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review 2016-11-13 01:03
Enough of the Fat Owl
Billy Bunter Among The Cannibals - Frank Richards

I remember my Dad telling me once that he didn't particularly like the Billy Bunter books where Bunter went for adventures abroad, that is outside of the immediate vicinity of Greyfriar's school. After reading this book I can now see why – it was absolutely atrocious, or more so really really painful. Okay, the excessive use of the N word in reference to people with skins darker than ours may have been acceptable coming out of Bunter's mouth because it is, well, Bunter, but the reality is that even if it is just Bunter's character to be so rude, crude, and racist, it still doesn't mean that I have to accept it. In fact the character of Billy Bunter has become so annoying that I highly doubt I will read any more of his books.

 

 

The story goes that Bunter is given a position as an assistant clerk for one of his father's companies, though the catch is that the role is on an island located in the stretches of the South Pacific. Anyway, he is sent out there, all expenses paid, and his school buddies (for want of a better word), the Famous Five, accompany him, if only so he can settle down somewhat. However, upon arrival at the main island they discover that a rather brutish man has taken over, and after giving him a bit of a thumping, they are then taken to the island of Lololo where they discover that the shop has been deserted because the island has been over-run by cannibals.

 

 

Maybe Billy Bunter has started losing its appeal, but I was able to read all of the Secret Seven and Famous Five books without being put off as much as this book put me off (though there were some of Blyton's books that I found almost as painful as I found this book). Not only was I rather disappointed at Bunter's excessive use of the N word (and the fact that the guy is a pretty elitist, and quite racist, individual as is), but also the fact that is he so lazy and so oblivious to the fact that nobody likes him, and why nobody likes him. There was one book where they decided to teach Bunter a lesson, namely because everybody had become sick of his attitude, however the thing with Bunter is that he never learns, and you get to the point where you simply start banging your head against the brick wall because you know that nothing is going to change.

 

Okay, in some ways people love to laugh at stupidity – that is why the Simpsons is not only so popular but why Homer Simpson eventually overcame Bart as being the show's most popular character. However, there are some redeemable features with Homer (despite the fact that I eventually became so sick of the show, and the character, that I stopped watching it years ago) – Bunter has none whatsoever. In fact the only reason that he manages to solve all these mysteries is through sheer luck. The other thing is that Bunter may be the title character but there are a lot of books where he actually ends up in the background (though that is not the case with this book). In the end the premise has started becoming a little worn out where I'm concerned.

Source: www.goodreads.com/review/show/1804524510
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review 2016-06-20 15:08
Let the Games Begin
Myth Directions - Robert Lynn Asprin

Well, it is 11:30 (it was 11:00 when I first started writing this review but my computer crashed which mean I lost everything – so much for autosave) and while I should be in bed fast asleep since I do have to go to work tomorrow I would rather be sitting here writing my review because, well, I would rather write a review than think about going to work, especially since my brain juices get a lot more exercise doing this than what I do for eight hours in a day. Mind you, I probably would have finished this review by now if my computer hadn't crashed and I had to do a hard reset (and no, I don't use Windows, or a Mac, but that is beside the point), but I guess I'm going to have to continue talking about this book because, well, I would rather do that than lie in bed (and I can also catch a snooze on the train on the way to work).

 

Anyway, what can you expect from Myth Directions? Well, you can expect the slapstick hilarity that you have come to expect from Asprins other books (and by they way, make sure your check out <a href=”http://booklikes.com/robert-lynn-asprin/author,32262”>his picture</a> on Booklikes, it's pretty cool – it certainly looks like the guy whose brain would come up with the Myth Adventures series – your typical, everyday, 70s hipster). The characters that you have grown to love once again make an appearance, along with a few new ones (including Tanda's brother, who turns out to be a bit of a surprise). Ahaz is his good old scheming self, and Tanda is makes a rather flirtatious return (but would you expect anything else from her). Anyway, here is a picture of our heroes:

 

http://www.ratware.plus.com/Myth/Graphics/Myth%20Logo.jpg

 

 

Oh, Gleep also comes back as well, but then again those of us who have read the first book probably know that Gleep ain't going anywhere (he's such a cute little dragon, though apparently he isn't that little by this time).

 

So, Skeeve wants to learn how to dimension hop, but Ahaz explains that to be able to dimension hop one needs to have visited over dimensions, and the Bazaar at Deva doesn't count (particularly since Skeeve always lands up in trouble when he's on Deva). To Skeeve's surprise Tanda rocks up and convinces Ahaz to let them go on an journey across the dimensions and Ahaz reluctantly agrees on one condition – Skeeve is not to get into trouble. Well, you can guess what happens – Skeeve gets into trouble.

