Reviews from a busy week

This week I’ve read two novels and been to see a film based on a comic so I thought I’d share.

Necrophenia, the most recent Robert Rankin paperback to grace my dad’s bookshelves, was pretty much what you’d expect from the founder of far-fetched fiction. While I wouldn’t perhaps recommend it to those new to Rankin (start at The Antipope and work your way through, would be my advice. Only you needn’t bother with A Dog Called Demolition, as OneMonkey is possibly the only person who’s ever enjoyed it), others with a long-held affection for Rankinesque fantasy will probably enjoy it as much as I did (which is to say quite a bit). The themes and some characters may be familiar (Elvis Presley, rock ‘n’ roll, 1950s private detectives or specifically Lazlo Woodbine and his bar-tending friend Fangio, the Ministry of Serendipity, not to mention the transperambulation of pseudo-cosmic antimatter. Which he does, twice) and of course it does involve an other-worldly threat to the Earth (not just Brentford) and its inhabitants, which is (almost) thwarted by an unlikely sort of hero, but if you like that sort of thing (which I do) then it’s worth a read as it’s done very well. And he’s really toned down on the swearing these days (not that I particularly minded anyway).

The other book I borrowed from my dad (I’m not being tight, it’s an eco thing. Well OK, but I’m not just being tight) was Lullaby Town by Robert Crais, a 1990s contemporary-set novel featuring LA private detective Elvis Cole. I’ve read a few Elvis Cole novels now, and I like the character (and his friend Joe Pike: cat-loving, vegetarian, largely silent tough guy who wears shades no matter how dark it is), and I usually enjoy the plot (enough human interest without being soft, enough violence to be plausible without straying into brutal). However, the thing that really bothers me is the excess of description – yes I know it might tell you something about the bad guy that he’s wearing green socks with a sharp suit, but when he’s pointing a gun at Elvis Cole I don’t need to know which side his hair’s parted or what make of gun it is. And since it’s written in the first person, are we supposed to believe that Cole has noted all these details in the middle of the action? As usual, all the brand names mean nothing to me so maybe it would be better to say expensive/cheap/mid-range/out-moded rather than relying on all readers being familiar with American brands. That aside, Lullaby Town was a fairly fast and satisfying read: Peter, an immature, self-centred film director wants to find the wife and child he walked out on ten years earlier, before his success – all in a day’s work for Elvis Cole, but then it gets a bit more complicated and Peter learns the hard way that money can’t buy him everything, and dealing with the mafia isn’t as easy as it looks on the big screen.

The film was Scott Pilgrim vs The World. I was expecting good things from the director of Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, and I wasn’t disappointed. Adapted from a series of comics, set in Toronto and full of good music, the film was one of those that leaves you with a buzz for a few hours after you’ve watched it. Although Scott Pilgrim himself mostly just needed a slap, his room-mate Wallace was brilliantly portrayed by Kieran Culkin, and several characters were real enough that they kind of reminded me of people I used to know back when rock music and being cool were major themes of my life. Visually, the comic book and dodgy old pixelated computer game theme worked, though it seemed to be forgotten later on, outside of the fight scenes. It was funny, it was fast-paced, people had superpowers with absolutely no explanation or apology, and it should serve as a self-esteem boost to geeky gawky bass-players everywhere.

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