The Practical Implications of Immortality

Title: The Practical Implications of Immortality

Author: Matthew Dooley

Summary: Fresh from winning the 2016 Jonathan Cape/Comica/Observer prize, Matthew Dooley returns with his second collection of comics. Featuring tales of astronauts, milkmen, and more existential angst than you can shake a stick at, The Practical Implications of Immortality is a characteristically witty and often surreal follow-up to Matthew’s first collection Meanderings.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 4/5

Review: I got this from my local comic shop on a whim (as most of my purchases there are–i love it). I just liked the art style on the cover and interesting title. It’s also a book of short comics, which for a 28 page book, made them pretty damn short!

The art is wonderful. It’s fairly simple, which make its small details, like facial expressions and texture, really easy on the eye. It’s also colourful, with a restricted pastel palette used for most of the stories. Basically any single panel from this book could be blown up and framed and i would gladly hang it on my wall (even the naked ones).

The stories themselves made me laugh out loud often and with great joy. A lot of them are quite… pessimistic, which makes the humour quite black. And that’s likely why it made me laugh so much. (It’s funny because (to my cynical self) it’s true?) A few of the best would be a pair of birds talking shit about Napoleon, a world full of Matthew Dooleys, and various wonderful ways to avoid an existential crisis.

My very favourite, though… the one that wrenched a proper good cackle from me, was this untitled masterpiece:

 

In summary: I loved it. I want to get my hands on Dooley’s first collection of comics, too, but unfortunately his website is sold out. Le sigh. If you get the chance, pick this up: £4.00 definitely well spent.

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TTT: Quotes 2016/17

I’ve done a couple of quote-themed TTTs, but the last one was in 2015. I figured I should do an updated 2016/17 one. Because I do love a good quote. So here are my 10 favourite quotes from books i’ve read in the last two years.

Some tell it that ‘sorry’ is the hardest word, but for me it has always been ‘help’.

Mark Lawrence – Emperor of Thorns

Nothing in the media provides pleasure as reliably as books do—if you like reading.
And a good many people do. Not a majority, but a steady minority.
And readers recognize their pleasure as different from that of simply being entertained. Viewing is often totally passive, reading is always an act. Once you’ve pressed the On button, TV goes on and on and on… you don’t have to do anything but sit and stare. But you have to give a book your attention. You bring it alive. Unlike the other media, a book is silent. It won’t lull you with surging music or deafen you with screeching laugh tracks or fire gunshots in your living room. You can hear it only in your head. A book won’t move your eyes for you like TV or a movie does. It won’t move your mind unless you give it your mind, or your heart unless you put your heart in it. It won’t do the work for you. To read a good novel well is to follow it, to act it, to feel it, to become it—everything short of writing it, in fact. Reading is a collaboration, an act of participation. No wonder not everybody is up to it.

Ursula Le Guin – Staying Awake While We Read

In general I can tell those who haven’t suffered trauma from those who have just by looking at them. It’s marked on their foreheads and it shows in their eyes. The ones who saw something unbearable and continued living anyway.

Monica Byrne – The Girl in the Road

If you prick me, do I not bleed? If you wrong me, shall I not fuck your shit right up?

Christopher Brookmyre – Dead Girl Walking

They were the eyes of a person who knew he was as good as dead. When you have that look, you’re not young or old, or black or white, or even a man or a woman. You’re gone from all those things.

Justin Cronin – The Passage

He was a positive force. But only because he chose to be one.

Nnedi Okorafor – Lagoon

“And if, one day,“ she said, really crying now, “you look back and you feel bad for being so angry, if you feel bad for being so angry at me that you couldn’t even speak to me, then you have to know, Conor, you have to know that it was okay. It was okay. That I knew. I know, okay? I know everything you need to tell me without you having to say it out loud. All right?”

Patrick Ness – A Monster Calls

Bill felt panic trying to rise and pushed it back. It went, but not easily. He could feel it back there, a live thing, struggling and twisting, trying to get out.

Stephen King – IT

“I can wait for the galaxy outside to get a little kinder.”

