Book Review – The Fog – James Herbert

I’ve just finished The Fog and I wanted to get into the habit of writing the review before I start the next book. I managed to get almost 1/2 way through The Fog before I had written the review for Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, and that is frankly not acceptable!

The review for The Fog will be a bit easier to produce than my previous books. Firstly, I didn’t create any notes for this book. I still think that side notes are a great way to expand your enjoyment of what you are reading, but this book didn’t incite me to discover much. That’s not necessarily a bad thing though, just a fact ūüôā

The Fog is an interesting book and I am really glad that I read it. It was not a literary masterpiece, but I guess that it was never meant to be! The story wasn’t hugely convoluted, there weren’t complex threads winding through each other. Some of the detail was dubious, clunky and contradictory, so I found that I was quite regularly jerked out of the story thinking; “… But why?” Or “what about the xxx you just mentioned?” Or “Grrrr.” So you would think that I didn’t like the book? I must say, that straight after Captain Corelli’s Mandolin this was definitely a change, but that is one reason why I chose it. None the less, the story has some very endearing qualities, and is at the very least a horror story from the tried and tested recipe that James Herbert was a driving force in creating.¬†


In The Fog He took a relatively good action story and added a generous handful of overly described gore, a gritty lead character who would not stop until the work was done and a¬†soupcon¬†of¬†slightly out of place sex scenes… Horror perfection.¬†

As I said, I think that the book was a bit disjointed. I still found myself happily thinking “why the hell not?” quite regularly and that dispelled the effect of the odd clunky section. This book pleasantly reminded me of horror books that I read many years ago. It is of its time, it was gory not scary, it was meant to be fun and it was!

Ratings wise, I have to follow my basic metric for these things, and it may be a revelation to you, but that is based on IMDB. Almost always, the hive mind that rates films on the IMDB site get it right for me. If a film is over 6/10 I will like it. 7 or 8 and it’s worth crossing the road for, and 8 or over and you usually have cinema gold. I’ve given The Fog 6.5/10. I have to acknowledge the dodgy plot holes and the like, but 6.5/10 is well worth a read if you get the chance.

Rating 6.5/10
The Fog on Good Reads
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Book Review – Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis de Berni√®res

By the time I post this blog article, I will have posed the¬†raw notes I took as I read the book. I am really enjoying making these notes. Creating them adds depth to the experience of reading and I find it worth taking the time as I read. When I was looking up some of the detail after finishing the book I also found¬†bookdrum.com¬†that provides background information about Captain Corelli’s Mandolin and couple of hundred others that warrant special attention. This is similar to my list, but, like, actually good… Great stuff!

I wasn’t sure what I was going to make of¬†Captain Corelli’s Mandolin¬†when I started reading it. I had been told by lots of people that it¬†was really good, and I watched the film when it came out, which was long enough ago that I have forgotten everything except that; it’s set in Cephalonia, is about WW2 and has Nick Cage in it.¬†I was disappointed to find that Nick Cage is not in the book¬†Only Kidding ūüôā I guess my illogical trepidation is the reason that I have not read the book, and so many others in my collection. Was it worth¬†committing¬†the time to read it??

YES!

I found the start of the book quite tough going, not in content, but in the way that the text is written. The whole book uses a lot of long, obscure words and I found that were a few too many of them getting in the way of a simple introduction. In general the book is very well written. I would be contradicting a huge number of previous reviews if I were to suggest otherwise. It did however take me a good few pages to decide that I was, actually, enjoying it. Later in the book it is revealed that Greeks like to use the longest words they know whenever possible. I wonder if that is why the book starts the way it does? The story does start with Dr.Iannis who particularly enjoys his words. If not that then it could be the over-enthusiastic “good start” that an author can sometimes produce, or more realistically, just me adjusting to a competent writing style? (I’m currently re-adjusting as I read¬†The Fog, but more on that later…)

As you settle into the book the vocabulary used and the way that different languages are portrayed really draws you in. There are lots of foreign phrases wound into the dialogue and as someone who knows some French, a tiny bit of German and the basics of a couple more languages, it left me understanding enough to give me a wonderfully immersed experience while also invoking that feeling of separation that you experience when you overhear an unfamiliar language spoken. The book takes this still further via a very clever use of accent to portray a person’s mastery of a different language. This is use a few times in the book to great effect, no more so than the¬†British¬†agent (Bunny Warren!) who learnt¬†some¬†Greek¬†at school. His dialogue is written in English, but ye¬†olde¬†English¬†to¬†indicate the difference between the ancient¬†Greek¬†that he learnt and the¬†modern¬†Greek¬†that everyone actually speaks. As the novel progresses and Bunny learns from¬†the locals, his dialogue becomes more and more normal. I have read other books that use accents and Phonetic¬†speech¬†very well, but¬†Captain Corelli’s Mandolin¬†manages to tell a very multilingual tale competently without ever feeling disjointed.