 

Anyway, they end up on this would that has been at peace for five hundred years, namely because the two superpowers have a sporting event once a year and the winner of the sporting event gets to rule the world for that year. Unfortunately, Skeeve happens to upset the balance which results in Tanda getting abducted and the two superpowers preparing for war (despite the fact that they have actually forgotten how one is supposed to prosecute a war, but that is beside the point). So, to try and save face, or at least get Tanda back, they agree to take on both sides, at once, in this game.

 

Well, it turns out that this game has some rules, not many mind you – sort of five people on the ground at a time, and you have to get the ball through the hoop, oh and no edged weapons. Mind you, that happens to be more rules than your average game of keep-off, which is basically “don't let anybody else get the ball” which theoretically means that somebody on the sidelines can run onto the field, push a random person into the mud, and run off again (and it also means that the random person can then run off the field, punch that someone in the face, and run back onto the field – and my jaw still hurts).

 

Well, sport, it's a funny thing isn't it, and sometimes people, when they actually watch a game, wonder if there are actually any rules to the game. Okay, maybe a game like American Football, or Cricket, has clearly defined rules, but if you watch a game of Aussie Rules it might make you wonder if the title is actually in a foreign language that translates to 'football without any' (and the work aussi is actually a French word). Mind you, it is interesting because we all get distracted by these games and in many ways it simply seems that it is very much like what happens in Jhak – two teams go at each other once a year and the winner gets bragging rights – that's pretty much about it. Mind you, I do go to the occasional sporting much, and it really does get pretty emotional, but in the end I sometimes wonder whether it is worth it, especially since if my team loses I leave completely emotionally drained, while if my team wins I get, well, what is it that I get – nothing really. Somebody once said that I get bragging rights – but bragging rights ain't going to put food on my table.

 

I think I need a different hobby – maybe computer programming.

Source: www.goodreads.com/review/show/1670073351
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review 2015-02-03 13:41
Adventure with a smart mouthed demon and his cheeky apprentice
Another Fine Myth - Robert Lynn Asprin

One of the main reasons that I read this book was because it kept on appearing on the Goodread's sidebar entitled 'Readers also enjoyed' which I suspect has something to do with all of the Terry Pratchett books that I have read. Okay, I generally don't pay all that much to Goodreads recommendations, but when I was much younger a friend of mine was really into the series and he had been trying to get me to read them as well. Well, it has taken years but I finally (after being prompted by Goodreads) asked another friend, who also has the series, if I could borrow the first one – this one, and yes, I quite enjoyed it (though I am still not going to be blindly taking on Goodreads recommendations, especially with the number of books still on my shelf).

Okay, it's not Terry Pratchett, and while it is only the first book, the world itself didn't seem to be hugely developed, but it was still quite entertaining, and amusing. In fact, it seemed that the story was much more character driven and unlike Discworld, the world of Another Fine Myth, seems to sit quietly in the background allowing us to focus on some of the rather strange, and comical, encounters that the two main characters, Skeeve and Aahz, experience.

Basically Skeeve used to be a farmer, or was supposed to be a farmer, but instead decided to become a thief, and it seemed that that occupation didn't work out because he landed up as an apprentice to a magician. However, during one of his lessons, when the magician summons a demon, the magician is killed by an assassin which results in the demon (which actually means 'dimension traveller') being trapped on Skeeve's world. Adding the Aahz's problems is that Skeeve's master had stripped Aahz of his powers literally stranding him (otherwise he would have simply gone home). Then there is the assassination, which triggers a hunt for a magician that wants to take over the dimensions, as well as trying to escape from a couple of nasty imps that appear to be on their trail.

As I said, it is not satire in the vein of Terry Pratchett where the story pokes fun at modern society through the lens of a fantasy world, but rather a couple of larger than life cartoonish characters making their way through the adventure (though not necessarily stumbling because Aahz at least knows what he is doing and what is going on) poking fun at each other and those around them, and in a way outsmarting their enemies without actually drawing any blood (which also adds to the lighthearted aspect of this story). As I said, the characters are larger than life, such as Tananda, who regularly refers to Skeeve as 'handsome' even though she is leading a group of thugs to roll him, and the dragon Gleep (because all he says is 'gleep') who becomes attached to Skeeve because he nibbled on his shirt. Still, I've probably given way too much away already because this is one of those little gems that you should read knowing as little about it as possible.

