One of my best friends works for Vintage books so she is constantly offering to pick up cheap books for me. I know I know. I’m making it sound like a bad thing when it’s not. The only problem is that I never remember to ask her. I buy the book myself and then have to put up her with telling me she could have got it for me. So, when I heard about Ian McEwan’s latest book dealing with AI, I knew this was one of the times I should take her up on it. I was a massive fan of Ian McEwan as a teenager but I’ve lost my way over the last few years. Basically, everything after On Chesil Beach has remained unread on my shelf. And I’ve been okay with that. Sweet Tooth and Solar I wasn’t that interested in but I did really want to read The Children Act and Nutshell. Honestly, I did. I just never got round to it. But this one sounded interesting. An alternate reality 1980s where AI technology exists. Part of me was worried, though. AI has become a bit of a thing in literature recently and I wasn’t sure that McEwan was the best to add to the conversation. But, I couldn’t let my friend down again.
These days I have such a focus on reading the ever-increasing number of unread books on my shelf that I so very rarely indulge in rereading old favourites. And, as Oscar Wide put it so wonderfully, “if one cannot enjoy reading a book over and over again, there is no use in reading it at all.” As book lovers, we should all take time out every so often to read books that have already given us joy. I know people who will never reread books and I get it. If the thrill you take from reading is to find out the end of the story then reading something again is futile. But, I always think that rereading gives you a chance to really appreciate a book. To really take in the intricacies of the writing style. Although, I do tend to struggle when reviewing books I’ve already read. Even if I’ve never reviewed them before. I don’t know why. I guess already knowing that you like a book means it’s difficult not just to gush about it. Plus, I’ve never been that good at it anyway I suppose.
So, I couldn’t find an appropriate film with the word “Return” in the title to review this week but, as I’m still on this October high, I have picked another great horror film. Last week I watched a parody of a classic B movie from the 50s. This week we’re celebrating a remake of one of them. The Blob was first released in 1958 starring Steve McQueen. 30 years later it was remade with Kevin Dillon. The original was a low-budget, independent film that went on to become a surprise hit. It helped that McQueen, appearing in one of his earliest roles, stood out as the star he would go on to be. The original film is everything that the science-fiction films of the 50s were known for. It became a classic horror film and it’s obvious to see why it would be on the cards to be remade. As we have seen, the 80s was a big era for horror films. The zombie uprising was still in full swing and cinema audiences were keen to be scared. It makes sense that one of the granddaddies of the genre would be near the top of the list for a remake utilising the improved special effects of the time… and that guy from Entourage.
Movie titles are a funny old thing aren’t they. Sometimes you hear them and have no interest in watching the film. I know that, if I hadn’t known all about Edgar Wright’s Baby Driver I would have assumed it would have been a shitty family comedy or animation. Meaning I would have dismissed it and lost out on one of the most fun film experiences of last year. On the other hand, some films have the kind of titles that you can’t ignore. Snakes on a Plane is an obvious example and I still can’t believe some stupid executive attempted to change it. Thank god for Samuel L, eh? Of course, there are more than enough times that these unmissable titles are the best thing about a film. It’s something I’ve come across a lot when researching which 1988 films to watch for this series. There are a lot of random but amazing titles out there but the films don’t sound like they’ll measure up. This was something I definitely suspected from today’s pick. A classic B movie with no budget, bad acting, but a lot of aspiration. But I couldn’t deny that I was instantly hooked by the title.
As you may have been able to gather from my review of it last week, I was angry when I finished reading Mad. So, when I started looking for my next read, I wanted something a comforting and silly. I’d owned Kenobi for a while but I’d not had the guts to start reading it. I admit that I haven’t read much of the Star Wars Expanded Universe because I’ve had my fingers burnt before. At this point, there is a lot of stuff out there and it’s difficult to decide which is worth reading. In my opinion, nothing will compare to the films and it’s not always possible for different writers to replicate the voice of these familiar characters. Obi Wan has always been a huge fan favourite so there was obviously going to be massive interest in the furthering of his story. There is still so little that we know about Ben that you could write countless novels about his story. But, at the same time, we all have such a clear image of how he acts and sounds. Would it be possible for a writer like John Jackson Miller to tell us more about a beloved Jedi without ruining our idea of him? It was finally time to find out.
I have a lot of books. Too many books if you ask some people. I have so many books that they’re piled up on the floor in every available space. I have bookshelves in every room and boxes overflowing with reading material. I’m obsessed with books. In terms of volume, I own more books than anything else. Although, I’m quickly catching up to that total with my collection of items featuring Jeff Goldblum’s face. Of course, there is a big difference but I’m slowly amassing a great selection of things with Jeff Goldlum on. Mostly it’s of that classic Jurassic Park scene where he’s unnecessarily sexy because it’s an iconic moment. I have mugs, pillows, t-shirts, and Funko Pop Vinyls all using that scene as inspiration. But, when it comes to Goldblum, I’m not fussy. He’s a fantastic actor and an incredibly interesting human being. I adore everything about him. And, it just so happens, that he’s the star of today’s TBT post. A film that I’d heard about but never seen until yesterday. I’ve been feeling a bit unenthusiastic about this feature lately but the prospect of watching this really invigorated me. I was actually looking forward to it for a change. And it wasn’t just about the prospect of seeing more of sexy Goldblum.