The whole book winds many arcs of story together, and manages to produce and well balanced progression through each that allows evil people to coexist with funny events, to tell a story of actions while allowing the story of someone’s life to grow as it would if you actually knew them. When I think of the emotional attachment I built up for¬†Pelagia¬†I am surprised that I identified with her as a young woman, as effectively a widow, and even as an old lady. I had been on her journey and I knew the depth of her emotions.

There are many ends to the book. The main story ends with the end of the war, but then each¬†story line¬†is ended and the book continues to march on into the lives of Pelagia’s daughter. I¬†initially had a feeling of¬†foreboding¬†that the book might continue on past what could have¬†been a powerful¬†poignant¬†ending. I have to say that my concerns were completely¬†unfounded. In complete defiance of the risks, the book manages to deliver multiple strong endings that fall into line with each other perfectly. The actual finale of the book is relatively quite and understated, but the power of the book really hits home. There is so much story, so many emotions that have gradually built, that although the end is delicately stated the weight of emotion pulls no punches.

So in conclusion, I was going to give this book an 8/10. I appear to be settling on that as the standard rating for books I read for this blog. I suppose that means that so far my hunch was correct. Books I own are easily as good as ones I could be buying. I am very glad that I read¬†Captain Corelli‘s Mandolin. I have proved with the review written that this book deserves more than an 8/10. It surprised me, and definitely in a good way.

Rating 9/10
Captain Corelli’s Mandolin on Good Reads

Not quite the Book Review – Captain Corelli’s Mandolin

Here is my quick and dirty list of references from Captain Corelli’s Mandolin. They are of limited value without the book, but there is some interesting stuff to go and find out about if you wanted to ūüôā
  • 1st page of the book, about Louis de Bernieres – His first novel was called “The War of Don Emmanuel’s Nether Parts” Interesting title ūüôā
  • P4 Paragraph 2 – Dr. Iannis is having trouble finding the correct voice to use in his writing. I know that feeling.
  • P5 all – This book is full of long words. Helps with¬†descriptions, but can be harder to penetrate. (much later on there is reference to Greeks using the longest words that they can, so this may be a reason. Also the book blossoms in this regard
  • P5 – lots of Greek history:- Demeter was raped by Poseidon disguised as a horse. She gave birth to a horse and a mystical daughter who’s name was lost when Eleusinian Mysterys were suppressed by Christians.
  • P6 top – more greek history that I hadn’t heard before.
  • P9 top 1/2 of page – first use of the word fascism. “…Fascism is not merely a social and political revolution, it’s cultural as well”
  • P9 lower down – “…I want Fascist book-clubseven in the small towns…”
  • P27-29 provides a good insight into the rationalisation of a dictator
  • P40 3/4 way down – “Machian variey of materialism”
  • P44 & 45 – a comparison of communism and capitalism. One can’t exist without the other, communism is supposed to be the end of capitalism, but if the whole world was communist the global economy would grind to a halt!
  • P53 4th Paragraph – “be a good communist” and the page mentions the word “Utopia”
  • P77 Bottom – An Atheist is moved by the remains of a saint healing a mad person.
  • P81 – A description of a funny race.
  • P111 “Stalin cannot be a true communist”
  • P113 just above 1/2 way “stiffened into adamantine inflexibility” isn’t that what wolverine is made of??
  • P127/8 – “… the pleasure of homecoming was more than recompense for the pains of setting out, and that therefore it was always with departing”
  • P169 – half way down “there would be no tyrant, captain, and no wars, if minions did not ignore their conscience.”
  • P185 Persichini Polka is music of the mandolin.
  • P189 1/2 way down – “In Roumeli there was a small British team of enthusiastic¬†amateurs” … “dropping in by parachute, using an innovative type of parachute which had supplies and radios tied into the upper chords…” Interesting
  • P209 book –¬† what is to be done by Lenin.
  • P210 top – capitalists. Here we go!
  • P217 – “nonetheless he had the moral authority of someone who refuses to compromise an ethical principal in the name of an ideal”
  • P220 “scientific socialism” I think this is a reference to socialism’s use of logic
  • P221 description of Mussolini’s life. Very interesting if true?
  • P222 bottom- the duce gained much notoriety by accusing Jesus Christ of copukating with Mary magdelen and by penning a pamphlet entitled “good does not exist”
  • P223¬† HWD – ” beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and possibly the duce is astygmatic”
  • P230 out ism’s me by about 3:1
  • The depth of knowledge of so much of how WW2 came about and played through is astounding.
  • P250 pax Romana – the longest period of civilisation known to man.
  • P265 1/3WD- communist description
  • P274 bottom – the British soldier sons like the traveler in the colour of magic
  • P285 hwd – “it’s obvious to me that ethics change with the times as science does.”
  • P289 top – style of planning in different countries
  • Beautifully poignant passages throughout
  • P345 top – “exactly the same thing happened in Italy, they all joined the fascists to see what they could get.”
  • P361 – “the tragedy was that this was yet another steep along the fated path by which communist was growing into the Greatest and Most Humane Ideology Never to Have Been Implemented Even When it Was in Power, or perhaps The Most Noble Cause Ever to Attract the Highest Proportion of Hooligans and Opportunists.” I have no idea why the capitalisation is as it is??
  • P391 – chapter 68. Beautifully poignant part of the book. Very sad and only possible because of the layers of story that came before it. “The earthquake changed lives so profoundly that to this day it is still the single greatest topic of conversation. When other families elsewhere are arguing about whether or not socialism had a future…”
  • P396 – “she discovered that her basic understanding of economic processes was Marxist, but that, paradoxically, she thought that capitalism has the best ways of dealing with the problems.” (added Marxism to the ISMs page)
  • P401 – “…Antonia’s support of Papandreou’s socialist government” must find out more about that and other times where socialist (or other more radical ideas) have been tested???
  • P404 top – talking about Antonia’s shop “handmade rugs that were really made by machines in north Africa”
  • Various pages up to and including 399-405. A description of Alexi moving from socialism that may have become conservative to capitalist.
  • Didnt get a page number, but look up about the¬†Anti-fascist alliance
  • And finally, somwhere hidden in the book is a section about the Albanians: “one of them electrocuted himself in the penis by urinating on a transformer” ’nuff said!

