Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Konami: Making Small Waves

I don't often go on nostalgia trips, since they tend to end up being very disappointing. For years I eagerly awaited the moment that Disney would release The Black Cauldron (Dutch: Taran en de Toverketel) on DVD. In my memory, I had built the film up to be this big, scary event. It was pulled off the market for about twenty years (?), supposedly for making kids cry and therefore being a flop. At the time of the premiere there had been a lot of hype about the luminous mist in the movie, which was created with technology that was then cutting edge. As soon as the DVD came out, I bought it, ran home and... found out that it was mediocre and childish.
I have not had that experience revisiting my greatest childhood hobby, a couple of years ago: MSX games from Konami. By today's standards, the animation is seriously simple but the gameplay of my favourites has aged well, and the primitive music is still catchy. I don't know why somebody hasn't bundled them and sold them in a Nostalgia package, as has happened with other games from now defunct systems. I would happily revisit them on my Nintendo DS and think they would actually look pretty good on there. (Konami recently did bundle some games for DS, but not the good stuff, in my opinion.) As far as I know, the only way to play them now is:
a. hunt down a secondhand MSX and the original cartridges.
b. download them online somewhere to be played with an emulator on your pc.
The first option is way too costly in both time and money, the second one is potentially illegal unless you own the original cartridge. If you don't, the game should be deleted from your computer 24 hours after downloading. (Though who will be checking this, I don't know.) Possibly, you will be able to download them to your XBOX 360 or Wii or Playstation 3. But to me it seems clear they belong on the cosy screen of your handheld, like The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, which very easily made the GameBoy Advance its new home
What sparked this nostalgia? Well, I visited the site of a company that readies games for the European market and was planning on sending them an e-mail in which I named some of my favourite games.
Reflecting on my past as a gamer, I went and looked up an MSX fansite with information on Konami games - I found out that Konami means 'small waves' - which also featured some covers. Just seeing Maze of Galious still warms my thirty-something heart. It was the first game I ever bought myself, having slowly saved up money for this epic spending. It starred two cute little knights (one male and blue, one female and pink) running around a cute little castle, gathering cute little objects while fighting cute little monsters and the occasional Boss (Big Monster). I will have to see if I can still find that cartridge somewhere and go Old School. I will leave Salamander aside; this was a frustrating, never-finished (by me) shoot 'em up that nearly had my MSX2 being flung out of a window on several occasions.
Ah, and then there is the first game I ever played, Jet Set Willy on the ZX Spectrum. But let us not speak of such things...

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Movie Review: Night at the Museum

It is one of the basic kids' fantasies: things coming to life when no one is watching, except - in this case - one bewildered bystander. And the idea of a museum where the exhibits suddenly become animated, is an interesting one - if not a new one. The trouble is in the execution. It can be a slippery slope applying any kind of logic to a scenario like this and to a certain extent you should just enjoy the zaniness and put your higher critical facilities in cold storage for the duration. But there is a point at which even the less critical facilities can't suspend their disbelief any longer: there is no internal logic to this movie. The script keeps throwing cool things at the viewer: little people, a doggie-minded T-Rex skeleton, historical wax figures, a bubblegum craving Easter Island statue, etcetera - but none of these elements have been very well thought out on their own, let alone all of them in combination.
There are some attempts to explain what is happening and why, but this only points out how much is not explained. For instance; how a couple of escaped Neanderthals ditched the camera-people that had spotted them and made their way back to the museum undetected. Instead of thinking small and coherent, the movie thinks big and creates a literal and conceptual mess in doing so. This is really a kiddie-movie, only for those adults who are prepared to shut down their brain to a dangerous degree, stopping just short of vegetable. Fairly ironic for a movie that wants to convey the message that learning about stuff is GOOD.
Ben Stiller does his usual lame-but-cool guy shtick and does it as well as ever. The movie wastes most of the big comedy names in the cast (Robin Williams, Dick van Dyke, Ricky Gervais and Mickey Rooney) as well as the potential love interest, who never quite gets around to being the actual love interest. Maybe in the sequel.

