Guest Bloggery

The formidable and indefatigable Andy Remic requested me to provide guest content for his blog.  I chose “1-star reviews on Amazon” as my subject, just for a bit of fun.  I hope I’ve been balanced and non-judgemental.  You decide.

Meanwhile, work has begun on Redlaw and is proceeding apace (20,000 words so far in the space of a fortnight).  The story is taking shape quite nicely and I find I’m discovering all sorts of new things about the world I’ve created, which is always gratifying and helps keep one’s enthusiasm up.  There’s also an element of political satire which is coming out much more strongly than I envisaged, and I’m aiming at greater economy of prose and expression than I’ve ever attempted before.

Plus: plenty of fang-tastic action and, in the shape of the title character, a serious hardcase.  Imagine a thinner, white-haired Ray Winstone cross-fertilised with Solomon Kane and you’ll be sort of there.

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  1. Nick Sharps says:

    Hey I think that was a really good article. I usually try and be as fair as possible when reviewing a book, I don’t think I’ve ever given out a 1-Star review because I believe that all books have some merit even if its just as a door stop. At the same time I probably give too many 5-Star reviews. I get excited, especially with emerging authors or even just authors that I haven’t picked up before.

    I recently got called out by an author on his blog over a mediocre review I gave one of his books. He said it was difficult to take my opinion seriously when I thought a character of his was a little one dimensional. I thought it was kind of immature, my review wasn’t attacking him (I think he’s got a lot of potential and his other books are better) so I thought it was a little excessive to attack my opinion. But authors are people so I can understand where he might have been offended. I think that its better to be more critical and challenge the author especially if you like them rather than to join the other zealot-fans and kiss their ass. Maybe I’m wrong.

  2. James says:

    Thanks, Nick. It is, usually, better if an author butts out and doesn’t respond to reviews. I did it once when Vector published a review of Days where the reviewer clearly hadn’t read the book properly and had assumed it’s set in America when it clearly isn’t. I pointed this error out — in a good-natured fashion, or so I thought — and the reviewer was allowed a right of reply below my letter and used it to subject me to a torrent of abuse, down to calling me racist because he was Welsh. I hadn’t even known he was Welsh, and certainly hadn’t mentioned it, so I suspect he was dealing with some personal, chip-on-the-shoulder issues there.

    Any author response to a review is going to look like sour grapes and make the author appear churlish and thin-skinned, so, as I say, it’s best not to do it. In fact, it’s probably best not to read reviews at all, especially on Amazon. As the playwright Christopher Hampton once said, “Asking a working writer what he thinks about critics is like asking a lamppost how it feels about dogs.”

  3. Nick Sharps says:

    I really believe the purpose of those reviews is two-fold. To recommend or warn other readers of certain books and to give authors feedback. As long as the reviews are civil and somewhat intelligent and by someone who actually took time to read the book I think its great. There are definitely people who abuse the power and its annoying. At the same time I really believe authors need good feedback, they need to be in touch with their fans. I can respect that an author will write how he wants to, but they also have to respect that it might not be what people want to read. You make some really good points.

  4. James says:

    I agree entirely. I always try to take on board negative criticism (once I’m past the kicking-the-cat stage, that is) and incorporate it into my work. If I feel a criticism is justified, then it becomes part of the general process of refining and improving my writing. Whetstones are sharp and hard but we need them to hone our skills on.

    Authors who don’t do this tend, I believe, to become self-indulgent or go off the boil. There are very successful authors who simply won’t be edited any more because they reckon they must know what they’re doing, otherwise why would they be selling so well? They forget that feedback is useful. Self-importance gets the better of them. I don’t need to mention any names. I’m sure you can think of examples yourself, from your own reading and reviewing experience. You need humility in this line of work. Arrogance may make the bad reviews easier to bear, but humility will serve your writing better.

    NB I don’t really kick the cat and this website does not endorse violence towards domestic pets in any form.

  5. Nick Sharps says:

    I think thats a really mature view on the matter. If I ever get a book published I can only hope to be so collected when it comes to bad reviews. Aside from reviews I think its really important to keep a tab on fans, I think authors blogs are great. I love weekly updates from my favorite authors and its even better when they can engage readers in conversation. I enjoy talking to authors, if it weren’t for your blog and that comment on power armor I probably wouldn’t have picked up Age of Zeus. I don’t think its necessary to pander to your fans but I do think an author should be aware of their opinion. Otherwise what the hell are you writing for?

  6. James says:

    “I don’t think its necessary to pander to your fans but I do think an author should be aware of their opinion. Otherwise what the hell are you writing for?”

    Bingo. I don’t have that many fans, or at least not that many I communicate with on a regular basis, but those that I do have, I value — for their support, their opinions, their feedback. It helps remind me why I write (because sometimes, particularly when it’s not going well, I forget). I write to entertain, to amuse, to get a point across, to pontificate sometimes, but above all to communicate. If I fail to connect with a reader or reviewer, that’s a pity, and I’m prepared to shoulder the blame even when it may simply be, and usually is, a mismatch of mindsets. I don’t see that mismatch as an excuse for somebody to trash my work and pillory me as an author, and I can only hope that doing so reflects worse on them than it does on me.