Becky Chambers, The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet

By revolution we become more ourselves, not less.

George Orwell – Why I Write

Have you read any good quotable passages or lines lately? Share them in the comments!

IT

Title: IT

Author: Stephen King

Summary: It was the children who see – and feel – what made the small town of Derry so horribly different. In the storm drains, in the sewers, IT lurks, taking on the shape of every nightmare, each one’s deepest dread. Sometimes IT reaches up, seizing, tearing, killing…

Time passes and the children grow up, move away and forget. Until they are called back, once more to confront IT as it sirs and coils in the sullen depths of their memories, reaching up again to make their past nightmares a terrible present reality.

Rating: ★★★★★ 5/5

Review: Straight off the bat, i’ll admit: This review is bias. As a 10 year old kid, i graduated from Point Horror books to Stephen King, and my first novel was IT. I don’t remember first picking it up and deciding to read it. I do remember re-reading sections dozens of times. I remember reading the first chapter aloud to friends during a sleepover. I remember this book being an important part of my childhood.

So this was maybe my fourth or fifth time reading the book cover to cover, but the first time in over 15 or 20 years. The memories flooded back to me. I remembered the overall gist of some parts, and others i remembered almost word for word. I took almost three months to read this book, and it’s because i was savouring it. Fair warning: there will likely be (at the very least, out-of-context) spoilers.

For the most part, the book takes place in two timelines: the summer of 1958 and the summer of 1985. It follows the same group of characters, interspersing their lives from when they are 11 with their lives 27 years later, when they’re 38. This group of characters is the Loser’s Club. Shall we start here then? I love all the losers in one way or another, but my favourite is Beverly. As an 11-year-old kid she’s super awesome–tough and brave and taking no shit. She’s a tomboy who plays rough and dirty with the boys and thinks nothing of it. She won’t let other people’s judgements on the fact that she’s a girl stop her from doing anything. As an adult, i liked her less. She somehow let life wear her down, and she wasn’t as hardy as her younger self. King used her as the much more emotive adult character, where as children it seemed they were all allowed to have a spectrum of emotions. Of the others, i especially loved Ben (emotionally intelligent and intuitively ingenuitive) and Mike (unknowingly wise and unshakably steadfast). But all of the characters are brilliant in their own way–they all have depth and flaws and talent.

The Loser’s nemeses are twofold: an ancient demonic evil entity that preys on children by taking the form of their worst nightmare… and the school bully and his minions. It’s a toss up as to which i find more abhorrent, to be honest. But i guess the ancient demonic evil entity just pinches it, because at least we get the bully’s back story. Henry is a tad twisted and a lot fucked up; full of anger and hate and inadequacy he projects it all at those weaker and more easily targeted, in typical bully fashion. This is heightened, however, by the influence and coaxing of IT. IT has many guises–as a werewolf, a leper, a shark, dead children, a giant bird–but it’s more common facade is Pennywise the dancing clowns (though i don’t recall him doing much dancing). Every 24-27 years, IT shapeshifts it’s way through the odd town of Derry, killing children, before hibernating the time away underground until the cycle begins again.

On the surface it’s a book about monsters, childhood fears, and children’s ability to believe (in the monsters, and in the things that will kill the monsters). But the books is much more than that. It’s about friendship, loyalty, and growing up. It’s about the way society often disregards and controls children. It’s about the ways in which people change as they mature… and they ways in which they stay the same. It’s about how people’s fears and desires influence them on conscious and unconscious levels. It’s about a lot of stuff, okay?

I liked the 1958 timeline more than 1985. I found the characters as kids much more interesting and generally more developed and fleshed out from a writing perspective. The adults seemed a little more two dimensional in comparison, and that wasn’t helped by the fact that for most of the book they couldn’t remember much of their childhood. I think that memory loss left them as less themselves (and that’s me being generous, making it part of the plot, rather than a flaw in the writing). It even goes as far as what they each bring to the group; as kids they all had specific traits that aided their fight against IT, but come adulthood and these are all but gone. While Eddie still showed them the way to IT’s lair as adults, they didn’t need him to get them out. Bev was a natural with a slingshot, but as an adult she didn’t even touch one. It seemed that on the whole, as adults, there wasn’t as much to them as when they were kids.

