book reviews books fiction reading Uncategorized

Rosewater by Tade Thompson

Rosewater is a town on the edge. A community formed around the edges of a mysterious alien biodome, its residents comprise the hopeful, the hungry and the helpless – people eager for a glimpse inside the dome or a taste of its rumoured healing powers.

Kaaro is a government agent with a criminal past. He has seen inside the biodome, and doesn’t care to again – but when something begins killing off others like himself, Kaaro must defy his masters to search for an answer, facing his dark history and coming to a realisation about a horrifying future.

What I liked

Lots of provocative and clever ideas but nothing at the expense of the story

Well-realised history and back story

Different time periods don’t jar the flow of narrative

Comic book energy and invention.

Exciting and considered extrapolation of Nigeria in 2066.

What I didn’t like


It’s a heady cocktail of ideas, poured over a careful story. I’m looking forward to the next one.

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I asked Tara, who regularly comments here about what she liked about my work, as I don’t get a lot of feedback. What she said was lovely, and in the spirit of sheer ego, and also to encourage more of you said the following:

I like both your poetry and short stories. For your stories, I love how you always have twists in there and you think about things in such a different way. It’s always mind-blowing (literally). I loved Wild Man and like all your flash fictions. I have thoroughly enjoyed your short stories.
Your poetry. My favorites are the sensual ones as they are uummm my “type” of male figure so it’s very yummy to read. But more than that, you write emotion in between the words to where I can feel the sweat or heat or cold or fire or passion or WHATEVER it is, and it is layered. Sometimes I read sadness beneath strength or anger beneath desire etc. That is incredible how you do that. It is feeling mixed with rawness and passion and desire. I like that. It’s well done and every word is meaningful. No extra words. And that goes for your stories as well. I love that I never know quite what to expect, but I know it will be very good.
I hope more of you will leave feedback. It helps me figure out whether what I’m doing works or not.
Also, if you’re so inclined, you can send me things here:
Or buy me things here:
ambition blogging book reviews books craft creative writing creativity drafting editing experience fiction inspiration process purpose reading Uncategorized writing

Two Pages (22/09/16)

This morning’s pages were continuing the background piece, I am quite pleased with the tone and the progression here. It’s tentative because it’s at a different pace, a foreign setting and hopefully shows off some of the research without being too ostentatious. I don’t want to be visible on the page, I want the characters and their voices to stay with the reader. If you can sense me on the page, then I will lean towards cutting it.

I have nearly finished Tony and Susan by Austin Wright, which is fantastic. It utilises two disparate narratives, both of which delve into primal fears and self deception in different ways. One of them is the voyeuristic pleasures of crime and revenge fiction, the other about self deception and complicity. It’s not a surprise that Tom Ford has adapted it. After that I have Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep, which will be my first Chandler in print although I have seen and enjoyed his influence and the cinematic adaptations of his work.

After the recent reading slump, I have renewed my pleasure and appreciation for reading. It waxes and wanes, sometimes with a book that doesn’t meet my expectations, sometimes a book overpowers me. When I read as a writer, it’s a blend of analysis, envy and sometimes contempt. The latter is a distasteful feeling because even if I don’t enjoy it, it does not take away from my baseline admiration and respect for the effort taken to get the work out there.

It’s why I talk about myself and my experiences. Opinions are like bellybuttons, everyone has them, aside from the clones in Space: Above and Beyond, and I can only ever talk about my experiences. Who am I to tell someone what they should have done? Especially when they are at a different stage than I am, with entirely different experiences and perceptions. We cast aside our own failings when we judge other people. Writing, if it’s taught me anything, has shown me that everyone has their own pain, fights their own battles with the same resources that we all have. I really believe that you have to have an unsentimental compassion for people if you are to write with any degree of passion. Cold, beautifully written insular work might enthral for a moment but it does not sustain or stay with me. Susan Choi’s My Education was an example that stood out in my mind. There is a degree of elitism between literary and genre fiction when in truth, they’re both still cut from imaginary cloth. Whether it’s zombies or twenty-something MFA graduates who can’t commit to a relationship, it’s still fiction.

I only worry about what I can control, which is the work in front of me or behind me. The market resists prediction, my agent has their own workload and I won’t resort to blunt instruments of ego to market myself. Which is my final point.

On Twitter, @buddhab3lly, if you want to follow me, there are a lot of habits that although aren’t offensive in and of itself, essentially guarantee that I won’t read your work because it is robotic, it shows a lack of respect and also because they rarely work. I say this because when I self published, I did some of them.

  1. You follow me, I follow back then you unfollow me for the scalp to your follower count.
  2. You post nothing but links to your books. There’s no sense of you, as a person beyond the content. On the page, that’s fine but social media has an emphasis on the social. I can set up a RSS feed if I want content devoid of contact. Who are you as a person, I don’t know and it feels like I’m following a bot.
  3. Automatic DMs.
  4. Pleading me to read your book.

