Cheeseburger Gothic

Has anyone actually read Dan Brown?

Posted May 15, 2013 into Books by John Birmingham

His royalty cheques are so vast each comes with its own post code and team of town planners. And yet everyone hates him and hates the books and hates themselves for living in a world where Dan Brown is even possible.

Well, everyone I know.

But somebody out there must have read his damn books. The da Vinci one sold upwards of forty million copies, dragging his previous titles along in its wake for a few million more. This latest, Inferno, has an inital print run, hard back I assume, since that's where the big profits are, of four million in the US alone.

Someone is reading these books. They have to be. They just have to. Someone other than snarky reviewers who have been waiting for years to unsheath their cruellest blades. Although, their numbers are legion.

Flavorwire has helpfully corralled the meanest, most vindictive and, naturally, the funniest of the reviews so far. I await the one-star Amazon responses. They are always the best. But until then here's are some highlights from two of my faves. A mock Brownian review in The Guardian:

The tall writer Steven Poole opened the wooden door of the strong house and peered at the small figure on the stone doorstep.

It was a boy. Cradled in his palms the boy nervously proffered a startling object. It was the new book by the famous novelist Dan Brown.

The tall writer took the precious artefact from the nervous boy's hands and thanked him. The miniature human scuttled off. An idling engine revved into life. The writer glanced down the street, then retreated into the residential building. He knew he had better get to work. Looking at his Tag Heuer Swiss watch, he calculated that he had only 48 hours to decode the arcane puzzle of the bestselling author's latest novel.

Peeling away the plump layers of protective wrapping, the writer opened the big book and out fell an obscure document. It was a nondisclosure agreement in threatening legalese. The long-awaited novel was strictly embargoed. Nervously, the freelance writer looked out of the glass window. He saw a bright glint on a distant rooftop. Was that a reflection from the sniper scope of a patient beautiful female assassin dressed in black leather, waiting to shoot him if he let slip any details of the important book too soon?

And this stinging one liner from Jake Kerridge in The Telegraph: "As a stylist Brown gets better and better: where once he was abysmal he is now just very poor."

Well, poor in one sense, maybe. But only one.

82 Responses to ‘Has anyone actually read Dan Brown?’

Murphy reckons...

Posted May 15, 2013

I haven't bothered. Conspiracy crap has never interested me much. Religious conspiracies even less so.

Respects,

Murph

On the Outer Marches

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trentyarwood mutters...

Posted May 15, 2013

I made the mistake of acquiring Da Vinci Code as an audio book before i went to spend three months working in the middle of nowhere. The story was awful, but I was forever scarred by the awful narration by an American guy who put on British and female French accents for Prof Whatshisface and the love interest.

Scarred, I tell you and never again.

John Birmingham ducks in to say...

Posted May 15, 2013

Holy shit. I feel your pain. Actual fucking pain.

Karsoe is gonna tell you...

Posted May 15, 2013

Perhaps this will make it better... from Get This, Rex Hunt recording the audiobook of The Da Vinci Code.

http://youtu.be/9KHIfYiZehU

w from brisbane reckons...

Posted May 15, 2013

Rex! Very good.

Don Bagert asserts...

Posted May 25, 2013

I also heard that audio book, early on so I did not know what the basic plot of the book was. *shakes head*

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Paul_Nicholas_Boylan puts forth...

Posted May 15, 2013

No. And I'm not ashamed to admit it.

But I often pretend I have read Mr. Brown's thrilling and thought provoking novels in the same way (but for different reasons) that I pretend I've read Alice in Wonderland, The Divine Comedy, Aristotle's Politics, The Book of Mormon and Miles to Go
(by Miley Cyrus).

Brother PorkChop mutters...

Posted May 15, 2013

I am simply astounded. She can write?

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 15, 2013

I wouldn't know.

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dessessopsid would have you know...

Posted May 15, 2013

I read The da Vinci Code. Everyone was reading it at the time, and I am a sucker for peer pressure. However, I started to read the sequel and stopped. It was too poorly constructed, and I simply couldn't get into it.

I will also admit to having read James Patterson, back when he used to write his own books, but I stopped reading them long before he went to ghost writers... or are they called co-writers.

However, as a former Librarian, my experience is that Dan Brown's books are stupidly popular, and as long as people are reading it is a good thing, isn't it?

John Birmingham would have you know...

Posted May 15, 2013

I suppose so, I guess, if, well...

*trails off*

Dilph has opinions thus...

Posted May 16, 2013

Ditto - I found it to be light throwaway trash, but it filled a few hours that I would have otherwise spend on the couch scratching myself, so not a complete waste.

I'll agree on Patterson - some of his early stuff is good, but once he franchised himself out, it all went boom. I think the business model is 'send me a rough draft, I'll give it to my editors and then put my name on the front, and you get 1/4 of the royalties.' I think it was to co-written medieval one (the jester?) where he had the main character slashing and cutting with a jousting lance in a melee, that completely killed my desire to read further...

Patterson did however lead me on to Lee Child, so it all worked out OK.

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Lulu ducks in to say...

Posted May 15, 2013

No, but I have found that the films make excellent travelogues when shown on TV. I think Angels & Demons has the edge over Da Vinci Code in this respect, but others may disagree.

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Brian swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 15, 2013

Yes. 3 of them. My partner rarely reads . . .and she got hooked on DaVinci code . . .and so . . .I read it. And then she wanted the sequel . . .and I read that etc etc

Spent most of the time thinking . .'Isnt this based on a popular book back in the '80s?' Von Daniken conspiracy theory nuts.

No. Wasn't impressed. Less impressed when people started quoting it as fact.

Barnesm ducks in to say...

Posted May 15, 2013

I think you are refererencing a book by Michael Baigent called 'Holy Blood, Holy Grail' a regretable piece of fiction passing itself off as 'historical' and claiming the blood referred to in the title as Christ's blood that flows in his decendents.

AuntyLou mumbles...