Night at the Museum at IMDB

Friday, April 13, 2007

Movie Review: 300

With much bombast, 300 tells the story of Leonidas of Sparta, who defends his city from the invading Persian forces, led by the evil boo-hiss Xerxes. Like Sin City, the look of the film is heavily based on a graphic novel by Frank Miller, the master of stylised grit. The movie looks painted and is rich in color; bronze, copper and red dominating the screen. And it's not just the locale that looks good, the brave 300- give-or-take - Spartans are all sporting impressive pectorals and sixpacks, and are blissfully devoid of shirts. I suppose that is what you get for purging any less-than-perfect offspring from the gene pool, as the beginning of the movie shows us. The Spartans also have absolutely no moral ambiguity about killing off wounded and helpless opponents. Yup, they are a bit of a tough bunch, as the narrator does not get tired of telling us.
Opposing these manly, quite homo-erotic musclemen are the odd, exotic and frankly somewhat gay Persians. They are lustful, deformed, vain and overly made up. Especially Xerxes looks like a pissed off drag queen, even though his voice sounds all low and rumbly, with the help of some computer effects.
The entire movie feels visceral, with a little bit of sweaty sex and a huge amount of violence. The Spartans spend an inordinate amount of time impaling invaders in slow motion. During some of this there is - surprisingly - some Heavy Metal music playing in the background. But given how much bloody slaughter is taking place, the movie does actually feel a bit slow all around and seems to have to stretch to fill its running time. The story is ultimately fairly simple and the overblown, po-faced dialogue does not work in the movie's favour. After a while you just feel like slapping that narrator when he starts waxing lyrical about the Spartans again. It's hard to care about anyone when everyone is working so hard to be tough.
In short, the movie is just about worth seeing for the visual style and the hot bodies (well, before the part where they get decapitated or some such). And maybe the rousing speeches will stir up your inner warrior. But more likely the movie will send you scuttling to the gym to work on your sixpack. Or to the store for some Leonidas bonbons (man, product placement gets everywhere these days...).

300 on IMDB

Cool Site: Engrish

A colleague of mine from the bookstore can laugh herself silly at any kind of unintentional physical pratfall. Thankfully, her closest co-worker obliges her by regularly tripping over things in the warehouse and almost breaking his neck in the process. Hilarity ensues.
Though I like a good, painful home video accident as much as the next guy, what can really brighten my day is well-executed linguistic silliness. I love it when someone goes through a lot of trouble to pull off a really lame pun (as in Airplane, for instance) but it can be even better when a funny phrase is unintentionally so and widely published. Have a look at the link below. Where a good proof reader be when needed is one?

Engrish Website

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Movie Review: Ghost Rider

Ah, so there's this guy who sells his soul to the Devil and ends up riding around on a motorbike with a flaming skull for a head, you say? Sounds a bit daft, no? Apparently not to Nicolas Cage who had been hell-bent (*snigger*) on portraying one of Marvel's more conceptually challenged heroes for quite some time. It is inherent in the basic idea that it rides a thin line between brooding gravitas (souls, damnation, judgement, all that jazz) and all-out silliness (...he's a flaming-skulled dude on a bike...).
Given the duality, it's no wonder that the movie ends up being a bit half-assed in both ways. It has some fun at its own expense, but plays it disturbingly straight at other moments and doesn't quite get away with it. And when a movie goes out of its way to create a mythology for itself, then it confuses and irritates when the established rules go out the window when they don't suit the screenplay later on. There are several moments where you go 'Hey, but if this character could do thís, then why not thát?' The ending especially does not make much sense.
There are some great visuals though and the flaming Ghost Rider persona impresses a lot more than his Nicolas Cage alter ego, sporting a seriously bad haircut. Some good one-liners almost make up for bad writing in other places and the whole thing is amusing enough in a cheesy sort of way. A sequel seems likely, and as long as they tighten up the script along with their internal logic and give Cage a better haircut, then it might be worth a second outing.

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Book Review: Body Talk

Only a small percentage of communication is done through words. Most meaning is transmitted by the way we say things - inflection, tone - and through body language. Unfortunately, this body talk is a lot more open to interpretation, on both the sending and the receiving side and can get confusing if people come from different cultures. If somebody holds up his fingers in a V sign, he is signalling victory to some people, while being very rude to others.
There are those who have a natural knack for the subtleties of non-verbal communication, more instinctive than conscious, which gives them a distinct advantage on all social fronts, be it at home or at work. But by becoming more aware of how we carry ourselves and what signals we are sending and receiving, it is possible to be a little more suave and persuasive. Allen and Barbara Pease give their readers some useful pointers to this effect in their book The Definitive Book of Body Language: How to Read Others' Attitudes by Their Gestures.
It's a fast and funny read - though not always as funny as the authors intend it to be - and centres mostly on body language for business purposes. There are fascinating facts in here for everyone - though some might leave you a bit sceptical - and, as is often the case with reader-friendly social science books, sometimes things seem oversimplified. Also, the Peases suggest several practical and entertaining social experiments that I wouldn't advise trying on hapless friends, since you might end up real lonely, real fast.
The authors delight in pointing out the differences between men and women, the men turning out to be fairly deficient when it comes to reading body language. The emphasis on man vs. woman should come as no surprise, since they previously devoted a book to it:
Why Men Don't Listen and Women Can't Read Maps: How We're Different and What to Do about It. Both books provide information and entertainment in equal measure and just might improve your life.