    I wish I could do weekly updates, by the way, but I have so little going on that it hardly seems worthwhile. “This week I did another 25 pages.” Not exactly scintillating!

  7. Nick Sharps says:

    The fact that you’re willing to reply to comments at all says a good bit. Its funny what a little good-will can buy you. I follow a couple blogs really closely and because the authors are so involved with their fan base it really helps to generate support. I just recently ordered a signed copy of a book that I could get for cheaper in a store. I don’t need a signature but I really like the author and I don’t mind tossing a few extra bucks his way. The guy has only published one book so far but he already has a pretty large following and I would guess a lot of that loyalty comes from his blogging.

    Believe it or not you still are a good deal more up to date than most author’s blogs. My biggest complaint is that my favorite author (John Ringo) has absolutely no online presence. He used to have a website but that burnt down or whatever happens to digital hang-outs. Its okay not to post daily or even weekly so long as you can throw out some goodies every now and then (Redlaw cover image cough cough).

  8. James says:

    Adam Roberts is a terrific blogger, not to mention a persistent Tweeter. He has about 28 blogs on the go at once — only a slight exaggeration — and definitely uses it as a means of communication with his readership, although it’s also an outlet for his poetry and diverse views and opinions that wouldn’t see the light of day elsewhere. I don’t know how he fills all the space, frankly, but then his brain is far larger than mine and must need more outlets for its thoughts.

    My other problem with blogging is that I tend to equate writing with making a living. In other words: if I’m not getting paid, why am I doing it? This is the result of 20+ years of being a professional author. I am now a hopeless mercenary bastard. If I could make bloggery pay, maybe I’d do more of it…

  9. Nick Sharps says:

    Hey, everyone loves the hopeless mercenary bastard. They are easy to sympathize with and fun to root for 😛 I can see what you mean though. As much as I love writing I doubt the first thing on my To-Do list after a day working on a book is getting online and posting. I think there was a South Park episode about using the internet as a medium (YouTube instead of blogging) and how its difficult to make a profit. I also believe the Canadians go on strike in that episode haha.

  10. James says:

    What is it “aboot” South Park and Canadians? What have the poor Canucks ever done to Matt Stone and Trey Parker?

  11. Nick Sharps says:

    Hahaha I think the real question is, What has the world done to Matt Stone and Trey Parker? I really do appreciate their humor, they seem pretty intelligent guys and they doll out the comedy without bias. I think thats sort of rare these days. Plus Stephen “Butters” Stotch is just the best character created for anything ever.

  12. James says:

    I love Butters too. So innocent, so trusting, so doomed to disaster…

    SP is the only comedy show on television that is consistently, reliably funny — sometimes gut-bustingly so — and that’s all the more remarkable given how many years it’s been going. Plus, at times the creators say things that most people would be too cowardly to say, although they’re never controversial for controversy’s sake and the people who get a kicking almost always deserve it, especially the celebrities.

    The only problem is that Comedy Central in the UK show it at odd times and never publicise when a new series is starting, so often I miss the first couple of episodes each season, which are usually the two best.

  13. Nick Sharps says:

    I almost have to agree completely. The only other television shows I bother watching are It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia and The Office (the version we stole from you :P). South Park is a reliable show and it despite the absurdity it really does have a lot to say. Stone and Parker are some really brave guys, last season they tried to put an episode that actually would show Muhammed in spite of the Theo van Gogh business. The lesson was about fear but Comedy Central ended up censoring the episode and the message didn’t really get out.

  14. James says:

    I liked The Office all right but everybody in this country now hates Ricky Gervais. Not sure why, but it may have something to do with him being perceived as smug and self-congratulatory. Which he is, but that doesn’t go down too well in this nation of self-repression and cultivated modesty. Win awards and make a fortune by all means, but don’t go bragging about it on every chat show you appear on.

  15. Nick Sharps says:

    I prefer our Steve Carrell, I’ve tried the British version a couple of times but I couldn’t follow the conversations too well. I do like Ricky Gervais though, I’m not sure why but I can see where we fit the original role of Michael Scott perfectly. As far as British comedy goes I will be a Monty Python fan for life. I think that’s the greatest thing to ever come out of your country. Besides the American colonies anyway haha.

  16. James says:


    We do that on purpose, talk funny. At home, in private, we speak in clear American accents. For anything public, we affect strange, strangulated voices and use obscure slang terms that no one else can understand. It’s a cultural thing, you see. Just like our peculiar spelling of words such as “labour” and “honour”. We like to feel exclusive, even though we’re well aware we’re the colony now and you guys the settlers.

