaceships!

Without really noticing it though, I started to read less and less as the years went on. I became a father in 2001, I got more and more time- and energy- consuming jobs, and finally, a few years back, I had a moment where I couldn't remember what the last book I read was. I mean, I was still reading, occasionally, and mostly history or pop-science but certainly nothing at any great pace. Which was a bit of a stab at my self-image as a voracious reader and I had to do something about it. The answer was "reading lists" - nothing too demanding, just some sort of focus - and rather than sink back into SF I put together a lost of "American Classic" to read, enjoyed several of them, and discovered Hemingway, Vonnegut and Chandler.

So that was a win. After that I did "Crime Fiction", followed by facing by prejudices head-on and reading a year of Fantasy Novels, some of which (whisper it) I really really liked. Oh Dear Team, Oh Dear. In fact, this general project has been so successful that I'm thinking of doing a reading list of SF novels, just because it's been so bloody long since I read them in any volume!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Star Wars: The Old Republic: Tatooine and Alderaan

In between everything else thats going on, me and Z are still ploughing our way through Star Wars: The Old Republic, albeit at a less frantic pace than before. As you approach the mid-to-late levels of any MMO, and SWTOR is no exception, it's always felt like an awkward stage, and where I've fallen out of quite a few over the years. The problem is simple enough, really - the "newness" of the mechanics, gimmicks and general world-building has faded, to be replaced with familiarity, and (expected) great opening up of "the endgame" has yet to emerge. For a story-driven game like SWTOR aspires to be, it at least has something to hang on to, to try and ease you past those bumps. But SWTOR has another trick up it's sleeve too; it can send you to some of the really famous locations available to it from it's license. 

I was waiting for a mission to pick up Power Converters but it never arrived! 

Monday, April 16, 2012

Book Review: Empire in Black and Gold

As anyone who has known me for any length of time will attest, I have always looked down on the Fantasy genre with the reflexive snobbery of a long-time Science Fiction Fan. I was at least partly cured of this after my "Big Year of Reading Fantasy" although I still feel pretty wary of it's tics, tropes and seemingly self-inflicted limitations of what the genre is allowed to be. I'm still more than capable of getting a little snippy about it, but at the same time there is an increasing amount of it on my bookshelves and I came back from the SFX weekender with 3 out of 4 books bought being Fantasy. And its starting to look like my next big reading obsession is a Fantasy series too.

Oh dear, team.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Movie Review: The Hunger Games

It seems that everyone who stayed away from John Carter (of Mars!!) were really just saving themselves for The Hunger Games, the latest Hollywood franchise launcher, taken from a popular book series, aimed squarely that lucrative teenage market. This probably sounds a little snide, but its hard not to be skeptical. After the success of first Harry Potter, then Twilight, the last few years has seen a barrage of attempts to cash in on  Young Adult fiction boom and the devoted followings they inspire. Its not new behavior, but it seems to be being refined into a fine art, and in many ways the quality of the finished product is almost an after thought compared to the tie-ins, marketing drive and steady drip, drip of images of the readers heroes and heroines brought to life.