In both timelines, it was the build up, the planning, and the brief encounters with IT that were the most enjoyable. The climax of the book–the children and adults fighting IT on its home ground, juxtapositioned–was less thrilling for me. For all that build up (over 1000 pages of it), not a lot actually happens. No real fighting or much action–all mind games. Which i don’t mind so much, in fact i rather enjoyed those scenes and getting to hear IT’s own point of view first hand… but the fact that a group of people had ventured there together, to then stand and watch one or two of them hypnotically communicate with IT telepathically was a bit of an anticlimax. It begged the question: Why were they all there?

What did get me was the forgetting. I knew it was coming, but it still hit me quite hard. This group of people forged incredible childhood friendships before gradually moving away and forgetting each other. They then get it all back–they remember each other, they remember all they did that summer, and they find they’re still bonded and care for each other deeply. But then it’s all taken away from them again–and this time they know; they can see it happening. That hit me right in the feels, and was the thing i found scariest of all. The connection these people had to each other, and the memories they made together… all taken from them. It’s altering who they are at such a deep level–they’ll never again know who they really are. That bloody hurts.

I believe we were both thinking the same thing: it was over, yes, and in six weeks or six months, we will have forgotten all about each other. It’s over, and all it’s cost us is our friendship…

Ultimately, it is the chapters detailing the summer of 1958 that i enjoyed the most. Meeting these seven children and them meeting each other. Following them juggle normal summer holiday activities, clashes with an ever more psychotic bully, and discovering and fighting an ancient demonic evil entity. Seeing them learn and experience and bond. Those are the chapters i remember most vividly from when i read this book as a child, because those are the chapters i re-read the most. It was nice to savour a full re-read of the entire book again, but it’s still that summer of 1958 that i’ll carry with me now i’ve finished.

I will also be re-watching the 1990 miniseries, which i was (unsurprisingly) also obsessed with as a kid. It’s likely i’ll write another non-review post about this book, and the film, and what they mean to me. I could have expanded on it here, but i wanted to keep this about the book (and otherwise this post would be far too long!). So watch this space, i guess!

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Friday Face-Off: Knife

This week’s cover comparison theme is knives, and i decided to go for some clear knife-themed covers by choosing The Knife of Never Letting Go. I haven’t actually read this book yet, and the cover i own does not feature a knife. But those facts aren’t going to stop me.

Here are the covers, which all link back to their respective goodreads pages.

       

The first two are both English language editions, and i like them well enough–simple artwork, negative space, interesting font. They’re the simple easy choice; there’s nothing i dislike about them, but they don’t grab my attention, either.

The third one is a Turkish cover. I like the shape, with the knife and the kid and the dog, and i like the negative space. But i don’t like the colours or the patterns. What could have been quite striking is, i think, lost in those too-bold colours and strange patterns.

The fourth one is an Italian cover… and it really suits that, i think. I like the black/white/touch-of-red colour scheme here, and the negative space that creates. It’s simply and bold without being too much or too little.

The fifth is a French cover, and i like a lot about this. The shadow as the blade of the knife, the blocking, shady font, and the negative space that fills most of the cover. I love it all, except the colour. Which is a shame, as it’s the main thing about this one!

The sixth one is a Romanian cover. This one took a little while for me to process, as it’s a bit busy. But i like the lines and broken patterns. The colours are an odd choice, but after the garish reds in other covers, it’s a welcome difference. The white font is also a notable difference, standing out nicely against the pink.

The seventh is a Swedish cover. I like the font, but otherwise almost nothing appeals to me here. It seems like a silhouette photo of the knife, with an vague out-of-focus background. The black and brown colour choices are a bit dreary here too.

The eigth cover is Chinese, and again, i don’t favour the abundance of red personally. I don’t hate the knife and the face within it, but it isn’t what i am usually drawn to.