  17. Nick Sharps says:

    Hahaha. If it makes you feel any better I do so love the peculiar spelling. There’s a good bit of that in Warhammer. Honour, daemon, and the like. I’ve always found it funny that the UK is our best friend in the world despite the way things used to be. I’ve always wondered if you chaps view men like George Washington and Samuel Adams as traitors?

  18. James says:

    How can we view them as traitors when our world-view is shaped almost entirely by American pop culture? Those guys are heroes, goldarnit! They must be. Only heroes get states and beers named after them.

    When I was reading British reprints of Marvel comics in the 1970s, it always used to amuse me that they would “correct” American spellings — usually through the very clumsy use of white-out liquid and a marker pen. Not as if we couldn’t work out what the word was supposed to be without help. It was even funnier when they cocked it up, like thinking we spell laboratory “labouratory”.

  19. Nick Sharps says:

    🙂 I’m glad that they don’t have a bad reputation. They are some fascinating guys and they can be some very inspirational figures. With my country the way it is now I wonder if the union will last long enough to ever have more heroes like that.

    Labouratory 😛 Ahhh you limey bastards (what is the meaning behind limey anyway). As a comic fan whats your favorite hero/series? I just moved somewhere that theres a comic store nearby and its really put a drain on my wallet. I’m reading Millars Ultimate Avengers series and its pretty sweet. I’ve never seen a tougher version of Captain America.

  20. James says:

    “Limey” refers, allegedly, to the practice in the British Navy during the 18th century of giving sailors lime juice to drink, in order to stave off scurvy. But maybe you guys just like to use it because you can stick “slimy” in front and it rhymes.

    I like Millar’s work OK, but he doesn’t exactly provide value for money, does he? How many words per issue? Not a lot. Makes it a quick, fun read, though.

    Lately I’ve been enjoying the “Marvel Cosmic” stuff written by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning, the almost monthly collections of Spider-Man, Matt Fraction’s Iron Man, plus a smattering of Vertigo and Mignola titles. That’s when I’m not splashing out on collections of old Kirby work and Dark Horse’s Warren reprints. Best thing I’ve read lately, by far, is the strip Blacksad (another DH reprint). Stunning artwork and, for once in a European comic, coherent plotting and prose.

  21. Nick Sharps says:

    If that’s the origin of limey I have no idea why its used in a derogatory fashion…”Haha look at that limey, all of us are suffering from scurvy but he’s nice and healthy! What a loser!”

    Millar can be a bit thrifty on words and the plot is pretty straight forward but I’m really enjoying Ultimate Avengers. The whole premise of Captain America going rogue to hunt down the Red Skull, his illegitimate terrorist son, is pretty cool stuff. I always thought of Cap as a pretty vanilla character but with Marvel Civil War he really came alive to me. That was an especially cool plot line.

    I actually own a copy of Abnett’s Thanos Imperative, I’m a big Abnett fan from 40k so I thought I’d give it a try. I couldn’t really follow it, I think that its mostly my fault though. I’ve never read any of the Marvel Cosmic stuff so I don’t know anyone other than Nova. It was a little over my head but the artwork is really something to marvel at.

    My all time favorite comic has got to be Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns. I love his version of Batman. What I’ve never understood is how all of Gotham’s citizens complain about Batman being a vigilante. He might rough up the criminals a little, but he usually leaves the real justice to the police. Which I found pretty lame. But in DKR he actually kills the Joker and Two-Face and all I have to say is its about damn time.

  22. James says:

    “Yeah, that limey’s teeth aren’t falling out and ours all are.” Maybe that’s why you guys now have excellent dentition and ours is a standing joke with you. It’s some weird sort of karmic reversal thing.

    Abnett’s cosmic comics take much of their inspiration from 70s Marvel, particularly Jim Starlin’s runs on the characters Captain Marvel and Adam Warlock. Now, I loved those comics as a kid, so Abnett is drawing water from a well that’s particularly sweet to me. I agree, though, that if you’re unfamiliar with the source material it could all become very confusing. It’s a common problem with comics these days: a lot of them are written by and for people who have been reading comics since childhood and are familiar, often intimately so, with the continuity. One reason The Dark Knight Returns was so popular was simply that you didn’t need to know anything much about Batman before reading it. Even if your only exposure to the character was the 60s TV show, you still knew immediately where you were. Although it helps that Miller (Frank, not Mark) has such a brilliant grasp of character and narrative and certainly knows how to use a pencil too.

