Tuesday’s Reviews – The Fireman by Joe Hill

books, death, post-apocalyptic, reviews, Stephen King, well written

I’ve been ill the last few days so have basically been in bed since Sunday. Until today I’d barely spoken to another human being and have simply had the people on Netflix to keep me company. I’d love to say that I used my time to get some reading done but, I was so tired, I found it difficult to concentrate on the words on the page. I’m only a few chapters into The 7th Function of Language but I’m really looking forward to getting further. One of my most anticipated works for 2017. Hopefully, I’ll get my reading groove back and finish it soon. God know’s it’s taking me long enough to get to the end of novels these days. Although, I have finally finished another book and it only took me about 3 weeks. That still feels like far too long but it was a bloody long book. It average out as 40 pages a day, which still doesn’t feel like enough to me. How do people get into the habit of reading? I always find myself getting into a Netflix spiral and realising it’s far too late to start reading. And I don’t read at work because there are always too many people in the staff room. Anyway, the fact is I finished something and that is reason to celebrate. I always have another book to review and I’ve decided I need to include more book reviews on this blog. I am a badass Motherbooker after all.

You know, I feel kind of bad for Joe Hill. Not only has he, in only 3 novels, set himself up to be a big name in the future of horror fiction but he has done so having Stephen King as his father. You can imagine how often his books are compared to the ones his dad has released. I have even found myself guilty of describing this book as his version of The Stand. It’s a stupid and really unhelpful way to do as, despite sharing genes, the two have very different styles. Both are hugely talented writers but take on the horror genre in their own way. Hill is approaching from a more modern and creative way than the classic style his father has always favoured. So, this will be the last time that I mention King in this review. Well, hopefully the last time. Sometimes I just can’t help myself.

I have had my eye on The Fireman for a while now but, having seen how fucking huge the hardback is, I kept putting it off. Still, I needed something to read on my way back from London and only had my Kindle. It was the one eBook that I really wanted to read and I’m glad I did. Despite being an epic novel, The Fireman hardly ever felt like much of slog. It is based around the fantastic premise that a spore has been created that eventually causes people to die when they spontaneously burst into flame. It’s a horrifying idea that quickly leads to an utter breakdown of society. Those infected with ‘dragonscale’, as it is universally known, find themselves covered in black and gold markings making it impossible to hide. The rest of society become scared and eventually “cremation crews” start rounding up and disposing of the unclean. Those who are infected must do everything they can to survive… at least until they set on fire anyway.

The story follows a twenty-something nurse, Harper, who tries to use her talents to help people at the start of the outbreak. She is a kind, caring and sweet young woman who is a bit too obsessed with Mary Poppins and Disney films. She is happily married to Jakob, a writer, until the moment she first spots evidence of the spore. Instead of ending her life as she and Jakob had initially agreed to, Harper chooses to survive once she learns she is pregnant. Unfortunately, Jakob  has succumbed to the hysteria that has also infected society and decides Harper must die. Thankfully, the heroic Fireman, a mythical figure who has gained a reputation for saving the infected, gets Harper to the safety of a commune for the infected. But she finds herself getting herself into more danger as she gets closer to her due date.

The Fireman is one of those frustrating novels that gets you hooked on how well written and exciting the premise is. Hill manages to create the massive effects of the apocalypse in a quick and efficient way. He approaches it in a way that “normal” people probably would and shows us the horrors using public figures and celebrities. It’s easy to understand the enormity of the issue when you see JK Rowling getting shot, George Clooney bursting into flames and the White House burning down. The The only problem is, the rest of the novel tends to crawl along as the scope of what Hill is trying gets a bit out of control. Part of me loves that he doesn’t follow the traditional post-apocalyptic theme and spends a lot of time staying in one place. However, it could be a bit tighter and the ending could have been a little less obvious. Fairly early on, you know where the novel is going to end up but it takes so fucking long to get there.

Which would be fine if the characters were compelling enough to make it easy to ignore. Hill masterfully juggles a whole host of players in his line-up but none of them really make much of an impact. The titular Fireman has his moments but you never quite see why he deserves everyone’s love and respect. Then there’s Harper who quickly becomes an annoying parody and is far too repetitive. I spent most of the time wishing she could stand up for herself and show some real fire. She is a follower despite how much she tries to be a leader. I find it highly unlikely that she would have survived the situations she finds herself in. She, like Hill, is too preoccupied with her pop culture references to always grasp the true nature of the apocalypse in front of her.

However, I ultimately enjoyed The Fireman and, despite a fairly underwhelming ending, I enjoyed the lack of neat conclusion. Compared to something like The Road, Hill manages to give us constant glimpses of hope and love even in the end of days. There is always a glimmer of light along the way but that doesn’t mean that there should be a contrived and final ending. He is Stephen King’s son after all…. ah fuck.

Top 10 Wen-sday: Top 10 Saddest deaths in Harry Potter

books, death, fucking sad, Harry Potter, J K Rowling, list, sad, Top 10

About a week ago, I came up with a great idea for what to do this month’s Top 10 on. I’d been re-watching the first seasons of Black Mirror and decided that I would rank the episodes from best to worst. I mean it was perfect, 3 seasons plus the Christmas special equalled 10 episodes. Well, thanks to fucking Netflix, the 3rd series of Charlie Brooker’s amazing TV show had more episodes. There are, in fact 13 episodes of Black Mirror to date so doing a Top 10 didn’t seem right. It’d be okay if there were way more than 10 but leaving off 3 seemed unnecessary. “So why didn’t I just do a Top 13?” I hear you cry. Because that wouldn’t rhyme. So, I’ve spent the last hour or so despairing and trying desperately to come up with something else to write about. I’ve found something. It came about after I was taking some Instagram pictures today. I was looking through The Deathly Hallows for a quotation and ended up getting engrossed in the Battle of Hogwarts. I then found myself weeping at moments that I’d forgotten/blocked from my memory. So, in honour of the fallen, I’ve compiled a list of the worst deaths in the Harry Potter series. By the way, I’ve seen some lists that include Lily and James. I find this to be cheating because, though seen in memories or whatever, these don’t actually occur in the book’s narrative.

