Posts Tagged ‘Literature’

kirby-draws-terry-2Goodbye Mr Pratchett. Goodbye to the warm, funny and altogether brilliant mind that brought us Discworld – a book series that’s as old as I am.

But this wasn’t the first thing that rushed to my mind when I heard the sad news. For me, he’ll forever be remembered as the author of a wonderful series of children’s novels, often known as “The Bromeliad” or “The Nome Trilogy.”

Truckers – along with its sequels Diggers and Wings – follows a race of small, humanoid beings (“Nomes”) as they journey through our world. Their quest takes them through countryside, a department store, quarries and airports, ultimately looking towards outer space. It’s a big adventure with some big ideas about society, religion and the human condition.

Much of Pratchett’s distinctive humour comes from the Nomes’ worldly interpretations as they hold a mirror to our strange human ways. Many live beneath the floors of a department store and worship its founder “Arnold Bros Est. 1905” as a deity. In-store slogans are taken literally and spouted as religious dogma by those in power. When Masklin and his band of country dwellers arrive off a lorry, many outright deny their existence, quoting the Word of Arnold:

All Things Under One Roof. Therefore there can be NO outside. Therefore you people are NOT from it!”

This doesn’t bode well with the “Thing” (the Nomes’ black box recorder and supercomputer), who intercepts a message announcing the store’s impending demolition.

How can Masklin persuade the Nomes to evacuate when they believe that nothing exists beyond their five-storey utopia? And even if he does convince them, can he get them to stop grumbling long enough so that they might actually work together?


Stories about little folk have been told before; in Gulliver’s Travels, The Borrowers and even by Pratchett himself in The Carpet People. But it’s done so perfectly in the Nome trilogy, as the titular beings observe human life through their own special lens and ultimately ask “why are we here?” They develop a sense of purpose through exploration, technology (particularly vehicles) and books, all of which guide them to the place they truly belong. Or, to be more accurate, a place that truly belongs to the Nomes.

What I loved as a kid (and still do) is how silly characters behave when confronted with any challenge to the status quo. The presence of “Outsiders” sparks tantrums from authority figures, while others pretend they can’t see them at all. Eventually the Stationeri – essentially the store’s Vatican – are convinced of the impending doom and must reconcile their crises of faith to battle for their species’ survival. They’re also challenged by an Outsider named Grimma, who refutes the accepted notion that “women can’t read“ because ”their brains get too hot.” She proves them wrong, eventually becoming the most avid reader in the tribe. Guess who my favourite character is!

masklinIt was through Cosgrove Hall’s stop motion adaptation of that I first discovered the series Terry Pratchett’s Truckers (between this, Knightmare and Bad Influence I was a CITV kid and proud!) It’s a faithful adaptation, lovingly animated with great voice acting. It also features one of the best examples of dark humour ever televised; Nome funeral rites, complete with pointy hats and ceremonial fishing rods. Fun fact – I noticed on IMDB that the voice of the Abbott (Michael Horden) also did some voice work on some of my other childhood favourites – Labyrinth and Watership Down. Funny how it all seems to tie together! The full series of Truckers is available on DVD and I can heartily recommend it to absolutely anyone.

Another fun fact – Pratchett’s BBC News obituary might have pinpointed the inspiration for the Nome stories:

“He [Terry] vividly recalled a visit to London in 1954 when his mother took him to the Gamages department store in Holborn.

The small boy was overcome by the bright lights and vast range of toys. “Lots of my future writing started to happen on that day,” he later said.”

truckers1I have very fond memories of watching Truckers with my little sister at my Gran’s, who bought me the series on video because I loved it so much (thanks Gran – say hi to Terry for me!) Afterwards I read the books, which were even better, and waited patiently for the next TV series, which sadly never came. Such a pity, especially as the second book Diggers is mainly Grimma’s story. I’d love to hear her make the speech where she explains her fascination with the bromeliad flowers – an idea that changes her entire world view and provides the analogy that is the namesake of the whole series.

Great fiction like this makes us ask these questions ourselves. Will we be like the frogs living life inside one giant flower? Or will we venture beyond the petals and explore all the wonders the universe has to offer?


Thank you Terry Pratchett for sharing your worlds, your ideas and your marvellous humour with us all. But in the wise words of Arnold Bros Est. 1905, “Everything Must Go.”

Rest in peace Lx



Would you believe it? My work-related training has actually given me a brilliant idea! Well, whether or not it’s “brilliant” remains to be seen, but it’s inspired me at any rate.