By Allen + Barbara Pease:
The Definitive Book of Body Language, Orion Publishing
Why Men Don't Listen and Women Can't Read Maps, Orion Publishing

Book Review: Good News for the Desperate and Amoral

Working in a bookstore, you regularly come across books that make you raise a quizzical eyebrow. We’re not only talking about vague or flaky books here - like the dubious, but very successful conspiracy book about reptiles secretly taking over the earth - but also morally suspect material. Who am I to say people couldn’t cure themselves of terminal diseases just by meditation or positive thought? But you have to doubt the integrity of the authors of such books, who might very well be meditating on dollar signs.

Male chauvinist pigs - or ‘players’, as the more delusional might call themselves - can now rejoice with the titles Make Every Girl Want You and The System, which promises to get you laid within twenty-four hours, regardless apparently of looks, social skills or personal hygiene. Though the first book sweetly leaves an opening for long term possibilities, the focus is on short-term SEX, catering to those men who have - presumably for good reason from a female perspective - gone without for too long. The gist seems to be that females are teasing, incomprehensible beings that irritatingly refuse to grant men their every sordid desire.

As these books pander to the Achilles’ heel of men, so does Mr. Right, Right Now! move right in for the kill on the desperately single woman. It comes all but equipped with a lasso, to reel in the poor, prospective partner as it blurbs: ‘Man Catching Made Easy’. One would think that keeping the man would be the actual challenge. And one can only imagine the emotional carnage that might result from a man who has read The System running into a woman with Mr. Right, Right Now! on her nightstand. These books should only be sold with obligatory purchase of Why Men Don’t Listen and Women Can’t Read Maps so that both clueless parties develop at least somewhat of an understanding of the other gender.

However, there is thankfully freedom of expression in the Netherlands and there are só many books and só many viewpoints, that it is impossible for us at ABC to impose moral judgement on what we buy for stock and special order for customers. Ultimately, it is you - the customers - who decide what is on our shelves by the age-old economic laws of supply and demand. So if you see a scary, dubious book in the store, remember that there is probably somebody around interested in buying it. Be afraid, be very afraid…

Make Every Girl Want You – John Fate, paperback, Axcione Publishing
The System – Roy Valentine, paperback, Eye Contact Media
Mr. Right, Right Now! – E. Jean Carroll, paperback, HarperResource
Why Men Don’t Listen and Women Can’t Read Maps - Allan and Barbara Pease, paperback, Orion Publishing Company

Book Review: Thumbs up!

Roger Ebert is one of America’s best-known film-critics and you will spot his name at the top of the list of reviews for just about any movie on the Internet Movie Database.

He became a part of American pop-culture with the program Siskel & Ebert where he and fellow reviewer, Gene Siskel, argued with each other about the merits of movies and judged them the good old Caesarian way; by giving them a ‘thumbs up’ or ‘thumbs down’. Siskel has since passed away. Ebert is still at it with Richard Roeper as his new sparring partner.

Ebert has a refreshing, open-minded attitude about reviewing and he keeps his sense of humour on hand. Though his many viewing hours may make him more qualified to judge the comparative merits of a film than the average viewer, he is the first to admit that the judgement of a critic is ultimately just another opinion. However, Ebert’s love for the medium is so infectious you might find yourself coming down with a bad case of cinemania.

On the site of the Chicago Sun-Times, he has a forum where readers can argue with him or ask questions breaking the usual one-way communication between a reviewer and his audience. A collection of past entries is out in bookform: Questions for the Movie Answer Man. It is full of titillating trivia on a wide variety of cinema topics, with plenty of off-the-wall questions. The back-and-forth on the forum also resulted in Ebert’s ‘Bigger’ Little Movie Glossary, a conveniently indexed collection of movie-clichés, including entries by Ebert’s readers. This book vastly improves any bad movie you might see, since you can entertain yourself by tallying up every cliché you spot. It is currently hard to get hold of, but ask our staff and they’ll do their best.