 Ten: Albus Dumbledore

Now, don’t get me wrong, Albus Dumbledore was a great guy and everything but, when you think about it, his death isn’t really that sad. There’s plenty of build-up in Book 5 and, let’s be honest, he’s already fucking old. Plus, as we find out in Book 7, he planned his death to fuck with Voldemort as much as possible so his death is actually a good thing. He’s pranking his mortal enemy from beyond the grave. Also, he was always kind of a shitty headmaster and a bit suspect. There’s some darkness beneath those eyes I tell ya. Darkness.

Nine: Cedric Diggory

I almost wasn’t going to include Cedric because I think my dislike of Robert Pattinson has had an adverse affect on my opinion of the character. Although, Cedric’s death was the first major “good guy” character to death up to that point (if I remember correctly). He was a student and he was killed because he wanted to share his victory with Harry. He was selfless, brave and intelligent. He was in the wrong place at the wrong time and shouldn’t have died. Also, I vividly remember being absolutely destroyed by these scenes when I first read them so I couldn’t ignore it.

Eight: Colin Creevy

Colin may have been a truly annoying character when he first appeared in the books but that doesn’t mean his death is any less sad. He was a young man and wasn’t supposed to be in the battle. He snuck back into Hogwarts to help Harry. Another case of Harry Potter fever causing people to sacrifice themselves in the name of the Boy Who Lived. The moment his body is carried in is just awful.

 Seven: Mad Eye Moody

I love Mad Eye Moody and I feel, after the whole Barty Crouch Jr. thing, that he got kind of a raw deal. He was epic and powerful. Gruff, yes, but the kind of guy you wanted on your side in a fight. So, when he was killed in such a forgettable and insignificant way it just seemed unfair. He was destined for great things and should have gone down fighting an army of Death Eaters in the Battle of Hogwarts. Not on a broomstick carrying a fake Harry Potter.

 Six: Tonks

Tonk’s death is sad, there can be no doubt, but I refuse to put it much higher because SHE DIDN’T NEED TO BE THERE. She was meant to be staying with her new born child. I know she was being noble and fighting the good fight. But she didn’t need to be there. She put her own need to fight before what was best for Teddy. When Lily and James were threatened by Voldemort they took Harry and hid. There was nothing ignoble in that act. Tonks did the opposite and went looking for the forces that were trying to kill her. And she left her son without a mother.

Five: Hedwig

I know there will be those who place Hedwig at number one because, quite frankly, it was a death that hit everybody hard. Hedwig had been Harry’s only companion in the Muggle world since his first year. She had been there for him and died to save his life. I’m a sucker for an honourable, sacrificing death and this was heartbreaking. However, the overall impact on others was less than with the people below. I’m sorry to have to be the one to say it but it’s true.

Four: Remus Lupin

I loved Remus from the moment he first appeared in the books. I’ve had a complicated relationship with him where I couldn’t decided if I wanted him to be my literary father or if I wanted him to do dirty things to me. In fact, I still can’t if I’m honest. It’s fucking weird. Remus was another of those wholly good characters who didn’t deserve to die. Plus, the only reason it happened was for literary mirroring. J K only killed Remus so the whole of the Marauders could die and so Teddy was left without parents. It’s bullshit I tell you. Bullshit. But I’ve had this argument before.

Three: Dobby

Oh my god, the amount of feels that this death caused. Dobby is such an innocent and purely good creature that it was immensely unfair that he was killed in such a horrible way. All he’d ever done was try and help Harry Potter and look what happened. I mean, Harry didn’t even respect Dobby enough if you ask me. I mean, yeah, he gave him his freedom and everything but he kind of stopper giving a shit about Dobby after that. He used Dobby’s help when he needed it but gave little back. Yes, his life with the Malfoy’s wasn’t great but at least he’d have lived through the battle.

Two: Sirius Black

Now, my feelings on Sirius Black are kind of mixed. Part of me loves him because he’s awesome and, you know, Gary Oldman. But the other part realises how terrible a role model he was for Harry. The man had been locked up for 13 years and was still basically his younger self. He was reckless and angry and saw Harry as a new James. As much as we all loved the idea of their happy ending, if the pair had ended up living together in familial bliss it would undoubtedly gone badly. Still, this death was heartbreaking mostly because it was Harry’s fault. If he’d been less of a dickhead and had any common sense he wouldn’t have gone to the Ministry alone. Therefore, Sirius wouldn’t have needed to rescue him and gotten killed. Fuck you, Harry.

One: Fred Weasley

This one’s kind of a given I suppose. Fred was the lovable twin who only ever wanted to make people laugh. It’s horrendously sad in the book to see Percy, who’s been a massive dick for since we met him, fall to pieces when he sees his brother. Plus, as a twin, I think this always had some deeper resonance than the others. The one thing guaranteed to get me in bits is seeing a film/TV show where a twin reacts to the death of their sibling.

Tuesday’s Reviews – A Monster Calls (2017)

death, Felicity Jones, films, fucking beautiful, fucking sweet, fucking tragic, review, sad, Sigourney Weaver

I’ve literally just got back from watching Logan and am desperately trying to finish today’s review. My original plan was to watch something yesterday and write it up ahead of time so I wasn’t rushed. Instead I spent most of my day off asleep and only just had time to watch today’s film. As I have such a small window here I’m waiting until next week to write up Logan because I want to do it justice. Although, spoiler alert, I fucking loved it! I knew I would but it was so good. Despite the fact the we waited for a post-credits scene and there wasn’t one. It was just nice to sit and take events in whilst listening to Johnny Cash. I guess it’s good that there wasn’t actually anything after the credits. It ensure that the ending was as powerful as it needed to be. Gah, it was an emotional experience which means after watching A Monster Calls yesterday means I’ve been emotionally drained for the past 2 evenings. I need to start watching some happier films.