So, it’s official. Solo is the first ever Star Wars flop. It’s got a fairly good critical reaction but people just aren’t exactly flocking to see it. And I can kind of see why. It’s only been about 6 months since the last Star Wars film was released and it all seems a bit unnecessary. Out of all the people in the Star Wars universe who fans may have wanted to make a standalone film about, Han Solo may not have been the top of everyone’ list. Yes, we all loved the scruffy looking nerf herder in the original trilogy but did we need to see his life pre-Princess Leia? He was a fan favourite but, as a character, he was so tied up with Harrison Ford that it didn’t make sense to recast him. But, clearly the good people at Disney believed differently and started making an origin story for the ultimate anti-hero. And it turned into a huge fucking disaster. There were so many issues with this film that it’s impressive it was even made at all. But, as we’re seeing, there was clearly some sort of curse on this film. Maybe Harrison Ford has been dabbling in black magic or maybe Star Wars fans are just being more judgemental and stubborn than usual? Because let’s be honest, they have a history of not tolerating new things. So how bad could Solo really be?
As a book lover your requirements for reading change every time you pick up a new book. Sometimes you want to be challenged. Sometimes you want to be lazy. Sometimes you just need to be taken away from the world around you and forget about life’s worries. It all depends on a whole bunch of factor’s that might be affecting you as you stand in a bookshop/ browse online. However, there are times in your life when you come face-to-face with a book that you can neither justify nor walk away from. For me, that time was a few weeks ago and that book was this one. I was first attracted by the holographic cover. Was further pulled in by the hilariously simplistic yet superbly effective title Wizards and Robots. Finally, I was inescapably hooked as soon as I read that Will.I.Am was a co-author. Reader, I married it… ahem, I mean bought it. I am unapologetic to have picked up this book instantly without knowing anything about it and, also, for doing so expecting (nay hoping) for it to be shit.
Before we get into the nitty gritty of this letter let me just say happy birthday. What a wonderful year; both of us celebrating significant ages. Your 200 does make my mere 30 years seem a bit trifling, so thanks for that, but at least you’re one of the few things that actually makes me feel young these days. And, let’s be honest, you look really great for it. If I look half as good when I reach my bicentenary year then I’ll be happier than a mad scientist bringing a corpse back to life.
Now, in relation to a lot of the books on this list, we haven’t known each other for that long. I think I first read you as a 15-year-old probably. I guess I wasn’t in a big rush because I’d seen so many hammy, black and white film adaptations. You see a big lumbering monster capturing women and fleeing from angry mobs with pitchforks a hundred times then you’re not necessarily in a rush to read the book. I expected you to be camp and overly kitsch. A bit embarrassing. But, thankfully, I was introduced to an English teacher who made me read you. And I’m so glad they did.
Let me be honest with you for a second; I’m a pretty bad bookworm. I don’t tend to reread books all that often. There are certain ones I make an exception for but it’s very infrequent. I don’t set aside a few weeks every year to read the same novel again and again because I love it so much. There are more than a few people who I follow on Instagram who will read the Harry Potter series at least once a year sometimes more. How can they do that to themselves? Do they not have a massive library of unread books to read first? And, really, I’m of the belief that too much of something is a bad thing. If I were to revisit my favourite books too often then I’d eventually hate them. And I already dislike most of the books I read these days. I’d have nothing left. So I tend to just fall in love with a book and deposit it safely on my bookshelf and never speak to it again. Well, I might occasionally stroke it or take it down to photograph it but I tend not to open its pages. It’s safer.
But you broke the mould. You changed the rules. You have the honour of being the book that I have reread most in my lifetime. Okay, so we’ve established that that’s not a very meaningful title to give, especially after I’ve just read something by someone claiming to have read you 50 times, but for me its huge. I’d love to say I did it off my own back but I didn’t. Nope, you followed me everywhere I went. I couldn’t get away from you. You were my Annie Wilkes. Every time I thought I’d got away you would come back in and cut off another of my feet with your axe. I read you for about 5/6 years in a row for my English studies. I started to think I was cursed or something. Every time, I thought to myself, there is literally nothing more I can get from this book but, every time, I was wrong.
You are so much more than the story of a man creating a murderous monster. Yes, you’re the grandfather of modern science-fiction. Yes, there is a lot of mythology surrounding your creation. Yes, you revitalised gothic fiction of the age. But you have so much more to say. So much to say about the human spirit, about science, about obsession, and about fitting into society. You were revolutionary. You changed everything. You changed literature. You changed me. I enjoyed every new read even more than the first time. I fell more and more in love with you every time. And I will continue to fall in love with you every time I read you.
You are a beautifully crafted novel and by someone so young. There is such heartbreak and pain within your pages along with such exciting prose. You are, to borrow a word found so frequently in your film counterparts, alive! I don’t think any book out there has made me feel so many different emotions every single time. You have created some of the most memorable and human characters I’ve ever read and are one of the most interesting books I’ve ever studied. You could debate on who the real victim of this novel is for years and still change your mind every other week. You were, most likely, my first introduction to proper gothic fiction and I’m sure you started my obsession, even if I didn’t know it at the time. You are a book that I will never get bored with and will recommend to everyone. You are everything.
I have love in me the likes of which you can scarcely imagine