Posted May 16, 2013

I actually read 'Holy Blood, Holy Grail' when working with a conspiracy enthusiast quite some time before Dan Brown's excrement hit the page. So I was forced to read DB by the same guy (he was my boss) which meant I spent the entire time screaming "Plagiarism!!!" with every turn of the page. Both quite the waste of wood pulp.

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Shifty Tourist swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 15, 2013

I admit I read the Di Vinci Code... and.... well... kind of enjoyed it.... I'm not proud.

I was young, It was fast paced, had action, conspiracies, pissed of the catholics... why wouldn't I like it.

I liked Angels and Demons too.... but didn't make it past the second chapter of his other books.

By no means are they great literature.... or even good literature for that matter, but not unenjoyable (at the time).

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April Richards swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 15, 2013

I've read them all. ALL! Why would someone do this? Because I had a Year 12 Extension History student try to base their entire major work on the incredible factual base that is projected in the works of Dan Brown. Never mind the fact I've worked in the US Capitol building and in the one with all the running to the Washington monument, you were more likely to end up on the Jersey turnpike!

But it happens EVERY YEAR! The wonder historian that is Dan Brown appears. And I read his work to mock it but usually end up with a headache- both from the reading and the smacking myself in the head with the book!

John Birmingham asserts...

Posted May 15, 2013

Good lord. I once had a teacher tell me about a student trying to pass off one of my old Rolling Stone stories as her essay about homeless kids. But this is a much better story!

Barnesm has opinions thus...

Posted May 15, 2013

Quoting Dan Brown from NBC Today, 3 June 2003: "Robert Langdon is fictional, but all of the art, architecture, secret rituals, secret societies, all of that is historical fact" (found in, Carl E. Olson, Sandra Miesel, The Da Vinci Hoax: Exposing The Errors In The Da Vinci Code, page 242 (Ignatius Press, 2004). ISBN 1-58617-034-1.

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damian puts forth...

Posted May 15, 2013

I never did, and probably won't. Unfortunately that doesn't appear to have prevented most of the plot details from coming to me, apparently by osmosis, through the warp and weft of whatever we call our culture these days. I find it simultaneously hilarious and terrifying that the Jesus book turned out to be the subject of Umberto Eco's parody in Foucault's Pendulum, even though the latter was written 15 years earlier.

I've no deep objection to Dan Brown. Understanding the popularity is the interesting thing, I would have thought. If nothing else as an exercise in marketing books and tailoring them to a market that might be unexpectedly large. 40 million friggin' copies is a lot of beer and pizza. I suppose my theory is that a lot of people don't quite understand that it's fiction...

John Birmingham ducks in to say...

Posted May 15, 2013

Funny story about understanding the marketing. I know more than a few publishers who've read Brown cover to cover and back again, trying to figure out 'why'. Why this piece of crap went berserk, and not the other thousand pieces of crap we published last year? Why? God help us WHY?

None of them knew. They still don't.

I'll never bother reading one, but I would pay good money to get a look at the editorial note on his first drafts.

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan reckons...

Posted May 15, 2013

I believe the same thing is often asked re: 50 Shades of Grey.

Barnesm swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 15, 2013

Preserve us from 50 Shades of Dan Brown.

damian swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 15, 2013

I'm tempted by the idea that it's because rather than in spite of the crap. But on reflection I think that's it's really neither, or both in some complex way. Comparing 50 Shades is interesting -- are they popular for the same reasons, are they both essentially fanfic?

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan has opinions thus...

Posted May 16, 2013

I don't intend on playing the cynic (well, that isn't entirely true) but the underlying fact exposed here is that most of us are snobs. I make that observation with a lot of love. I, too, am a snob. Y'all are my peeps, my mates. But the cold fact educated snobs like us often fail to realize is that our evaluations of art don't really count because most people out there don't care if something is well-written or not. If a book or movie strikes some special chord or meets some special need, it will be a huge financial success. That is why book, film and art critics often provide terrible reviews for works that become popular and commercial successes even after a slew of terrible reviews.

However, bad art tends to eventually peter out once the pop culture bubble bursts, whereas more skillfully crafted art that achieves popular success has a better chance of repeating itself if the same artists are involved (which rarely happens in film).

Brown is enormously lucky. He has hit upon a format that appeals to a very popular desire for revisionist history - which also explains the enormous popularity for alt-hist novels. The popular desire for this sort of thing is so strong that it may easily provide Brown with income for some time. I am expecting the same popular desire to do the same for Anderson, Flint, Sterling and our own beloved JB.

damian asserts...

Posted May 16, 2013

I'm not sure that "revisionist history" quite nails it. I think there's something a little broader about it that has the appeal. The idea that J. Random Average can have some complex and rich inner life that is completely at odds with what shows on the surface. Brown's stuff definitely has that, so does 50 shades and so for that matter does Harry Potter.

I think being either fanfic (in the case of 50 shades), an expression of a well explored and pretty widely known genre (in the case of Rowling) or playing in an existing space of exegesis around a well known story, with lots of mythic/epic precedent.

Stieg Larsson had a similarly random, pusthumous impact (though he and Rowling are somewhat better writers than Brown and the other one). I think probably this secret world thing is a factor there too.

John Birmingham mumbles...

Posted May 16, 2013

I reckon you might be onto something with that inner life thing.

w from brisbane reckons...

Posted May 16, 2013

There is also a critical mass. I'm reading it because everybody else seems to be reading it. Once you cross that rubicon, perhaps you gain another 50 plus % of your audience.

Stephen King was a case of that for a while.

It is more of a surprise how rare it is. Though less so because book reading can be hard work, except for that lazy audio book crowd.

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan puts forth...

Posted May 16, 2013

I have a rich inner life. I really don't see now that explains anything.

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan puts forth...

Posted May 16, 2013

now = how

I must resolve to refrain from going on line after drinking. The older I get, the more important it becomes.

damian mutters...

Posted May 16, 2013

Paul, we've been over this. So long as you don't demonstrate mens rea, you're sweet.

Of course with some people sometimes the only way not to have mens rea is to be unconscious, and unless "any reasonable person would have killed him" is a defense in California you're screwed anyway.