Of the covers here, I have to say the pink and blue Romanian one is my surprise favourite. It’s striking and different and interesting. I quite love it. However, i’m going to throw a little spanner in the works, and add a bonus cover. It didn’t make the cut above because it doesn’t have a knife on the cover, but for my tastes it is a perfect cover. It’s a Russian cover, and the artwork, the font, the colours, the negative space are all spot on… this cover is amazing.

What do you think? Which cover do you prefer and why? It’s okay if you love all the red–someone has to.

TTT: Books I’m Not Sure I’ll Read

A while back I did TTT about books I know I’ll never read, but there are also a lot of books I’m not sure if I want to read or not. These are books that have piqued my interest in some way, but for one reason or another I still have reservations about. Some of them I even own a copy of, but still can’t commit myself to reading…

Catch 22
This one has been on my radar for as long as I can remember. In my head it’s in the same league as Nineteen-Eighty Four, and I want to read it, but just can’t decide if I’ll actually enjoy it. I think it’s the wartime setting putting me off the most. I just don’t know!

Fates and Furies
I’ll be honest, it’s the cover that drew my attention to this book—it’s gorgeous. The synopsis is more troublesome. It sounds like it could be a really interesting character-driven novel, but I’m not the biggest fan of books focused around characters over plot. It also sounds very relationship-focused, which again is not normally my cup of tea. Do I really want to take a chance on a book that’s nothing like I’d normally read for a beautiful cover?

1Q84
This one sounds interesting, but I’ve not looked into it deeply or read any reviews, and its length is a tad intimidating. I think this one will remain on the ‘maybe’ list until I hear something about it that pulls at my interest a little more.

We Are the Ants
Again, a book I love the cover of. Again, a book I’m not sure I like the synopsis of. It sounds… weird. But like, a weird that could be amazing or a weird that could be cheesy and just bad. There’s nothing there that’s telling me to take a chance on it, yet.

Moby Dick
Another classic. I do love classics, but this one I can’t commit to, and I’m not even sure why. I guess I don’t really know much about it. A dude and a whale, right? But what’s the story there? Maybe I’ll never find out…

Black-Eyed Susan
I often love the general premise of these popular thriller novels, and love the twists and turns in any book. But I’m also wary of the more popular thrillers. I enjoyed Gone Girl and Girl on the Train well enough, but they fell shy of being amazing books for me. This might be a book I’ll eventually pick up when I want a quick and easy, but twist and turny read.

Final Girls
This one caught my attention because I love horror films and studied them at university, so the idea of the “final girl” is not a new one to me. My hesitancy is similar to the book above, in terms of hype and mediocrity, but also it not being what I’d want it to be. As a horror/slasher fan, I’d want a book centred around the concept of the ‘final girl’ to be filled with references and nods to the genre while turning the trope on its head a little… I greatly fear I wouldn’t find that.

Riddley Walker
This book sounds fascinating, but also intimidating. The unique writing/language style is apparently important to the book and the character, and finding out why and what it’s all about is hugely intriguing. At the same time, I worry I wouldn’t be able to hack reading it for long enough!

The Humans
I had this one on my radar and it was recommended to me, but still I’m not sure. The premise sounds interesting enough, but the book generally strikes me as one of the “average” types of books I’d usually avoid. The kind of book that appeals to people who don’t usually read or don’t read a lot. The kind of people who just want a light book to read while on holiday. And that’s just… not the kind of book I like.

Short Fuses
I bought this one from a charity shop on whim, simply because it’s book of short stories and I love short story collections. But. But I know absolutely nothing about this book. It’s from a collective known as The Book Shed (or just The Shed, I’m not entirely sure), and there aren’t really any reviews of it online. And, if I’m honest, the graffiti-style cover becomes less and less appealing the longer I think about it and don’t read it…

Have you read any of these books? Want to help persuade me into reading (or not reading) one? What books can’t you decide if you want to read or not?

Friday Face-Off: Planet

Another fun and silly weekly meme, because why the hell not? This one is from Books by Proxy, and it involves comparing different covers for a book and picking the most attractive one.