Ebert’s reviews are collected every year (latest addition: Roger Ebert's Movie Yearbook 2007) and a good addition to any bookshelf. For the newcomer, however, I would recommend starting with one of these two collections: The Great Movies or I Hated, Hated, Hated this Movie. The former is a collection of one hundred essays originally published on the Sun-Times site, about – well, duh – Great Movies that no one should miss out on. The latter is a collection of reviews of bad, BAD movies. Why would you want to read a review of a bad movie you wouldn’t want to see anyway? Because Ebert’s enthusiastic, funny rants are entertaining in their own right and are often so intriguing that you end up feeling like you want to witness the awfulness for yourself!

Books by Roger Ebert:
Questions for the Movie Answer Man
Ebert’s ‘Bigger’ Little Movie Glossary
Roger Ebert’s Movie Yearbook 2007
The Great Movies
I Hated, Hated, Hated this Movie

Book Review: A Star is Porn

If you get bored in the summer and regular hobbies like reading, crochet, animal husbandry and churning butter fail to provide adequate relief, why not round up a group of people to make your very own porn movie?

As Victoria Coren and Charlie Skelton discovered - it can be quite an adventure. Paired up to review porn videos for the periodical The Erotic Review, they decided they could do better and would make the best porn movie EVER!! One with a real plot and everything: ‘telling a story to people who just want to watch sex, and are sitting through the narrative bits under duress, is truly ambitious.’ Ultimately this lead to The Naughty Twins, a celluloid gem about, well, twins who go on a quest to find a mystical artifact and discover the world – especially its sexy parts – as they go. Victoria and Charlie went on a parallel journey of naughty exploration making the movie, being pretty much wide-eyed and naive at the beginning. What will their families think? Especially Charlie’s dad, the vicar?

To distance themselves from friends and family they decide to shoot in Amsterdam, even though they feared that they ‘might get stabbed and thrown in a moonlit canal’. After agreeing on what’s ‘hot’ and what’s ‘not’ (‘boredom’ and ‘death’ are both ‘not’) they decide to write the script in Las Vegas, because “Porn needs to be written in a porny place.” They talk to some veterans from The Biz for advice on their project and come face to face with the realities of the large-scale porn industry – which has a habit of chewing people up and spitting them out.

Then there’s assembling a crew and cast, finding locations, and all the technical hoopla; no mean feat for two directors who don’t know the difference between a ‘boom’ and a ‘gaffer’. They mingle with a variety of oddball characters as they enter a new and morally ambiguous realm. To add to the confusion, Vicky has a dalliance with the bi-sexual, strongly religious, Yugoslavian rent-boy who stars in their movie.

Once More with Feeling is an open, sweet confessional that oozes charm and is drenched in very British irony. Light and entertaining, it makes for perfect summertime reading while containing plenty of funnysophical musings on the topics of morality and sex. Does porn have to be soulless and exploitative?

By the way, the word ‘porn’ only appears on the cover in small letters so you can read it in a train, on the beach, or on a plane without blushing. To read it without laughing out loud is more of a challenge.

Once More with Feeling: How We Tried to Make the Greatest Porn Film Ever - Victoria Coren, Charlie Skelton

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Pod People

It has been going on for quite some time now. Pay attention on the streets and you'll notice the proliferation of distinctive white earplugs. The attached technology is hidden within the folds of coats. The owners resist the temptation to show off in order to protect it from the weather and from grabbing hands. This summer there will no doubt be a grand revelation as extra layers of clothing are shed and the Apples are brought out into the open. I will be one of the people displaying the fruit, for I am now one of them: the Pod People.
With the arrival of the iPod Shuffle, the iPod Nano and the iPod Video, the Apple Mp3 brand has reached an all-time high of hipness and portability. This trinity has the market covered: the sturdy, relatively cheap Shuffle on one end, and the more vulnerable and expensive Video on the other, with its video capabilities and enough memory to suck up the average person's entire CD collection. The Nano holds the middle ground in price and memory, packing a large amount of music - and pictures - into a tiny gizmo.
As apparent in the significantly titled booklet Your iPod Life, these are not just mp3-players, they are a lifestyle and it's all about the accessories! There are protective jackets, special iPod speaker-sets, fancy earplugs, all kinds of nifty cables and doohickeys to give your iPod extra capabilities or longer battery-life. Author Dan Frakes has picked what he considers the best items and shows you where to find them both on and offline. You could easily bankrupt yourself buying all the neat stuff available.
Once you have pimped your iPod and feel ready to actually start using it, there are several guides to help you get the most out of it, and of its conjoined twin, the music managing program iTunes. Three of these guides are listed below. You might want to flip through them to be sure they cover 'your' iPod - in the current editions, only some cover the Nano and none cover the Video.
When your ears start to bleed from incessantly listening to music and you need a change, why not start the aural equivalent of a blog and make a Podcast? In Podcasting: The Do-It-Yourself Guide you will learn how to find and download podcasts, as well as how to make your own and start sharing your dazzling thoughts with the world.
And if that starts to bore you, why not hack into your iPod to make it do things that Apple failed to put on the menu, like reading e-mail? You can also learn how to open it up and replace the battery, saving yourself a bundle of cash. Not for the faint of heart or technophobic, iPod & iTunes Hacks has the goods on modding your Pod. If you don't know what modding means then you should give it a pass.
As with all things hip, a countermovement has emerged. Members scoff at the leader of the pack and proudly tote the 'superior', lesser known brands favored by those in the know. I do not claim to be a hardware expert and they may well be right to scoff. But I'm off to buy a bumper sticker that says: 'iPod, do you?' And then I suppose I'll have to go and buy myself a car…

