Monday, July 25, 2011
|Cover of the edition I read.|
|Cover from the first edition.|
Friday, July 22, 2011
Thursday, July 21, 2011
Bernard Cornwell done the same thing with his Sharpe's novels. Cornwell gained the inspiration for Richard Sharpe from Forester's Hornblower, and even after one Hornblower book there is very little difference between the two series in my opinion. Cornwell starts Sharpe off in Sharpe's Rifles and finished with Sharpe's Devil. Then, like Forester, wrote Sharpe's Tiger which went into Sharpe's pre-Spain career in India. If you have read the Sharpe's novels chronologically you'll find a certain amount of dis-jointedness due this order. I get the feeling that the Hornblower novels may suffer from the same thing.
To be honest, once I realised this was a novel out of its actual chronological order of publication I found it difficult to read, and didn't enjoy it as I might have otherwise done. In hindsight if I knew then what I do now
I would have read the first published novel and the others in that order. For me reading this as a chronological order novel is a waste of time and probably only Hornblower purists and aficianados will enjoy it.
The background to the Hornblower novels is interesting because Forester initially was writing a script for a pirate movie in Hollywood. But Errol Flynn's Captain Blood came out before he finished his script, and with too many parallels between Flynn's movie and his script he shelved it. But he then adapted it to what became the Hornblower novels. He wrote most of the novels in America after the War in California and their influence was even felt in Star Trek which was initially pitched as 'Hornblower in space'. Certainly they are enduringly popular, and have influenced any number of imitators since. As a character his popularity and fame is only surpassed by that of Sherlock Holmes. Bernard Cornwell even states the series is the greatest military history fiction ever written. I can't comment on that until I have read the other novels!
Mr. Midship Hornblower for me was a disappointment, only because it isn't a novel being 10 short stories in novelised form. I think if you intend to read this series you are better off reading them in the order they were written, and not in the subsequent chronological order. Certainly influential but overall a bit simplistically written. If you have read Bernard Cornwell's Sharpe's novels then in all intents and purposes I feel that Forester's Hornblower novels are very much in the same category quality wise.
The influence of Hornblower cannot be stressed enough and the novels have been adapted to film and television. Click here for more about this character and his legacy:
Wednesday, July 20, 2011
Both MacLean's Navarone novels are very implausible and stretch things very imaginatively. Normally this distortion of history would bug me but I put it aside somewhat as he is a fine writer of adventure driven fiction. Of course the Navarone novels came to epitomise the mission impossible genre. Storm Force From Navarone is no exception and if anything Llewellyn ups the stakes in very Maclean type fashion. I started this novel last night and read 180 pages of its 267 before turning off the light. I finished it this evening just before dinner, so it is like MacLean in being a very light, easy read.
The whole premise of this novel is pure historical nonsense! Mallory's team is to be parachuted into Southern France to find three 'Werwolf' U-boats, each capable of carrying 100 torpedoes and travelling under water at up to 40 knots!!!! Absolute fabrication and total historical nonsense! They are a danger to the Normandy landings and Mallory's team has to destroy them before they wreak havoc on the invasion fleet. Of course what follows is classic high adventure with the many highs and lows of a Maclean novel. The team surmount impossible odds in their efforts to first find the u-boats, which they then destroy with grenades. They even have MacLean's ambiguous traitor in their mix to muddy the waters.
I've read a few reviews on this novel around the web and most of them are highly uncomplimentary. I didn't think it that bad! Once I settled into Llewellyn's writing style the novel had a very 'Maclean' feel to it Llewellyn must be commended for achieving that at least, after all Alastair Maclean is a hard act to follow. Overall I enjoyed this novel even though it pushed implausibility to the limit. But this implausible high adventure type novel is what MacLean excelled at and Sam Llewellyn has followed in his footsteps well. MacLean purists may grumble at Llewellyn but I don't think he has done a bad job and certainly hasn't demeaned MacLean in any way. It would be interesting to know what MacLean himself thought of this homage to his Navarone novels doesn't it?!
Utter historical nonsense, but the Navarone novels were written as mission impossibles so the missions had to implausible to make them exciting. I liked this novel and think it is a fine follow on to Alastair MacLean's two Navarone novels. For me the final test is that if it were rubbish I wouldn't have been able to read it let alone finish it! Not MacLean, but not far off. Sam Llewellyn can certainly say he had a fine teacher!!
Amazon has this with 3 out of 5 stars from 3 reviews. In all honesty I think this is fair because whilst competently written the plausibility is a little too much to take too seriously.
