Thursday, 26 September 2013

World-building. Like a sandbox, they're only interesting if they've got more than just sand in...

A fascination with dystopian worlds doesn't have to mean clanging emptiness
I've been concerned for a long time about huge heavy-hitting best selling books "building better worlds", books where the actual setting becomes as much of a 'star' as the characters.

The lure of dystopian pasts or futures, like the divided "Districts" in Suzanne Collins' "The Hunger Games" or the sprawling Elder-Scrolls / King-of-Thrones style fantasy landscapes of "The Future King - The Waking World" by Tom Huddleston, feel like places we can't wait to visit as vicarious observers hovering far above the landscape safe from its troubles and torments.

So many authors tie themselves to creating rich and detailed worlds - but what of the world's contents? What of the characters who populate these worlds? Is it possible that the newest trend in writing is also leading us down a path where 'literary tourism' is the substitute for dialogue and character development?

We've seen this happen in video games. With the advent of more powerful systems, we have seen "The Sandbox Game" become more and more popular, as developers begin the process of world-building themselves. But as the caption on our header image suggests, are authors now falling into the same trap that games developers are already struggling to claw their way out of - where those worlds are just empty hollow clanging shells, suffering because of a lack of content?

World building is tempting, inveigling. As an author, you are god - you possess the creative power to build a world, shape it, fanny around with the wibbly wobbly Norwegian coastline and all those Fjords, you can make cities rise or fall, produce architectural wonders to rival the ancient seven wonders of this world. But will you lose yourself so entirely in the process of world creation that you suddenly realise you need characters to populate that world that have as much impact as the scenery?

Worth a thought...

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

The Feathered Man by Jeremy De Quidt (David Fickling Books)

"The Feathered Man" by Jeremy De Quidt. Something wicked this way flaps!

Darkness and devilry abound in Jeremy De Quidt's latest book "The Feathered Man". Set in a German town (the exact time period is never mentioned but seems to be around the 18th century perhaps), it's a roiling tale of avarice and greed, and sinister beings. 

We meet Klaus, "The Tooth Puller's Boy" who is drawn into the centre of a maelstrom of chaos after a cadaver arrives at his master's business (Tooth pulling was apparently common practice in Europe from the 17th Century onwards, as precious metals were used as fillings - and obviously harvested back by illicit individuals when the person died!) This particular cadaver has a few gold teeth but it's a diamond - disguised as a tooth - that causes uproar, and soon results in the tooth puller's death when an avaricious boarding house owner and her son (the dead man's landlady, in fact) want that diamond back. 

Drawn also into the plot is Leisl, who is a servant girl under Drecht's harsh instruction. Tortured and threatened into reclaiming the diamond back from Klaus, Leisl meets other nefarious characters who cross her path and are also very interested in that diamond. 

Worst of all though is a character whom Klaus encounters by chance, a terrible feathered supernatural being who seems to be inextricably linked to the gem and the deaths of several folk involved with it. 

De Quidt's dark and horrific story is a real slow burner at first, taking a while to get going before it gets its nasty bird-like talons into you and hooks you in. As the plot tightens, the characters - reminiscent of horrific Bosch-like caricatures - become almost frenzied as the novel draws to a satisfying 'whump' of a close. 

Close the shutters, close your mouth, hug the bedclothes tight - but don't close your eyes for a second!

Monday, 9 September 2013

The Seven Deadly Sins of Reading - a Book Blogging Meme

Nice wedding gift...!


I spotted this meme over on the awesome Child-Led Chaos blog, so naturally I couldn't resist pinching it.
(The original meme was posted on Plastic Rosaries)


GREED: What is your most inexpensive book? What is your most expensive book?

Does 'free' count? If not, I guess the cheapest book I've actually paid money for was a 5p copy of an excellent Origami book by Heath Werner. Unfortunately it was a poor purchase because the origami in it is SO HARD!


Most expensive book - would probably be any of the Microsoft Inside Out stuff I have at work - they're ridiculously priced (£60 up for a book that's so dull it works beautifully as a cure for insomnia)


WRATH: What author do you have a love/hate relationship with?

Alan Moore. At his best, he's thought provoking, surreal, clever and brilliant. At his worst he churns out some really dreadful stuff that I can't bear to read more than once.


GLUTTONY: What book have you deliciously devoured over and over with no shame whatsoever?

Oh dear. It's probably not a good idea to admit that I've read "American Psycho" by Bret Easton Ellis more times than is probably good for a sane rational person. Other than that, "The Time Traveller's Wife" by Audrey Niffenegger because I seriously wish I could write like that. Write something that made people cry.


SLOTH: What book have you neglected to read due to laziness?

I never pass up a book due to laziness but I have passed up a lot of books because you get part way in and realise it's not 'sticking'. That particular list is too huge to mention!


PRIDE: What book do you most talk about in order to sound like a very intellectual reader?

I don't think I've ever bothered to read anything just to look 'trendy' or 'clever' but there are probably a few poetry books I've dropped the names of but have actually genuinely enjoyed. "Grinning Jack" by Brian Patten definitely fits into that mould.


LUST: What attributes do you find most attractive in male or female characters?

I am a sucker for kick-ass girls who basically don't take any crap from their male counterparts, save the day, and pause only to pick their knickers out of their bum-cracks. So Tank Girl then!


ENVY: What books would you most like to receive as a gift?

Anything by Shaun Tan, any graphic novels that aren't "teen w**k", real sucker for pretty books so anything along those lines. Absolutely and positively NOT books that have titles like "50 things a baldy can do to cover up their bald spots" or "A Big Book about Bottoms"

Thursday, 26 September 2013

World-building. Like a sandbox, they're only interesting if they've got more than just sand in...