I’ve only ever read one Patrick Ness book and, if I’m honest, I really didn’t think that highly of it. It was The Rest of Us Just Live Here, which has to be one of the most disappointing reads for me. It sounded like such a good concept but it was wasted. So I haven’t bothered with any more of Ness’ works because it just seemed like the type of YA nonsense that gives Young Adult fiction in general a bad name for me. I know there must be good YA out there but I haven’t had the pleasure of reading any of it. Anyway, as a keen member of the Bookstagram community I have heard plenty about his children’s book A Monster Calls. Certainly enough to get kind of excited when I saw the trailers for the film and heard Liam Neeson’s voice coming out of the titular monster. However, I knew it was going to be sad but I wasn’t prepared for just how bloody sad it is.

A Monster Calls is the story of a young boy, Conor O’Malley (Lewis MacDougall), who is dealing with his mother’s (Felicity Jones) terminal cancer, his overbearing and stern grandmother (Sigourney Weaver), the school bully, and his absent father (Toby Kebbell). After waking from the same nightmare night after night, Connnor encounters a monster (Liam Neeson) that springs to life from the Yew tree that he can see from his bedroom window. The monster will visit Connor and tell him 3 true stories. After the third tale, Connor must tell his own story and reveal his truth. The stories help Connor come to terms with his situation and force him to face the awful truth that he has been trying to suppress.

A Monster Calls is such a simple and heartbreaking idea. What must it be life for a young boy who is watching his mother die of cancer? It deals with very dark and mature ideas but does so in such a tender and beautiful way. The fantastical elements and the Monster’s animated stories all work well against the bleak nature of the tale to make it a deeply engrossing and incredibly poignant film. Everything builds toward the final act and when the payoff comes it has the ability to absolutely destroy it’s audience. It may slightly hammer its point home but it never loses sight of what it’s trying to do. It is offering wisdom about an important and horrible topic whilst never losing it’s compassion for the character’s involved. It’s not quite perfect but it does what it needs to.

I think my only thoughts would be that the film is still slightly too dark for a very young audience but older members will be drawn in with the visual aspects and engrossing tale. The monster itself, played by Liam Neeson using motion capture, is incredibly realised. There can be no denying that the film is a technical marvel. Everything integrates together to create something that is very unique but perfect for the story it’s trying to tell. It is a tale about art, legacy, truth and humanity. It is the story of about the love between a mother and child and the impact that can have on the people involved. The visual aspects of the film help give this a sense of fairy tale and allow it to transcend reality.

However, thanks to the fantastic performances from the human characters, the harsh reality of Connor’s situation always remains. Connor is a boy who is having to grow up too fast and deal with emotions that he is not ready to deal with. He has nobody to turn to and is left unsure of where to turn. You can’t help but be drawn to him and Lewis MacDougall’s performance is vulnerable and hard to ignore. Something that works so well with Felicity Jones’ role as his mother. She is both strong and weak. A mother wishing to shield her son from pain but realising that she no longer can. It is a heartbreaking performance that, along with MacDougall’s, will have everyone weeping before the credits role.

A Monster Calls has a difficult job to do and a difficult story to tell. Whilst it doesn’t always manage to establish the type of tone it was striving for or achieve the purpose it wanted. However, it always manages to keep you guessing and always avoid being predictable. It is repetitive and unsubtle but is manages to be something that will keep you watching. It’s the kind of dark and creative kid’s that will no doubt be mostly appreciated by an older audience. I’m just glad that I didn’t watch it in the cinema. It would have been a pretty messy affair.

RANTING ABOUT GAME OF THRONES: A WEEK OF IRK AND IRE – Cer-say what you want but she really fucking loves her kids

death, George RR Martin, irk and ire, motherhood, women

I’m a very petty person. I realise this is kind of a given considering I’ve just dedicated a week of my life to moaning about my favourite television show on the blog I write that very few people know exists. But there you have it, I’m really fucking petty. How did I come to this startling discovery? Recently on Facebook I saw a comment on a friends Game of Thrones related status that spelt the name “Cersei” incorrectly. It was something like “Cercey”and I honestly cringed at the sight of it. Now I don’t know the guy who made the mistake but I was incredibly tempted to correct it for him. Which is fucking stupid. The only reason I know how to spell it is because I’ve read the books. It’s not exactly a common name. It’s also completely pointless because it’s a fucking TV show. It’s not as if I’m defending the person’s honour because the person isn’t real. It all comes down to me being a massive dick that likes proving people wrong.

Cersei Lannister is the evil bitch that everyone loves to hate. She’s the person who has been secretly pulling the strings that caused most of you beloved characters to die. I mean, let’s not forget that the whole War of the Five Kings came about so nobody would find out she was shagging her brother. She’s half of the reason that everything kicked off in Westeros and she’s continued to fuck shit up with every subsequent move she’s made. She out her psychotic son on the throne, gave power to the wrong people and became so drunk and paranoid that she stopped making logical decisions. Basically, she’s the worst thing to happen to the Seven Kingdoms since the Mad King.

However, as we have so often been reminded, Cersei has one redeeming feature. Her one shining point amidst all the hatred was the love of her children… well that and her cheekbones. There is perhaps no mother in the series who has done more to protect and care for her children than the Queen. Of course, that’s mostly down to the fact that she’s one of the few mothers that we meet and the other notable one, Catelyn Stark, spent most of her time in the series away from her brood. All Cersei has done in the show is to ensure that her children get the respect and power that she thinks they deserve. There isn’t a fucking thing that woman wouldn’t do if she thought it was in her kids’ best interests.

She loves her children unquestionably, even when they are super creepy and really fucking evil. She was afraid of what Joffrey could do but she still loved him. So, it seemed wildly out of character that, in the final episode of season 6, Cersei would face the death of her only living child in such a calm way. She blew up the Sept of Baelor because she was batshit crazy and to rid herself of her enemies in one go. She tried to keep Tommen safe by locking him in his room. Of course, she could have guessed that the death of his wife would hit the King hard. Although, she probably didn’t expect him to jump out of a fucking window or she’d have at least ensured the thing was locked.

When her children have died previously we’ve seen Cersei suffer. Even the death of Joffrey the crazy motherfucker, hit her hard. Myrcella’s death nearly finished her off completely. Yet, we have no emotional reaction at all regarding Tommen. He jumps out of the window and the next thing we know Cersei is very calmly telling people they’ll have the ceremony in the Throne Room… on account of some psycho blowing up the Sept and shit. Then she goes and names herself Queen cool as a cucumber. You know, as if her only living child hadn’t just splattered himself all over King’s Landing.