Disco Stu reckons...

Posted May 22, 2013

I think that while Brown is a very clunky writer, he understands very well how to keep an audience engaged by keep the plot clipping along. The Da Vinci Code grates on the eye as the prose grinds against itself, but the plot never lets up- there's always a new revelation, a new danger, a new cliffhanger.

Mind you, all of Brown's books do this. The reason Code blew up was because of the subject matter, which Brown cannily described as "based on real research" and other nonsense. Suddenly everyone was talking about it, and were reading it to see what the fuss was about. It was a page-turner with a buzz campaign behind it.

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Surtac has opinions thus...

Posted May 15, 2013

I read the early books. SWMBO brought the Da Vinci Code back from a work trip where it had been recommended to her and she really enjoyed it -- up to a certain point where it started talking about additional books missing from the Bible and the practicing Presbyterian within her called bulls**t and flung the book away. I picked it up and read it as mindless entertainment with no redeeming literary merit. I then read the one about the NSA and then Angels & Demons but by then it was a real struggle - I'd worked out he used the exact same structure for all of them and all the narrative tension just disappeared. Sort of like when I made the mistake of reading two Patricia Cornwell books back to back - oh, it's chapter 6 so it's time for the first sex scene.

Haven't bothered with Brown since - haven't even watched the movie versions ...

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Peter in the bleaches mutters...

Posted May 15, 2013

I just managed to finish the Da Vinci Code. Shite.

andy47 swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 15, 2013

I too, just about managed to finish that book. I should have known when I got to the end of the first page that it was going to be rubbish but kept going in the vain hope that it would get better.

All I thought at the end was how I could write to the publisher and author and demand those 3 hours of my life back.

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yankeedog swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 15, 2013

This part of everyone hasn't read a Dan Brown book.

I expect, somewhere, he's reading this and feels a twinge of sadness at the verbal barbs and criticism we're giving him. Then he goes out to his garage and looks at his big wheelbarrow full of money sitting there waiting to be taken to the bank, and he feels much better.

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan has opinions thus...

Posted May 16, 2013

Being sad is terrible. But being sad and rich is much, much better than being sad and poor.

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mosaic swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 15, 2013

I do. It's the thriller for the masses not as deep and epic in scale as say early Clancy or Cussler but fairly approachable and sells itself on the places and history is real shick. Da Vinci Code being controversial for its plot added to its success as did the movies.

His writing style isn't the best and Inferno doesn't improve on it.

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insomniac has opinions thus...

Posted May 15, 2013

book burning fuckwits have to get their conflagrational material from somewhere

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Rob is gonna tell you...

Posted May 15, 2013

I read the dad vinci code and hated it and only finished because I got so far through it. It was turgid, pseudo art school crap. It reminded me of books for people who don't read much , like fine art students , who would probably use it as a base for pretending to understand european classical art. Best comment on the da vinci code was from Lois Griffen in Family Guy who said 'the chapters are so short you feel really clever for finishing each one'. One guy I know said it was a great book because it was so big and therefore you cannot criticise it. Another waxed lyrical about it. I suggested she should read some kurt Vonnegut and get back to me. I would like to punch Dan Brown in the face.

LegalLibrarian reckons...

Posted May 16, 2013

I think you are on to someting with the concept of it being a book for people who don't read much. People seem to think that if someone who doesn't read much likes a book it much be very good.. I have found it to be the opposite.

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan mutters...

Posted May 16, 2013

Is ther such a thing as an illegal librarian? If there is, I very much desire to borrow books from one.

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Kbaggy is gonna tell you...

Posted May 15, 2013

I read 'em. I read half of one after a rollicking night out at the Stones Corner Hotel. Woke up with a slice of pizza and The Da Vinci Code open quite a way through on my chest. Mindless fodder but boozy Kbaggy seemed to eat it up. Also, for some reason, I imagined Langdon as a long-haired fat Val Kilmer, like Cunth from Macgruber. Anyway, I knew a farmer from Stanthorpe named Dan Brown, who was a better writer than Dan Brown. He spelt lettuce with a double s.

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w from brisbane is gonna tell you...

Posted May 15, 2013

I wanted and expected to like it, but I gave up after 20 pages.
My loss, it must be so educational.

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Barnesm has opinions thus...

Posted May 15, 2013
For those seeking a book that touches on the ideas of Dan Brown's, conspiracy, the church, hidden documents, secret orders/secret histories might I suggest Foucault's Pendulum by Umberto Eco. I remember reading it as a young'n - great stuff.

damian ducks in to say...

Posted May 15, 2013

I second this recommendation - one of my all time favorite books.

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tqft ducks in to say...

Posted May 15, 2013

Observation from a cheap ass book buyer.

At the Lifeline Bookfest - always plenty of Dan Brown's latest for purchase. and sparkly vampires and 50 shades stuff.

Sometimes you get lucky and a rarity. I think I have managed to acquire a Tim Powers book there once. You seea few of JB's but not many.

People may buy & read. But they don't keep them.

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Big Bad Al reckons...

Posted May 15, 2013

I've read them all... but then again I am on a lot of medications. I enjoyed his books. However I may be one of the few people who read them as works of fiction... not historical fact.

Treating his books as a work of non-fiction is as silly as believing that a fleet of modern day warships could be transported back to World War Two (Humm... That sounds like a good story that someone should write.) or picking faults with Star Trek technology that doesn't exist.

I like a good yarn and always have. As a lad I had the complete collection of Biggles. I enjoyed the adventures of Jason and his Argonauts. I realised early in life the joy of reading and a good yarn.

Hate me for liking Dan Brown's books if you will. It would not be the first time.

John Birmingham is gonna tell you...

Posted May 15, 2013

Oh Al, nobody hates you. Pity, yes. Mock, certainly. But not hate.

Big Bad Al has opinions thus...

Posted May 15, 2013

Mocked and pitied again... once more. *sigh* The story of my life.

Paul_Nicholas_Boylan is gonna tell you...

Posted May 16, 2013

Could be worse, mate.

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Therbs mutters...