I have done a review when asked, via Goodreads, and will be doing another one because someone actually took the time to write and ask me. Not because I am important and special but because they had seen one I had written, their novella is in a similar style and they asked nicely. Funny how that works, when you treat someone with respect, they’re more likely to help. A suggestion would not be some hyperbolic marketing guide but Dale Carnegie’s How To Win Friends and Influence People. A bit of contemplation, perhaps but I get it. It takes a lot to get a book out there, and there are a lot of books out there. I tried and failed at self publishing, but it was useful because it showed me that it was not an experience I wanted for myself.

Anyway, thank you for reading. Post comments and questions below.


book reviews books Uncategorized

Bleeding Edge by Thomas Pynchon

With this, the second book I’ve read of his, my understanding is that this represents a more concise, less hefty portion of his work. There’s a strain of literary masochism sometimes in reference to his sprawling dense works like Gravity’s Rainbow, in that boasting about having read them is akin to bro boasts about how much you can bench. I get it because a large novel is a consuming, turbulent affair but with Bleeding Edge, there’s so much care taken in the plot and the language, that I enjoyed it for it’s brevity and it’s elegant depths.

Set in 2001, Pynchon touches upon the arcane nature of financial fraud, the New York/America that existed before the World Trade Centre attacks and afterwards. It’s a heady brew which manages to be consistently witty, evocative and humane. So much happens, some of it random but it’s all dressed in beautiful language that slips down the throat like a good wine. There’s a delicious complexity that makes the whole thing move and roil throughout.

It’s strange to see a book set in 2001 as a historical novel, but the psychic aftermath of the War On Terror (about as effective as a war on jealousy) is fertile ground to plough without being overtly histronic. Pynchon’s love and amused disbelief at the turn the country took is considered and effective, it also adds cultural cachet to the thriller in the same way that Inherent Vice did.

At some point, I will tackle the bigger works he’s done, in part because they are spoken of with such reverence that, fuck it, I will see what all the fuss is about. He’s brilliant, and by that, he is brilliant in a tangible, accessible manner rather than mistaking verbosity for an understanding of the beauty of language and adopting a wilfully opaque plot as affectation. Pynchon tells stories about the world as it is, and all the surreal wonder of it. If you’re looking for an in, I would recommend Bleeding Edge and Inherent Vice without reservation.

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Star Wars – The Force Awakens (contains fake spoilers for amusement)

I like to support new, independent cinema so yesterday I demonstrated that by seeing the new, avant garde film from cinema’s enfant terrible J J Abrams called Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

So when Disney brought the rights, I held a moment of caution. However, that was misplaced as we all forget that above all else, Disney seek to entertain. Not mission statements, not polemics that should have you running into the streets to start the revolution. Two hours of solid, aesthetically pleasing grand entertainment that make you forget about this world and visit another one.

It was a trip backwards, a curation of what was best about the original trilogy and it’s ‘future is past’ aesthetic. Beautifully filmed, great dialogue and a sense of the epic about it. A respect for the audience who are walking encyclopedias as well as those who aren’t but want to see a good movie.  Star Wars is not science fiction, it is science fantasy, it is Saturday Morning Cartoons wedded to chambara and western morality plays. Good guys and bad guys. It has the best soundtrack in film (John Williams’ score is so moving, and the new one is fantastic), it survived three anodyne toy commercial movies that should have broken it’s potential entirely. It is not a franchise prone to sabotage unlike The Matrix, which fucked itself in it’s second movie.

I’m not going to post details because I don’t want to spoil it for anyone but I thought I would make up some spoilers instead.


  1.  The ewok orgy was disturbing.
  2. Jar Jar being the big bad behind the First Order was a surprise.
  3. The musical duet between Miley Cyrus and the Sarlaac was oddly touching.

See it or not. It understood itself as few movies do, all white teeth and bright eyes, spectacle and instant friendships, a child’s morality but so earnest and heartfelt that you buy in entirely or don’t. When Han Solo turned up, looked at Chewbacca and said ‘we’re home.’ my eyes prickled with tears and I nodded to myself in the dark of the cinema.

The old man was right. We are.


OK, so after a month, some issues came to mind that have soured my experience of it. It felt a little bit too smooth for my liking. A touch too anodyne compared to the original trilogy especially when it came to the idea that Rey feels a bit too perfect compared to Luke. His earnest, farmboy naivete is part of his appeal, and ties into the hero journey, the mythic cycle that came direct from Joseph Campbell. Still, it’s a kid’s film and now that the nostalgia has faded, I liked it less than I thought. In the same way that McDonalds tastes pretty good and then you feel bloated and crampy later.


Bazaar of Bad Dreams by Stephen King

This is the latest collection of stories by Stephen King, who of late has produced some superlative longform works. It’s the short fiction though, that really bites into you.