This week’s theme is covers with planets on them. My first thought was A Long Way to a Small Angry Planet, but I figure maybe quite a few people will do that one. Instead I thought I’d go much more obscure.

My book is Quest of the Three Worlds by Cordwainer Smith. And here are the—frankly, hideous—covers…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The first one is the cover I own. I like the colours and the classic pulp science fiction cover, plus that awesomely cheesy tagline!

The second one I found on Google Books. I’ll come right out with it—I hate this one. It’s too shiny and modern and characterless.

The third one is a Spanish cover. I love the purple. I love the negative space (which is, in this case, actual space). I love the font. I love the stars, the twinkle, the swirls.

The fourth one is a German cover. It’s definitely the most bizarre. I like that it makes me asks a lot of questions (like who is this woman and why is she popping up out of the paving?), but let’s be honest it’s pretty ugly.

It should come as no surprise that the third cover is my favourite (I used the word ‘love’ four times, for goodness sake!). The first one is a close second, if for nothing but the array of colours.

What do you think of these covers? Which is your favourite and why? If it’s the weird German cover I promise I won’t judge you.

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TTT: Frame-Worthy Covers

As I have admitted several times before on this blog—i judge books by their covers. I love a gorgeous book cover. I won’t buy a book solely based on its cover (coughanymorecough), but it will entice me to pick it up and find out more about it.

I chose this topic for today’s TTT because when I bought the first book on this list (a mere three weeks ago), I admitted to the guy in the shop, “I love that cover so much, I want to frame it and hang it on my wall.”

My cover love themes are well-established and show themselves strongly here: artwork, limited but bold colours, negative space…. these covers are just gorgeous.

 

 

SeasonsTiny DeathsWeird LiesThe Long Way to a Small Angry Planet

       

 

 

 

 

 

LagoonThe Instrumentality of MankindDeeperWonderbookSoppy

 

 

 

 

 

Any and all John Wyndham covers – I actually do have plans to get a bunch of these printed and framed

 

 

 

 

 

Beautiful People: Author Edition

As well as reading books and writing reviews, I write stories. I’ve never really done anything with my stories before, but I want to start posting them here. It was always my intention when I started this blog, but I’ve been more than a little nervous about it these past four years. Not because I don’t think my stories are good—I like them and that’s good enough—but because I’m just a tad bit precious and finickity about this blog. I didn’t like to disrupt the order I created.

Ultimately, though, it’s my blog and it shouldn’t matter if it gets a little out of order—chaotic, even. Keeping it organised only leaves huge gaps where I don’t post for months. And that’s a bit pants, really. So I’m going off-script and diving into writing and posting stories, as well as still reading books and posting reviews. I hope you’ll find your way amongst the disarray!

To start off the writing aspect of the blog, I thought I’d jump in to this month’s Beautiful People—a writing blog meme hosted by Further Up and Further In & Paper Fury. This month they’ve posed some author-focused questions, so I thought it would be a good month to hop on board and kick start the writing aspect of the blog!

How do you decide which project to work on?
Whichever I’m in the mood to write. Whichever has my creative juices flowing. Whichever one I’m drawn to.

How long does it usually take you to finish a project?
Depends on the project, but mostly I write short stories. If I’m focused I can finish something in a day, stories that require a little more thought or effort can take a few days. If you include sending it to my proofreader and editing, it can be a couple of weeks. Of course, other stories I’ll sit on for months or years before I do the final tweaks and declare them “finished”.

Do you have any routines to put you in the writing mood?
I need clear time in front of me. I’m not great at getting my head down when a sudden 10 spare minutes show up. I need to know I have a good chunk of time to myself to focus. I’ll put music on—usually Explosions in the Sky or Sigur Rós. I close my internet browser!

What time of day do you write best?
Afternoon or evening. I prefer getting any chores out of the way so I can’t distract myself with them later, or have them hanging over my head. I also like to relax with a beer while I write, as I find it loosens the brain muscles and I get into a flow easier without over thinking. I also write better when I’m tired for the same reason.

