Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham

When I was a teenager there was a brilliant television adaptation of John Wyndham’s post-apocalyptic novel, Day of the Triffids. Thanks to the wonders of the Web and the BBC I was able to sit down and watch the 1981 series in one afternoon. It stars John Duttine as Bill Masen who is the main protagonist and narrator of the story. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

The novel was written in 1951, only a few years after the end of the Second World War and before the end of the period of austerity imposed during the war. In this context some of the themes of the novel become clearer: The idea of the destruction of humanity, by weapons or a terrible accident; Dealing with shortages of food and other related themes.

The production values don’t match up to the amount spent on today’s drama but the story telling is very faithful to the original story. Quite a relief when you see how badly some movies get chopped about in the name of entertainment. Overall it is rather a bleak story and the fact that it is possible to have produced it without fabricating a happy ending is a good thing.

I thoroughly recommend the book and if you feel inspired then watch the drama unfold 1981 style.

Day of the Triffids – SeeSaw

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Anthony Horowitz at the Cottesloe Theatre 23rd June 2010

Thanks to a Twitter tip off from Walker Books UK (@WalkerBooksUK) I discovered that author Anthony Horowitz was going to be interviewed on the Royal National Theatre’s Cottesloe stage. The set was rather a mess and it took a second or two to work out that it was the stage set for Spring Storm an early Tennessee Williams play which is on at the moment.

My eldest son is a great fan of Anthony Horowitz and is building up a collection, currently working his way through the Alex Rider stories. There weren’t that many tickets left when I booked but I got one for my son and we invited his friend Ollie along too.

Treats were in store. Emma Forbes was the interviewer on this occasion and ¬†we were treated to a great interview. Subjects ranged from Anthony Horowitz’s early life to his latest book. There were lots of laughs and at the end the audience got to ask questions.

Some of the things we learned…

  • Many of the characters in the books are taken from Anthony Horowitz’s life.
  • Anyone who has upset Mr H will probably meet a sticky end – on paper at least.
  • His father was a rather mysterious man who died when Horowitz was 23.
  • His mother used to tell him horror stories from the age of about six.
  • All the locations in the books are researched by visiting them, with the exception of the Moon.
  • He went to Rugby public school.

We were treated to a reading from Scorpio Rising the next in the Alex Rider series. A rather disturbing passage which will make your skin crawl, but no spoilers here.

There was a book signing afterwards and my son swore that he would never again wash the T-shirt he was wearing because he’d rubbed shoulders with Anthony Horowitz when I took their picture.

Thanks again to Walker Books not only for the tip but for having published approximately half the books my children read!

I’ll be on the look out for more author events like this one.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Novel number four. This book is appreciably longer than the other three and spends more time on descriptions of the surroundings of Hogwarts school. The story centres around the TriWizard tournament and we discover that an under age Harry is entered for this perilous event.

There is a huge amount going on in this book but there is plenty of comedy and we see, yet again, what a good person Harry is. The terror of Voldemort returns in this book and starts to wreak his revenge on those around Harry.
Settle down for an exciting read. The reading age of this book is higher than the first two as it is aimed more at the age group of Harry and his friends.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

The third Harry Potter novel. The story starts to get darker from here as we learn yet more about Harry’s past. We discover the strange company kept by his father and how his parents came to their untimely end.

As enjoyable as the previous two novels but we really feel for some of the other characters. Some marvellous scenes again and you have to consider whether you could hold a Hippogriff’s gaze long enough to gain its respect.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

A second year at Hogwarts and someone is still out to get Harry Potter. We discover yet more about the magical world Harry now inhabits and there is plenty of humour along the way.

You normally associate growing pains with getting a bit older and there are some particularly venomous ones in store for Harry here. He has plenty of support from his friends and we see their friendship deepening.

There are yet more wonderful ideas here and the story picks up nicely from the first book.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

Book one of the Harry Potter series and our first introduction into his universe. His life is a daily misery, ensured by his grim relatives the Dursleys. Aunt Petunia, Uncle Vernon and their spoilt son Dudley.

The magic begins straight away and the story is immediately charming. The reading level is young teenage and you will find as you progress through the books that the reading age increases.

I enjoyed this book and so did my eldest son. I think he really got the magical theme and the horror at the end of this book is mostly psychological. There are some really clever ideas in here too as Harry must face some fiendish tests to win the day.

The Bourne Identity by Robert Ludlum

If you’re a Bourne fan, as I am, then you’ll likely be more familiar with the films than the books. There are so many differences that you can safely watch the films without more than a hint of annoyance about some of the decisions.

Essentially the plot of the three films is taken from this book. I reckon a quick flick through was done, a few notes made and the film scripts written. Good though they are the books have more depth and an awful lot of plot and excitement.

Robert Ludlum’s novels tend to fall into a similar routine of exposition followed by action and The Bourne Identity is no exception. That said this is a very good story and I really enjoyed it. In fact I enjoyed it more than the films because we actually discover that Jason Bourne actually has friends and find a true companion in Marie.

Exciting, fast paced, gripping and a good read.

Portnoy’s Complaint by Philip Roth

Poor old Alexander Portnoy has to deal with being a highly sexed young man as well as dealing with his Jewish guilt.   The story is a real farcical fantasy and is famous for very good reasons.

I was given this book when I was 21 by an older, much older, girlfriend. I think she understood what was going on in my head and my trousers.

A definite good funny read for any horny young men out there. It really helps get things in perspective.

Shibumi by Trevanian

Trevanian was the pseudonym of Dr Rodney William Whitaker who worked in the communications sector having obtained a string of academic qualifications. He wrote under various names and was a published playwright as well as writer. In a lot of his fiction there is a subtle, or sometimes less hidden, message about the ‘masses’ and those who watch over them. Beware the subtexts!

The story concerns retired assassin Nicolai Hel who is reluctantly drawn into a war between terrorists and the US government. During the story we discover his background and motivations as well as the love of caving. The story reaches a bloody climax but not before we have been treated to some specialised assassination techniques and a few sexual tricks too.

Excellent story and definitely should be a film! A good one with a decent director that is.

Casino Royale by Ian Fleming

This is the first of the James Bond books and we quickly get a sense of his real character. Ian Fleming’s writing style is very descriptive and clear which makes this book, and his others, very compelling.

The relationship between Bond and his controller ‘M’ is very different to the one we are so used to seeing in the films as we get a sense of a more paternalistic relationship. We encounter a Bond who rationalises more than we ever see in the movies. As a result I’m now more sympathetic the character Timothy Dalton played in his time as James Bond.

Well worth reading as you get a real insight into the character and motivation of James Bond as well as an exciting story with some action and romance tied in there.