Posted May 15, 2013

No.

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clarebear reckons...

Posted May 15, 2013

Yes I read Da Vinci Code years ago when it was all the rage - everyone was reading it on the train. I was enthralled. Then I read Angels and Demons and suddenly I recognised a con and got totally pissed off - it was the same but different if you know what I mean. Maybe we should accept that Dan Brown is the Enid Blyton of the adult book world - addictive and it keeps folks reading books!

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SweetSisterMorphine ducks in to say...

Posted May 15, 2013

Somebody foisted a copy of The Da Vinci Code on me, somewhere around the height of it's popularity, and I struggled through it to see what all the fuss was about. I didn't expect it to be good, but I at least expected it to be mildly entertaining. It was neither of those things, and I'm pretty sure that reading it actually lowered my IQ a couple of points.

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UntamedSnark mumbles...

Posted May 15, 2013

Reading Dan Brown is like eating a McDonalds burger, vaguely attractive at the time, you get to the end and wonder what the hell you have just done to yourself.

Hence my coining of the phrase McLiterature

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Dino not to be confused with puts forth...

Posted May 15, 2013

I read a random chapter at a mates place many years ago.

Something about getting into a jeep and driving to a hill or something.

So where is the middle ground on literature?

Populism or Art? Dollars or Artistic Integrity?

Dan Brown doesn't have to eat sawdust anymore.

I suspect the books were 'dumbed down' and lowered in reading age to make them more accessible. But I only read one random chapter so I could be wrong.

Oh and JB, I am now coming down with the "Manflu".

Pretty sure I got it from you!

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MickH has opinions thus...

Posted May 15, 2013

I've read them all. Won't read another one.

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steve j ducks in to say...

Posted May 16, 2013
Everyone I know who's read it and liked it tends to be a non reader of fiction. Readers all hate it with a passion. By the way formatting of this blog on agalaxy S3 is complete shit.

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Dark Matter asserts...

Posted May 16, 2013

I watched the movie version of the Da Vinci Code. My response: it's been done before and better. I really enjoyed this reviewer's comments on Dan Brown: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/10049454/Dont-make-fun-of-renowned-Dan-Brown.html

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Moko swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 16, 2013

*his bank account gives everyone the finger*

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Rushy reckons...

Posted May 16, 2013

Yes I have read a bit of Dan. But then I also cut myself in places that don't show to feel alive as well. I think the two activity have some resonances.

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Jayanthi's Atomic Cat ducks in to say...

Posted May 16, 2013
My Dan Brown books are on my shelf for days when i am too brain drained o rread anything else and on those days they are acceptable light entertainment. I and a lotof my med school buddies used to watch the Bold and the Beautiful for that very reason. I have a set of books set in the world of low-fantasy gridiron for the days I am actually brain dead.
My galaxy is also having a breakdown with this site when i post.
I figure you have to cater for all possible states of a compulsive reading disorder.

Dilph reckons...

Posted May 16, 2013

Good lord, Blood Bowl novels exist? How did I not know of this cheesiness?

They may end up replacing the old Dragonlance collection as my mental flatline inducer of choice...

Jayanthi's Atomic Cat would have you know...

Posted May 16, 2013
Dilph, I promise you these are better than Dragonlance for that purpose. I have Blood Bowl and Dead Ball c/o my local library's chuck-out pile. I was hoping they would got me through the gridiron off-season but no such luck.

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Jayanthi's Atomic Cat swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 16, 2013
Sorry about the double post. I blame the phone!

John Birmingham swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 16, 2013

Sorted, thru the magic of technology.

Jayanthi's Atomic Cat has opinions thus...

Posted May 16, 2013
Thanks JB. PS big fan of this blog and its residents for a long time, pleased to finally be a citizen!

Dino not to be confused with asserts...

Posted May 16, 2013

PNB

I would have thought 'fresh' would have been more appropriate.

Another monosyllable lost in lexicon with relevance only to fruit,vegetables and household cleaners

Dino not to be confused with would have you know...

Posted May 16, 2013

Whoa!

Hold on one minute here!

JAC if clicked on becomes...?

Whattsa goin' on?

Jayanthi's Atomic Cat mutters...

Posted May 17, 2013
What happens?

w from brisbane swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 17, 2013

JAC
You place your cursor over your name on top of your statement
"Sorry about the double post. I blame the phone!"
You might see the 'Jayanthi's Atomic Cat' change colour. Click on it. It is a link.
I'm assuming you are really Dan Brown, but I will keep your secret.

Jayanthi's Atomic Cat puts forth...

Posted May 17, 2013
Can't get it to work on this phone...shall try later from home. If i don't get a huge WTF moment i shall be very, very disappointed.

Jayanthi's Atomic Cat swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 17, 2013

Well, on my phone and on my 'puter it just reloads the Cheeseburger page and cuts to the Simon Pegg interview extract...pity, I was so looking forward to writing "WTF???" or some clever little comment about conspiracy theories obviously not being so theoretical, but never mind.

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FormerlyKnownAsSimon is gonna tell you...

Posted May 16, 2013

Hi. My name is Simon and it has been 9 years, 3 months and 15 days since i have read a word of Dan Brown. I succumbed on a trip from Sydney to Glasgow in the shiny giftshop onslaught of goods to the lure of raving book sales "if it has sold that much it can't be bad, surely" and became one of those numbers in the millions that had bought his book. On the plane I had just opened the book and the air hostess said "you are really going to enjoy that book, i thought it was fantastic". She had appeared out of nowhere like a Dan Brown genie. Good for one comment. Okay great - a first hand recommendation - from someone pretty as well! No-one pretty talks to me unless paid to . . . . hang on!

I read the book. I avoided her from then on (hiding in the tiny toilet, behind seat 7B, in the luggage rack) just in case she tried to engage me in discussion about how good (gah! I choke even writing that) it is/was. In a subsequent discussion with friends travelling in a taxi from some place in england to another my friends tried to presuade me that his next book was better. NEVER AGAIN.

Bunyip asserts...