Source: www.goodreads.com/review/show/1185680413
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review 2014-08-12 22:20
More farcical adventures at Greyfriar's School
Billy Bunter And The Blue Mauritius - Frank Richards

Well, I have just come back from watching a performance of The Importance of Being Ernest and while I would love to write about the play I don't feel that I am able to because while I have seen it performed, I have not actually read it (and I wonder why I would read it since performance that I saw was so awesome that by reading the play may spoil the enjoyment of the performance - but then again it is a play so I doubt it would take all that long), so unfortunately I won't be writing a commentary on it at this stage. However, I have also just finished reading this book, and I can certainly write a commentary on this book, which is what I am doing now.

Now, I am sure many of us (me included) probably do not know what a Blue Mauritius is, though if you are a philologist, you probably do, and probably also know how much it is worth, but for those of us who do not engage in that worthwhile hobby (like me), this is a Blue Mauritius:

 

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/16/Modry_mauritius.jpg

 

This little piece of paper, according to Wikipedia is worth a tiny sum of four million dollars, which was the price at last recorded sale in 1993 (if you believe everything Wikipedia says that is). So, if you are a stamp collector, and have one of them in your collection, well, I would consider taking out insurance on it because you really do not want to lose it. Anyway, I suspect the reason that it is so valuable is not just because it was the first colonial British stamp ever printed, but because it has the words 'post office' as opposed to 'postage paid' on it, and there were only a few of these stamps ever printed. It is like those stamps you get that are printed upside down and released before the error is discovered.

As for the story: a local land owner, Sir Popper, has come into a bit of strife with the tax department (and we discover that this is a regular occurrence) so he is forced to sell his stamp. However, for some unknown reason, he wonders around the woods carrying the stamp in his hand crying over how he must part with it (oh the troubles of owning a valuable stamp). However, there are some crooks about who, surprisingly, also want to get their hands on the stamp, so they concoct a number of plans to steal it (which pretty much involves running up to Sir Popper while he is holding the stamp, grabbing it, and bolting). The problem is that the occupants of Greyfriar's school are also wondering about and seem to get in the way of these thieves and every attempt they make in attempting to grab the stamp ultimately ends in failure.

While I would like to go on, I have realised that what I will end up doing is telling you what happens in the book, and that would not be fair (not that these books are widely read these days), but personally, I enjoyed it. Billy Bunter, at least as far as I am concerned, can really only be taken in small doses, but it is good mindless fun with a bit of humour as well. In fact the story is somewhat farcical (such as Sir Popper not learning from his mistakes and continuing to wonder through the woods looking at this stamp) and there is also quite a lot of slapstick, which generally involved Billy Bunter being slapped, hit, and kicked, usually by his peers (though I believe he also receives the cane at least once in this book). Mind you, Bunter is quite a character, and while he is incredibly annoying, I now realise that he only ever solves the problems through sheer luck. In fact, Bunter is far more interested in food, getting money for food, and dodging class, and then when he gets lines for dodging class (or turning up with a face that has been painted blue because he happened to fall asleep in one of the lounges during break), he does his best to try and get out of them, usually unsuccessfully. He just happens to be the bumbling fool that through his own sheer stupidity makes everything right.

The other thing that I love about these books is all of the classical allusions that are thrown about, and in places Richards will actually use a Homeric analogy to describe how lazy and greedy Billy Bunter is, all the while reminding us that the one thing that Mr Quech, the Form Master, is passionate about, is Publius Virgilius Maro (otherwise known as Virgil), and his version of lines inevitably involves copying out large chunks of Virgil (though that was never the case when I went to school; normally when we got lines it would be something like 'I must learn not to misbehave and be disruptive in class' which we would always truncate it to 'I must be good' - that is if we would actually do them). Actually, as I come to think about it, I don't think doing lines ever made us better students, even though it was based on the false premise that if we write something enough then it would sink into our subconsciousness forcing us 'to be good' however it never seemed to work that way because even though we were given lines we would still play up, and by playing up we would get lines, and when we got lines we wouldn't do them and continue to play up. Maybe our High School teacher should have just sent the entire class to the principal's office.

Oh, we also get to meet Ms Elizabeth (Bessie) Bunter in this book as well, and as it turns out, she is the female version of Billy.

Source: www.goodreads.com/review/show/1021351983
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