The task was to pick three books (I work in a library by the way) each with a specific criteria. It was designed to help us become less judgemental and to make recommendations that suit the reader’s tastes rather than our own. Technically I only had to list the titles, but you know what? Sod it, I’m gonna try reading all three!

Here’s how to pick ’em:

1. The Treat
This should be a book by an author you already know and love. Try and figure out precisely why their writing makes you tick (this is harder than it sounds!) then imagine all the reasons why another reader might be utterly repulsed by it. Remember that both opinions are equally valid.

2. The Challenge
The “I really should read this” choice. Probably something a wee bit highbrow. This should be a book that you imagine will be a bit more difficult for you than your average read but also a more enriching experience. Give it a go, see how far you get and ask yourself if it’s worth the effort. Be honest with yourself on this one.

3. The Bargepole
This should be a book that, under normal circumstances, you wouldn’t touch with a ten foot bargepole. Its existence should be an affront to humanity and just looking at the cover should make you cringe. Know what? You’re gonna read it! Because someone took the time to write it, someone published it and (odds are) it’s somebody’s favourite book in the world. With this in mind, try to find at least one redeeming quality. Y’know, while you’re mentally trashing it to bits!

And here are my choices:

1. Treat – Skagboys by Irvine Welsh
2. Challenge – Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
3. Bargepole – Fifty Shades of Grey by E L James

Wish me luck, especially with that third one!


After enduring four books, five movies and enough alcohol to knock out a bull elephant I am officially DONE with the Twilight series! It’s been a thorn in my side since I was subjected to New Moon on opening day for the sake of a review. Sometimes at night, I can still hear the screaming.

I don’t review movies for that site anymore but I had to do something to get a sense of closure. Here are five questionable things about the Twilight Saga. No, I haven’t asked “why does it exist in the first place?” As Stephenie Meyer managed to make virtually every pitfall of the novice writer, there’s a lot to choose from. This is not a definitive top five – just some stuff that ticked me off. I’ll try to remain objective but hey, no promises!

1. Why do they go to school?

For the students of Forks High School. You poor bastards.

For the students of Forks High School. You poor bastards.

Is this the one downside of vampirism – repeating high school? Harsh! Or at least it would be if it made sense.

When you’ve got minors in your care, having them attend school is a legal obligation. However the Cullens clearly believe they are above the law; see their history of fraud, theft, speeding and murder for more details. I’m sure they could claim to be homeschooling. Nobody’s batted an eyelid over those questionably young foster parents so far.

So high school; it’s a place for education, both academic and social. The Cullens don’t need the former and reject the latter.

Now, I’m all for learning but in secondary education you can only learn so much. Once you exhaust the set texts, you inevitably get bored. Hell, some of them are dull to begin with. At least in arts subjects you could reinterpret the works – can you imagine how tedious it would be repeating biology when you’ve already passed med school? Worse, to avoid drawing attention you must move sluggishly in the gym and dumb down your written assignments. Imagine the frustration this would cause for beings of superior intellect, physical prowess and wisdom. Frankly it would bore the tits off me.

Do the Cullens socialise? No, they sit together at the back of the cafeteria and don’t talk to anyone. Charming. Actually when I think about it, the implication of hundred-and-something year old predators hanging round a bunch of teens is even worse…

You like sparkly popsicles?

You like sparkly popsicles?

Vampires attending school is not only pointless, it’s dangerous. First off, their secret might be discovered. Are you telling me their classmates spend years around a family who don’t eat, don’t age and don’t go out in the sun and NEVER find this questionable? Bella figured it out and she’s an idiot! More importantly, doesn’t the coven pride itself on respecting human life? Putting innocent children at risk seems to contradict this. All it takes is a paper cut and that’s Jasper on the rampage. Think of all the witnesses they’d have to eat!

Carrie White. Just sayin'

Carrie White. Just sayin’

High school kids generally aren’t kind to anyone “different”. I don’t care HOW scary the pale, quiet kids are – bullies would hound them. Provoke them, push them to their limits just to see what they do. It’ll get under your skin if you’re subjected to it on a daily basis. What happens when a suped-up teen gets angry and finally snaps?

If you’re absolutely 100% sure you can be around humans without getting the bloodrage, go to college. That’s what I’d do – spend eternity as a scholar and researcher. Failing that, there are such things as distance learning courses and hobbies. Create works of art. Meditate on the beauty and wonder of the universe. Find plotholes in sub-par fantasy fiction and bitch about it online. Read every book in the library, learn every language, finish every video game (my gamerscore would be through the roof!) You could even go totally nuts and get a job. Anything but high school.