Are there any authors you think you have a similar style to?
Errr… I don’t know. If we run with the idea that the authors a person reads the most influences their writing, then I’d say Christopher Brookmyre, Stephen King, and John Wyndham.

Why did you start writing, and why do you keep writing?
I was a big reader as a kid, and as well as reading, I would write. I have books I started writing by taking a wad of A4 paper, folding it in half and stapling it down the spine. I drew front covers, wrote straplines and blurbs. I went all out. I loved books, and I didn’t want to stop at reading them.
I keep writing because I love figuring out which order to put the words in. That feeling you get when you have a thought, and articulate it accurately—it’s addictive. I love reading my stories back years later and thinking, ‘Yeah, that’s actually good!’

What’s the hardest thing you’ve written?
I do a lot of free writing and personal diary-sort of writing. Nothing I would ever publish or even show anyone. Some of that has been hard. Life experiences, lessons learned, secret thoughts. I often try not to read them back; they are certainly the hardest thing I’ve read.

Is there a project you want to tackle someday but you don’t feel ready yet?
A couple, actually. One involves a lot of research-reading, but will be a hell of a lot of fun to work on. The other I think I just have too many thoughts and expectations about, and is a much larger project than I’ve ever tackled before. A small character/origin-driven story is first on my list for that one.

What writing goals did you make for 2017 and how are they going?
There was a 30 day writing meme I started—hahahaha—years ago that I want to finish this year. I’ll be posting those here when i’ve made a little more headway. And generally the goal is be writing stories and posting the stories here on a regular basis. I also want to research and find places to submit my short stories to. Online collections, published anthologies, whatever. I want my stories out in the world.

Describe your writing process in 3 words or a gif!
Always over thinking!

TTT: Made Me Think

I love books that make me think, that require engagement, that I get more out of by how much I put into them. The best books for me are books that have depth, or address issues, or just have a lot going on. As much as I enjoy a lighthearted bit of fluff sometimes, I crave more weight, insight, and philosophy in my fiction. Sorry not sorry.

These are just a few of the books I’ve read and enjoyed for how much they’ve made me stop and think, and consider, and figure shit out.

Nineteen Eighty-Four – My first dystopian, all those years ago. I’d never read anything like this before, but on a sunny holiday, after reading and rolling my eyes at the likes of Man and Boy, High Fidelity et al, I devoured this book. It was my gateway fiction.

Day of the Triffids – My first science fiction. There were aspects to this book that horrified me, but thinking about why they were included and what they were saying about the world gripped me.

Days of War, Nights of Love – This is a book designed to challenge the way you think, and the way you think about things—yourself, your job, your life, your outlook. I would make it required reading for everyone. (And oh, look, you can read parts of it right here!)

Crome Yellow – This one was a bizarre read. I could only read it a chapter at a time, because it used my brain so much it left me tired. But it has so much depth—it’s funny and interesting and complex and brilliant.

The Dispossessed – No government vs controlling government plus a parallel timeline culminating in the two most important scenes in juxtaposition… so much to think about!

Breakfast of Champions – Another bizarre one. I think it would be so easy to dismiss most of this book as just bloody weird, but I think that does everyone a disservice. But to say I was sure about the deeper meanings would be a lie. I took more meaningful things from it, at least.

The Female Man – More required reading. Offering the same character in different worlds, and what a difference society makes to a person—a female’s—life. This book had some epic chapters that I want to print and frame and hang on my wall.

The Paper Men – Introspection and psychology. I read so many reviews hating on this book, but I fell head first into it and adored every word.

The Girl in the Road – This one was hard work. Might be worth a re-read in the future because there was so much there. So much symmetry, referencing, and philosophy that was hard to grasp at first. But that’s why it’s on this list!

Why I Write – This book was a feast. The entire time I was reading it I was energised and analysing and just completely pumped. It articulated things I already felt so well, and opened my mind to things I’d not really considered but made so much sense. This book, folks—this book!

What books have made you think? And did you like being made to think?