01Dec Reviews for November

Let's start with books this time. I've read a few this month, but two are worthy of a mention. The first is Psycho by Robert Bloch. Having always been a big Hitchcock fan, I was pretty sure I'd put the book down after a few pages, finding the art of Bloch second to the art of Hitch. The book holds its own though, and surprisingly well. Pacing is good, and there's a real emergence of horror in Bates that's absent from a lot of similar material from the era, and before. The climax is comparable with that of the film, and the shower scene surpasses it. My only criticisms would be a couple of dei ex machina that were unnecessary - who keeps a skeleton key in their handbag?

Next we move onto The Left Hand of God by Paul Hoffman. At 500 pages, and a mage-like, sword-wielding, hood-wearing silhouette donning the cover, it was clearly standard fantasy fare. I'm still surprised that I finished the book to be honest. The characters were bland, the setting was thin and under-developed, the plot was a little nonsensical, and the general feel of it was just a little lack-lustre. What I found most disappointing though was the prevalent suspension of disbelief. I'd split this into two categories, the first being inconsequential appearances of the real-world such as the Norwegians, but without a clear indication of when the story takes place (is it post-apocalyptic?). The second problem was the terrible editing, ugly sentences and poor word choices.

So, TV and film? I watched the BBC Musketeers production whilst cataloguing last week and found it highly entertaining. A notch above the usual BBC stuff, with great characterisation and a light enough pace. I would certainly recommend it. As to films, well, it's been a funny few weeks so haven't really had time, but we did sit and watch Bridge to Terabithia together,  which was enjoyable but under-explored, it hit neither the emotional  nor the sublime, evidently aiming for both when either would've sufficed.

On to music. I'd dug out the Jeremy Soule score for the 2011 game Skyrim in anticipation of getting the re-release. It's one of the finest scores, and stands up well amongst the most-accomplished film scores. It's not just the rousing dragon chants, but the subtle atmospheres that bring up memories of Tamriel that I thought I'd forgotten.On the electronic side, I've had Berlin by Underset on repeat for the last few days. It's a fairly slow-paced house track, with a simple rhythm track, led by a soft melody. But it's in the last forty seconds that the track really comes alive with a reverb-heavy, arpeggio that just closes the final section off nicely. Oh, and I hate to add Jidenna in as most of his stuff is junk, but Long Live the Chief is the best Hip Hop I've heard this year.

And finally Games, and this is where I realise I should just give up. I played Battlefront 1 for a few hours, testing the water online only to find that the addicts have the muscle-memory, experience, dexterity and skill to pound me into the sands of Suez every few seconds. It's a stunning game, well-designed and carefully balanced. Some liberties taken with the WWI setting, but ultimately a thoroughly enjoyable game. At least it would've been had I been any good!

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