2. Do vampires have souls or have we just stopped caring now?

Immortality comes at a price. Often it involves physical vulnerabilities, horrible deeds or personal sacrifices. Meyerpires are immune to the usual sun, stakes and garlic and the Cullens have gotten around the need for human blood by devouring woodland creatures. Their hands are essentially clean till someone sics PETA on their sparkly asses.

So what’s the sacrifice? In New Moon the question is raised about whether vampires have souls. Edward thinks they don’t but his sugar daddy Carlisle believes they do. This is the reason Edward won’t turn Bella. The naive girl claims she doesn’t care about her soul and will gladly toss it aside for her boyfriend. He, in an alarming act of selflessness, tries to talk her round. Maybe he didn’t want to spend the next millenium lumbered with the dozy bint.

Don’t give it too much thought guys – the debate’s been dropped by book three. This might actually be the biggest let-down of the whole series. Let that sink in for a moment.

Bart is familiar with the works of Pablo Neruda

Bart is familiar with the works of Pablo Neruda

I do love when philosophy is explored through fiction. Good stories aren’t about providing answers, they’re quests for meaning that help us grow as people. The Twilight franchise brings up the soul question – as a major character motivation no less – then sweeps it under the rug hoping nobody mentions it again. What does that tell us? The characters gave up searching for meaning so hey, why should the audience bother? For a story that takes itself so damn seriously it abandons all purpose pretty early on. Christsake, I’ve seen episodes of The Simpsons that looked at the concept in greater depth.

It’s one of the rare instances when Meyer remembers that stories need conflict, but forgets that they also need resolution (she was an English major, right? Seriously, this is very basic stuff) An event or revelation should have convinced the protagonists that an immortal life lived for good is evidence of a soul. But no, that would bring in pesky old Morality and interfere with our heroine’s goal of being rich, pretty and banging her husband in a fairytale cottage that neither of them paid for.

Have your cake, eat your cake and demand more cake – that’s the Twilight moral!

I could really use some cake right now!

Actually, I could really use some cake right now!

3. What’s with the villains?

Let’s clarify: by “villains” I mean the Big Bads A.K.A. the Volturi. I’m not talking about the guy from the first movie, his ginger girlfriend or her stupid “vampire army” (why was she venging Edward anyway? Alice ripped her BF’s head off.) I think – THINK – the Volturi are supposed to be evil. After all they’re the series antagonists, wear black cloaks and their leader keeps giggling wickedly. Still I’m not sure if it’s simply a conflict of interest with the Cullen cult family.

Sheenypire: the most entertaining character in the "Twilight" movies

Sheenypire: the most entertaining character in the “Twilight” movies

Okay, so here’s a rundown of their dastardly deeds:

New Moon:
First they REFUSE to murder Edward when he asks them to. Clearly Sheenypire’s will is stronger than mine. Later they haul him in for breaking one of only two laws the vampires seem to have, smack him around a bit (awesome!) then let him go as long as he promises to turn Bella. They eat some people but hey – they’re vampires, it’s what they do.
Eclipse: The Volturi B-team show up looking like they’ve just come from a My Chemical Romance concert. They see a vampire army and do nothing. Then they appear right at the end of the “epic showdown” (that lasts about half a minute of screen time) and remind the Cullens to stick to the agreement. Oh yeah, and they kill a girl vampire that the audience doesn’t care about, just to prove they’re not messing around.
Breaking Dawn: “Objective: Kill the baby” FINALLY a properly evil plan! Well, almost – in the end they decide not to bother and just go home. Seriously, that’s all folks! Almost forgot; once again they kill a girl vampire the audience doesn’t care about, just to prove they’re not messing around. Because it worked so well the first time.

What do these guys DO all day? I hear they create and enforce vampire law and have been doing this for, what, hundreds of years? Thousands? And how many laws are there? Two, apparently – don’t tell humans and don’t bite babies. Some epic productivity there guys!

If controlling the masses is your bag then why not conquer and enslave humanity? Seriously, what’s stopping them? It’s not like humans stand a chance against vampires. Is it laziness? Does it create a butt-tonne of paperwork? Sheenypire also collects supervamps for no good reason. Why build an army if there’s no-one to fight or defend against? If it’s just collecting for collecting’s sake then he may as well be amassing Beanie Babies.

4. Charlie Swan: worst cop ever?

How I wish he'd use that gun

Oh, how I wish he’d use that gun!