You could argue that Tommen was such a dull and non-existent character that even Cersei didn’t care about his death. I mean it was thanks to him that we’re still unsure if Clegane bowl will ever happen. The most interesting thing about Tommen is his fucking cat, Ser Pounce, and fuck knows what’ll happen to him now his owner is dead. Still, if she’s the kind of mother that we we’re supposed to believe then we deserved more of an emotional breakdown. If we’re meant to believe that this final death, part of the prophecy that has haunted Cersei her entire life, pushes her into becoming the Mad Queen then I would have liked some recognition of that on screen.

We’ve always known that Cersei wanted power but that never came at the expense of her children. She was always whispering in their ears but she knew that them becoming rulers was just as good as her becoming one. So it’s fucking crazy that the TV show makes it seem as though Tommen’s death was actually advantageous to her. If she’d wanted the Iron Throne then she should have let Tommen die with Margaery. She clearly wanted him safe. Not getting to see her emotional reaction to her youngest son’s death takes away the only aspect of her character that ever humanised her. It deletes everything that ever made her feel real. Now she’s literally just the Mad Queen intent on killing everyone with Wild Fire. Instead of a woman so angry at the world because of the deaths of her children that she decides everyone must pay. The one thing Cersei always had was depth. Until she was robbed of it in the finale.

Ranting about Game of Thrones: A Week of Irk and Ire – Jon Snow-Way Should He Be King

death, fucking idiot, Game of Thrones, George RR Martin, irk and ire, King, politics

So, I promised you all a week dedicated to all my angry thoughts about Game of Thrones after the end of season and I fucking delivered. I’ve already spent a long time ranting to my friends and co-workers about the events that transpired this season but there a few massive points that I feel need reiterating here. Now, don’t worry, there won’t be any lengthy, petty rants about how Rickon was a fucking idiot to run in a straight line because, by this point, I’m starting to believe the kid’s better off dead. I mean I’m sad that another Stark has bitten the dust but he was a fucking moron for not even trying to zig-zag. Who, after being captured by Ramsay Bolton and being set free, doesn’t think “hmm, this is awfully convenient. I can’t imagine anything going wrong in this scenario.” I don’t think I’ve ever screamed at an episode of television as much as I have during ‘The Battle of the Bastards’. What a bunch of idiots. None more so, of course, than our new King in the North, Jon Snow.

Now, being upfront with you all, I’ve never had any warm and fuzzy feelings for Jon Snow. Obviously, having read the books, I’ve realised his importance but that doesn’t make me like him. I mean Dany is obviously important but that doesn’t stop her being an irritating fuck all the time. So yeah, knew he was destined for greatness but never believed he deserved it. For one thing, his fucking man ponytail has been the worst thing about season 6. I mean his hair has always looked shit but this takes the fucking cake. Then, let us not forget that Jon Snow has royally fucked up everything he’s ever tried to do.

  1. He was desperate to join the Night’s Watch and then instantly regretted his decision. He immediately made a ton of enemies and beat the shit out of many of his fellow wannabe brothers. Not a great start.
  2. Almost as soon as he has said his vows Jon is ready to break them to join the fight with Robb. If it hadn’t been for his friends, Jon would have been branded a deserter and killed… helping nobody fight anybody,
  3. (TV show only) Jon pisses off Crastor by not following the Old Bear’s commands and gets the Night’s Watch kicked out into the fucking cold.
  4. Lets Ygritte go causing him and Qhorin to get captured. This leads to Jon having to pretend to turn traitor and kill Halfhand to prove it. Once again, Jon breaks his vows by succumbing to Ygritte’s womanly wiles. Like a bloody idiot.
  5. Leaves his post as Mormont’s steward leaving him vulnerable to a murderous mutiny. Like a bloody idiot.
  6. Becomes Commander of the Night’s Watch, sends his only ally away and pisses off the rest of his brothers to the point that they all stab him repeatedly… to the death.
  7. (TV show only so far) Vows revenge of Ramsay Bolton for taking his home, kidnapping his brother and raping his sister. Fails to take any advice from aforementioned sister and walks straight into Ramsay’s trap. Nearly gets himself and Tormund the Epic killed. Like a bloody idiot.
  8. (TV show only so far) Somehow manages to get Winterfell back but, instead of keeping Ramsay alive for potential political leverage, he allows his sister to set starving dogs on him. No matter how justified it was it was a fucking stupid military move to kill your greatest prisoner.
  9. (TV show only so far) Becomes King of the North whilst failing to see the potential enemies he has in Sansa and Little Finger. Also, fails to have his main source of protection, a fucking Direwolf, with at all times. Like a bloody idiot.
So, yeah, that’s Jon Snow. As my old Graphic Design teacher once told me, “you have good ideas but lack the skill needed to carry them out”. Jon desperately wants to live up to the kind of leader that his (believed) father was but he isn’t anywhere near as great a man as Eddard. Yes, Ned was too trusting and didn’t have a great idea of the game but he was also the kind of man that people rally behind. Jon isn’t that kind of man. He focuses on doing what is right without thinking about the consequences of his actions.
Even Robb, the last man to be named King of the North, was a great leader and was shrewd in terms of battle. Robb understood his enemies and managed to catch them all unawares. The only way the Lannister’s could kill him was by doing something unimaginably evil with the help of the sadistic Bolton’s. Robb Stark deserved the name King of the North because he showed great potential, understanding and had actual victories behind him. Jon’s victories only come with the help of the slimiest man in the seven kingdoms. Not a great start.
Jon is even more trusting than Ned was and is incredibly naive. If the Stark patriarch didn’t understand the game of thrones then Jon definitely doesn’t. It wasn’t for nothing that Ygritte kept reminding us all “you know nothing, Jon Snow”. He really doesn’t. What are his plans now? Hold up in Winterfell and hope for the best. He must know there will be repercussions. He needs to get a plan and he needs to start listening to fucking Sansa. Without her the battle would have ended with everyone being killed. Jon needs to get her advice more often.
The mark of a good King is realising your limitations and making up for them. Jon knew he didn’t know Ramsay and he knew that he had a great resource in Sansa. Out of brotherly love or just ignorance he failed to utilise her and look what happened. On the battle field he let his emotions get the better of him and he rushed into a fight he was ill-prepared for. If he’s got any chance of keeping Winterfell and earning his title then he needs to do a bit of boning up on battle strategy. I mean, who has a fucking Giant fighting for them and fails to provide him with any weapons or protection. That guy could have saved Rickon, stomped on Ramsay and ended the whole fucking battle himself. Instead, he’s dead.
So, for all you people out there suggesting Jon Snow deserves to sit on the Iron Throne at the end of this or, at least, wed Dany when she does, I urge you to think again. I cried more when the Red Woman brought him back to life than I did when he “died”. He’s a fucking idiot who has too much of a temper. We don’t need another ruler that lets his heart rule instead of his head. I get that people out there like his face but, looks aside, is this really the man you want protecting the Seven Kingdoms? Does he deserve it? Let’s ask Wun Wun shall we… oh, wait, we can’t.

