Publisher: Mulholland Books

You by Austin Grossman

Posted August 15, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Contemporary / 0 Comments

You by Austin GrossmanTitle: You (Goodreads)
Author: Austin Grossman
Published: Mulholland Books, 2013
Pages: 383
Genres: Contemporary
My Copy: Library Book

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Russell was a nerd in high school but he seems to have left that part of his life behind. That is until he is employed by a games company called Black Arts. This company was the brainchild of two visionary game designers who once were Russell’s closest friends. Reunited with his former nerd crew, Russell soon finds himself in a race to save his job and the Black Arts legacy.

This book rang my nerd bells and I was excited to read this one; Austin Grossman has been working in the video gaming industry since the early 1990’s. A video game designer at Looking Glass Studios, he has contributed in the wiring and design of many games including System Shock, Deus Ex and Tomb Raider: Legend. I still consider myself a nerd, not so much a gamer anymore but I still enjoy playing my X-Box every now and then, so You seemed like a book for me.

Unfortunately there are parts of this book that worked really well but then the characters felt so underdeveloped and the plot nonsensical. This was recommended to me as something similar to Ready Player One which feels a little inaccurate. Ready Player One was almost like a love letter to the 1980’s and really played on the reader’s nostalgia. While You does try be nostalgic it only really works if you were a hard-core gamer in the 1980’s and 1990’s; there are games I recognised but there were also a lot I’ve never heard of or never played.

I’m not sure if You is meant to be a coming of age story of both Russell and the video gaming industry or if Grossman was going for the Hollywood hacker style plot. I felt at times that someone should have started yelling ‘Hack the planet’. Either way I don’t think the plot was developed enough and became lost in the geek talk. Then you have the characters, they seem to be completely underdeveloped. I never got a sense of any of the characters and that did feel like a letdown.

There are some interesting insights into gaming culture and the video game industry. So much so that if Austin Grossman abandoned the little plot he had and removed the characters, this would have made for a great non-fiction book. I’d be interested in getting insights into the gaming industry, especially in the 1990’s and 2000’s when I was a huge gamer. Maybe a memoir, or something similar to You but as non-fiction, would have been a better way to go; you’ll still get to talk about the industry and you can still gain that nostalgia Grossman was clearly after.

It’s hard to decide if I like You or not; there are some interesting elements but as far as plot and character development, it really fell short. You have to be a gamer or interested in gaming to really enjoy any parts of this novel. This really did limit him; at least with Ready Player One it mentioned music, movies and books from the 1980’s to help include the non-gamers. I’ve already said it but I really would have enjoyed this book more if it was non-fiction.

Gun Machine by Warren Ellis

Posted March 25, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Crime / 0 Comments

Gun Machine by Warren EllisTitle: Gun Machine (Goodreads)
Author: Warren Ellis
Published: Mulholland Books, 2013
Pages: 308
Genres: Crime
My Copy: Library Book

Buy: AmazonBook Depository (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

Warren Ellis reimagines New York City as a puzzle with the most dangerous pieces of all: GUNS.

After a shooting on Pearl Street claims the life of Detective John Tallow’s partner, he unwittingly stumbles into an apartment stacked high with guns. When examined, it is found that each gun is connected to a previously unsolved murder. Someone has been killing people for twenty years and keeping each gun as a trophy. Tallow has been put on the case and with the help of two CSU employees they are soon on the hunt for what could be the most prolific mass murderer in New York History.

I recently read Warren Ellis’ Crooked Little Vein and while I enjoyed the book I felt it was missing something. Gun Machine has that missing element; blending Ellis’ humour this book offers the violence with that dark cynicism that his other book was missing. Gun Machine starts out with the loss of Detective Tallow’s partner and while he should be mourning this tragedy he has been forced into what could be the biggest case of his career. Pairing with a couple of gothic CSU agents to help with forensics, Tallow begins to uncover a huge New York conspiracy.

Tallow is the perfect lead for this type of story, stuck between hating his job and the sudden loss of his only friend and partner; he is thrown into the deep end with no help at all. He struggles to make sense of this room full of guns and with the help of his two misfit sidekicks they begin to form an unlikely team.

While Ellis does favour the hard-boiled genre a little, this is more of a crime thriller than anything else. The blend of humour and his cynical outlook are what make this book worth reading. Crooked Little Vein tried to blend the two together but ended up focusing too heavily on the humour and the weird fetishes to really work too well. Gun Machine seems to get that balance right, turning this into a purely entertaining escapist novel.

Gun Machine really works at what it sets out to do, not too heavy on the humour, violence or dark aspects. It’s been creating a buzz about it and it is well deserved, I loved reading this book and didn’t want it to end. Sure it’s not without its flaws but for the escapist element, this book really is worth reading.


House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz

Posted March 3, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Crime / 6 Comments

House of Silk by Anthony HorowitzTitle: House of Silk (Goodreads)
Author: Anthony Horowitz
Published: Mulholland Books, 2011
Pages: 294
Genres: Crime
My Copy: Personal Copy

Buy: AmazonBook Depository (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

A fine art dealer comes begging for Sherlock’s help, as he has been menaced by a strange man; a wanted man that has followed him all the way from America. Art dealer named Edmund Carstairs then finds his home robbed, family threatened and then his client murdered. Unwillingly Holmes and Watson find themselves in a conspiracy connecting London to the Boston underground by an opium den known as the House of Silk.

For the first time in One hundred and twenty five years the Arthur Conan Doyle Estate have officially authorised a Sherlock Holmes novel. Anthony Horowitz’s novel tries to capture the style and feel of the original Sherlock novels but I never really felt that he got Arthur Conan Doyle’s style right. It felt stripped back and less complex than the Sherlock novels I’ve actually read and then there is a slight modernisation to the writing that can be very difficult to hide.

Watson is back as the unreliable narrator documenting their adventures, while the mystery and conspiracy in House of Silk are well plotted and play out rather well. I tend to think this is more of a Robert Downey Jnr’s style Sherlock Holmes rather than the Conan Doyle one.  Diehard fans will probably enjoy another adventure but I can’t help but wonder if this book would be better played out with some original characters.

House of Silk came off rather dull in parts and while I haven’t read many Sherlock novels I can’t help but compare it with the ones I have read and Anthony Horowitz’s attempt was close but never felt the same. Tiny little things like the phrase “the game is afoot” being changed to “the game’s afoot” really helped show the differences.

While I did enjoy House of Silk as a novel, I don’t think there was anything spectacular about it. While this an officially authorised Sherlock novel (debatable, Caleb Carr’s The Italian Secretary and Lyndsay Faye’s Dust and Shadow are both approved by the estate) it is not the same. I think I would rather read a Benedict Cumberbatch style Sherlock novel rather than another attempt at trying to replicate Conan Doyle’s style and plots.