Posted May 16, 2013

I hazard a guess that the appropriate term for both is packaging without content.

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oshanda ducks in to say...

Posted May 16, 2013

Yep, read a couple. I thought that Angles & Demons was the least worst, DaVinci code horrible and that thing about the giant computer awful.

It seems to me that they were good stories that deserved a better writer.

Jayanthi's Atomic Cat puts forth...

Posted May 17, 2013
I agree. Although I prefered the change in plot they did in the movie version of Angels and Demons.

Maybe, following on from clarebear, these books might get non- readers to read other books ...perhaps somewhat optimistic? And look, at least it's not 50 shades. Which i haven't been able to bring myself to read.

John Birmingham swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted May 17, 2013

All snark aside, I am a believer in the pwer of these shitty, but megaselling books to drag non readers into the library.

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ShaneAlpha asserts...

Posted May 17, 2013

Umberto Eco did it better in "The Name of the Rose" plus, you know, Connery shits on Hanks anyday. :)

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Respond to 'Has anyone actually read Dan Brown?'

The Name of the Wind

Posted March 24, 2013 into Books by John Birmingham

I finished a book with great sadness this week. It wasn't a sad book. But I become so deeply invested in it that to finish the last page was like walking out on a relationship. I'll be back, there's a sequel on its way, but… You know. The book was The Wise Man's Fear, by Patrick Rothfuss, number two in the King Killer Chronicles. The first book in the series was called The Name of the Wind and I picked it up on the recommendation of iPhone traitor, Andy Inatkho. I think he recommended it during Mac Break Weekly.

I was drawn to it for the same reason I was drawn to Stephen King's The Stand as a teenager. Bulk. Value. The Name of the Wind runs for more than forty-five hours and it set me back only one Audible credit. A despicable way to value a book, I know, and yet Name of the Wind is such great value that I'd be doing you, Rothfuss and Audible a disservice if I didn't pimp it out simply on its dollar metrics.

Having got that unpleasantness out of the way, allow me to gush. This is one of the best books I've read in about ten years. Not just one of the best genre titles, or fantasy novels. One of the best books, period. I'll have to qualify this of course, because I listened to rather than reading it, but having listened, I'm going to do something I almost never do and go back and buy myself a reading copy.

The narrator, Rupert Dégas, deserves a special commendation. I don't know how much they paid him, but it probably wasn't enough. He narrates the English edition, and while I understand the American narrator is very good, I just don't know how he could possibly bring the same awesome to a story which is set in a thinly disguised ye olde England. Degas' voice just seems to suit the text. And he is a great voice actor, with hundreds of different accents to draw on; useful given that although most of the book is narrated in the first person, there are hundreds of characters with speaking parts. I'm not exaggerating. Hundreds. Dégas gives each of them a life of their own. I think I miss his storytelling the way a child misses bedtime stories when they have grown too old for them.

But, he did not write the book. That was Patrick Rothfuss, and to him I say props my good man and huzzah. There was so much for me to potentially hate about this book. A redheaded hero, who plays the lute and… Well, that's enough. But Kvothe, the narrator, is also a kick arse magician and a sort of medieval ninja. The long arc of chapters where he acquired his ninja skills, slowly and painfully, was one of my favorites. The story is his biography, in effect, as told to a traveling scribe known as Chronicler. He has apparently done something awesome and terrible and is now hiding out, incognito, posing as an innkeeper in some awful village at the end of the world. Dark forces are gathering, natch. But they're doing it in the background.

Most of the story is concerned with how he got there.Rothfuss is a great writer, is obviously something of an autodidact and these books are so long that he has more than ample opportunity to indulge himself in a little showmanship about how much he knows. It never feels like info dumpage, however, and I came to look forward to these diversions as much as I did to the swordplay and the splodey.

A precis of the plot? It's Harry Potter. A remarkable kid finds out he has remarkable powers and he kicks ass with them. It's way better than that though. There's a beautifully written love interest. Er, for the ladies. And I think the thing that really sets it apart is the time Rothfuss takes to show us everything. Almost as thought we're reading in real time. It sounds potentially eye glazing, but it's not. It's hypnotic. As testimony to how much I enjoyed this novel I'm writing this out before I've finalized my Amazon Associates status, so I can't make any money off recommending it. I can only recommend that you go read it, or listen to it, because it's really that fucking good.

60 Responses to ‘The Name of the Wind’

Barnesm asserts...

Posted March 24, 2013

Patrick Rothfuss so an evil overlord name.

and seriously a lute playing Ginger, this is what you build a protagonist on?

Rupert Dégas was also the narrator in the Movie adapation of the Robert Harris's excellent alternative history novel Fatherland

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beeso ducks in to say...

Posted March 24, 2013

Buying it now.

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Bunyip ducks in to say...

Posted March 24, 2013

Suitablity for a minion same age/gender as Anna? Asking for a parent that can not keep up with reading habits of tween bibliophile.

John Birmingham swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted March 24, 2013

Well, I've had Thomas listening to it. He loves it. There's a second in the second book, where Kvothe spends some time with a horny elf. But nothing graphic. All implied.

Bunyip puts forth...

Posted March 24, 2013

Ta. Sounds like a go-er for the minion then.

MickH reckons...

Posted March 24, 2013

yeah, the minions would love it

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tqft mumbles...

Posted March 24, 2013

Those books do actually appear on my to buy list which is almost as long as my too read list

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JG swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted March 24, 2013

Wow. It must be good, JB. You are practically wetting yourself with glee.

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MickH ducks in to say...

Posted March 24, 2013

I actually recommended this book on the burger ages ago.

I've read both and eagerly await the third. Not holding my breath though because he took ages writting the second and had a bad case of writers block.

Since you liked that then I will recommend, for the third time now, The Painted Man by Peter V Brett, the first book in the Daylight War Saga of 5 parts. He's written the first 3.

These book FKN rock! Seriously!

(He just sold the movie right too apparently)

John Birmingham is gonna tell you...

Posted March 24, 2013

I'm currently reading it Mick. But I took a break while listening to Rothfuss because it sort of jarred switching between them. Very different writers. Both good, but different.