Top 10 Wen-sday – Top 10 most heartbreaking deaths on Game of Thrones

death, Game of Thrones, George RR Martin, list, Top 10

I had such plans for this post after seeing Civil War. I  had every intention to use this post to discuss my favourite Marvel movies. I mean it’s something we all need to think about at some time. I mean we all really hate Iron Man 2 but which comes next? There’s the tricky Incredible Hulk question to consider and it’s hard not to see Captain America in a new light after the trilogy ended so well. Plus, I realise I’m in a minority of people who really love Thor so I’m always slightly away from the trends. So, as you can see, I’d given the whole thing a lot of thought. I was ready. Until I saw Game of Thrones episode 5 and my whole life got turned upside down. We all knew George RR Martin had a tendency to kill the people we love but I had to believe Hodor was safe. He was the best of us. So I decided to pay my respects to the gentle giant and remember the 10 most heartbreaking deaths in Game of Thrones.

10. Jeor Mormont – Season 3 Episode 4
I know this death wouldn’t make it onto many people’s top 10 because it wasn’t exactly Earth shattering. Jeor had been the wise old mentor for Jon Snow up until his death and hadn’t really had a great deal of screen time. Also, the show didn’t make much of his family connection with Jorah meaning they have less reason to care. Still, as a self-proclaimed resident of Bear Island I felt awful when the Old Bear died. Watching as his men turned on him in Crastor’s Keep was just dreadful.
9. Syrio Forel – Season 1 Episode 8
Syrio was a great man who laid down his life to save Ayra Stark from Lannister men. Even in the short time we knew Syrio it was easy to love him. His attitude to life and his work with Arya was fantastic. The worst thing about this death though? He was a great swordsman. If he’d picked up a real fucking sword and not a wooden one he’d probably have done a decent job of defending himself.

8. Barristan Selmy – Season 5 Episode 4
Barristan Selmy had a lot of heartbreaking moments in the show and his death was an undeserved one. Selmy is still alive in the books so the decision to kill him in the TV show was clearly one of convenience or timing. This death was heartbreaking because of how it came about and how brave he was. It also didn’t help that, after the episode aired, an interview with actor revealed how shocked and upset he was to find out he was dying. Imagine feeling as though you safe because you knew the books and then finding out it was all a lie.
7. Shireen Baratheon – Season 5 Episode 9 
I have spent a lot of time defending Stannis Baratheon to people and explaining why I wanted him on the throne. It was easy because he was the best man for the job. Until he burnt his fucking daughter to death of course. Shireen was a lovely and quiet child whose friendship with Ser Davos was a beautiful thing to behold. Watching her teach him how to read was delightful and she was certainly another character who only possessed goodness. Her death was just a barbaric and senseless act that is made all the more pointless for how little good it did everyone. Whatever Stannis had done in the past, his love for his daughter always counted for him. She was the one thing that humanised him. He didn’t have to destroy her.

6. Khal Drogo – Season 1 Episode 10
It took a lot of time but I eventually grew to love this creepy little marriage between Dany and her Kahl. Drogo genuinely loved Dany and she loved him back. Yes, it started rapey but it ended with so much real affection. To have him die in such a horrible way was just devastating. When Drogo was injured in battle and started to succumb to infection we all feared the worse but Dany, the fucking idiot, had to go and make it a million times worse by turning to blood magic. Drogo essentially died twice here and, considering it was Dany who finally finished him off, it destroyed the happy memories of their relationship in my eyes. As if I needed any more reasons to hate her.
5. Robb Stark – Season 3 Episode 9
The Red Wedding could easily put a girl off marriage for life. Robb Stark, on is was to honour his late father and kill the Lannister scum, was waylaid at The Twins. Thinking with his dick and not his head, Robb had married a random girl instead of the Frey he was promised to. Clearly you’d expect some kind of retribution. Not Robb Stark though, the fucking idiot. Seeing the only real hope the Stark’s had of getting any kind of vengeance be killed by his own banner man was just the worst. He was King of the fucking North and the North remembers. We’ll always remember.
4. Catelyn Stark – Season 3 Episode 9
Following from her son Robb’s death, Catelyn’s murder is made more heartbreaking because she only died because her son was super randy. She made a deal with the Frey’s but he went and fucked it all up. Catelyn sensed a trap but let her son take the lead. She knew better and she sensed the danger before it arose. She found out about Roose Bolton’s double dealings but it was too late. Catelyn Stark was a strong woman and a loving mother. She didn’t deserve to die in that way and she certainly shouldn’t have had to watch her son die before her.
3. Oberyn Martell – Season 4 Episode 8
Not since Ned Stark had the Game of Thrones audience rallied around a character like Oberyn Martell. He was handsome, witty and easy going. He came to King’s Landing to fuck shit up and he did exactly that. The moment he announced he would represent Tyrion Lannister during his trial by combat actually gave us hope that everything would turn out okay. How wrong we were. Attempting to get justice for his sister, Oberyn taunted Gregor Clegane during the fight. Despite having the upper hand on multiple occasions Oberyn never finished the job and won the battle. This death wasn’t just heartbreaking because we loved Oberyn. It was upsetting because he needn’t have let it happen. I read this in the books and immediately threw the thing across the room. Why didn’t he just chop the Mountain’s fucking head off when he had the chance?