I also found a great website called bookdrum that has commentaries for quite a few books that actually make sense!!

This review by The Guardian highlights that there was some backlash from the book when it first came out. Either a it was a bit to blasé with its use of characterisation, or plain wrong in the portrayal of certain groups, or maybe a bit to close to the truth? 

Diary, update and another next book

Hi all, quick update on the blog as I am spending more and more time reading or publishing short snippets on twitter ūüôā I finished Captain Corelli’s Mandolin and the review is in progress. I am about 1/2 way through The Fog by James Herbert which I think I might finish next week or shortly there after! Therefore, my next book just had to be decided.

Drum roll…. bbbbrrrrbrbrbrbrbrbrbrbrbrbrbrbrbrbrbrbr

Raven by Charles L. Grant.¬†I was lent this book a VERY long time ago by my best mate. I think¬†The Fog¬†was given to me by my dad, and that must have been around the same time. Ho hum, getting around to them now ūüôā
I was probably at college /doing A Levels at the time. I’m shuffling towards 40 now! You begin to understand why buying more books is something that I really shouldn’t do until I have cleared the backlog a bit…

So, if you happen to have a copy of Raven hanging around the place, or have a library that happens to stock it, dig it out and be on standby for parallel reading group. I managed to get over excited with The Fog and didn’t leave enough time between books. Hence being 1/2 way through it without a review of the last one and hence not doing a great job of announcing I was starting it.

Continual improvement, that’s what I say ūüôā

Next book: James Herbert – The Fog

Evening all. I am within spitting distance of finishing Captain Corelli’s Mandolin and have been planning a bit of a new idea for future books. I should have realised this right at the start, but this blog is called a book club! As far as I can, I will post a blog entry before I finish my current book with details of my next book. If any of you lovely readers out there want to join in, you can. Kind of like a club and stuff ūüôā
Now, I did realise that if I am going to be serious about this, I cant actually ask you to go out and buy the book that I am reading as that would negate my aim to stop consuming stuff. If I go about asking you all to buy stuff then I’m making myself part of the problem. Therefore I have to ask you to follow these rules
  1. If you have loads of unread books, read those first and tweet or blog about it. If you do, tell me on the blog or on twitter ūüôā
  2. If you can find it second hand that is great
  3. If you can get the book from the library then great too
If you really want to buy it and you have loads of unread books, then at least you will be reading what I hope to be a good cross section of books including all kinds of random title along the way ūüôā
So what’s my next book? Stupid question considering the title I gave this post. I had a long look through my bookcase, and came up with a choice of two. Given my last two books, I really wanted to go for something that didn’t include war or socialism! I came up with a choice of two, and I’m not sure that you could get two more different books.

 I was really divided between the two for so many reasons. I chose The Fog mainly because I know that Danny Wallace is pretty much the same as he was before he wrote his book, and it claims that it will change your life on the cover. I will obviously still ready this book, and it gets a good rating on goodreads. Next its The Fog, so if you wanna, grab your copy and I will post a blog entry to give the signal to start reading.