MickH asserts...

Posted March 24, 2013

Yeah I agree with that John, both are at the top of their game but have different styles, different stories but of the same genre. I love that.

These 2 guys are my top authors for fantasy at the moment. Trouble is now I have to wait for next books! :(

John Birmingham is gonna tell you...

Posted March 24, 2013

Exampleof the difference? Right at the start of Brett's latest we see that girl waiting to go up to the temple to see whether she's going to be inducted. And then it's six hours later and she's at the temple. It worls to move the story along. But Rothfuss would have told everything that happened in those six hours and made it an object lesson in philosophy, geography, history and so on. It's that depth and incredible reach that sucked me right in.

MickH asserts...

Posted March 24, 2013

hmm have to be careful with spoilers here.Brett develops 6 major characters from childhood but does it at a pace that just wants you to keep the pages turning, the pacing is genious. He also has 2 major plot arcs and no real distinct good guy or bad guy, you can see both of the major antagonists point of view and the resoning behind their actions.Rothfuss on the other hand delevops one major character and everything that goes along with it. But this character is so rich and so deep that he is never boring. He splits the story arcs up along the many things that Kvothe does, his music, his studies, the bad guys, his quest and the strange characters he meets a long the way. The pace is much slower but no less enjoyable.

Two masterpieces in the making.

MickH asserts...

Posted March 24, 2013

an error here john, I had 'Brett' in the first line as a new paragraph and Rothfuss as a new para also.

w from brisbane mumbles...

Posted March 24, 2013

Dear MickH

I have had the same issue with the disappearing paragraph break.

What I think I have done is to hit SHIFT ENTER. That starts a new line, but that line break disappears when you submit.

You have to hit ENTER and the cursor jumps 2 lines to start the next paragraph. If I review what I have typed and I see I have a new line without a blank line before it (auto created by hitting ENTER), I know that line break will disappear when I submit.

w from brisbane asserts...

Posted March 24, 2013

MickH

p.s. Don't think hitting SHIFT ENTER twice to get your blank line between paras will work. It will be ignored in the submitted version. Just keep your finger off SHIFT, when you hit ENTER. Of course, this key tapping is largely unconscious. I did not realise I was going SHIFT ENTER until I activated by brain's very buggy record function.

MickH asserts...

Posted March 24, 2013

yep you're right! thanks!

Its because of FB i tell ya! :D

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MickH reckons...

Posted March 24, 2013

that was awsome.

But he'd better be back working on book 3 or there'll be hell to pay!

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Surtac mumbles...

Posted March 24, 2013

I already have it on The Pile of unread stuff. Guess I'd better find me a round tuit ...

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drej reckons...

Posted March 24, 2013

I'm a hundred or so pages into Erik Stevensons Malazan Book of the Dead on a recommendation. Hasn't grabbed me so far, anyone know if its worth going on?

Otherwise tempted to give this a go.

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Moko mutters...

Posted March 24, 2013

I remember you recommending this a coupla weeks back. Yeah, for 45 hours you can't beat that and to be good? I'm in.

John Birmingham mumbles...

Posted March 24, 2013

Yeah, I thought of you when I found out how long this bad boy is.

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she_jedi asserts...

Posted March 24, 2013

I luuuuurved the Name of the Wind. Somehow I never managed to get my hands on The Wise Man's Fear (just the title alone is the AWSM). I'm going to correct that oversight now and get read up so I can sit and twitch until the 3rd one comes out.

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she_jedi mutters...

Posted March 24, 2013

Speaking of amazing fantasy, JB have you read the Codex Alera series by Jim Butcher? Utterly amazing, particularly as a 180 degree departure from the Harry Dresden novels, which are also great. Butcher's "voice" changes between the two series, and it's not just the difference between first person and third person narration, you'd never guess the author of Dresden wrote the Codex if you read them both blind. That's an amazing talent. There's shedloads of splosions, aliens, traitors, conspiracies, magic, barbarians, world domination, battles to save the world from domination in a loosely based on the fall of the Roman empire if the empire was invaded by aliens kind've way, and ass kicking women of all stripes in the Game of Thrones mold. I can't recommend it enough :)

John Birmingham has opinions thus...

Posted March 24, 2013

This sounds like the greatest novel ever written and I must away to purchase it right now.

MickH mumbles...

Posted March 24, 2013

mmm will have to try this. sounds great

line test1(NL)line test2 (shft NL)

Brian swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted March 24, 2013

Series has been around for about 7 years. Finished now. Enjoyable but not great. But I do enjoy Butchers sense of humour.

MickH asserts...

Posted March 24, 2013

oh good.

I'm over reading kick arse novel series that haven't been finished yet.

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w from brisbane mumbles...

Posted March 24, 2013

Supposedly, Rothfuss revises for a long time, i.e. for years. He completed the first draft of the series yonks ago, as I understand it.

For those with an interest, here is a nice reply to a fan explaining his revision process.

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NBlob puts forth...

Posted March 24, 2013

If elf count >1, I doubt I'll bother.

w from brisbane puts forth...

Posted March 24, 2013

C'mon NBob. Spock has pointy ears too,

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Spanner swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted March 24, 2013

So do I buy this and listen to it alone on my daily commute to work or do I buy it and wait to listen with the family on this December's trip round NZ. Audio books are the best for a family holiday but me I'm selfish and I wants to listen now. Evil Spanner says listen now. Good Spanner says oh god please untie me Evil Spanner has me tied up and want you all to send money to 555xx345663

John Birmingham reckons...

Posted March 24, 2013

Listen now. It could easily carry a second listen.

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beeso mumbles...

Posted March 25, 2013

This book is good!

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Darth Greybeard mumbles...

Posted March 25, 2013

Ordered the paper version. Can't seem to do the audio book thingy.

Also, don't know about others but I enjoy lurking on the book club discussions and recommendations like this. Listening to you lot chat has put me on to some good authors I've previously passed by and am now enjoying greatly. If there are others like that, the book club may be better attended than it appears.