The good folks of Rifftrax have sworn their allegiance to “Team Moustache Dad”. Charlie Swan (Bella’s father) has been the only sympathetic character in the franchise since Jacob went all sexual-harrassy. I’d support Team Charlie if only for one thing – he doesn’t seem to be very good at his job. This guy’s a cop? Sorry guys, I don’t buy it.

*checks wiki page* He’s the CHIEF of POLICE?!! Holy SHITSNACKS, Forks is doomed!

Cast your mind back to the end of the first Twilight – the ACTUAL end, not the pointless “Bella goes to prom” finale. The last time Charlie saw his daughter, she was having a tantrum because of a fight with the Cullen boy. Next thing she’s in a hospital bed and his family have spun the doctors a yarn about clumsy old Bella falling down some stairs and through a window. Jesus Christ Monkeyballs, are you telling me he actually BELIEVED that story? Any father would start watching the Cullen family like a hawk, making sure nothing else happens to his little girl. Any COP father would investigate said family and uncover some extremely suspicious leads.

The Cullen money comes from several dodgy sources. Alice exploits her psychic powers to play the stock market (I know – just go with it.) Edward has “inherited his family’s money from himself” several times over. The family own numerous properties that lie vacant for decades till they move back into that particular area. Collectively, they must have forged hundreds of fake identity papers (birth certificates, passports etc) by this point. This doesn’t scream “vampires” to a sound-minded law enforcer but it DOES say “balls deep in criminal activity”. How many times does his only daughter have to “walk into a door” before Charlie takes a peek at their files?

"I'll protect you honey... just not very well"

“I’ll protect you honey… just not very well”

Chief Swan reaches new depths of stupid in “Breaking Dawn: part 2”. Bella’s wed a boy he disapproves of, been whisked off to an undisclosed location, called home sick and then vanished off the face of the earth. People think she’s DEAD for crying out loud and he hasn’t even checked the Cullens’ last known residence WHERE THEY’VE BEEN THIS WHOLE TIME?!! This is BEFORE he sees a werewolf and subsequently stops questioning all logic in the world ever. Not his freakish daughter, not his rapidly maturing “adopted” grandchild, not nuthin’.

The worst part is that Billy Burke was the only cast member who decided to act in that movie and showed us a loving parent worried sick for a child who treats him like dirt. I’m not kidding – my heart went out to poor Charlie when he went to visit his ungrateful shit of a daughter and her bad CGI offspring. His wife left him, his friend died of a heart attack, he saw his teenage girl through a mental breakdown and now this? Leave Moustache Dad alone!

5. Who gets to be immortal? Why not bite the whole family?

This stuff? Not a problem!

This stuff? Not a problem!

Okay, so we’ve established that Meyerpires are more-or-less invincible and that we no longer give a crap about the soul thing. So what’s stopping Bella from biting more people and granting unto them eternal sparkly goodness?

Here’s how the transformation works; immediately after being bitten, the venom starts coursing the veins, healing any injuries or diseases sustained as a human. After three days of terrible, excruciating bad writing physical agony, the Meyerpire awakens all shiny and purty. No more pain, no more disease and no more growing old and dying. As a bonus (cause you, like, need one) vampirism might even unlock special abilities like psychic powers or telepathy.

The only snag is that every non-vamp in the world you care about will die. Bella’s family will die, her friends will die and her only daughter might also die. Sorry Meyer – “mortal” and “immortal” are mutually exclusive states. Renesmee (yes, that’s her actual name) may have an increased lifespan but that doesn’t equal eternal life. We don’t know what happens to vamp-human hybrids after a few hundred years. Wouldn’t it be awful for her parents if, after spending centuries together, their daughter suddenly withers and dies?

Werewolf Leah Clearwater - potentially a far better heroine than Bella Swan

Werewolf Leah Clearwater – potentially a much better heroine than Bella Swan

The werewolves might not have to die as (apparently) they won’t age as long as they keep shape-shifting. HOW DOES THAT WORK?!! Sorry but if that’s an exploitable loophole in werewolf genetics then why has nobody tried it yet? I’m guessing it’s so they age and expire alongside the girls they’ve groomed imprinted on, because when your twu-love has snuffed it then there’s no other reason to live, right? RIGHT?! Urgh, this world makes me sick.

ANYHOO, back to the humans. Bella’s mother is supposed to be her best friend (don’t look for any evidence in the text, it’s more of a “tell, don’t show” deal.) Why doesn’t Bella bite her? Because mama’s got a new BF? Bite him too. And what about dear old Dad? Get him bit – it’s the least you can do after putting him through hell. You’ve already upset the natural order of things with your immortality shindig so why suffer the agony of losing a parent? Don’t tell me it’s because the werewolves won’t stand for it. It’s not that big a tribe and the fursploding gene has already resorted to changing little boys and *gasp* a WOMAN in the struggle to make up numbers. The Volturi wouldn’t give a shit either – they’d just appear, giggle and sod off back to Italy.