In the introduction, he announces that he’s an amateur and then proceeds to show the reward of a work ethic and a dedication with an honest and fierce collection of stories that frighten, amuse and inspire in equal measure.

They are each preceded by a small explanation of the origins, the inspirations. King’s generosity, pardon the pun, is regal and I entered into each story entirely curious to see what he would do with each situation.

Mile 81 has a disturbed, discordant horror to it. A car at the side of the road, a child sleeping off a drunken adventure in an abandoned Burger King and how it escalates into a brilliant and vicious event. Batman and Robin Have An Altercation takes a small moment of sadness and turns it into something entirely poignant and vicious.

Morality follows a remorseless and relentless logic until you’re wrung out by the last sentence. Herman Wouk is Still Alive is simultaneously tragic and vital, all of it spoken in the crafted language and eye of a man who speaks in a voice that compells you to keep reading.

Drunken Fireworks is a melancholy shaggy dog story that has a wry wink on every line. There’s humour here, and terror, and genuine insight that’s informed by a writer whose body of work still resonates with an understanding of both people and the sudden twists of the imagination.

King has always been about the work, painfully honest about his shortcomings and even his less successful works have been interesting. He’s also a good example of a work ethic that still shows up moments of genuine beauty and quiet awe.

Brilliant. I’ve nothing but good things to say about this book. bazaar-of-bad-dreams-stephen-king

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Project Laughter 19/06/2015

I’m into the next set piece, winging it as I tend to do in the first draft, but it’s how I write. 
Away from the page, I do think things through and resolve holes and issues by playing it out in my head. Dialogue, I like it to sound natural but also there’s an element of theatre in the structure of it. What reads well doesn’t always work when spoken aloud so I do have conversations with the characters in my head. 

I also make notes as things come to me.  A good information diet builds creative muscle and a variety of different things can inspire approaches and work that allows you to do different things. 

There is nothing original about me, as a writer, but I’m simply trying to be the best me that I can.  The aphorism of being yourself only takes you so far. You’ll face resistance,  rejection and despair if you’re trying to push yourself and make the best art in you.  But when you have produced work, no one can take that from you.  Sure, people may not like or love it but they won’t have learned the things you have. Sure a shitty review burns but don’t read it and for gods sake don’t wed yourself to the opinions of others unless it helps you. 
That book, that writer who changed your life,  someone hated that.  Took the time to post a scathing review and for what?  Not everyone likes the same things but some people are so insecure that they need complete strangers to know.
I’ve read lots of books I didn’t love or even finish but I still appreciated the time and effort it took.  If it made it to the printers then someone believed in it. I enjoy a good florid trashing as much as the next person but i still hold that someone else might have found joy in it.  I know the work involved and it makes me kinder to anyone who puts it out there because writing something is tougher than commenting on it.

It’s harder in the arena than in the seats.


Cold Hands John J Niven

John Niven has written acerbic funny and acutely observed books about the music industry, amateur golf and the return of Jesus on a reality talent show. He’s a cynical bugger with a heart of gold and a twinkle in his eye, with a grasp of swearing that’s grand and delightful on his Twitter feed.

John J Niven, in his book, Cold Hands, had my hands shaking. I’ve read it in two sessions, with a slick feeling of dread as it touches on some primal fears and horrors. It’s unstinting and unsentimental, beautifully realised and paced.

It’s the kind of book that, when I think about attempting such, I want to go and have a lay down in a dark room. The economy of it, how he makes and subverts the revenge story into something grotesque is a masterclass and I’m going to have to make notes because it’s a great solid thriller.



The Lego Movie 18/01/2015

It had me crying with laughter, was surprisingly touching and inventive on a level that I’ve not seen for a long time. The voice casting was fantastic and there were so many moments that had me in stitches.

  • ‘SPACESHIP’ Charlie Day’s shrieks of joy were a thing to behold.
  • It was self aware enough, not too much to stifle the joy out of it but that added to the humour immensely.
  • I won’t spoil it for anyone but the third act reveal was very touching and fed into the biggest laugh which was the final scene.
  • Alison Brie as Unikitty was fantastic. Also just want to mention Charlie Day again because his character had me rolling.
  • The level of detail was incredible, Beatles posters, movies, even the passengers in the cars. It looks like people went blind or insane making this and it’s worth every second.
  • As corporate tie ins go, an oddly subversive message here, but at the same time, I just want to watch Liam Neeson do the Good Cop/Bad Cop thing again.
  • Metalbeard. Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill as Superman and a clingy Green Lantern, Cobie Smulders as Wonder Woman.

The Next Phase

I’m giving some thought to doing a pod cast conversation on an ongoing basis. 

I suppose I might talk about literature,  writing,  women and men, masculinity and culture.  It would realistically be an extension of here because this has given me a lot of confidence as a writer and I want to have some control and some fun too. 

What’s the general opinion on that and would you listen to it?