The Ten Books Tag

I was tagged by lovely Liz from Liz Loves Books to reveal ten books that have stayed with me long after finishing them. So, narrowing them down to ten was tricky, but (in no particular order) here they are!

1.) Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion

For me, Warm Bodies is the best zombie book around. It’s gripping, intelligent and making the Z outbreak one of ideological origin was a stroke of genius. The central characters are also beautifully developed, and I still mull over R’s innermost thoughts on an almost daily basis. The prequel, The New Hunger, as well as the 2013 movie adaptation, are pretty darn good too.

2.) Into That Forest by Louis Nowra

A mesmerising book, I was constantly rabbiting on about it last year. If you can handle heartbreak (and especially if you can’t) give Into That Forest a go.

3) An Inspector Calls by J. B. Priestly

I originally read this play (as a book) with my peers in secondary school and it was the first core text that I genuinely adored. It’s so deep-rooted in me now that I find it difficult to say specifically what I love about the story, but the intertwining secrets the characters hide and that twist probably have a lot to do with it.

4.) His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman

I’m somewhat renowned for talking about His Dark Materials around the book blogosphere, so I’ll refrain from writing yet another essay now! If you want one of my many takes on Pullman’s sublime trilogy, click here.

5.) The Memory Game by Sharon Sant

When I finished this book I was pacing up and down my hallway for what felt like an age. How could the ending have happened? Was I sad or happy, or a strange combination of both? Why wasn’t the rest of the world in crisis like I was? A clear sign of a good book!

6.) Watership Down by Richard Adams

Those bunnies sure get into a lot of trouble, I will never forget all that Fiver and the gang went through.

7.) Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling

Easily the best Potter.

8.) The Wind Singer by William Nicholson

To see how this book helped me through school, click here.

9.) The Twits by Roald Dahl

Comedy genius! The sinister plots each Twit comes up with to off the other are laugh out loud funny no matter how many times I re-read them.

10.) Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

My full thoughts here.

Fancy having a stab at the Ten Books Tag? Then go for it! Let me know how you get on :)

September 18, 2014Leave a comment

Driftwood from the Specific by A.P. Gilbert

In 2013 Gilbert released the excellent The Cloud Diary and soon followed it up with other books including the delightful Super Fred and Doodeedoo. Driftwood from the Specific is the author’s latest release, a collection of ten short stories.

Driftwood is certainly an apt title because the book contains a plethora of different genres all come together. From contemporary horror, to twee sci-fi and noir-ish mobster tales, there really is a lot going on here. Some of the stories are comprised of just a few lines, others are significantly longer and there are even a few fun poems thrown in; How to write a poem’s clever use of formatting and convention defiance a particular highlight.

The longer stories are all entertaining, gripping in places, and Dick, the gritty story of a private investigator’s dealings with femme fatales, Red and Lois Love, is wonderful. Gilbert captures the essence and style of noir perfectly, and, if this book is the author’s attempt to suss out which kind of genre to write in next, mobster noir is definitely the way he should go.

Driftwood from the Specific is available through Amazon UK now.

September 14, 20141 Comment

A little thought on first chapters

question markI’ve been working on the opening to my upcoming novel this week, and I think I’ve realised that the key to grabbing a reader’s attention might just be to – well, how would you feel if I didn’t tell you just yet?

I think it’s that familiar mixture of intrigue and anticipation experienced in other areas of life which convinces a reader to stay between the pages. This feeling comes before a reader has got to know a book’s characters, and before they’ve decided if they enjoy the author’s style.

This is (I think!) what first chapters should do: ask a question, the more mysterious and captivating the better. It’s only natural for humans to want to resolve a situation, and, if a reader is invested in the question from the off, they’re much more likely to read the rest of a given novel too.

So, what do you think gang? Do you agree?

September 12, 2014Leave a comment

Pokémon biology!

Those were the days. Training up a super-squad of Pokémon on your Game Boy Classic, draining enough AA’s to power a minor principality in the process. Of course, in the eighteen years since Pokémon was first released, generations of players have discovered the charm of Nintendo’s monster franchise. With Pokémon’s ability to influence so massive, I thought a discussion on how biological concepts are communicated through the games (I do love science) might be fun!

As anyone still reading will probably know, all Pokémon games follow the same basic storyline: a central character (controlled by the player) travels through a fantasy world capturing and battling Pokémon in order to level-up and achieve master ranking. Now, the influence of the real outdoors throughout this fantasy region is vast. It’s split into numerous virtual habitats (deserts, forests, icy-mountains etc) and the game’s developers have designed these habitats to accurately reflect the tapestry of interconnected ecosystems found in the real world. A closer look reveals they conform to established biological laws including predator-prey dynamics (seal Pokémon can be found in low numbers amongst high densities of fish Pokémon) and even niche theory (you won’t find a sun-loving grass-type Pokémon in a dark cave).

Pokémon are physically adapted to the specific environments they live in too, often reflecting the plants and creatures that inhabit parallel, existent habitats. For example, Sandslash boast large claws used for digging in the arid, sandy environments they can be captured in, similar to those of many rodents. Some Pokémon life cycles also imitate those of real creatures, with the caterpillar-like Caterpie pupating as Metapod before emerging as the butterfly-like Butterfree.

Evolution is a key dynamic in Pokémon, although the Darwinian Model has been heavily modified to suit the requirements of gaming time scales. Pokémon evolve at a certain level or under certain conditions (trade, exposure to evolutionary stones etc) and once this happens they permanently transform into a new species. At level twenty, the feeble fish Pokémon, Magikarp evolves into the ferocious Gyarados representing a transition up the food chain under the apparent selection pressure of fighting (Magikarp must gain experience points through battling in order to reach level twenty and transform).

The game also gives attention to the phenomenon of fossilisation, with the concept being explained directly to players within the games’ narrative. However, unlike reality, any fossils discovered by the player can be ‘resurrected’ into living, previously extinct Pokémon. But even during this process, there are strong nods towards natural history with resurrected Pokémon clearly based on actual prehistoric creatures including ammonites (Omanyte) and pterodactyls (Aerodactyl). If the player wishes, they can also visit the museums, labs and wildlife parks strewn throughout the game’s virtual worlds in order to explore Pokémon’s fictionalised biology further.

So, it seems the Pokémon games are awash with biological concepts, and might even have taught a few biological principles to some of the millions of people who’ve made the fine decision of purchasing a copy.

My thoughts on Harry Potter biology here.

My favourite videogame stories here.

September 12, 2014Leave a comment