Saturday, 26 October 2013

It makes you wonder..?

Today, I was walking up to the supermarket and on the way I saw three women each handing out swords made from those twisty balloons you get a kids' parties.  There didn't seem to be an advertising or other promotion going on - they just seemed to be handing out the swords.   If we lived in the world of Doctor Who then there'd probably be some strange alien power within each of those which would only reveal itself slowly and when someone is looking the other way, or something.

But it makes you wonder doesn't it?

The other night I had a dream.  Nothing unusual in that.  It was a kind of dream I have from time to time - a dream with a narrative.  Usually the narrative doesn't make much sense but every now and again there will be dreams set the same location with a story running through it.  The locations are familiar within the context of the dream, but they're not real places I actually recognise from the real world.  They often recur, though.  There's the secret little town on top of the tall skyscraper,  there's the tall office block with a huge number of lifts, there's the small village with the canal and the bakery by the water.  Even though the cast and plot is different every time, the locations are often the same.

We're all generally happy to talk about our dreams, but we suddenly become coy when talking about whether any "real people" from our life appear in them.  There's nothing weird about it - dreams seem to just be the brain creating a collage from the day's thoughts and events so it's not surprising that other people would feature sometimes.  Sometimes they are major players and sometimes they are just bystanders.  Sometimes there's one person in a dream who actually corresponds to two people in real life - I'm sure Freud would've read an awful lot of codswallop into that particular one.

But much as we'd say "I had this weird dream about rabbits smoking purple cigarettes whilst running around a field made of coriander and a piped band formed of badgers and otters played the national anthem backwards whilst Dolly Parton sang lead" we'd never say to someone "I had a dream about you last night".  It's just weird.

So, it's with some trepidation that I say I did include a colleague of mine in a dream the other night.  Only as a bit player.  In fact, he was in one of the lifts in the office block, he was standing in the lift when I got in, and stayed in the lift when I got out.  We said "hello" and that was it.  A walk-on role really.  I'd never dream of telling him that he featured, though - for reasons I don't quite understand we'd both feel "a little bit weird" about it.  It's not even someone I speak to or work with often in the office.

But it got me wondering -  it could be possible that if your dream includes someone - then their dream also includes you. How do I know that this person at work didn't also have a dream about being in a lift that night, and is secretly rather surprised that I got into and out of the lift in HIS dream.  But because neither of us would either ask the other, we'll never know will we.

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Shine On?

Earlier this year I wrote about how James Herbert's last book wasn't that great.  Well I'm afraid I have similar news about Stephen King.

On a recent holiday I read The Shining. I'm sure I must've read it before, but honestly don't remember - so I thought I'd give it a read. I was in the airport in Sydney flying down to Melbourne and the choice in the bookshop in the domestic terminal at Sydney airport wasn't fantastic.  So I picked it up and started to read it.  I then landed in Melbourne and found myself staying in a large, old hotel with long corridors and a very empty look about it.  Spooky.

Anyway, when it came out, I thought, "I'll pick up Doctor Sleep".  This book came out last month, and follows the story of Danny Torrance, the boy from The Shining, quite a few years later.  The premise isn't too bad - there's a group of people who travel around America in RVs living off the "steam" given off when a child with "The Shining" is tortured.  Gruesome - but not a bad start for a story.  Unfortunately, the story itself - and its telling - are pretty poor.

So, from here on in, there will be spoilers.  Sorry.  But the book's crap, so at least I've saved you having to read it to find out what happens.

The worst thing about the book is the Dialogue.  I don't watch many films, but I've watched enough to know what bad dialogue sounds like, and this book was FULL of bad dialogue.  Overblown, overwrought and overdone.  Every time one of the characters spoke, I cringed.  Sometimes physically contorting my face at having to read the terrible words.

Second to the dialogue comes the plot itself.  The characters' credulity seems to come in waves.  When it's important to the plot that someone "just does something" they will do it without question.  Only when not really important do the characters display the cynicism of all the psychic stuff which you'd expect in the real world.  It smacks of laziness.

Finally - appropriately - the ending is terrible.  I won't spoil it completely, but let's just say that it turns out that the nasty people in the RVs live somewhere close to the hotel from The Shining.  What are the chances?  What I don't understand, though, is that these people are supposed to have some in-built ability to locate kids who "shine".  So if they'd drive halfway across America to find the girl in this book, why didn't they find Danny himself when he was just up the road in the first book?  It just doesn't hang together.

As my Mum said to me on Facebook - "did you really expect a crap book to have a good ending?" and I suppose I didn't.  But even by the low standards set by the rest of the book the ending came like the whimper of a slowly deflating balloon.

On my way home from work tonight, I popped into Waterstones in Chiswick.  I was looking around for something new to read, and picked up the recently-released sequel someone's written to "The Woman In Black".  I asked the guy behind the counter... "is this any good?  I've recently read Doctor Sleep and it was so bad it's put me off sequels, really".  The reply was "yes, you're not the only way to say that..." and we had rather a nice chat about how authors can become complacent and just churn out books rather than applying some quality control and only putting out books they are happy with.  It's disappointing that someone who's self-aware enough to have written several very-close-to-autobiographical novels ("The Dark Half" was basically the story of his own struggle with Richard Bachman, his alter-ego - with a few extra supernatural bits, of course) isn't self-aware enough to know when they are churning out crap.

My hopes aren't high for the sequel to "The Woman In Black" but I'm keeping an open mind.  I'll let you know how that goes for me...