I guess the real reason is that having her lame-ass parents around might cramp her style around her new super-special-Members-Only-vampire-family-club. In that case SCREW YOU BELLA!!!

And here are five ways to polish this sparkly turd

When I get bored with a story, I change it in my head. Sometimes I even fill in a plothole or two! Here are a few ideas that might have made the Twilight Saga better. No, I have absolutely no clue how you could make it worse.

1. Give vampires at least ONE major weakness. And no, the “thirst for blood” DOESN’T count unless we see some real evidence of this within the text. Take your pick from traditional vulnerabilities or better yet invent a new one. Create limitations that the vampires must overcome with unconventional and innovative means. Think of Spike from Buffy driving around with his blacked out windows – stuff like that can reflect a character’s personality. Y’know, if they HAVE one to begin with.

Spike is not amused

Spike is not amused

2. Make the transformation dangerous. Want to give Edward a reason not to turn Bella? Want to give her a reason not to turn all her loved ones (besides utter selfishness?) How about giving the transformation a poor success rate, like a one-in-ten chance they’ll survive at all. It’s a pretty extreme process with venom, petrification and systematic organ failure so it makes sense. Makes the people who become vamps that bit more special too.

3. Have a good ol’ battle for humanity. It may be clichéd but giving the Big Bad aspirations to world domination certainly ups the stakes (no pun intended, although there are one or two fictional douchebags I’d dearly love to shove a stake “up”.) Why is Sheenypire collecting supervamps? Simple – to take over the world.bisonofcourse

Why does he want Renesmee? A unique ability that’s the last piece of the puzzle. An ancient prophecy of a miracle child he’s been obsessed with for years (and the reason he let Edward and Bella off the hook?) Maybe he wants to study her? Dissect her, even? Quick, protect the child from this madman! Hey look – MOTIVATION!

4. Write a tragic backstory. This idea actually came from my good friend Krystal so I can’t take credit. What if the reason Bella moved in with her Dad in Forks was because her mother passed away? What if Bella had been her sole carer until that time, never admitting how sick she really was? You want a character who’s had to grow up too fast and had to act like the parent? That’ll do it. It’s why everyone at school is nice to her but she remains awkward and withdrawn. That’s why she relates to Edward, who lost his real mother a century ago but still remembers the pain. It’s why she’s so desperate to be part of a family again.

“But wait” I hear you say, like you give a shit, “what about the climax of Twilight where the bad vamp uses Bella’s mother as human bait?” Answer: have him lie to her that her mother is still alive… as a vampire! If you’re grieving for someone, you’ll believe anything for a chance to see them again. Vampires are now a reality in Bella’s world so it’s reasonable that she’d fall for this. Even if it wasn’t convincing, she’d WANT to believe it and would willingly run into danger. After the Cullens rescue her, she accepts it’s finally time to let go and move on with her life. OMG, A CHARACTER ARC!!! BURN IT! SEND IT TO HELL!!!

5. Kill Bella. Straight up – I actually thought this might actually happen when I read the last book (wishful thinking perhaps?) I’d heard that Breaking Dawn received a bunch of negative fan reviews. I didn’t know the ending and it seemed like Meyer was pulling out any old crap for one last wacky ride. “But it’s written in first person!” you exclaim. For the last time imaginary audience, stop pretending you give two shits!

Actually the perspective shifts from Bella, to Jacob (where Meyer writes how she thinks teenage boys actually talk) then back to Bella again. About halfway in, I reckoned the third part would either be read by Edward or his unholy spawn in Bella’s absence. Yeah, it sounds mad now but think about it – what a twist!

Because of her sacrifice, part of Bella will live on forever (literally… maybe… we need to get that mortal/immortal thing sorted out.) Her last wish was for a truce between the vampires and werewolves in the hope of a better world for her daughter. Hearing this, Jacob swears an oath to guard his best friend’s only child Renesmee/”insert less ridiculous name here” with his life, passing down the honour to future generations of wolfies for as long as the girl lives. See, we can even do away with Pedowolf!

What does this ending say? That life goes on. Like the changing seasons, death arrives and life is born anew. We mourn what was lost but stay strong – tomorrow is another day. It’s all symbolic and shit. What’s this book called again? I forget!

"Frylight: Shaking Prawn"

“Frylite: Shaking Prawn”