2. Ned Stark – Season 1 Episode 9
Ned Stark was one of the only really decent people in this show, which also made him the easiest target. He trusted everyone and underestimated the game he was trying to play. The game he didn’t even want to play. His death was so stupid because, had he followed his own instincts, he shouldn’t even have been in King’s Landing. Everything about this scene is just awful. Sansa makes a desperate plea for her father’s life whilst Arya watches in the crowd as her father confesses to a crime he didn’t commit. Then the deal Ned made with Joffrey to join the Night’s Watch is thrown back in his face and his own sword is used against him. This death was both shocking and despicable. It was our first real glimpse at how heartless George RR Martin really is.
1. Hodor – Season 6 Episode 5
Not only did this death finally explain the mystery of why Hodor was the way he was but it also showed us that Hodor’s whole life was leading up to helping Bran. It brings a whole new light to their relationship and also shows us how much of a dick Bran really is. Hodor’s death was heroic, heartbreaking and honourable. He didn’t deserve to die but we couldn’t have asked for a more fitting exit for him. If only it hadn’t been quite so senselessly brutal.

Monday Mini Rant – Moony’s meaningless murder

death, Harry Potter, J K Rowling

Bank holiday Monday was a bloody difficult day and I certainly haven’t been the happiest bunny in the herd. So I could have plenty of stuff to rant about here but this isn’t the place for my professional frustrations. For one thing, I don’t really enjoy ranting about silly work things and, for another, nobody else wants to hear about it. It’s also not incredibly good practice to anonymously moan about my employer on the internet. So, I’m returning to an old favourite. Something I’ve ranted about many a time but not for a good while.

Today marks the fictional anniversary of the Battle of Hogwarts and, to mark the occasion, JK Rowling continued her new tradition of apologising for the death of one of her characters. Last year she said sorry to fans of Fred Weasley for killing him off. I’m not against this in general as the idea is kind of sweet and the death of one of the twins has always been a sore point for fans. This year, Rowling expressed regret for killing off everyone’s favourite DADA teacher, Remus Lupin. Rowling openly admitted that it wasn’t her plan to kill him off and it only happened once she had decided to spare Arthur Weasley.

Now I’m not saying that I’d have preferred to live in an world where Arthur had died in the Department of mysteries but Lupin’s death was always one of the most difficult deaths to deal with in the books. Partly because he is such a fantastic character and one of the few genuinely decent people in the books. Aside from Luna, he’s probably one of the few totally “good” guys. He’s always been one of my top characters and is one of the main reasons I have such a soft spot for both book and film number 3. His death actually devastated me when I first read The Deathly Hallows because he was such a huge loss.

Although, the other reason for the death being so hard to cope with, and the reason behind this rant, it because it was done for a such a fucking stupid reason. Not the saving of Arthur Weasley, of course. I’m talking about the shitty mirroring of Harry. Rowling decided she needed to show the death of a parent or parents because she wanted to showcase the effect war has on the children that are left behind. I get that. The whole orphaned child of war is a pretty dramatic and emotional literary device. However, there were plenty of ways to get this idea into the story.

The only reason that she specifically chose Tonks and Lupin to die was so that we could have another Harry figure. The story opens with newborn Harry’s parents dying in the fight against Voldemort and the story ends with newborn Teddy’s parents doing the same. The mirroring argument was spouted by a lot of people who wanted to defend the book against my annoyed rants about these senseless deaths but it’s really just a load of shit. The use of mirroring in this case is just lazy and uninspiring. It didn’t need to happen because Teddy is such a non-character.

The death of Harry’s parents started a whole chain of events that allowed the Boy Who Lived to help destroy the Dark Wizard who killed them. The death of Teddy’s parents started a story that was never going anywhere. Yes, Teddy is mentioned in the shitty epilogue but, in response to the issue of orphans of war, the text does nothing to address the consequences of the loss of his parents. If Rowling really wanted to use Teddy to show the true horrors of war then she does a pretty shitty job. After Lupin’s death there is one brief mention of Teddy where he says he’s sorry he won’t get to see him grow up.

I’m all for writers making difficult decisions about killing off key characters. I have immense respect for George RR Martin for killing Ned despite the fact he was the only decent person in the whole of Westeros. It’s not realistic if good people don’t die in stories. However, I think it should only be done for decent reasons. Ned died because he had to. Any other outcome for him would have weakened his standing in the books. Had he gone to the Wall and had his happy ending with Jon he would have dissolved into a non-entity. Instead he died a hero who we all want to see vengeance for. Remus Lupin died for purpose of symmetry. It’s not right.

Top 5 Most Devastating Dr Who Companion Departures (Spoilers… duh)

death, Dr Who, emotional wreck, Russell T.

We’ve known for a while that Clara Oswald was set to leave Doctor Who. So we’ve spent all of the current series waiting for it to happen. Clara has increasingly put herself in dangerous situations and has managed to get herself close to death more times than I can count. It’s getting a tad annoying but I’m actually going to miss Clara. After a few series of hating her, she has really come into her own this series. She and Peter Capaldi make an excellent team. So it got me thinking about the other companions and how much emotional impact their departures has on me. So I present to you, my top 5 most devastating Dr Who companion exits.

          5. Amy Pond/ Rory Williams
I have to admit that Amy and Rory are two of my least favourite companions. I just got bored by the endless love triangle thing. Amy and Rory were the least interesting and stupidest of the modern day companions. Rory became a farcical character who died every fucking week and Karen Gillan is just a shitty actress. She comes from the Keira Knightley school of beauty before talent. I couldn’t wait for them to leave.

