Wrong email address or username
Wrong email address or username
Incorrect verification code
back to top
Search tags: Tony-Blair
Load new posts () and activity
Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2018-09-03 23:46
An extraordinary satire with a narrator for the centuries and quite a twist
Scorn - Paul Hoffman

I am writing this review as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team (authors, if you’re looking for reviews, I recommend you check her amazing site here) and I thank her and the publisher for providing me an ARC copy of this book that I freely chose to review.

When I was first approached about reviewing this novel I was beyond intrigued. It sounded like something utterly unique and out there. I wasn’t sure it would suit my reading taste, but I knew I had to read it because it sounded like nothing I had read before. And although it took me a while to get to it, I am happy to report my first impression was right. This book is… extraordinary.

Yes, this book is extraordinary because it is out of the ordinary, pretty much so. If we try to define its genre, we’ll have many difficulties. Is it a thriller? There is a pretty special serial killer (those of us who regularly read thrillers know that they are becoming more and more bizarre and extreme, but this one is beyond the usual, even by modern standards) and a series of murders and desecrations connected by a several cryptic clues (yes, crosswords also come into it), but it has too many other elements that do not fit in well with this genre. There are mystery and police-procedural elements to a point, and a couple of interesting and quirky detectives (Scrope and Lister, both from the upper crust with outstanding education, interesting connections, and an armed forces background), and a female PC, Molly Coates (a heroine of the working classes, from the North of England and from as different a background as possible to the dynamic duo but as clever).

There is a paranormal/fantasy element (well, there is a wolf/shifter involved, and there are references to other creatures that might fit into a number of different categories), but the plot takes place in the world we live in (scarily so at times) or a close version of it with ‘interesting touches’ (some fictional, some are a matter of interpretation). There is a scientific explanation for some of the events (involving the Large Hadron Collider) that could put one in mind of science fiction novels, but this is not the main focus of the plot.

There are plenty of references to religion (which is one of the main themes of the book, in particular, the Roman Catholic Religion) but a word of warning, I think truly devoted and orthodox followers of the Catholic faith or even convinced Christians might feel offended by some of the content. There are also plenty of references and a focus on current and recent events (like the sexual abuse of children by members of the RC priesthood, there are also comments about politics, media, and political figures, some international but many centred in the UK, and we have close encounters with preeminent figures like Tony Blair, the Queen of England, the Pope…) but although the references are accurate and there are plenty of quotations from books, newspapers, media, and the internet, these are weaved into the story and it is not non-fiction or a factual account. As I mentioned already, there are plenty of details about everyday British life peppered through the book, and although in my opinion it is not necessary to be British or an expert on the UK to fully understand or enjoy the book, I think people with a good knowledge of UK politics, society, and current affairs will find much to enjoy (and think about) when they read this book. There is also romance, a story of opposites attract that goes beyond the conventional, but it is only a subplot (and not typical of the romantic genre).

Oh, and there are some illustrations (like ink etchings) of characters and events in the book, but I wouldn’t call it a comic, or a picture book (although they add greatly to the overall effect).

The book has also an extraordinary narrator that from very early on challenges the readers, promising some things (a great twist at the end, that, let me tell you now, he delivers), coaxing them, warning them, and never letting them become too complacent or ‘safe’. The narrator, whose identity readers will wonder about for much of the book, is opinionated, has strong points of view and is not, and never pretends to be, a neutral observer. He is witty, well-informed, dismissive at times, rude and pushy, but never ever boring. Scorn, the title of the book, is the mode of much of his narration, and I loved his voice from the beginning, but if you don’t, you will have difficulties with the book. I always recommend readers to check a sample of the book before buying, and this is one of those cases when I feel that is a must. Although some of the narration, mostly to do with the investigation and the main characters (I am trying not to reveal too many details of the plot, but let’s say, things are not what they seem, as most readers will suspect from the beginning) is written in the third person, much of what makes the book special and gives it its structure and its distinctiveness is the narrator.