No comments:
A fascination with dystopian worlds doesn't have to mean clanging emptiness
I've been concerned for a long time about huge heavy-hitting best selling books "building better worlds", books where the actual setting becomes as much of a 'star' as the characters.

The lure of dystopian pasts or futures, like the divided "Districts" in Suzanne Collins' "The Hunger Games" or the sprawling Elder-Scrolls / King-of-Thrones style fantasy landscapes of "The Future King - The Waking World" by Tom Huddleston, feel like places we can't wait to visit as vicarious observers hovering far above the landscape safe from its troubles and torments.

So many authors tie themselves to creating rich and detailed worlds - but what of the world's contents? What of the characters who populate these worlds? Is it possible that the newest trend in writing is also leading us down a path where 'literary tourism' is the substitute for dialogue and character development?

We've seen this happen in video games. With the advent of more powerful systems, we have seen "The Sandbox Game" become more and more popular, as developers begin the process of world-building themselves. But as the caption on our header image suggests, are authors now falling into the same trap that games developers are already struggling to claw their way out of - where those worlds are just empty hollow clanging shells, suffering because of a lack of content?

World building is tempting, inveigling. As an author, you are god - you possess the creative power to build a world, shape it, fanny around with the wibbly wobbly Norwegian coastline and all those Fjords, you can make cities rise or fall, produce architectural wonders to rival the ancient seven wonders of this world. But will you lose yourself so entirely in the process of world creation that you suddenly realise you need characters to populate that world that have as much impact as the scenery?

Worth a thought...
Read More

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

The Feathered Man by Jeremy De Quidt (David Fickling Books)

No comments:
"The Feathered Man" by Jeremy De Quidt. Something wicked this way flaps!

Darkness and devilry abound in Jeremy De Quidt's latest book "The Feathered Man". Set in a German town (the exact time period is never mentioned but seems to be around the 18th century perhaps), it's a roiling tale of avarice and greed, and sinister beings. 

We meet Klaus, "The Tooth Puller's Boy" who is drawn into the centre of a maelstrom of chaos after a cadaver arrives at his master's business (Tooth pulling was apparently common practice in Europe from the 17th Century onwards, as precious metals were used as fillings - and obviously harvested back by illicit individuals when the person died!) This particular cadaver has a few gold teeth but it's a diamond - disguised as a tooth - that causes uproar, and soon results in the tooth puller's death when an avaricious boarding house owner and her son (the dead man's landlady, in fact) want that diamond back. 

Drawn also into the plot is Leisl, who is a servant girl under Drecht's harsh instruction. Tortured and threatened into reclaiming the diamond back from Klaus, Leisl meets other nefarious characters who cross her path and are also very interested in that diamond. 

Worst of all though is a character whom Klaus encounters by chance, a terrible feathered supernatural being who seems to be inextricably linked to the gem and the deaths of several folk involved with it. 

De Quidt's dark and horrific story is a real slow burner at first, taking a while to get going before it gets its nasty bird-like talons into you and hooks you in. As the plot tightens, the characters - reminiscent of horrific Bosch-like caricatures - become almost frenzied as the novel draws to a satisfying 'whump' of a close. 

Close the shutters, close your mouth, hug the bedclothes tight - but don't close your eyes for a second!

Read More

Monday, 9 September 2013

The Seven Deadly Sins of Reading - a Book Blogging Meme

No comments:
Nice wedding gift...!


I spotted this meme over on the awesome Child-Led Chaos blog, so naturally I couldn't resist pinching it.
(The original meme was posted on Plastic Rosaries)


GREED: What is your most inexpensive book? What is your most expensive book?

Does 'free' count? If not, I guess the cheapest book I've actually paid money for was a 5p copy of an excellent Origami book by Heath Werner. Unfortunately it was a poor purchase because the origami in it is SO HARD!


Most expensive book - would probably be any of the Microsoft Inside Out stuff I have at work - they're ridiculously priced (£60 up for a book that's so dull it works beautifully as a cure for insomnia)


WRATH: What author do you have a love/hate relationship with?

Alan Moore. At his best, he's thought provoking, surreal, clever and brilliant. At his worst he churns out some really dreadful stuff that I can't bear to read more than once.


GLUTTONY: What book have you deliciously devoured over and over with no shame whatsoever?

Oh dear. It's probably not a good idea to admit that I've read "American Psycho" by Bret Easton Ellis more times than is probably good for a sane rational person. Other than that, "The Time Traveller's Wife" by Audrey Niffenegger because I seriously wish I could write like that. Write something that made people cry.


SLOTH: What book have you neglected to read due to laziness?

I never pass up a book due to laziness but I have passed up a lot of books because you get part way in and realise it's not 'sticking'. That particular list is too huge to mention!


PRIDE: What book do you most talk about in order to sound like a very intellectual reader?

I don't think I've ever bothered to read anything just to look 'trendy' or 'clever' but there are probably a few poetry books I've dropped the names of but have actually genuinely enjoyed. "Grinning Jack" by Brian Patten definitely fits into that mould.


LUST: What attributes do you find most attractive in male or female characters?

I am a sucker for kick-ass girls who basically don't take any crap from their male counterparts, save the day, and pause only to pick their knickers out of their bum-cracks. So Tank Girl then!


ENVY: What books would you most like to receive as a gift?

Anything by Shaun Tan, any graphic novels that aren't "teen w**k", real sucker for pretty books so anything along those lines. Absolutely and positively NOT books that have titles like "50 things a baldy can do to cover up their bald spots" or "A Big Book about Bottoms"
Read More