The Restaurant at the End of the Universe

Here is my first book review (how is it only the first?!). This is the first book I read of the New Year, and it was a brilliant if bonkers beginning…

Written by: Douglas Adams
Published: 1980
Genre: Science Fiction, Comedy
Pages: 200
Rating: 4/5

When all questions of space, time, matter and therestaurantuniverse nature of being have been resolved, only one question remains – ‘Where shall we have dinner?’ The Restaurant at the End of the Universe provides the ultimate gastronomic experience, and for once there is no morning after to worry about.

I read the first book in Douglas Adams’ series, A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, in 2013. I had no idea what to expect. After reading it I realised the books were very much like marmite: you either love them or you hate them. I also read the first of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld books, The Colour of Magic, last year and got much the same impression. I have to admit I much prefer Pratchett’s books to Douglas Adams, but I was still on the ‘love’ end of that marmite spectrum.

I often think it’s best to judge a book series not by how good the first book is, but by how good the second book is. I started The Restaurant at the End of the Universe on the day after New Year with something some people in white lab coats probably call “tentative expectation”. I always think that, with the Hitchhiker’s books, there is quite a thin line between the writing being exciting and witty, or a bit boring.

I didn’t enjoy The Restaurant at the End of the Universe quite as much as the first book, as I couldn’t attach myself to the storyline quite as much. It seemed to be less of an adventure and more of an intergalactic rambling club. I’m sure Douglas Adams would not hesitate to point out it is an intergalactic rambling club, but that’s beside the point. I couldn’t help but switch off once or twice.

“In the beginning, the Universe was created. This has made a lot of people very angry and is widely regarded as a bad move.”

Hitchhikers as a series is meant to be mind-bogglingly loopy, and it is. Sometimes you lose track of what the main objective actually is, or you can’t get your head around a particular sentence, but that’s fine; it’s all part of the fun. This style works most of the time, but it can slip into confusion. I think one of the main faults was that the group splits up in the second book, and we focus on more of what Zaphod is up to. Arthur Dent does not play any major part in the story – he just tends to be “there” – and Trillian barely has a few lines.don't panic

However, I hate to be overly negative, because this is a great book. It’s often laugh-out-loud (or LOL as the kids call it) funny, it’s extremely inventive and I thought the ending was actually the best part of the book. I hate to use the word “sad” but it was actually quite poignant. If there’s anything this book does that you can fully understand is that it makes you realise the vastness and infinite complexity of space and the Universe that we live in. It gets you thinking about the future and the past and our place in it.

“Reality is frequently inaccurate.”

Despite there being, at some points, too many characters than necessary, we, as readers, are much closer to them at the end of this book than at the end of the first, particularly Arthur and Ford. You feel genuinely concerned and disappointed (for the characters) at the end (I won’t trouble you with spoilers!) and you seriously wonder how they’re going to get themselves out of this mess. But, as these are the bonkers books that they are, there will always be a way out. And I’m sure it’s going to be extraordinary.

Just remember to take a towel with you.

This Week on the Inky Pages

Here’s a newly updated round-up of what to expect in the final week of January 2014!

This has been another successful week for me, and I’m still loving every second. The stats may be small to some, but it’s still a nice feeling that someone likes reading what I write. I appreciate it’s been pretty low on book-related content and before you bonk me over the head with War and Peace let me tell you – loads of book stuff coming this week!

Read on for a sneak peek into what you can look forward to…

Restaurant at the End of the Universe Reviewrestaurantuniverse

This second book in Douglas Adams’ Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy series was the first book I read in 2014, so I thought I’d finally get round to posting a review of it on  my blog! You’ll be seeing this very soon.

Syren Reviewsyren

Syren is the fifth book in the marvellously magykal Septimus Heap series, by Angie Sage. It was a storming read and a great pick as my 2nd book of the New Year.

 

Top 5 Fantasy Authorstolkien

It’s a hard one, I grant you, but I’m going to be narrowing down a poolof fantastic fantasy writers to my personal Top 5. Who will come outin the top spot?!

White House Down Film Review

I watched this film last night, and I’m going to review it some time this week, to fit with the weekly movie ration!

White-House-Down

Thank you all for supporting the blog. Feel free to suggest stuff you would like to see, or criticise what has already been said!

 

10 Films to Watch in 2014

2014 looks set to be a great year in film, so I decided to round the all up in a personal top 10!

Note: All release dates are based on UK release.

10: Lone Survivor
Director: Peter Berg
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Taylor Kitsch, Emilie Hirsch, Ben Foster, Emily lone survivorBana
Release Date: 31st January
This is a bit of a wild card. I only became aware of it recently (turns out those boards on the side of buses are actually useful!) and after checking out the trailer, I thought it looked pretty decent. I couldn’t work out a great deal of plot from the trailer, but it looks to be in the same sort of groove as The Hurt Locker, which was an excellent film. Again, it’s based on a true story, so this may also be worth checking out!