Do not get me wrong, though, there are plenty of other characters, like the investigators I have mentioned, whom we get to know quite well and whose personalities and adventures would provide sufficient material for gripping, if more conventional, novels in their own right. There is also Aaron Gall, the character at the centre of the plot, who is both the anti-hero and victim, and also acts as a catalyst for the action in the book. We get to know him, and the rest of the characters, quite well, and he is also a stand-in for the many people who have survived abuse (more or less extreme) at the hands of those who were supposed to be looking after their education and spiritual well-being. If I had to choose, my favourite would be Molly, perhaps because I have more in common with her than with the rest of the characters, and Lou, the therapist, but they are all interesting and likeable. Here I am referring to the main characters. Some of the other characters, many of whom we only get temporary glimpses of (including the victims) are not necessarily likeable, but they are far from caricatures or cut-out types, and we do get insights into their thoughts and motivations that make them, if not sympathetic, at least real and human. And, that includes the guest appearances by true historical figures.

I have tried very hard not to give away much of the plot, although I hope my mention of some of the themes would suffice to get prospective readers interested. I found it a compelling read, both due to the main storyline, and also to the detours, the narrator comments, and the fanciful asides. But this is not a book that zeroes on the action and dismisses anything that is not relevant to the plot (in that way it is perhaps more of a literary fiction novel, but not quite either). This is a long book that meanders on and off through tangents, which eventually we realise are relevant to the overall book but not always to the thriller part of it, so if you’re an impatient reader looking for a light and thrilling read or a who-done-it, this might not be for you. The style of writing is breath-taking, a tour-de-force, with detailed but clear explanations of scientific points, collections of facts and events that make for gripping reading, psychologically astute descriptions of characters and their motivations, philosophical and moral commentaries that will make readers think, and I highlighted so much of the book that I found it almost impossible to choose some fragments to share, but I will try (avoiding major plot points as well):

But that’s the thing about human beings. It’s not laughter or the ability to stand upright that distinguishes man from the animals, it’s the capacity for incompetence. When any other creature makes a mistake, it gets eaten.

It was a truth universally acknowledged in the police force that the middle classes were generally terrified of the police and would shop their grannies without a moment’s hesitation once a cop asked them a question.

Ever had a sudden moment of realisation, an epiphany of the truth that marked out a momentous line in the sands of self-knowledge between everything you thought was the case about the kind of creature you were and everything that was really true? Neither have I.

I have already warned readers about the religious aspects of the book that might not sit well with many readers (no, this is not a Christian book in the usual sense, probably a book that in certain circles and in eras past would have been called a ‘wicked’ book), and there is also violence and some sex scenes (the violence is far more graphic than the sex, in fact it is so extreme that the effect is somewhat cartoonish, but I am not squeamish, so don’t take my word for it). It also deals on a serious and difficult subject, and although it does so in a peculiar way, it does not shy away from the most horrific aspects of it. Having said all that, this is a book I thoroughly recommend. It is not a book for everybody, as you’ll have surmised if you’ve read the rest of the lengthy review (sorry. I got more carried away than usual), but if you like to challenge yourself, you love outlandish thrillers, cryptic crossword clues, unique scornful narrators, satire, and are looking for a new author to follow, do yourself a favour and check it out. It’s a ride on the wild side.

Like Reblog Comment
review 2015-09-15 07:53
Some things change just to remain the same. For students of politics, international relations, history and those wishing to be better informed.
Mission Accomplished? - Simon Jenkins

Thanks to Net Galley and I.B. Tauris for providing me with a free copy of the book in exchange for a review.

Like most people I read articles about politics and current affairs, but in my case I rarely read whole books about it (at least not recently). But when I got the opportunity of reading this book for review I thought it couldn’t have arrived at a better time.