So imagine my shock when they eventually departed and I was left weeping for hours. Having spent the entire series going through fake deaths to keep us on our toes, the actual moment was such a shock that you couldn’t help but fall apart. Having successfully created a paradox to stop the Angels, Rory is caught off guard and sent back to the 1930s. Watching Amy decide to follow the love of her life is brilliant but seeing Matt Smith’s Doctor come to terms with that is utterly heartbreaking. Damn you, Moffat!

          4. Rose Tyler
I know that plenty of people will be super pissed off to see Rose’s first departure so far down the list. Quite frankly though, Rose isn’t that great a companion. She was just the first… of the new series anyway. To be fair to her, Rose does go through a journey during her time in the TARDIS and she becomes much stronger and confident than she first was. The problem was the romance. It was getting fucking boring. I want to watch Dr Who because of the dangerous aliens. I don’t want to watch a rom-com set in outer space.

It was getting to the point where the Doctor and Rose either had to get it on or just get away from each other. I’m super glad it was the latter. Still, their final exchange at Bad Wolf Bay is pretty heart-wrenching even for someone as cynical as me. The whole spectacle of it all adds to the occasion: burning up a star just to see her again. It’s the stuff Tumblr dreams were made of. Of course, the fact that Rose has know had more comebacks than a fucking boomerang has meant her first ‘death’ is becoming less powerful.

          3. Danny Pink
Those Rose fans out there may argue that Danny Pink isn’t enough of a companion to count on this list but I disagree. Yes, he and the Doctor didn’t get on but he played a big part in the Twelfth Doctor’s first series. So it fucking counts. Plus, bonus points for the additional Brigadier death. It was about time we got to say goodbye and it was heartbreaking.

The main issue with Danny Pink’s departure is that is keeps getting worse. He first dies a totally unexpected and human death. It’s fucking awful. Start of the episode and BOOM! run over by a car. Devastating. Then he comes back as a cyberman/human hybrid. Double devastating. Then his love of Clara prevents him from succumbing and he sacrifices himself to save the world. Triple devastating. In terms of drama, someone giving their life to save someone else is always going to create the most tears. I’m still crying about this one.

          2. Clara Oswald
So, this has literally only just happened and we definitely haven’t seen the last of Clara. Even if Clara isn’t really dead (and I think it would be a terrible decision for her to come back) this death is still fucking awful. It was so final, unexpected and horrible. She’d been in incredibly dangerous situations and survived. Now she was dying in such an unspectacular way. So many emotions. Up until this series Clara was on my list of most irritating companions. Then she suddenly became a fully fledged character with some real growth. She was fantastic… and she causes major wardrobe envy.

Then she has to go and play fucking games with death. This death is so devastating because of the relationship between the Doctor and Clara. There may have been hints of romance in the early days but the predominant tone was that of friendship. They were BBFs and having to watch your BBF suffer (either through death or through grief) is fucking awful. The final exchange between the pair was beautifully played out by Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman. If I ever watch it again, please, “let me be brave”.

          1. Donna Noble
Donna Noble is, without a doubt, my favourite Dr Who companion of all time. I know that’ll be a controversial statement for many but it’s fucking true. Yes, her first appearance was pretty shit but her series as fully-fledged co-star is still one of the best. Finally moving on from romance and puppy-dog eyed lust, Russell T. was on more solid ground with the Doctor/Donna friendship. They had great banter and really cared for each other.

Donna is also the companion to go through the biggest change. She was a self-centred individual who was doing nothing with her life and she knew it. Then she met the Doctor again and became the most important person in the Universe. Even writing this is making me emotional because Donna had so much potential by the end. She became better and happier. Then it was all taken away from her. It’s not fair. The end of that episode is fucking gut-wrenching. David Tennant and Bernard Cribbin’s are so wonderful at displaying their own devastation at Donna’s situation. No matter what happens in the Doctor’s future, nothing will ever be as awful as this. I’ll never get over this moment.

Boo by Neil Smith

book, death, fucking beautiful, review

The dust jacket of Boo reminds me of the ‘Travel Writer’ episode of Black Books. You know the one where every quote on the back of Jason Hamilton’s new book says he’s charming: “Every one of these blurbs says he’s charming: ‘I was swept away by a wave of charm.’ ‘I was immolated in a firewall of charm and charisma.’ ‘I almost exploded from the concentration of charm on the page.’” The one thing everyone seems able to agree upon regarding Neil Smith’s first full length novel is that it’s charming. Nothing like creating a little bit of pressure for yourself, is there. Still it was a novel that I’d been keen to read for some time: an incredibly charming novel that’s reminiscent of The Lovely Bones? Is it any wonder I lost sleep over this thing?

Boo is a novel that takes us into a whole new realm in this story about thirteen year old Oliver Dalrymple. Oliver, known to his classmates as Boo thanks to his pale skin, is an outsider who finds it easier to recite the periodic table than to make friends. Oliver lives a quiet, lonely life until he dies in front of his school locker: something he attributes to a heart condition he’s had since birth. A short while into his stay in Heaven, Oliver is joined by fellow student, Johnny, who informs Boo that they were actually killed in a shooting by the mysterious “Gunboy”. With the two boys suspecting that their killer is hidden amongst, the pair team up with their new friends to track him down.
Neil Smith’s novel is an interested concept that is part murder mystery, part bildungsroman, part afterlife narrative. Smith’s Heaven is perfectly realised in great detail. Oliver is a scientist and reacts to his first real brush with spirituality with a rational mind. He carries out experiments on himself and his surroundings: working out how long it takes both him and the buildings to heal when broken. Through his narration we learn everything we need to about the afterlife; what kind of toothpaste the dead use, what their houses look like and what they eat. There are plenty of differences between life in Heaven and life on Earth but occasionally oddities make their way through to remind residents of their past.
Heaven is set out fairly logically with age-groups and nationalities being kept together in their individual towns. The residents remain at the age they are at the time of their death but get 50 years before they “redie” and pass on. They are watched over by their omniscient God who they call Zig. He sends them food and supplies whenever they need it and sends a few exciting objects every few years when technology advances. Smith’s Heaven is quirky certainly but there is no denying that, despite it’s sad premise, is as charming as promised.
There isn’t a great deal to Boo‘s narrative but, thanks to the character of Oliver, there is enough detail to keep you reading. The overall reveal of the ‘murder mystery’ isn’t exactly ground-breaking or hard to figure out. However, the journey to get there is heart warming in its own way. Oliver goes from a friendless, weirdo to someone who finally finds his place. He makes new connections and finds a best friend in Johnny. It is the strengthening of their friendship that keeps the story moving forward.
The novel is beautifully written but there are moments when Smith’s indulgences causes the pace to lag somewhat. Oliver’s narration is littered with off-hand remarks and witty interjections which feels a bit forced and unnecessary. There are plenty of references to science and literature which don’t always seem relevant to the plot. The narrative, though streamlined, does drag in places and I was eager to rush over some of the middle sections. I did enjoy reading Boo though but I was a little put off by how often it feels too simplistic. Smith sometimes stresses his points so much that the reader doesn’t need to think for themselves. There are a great deal of clever insights into the life of young people but it doesn’t always translate in the writing style.
However, the novel is still a great success and has the right kind of emotional pay-off when the time comes. When Smith leaves Oliver to explore and feel free within his surroundings the narrative soars into life. There are plenty of important issues to jump into play as Oliver gets further into his new world. Some of these are handled better than others but all raise valid points. The novel handles difficult subjects sensitively and manages to ensure that the sadness that hangs over every page doesn’t engulf the reader. There is just as much to be joyful within Boo as there is to lament. It’s something readers of every age should experience.

