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It's too easy to despise our protagonist. Stella may be a lonely single mum but she still throws dinner parties in her huge London home. snacks on organic olives and her most significant episode of self- discovery involves finding out that she snOrts when she comes. Knight treads a knife edge between making Our protagonist seem both terribly glamorous and a solitary bastion of practicality: and. at times. she loses her balance.
Don't You Want Me? wrll soon grace the three for two tables at y0ur nearest bookshop; prepare to be stunned by the fuchsia pink cover and obligatOry tun'canoon representations of the characters therein. (Rowan Martin)
SP!RITUAL DRAMA YANN MARTEL Life Of Pi (Canongate 5:12.99) 0...
Life 0f 1’)
Pi Patel lives a Spiritual life. simultaneously practising Hinduism. lslarn and Christianity while living in a zoo. When he is sixteen. his parents decrde they no longer trust Mrs Gandhi so they're off to Canada: along With most of the 700's animals. they set off by sea.
But in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. their ship sinks and Pi finds himself sole human
passenger of a lifeboat. with an orang-utan. a hyena and a three-year- old Bengal tiger for company. Thus begins a seven-month struggle to Survive the waters and his fellow passengers. Life Of Pi resoundingly fails the first line test: 'This book was born as l was hungry”. But this deeply pretentious opening is miraculously redeemed by what follows: an engrossing and beautifully written meditation on god. man and beast. This is a rare gem: a book that yOU want to immediately re- read. (Anna Shiprnan)
CRIME DRAMA HUGH COLLINS The Licensee (Canongate €6.99) .0
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‘To copy it is forgery.‘ reads the script on the can of McEwan's that fronts this Glasgow crime novel. And with Hugh Collins having served sixteen years for murder (he was released in 1992). authentiCity isn't a problem.
He sets this tale of drugs. corruption and betrayal in the early 80s. putting his action in the explicit context of Margaret Thatcher's infamous claim that "there is no such thing as society.’ and the Sex Pistols' snarling nihilism. Sadly. he finds little of value to say about the period. save that smack. like the lust for power. is a bad thing.
The Licensee brirns With unpleasant characters. from Vicious crime lord Pat McGowan to the bent coppers who slaver over his boots and the smug newsreaders who pass the official news on to a voyeuristic public. But without a sympathetic central figure it feels rather hollow and Collins' writing. despite its spicy vernacular.
ends up setinding decidedly flat. (James Smart)
SCI-Fl MYSTERY CHINA MIEVILLE The Scar (Macmillan £17.99) 000
Salt water runs through the soul of this book like blood. a text stained grey by sea mist and bruised ocean skies. The Scar is set almost entirely on the open water in a world where Victorian technologies perform miracles and various Sub-human species live in brittle harmony.
Bellis Coldwine is forced to leave New Crobuzon when scandal blights her respectable life. so she boards the Terpsichoria and heads for the new world only for her ship to be captured and assimilated into the floating pirate city of Armada.
China Miewlle hooks the reader wrth hints of dark secrets. leading to shocking revelations that inevitably lead to yet more intrigue. Floating cities may border on cliche (remember l/l/aterwor/d’?) but never have they been painted with the intricate detail MlCVIIlO invests all aspects of this ramshackle metropolis with. A tale of depression and longing nicely told as a brooding sci-fi mystery.
EDNA O’BRIEN In The Forest (Weidenfeld & Nicolson 5316.99) 00..
Edna O'Brien's ambitious prose with its fruity imagery and ramshackle syntax has an ability to overpower her often precious tales. With her excellent new novel. though. it seems she has found a tale darkly Vicious and
muscular enough to hold the weight and the true magnificence of her writing.
In The Forest is based on the horrific Cregg Wood murders in 1994 in which a young mother. her son and a priest were killed in COunty Clare by a local man with psychiatric problems. O'Brien has no interest in a direct retelling of that tragedy. but uses it instead as the climax to the sad and tortured life of Michen O'Kane. the much abused ‘Kindershreck' (someone of whom small children are afraid) and the psychotic result of Ireland's archaic Catholic juvenile detention centres.
This is a haunting and masterful piece of iii()(l(3rii li()rr()r storytelling. something akin to a deeply brutalised version of Peter Carey's The True l-listory Of The Kel/y Gang. Don't go down to the woods today.
ALSO PUBLISHED James McBride i‘Vf/rac/e At Sant 'Aniia (Sceptre 5,‘ 14.95)) War. cruelty. passion. heroism and race crammed into one lyrical tale.
Patricia Fara The Making Of A Genius (Mac/ni/lan 5‘20) Exhaustive biography of Isaac Newton.
Jon Stephen Fink Woke Up Laughing (Jonathan Cape 5‘/()) A bored man Wins the lottery and reclaims his life.
Douglas Adams The Salmon Of Doubt (M'ic/rii/lan .“ ((5.95)) Quirky collection recovered from the dead writer's hard drive. James Gavin Deep In A Dream (C/iatto 8 VV/lel/S 5‘20) Ja// icon Chet Baker is analysed.
ELECTRONICA DOT ALLISON We Are Science (Mantra) O...
Dot Allison's come a IOng way, baby. since the days she fronted Glasgow bleep-peppers One Dove. After all. there are surely fey-.1 endorsements ntore ringing than Mercury Rev's Grasshopper contributing guitars to yetir record (see the garage-rock grind of ‘Strung Out' and the almost dainty lullaby ‘cher'i.
Everywhere else. tnougi‘. Allison's weapOn of choice is the pared- down electro beat. which she coos over fetishistically -- and to startling effect — on songs like ‘We're Only Science' and ‘| Think I Love You'. these sounds were flying around Madonna's head ten years ago when she made Erotica. but here Allison has found the perfect balance between the robotic and the romantic. Prepare- to be assimilated. iDavid Pollock)
THE PROCLAIMERS The Best Of . . . (Persevere Records) 0...
‘Let's make this puref sang Kevin Rowland. And they don't come much purer than Craig and Charlie Reid. The brothers have been telling it like it is for fifteen years. producing heart on-your—sleeve soul that's p2 ssionate. honest. raw and very. very good. What they lack in musical sophistication itheir backing musicians can come perilously close to pub rock) they make tip for in inspired melodies and divine yocal
arrangements. gutsy. driven and emotionally exposed.
This twenty-song collection has all the hits yeti'd expect plus three new tracks produced by Edwyn Collins. notably the sublime ‘Ghost Of Love'. Plus surtably enthusiastic liner notes from Matt ‘George Dawes' Lucas.
TRASH ROCK DANKO JONES Born A Lion
(Bad Taste) 0000
Danko Jones must have been drinking bOurbon from the bottle. raised on the bad streets of Toronto 13?). scavenging for guitar strings wrth the vultures. This is a howlin' riposte to the pomposity of rock. packed wrth trashy tunes of cheap sexual conquests and damaged relationsl'iips. And. most importantly. more laughs than you'll find in Jim Davidson haying a heart attack. Egual parts Mississippi blues rains and CBGB punk sweat boxes this is a hard rockin' sleaze-fest that will have you grinning from ear to ear. His name is Danko Jones: hear him roar. (Henry Northmore)
Everybody Down (Rykol .0
Love the first track. 'Everybody Down”. The kind of up-tempo melodic grunge rock they'd use as the theme tune to one of the hipper US sitcoms.
But Chicago's Matthew — yes. it's a useless name 7- are blessed with an asset that is also their downfall. Lead singer Brian McSweeney has a fantastic voice. It soars and swoops. taking falsetto in its stride. but its effect is to give evew song the same emotional impact. fans of Radiohead and Jeff Buckley might give it more time. but my
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