  23. Nick Sharps says:

    I love comics, as a geek its a prerequisite. My problem is that I’ve never been able to follow a story arc long. There isn’t a comic store in my home town and there nearest one is an hour away. Then there’s the problem with following an entire series, issue by issue. A problem I’ve recently run into. I have Ultimate Avengers volume 1 and 2 but the comic store doesn’t have 3 even though its got 4,5,6. My problem has always been one of continuity and price. I can get a paperback for the price of two comics, and as much as I love the comics the paperback will burn up much more time. That means I’m more hesitant to pick up a comic and easily spurned if its not a decent issue. And my last complaint is the ads. I understand that ads mean money. But seriously when you’re watching Cap kick ass and take names and then you flip the page and theres a FULL SPREAD PRIUS AD it kind of snaps you out of the moment. That said I think graphic novels are a wonderful alternative. Especially Sin City and Scott Pilgrim 😛

  24. James says:

    I try and wait for the collected edition if at all possible, mainly because they’re better value for money but also because of those damn adverts (every facing page, sometimes!). Some titles, however, I’ll get in pamphlet form just because I’m in the habit of doing so. I, too, don’t live near a comic shop, but there’s an online service I use that works pretty well, and saves me money even with the price of postage factored in because otherwise I’d have to take a train or drive and pay to park. This same company — all right, I’ll name it, Forbidden Planet — also does great discounts on graphic novels if you advance order. Which, alas, makes it all too tempting to spend far too much…

  25. Nick Sharps says:

    Ugh. I’ve only just now awaken from a rather deep slumber. I spent my day yesterday playing the new Halo: Reach and I have to say I am thoroughly impressed. The first game was fantastic but the series has never really managed to live up to the bar set by the original in my eyes. Reach, however, was a much better attempt at telling the story of a world doomed to fall. The real strong point in this one is the characters. Anyway I was wondering if that Halo craze is big in the UK. Here in the US its probably as big as any military sci-fi will ever get (which is a shame because there is much better out there) but I’ve never really run into many limeys (fun and fruity) online. Which also made me wonder why Britain isn’t as big into producing games as the US. As far as video games go, it feels like US and Japan are the only countries that really take a part in the industry. The only time I remember Britain in game news is the controversy in Resistance over using some cathedral for some shoot ’em up goodness. Any insight?

  26. James says:

    None at all, I’m afraid. My geek credentials expire when it comes to games. I used to piss around a lot on my friend’s Sega Mega Drive back in the day, but I came to the conclusion that the time I was spending doing that was time I wasn’t, you know, working, so I weaned myself off. I know games are amazing these days, but a lot of the first-person shooters give me motion sickness and the rest give my eyestrain, so I don’t partake. My kids are probably getting a Wii this Christmas (don’t tell them) and that may drag me into that world again, but I doubt it. I reckon I’ll just be the Dad who can’t do Mario properly…

  27. Nick Sharps says:

    The Wii is a great family system 😛 The first game system I owned was a Play Station and I have some great memories of family game night. We used to have competitions with Asteroids and Centipede and such. The Wii hit me with a lot of nostalgia when my mom got it for my little brother last year. And then it hit me with a bit of nausea. I bought The Conduit for the Wii and I have to warn you, if a standard FPS gives you motion sickness then a FPS on the Wii will probably give you a seizure. The game got a lot of good reviews but I couldn’t manage walking, looking, and shooting. You should have plenty of fun with it though, the system is fantastic and also has NetFlix! Its a shame you never got into gaming though. I think you would particularly appreciate BioShock. The depth of storytelling in that game is so beyond any other game I’ve ever played. But hey, even non-gamers can appreciate Tetris 😛

  28. James says:

    I love Tetris! And Bejewelled. All those puzzle-type games. But again, they waste an immense amount of time, not to mention ocular acuity. There comes a time when a man has to say, “I’m gettin’ too old for this shit,” and I fear that time is upon me.

    Then again, when the Wii arrives I may just change my mind.

  29. Nick Sharps says:

    For some reason I believe that my intensely disciplined ability to stack tetrahedrons will one day help me save the world. I generally dislike puzzle games but I have such a profound love for Tetris. It got me through at least two rough break-ups. Plus you gotta love the story of how it came to be, even if the poor inventor got screwed over by the Soviet Union. I really wish the game industry would look more to novels for material. There are so many series that deserve a good game (John Ringo’s Legacy of Aldenata would make for an excellent RTS). Games usually are lacking in the plot department, people spend too much time focusing on multiplayer nowadays. But with novels the plot already exists, all that you’d need to add is the gameplay. For example Age of Zeus would make a great FPS. Power armor and high powered weapons against monsters and Gods. Brilliant.

  30. James says:

    An Age Of Zeus game? From your lips to God’s ear. Even I would play that one. In fact I may just mention the idea to the publisher, Solaris, who are owned by Rebellion, who make lots of computer games.

    What if Tetris was actually a test devised by some secret pan-national government looking for exactly the right person to help fight off an invasion by evil tetrahedrons from outer space bent on conquering planet earth? The scenario would be a sort of collision between The Last Starfighter and Dick’s Time Out Of Joint. The skills you’ve developed would put you at the forefront of the terran resistance as you remote-manipulate the invaders and annihilate their attack force line by line, with special added destruction whenever you wipe out four rows of them at once.

    Well, it could happen.