Jurassic World (2015)

Chris Pratt, death, dinosaurs, film, review, Steven Spielberg
I, like everyone else of a certain age, felt fucking old when I realised it’s been 22 years since the Stephen Spielberg’s original dinosaur film. film came out. Admittedly, I was only 5 at the time so didn’t watch it til a few years later. I’m not ashamed to tell you I was fucking terrified after that first viewing. I couldn’t sleep thanks to the vicious Dilophosaurus and its spitty ways. Yes, Nedry was a dick who caused the deaths of many people, but nobody deserves that. Anyway, it’s safe to say that subsequent viewings have been much more successful and I love Steven Spielberg’s dino-epic as much as it deserves. In it’s day, Jurassic Parkwas one of the best visual displays on show and it still fills me with excitement to see that first glimpse of the park’s residents in all their glory. However, you can’t deny that the sequels have left a little to be desired. The Lost World was good enough until they stuck another Godzillainspired film on the end but Jurassic Park 3was just abysmal. So Spielberg brought out the big guns and dress Star Lord up as Indiana Jones and gave him a raptor army. Fucking awesome. Hold onto your butts.

The worst thing about the events of Jurassic Parkwas that we never really got to see John Hammond’s vision for a dinosaur theme park. We didn’t see the attractions in all of their glory. I can’t imagine anyone in 1993 who left the cinema and didn’t immediately want to pack up for a trip to Isla Nublar and seeing the exhibits themselves. Even with all the death. Imagining what it would have been like to see the kind of attractions Hammond and his buddies could have created is something that has kept fans entertained for the last 22 years.
Jurassic World understands the appeal of the dinosaurs as attractions so opens with a fully fledged park that has been enjoying a steady stream of visitors for a while. We see shiny new rides, feeding shows and dinosaur souvenirs. Crowds are able to enjoy watching a Mosasaurus swallow a shark whole as though they’re at fucking Sea World. If it weren’t for the inevitable danger that always turns up in these films, Jurassic World would be at the top of my vacation list.
However, as our society has such a short attention span, after 22 years the novelty of scientists being able to recreate extinct creatures out of old blood has worn off somewhat. People want something new and even more exciting. Thankfully, to make the money crunchers happy, the scientists have offered their own solution: by genetically engineering their own massive dinosaur. Weirdly only one guy thinks that’s a fucking stupid decision. Have these people learnt nothing from the last three films?
Suffice it to say, chaos ensues once the patchwork dino escapes from her cage and begins killing anything that crosses its path. It is up to the park’s resident raptor trainer, Owen Grady (Chris Pratt), to use the skills he picked up in the US Navy to help stop the beast and save the visitors. Starting with the young nephews of Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard), Jurassic World’s operations manager, who are rolling around the forest into the path of their aunt’s newest attraction. There’s also some guff about using dinosaurs in the military but that’s really just a waste of fucking time and I’m keen to ignore it here.
Of course, Claire and Owen, both being attractive people, have to take part in the obligatory romance plot that I really could have done without. That’s not to say it isn’t handled well. Howard and Pratt have great chemistry and enjoy a playful back and forth that’s reminiscent of Han Solo and Princess Leia. I’m still not sure why someone deemed it necessary to add it on but I guess it made for an interesting side-bar.
Both actors do great jobs all round really and, thankfully, they both get their chance to play the hero. Much has been shown of Pratt and his raptor army riding off to glory but Howard’s Claire has her own fair share of defining moments. The same cannot be said of the supporting cast who, the two young boys aside, lack any kind of definition or development. There is a real lack memorable characters here, something the original had no problem providing for us. There were moments in this film that I even missed fucking Tim.
AlthoughJurassic World is all about the spectacle and boy does it deliver. 22 years is a long time in Hollywood and this new film succeeds in making the original look as old as the creatures it portrays. Although, that’s not to say that it doesn’t respect its predecessor. Director, Colin Trevorrow, is a true Spielberg fanboy and references plenty of his works and trademark style within his blockbuster. Part of the fun will be rewatching and catching everything.
Of course, despite it’s modern techniques, $150 million budget and lovable leading man, Jurassic World was never going to beat the first film. Even in an age where Marvel rules all, Jurassic Park is still one of the greatest and most loved film’s for a generation of film goers. Spielberg created something genuinely tense, exciting and inspiring film: nothing will ever compare. So I won’t. Jurassic World is what it is. A fucking awesome film that’s as fun, silly and over-the-top as you expect from a big budget blockbuster. It’s also clever, thanks to the underlying message about our ever expanding tastes. It works as both a thoughtless Summer cheese fest and a genuine analysis of the film industry itself. I loved it.

Yes, a lot of it doesn’t make sense, is absurd or completely wrong. But we didn’t ask for reality, we asked for more teeth.