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beeso has opinions thus...

Posted March 25, 2013

Then Mr Beard, i recommend, heartily, The Rook.

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Brother PorkChop ducks in to say...

Posted March 25, 2013

Agree with the Mr GreyBeard - this has been a great place to add to the reading list. And my holiday break list is now complete.

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pitpat mutters...

Posted March 25, 2013

I add my psuedo name to the choruses to the thanks for the heads up and the revews in general. You put me onto Wool and Scalzi both of which have been great if a little depressing in the case of Wool.

I reckon I'll be loading The Wind onto the Kindle and let my eldest boy devour it.

After me.

Brother PorkChop mutters...

Posted March 25, 2013

Wool? What is this Wool? I must have missed it.

pitpat asserts...

Posted March 25, 2013

Hugh Howey, was initally a series of short stories online only but I think he has got them put together as a book and as hard copy. The bugger is that he hasn't finished the series much like The Wind

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pitpat is gonna tell you...

Posted March 25, 2013

I'm pretty sure JB posted something on it last year although I do have a problem with memory recall and I am too lazy to look it up

John Birmingham swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted March 26, 2013

it's prolly gone anyway, not everything made it over.

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Surtac puts forth...

Posted March 25, 2013

I know I already have the paper version, but I'm using an audible credit to get the audio version for the kindle. 71% downloaded.

I'm between books at the moment, so it's a good time to try it ...

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Rhino would have you know...

Posted March 25, 2013

Wool rocks. Very hard.

Will have to try this one. Amazing reviews on Amazon and some scathing 1 stars as well. Once more into the breach.

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BrianC mumbles...

Posted March 25, 2013

A voice of dissent appears. (With Minor Plot Spoilers for BKI & II)

So Patrick Rothfus... Yeah I'm not acutally a fan of these books. They are if im totally honest. Average. There is nothing here that grabs me and says LISTEN theres no hook. Even the magic which is usually enough to get me interested, so long as the system of magic is interesting and logical, which it is, just seems so... ordinary. When i read fantasy its to get flowing stories and wild mages and honorable paladins, its to be taken out of this world and placed in another. Rothfus's world just seems so... mundane. Especially the first book. I've read it twice now, the second time to see if i missed anything out... i didnt. Alot can be said for his writing style though that even though i didnt like the book i was able to read it a second time. The first book could have been sub-titled Kvothe Goes to College "The Spring Break Years" . If you have seen a revenge of the nerds movie you have seen this book. Kvothe finds out he has an enemy, gets accepted at school, has fun at school, seemingly forgets abotu enemy till conviently timed plot moment, then rallies against the enemy with hidden inner strength congratulations every one spring break

The second book does, to be fair, pick up the action and adventure somewhat and the introduction of the people of the sword was a welcome spritz of flavour and a further look into the more arcane aspects of sympathy.I've still read alot better.I'd consider you to be a better author infact.

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BrianC mumbles...

Posted March 25, 2013

Good Stuff I Have read recently

The Rook - Daniel O'Malley : Urban Fantasy a woman wakes up with no memory of who she is, and letter from herself to herself offering her the chance to figure out why she is like this and so probably die a grusome death, or take some money and run.

@DenimAlleyChild of Fire : Harry Connolly : Noir Urban Fantasy : Ray Lilly is in over his head, way over his head. He has no real powers, no real strength and he needs to kill a thing thats very existence erases whole people from reality as if they had never been. Ray isnt even the hereo of the story he just tells it, his Boss a sociopathic mage, witha burning hatred of these creatures is, and to top it all off she hates Ray and wants nothing more than to see him die.

Way of Kings : Brandon Sanderson : This is epic Fantasy, in more ways than one. At over a 1000 pages(in trade paper format) This novel is big. Capital B,I,G. Kaladin is, if any are, the main protag of this novel. The story picks up with him being sold as a slave soldier into a a useless war fought by the nobility for status and gem stones. Things only get worse for him from here.

BrianC reckons...

Posted March 25, 2013

sorry if that is hard to read. blog seemed to drop all of my formating.

Nocturnalist is gonna tell you...

Posted March 25, 2013

Brian, did you know Dan O'Malley's a Canberran? I need to find out if we've roped him in for Conflux.

BrianC mumbles...

Posted March 25, 2013

Yeah, i met him a couple of times. We have alot of the same friends. Which i didnt know was a thing until he got famous

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DNABeast puts forth...

Posted March 25, 2013

Fixed. Break tags will no longer be formatted from the comments.

w from brisbane is gonna tell you...

Posted March 25, 2013

Testing, testing.

The boy stood on the burning deck.
Bloody idiot!

Test completed.

w from brisbane would have you know...

Posted March 25, 2013

Test successful.

Thanks to Dan.

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Tchor is gonna tell you...

Posted March 25, 2013

Welcome to the dark side JB our cookies are awesome but they take 5 years to cook :(

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Shaymanbob would have you know...

Posted March 25, 2013

I am not a conspiracy theorist, but is it purely coincidental that John recommends what GRRM has recently posted about the best "fantasy" authors around at the moment? I chose to read Joe Abercrombie first (I'm about halfway through his trilogy but find it difficult to read much because I'm also drinking Joe's whisky recommendations!) and Rothfuss second, with Scott Lynch and Daniel Abraham to follow. Who recommended Who first? Check out GRRM's Not a Blog.

John Birmingham asserts...

Posted March 25, 2013

Ha, yeah it is purely coincidental. I thinkk we're just having a Rothfuss Moment. As I said in the piece above, I got this recomendation from Andy Inatkho on Macbreak Weekly. Although, having written that, when I checked the latest podcast, Leo Laporte was pimping it out. So maybe it was him. But I'm pretty sure it was Andy.

BrianC mutters...

Posted March 26, 2013

Yeah. Id leave Rothfus to last if you are reading Abercrombie now. Definately read Scot Lynch's "Gentleman Bastards" as soon as you can. One of the best fantasy i have read in a long time. I'm just jonsing for his next one.

