Monthly Archives: February, 2009

Prisoner of Azkaban

So I read this one on the weekend, too; I’ve just been lazy about commenting on it.

This one is different from the first two; in those, there was a definite end-point, if you like: getting to a destination or thing. Here, although there’s a destination in terms of finally meeting the eponymous Prisoner, it’s not entirely clear from the title what will happen when Harry finally does. Once again it was fascinating to read when already knowing what happens in the end – I think Rowling does quite well at not giving hints about Sirius’ innocence, but it’s not like it makes absolutely no sense. I had been a bit wary that her plot structures would leave something to be desired, but the revelations do make sense, which is a relief: it’s just a matter of looking at something from a different perspective, or with a tiny amount of additional information.

I really liked Lupin. I seem to remember hitting my head over not getting the connection with his name sooner, when watching the movie… and then, reading the book, I finally realised the connection between ‘Sirius’ and his turning into a dog. Sometimes her names are just a bit silly and obvious; sometimes, she is very clever (like finally understanding the Phoenix’s name; Fawkes! So clever!). Once again, the actor worked well enough for my imagination in this role. Perhaps surprisingly, Gary Oldman doesn’t stick in my mind as Sirius. However, maybe this is not as surprising as I think; Oldman is such an astonishing actor that half the time I don’t realise it’s him, because he changes so much between roles.

I thought the whole reveal about being godfather and Harry being so dead keen on that happened a bit fast. I did enjoy Sirius’ near-insanity, and his attitude towards Wormtail (heh, nearly typed Wormtongue there; two of a kind, those characters!) – worked neatly for both guilty-Sirius and innocent-Sirius.

Snape continues to be a fascinating character; there’s clearly something that going to happen with his character – there has to be!! – the whole saving Harry in the first book, issues with James Potter et al at school, blah de blah… his story arc is perhaps the one I am most interested in following, because I am struggling to imagine how it will turn out. (Even if I’m wrong, I can imagine various outcomes for HR&H).

And, again, there’s just a bit more here in the book than made it into the movie. I don’t remember the providence of the Marauder’s Map being explained in the movie – that’s cool; Percy, again; and Divination classes are hilarious (oooh there’s another actor who works – Emma Thompson makes me giggle every time I imagine her in those glasses).

Anyway. I’m writing this because I just finished Goblet of Fire and figured I should do this properly, and write about them in order. It might take me a day or two to get around to writing about it, though… there’s a bit to think about…

Green and the Nightside

So a while back, due to a mix-up with an Amazon order for a friend, I ended up with two books by Simon R Green – Something from the Nightside and Nigtingale’s Lament. I put off reading them for a while because I wasn’t sure that they wouldn’t be a little bit too scary for me (I’m happy to admit I’m a wuss), but last week I needed a little paperback to take with me somewhere, and each of these is quite slim. So I grabbed one… and read it in, oh, a day. Then read the other, also in a day.

I’m not sure if there are books in the series before these two; I get the feeling there might be at least one, and I think there’s also one between them. Not that it matters hugely; you get enough back story that you don’t feel like you’re missing out.

I was already a big fan of Green thanks to the Deathstalker series (what’s not to like about Hazel? And Owen? And especially Jack and Ruby??) – although my big complaint about that series is the same one I have with the Nightside books: repetition. In the Deathstalker books, it got so I could anticipate how people would be described, and what people would say (after, say, five books); I’m already there with the Nightside. However, for me anyway, the writing is amusing enough and the story interesting enough that I am prepared to be tolerant of the slightly lazy writing (or is it an attempt at familiarity?).

The main character is John Taylor. He grew up in the Nightside – an area of London not everyone can find, and certainly not everyone wants to find; where not everyone is human, dreams and nightmares come true, and it is always night. He’s been away for a few years, but now he’s back; there’s mystery around his birth; and he’s a private detective because he has a Talent for finding things… anything. Green goes for a bit of a Bladerunner that doesn’t always work, but also has some pretty awesome humour going, with some very nice puns and making metaphors come true. The other characters are entertaining – Suzie Shooter! Razor Eddie! Walker! – and the city itself provides endless scope for madcap adventures.

Is it as scary as I had feared? Hell no. Some gruesome things happen, but they’re passed over very lightly; the humour and the fast pace help too.
Is it quality literature? Hell no.
Is it worth reading? Definitely. If you like witty repartee, clever plot twists and easy-on-the-brain slightly stereotyped characters, in an easily digested format, the Nightside books are a great read. They’re the sort of thing I would happily take on a plane to read, knowing I would be utterly enthralled but that it wouldn’t matter if I got interrupted. There’s definitely a place for that sort of book.

Also? I doubt I’ll get around to read these again, so if you want to give them a go – drop me a line!

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

1. On the book vs the movie

So this one, again, felt a lot like the movie to me. That’s not necessarily a bad thing; in fact I’m impressed the movie managed to stay so faithful. Of course, this could be the fact that I saw the movie before reading the book talking…

Naturally, though, there were some differences, and I found those quite interesting. I’m quite sure Hermione’s parents are never seen in the movie – and the idea of them being shepherded by the Weasleys is quite a fascinating one, hinting as it does at a harmonious Muggle/wizard relationship. Given the threat to Muggles and Mudbloods throughout the book, this is an interesting little idea. I also would much have preferred to see the dueling scene as represented here, than as I remember it from the movie – surely I can’t have forgotten Hermione in a catfight?? And finally, I don’t recall Percy acting weird in the movie. I was really, really hoping for there to be more than “ooh, Percy’s got a girlfriend to his oddity – but alas, no. (Also, much more on Fred and George; I suspect they’re going to be favourite characters.)