9: Edge of Tomorrowedge of tomorrow
Director: Doug Liman
Starring: Tom Cruise, Emily Blunt, Bill Paxton, Kick Gurry, Tony Way
Release Date: 6th June
Although I do love my science fiction, I’ve tend to favour the subtle, more subdued films such as Gravity or Moon, rather than all the big high-CGI, gung-ho action thrillers. However, this looks like a pretty thought-provoking film, so I figured I could just slip it into my top 10.

8: How to Train your Dragon 2how to train your dragon 2Director: Dean DeBlois
Starring: Jay Baruchel, Gerard Butler, Craig Ferguson, America Ferrara, Jonah Hill, Cate Blanchett
Release Date: 13th June
This may be a film for younger audiences, but I still love an innocent animated film every now and again. I thoroughly enjoyed the first film in this franchise, mainly because of the original fantasy setting – something we don’t see enough of these days – and it was also genuinely funny. I have high hopes for this to follow in it’s giant footsteps.

7: Noah
Director: Darren Aronofsky
noah Starring: Russell Crowe, Emma Watson, Ray Winstone, Jennifer Connelly, Anthony Hopkins
Release Date: 28th March
It’s obviously up for debate whether this is classed as “true” history or not, but whatever you believe, you can’t deny it’s set to be a great film. It may be a bit of a romanticized biblical adaptation, but in these modern times we need a bit of drama. Another great cast, and I suspect the trailer may make it look better than it’ll turn out to be, but still worth a look I reckon.

6: The Railway Man
Director: Jonathan Teplitzkyrailway man
Starring: Colin Firth, Nicole Kidman, Jeremy Irvine, Stellan Skarsgard, Hiroyuki Sanada
Release Date: 10th January
Yet another true historical, also set in the Second World War! This has got a pretty decent cast and it looks like a heart-wrenching tale of human (or should I say inhuman) injustice, but redemption. From the trailer, it looks like it’s going to flip between the past and the present day (or at least progress to the present day), and I think that’s going to be a great way to tell this particular story.

5: The Monuments Men
Director: George Clooney
Starring: George Clooney, Matt Damon, Bill Murray, John Goodman, Jean Dujardin, Hugh Bonneville, Cate Blanchett
Release Date: 7th February monuments men
Another historical film here, set during the final years of World War 2. An unlikely platoon of American soldiers are tasked by President Roosevelt to rescue the surviving artworks held by the Nazis, in an attempt to save all culture before the rise of Hitler. This has got a stunning cast, including George Clooney, Cate Blanchett and Bill Murray, and looks set to be another one of those “untold stories” that benefits from a silver-screen adaptation.

4: The Lego Movie
Directors: Phil Lord, Chris Miller
Starring: Chris Pratt, Will Ferrell, Elizabeth Banks, Will Arnett, Liam Neeson, Morgan Freeman lego movie
Release Date: 7th February
A bit of an odd one here at No. 4, but I’m a bit odd like that. A Lego Movie? Wha….? How doesn’t that sound fun!? I’ve seen the trailer a couple of times and it just looks like a bundle of laughs. If it’s a success, I could see it turning into a massive sub-franchise of Lego films. It looks really original and just a fun film to watch so it gets this spot!

3: 12 Years a Slave
Director: Steve McQueen
Starring: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Benedict Cumberbatch, Brad Pitt, Paul Giamatti
Release Date: 10th January12years
I love historical movies, especially if they’re true. I watched Lincoln last year, and this seems to be in the same vein. It looks brutal, but the truth is always brutal. I also plan to read the book from which this was adapted (written by Solomon Northup, based on his own experiences) some time, but everything about this film looks like it’s one of the stand-out films of this year.

2: The Book Thief
Director: Brian Percival
Starring: Sophie Nélisse, Nico Liersch, Geoffrey Rush, Emily Watson
Release Date: 31st Januarythe book thief
I haven’t read this book yet, although I bought it the other day (it wasn’t stolen, if that’s what you’re thinking!). I have it lined up to read after the book I am currently reading, so expect a review of that soon. I’ll hopefully then watch the film and compare the two. However, I have heard great things about the book and the film trailer looks pretty top-notch as well, so it gets my Number 2 spot!

1: The Hobbit: There and Back Again
Director: Peter Jackson
Starring: Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Richard Armitage, Benedict Cumberbatch, Luke Evans
Release Date: 17th December
This is the top film in 2014 that I am looking forward to because, as followers of my blog will know, I love fantasy books and fantasy films. In general terms, The Hobbit hasn’t stood up to the brilliance of The Lord of the Rings, but it has still been a great ride. In this third and final the hobbitinstalment, we have the Battle of the Five Armies to look forward to, so the effects team can really go all-out on the visuals here – the fans can’t fault that! Just such a shame we have to wait a whole year between the films!

