DeclareDeclare by Tim Powers
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Declare is a supernatural/spy novel describing the secret Great Game between England and the Soviet Union through the 20th century.

It is a very ambitious novel and Powers has done a remarkable amount of research into these ultra-secret spy rings and their history, making the book feel very authentic. Much like Dan Brown’s work, he has then blended these historic events and people with the supernatural to create an alternate history filled with ancient, powerful beings.

The narrative jumps primarily between the 1940s and 1960s and gradually reveals a great secret that has been found on Mount Ararat and the machinations of ultra-secret European spy agencies as they scramble to thwart each other’s plans.

Whilst I enjoyed the themes in the book and the characters, I found the writing style hard to read. Often when reading a new author, it can take a couple of chapters to settle into an author’s writing style. I never settled into Powers’ writing style and it was sometimes a struggle to push on through all the exposition and spy jargon. The world building and the compelling character kept me going though.

Overall, Declare was an interesting (if often difficult) read for anyone who doesn’t mind a splash of Djinn in their espionage thriller.

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The Disaster Artist

The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside The Room, the Greatest Bad Movie Ever MadeThe Disaster Artist: My Life Inside The Room, the Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made by Greg Sestero
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“Keep you stupid comments in your pocket.”

“The Disaster Artist” is a must read for anyone you has watched The Room more than once. Everyone else can stop reading this review now – it’s probably not for you.

Co-written by Tom Bissell and Greg Sestero (who played Mark), The Disaster Artist describes how Greg and Tommy Wiseau became friends, intercut with the backstage shenanigans that plagued the shooting the of 2003 cult classic The Room.

This book is well written, with some excellent turns of phrase (very much unlike The Room), and is often laugh-out-loud funny. However, interspersed throughout the book are some very dark turns which highlight the complicated friendship that these two men have.

Greg writes about his struggles to become a famous Hollywood actor, supported and hindered by his alien looking friend Tommy. As the relationship endures, Tommy’s erratic and manipulative behaviour (fuelled by his inherent paranoia and insecurity) takes the pair into some hellish places. A screening of The Talented Mr Ripley further propels Tommy down a “strange highway” with the result being a 74 page play called The Room.

Any filmmaker reading this book will feel like they are sitting on an atomic bomb as Tommy burns through numerous cast and crew members with seemingly endless amounts of money. The result is what has been called “the Citizen Kane of bad movies.”

The book has won a number of awards and they are richly deserved. It is a thoroughly entertaining, humorous and thoughtful read.

The film adaption of this book is due for release sometime this year and is called The Masterpiece.

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American Gods Review

American Gods (American Gods, #1)American Gods by Neil Gaiman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

American Gods is the first Gaiman book that I have read. Only in my later years has my reading diversified from “classical” fantasy books. With the new TV adaption coming out later this year, I wanted to read the novel first for fear that I would never get around to reading it after watching it on TV.

American Gods is a great book. The depth of the characters and the lore that has been interwoven into the story is a major achievement. Gaiman’s style is both easy to read and darkly gorgeous – full of symbology and rich descriptive prose. Whilst the story is a little slow at times (rambling in particular at the beginning of the book), the pay off towards the end of the novel is ultimately very satisfying. I found myself scouring the internet for other people’s interpretations of characters and Easter eggs that I knew that I missed.

The narrative is complexly layered which means that classifying what American Gods is about is extremely hard. Simply put, there is a war brewing between the Old Gods and the New with our hero, Shadow, being caught in the middle. But to say that is what the book is about is a bit of a con. Themes of duty, sacrifice and belief are explored via Shadow and his quest to find a sense of belonging. This journey, part travel log and part small town USA, is a contemporary myth weaved out of ancient stories from throughout the world.

Positives were certainly the detailed character development. Shadow seemed a little bland to me originally but his journey fully fleshed out his stoic, good guy persona. Mr Wednesday was fantastic and every piece of dialogue was voiced by Ian McShane in my head (who will be playing him in the upcoming TV adaption).

Ultimately, American Gods is a feast for the mind and a great (if not perfect) modern-day classical myth.

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