The recent warm weather in the UK hasn’t been conducive to me doing much in the way of couchmagpie activities, but here’s a couple of things I think are worth mentioning.
First of all, I must confess to the lords of the galaxy far far away that Star Wars Battlefront II isn’t the only game I’ve been playing on my console. On the recommendations of Biggles and a salty geezer at work whose opinion I value, I forked out some of my hard-earned quidditch and bought God of War. I’m not that far along in the story, but it’s already very impressive.
Not quite as free-roaming as Witcher and featuring a few too many boss-like fights for my liking, it has some great voice acting, superb graphics, and a good story so far. The fact that the story is based around Norse mythology is great – in fact as soon as this was mentioned by the geezer at work I was sold. I’m finding it a tad difficult in comparison to Battlefront but that’s because I’ve spent literally days of total play time on Battlefront to the point that some of it is like shelling peas and I’m desperate for some new characters or levels.
When I haven’t been waggling plastic things with my thumbs and chasing pixels in imaginary lands, I’ve been reading David Mitchell’s massive book The Bone Clocks. Someone asked me today if I had any heroes and because I had to stop and think about it, he told me I didn’t. But Mitchell comes close.
I have very little knowledge of what he is like as a person, apart from the fact that he thinks saying ‘quack’ after ducking a question in an interview is funny – which only makes me like him more – but I hold him up as the writer who has recently taught me a lot about the writing process and I’ve also been delighted by some of his prose poetry on the odd occasion he decides to indulge himself and build up a rhythmic paragraph.
The Bone Clocks is a very well put together book. Constructed from multiple short stories stitched into six parts giving a cohesive narrative from the point of view of multiple intertwined characters over a linear passage of decades, it flows better than Cloud Atlas and doesn’t suffer from the reader’s desire to get back to a different time period. The sections are connected by semi-psychic character Holly Sykes, who is unwittingly involved in a war between two groups of ‘immortals’ – the Horologists, who naturally reincarnate and the Anchorites, who murder others to extend their lives.
It’s an amazing book which in some ways reminded me of some of Clive Barker’s work but is so obviously a David Mitchell book – with elements of coming of age, fictional biography, exotic locations, fantasy among the mundane and connections to his previous books. I’d suggest it’s perhaps better than Cloud Atlas, although I was quite depressed by the bleak final section based in a Mad Max style future where civilisation has gone to shit and Sykes is on her last legs.
So taken was I by the book that I immediately jumped into reading Mitchell’s next novel – the much shorter Slade House. I’m about a third of the way through and it seems to almost be a left over set of short stories that might well have ended up in The Bone Clocks but maybe didn’t because his publishers told him he’d already gone over his page count. It features a pair of potential Anchorites who take the souls of visitors to their mysterious hidden house every nine years. It reminds me a little of how Pennywise would only visit Derry to gather children in Stephen King’s IT every thirty or so years. I’ll write more about the book once I get to the end.
Talking of IT, I used some credit I’d built up with Amazon combined with the £1.99 rental deal and watched the new film for free yesterday. The bloody clown appearing in the drain about 6 minutes into the film made me jump and things didn’t get a whole lot better. It’s a real kitchen sink job of scares perfectly balanced with great performances from the young cast. It’s annoying because I’ve read the book and can remember most of the story beat for beat.
The uninitiated will say the film is a bit like Stranger Things, but if anyone says that within my vicinity they’ll get a slap upside their head since obviously it was Stephen’s Kings’ book (and perhaps Stand By Me based on a Stephen King short story) and E.T. that was heavily referenced for the hit Netflix show. Indeed, one of the cast members of Stranger Things plays the quick-mouthed coke bottle bespectacled Ritchie in IT. Bill Skarsgård also does a brilliant job of playing the super-creepy demonic clown Pennywise – for me it’s as good a performance as Heath Ledger playing The Joker in The Dark Knight.
There’s a few changes to the book, but it’s pretty loyal to the original text in telling the story of the young bunch of school kids discovering the evil that lurks in the sewers of their hometown and deciding to do something about it. At the end of the film there’s a quick graphic which explains that it was ‘Chapter 1’ and that a second film is planned. This will deal with the story of the adults returning to Derry to fight Pennywise the clown again when the time comes back around for him to feed again. I’m not sure how this is going to compare with the story from the point of view of the kids but it’s an obvious way of handling the adaptation of a book which runs to a biblical 1,116 pages and I look forward to watching it.
Also as a benefit of the £1.99 deal and my credit I watched America Assassin for free. The trailer makes it look a whole lot more exciting than the film. I was expecting something along the lines of a Bourne film but it didn’t really compare and I’m glad I paid nothing for it. The opening sequence is scary as hell (but rather badly edited), there’s plenty of nice location work, car chases and gun fights, but for me it lacked any real depth. In fact I fell asleep at one point (and this was before I watched IT) and had to rewind some bits. Here’s the nice trailer anyway:
In terms of music I’m stuck on Queen II in the car and classic Rainbow on Spotify when I’m not listening to podcasts. I’ve given the new Manic Street Preachers album some time too, but I didn’t find it particularly outstanding – although I have it to thank for sending me off towards the beautiful album Confessions of a Romance Novelist by The Anchoress which is right up my alleyway being akin to a sultry Welsh version of Tori Amos and Kate Bush stuff.