Sunday, 27 January 2013

Landward Competition

Just a short post this week. I’m currently knee deep in edits for the War Manuals, which are now on Amazon for Pre-Order (but you’ll support your local bookstore, right?).

I also discovered I’d come 2nd in a short story competition run by NewCon Press for the Institution of Agricultural Engineers’ magazine Landwards. You can read about that HERE.

Congratulations to the other winners.

And now back to work I go, but before I do, have some Bat for Lashes.

Monday, 21 January 2013

Thoughts on The Gone-Away World

Note: not in anyway a review, just some rambling.

This book is nothing short of a tiny miracle. It manages to take so many ingredients and blend them together so you never really know what’s coming in the next bite. Sweet, sour, subtle, zesty, surprising, even earthy. All flavours are present but compliment each other in ways that would have combined to be disgusting for a lesser chef. I mean writer.

This a post-apocalyptic novel that manages to be warm, charming, fun and has real heart beating at its center. The Gone-Away World is bright sunbeam in a market place packed with dark, gritty, bleak, or outright horrible tales.

The action focuses on Gonzo Lubitsch, as seen through the eyes of his trusty side-kick and wingman. Gonzo is one of life’s natural heroes, bouncing through life like a very muscular Tigger, seemingly unconcerned by mortal concerns such as doubt, worry or much of anything. And then the world ends and things become distinctly more complicated for everyone.

The novel starts out with Gonzo and his compatriots about to embark on a big job so perilous it’s doubtful everyone will come back. Then the story shifts to give the rich (and it is so rich) backstory of all the events that led to the formation of the Gone-Away World and Mr. Lubitsch himself, ever reliably told to us by his wingman. It is by turns laugh-out-loud funny (I lost track of how many times I made people nervous on the tube with sudden outbursts of giggling), harrowing, poignant and moving.

By the time the novel catches up to the point where the reader came in you are wondering if there is anything Gonzo and Co. can’t do. Surely they are unbeatable, right? They’re so cool, and funny and are the sort of characters you want to invite to dinner (excepting Ronnie Cheung, perhaps. Bumhole).

Hanging over all of this is the threat of the mission they have signed up for, and that’s when the wheels come off for Gonzo. That’s when things become really interesting for the reader. The plot moves much like the students of The Voiceless Dragon do. It’s a soft form martial art that twists, turns, avoids and dodges trouble, and turns things around so you never know quite what is going to happen. The Voiceless Dragon, incidentally, is at the heart of the novel, and there’s a strong Kung Fu movie ethic running the novel’s length, which was essentially cat nip to me.

And all of this is wrapped up in the most assured, flowing prose I’ve had the good fortune to read in a while. Harkaway’s facility for language is poetic, lyrical and playful. I can’t say much else for fear of spoiling the story, but if you fancy a world of big-hearted heroes, apple cake-eating kung fu teachers, meticulously-planned plotting and even a little romance, the you could do far worse than read The Gone Away-World.

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Brambles – Charcoal

Sometime ago I stumbled across Nest, and low and behold they released an EP, Body Pilot (2011) to follow up their album Retold (2010). I’m a huge fan of this work and have mentioned a good few times on the blog. Nest can be found at Serein, a record label operating out Wales who have now given us Brambles, and his debut Charcoal.
Brambles Charcoal – physical edition
I bought the album on the strength of the the opening track alone. ‘To Speak of Solitude’ is the perfect mixture of warm nostalgia, quiet yearning and natural ambience. On the right headphones (and this album rewards close listening) you could imagine you were lake side in a peaceful mist, evergreens towering over you. Or maybe that’s just me. You know you’re onto something good when you think ‘the only thing wrong is that’s it’s thirty seconds too short.‘

‘Such Owls as You’ takes the already soporific pace and actually takes it down a notch. The rusty scrapes in the background and measured piano keep the interest and lull the listener along the journey, and Charcoal does feel like a journey.

‘In the Androgynous Dark’ starts out more somberly than the previous tracks but lightens with the piano melody to become a fragile and beautiful piece. It continues the theme of warm nostalgia and feels somewhat smoky with the addition of the wind instruments. 

‘Salt Photographs’ continues the mix of background ambience and delicate guitar strings. At nearly seven minutes long ‘Salt...’ benefits from cello and violin to add to the decidedly film soundtrack feel Charcoal has settled into.

The whole album is sublime, measured and possesses a warmth that has me returning time and again. All instrumental, it is the perfect night music, but also gentle enough for sleepy commutes.

Standout tracks: ‘To Speak of Solitude’ and ‘Arete’. Make sure to check out ‘Deep Corridor’ , a truly ambient piece with hints of Holy Other about it.

Visit or stream the album from Soundcloud

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Sometimes The Internet Is Fun

I talk a lot of shit on Twitter. It's basically what Twitter is for, and anyone who says different is trying to sell you something. Occasionally, I'll tweet something like this.

And then follow it up with something 'funny'. 

Note, my definition of 'funny' can vary wildly depending on how much coffee/sleep I've had.

And then someone like @yskaya, someone I have never met before, who lives in a different country, goes and does this:

Which just goes to prove that the Internet isn't all bad and there are some nice people out there after all. And isn't she talented!