As for actors and characters… well, Snape is Alan Rickman and that’s that, and it’s just fine. Also, I could never imagine Lockhart as anyone other than that gloriously inane version Branagh presented, and I have to say I thought it worked perfectly. They’re really the only two who have imprinted themselves on me strongly at this stage. I guess Ron and Hermione in a way, too, but at this stage they’re not exactly outstanding characters, so it doesn’t matter so much what they look like (to me).

2. The story itself, etc

It still reads very much as written for younger readers – and that’s just fine, too, because it was. There’s a bit of complexity (the reason why everyone gets Petrified rather than dying is quite sneaky, and I like it), and enough character development that they’re not quite 2D. (I do look forward to further character development as they get older.) I read it in a few hours, as my Dealer told me I would (and as I did the first); in some ways I was actually disappointed that there wasn’t more deviation from the movie, as there were no surprises.

I hate Dobby. That is, I hate the self-inflicted violence, as I did with the movie. I can’t quite believe it’s in there – it seems quite out of character; ironing your fingers?? Even the spiders aren’t as troubling as that image.

I’m really looking forward to the development of Lucius Malfoy’s character.

I have the third one sitting right here, waiting for me to finish the work I should be doing so I can legitimately skyve off…

Hope ezine: raising money

From Grant’s blog comes this announcement:

“Hope is a new multi-part fanzine raising money for bushfire relief in the Australian state of Victoria. Issue #1 is now available in a PDF edition in return for donations. How much you donate is up to you – I personally think a minimum of AUS$5.00 is reasonable. {I says: $5?? Are you kidding? That’s a steal!}

If you wish to subscribe to the entire series (I suspect at this stage it’s five issues long, not four as I’d previously told some people), then I’d recommend a donation of at least AUS$20.00.

Hope #1 contains contributions from Mo Ali, Sophie Ambrose, R.J. Astruc, Lyn Battersby, K.K. Bishop, Matthew Chrulew, Stephen Dedman, Mark S. Deniz, d.n.l, Paul Haines, Simon Haynes, Kathleen Jennings, Ju Landeesse, Damian Magee, David A. McIntee, Simon Petrie, Andrew Phillips, Gillian Polack, Robert Shearman and Daniel Smith. The cover is by Rebecca Handcock. {I says: having read some stuff by a few of these people, JUST BUY IT. The Shearman itself makes it worth the money.}

Hope #1 contains 46 pages of fiction, non-fiction, artwork, and even a comic book script excerpt!

You can make a donation to the project via Paypal by clicking here:

Once you’ve made a donation, please confirm it by e-mailing me at, and letting me know whether you were after just the one issue or the whole series as it’s released.

Limited print copies are available, if dead trees are your thing. If it’s a print copy you’re after, let me know in your e-mail along with your address. I’ll handle the postage. (Obviously I’d prefer you went for the PDF, but the option is there.)”

Did I mention that this is a primarily Western Australian thing? There are contributors from all over, but Grant’s a Perth boy and so are some of the others. There’s been this whole “Swan Aid” thing happening, lots of it through the spec fic community. Very cool.

Go buy the thing!

Anne and Quilts

My wonderfully crafty friend Anne has decided that, to raise money for the fire-relief efforts of the Red Cross, she will auction off a customised quilt.

How cool is that??

She made my beloved and me a quilt as a wedding present, lo this many years ago – one of her first ever – and it’s awesome. I’ve seen various others over the years, and the girl is just Good at Quilting. Very Good!

Even if it’s not your thing, maybe you could tell the appropriately crafty/quilt-desiring person in your life?

Gods Behaving Badly

My mother told me to read this book, and after reading about Aphrodite and Apollo getting it on like rabbits I’m a leedle bit embarrassed by that.

The book’s by Marie Phillips; from what I can tell it’s a first novel. The Olympians live in a big old house in London, and it – and them – have definitely seen better days. They bicker and argue, and they still try to act as cavalierly with humans as in ‘the good old days’ – but their power is significantly reduced, which naturally feeds into some rather serious frustration. And then there’s Neil and Alice, the classic near-innocents who get tied up in a cosmic game…

You need a certain amount of knowledge about ancient Greek myth to get along with this book. Although some references are explained – like Daphne, and Orpheus&Eurydice – without a basic grasp on the personalities and traits of gods like Artemis and Aphrodite et al, I think you’d probably struggle to fully appreciate this story.

That said, with a rudimentary understanding, this is a very funny story. Apollo reduced to being an oracle on cable? Artemis the dog-walker? And let’s not even talk about Zeus… Perhaps the funniest two are Eros and Athene. Eros, the Christian. And Athene, mind-boggling intelligent… but articulate? Not so much. Even without an ancient Greek background, it would still be funny, since it’s obvious they’re gods and it’s obvious they’re not happy about their current place in the cosmos.

An amusing story that took me a couple of hours to barge through. Highly recommended for a bit of ancient Greek fluff.