Simon Jenkins is an expert on the subject and this book compiles many of his previous articles over the last 15 years, with the vantage point of time and his current reflections on the topic. He is humble enough to recognise that sometimes not even the sharpest and best informed of analysts realises the ramifications of certain events. And trying to second guess what world leaders will do by using common sense and strategic knowledge will rarely work. Making good the adage that those who don’t remember their history are doomed to repeat it, he analyses the behaviour of both the US and the UK and their military interventions abroad, in light of previous history. Considering the crisis of refugees the subject is more than current, and many of the questions Jenkins asks (why have there been American and UK interventions in some countries and not others; what role plays the United Nations; what could justify a military intervention in another country, especially when it is not supported by legal arguments; is the war on terror a real war?) are as relevant, if not more, now.

There are no great revelations in this volume but the clarity of the arguments and the analysis of an expert that has first-hand knowledge (including visiting Iraq and Afghanistan at the time) give perspective and depth to the subject. Although there are more questions than answers (and you might not agree with the conclusions and the summary Jenkins offers) this volume adds to the debate on Western interventions and will be of interest to those studying recent international politics, history, and keen on getting better informed about this subject that will continue to be a matter of international debate.

Like Reblog Comment
review 2014-05-22 22:12
Doctor Who, Vol. 2: Tesseract - Tony Lee,Blair Shedd

This is the second installment of the graphic novel Doctor Who series by Tony Lee, and I must say this was so much better than the first volume. Everything from the art to the plot was taken up a notch.

My issue with the art in the first volume was the fact that well-known characters, such as the Doctor himself, were almost unrecognizable in some panels. In this second installment, this problem is almost entirely resolved. Not only does the artist do a much better job portraying the general look of David Tennant's face, they also have totally nailed many of his most popular expressions. This made the story so much more enjoyable, as it added an extra dimension beyond the text. You can read beyond what the doctor is saying and SEE what he means. Fantastic! Speaking of reading beyond the text, this volume is littered with subtle references to other British authors and David Tennant himself. I saw this as a really clever, hidden treat for devoted Whovians and David Tennant fans alike.

Another unbelievable improvement in this volume is the plot itself. The villain introduced in the first installment is given more depth, personality, and back story. Events tie together more seamlessly and move along at a rather good clip, keeping the reader interested and engaged the entire time. The final few pages set in motion several things that have me dying to read the next volume in this series to find out what happens.

Overall, this was a wonderful improvement over the last volume. I was really impressed with the art and plot improvements, and I think any Doctor Who fan would really enjoy this series.

Like Reblog Comment
review 2013-02-26 00:03
A Journey: My Political Life (Vintage)
A Journey: My Political Life - Tony Blair I am a part of 'Blair's generation' in that I was 11 when he came to power in 1997 and 21 when he left power in 2007. I grew up in his schooling system, was one of the first to take the new AS-Levels and when I went to university, I had to pay the new top-up fees. I voted for Labour in my first election (2005) but also joined in the marches against the Iraq war. I was interested to read his autobiography for all of these reasons, and especially interested as he is such a divisive figure. People either love him or hate him (and most hate him), but no one seems to actually listen to what he has to say anymore.This was a long book. It wasn't just long in terms of the number of pages (just under 700), but it felt long due to the poor organisation of the book. The chapters were extended and seemed to ramble round a few different topics aside from the chapter heading in no particular order. I like that the book was organised thematically rather than chronologically, and I liked the informal, chatty writing style, but think the book would have been much improved by splitting it into many smaller chapters just restricted to one theme. The chapter on Iraq also had a few pages on university fees and Northern Ireland, for example. This made it hard to follow at times and hard to get an overall sense of the passing of time.That aside, I did enjoy reading the book. My favourite sections were the parts dealing with international issues and summits, which felt honestly told and full of fascinating characters and relationships. There was a sense that not much was held back and Blair had made a real effort to tell his side of the story. He wasn't apologetic or trying to covert you to his side of things, he was just telling it as he saw it.
Like Reblog Comment
review 2012-06-15 00:00
Hitchens vs. Blair: Be It Resolved Religion Is a Force for Good in the World - Christopher Hitchens,Tony Blair Everyone expects the Spanish Inquisition.

More posts
Your Dashboard view:
Need help?