  31. Nick Sharps says:

    I really think you should mention it to someone. An Age of Zeus game has a lot of potential. Intense fire fights, epic boss battles, witty one liners. I would buy the game in a heart beat. You might have to add some lesser enemies for bullet-sponge filler (possibly Pantheon sympathizers or some type of lesser monsters). I see room for some puzzle elements even. The possibilities are endless old chap.

    And I have to say that your Tetris scenario brightened my day. And my day was certainly in need of some brightening. Also it would make for a great novel! If people can write Halo, Starcraft, and even Doom fiction then I see no reason someone couldn’t write a Tetris novel!

  32. James says:

    God, you know, someone somewhere probably is writing a Tetris novel. Come to that, making a Tetris movie. You really have to be careful, Nick, about batting ideas like that out into the blogosphere. They have a way of going viral and infecting the minds of Hollywood creative types, and next thing you know, it’s Tetris The Movie, starring Shia LaBoeuf as the naive young gamer who’s In Way Over His Depth, John Malkovich slumming it as the CIA boss who’ll sacrifice anyone to save the earth, Johnny Depp (or, if budgetary considerations apply, Steve Buscemi) as the crazy old Russian games designer who knew there was something funny going on, and Jessica Simpson/Megan Fox/Kate Bosworth (delete where applicable) as the Superfluous Girl With The Tits.

  33. Nick Sharps says:

    Holy shit. I haven’t laughed that hard in a while 😛 The sad thing is, its really not far from the truth. They’re working on a movie for Battleship (the board game) with Karl Urban I believe. But in a brilliant flare of creative ingenuity they’re adding aliens, ya know just ’cause? Also a long time ago I heard they were working on an Asteroids movie. I assume they would get Michael Bay to direct that one. And now that I think of it, a while back there was supposed to be a Dig Dug movie in production. Its really kind of funny because they have these truly cinematic games like Killzone, BioShock, Mass Effect and God of War that would make for excellent movies. But instead they want to dredge up child hood memories and give them the Hollywood treatment. What’s next? Chutes and Ladders? Candyland? Hungry Hungry Hippos? Mouse Trap? God, they could never have to create an original idea again if they just visited the board-game aisle of Wal-Mart (or the British equivalent Ye Olde Wal-Shoppe). I have to admit your screen play synopsis is pretty brilliant, I would have to trade Depp/Buscemi for Mickey Rourke (he seems the very essence of crazy old Russian). Who would you choose to play Sam in an Age of Zeus movie? Or Zeus for that matter?

  34. James says:

    I guess Sam could be Kate Winslet or Cate Blanchett, or maybe Gillian Anderson (if she were just a little bit younger) because she can do a flawless British accent. It would have to be Samuel Jackson for Rick Ramsay, although again they’d have to de-age him using computer wizardry. As for old Zeusie, I really can’t think. Some Brit actor who’s 30 but could look much older with a beard attached, one of the posh boys like Rupert Graves, Damien Lewis or Toby Stephens — or maybe just someone in their 50s like Sean Bean, Ray Winstone, someone like that, with a much, much older actor to play Regis, someone in the Ian McKellen or Ben Kingsley range.

    As for Mousetrap: The Movie, this isn’t it, but it’s close.

  35. Nick Sharps says:

    Gillian Anderson would be pretty spot on if she were younger. As for Rick Ramsay I was thinking maybe Boris Kodjoe or Jamie Foxx. I like Samuel L. but I can see an internet meme starting and before you know it you’ve got Rick Ramsay saying “I’ve had it with these mother-f*****g mythological creatures in this mother-f*****g town.” Or something to that degree. Damien Lewis has my vote for Zeus, if you could get around the hair. For Regis I’d have to say McKellan or maybe Dennis Hopper (if he can do a british accent). I have to say that if there were to be an Age of Zeus movie it would have to be British made (the only British director I can think of is Edgar Wright?). If it went to hollywood you can guarantee that it would be Americanized to the extreme. Sam would probably either become a man or lose lead to Rick who would probably become caucasian. And those would probably minor changes, I’d hate to think what they would do to the plot. Maybe sometimes its best to leave some books be. Otherwise you wind up with Ron Howard’s hideous interpretations of Dan Brown’s Angels and Demons, and The Da Vinci Code. On the SciFi (SyFy now) channel website I read an article about Joe Haldeman’s The Forever War getting turned into a movie. I really hope this never happens, Hollywood could not pull it off. There is far too much depth to turn it into a feature film for the general audience. Same goes for Asimov’s Foundation series.

    On another note entirely, how the hell did you find that? YouTube has some crazy stuff.

  36. James says:

    I found it via Facebook. Someone posted it there. I really have no other portal to the weirdness of the internet than that. I don’t know how people have the time or the resources to go trawling around looking for oddities. I’m glad they do, but I’m equally glad I don’t myself.

