What I’m reading / What I’ve recently finished reading

Hi again chums.

It’s been a little while.

So today, I’m going to briefly discuss some books that I’ve been reading recently which I’ve really been enjoying.

First of all, I’m going to start with the monolithic Gormenghast Trilogy by Mervyn Peake. I’m not going to lie, I only came across this when I heard that a Television Series is in the works, and I saw how many people were excited. There has previously been a really cheesy BBC adaption from the 2000 which I’ve had a look at, but that really wasn’t my cup of tea.

So, I bet you’re thinking ‘What the hell is that, I’ve never heard of it.”

It’s a gothic fantasy (very loose with the fantasy) set in a huge castle, where nobody seems happy or content with their lives. The first book, Titus Groan is set after the birth of the new Lord of the castle, Titus, though the focus of the story is with the other characters who are preparing for the rituals that the castle must comply with. In my opinion, the story is so good because of the background characters, who are all so strange and hilarious that there isn’t a dull moment when they interact with each other. My personal favourite is the Doctor of the castle, Dr. Prunesquallor, who is one of the best characters I have ever read. I also can’t help but like Steerpike and his self-centred lust for power, although I want to just throw something at him most of the time.

Peake’s writing style is spectacular, with his career as a poet really coming through in his imagery. His writing is, in parts, more laugh-out-loud hilarious then even Terry Pratchett. With many sentences, you can’t help but snigger at the sarcasm seeping through Peake’s words. It’s writing masterfully done, and it’s a pleasure to read. It’s not just funny though – there are some pretty controversial characters included which don’t hold back with Peake’s ideas on; fat-shaming, mental health, and an almost religious obsession with ridiculous rituals. There’s also the violence and crime, though I won’t go into that for fear of spoiling it.

I have recently finished the second book, Gormenghast, and loved that one as well. Although the plot is more focused on Titus and his hatred of the castle and his role as Lord of it, Peake somehow managed to squeeze in even more hilarious characters and even more ridiculous scenarios.

The Gormenghast Trilogy was released in 1946, which is in between J R R Tolkien’s publications of The Hobbit – 1937- and his masterful The Lord of the Rings – 1954. I find it a travesty and a great shame that Peake doesn’t get half of the recognition that Tolkien gets. Granted, Tolkien’s focus was on fantasy, whilst Peake’s was on a controversial castle, but both write in such spectacular ways that they should both be considered as grandfathers of the modern novel.

As well as Gormenghast, I’ve also been reading Gareth Powell’s Ack-Ack Macaque trilogy, which is just as funny and bonkers as you would expect. Ack-Ack is a monkey who is a character in a video game (through being wired up to the technology) and is released in a raid by the future King of England and France. Yeah, it’s that crazy.

On top of that, Ack-Ack can talk. He swears, drinks too much, smokes too much, and loves shooting guns and “blowing shit up” as he frequently says. He’s a great protagonist for what Powell is going for (a fast paced fun sci-fi thriller based on British SF tropes), and epitomizes exactly what the reader wants to happen. Without spoiling the plot of the first 2 books (Ack-Ack Macaque and Hive Monkey), I can tell you that they’re both great fun and are a great simple read. By this, I don’t mean that it’s not worthy of its BSFA award from 2013, but merely that it’s the kind of story that you can read just about anywhere, and in any conceivable mood.

I really like Powell’s casual discussions of the bizarre situations that the protagonists find themselves in, as if they happen every single day. Such as having a gunfight next to a monkey, travelling through parallel universes, and playing video games so realistic, that you only have one life in them. I suppose this is Powell’s view on SF as he has clearly read his stuff (and constantly tweets to prove this), and clearly just has a great time with anything SF related. I read a lot of Dr.Who in his work, and could picture some of the bizarre events popping up with the Doctor and his sidekick rushing around to solve them.

Overall, they’re both enjoyable reads, and I would highly recommend either to anyone.

Thanks for putting up with my ramblings.

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Hopefully the start of something

Hello chums,

R S Gaunt here, attempting to work out where to start with this blogging business.

Perhaps by discussing a project or two that I’m currently working on? Sure. Why the hell not.

Being an aspiring writer is fantastic in the sense that there is a vast amount of undeveloped ideas swirling around in my brain. This ranges from: characters, battle scenes, a flying wild boar who terrorizes small villages, a scene, an image of a grand castle, the pungent stench of a troll crammed into a small tavern. The big problem, however, is separating these ideas into the correct novel idea. For instance, the wild boar wouldn’t fit well in my crime idea but, then again, it also wouldn’t fit well in a couple of my fantasy settings, but would for others.

What I’ve found is that the majority of the time, I am trying to formulate what can fit where, and what certainly can’t fit there. Having a few fantasy ideas on the go at the same time is exciting, yet extremely frustrating. Trying to make the series different is tough, but I don’t want to lose the edge of my ideas. I guess it’s something that I need to work on, and will hopefully get better at sooner rather than later!

I suppose this is where I should start by going briefly into a couple of my current writing projects.

I’ll start with my longest running project. I started actively looking into this fantasy idea when I was around 13 (Year 9 at school). I wrote quite a lot at the time, for a procrastinating teenager, at around 6 chapters. I was chuffed, and thought that I was going to be the next Tolkien. Then I got bogged down with exams for a few years, and lost track of it. When I applied to go to University on a Creative Writing course, I thought that I would open up the old documents and carry straight on with the writing, no problem… Of course, a teenagers naivety is strong. It was some of the worst writing I had ever seen, so I began to panic and think that I was nowhere near good enough to write again. Fast forward around 4 years and I have graduated from University with a 2:1, and my writing has improved significantly. I’ve still got a copy of my original writing from way back when, but now have the confidence and skill to start editing and expanding.

Anyway, I’ll stop boring you with my writing history, and will actually delve into it briefly. Having always liked reading fantasy, I thought that I would give it a go – cue the start of the idea- and write one myself. Easy, right? Wrong! Writing fantasy is about creating a form of escapism for readers, so you have to think about absolutely everything. What is the hero’s name? How old are they? What is compelling them into going on this quest to rid the land of a King? What town/village/city do they live in? What is the landscape of the region? I could go on, but I won’t delve too deep into it.

My fantasy idea summed up briefly:

It’s a simple coming of age plot, where the protagonist (I’m still undecided on his name as the original name didn’t fit) must help a benevolent King and his allies defeat an evil King. Pretty basic in the long run, but obviously there are a lot of twists and turns which I won’t go into *spoiler alert*. He will go around with a sturdy band of fellows, who all have their own reasons for joining the quest, and for wanting to overthrow the evil king. I know this is very basic, but I don’t want to give away too much information, which is quite easy to do!

Right, I’ll go straight into my other big idea, then I’ll let you leave.

This is one I am excited about, as it will incorporate a lot of my ideas about where I come from, and a (I hope) good twist on the superhero genre! That’s right, it’s going to be superhero driven, with a lot of crime elements included too. I first created this other unnamed character for a piece of work for University, but have developed him so much further than I would have done in such a short period of time. I really can’t divulge too much into this one because the potential of it is huge.

I will let you have one thing – it’s the type of story that can work as either a novel or a graphic novel series. I’m working on it in both ways, and am even teaching myself to draw (if you know me, you’ll know I can’t draw a stick man, let alone a graphic novel). It will be primarily set in the West Midlands, which offers so much potential, and will be quite a comical story when it’s finally being told to everyone. This one is going to be bizarre and will hopefully offer Yam-Yams something to be proud of.

Right, I’ll stop before I bore (or annoy) you too much.

Thanks for putting up with my rambling.