The One that Got Away: Hunger games: Mockingjay- Part 1
Director: Francis Lawrence
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Phillip Seymour-Hoffman, Donald Sutherland
Release Date: 21st November
I’m putting this one in as a bit of a footnote, to be honest. I had high hopes for the Hunger Games film adaptations, and those hopes have gradually sloped downhill. I thought the first film was average bordering on good. The second film was a great improvement and, from where we stand now, I’m going to say the best film in the series. After I found out that the third and final book (which I thought was a bit of a disappointment in any case) was going to be split in two… Well, you get the idea. I didn’t think a great deal happened in the third book, so I have no idea how they’re going to stretch out into at least 4 hours. Therefore, this goes in my disappointment box.mockingjay

So, there you have it! What do you think? Would you change or add any films on this list? Discuss in the comment!

A Page from the Past: Redwall

Hey guys! This week has been quite a film/TV–based week and I’d hate to go so long without talking about books so today I’ve decided to start up my first weekly feature rather pompously entitled: A Page from the Past! (get that alliteration!) I will be posting this weekly feature every Friday and it will basically be me writing a bit about a book I read a long time ago that I think is worth your time. This is much less formal than a review, more of a recommendation.

So, without further ado, I’m going to start off with a good ‘un…

brianjacques
Brian Jacques sadly passed away in 2011, at the age of 71

Redwall, by Brian Jacques (1986)
So, this is a pretty old book now, and I probably read it around 5 or 6 years ago. You may have heard of the Redwall book series, but today I’m just going to talk about the original book, which is also called Redwall (although technically it’s only the first book published – if read in chronological order it would be the 10th). The Redwall series is a collection of childrens’ fantasy books, in which all of the characters are animals. These characters live in a beautiful but often dangerous world of forests, fields and woodland rivers. There is a very stark line between who is good and who is evil. The good guys are the mild-mannered woodland creatures: the mice, the squirrels, the otters, the badgers etc, and the bad guys are the sly manipulative rodents: rats, stoats, ferrets, weasels, foxes…

Each book in the series follows the same basic pattern of an army of evil rodents invading the peaceful home of the good animals, before a band of assorted creatures can pull together to defeat them. And yet, to me, these books still don’t lose their appeal. Each story seems refreshingly new and the writing is just superb.

Just a ‘fun fact interlude’: I like to think of Redwall as my ‘camping books’. I always take one with me when I go camping in the summer, as a bit of a tradition! It’s nice to be reading about the beautiful green woods and the colourful forest creatures when you’re out in the Great Outdoors!

Anyway… so why do I recommend Redwall, the first published book in the series?

As Redwall Abbey’s creatures bask in the glorious RedwallBookCoverSummer of the Late Rose, all is quiet and peaceful. But not for long. Cluny the Scourge is coming! And the evil one-eyed rat warlord is prepared to do bloody battle to get exactly what he wants: Redwall.

The books of Redwall will always hold a special place in my heart, but especially this one. Mainly, probably, because it is the first of the series that I read (I didn’t realise there was a chronological order). But also because it lays down the formula for the stories to come. There are lots of characters with weird and wonderful names, but you can grow attached to each individual and the story benefits all the better for it. There’s lovely variety between all the different species of animal that exist – although it can get a bit confusing at times (was he a hedgehog or a mouse again?!) –  and Jacques writes the dialogue in such a way that even that can be attributed to each individual type of animal and makes the story much more involving and entertaining to read (I particularly recommend ‘Molespeak’, more commonly known as ‘The way farmers talk’!).

On the subject of the writing itself, Jacques is a superb writer, and I was very sad when he passed away a few years ago as he is in my top list of fantasy authors. If you’ve never heard of him, he’s been compared to Roald Dahl several times – he’s definitely worth checking out! He wins the title of being the only writer who can actually make me hungry when I read his books because:

  1. His descriptions of the luxuriously delicious meals at Redwall are so amazing!
  2. I spend so long reading and drooling over said descriptions I actually get hungry in real life!
redwall.tv
From the TV adaptation of Redwall

Another part of his stories that I like is that they have a fairy-tale quality to them. They’re not gritty or overly serious – he’s definitely no George R.R Martin –but in a strange way this makes you more attached to the story. Also, my favourite part: there is always a happy ending. People often say that happy endings are boring – why can’t the baddies win for once? – but happy endings, if managed correctly, can actually make the story more interesting to read, because there is always that guarantee that everything’s going to turn out well in the end. The question is: how are they going to do it? So this is a thoroughly simple, traditional set-up: good vs evil, and good always wins out in the end. Makes great feel-good reading, I think.

So, that turned into more of an insight into the whole series than the specific book, but if you do want to enter into the world of Redwall, I suggest you try Redwall first – it’s a great place to  start. These are childrens’ books, remember, but if you start reading them as children – as I did – you’ll be sure to treasure them into adulthood and beyond!