Last thing. Here is a pic of my copy of the book. I “inherited” it from my dad a very long time ago. My copy was published in 1977, so I was a year old then… Back to the last bit of CCM. It is really good, not sure how many books I can rate 8/10 before I have to make a change.

Book Review – The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists – Robert Tressell

Introduction

I chose to read The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists¬†because my Mum read it at her book group and recommended it. I also found it as a free¬†eBook¬†on Kobo which helped! Mum didn’t really describe what it¬†was about at all, and for that I am grateful. It was brilliant to discover the book as I read it. That said, this review is going to contain one or two spoilers. If you end up being a regular visitor to this blog, you may be able to allay this problem by reading the books at the same time as I do (or probably considerably faster!)

It appears to be fate that made me choose this as the second book to read for my blog. The book’s purpose is to illustrate the problems with the capitalist system in use in the early 1900’s. The descriptions of the issues, hardships and the socialist idea seen as the solution are the main reason for the book. This therefore pushed me further into asking questions about where we are in 2014, how far we have come and where we now need to go.
I want to keep this book review as just that, a review, so I will be creating various new pages to hold information about the topics listed below that have been highlighted or become part of my post consumer picture due to this book. These pages will not be blog posts as they will grow and be completed over time as I manage to work out what each one really means and how everything fits together. These will be linked from the main menu under the title “The ISMs”:-

  • Communism
  • Fascism
  • Capitalism
  • Consumerism
  • Socialism

The Book review

My edition of the book, as it appears there have been many, starts with a forward describing the way that the book was received and bought into published form. The forward is written by Jessie Pope. A background of where the book came from is neatly described in this Wikipedia article. The story of how the book was created and who Robert Tressell was is a fantastic tale in itself. 
Because the book is at least semi-biographical, I went to see if Google could find me a picture of the real Robert Tressell. I found one on a site containing¬†Robert Tressell’s Biography.¬†I have not read it all yet, but it looks very¬†interesting¬†now that I have read the book, here is a picture of the man himself taken from the biography.


No, really, now it’s the book review…

I was impressed with the quality of the writing in the book. It is succinct and easy to read, but with some astoundingly descriptive paragraphs. I got a real sense that I understood what it was like to be there, some of the character descriptions are amazing. Tressell practically details the length of their eyebrows and the depth of the lines on their face! These are strong descriptions that add to the story, not detracting from it as long descriptive passages sometimes can. I also found that the phonetic speech very well executed.

The book is a beautiful illustration of the way that the British Empire was created and run. We (humans) are not a nice race when we get access to power. You can see how the few oppress the many, and how that was maintained. The startling thing about this book is the way that it manages to articulate the problem. What could have been a very dry subject is given life through its characters. The wikipedia article says that the original manuscript was around 250,000 words. These were judiciously edited down before publication. I can imagine that the original version was slightly less accessible?

At the time the book was written there was already significant change underway. One that jumped at me from the depths of my memory (murky indeed!) was Bourneville. This is a village in England just outside Birmingham. It was created by the Cadbury’s family who were Quakers. They housed and fed their workers in the village, but they also educated them, provided recreational facilities and took the whole workforce on holidays. Bourneville was being built and completed at the same time that Robert Tressell was writing¬†The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists. The stark conflict between the way that Cadbury’s were treating their workers and the way workers are treated in the book highlights how perception was changing.

I was¬†surprised¬†that a lot of the issues and how people dealt with them in 1910 have not changed to today. My previous blog post lists the notes I took while reading the book. Even references¬†to how the newspapers work could have been a piece of contemporary¬†writing! In other situations there were obvious and stark differences.¬†I’m¬†glad to say that a lot of the poverty and inequality described in the book has gone, at least in the first world. It is still there, but in a minority.¬†The story of stuff¬†brings back the fact that in a lot of cases we¬†have just ‘off shored’ most of this poverty; out of sight, out of mind. I plan to investigate some of this myself a bit further into my post consumerist¬†odyssey.¬†


I am actually going to shy away from diving into the detail of what the book is about, partly as I said at the start, so that the experience is preserved if you do read the book.¬†The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists¬†is a book that I didn’t expect. We know that it has been heavily abridged, but the edition that I read flowed well and gradually built towards a fitting and possibly predictable conclusion. I was taken along with the other Philanthropists as we were educated in how life should be, and how we were not just accepting a very bad deal, but defending the very people who perpetrated our destitution. At times this book does edge towards a magnum opus for socialism and looses some of its charm, but for a work that tackles this subject, and being as it was written by one who lived that life, it is a very readable book.¬†The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists¬†provides a slice of life in 1910 while reminding us of how far we have come and how far we still need to go, even if that is not towards the Socialist utopia.

Rating: 7/10
The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists on Good Reads