Book review: The Bionic Man

Ah, the seventies: flared trousers, flammable nylon, in-your-face racism and school custard with the consistency of skimmed milk. But you know what; it wasn’t all bad, because on Saturday nights (having spend the day bouncing off the walls after Tiswas) we had the Six Million Dollar Man: the story of Steve Austin, astronaut and test pilot, horrifically injured in a plane crash and rebuilt as a cyborg to be better than he was before; better, faster, stron—anyway, even if you don’t remember it I’m sure you get the idea. As entertaining as it was ridiculous, the Six Million Dollar Man ran for five seasons and spawned a reasonably successful spinoff (The Bionic Woman) that ran for another three. It was also the forerunner for just about every cyborg-related super-hero/villain you’ll see today; some we love (Inspector Gadget), and some we hate (The Terminator). Over the years, there’s been talk of a movie revival (I think Will Smith was mooted to play Austin one point), but nothing every came of it.

Well, actually it did: not a movie, but a comic series – and I had no idea. It’s been out for a couple of years, and I only found out when I stumbled across a picture from one of the comics on the interweb:

And on the strength of that, I bought the first omnibus, and I can tell you, it’s been an absolute treat. Kevin Smith (is that the same guy with the baseball cap?) deserves a comic oscar or something for this.

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Book review: Troubled Blood by Robert Galbraith (JK Rowling)

I’m a huge fan of the Cormoran Strike series, but I have to say the last one did leave me a little bit cold. The characters were two-dimensional stereotypes, the story meandered all over the place and the outcome was a bit of a disappointment. So when I downloaded Troubled Blood and saw the size of it, I was a little bit worried that I was going to devote quite a lot of reading time (it’d actually jumped the queue as well) for something I might not like.

It’s definitely not a novella: if you buy this in hardback it’ll weigh in at around nine hundred pages. There’s nothing wrong with a long book, but I can only think of two mega volumes I’ve really enjoyed from start to finish, without skipping a chunk in the middle through sheer boredom.

Troubled Blood is another chapter in the ‘will-they-or-won’t they’ lives of Cormoran Strike and Robin Ellacot, partners in a thriving London detective agency who’ve fancied the pants off each other since book 1, but can’t seem to get it together, mainly due to personal lives as chaotic as those of the people they’re following.

Throughout this epic, Rowling manages to balance all this personal stuff (Robin’s divorce, Cormoran’s bat-shit crazy ex and his cancer-stricken aunt) with cases the agency are running, the most important of which is the disappearance of a doctor, not seen since she left work one evening, forty years ago . . .

Most of the characters are very well drawn, and I had no trouble separating one from the other (a problem I had with Lethal White), the secondary characters which come and go throughout the novel are just as detailed which keeps this behemoth of a story lively and moving at decent pace. You find yourself wondering what the likes of Pat and Morris are up to while Robin and Strike are sitting in pubs discussing the cases; they have to do that a lot, and you’ll be grateful for it. The problem with a novel with this many threads is that the you might get lost along the way, so every so often, you get a sit-down moment where the detectives decide to get a sandwich or a beer or take a long drive, so they can review the last sixty pages or so to help keep the reader on track.

This happens – a lot.

In places, it’s a little clumsy, but on the whole it works well. Still, the fact that it’s needed does make me wonder if perhaps there’s just too much going on.

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Short story: Monksworth

So I thought I’d dabble in comedy-horror for a while, so I’m putting together a collection of short stories about a family cursed throughout history. This particular piece tells the story of a chauffeur who comes to work for a member of that family.