Tuesday 14 June 2011

Book Reviews

Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Sausages
Tom Holt
Little, Brown Book Group
Available Now – RRP £12.99 (Paperback)
Review by Rob Wade

Polly, an average, completely ordinary property lawyer, is convinced she's losing her mind. Someone keeps drinking her coffee. And talking to her clients. And doing her job. And when she goes to the dry cleaner's to pick up her dress for the party, it's not there. Not the dress - the dry cleaner's. And then there are the chickens who think they are people. Something strange is definitely going on - and it's going to take more than a magical ring to sort it out.

Tom Holt is a man known for two things: funny books, which also double up as bat-shit crazy. In terms of funny books, he has written his fair share, and I know a fair few fans among my closest friends. When it comes to the surreal, all I had to hear was that there was one about mankind’s destiny being shaped by snidey frogs, and I was sold. I was, therefore, intrigued to give his new work a go, and see what all the fuss was about frankly. Thankfully, I was pleased to find that the book is as enjoyable and difficult to put down as had been suggested to me about previous works.

One thing that’s nice about Holt’s style is how easily it reads. In the same vein as someone like Nick Hornby, the characters are all very authentic, and feel pretty realistic as you read through, making it really easy to find common ground or something to identify with when the characters get developed. This, too, is a strong point of the book despite the subject matter being a little on the unusual side. Characters are given enough room not only to do their thing, but also give you touches of history and insight as you read through.

The other thing is that the humour Holt is known for is in full force in this novel, with the opening chapter about a pig who mastered the basic laws of thermodynamics in order to solve a logic problem had me laughing out loud in a way that I don’t usually do while reading. The characterisation, again, means that the characters as well as being believable are usually pretty funny as well.

Having said that, if there was one critique I have of this book, it’s that it tries to tie in too many story arcs simultaneously without really providing as clear a framework as I’d have liked. One of the most frustrating things about a book has to be going back and double-checking names and descriptions to make sure that you’re not remembering the wrong event or character. In this novel, the number of simultaneous dimensional presences of similar people makes the names difficult to follow when everything starts bleeding together increasingly more. It’s not a massive drawback, as the book is well written in itself, just a little on the clunky side where this is concerned.

The novel is a good fit for fans of Nick Hornby, Terry Pratchett (as the humour style is comparable), Douglas Adams and the like. Plus, naturally, fans of Holt’s previous works.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
Violence: At one point, someone is teleported into the mind of a chicken before it can happen. You heard me.
Sex/Nudity: None.
Swearing: Typical British pottymouth, nothing alarmingly foul.
Summary: An engaging and very amusing read. 8/10
Level Up

Gene Luen Yang/Thien Pham
First Second Books
Available from 17/06/2011 - RRP £10.99 (Trade Paperback)
Review by Rob Wade

Dennis Ouyang lives in the shadow of his parents’ high expectations. They want him to go to med school and become a doctor. Dennis just wants to play video games – and he might actually be good enough to do it professionally. But four adorable, bossy and occasionally terrifying angels arrive just in time to lead Dennis back onto the straight and narrow: the path to gastroenterology. It’s all part of the plan, they tell him. But is it?

As a keen gamer, this book touches on a nerve that is all too familiar to me. Growing up, I would find certain people scrunching their face up when I’d mention that one of my main hobbies is video games. Even nowadays, there are plenty of people who just think of something like Grand Theft Auto or Call of Duty and dismiss the entire media based on its most popular examples. To be honest, I’d sooner have comparisons with the Wii than stuff like Call of Duty, but that’s because I have more fun with the Wii. Ba-zing. On with the review.

The book is presented in a graphic novel form, which has a nice accessible art style that makes it really easy to read. There’s none of this weird-arse art style which makes it impossible to read, there’s no grey area over which character is which because of shitty art. Everything’s really easy to get your head around, and you don’t find yourself holding out your arms saying “What the fuck just happened?”, as the layout lends itself well to comprehension.

The story, as I said, touches on a nerve, and is really well done. It’s hard to tell from the story, however, whether or not it’s based on a personal experience or whether he’s really good at placing himself in the mind-set of someone in this situation. Personally, I’m of the opinion that it’s a mixture of the two. It seems entirely likely to me that at some point in his life, he’s had the same problem as me, with people turning their nose up at the idea of video games as a hobby, and envisaged a story from that. The story itself is touching, sad and yet uplifting at the first ending. The following epilogue might be one of the best-handled comic book epilogues I’ve come across in my relatively short time on this Earth.

Granted, comics like this don’t really stand up to a huge amount of repeat reading, and the price is probably a little on the steep side for what it is. However, what it is would certainly appeal to a lot of the loyal video gaming E14ies that you would hopefully consider yourself amongst.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
Violence: None. The closest thing to it is a fairy shouting at the protagonist.
Sex/Nudity: Midriff only.
Swearing : None.
Summary: A touching tale which will resonate with many E14ies. 8/10


Question everything you believe when The Rite arrives onto Triple Play Blu-ray™, DVD and digital download on 20th June 2011. To celebrate the release, we have three copies of the DVD up for grabs!

Starring Oscar® winner Anthony Hopkins (Silence of the Lambs), The Rite follows a seminary student (Colin O’Donoghue) who is sent to study exorcism at the Vatican in Rome. Initially filled with skepticism, he encourages his superiors to explore the idea of mental illness rather than demons when treating patients. However, he is quickly introduced to a darker side of his faith after meeting an unorthodox priest, Father Lucas (Hopkins), who is known for pushing the darkest edges of his spirituality in the service of God.

To be in the chance of winning a copy of The Rite on DVD please answer the following question …

Who stars as Father Lucas in The Rite?
1. Anthony Hopkins
2. George Clooney
3. Jack Nicholson

Send your answer, name and full postal address to emotionally14@hotmail.co.uk before midday on Tuesday 21st June, making sure to put "The Rite" as the subject. The first three correct entries out of the electronic hat after the competition closes will receive a free copy!

Don't forget to put "The Rite" in the subject line. Incorrectly labelled or blank entries will be discarded.

Entries limited to one per household. Offer open only to postal addresses in the UK and Ireland. © 2011 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved

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