    Danny Boyle could make a good Age Of Zeus movie, or Ridley Scott. I’ve always loved Scott’s movies, with the proviso that he chooses some awful, awful scripts — quite often, in fact — but still manages to make them look beautiful. I sat through his Robin Hood the other night and was bored as hell but absorbed at the same time simply because he can’t help but compose and frame the perfect shot every time. (In addition to his script blind-spot, he does insist on working with miseryguts Russell Crowe again and again. Truly, our heroes do have feet of clay.)

    Jamie Foxx is a good call for Rick, if he could try and be a bit less self-regarding. What would be really cool would be to have David Bowie as Regis. Bowie would make a great movie bad guy. As I understand it, he was wanted for the villain role in A View To A Kill that Christopher Walken played. He turned it down, luckily for him and all right-thinking Bowie worshippers everywhere.

  37. Nick Sharps says:

    See, I loved Gladiator. But when I saw the abomination that was Master and Commander I swore off Russel Crowe movies for life. I’ve never been a fan of Robin Hood anyway. From the look of the movie it seemed like it was getting the King Arthur treatment from a couple years back (I did actually enjoy that movie despite what critics have to say about it). Clive Owen rocks. But thats not the point I guess. Although it is a good point.

    I can never take Christoper Walken seriously, he just makes me laugh. He makes a good comedic villain but I just can’t imagine him being evil to any real degree.

    I’ve been busy lately, my “to-read pile” is reaching enormous preportions and this isn’t even my home “to-read pile”, its my college “to-read pile”. Lately I’ve read Larry Correia’s Monster Hunter Vendetta and I started Ken Scholes’ Lamentation which I abruptly put aside for David Weber’s new novel Out of the Dark. Do you get much time to read?

  38. James says:

    Russell Crowe’s generally just a grumpy bugger and recently got into trouble over here for storming out of a radio interview when someone had the temerity to question the quality of his Nottinghamshire “accent”. He has the face of a man for whom nothing would ever be good enough, not even all the riches and acclaim in the world. I try to avoid his movies if at all possible. Robin Hood just sort of got onto the online rental list by mistake (and the Ridley Scott factor).

    I don’t read as much as I’d like, simply because spending all day writing kind of burns out the urge for prose come evening time. Also, with my reviewing job, I have to devote precious reading time to books I wouldn’t normally touch. Sometimes it works out that I’ll get a title for review that I would normally want to read, but that’s rarer than I’d like.

    Plus, last thing at night, I tend to crash out, exhausted, after just 10 pages or so. Two small children, you see. That’s just the way it goes. There are millions of books out there I’d love to get into; time prevents me.

  39. Nick Sharps says:

    I would really like to do book reviews for a notable site, as much as I read I think it makes sense. I’m not sure how that sort of thing works. I’ve even been expanding my reading lately. Typically I stick with military sci-fi but I’ve also started to drift back toward some fantasy titles thanks to Joe Abercrombie. Just recently the steampunk genre has caught my eye because of the new Bioshock coming out.My problem is lack of motivation. It’s daunting starting a series that spans ten novels. As much as I like to read I enjoy variety and being there as a series progresses. Then again the wait for a new book in a series can be especially aggravating. As a reader I can be pretty impatient and picky. Then at the same time I love to write but reading takes up most of my spare time and with so many titles out there just trying to create your own original property can be a scary. Maybe once if I get a creative writing class next semester it could help me out.

  40. James says:

    I’m a terrible hop-and-skipper when it comes to reading. A book has to be really damn good to hold my attention all the way through to the end. Usually, if I’m not gripped, I’ll leave it and go on to the next in the pile. I’m more patient when I’m on holiday, and then I’ll polish off a book a day if I get the chance and will seldom abandon anything unless it’s really terrible. I definitely try to stay clear of multi-part sagas, even if they’re produced by authors I love. For instance, King’s Dark Tower series. I gave up on that with Book 3, once I realised it wasn’t going anywhere fast. People love it, I know, but like a lot of fantasy it ambled along at a leisurely pace, not much sense of urgency. With fantasy, it’s the world-building that’s supposed to be the gripping aspect, but me, I couldn’t care less about the intimate intricacies someone’s made-up realm. Plot and character, please.

    I’m not knocking being paid to review, as it’s decent money, fun to do, and good for the name and profile. It’s just another part of the problem with the phase of life I’m currently in: I don’t have much spare time to devote to things I enjoy.

  41. Nick Sharps says:

    Gah. I just did a count of my collection and the numbers are daunting. I’ve got 122 books on my shelf which I’ve read (this doesn’t count the last two times I’ve donated to the library and my eBay selling spree) plus three “too read” piles. My college dorm pile has 29 books and it is my smallest of all my piles. I really feel like I have an addiction. There’s always more books I want to read than there is time in which to read them. Then throw in sequels and new authors and new series by old authors and expanding into new genres and its enough to send me into a crazy fit.