Monday, July 18, 2011
Saturday, July 16, 2011
I have been unable to find out much about this Pirates series unfortunately. In the back of the novel there is a list of over 100 titles, and yet I'm not sure if Gideoen Defoe wrote them all. It is possible as they are very concise novels and he could churn out 100 novels in a short time span. I will have to do some real digging as I would like to read many more of these very funny short novels.
In short they are about a group of inept, bumbling, not very scary pirates, who have all sorts of 'adventures'. None of them have any names with the captain being called Pirate Captain, and two of his crew referred to as 'Scarf' and 'Red'. The others are completely anonymous. If you are old enough you may remember The Goon Show of which this is the closet comparison I can give. ( If you don't don't know who the Goons were they were Spike Milligan, Peter Sellers, and Harry Secombe ). The show was played on the radio and was bloody hilarious! It was full of all sorts of absurd, quirky characters and situations. Some of the shows were even published and I remember a few copies at home as a boy.
The Pirates feels as if the Goon Show is its inspiration. Even a bit of Roald Dahl at his quirkiest pokes it head out. These novels are like the Goon show scripts as they are also full of silly humorous illustrations. This novel is about whales and whaling and every imaginable send up is explored. For instance Moby Dick is unmercifully sent up and Captain Ahab is continuously bumped into by our pirate crew. Pirate Captain even manages to cleve in half with his cutlass Starbuck!!
Interestingly Defoe intersperses his narrative in many interesting factual footnotes pertaining to maritime matters etc. It is an interesting juxtaposition of silliness mixed with very real, yet now somewhat obscure facts. For instance how a 'cocked hat' came about, and the expression, 'cold enough to freeze the balls of a brass monkey' is explained. You'll have to read the novel as I'm not going to tell you!!
The situations are absurd, deeply funny, and yet with a cutting yet subtle cynicism to the humour. This is like Pirates of the Caribbean but much more farcical. Mix that franchise with The Goon Show and you get the idea of what to expect. It is great stuff and I thoroughly enjoyed this short little novel. I did actually laugh out loud a number of times, and if anything these novels are for the well read as there are numerous nods and winks to some quite obscure facts or events scattered throughout. They certainly aren't run of the mill and quite intelligently written.
I really recommend these novels. If you like or want something quirky and deeply funny then these are for you. They are genuinely funny with a very dry sense of humour that may not be for all but they suit my type of humour perfectly. Read, enjoy, laugh, and also be intrigued by Gideon Defoe's numerous and extremely interesting footnotes.
Believe me you won't forget these novels in a hurry! Irreverent and very, very politically in-correct!!!!
Amazon has this with 5 out of 5 stars and for me that says it all!
Friday, July 15, 2011
Thursday, July 14, 2011
As stated it is cliqued but it is humorous in its delivery. The novel really is a parody and is funny without being laugh out loud. I loved it and just got into the whole geek/nerdiness of it. These two authors have great motivation in writing about their hobby and have written quite a unique original novel in mixing sci-fi elements of a Star Trek convention with that of horror with zombies. I believe it has been made into a low budget movie at same stage. It reads almost like a screenplay and would have adapted to a movie relatively easily.
Surprisingly there is very little real gore or even swearing. Shit is used once and that is the only swear word in the whole novel! The gore is there but not in over dose quantities and if anything it works better for it because it is the sci-fi Star Trek buzz that is more what the novel is about. Right throughout there are plenty of in house Star Trek jokes and heaps upon heaps of Star Trek facts and figures being hurled about. It is great stuff and since it involves zombies there are several references to zombie movies as well.
In short an original novel that pokes quiet tongue in cheek fun at the sci-fi community. I love the premise of a sci-fi convention being over run by zombies! I hope the two authors make a bit of cash from this as it is a fun look into the world of the geek/nerd sci-fi aficionado!! It is competently written without being professional in nature and easily read in about 4 hours. Amazon has this with 4 1/2 stars out of 5 from 78 reviews. Have fun because that is what it is all about, and it will appeal to both sci-fi and zombie lovers!
Tuesday, July 12, 2011
I read the novel over two nights and fortunately I found the movie a fairly faithful adaptation even though it has added in extra scenes for dramatic effect. The movie was critically acclaimed in 1961 and even though extremely dated now with its special effects still a worthy watch. It was written in 1957 and was MacLean's second novel after his outstanding debut with HMS Ulysses, which I highly recommend to anyone interested in naval warfare. For me it is one of the greatest naval novels ever written, ( but not quite in the league of The Boat, reviewed here several months back ).