Books Reviewed:
Your iPod Life
The Pocket Idiot's Guide to the iPod
iPod and iTunes Quicksteps
The Rough Guide to iPods, iTunes & Music Online
Podcasting: The Do-It-Yourself Guide
iPod & iTunes Hacks

Facing Facts: Most writers were not made to model

It can be quite a shock to finally see the face attached to a literary or actual voice. Sometimes, it suddenly becomes clear why a radio-personality chose to avoid a medium where he had to show himself or why that successful novelist spent more time behind his word processor than frolicking with cheerleaders. Not only do some of them turn out to be gut-wrenchingly ugly, but being confronted by the physical reality of a writer shatters the image we had formed of him or her in our head.
The mental picture
Writers, especially fiction writers, generally remain an undefined but all-pervading presence in the background of the story. Unless we know more about the author beforehand, they start out as blanks in our minds, to be slowly painted in as we travel through their prose, subconsciously piecing together a personality from the writing style. Pretty much all of the 'discovered' characteristics are mental, not physical. One would have a tough time deducing an author's crooked nose or frizzy hair from a novel. Our self-made mental image of the author can, of course, be wildly inaccurate. Somebody who writes funny books can actually be a depressive and someone who seems like a nice chap to hang out with can actually turn out to be a recluse. It is quite easy to draw the wrong conclusions. But of course, fond as we are of the images we came up with, it can be very disappointing if the author doesn't live up to them. We can feel that, just as a fictional character can be miscast in the tv- or film-version of the book, the actual writer was somehow wrong for the part.
Putting a face to the name
This is why some publishers go to great lengths to create an image of their authors that they think would suit their audience. Instead of simply keeping the back-covers faceless, the writers-especially the more famous ones-are posed in suitable locations and given props. A romance novelist beyond a certain age is posing in a long, bright pink coat in front of a grand iron gate, supposedly leading to her mansion. A thriller-phenomenon is posing next to a helicopter in a windbreaker, just short of waving the American flag. Another thriller-writer appears on each of his covers with his mean-looking bulldog, both looking ready for a bar-brawl. A self-help guru is 'spontaneously' holding his reading glasses, as if he was caught in the act of taking them off. Vast amounts of books show their authors with toothy, awfully strained smiles. There are better ways of putting a face behind the literary voice. If you have a writer of kids books who looks like a Hell's Angel, don't put an unflattering picture of him on the back-cover, where he will be giving kids nightmares. Try to make him as presentable as you can. In general, a low-key, classy just-the-face picture will be quite enough for the reader. Or if you want to get creative, hire an artist to draw up a portrait that will suit the book's design. If they want to take examples from the way pop-stars and painters are getting themselves immortalised, they should check out the two titles below. Bestselling authors have no excuse for misguided vanity publishing.

