Twenty Years of Magic

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“After all this time?”
“Always.”

This isn’t a review, but I didn’t think I could let the 20th anniversary of Harry Potter pass without comment. I was introduced to the first book in 1997 by a teacher of mine. He read it to the class, and I was hooked from the opening line. It was something wonderful and new, but I don’t know if then I knew enough to be able to say that the book would still be so important to me two decades later.

We all know the story by now, and the fans number in their millions. The first book alone has sold over 107 million copies in twenty years, with the series being the bestselling series of all time, putting J. K. Rowling into the list of top ten bestselling authors along with Enid Blyton, Agatha Christie and William Shakespeare. Her story is just as well known, going from writing in Edinburgh cafes (a number of which I have sequestered myself in, assuming that that’s how inspiration strikes) to becoming the first person to become a billionaire through writing books.

Can I fully explain what it is about these books that is so compelling? No, I don’t think so, and I think that’s what makes them so incredible. A wizarding boarding school seems such a simple idea, and yet the books are so much more than that. Anyone who writes them off as “children’s fiction” is ignoring the fact that they open with the double murder of two young parents, leaving their baby son orphaned, and things don’t get much lighter from there. For every passage looking at silly sweets, hilarious hexes and fantastic beasts, there are discussions on society’s treatment of disability, racism, bullies in positions of authority, and it’s a world where literally anyone can die. There are better writers, there are protagonists I love more, and there are series that I’ve been gripped by, but Rowling has done something calculable here.

She is a master of world building, giving us a fully realised universe, with fully three-dimensional characters, almost all with shades of grey morality. Few characters are “purely evil”, and I don’t think any are totally good. She knows everything about her world, and while some people complain about her continuing to throw new information out there (the most recent discovery being that Professors Sprout and Flitwick were once romantically involved), I’ll never stop wanting to hear it. OK, I think many of us can agree the plot of Cursed Child is perhaps something of a weak link, but no one I know who has seen it has had a bad word to say about it.

More than anything, I admire Rowling for making reading acceptable. Young people seemed to have, broadly speaking, decided that reading was nerdy and uncool, but here we are with one of the biggest franchises in the world being centered around a literary work. There is little that bursts into so many different aspects of society. Harry Potter has spawned supplementary books, films, video games, websites, podcasts, board games, theme parks, a play, a whole spin-off series about a minor character, and merchandise of every stripe from wands and costumes, to sweets and cuddly toys. It is omnipresent, and there’s no sign of it going anywhere any time soon.

This is a world I could marinate in for hours; it’s comfortable and warm and feels like home. And while it all happened in our heads, what’s to say that it wasn’t real?

If you want to read my reviews of the individual books, you can find them here, along with reviews of related books, podcasts and films.

Two Years Ago

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atomic coverTwo years ago today I achieved a goal I’d been aiming at for pretty much my whole life – I got published. Funnily enough, my life did not immediately become one of literary lunches, drinks with Stephen King and book signing tours. I never expected it to. But the fact remains that I did something that I had always wanted to do. My book existed, an ebook, a full (if short) novel that I had written and was now out there in the public consciousness.

If you’ve already bought it, thank you. If you haven’t, why not help me out and download yourself a copy. It’s available around the world on Amazon, iTunes and Smashwords, depending on what device you’re using. It won’t blow your bank account, and it’s not going to change the world, but you’d be supporting me in my work, and treating yourself to an easy-to-read tale of gods, witches, cannibalism, magic and tabloid journalism. And when you’ve read it, pop onto Amazon, iTunes or Goodreads and give it a review; spread the word and tell everyone!

This is the story of Garfield Sutton, a cannibal who has been travelling the UK for centuries on the titular bus. It’s also the story of Algernon, an ex-god of spring who has been accompanying Garfield since the Georgian era, using his powers to help hide their crimes. It’s also the story of Gwen McKenna, a very bored journalist with too much missing in her life for her life to have any meaning, until she finds herself on the trail of missing people who were last seen boarding a bus. And it’s also the story of the last three witches of Britain, of a battle between gods, of what happens in the afterlife, and how breakfast remains the second best social lubricant after alcohol.

Normal service will resume in the week – currently reading a novel about Richard Nixon – and hopefully soon some more books of my own writing will be out and about in the world. Fingers crossed, and thanks again.

One Year Ago

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atomic coverA year ago today I achieved a goal I’d been aiming at for pretty much my whole life – I got published. Funnily enough, my life did not immediately become one of literary lunches, drinks with Stephen King and book signing tours. I never expected it to. But the fact remains that I did something that I had always wanted to do. My book existed, an ebook, a full (if short) novel that I had written and was now out there in the public consciousness.

If you’ve already bought it, thank you. If you haven’t, why not help me out and download yourself a copy. It’s available around the world on Amazon, iTunes and Smashwords, depending on what device you’re using. It won’t blow your bank account, and it’s not going to change the world, but you’d be supporting me in my work, and treating yourself to an easy-to-read tale of gods, witches, cannibalism, magic and tabloid journalism. And when you’ve read it, pop onto Amazon, iTunes or Goodreads and give it a review; spread the word and tell everyone!

This is the story of Garfield Sutton, a cannibal who has been travelling the UK for centuries on the titular bus. It’s also the story of Algernon, an ex-god of spring who has been accompanying Garfield since the Georgian era, using his powers to help hide their crimes. It’s also the story of Gwen McKenna, a very bored journalist with too much missing in her life for her life to have any meaning, until she finds herself on the trail of missing people who were last seen boarding a bus. And it’s also the story of the last three witches of Britain, of a battle between gods, of what happens in the afterlife, and how breakfast remains the second best social lubricant after alcohol.

For those interested in more of my work, a second (unrelated) novel is in the editing procress, and a third has been started. But I have no dates for those yet, so you’ll just have to sate your appetite with this one for now. I hope you enjoy it, and thanks again to everyone who buys and supports it.

(And there is another review due in a couple of days; China Miéville’s Kraken is much denser than I anticipated, and I’ve been pretty busy. So normal service will resume shortly.)

Merry Christmas!

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I hope that all my friends, followers and fans had a wonderful Christmas and I wish you all a happy and prosperous 2014.

And with this stack of brand new books, stand by for more reviews in the coming year!

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“Jane Eyre” – ish

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jane eyreI have never made secret my frustration with the classics. I think frustration is the right word. Being an enormous fan of The Eyre Affair and Jasper Fforde’s work in general, I thought it was time to read this novel. Also, I’d promised a friend that I would. But, after nineteen days I am still only halfway through the novel and beginning to lose the will to live.

As such, for the first time in a long time, I’m giving up on a book. Not totally, but for now.

The truth is that, actually, I don’t dislike it nearly as much as I thought I would. Jane and Rochester are both interesting characters, the plot is melodramatic but keeps its claws in you. It really comes down to my personal taste and the style of the writing. I have tremendous difficulty keeping my attendance on language like this, and so the whole thing feels like a real slog to get through.

It doesn’t help that life has been a bit mental recently, with events both personal and professional, keeping me from writing. NaNoWriMo, which I was attempting this year again, also seems to have slipped by the wayside as other things took precedence. I intended to read Jane Eyre while doing NaNoWriMo so that a boring book wouldn’t distract me from my own writing. That didn’t much work, either.

I will finish it, because I still want to, but for now I must take a break. It may even become that I read a chapter between every other book I read until it’s done. All I know is that if I don’t read something modern soon, I’m going to hit someone.

I will return with a post here soon about Danny King’s The Hitman Diaries. In the meantime, keep on reading and check out my brand new official website.

See you soon.