42 Word Retrospectives

Heavy Weather

Heavy Weather by P. G. Wodehouse (Little, Brown and Company, 1933); audiobook read by Martin Jarvis (Canongate, 2008) Less a sequel, more a direct continuation of ‘Summer Lightning’. Wodehouse takes up the strands again and concocts a book-length encore of comedic misfortunes, double-crossings and plans hatched at cross purposes. Martin Jarvis narrates with dignity but over-eggs some of the voices.…

Guns, Germs, and Steel

Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies by Jared Diamond (W. W. Norton, 1997); audiobook read by Doug Ordunio (Random House, 2011) A scientific work without literary pretentions (the audiobook plods along to an almost soporific extent), but the flow of the argument and the weight of evidence are hard to dispute. Title notwithstanding, Diamond convincingly reduces human…

The Professionals #7: Hiding to Nothing

The Professionals #7: Hiding to Nothing by Kenneth Bulmer [as Ken Blake] (Sphere, 1980) This tie-in novel features three of the better Professionals episodes but becomes increasingly confused in the telling. In the second story, Bulmer makes no effort to distinguish between a plethora of non-regular characters. In the third, he muddles up Bodie and Doyle!    

The Complete Peanuts: 1991 to 1992

The Complete Peanuts: 1991 to 1992 by Charles M. Schulz (Fantagraphics Books, 2014) Despite Schulz’s at times self-indulgent format experimentations, Peanuts in the 90s starts to feel a little tired. (Snoopy’s cookie fixation, for instance, disappoints as a recurring punchline.) Nevertheless, there is much here to like. Only by his own benchmark is Schulz diminished.    

Final Curtain

Final Curtain by Ngaio Marsh (Collins, 1947); audiobook read by James Saxon (BBC, 1995) Setting the scene is one thing, but Marsh goes so far as to leave Inspector Alleyn entirely absent for almost half the book. This, combined with a ho-hum denouement and repellent characters (laboriously portrayed), renders Final Curtain something of a damp squib.    

At the Mountains of Madness

At the Mountains of Madness by H. P. Lovecraft (Arkham House, 1936); audiobook read by Edward Hermann (Blackstone, 2013) Sometimes the best horror stems from meticulous attention to detail in a real-world setting. Other times not. Lovecraft’s first-person narrator bemires himself in minutiae and in talking up the unspeakableness of what he is perennially about to relate. More soporific than…

Five Children and It

Five Children and It by E. Nesbit (T. Fisher Unwin, 1902); audiobook read by Johanna Ward (Blackstone, 1994) An endearing piece of children’s fiction from the turn of the 20th century, elegantly written yet still accessible (although society, of course, has changed considerably and the children’s monumental sense of entitlement is hard to stomach). Be careful what you wish for……