Book Review: Better Buy the Bulk

Comics: quality and quantity on the cheap

The line between comics and graphic novels has started to become blurry. Now that the average age of comic readers has gone up, the themes have gotten more mature and the format has started to change. Most comics used to be never-ending soaps with superpowers. But since most adults like their entertainment in bite-size chunks and don't feel like chasing after issues of comics they might have missed, more and more comics have rounded off story arcs that can be easily gathered in trade paperback. It has become much easier for the audience to dip into a series for a single story, rather than being committed to it for life (to see how it ends, if ever). Now the publishers are one-upping each other by publishing comics that were previously on sale in trade paperback and bundling them up in cheap editions. For little money, you can buy yourself a hell of a lot of story. Comic giant Marvel has been at it for a while already, with several black-and-white reprints of 'the best of' their main titles. But now both BONE and Strangers in Paradise, lesser-known stars in the comic firmament, have also been given this treatment. Since they were already black-and-white to begin with, they don't lose much in the transition.
At the heart of Strangers in Paradise is a slightly pink love triangle: artistic, sensitive David loves hard-boiled, cynical Katchoo, who loves innocent, sweet Francine, who - in turn - doesn't know who to love. Surrounding them is a cast of flaky, well-drawn (literally and figuratively) characters. There are plenty of great riffs on relationships and the tension gets upped a notch when Katchoo's shady past resurfaces and threatens to drag down her and her friends. Considering that most of the male characters act like buffoons, it might come as a surprise that the writer of Strangers in Paradise is a guy. It's a very woman-friendly comic in a male-dominated field, where female characters may sometimes be strong and independent, but still need to have a waspish waist and big boobs. Four volumes have been published so far. When you get hooked by reading these, you'll be happy to know the series is still ongoing.
BONE has a lot of stock fantasy elements, such as a princess, a prophecy, a dragon, and a quest. But it also has a trio of big-nosed cartoon characters, an ass-kicking grandmother, 'stupid, stupid rat creatures', a talking bug and a sense of humor (unlike, say, Tolkien). It manages to be epic and endearing at the same time. This edition contains the complete story, from the first page of the first issue right up to the planned, definitive end. More than 1.000 pages of beautiful illustrations and quirky, heroic adventuring. Being somewhat hefty, it is also very useful for keeping on your nightstand, to bludgeon burglars with. So do yourself a favor: get BONEd!

Strangers in Paradise Pocket Book 1 -Terry Moore, paperback
BONE one volume edition - Jeff Smith, paperback

Shilly Fixion

Some science-fiction / fantasy writers treat the imaginary worlds they’ve created with such in-depth seriousness that the average reader is tempted to give them a shake and yell: ‘I don’t care about the extended family history of the irrelevant side character on page 569 or about the logistical intricacies of interplanetary Nerf-herding, just get on with the story!’Others try to avoid accusations of purple-prose seriousness by making fun of themselves and their tales of the extraordinary. However, in doing so, most prove that dreaming up fantasy stories and being funny are two very separate skills. Nothing makes for worse reading than bad jokes thrown into a story not even the writer took seriously to begin with.There exist a blessed few who manage to find the right mix of humor and commitment to the story, drawing you in enough to care about the characters and their out-of-this-world adventures, while making you laugh out loud. By my book – pun sadly intended – those who manage the best are (in no particular order):
Jasper Fforde
Not too long ago, he unleashed on the general public a sassy literary detective from a parallel dimension, where books and writers are taken very seriously. With plenty of time-bending, book-hopping and the occasional villain hiding in a footnote, expect to be baffled and entertained.Terry PratchettNo news here for fantasy aficionados. He has built a cohesive fantasy realm in his Discworld novels without being boring or taking himself too seriously. Any one of these titles can be read separately without bafflement.
Robert Rankin
Imagine Terry Pratchett on acid. Thank God for the lack of therapy that brought us titles like: The Hollow Chocolate Easter Bunnies of the Apocalypse and Nostradamus ate my Hamster. Weird, post-modern ‘hey, we’re in a book’-style jokes and off-the-cuff linguistic experiments make for some hilarious reading even if the plot sometimes seems on the random side.
Peter David
The very popular writer of comics and Star Trek novels (amongst others) was given his own corner of the Star Trek universe to play with: the New Frontier series of novels. Not confined by continuity, his stories grow more bizarre all the time, displaying a sexy streak not often seen in the franchise. Despite patches of by-the-numbers writing, this series zips along as a very entertaining space soap opera. Start at the beginning, though!
Douglas Adams
Legendary because of the multi-volume Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and rightly so. His plotting got tighter over the years, but Adams was never funnier than in the first two volumes. The HHGTTG is being made into a movie, but it is a given that his wordy wit works better on paper. Also try his two Dirk Gently novels.
Tom Holt
He has a great sense of humour and inventive plots, even if sometimes the latter derail a bit. Still worth a read, though sometimes the whole feels lesser than its parts.