    I’ve always wanted to read the Dark Tower series but I can’t stomach a series that has 8 or more books to it. It seems like deep universe King has created but even if I had time to read the series I wouldn’t trust him enough to get the ending right. Somehow he has a way of really screwing over readers with the finale. I have to agree with you on plot and character over world building. I can’t stand textbook like descriptions of these intricate worlds. I like the way Joe Abercrombie shows the world he created in passing comments that hint at larger events and organizations. It seems much more organic and realistic.

  42. James says:

    Hey, you think 122 is bad, you should see my house. Thousands of the damn things, everywhere. I have regular purges; some I sell, others go to the charity shop. I hate doing it but it has to be done, otherwise the towering heaps and over-crammed shelves could become a health hazard.

    Like you, I prefer it when an author’s world-building is all but invisible. I hate having to trudge through great undigested and indigestible gobs of background detail. It’s a problem I’ve noticed particularly with Iain M. Banks’s recent Culture novels, where he’ll spend pages at a time telling you about the interpolitical situation in his universe. It’s blatant infodumping, and I’m sure his ardent admirers love it, but for me it slows down the action and hints at self-indulgence.

    You’re bang on about King and endings. He usually brings it all together but sometimes it feels a bit forced, as in From A Buick 8 for instance, or a bit rushed. And then sometimes it drags on like nobody’s business. Both The Stand and Under The Dome are over about 100 pages before they actually end.

  43. Nick Sharps says:

    🙂 I’ll never switch over to eBooks. Nothing beats a dead tree edition garnishing your shelf. Plus you can’t use bad eBooks as coasters, paper weights, or door stops!

    I was interested in checking out Ian M. Banks’s novels but I feared that he was an infodumper. I really am hesitant toward space opera. I love military sci-fi and I feel like space opera has its merits but I just can’t commit to 800 pages of eight or nine different POV’s, limited action, and a full description of the waste recycling process on habitat B6. Maybe that makes me lazy. I loved Peter F. Hamilton’s Fallen Dragon. I think that book ties together as one of the most brilliant pieces of fiction I’ve ever read. His other stuff? I have to pass. His books are huge, usually pieces of a series, and have too many POV’s. That’s my biggest problem I guess, the POV’s. You get a character plotting something and then you don’t see him for another hundred pages. And in that time you’ve met several more characters whose names you’ll forget by next chapter. Dreadful.

    I was in love with Under the Dome. I was getting so excited for the resistance movement, all the tension and suspense. And then? I realize I’m 200 pages from the end and there’s no way anything major is going to happen because it took this long to get to here. And then everything is swept away in one huge fire and none of it mattered anyway. Fantastic. Glad I took the time to read the forest that had to be chopped down to make that book. Thanks a lot Mr. King.

  44. James says:

    Sorry for the delay in replying, Nick, but the website was closed temporarily for maintenance. I’m not sure what actually needed doing, as that was up to my webguy, but we’re back on-stream now, if that’s the right word. Had to unclog a ton of spam from the pipes once I got back to the dashboard. All those friendly, encouraging messages (“I come across this by accidentally and loving it! Keeps up the good work!”) from people trying to plant links to some sales site or other. It’s both ego-boosting and -deflating at once.

    One other thing ebooks can’t do is knock out burglars. That’s always an important consideration when stocking one’s library: is this tome going to be sufficiently hefty to disable anyone who breaks into your house? A lightweight piece of hardware just don’t do the trick. That’s where Chambers dictionary, say, or Under The Dome comes in. Your ereader will be ruined by the impact, so you’ll be forced to fork out for a new one. There might be some slight damage to the book, maybe a splash of blood on the dustjacket, but by and large it’ll survive.

    Piling up characters and POVs is a literary tactic as old as Dickens. Whenever he felt his plotlines flagging, he’d just introduce some new eccentric with wacky speech patterns and a few distinctive tics, and bingo, that’s the next couple of instalments sorted. When I’m reading I can just about manage to keep three threads going simultaneously. Any more, and I completely lose track, and my mind.

  45. Nick Sharps says:

    No problem on the delay, I figure you’re a busy guy and I had an islamic history test I probably should have been studying for anyway haha.

    The other problem with eBooks is that they aren’t really a whole lot cheaper than dead tree editions. Then factor in having to buy the actual eReader and I’m not so sure you save any money at all. Maybe I’m just old fashioned. I loved paper. You can’t beat the feel of a new book. I don’t think that’s something digital media can replace. Just like the people who still listen to vinyl (I think its more prevalent in the UK than here). They say there’s something to a record on vinyl that a CD or MP3 just can’t replace and I believe there may be some truth to that. Plus Under the Dome would make for wonderful theft deterrent (thank God it can serve one purpose) although the beating would be so brutal the cops may suspect the robber to be a victim of torture.

    Multiple POV’s rarely works for me. There’s always the one thread you actually want to follow, another that you’re ambivalent about and then one that it pains you to read. I hate being taken from the main storyline about a knight on a quest to save the kingdom only to be plopped down in the life of a prostitute turning tricks at Ye Olde Inn. Sure 600 pages later she may have some semi-crucial role in the story, but do we have to suffer all the boring details? I much prefer a book to be more concentrated. I hate focusing on lesser characters of minimal interest.

  46. Nick Sharps says:

    Side Note—

    How are things coming along with Redlaw? Every time I look at that cover I find myself salivating uncontrollably.

  47. James says:

    I have about 70,000 words of Redlaw in the can and hope to have the first draft complete by Christmas. I imagine it’ll be out sometime late next year, maybe autumn. The cover beckons to me every day when I switch my computer on, glowering from the desktop. It’s become a kind of religious ikon to me, almost.

    One author who I think does multiple viewpoints well is Gibson. In his early cyberpunk stuff each of the narrative strands was so interesting that none was inferior to the others. It almost didn’t matter that the way they tied together was sometimes tangential and often so oblique there was barely any crossover at all. I must admit that I haven’t enjoyed his more recent output. The plots are less compelling and his approach to his material is confusing bordering on baffling, although his sentences remain among the best of any writer, living or dead.

    As for the vinyl/CD/download debate, I was a late adopter of CDs and I will never, ever get an MP3 player. Where’s the actual music when it’s just a software file? Does it even exist? Plus, I’m a bit of a sonic purist and I don’t like the compression they use on songs. Ruins all the nuance and expression that the artists have tried to achieve (I’m speaking here of proper musicians, not X-Factor contestants and the like). My wife has an iPlayer, for convenience, but mostly it’s got audiobooks on it. If I had my way, vinyl would still be valid. Look! The music’s there! Right in that spiral groove! See?

  48. Nick Sharps says:

    That’s exciting about Redlaw 😛 You could probably write 500 pages of unicorn sex and sand-castle contests and the cover would still have me hooked. I’ve expanded my horizons into Urban Fantasy lately and some of it is really good but the rest seems like a pissing contest to see who can create the most badass character. Sandman Slim by Richard Kadrey for instance. All the reviews say its the grittiest, dirtiest, most hard-edges, sarcastic, cynical, piece of urban fantasy ever. I thought the book was alright but it definitely did not live up to the hype. It was actually kind of silly in spots and for a noir, detective type novel Sandman is a horrible detective.

    I have two Gibson books in my “too-read” pile. Count Zero and Neuromancer. For some reason I can never compel myself to read them. I think it might be the cover art as horrible as that sounds. I know how wonderful they’re supposed to be and I’m sure I’d like them if I got into them but despite what everyone says, you can judge a book by its cover. The cover sets the whole tone of the novel and if you screw it up then every time the reader puts the book down they’re going to see this image that doesn’t properly coalesce with their thoughts. Take A Hymn Before Battle by John Ringo for instance. First book in my favorite series of all time. I’d seen it for years on the shelf, I’d read the Amazon reviews, and yet I could not bring myself to pick it up. Of course when I finally did it blew me away but early Baen cover art was just atrocious. They’re actually getting better work now but the early stuff made me nauseous at the sheer cheesy pulp factor.

    I share your unease about MP3’s but for a different reason. I just don’t trust digital stuff. It could be gone to never return at any second. At least with vinyl or CDs you have it in your possession. iTunes on the other hand could just decide it doesn’t like my and erase my entire library…which would be armageddon. I can appreciate the sonic purity or whatever, I don’t know all that technical stuff but I’m sure there’s something to it. Plus vinyl makes for fun zombie deterrent, as seen in Shaun of the Dead!

  49. James says:

    Redlaw is kind of a badass, but he has redeeming qualities too, and those come to the fore in the course of the story. I don’t think I’m capable of writing a true badass character as it isn’t interesting to me. I want to see the other side of the personality. No one should be the good guy if he or she is totally amoral. It just doesn’t stand to reason. Or maybe I’m old-fashioned. I try and do that gritty, corner-of-the-mouth dialogue too and can’t make it work. People just don’t talk like that, realistically. Quips I will do, but all that “I like you but I’m not going to show it and I’ll just rag on you instead” isn’t for me.

    If you have a thing for trashy covers, check out this site. They have a particular thing about Baen, who, let’s face it, have committed some grotesque atrocities in their time.

  50. Nick Sharps says:

    See I think that characters without redeeming qualities aren’t any fun to read. And then I always get the feeling that I’m exactly the type of person the character would hate. Because they hate a lot. Without any good reason. Sandman Slim hates cops, and goody-goody heroes, and rich people and just about everything he comes across. He thinks LA is a total shit hole (not willing to disagree) but it’s not like he’d do anything to change it. Oh no. He’s too busy brooding in a dark corner with his leather jacket and smoking a cigarette. I think antiheroes are cool because they explore a darker side of human nature. But at the same time I think that there should be reasons behind your motives or otherwise you’re just an asshole with a gun who is no better than the scum you’re trying to clean up. Like Punisher: Warzone. I swear to God I couldn’t tell who was more of a villain, the criminals or the freaking Punisher.

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