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Shaymanbob swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted March 26, 2013

Ha Ha John Birmingham, so there are even more involved in this conspiracy! Ok I'll read the lot. thank you BrianC, I'll take your advice.

John Birmingham puts forth...

Posted March 26, 2013

Yes, damn it. Yes there are.

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Legless is gonna tell you...

Posted March 29, 2013

Bought both books. Read both books this week. My work productivity hit an all time low.

Blown away by these books and can't wait for the third on.

Thanks for the steer John.

Cheers

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Respond to 'The Name of the Wind'

Best worst book covers ever

Posted March 21, 2013 into Books by John Birmingham

Flavorwire has an amusing bit on the worst covers for classic works of literature ever. Some were very droll, like the Brazilan cover of The Shining which looked like it had been lifted from a 1980s hair care advert (blonde woman, power hair, shoulder pads, absolutely nothing about psychic kids or haunted htoels or nothing). Some were just doomed by the poor typology and design aesthetics of the 1970s, the Time that Taste Forgot.

My personal personal fave for balls to wall inappropriate craziness however was this Wizard of Oz cover, fetchingly reimagined as a Clancyesque technothriller.

I particularly like it because there's no language gap to explain how the cover artist got it so horribly wrong. The Shining at least had a sort of thematic link to hair care through the, er, shiny thing. Which hair care ads value very highly.

Normally publishers will send you copies of the art work to approve before printing, and normally unless you're a dick you'll just let any small, inexplicable quirkiness (like the bizarro helicopter on the US cover of Final Impact) go through to the keeper, unless it's completely out of hand.

Like the cover of Felafel in Italy.

I dont recall ever seeing prerelease artwork for this, and Im sort of glad I didn't. It's now one of my favorite covers, and I cherish the two remaining copies in my possession. What is that car. Why is it parked on an alien beach planet. Is the felafel guy in the boot.

None of these questions were ever answered. But that's cool. Because none of my royalties ever turned up either. Despite the book being a best seller there.

Alora.

18 Responses to ‘Best worst book covers ever’

Bondiboy66 mutters...

Posted March 21, 2013

I could be wrong, but I think its a Lincoln Continental. Horrible, ugly, oversized pieces of shite. Fun fact: they can engage reverse all by themselves, if left parked and running. As my father found out when the one he had just repaired decided to back itself into our front fence and knock it over....

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Lulu is gonna tell you...

Posted March 21, 2013

Almost *nothing* will get bookish women of a certain age angrier than giving Anne of Green Gables blonde hair on a low-rent book cover.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2013/feb/08/anne-green-gables-blonde-red-hair

insomniac has opinions thus...

Posted March 21, 2013

yes, but it might encourage a few more readers of the male persuasion

Blindwilly mutters...

Posted March 21, 2013

As a ginger I was rather upset that another blonde had muscled in on our turf, but as a bloke, well, I was less upset when I saw the cover...

Quokka mutters...

Posted March 21, 2013

Plaid.

Urk. Where the FK did that come from?

JG asserts...

Posted March 21, 2013

Preposterous. Anne of Green Gables has to have red hair. It's one of the reasons I loved the books as a youngster. How dare they make her blonde on that trashy book cover!!

sapphyre would have you know...

Posted March 22, 2013

In complete agreement with @Lulu and @Indigo :)

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Blarkon puts forth...

Posted March 21, 2013

I was a big fan of the Terran Trade Authority books - which were reprints of older SF covers. Anyway someone put this together - which is great if you remember the TTA.

http://vimeo.com/29549708#

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John Birmingham asserts...

Posted March 21, 2013

Ah, Anakin Schwarzenegger. I remember him.

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HAVOCK21 would have you know...

Posted March 21, 2013

ANGELS of FKN Vengeance..NO FKN B52 or Pilot on the fkn cover!.....fkn lame as is ya ask me!

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Lobes has opinions thus...

Posted March 21, 2013

Hah! What a pathetic bunch of covers. I judge those books - unreadable.

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Nocturnalist would have you know...

Posted March 21, 2013

I've considered myself very lucky with my covers - excellent artists and on-the-ball editors who made sure the details were right. Plus, eyeing a fellow author's covers and thinking "man, I'd love a cover from that artist one day" and finding out soon after that she was the one doing my next one... Clearly I was highly virtuous in a previous life.

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Matthew K has opinions thus...

Posted March 21, 2013

Combination of incompetance and corruption - yup sounds like Italy.

But the same country produces great food and wine plus Ferraris. Go figure, as they say.

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Boscolamb swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted March 22, 2013

John, How does an author/artist keep track of his royalties from items published in other countries? How does one know that they're not shorting him, if they bother forwarding royalties at all? Is there anyway for you to track all of this?

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John Birmingham mutters...

Posted March 22, 2013

Agents do that, Bosco. Not authors. Our special power is writing books, not keeping them.

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Timmo asserts...

Posted March 22, 2013

That cover for "The Turn of the Screw" was especially annoying - not only do they use a particularly blunt literal "metaphor", they also get it wrong and use a nut (which goes with a bolt, not a screw). Very galling to the practical engineering pedant in me :)

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w from brisbane mutters...

Posted March 22, 2013

I don't understand the problem with the Great Gatsby cover. It could be Nick and Daisy. The male, wary and turning away. Not bad.

The original cover of Gatsby was a classic horrible/brilliant cover. Refer to the wikipedia article on the Great Gatsby http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Great_Gatsby . Includes a photo of the original cover and an interesting few paragraphs about it under 'Original cover art'.

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Respond to 'Best worst book covers ever'

Anthony Beevor's The Second World War

Posted November 5, 2012 into Books by John Birmingham

A couple of months back I picked up a subscription to Audible, partly thanks to Clive James, and partly to Leo Laporte. Clive had just been diagnosed as dead or dying and in an elegiac frame of mind I thought it might be nice to grab his memoirs. Leo is forever pimping out Audible on his podcasts, which wouldn't normally influenced me except that he and Andy Ihnatko seemed to genuinely love audio books. Moko too.

I'd always thought that audiobooks, including my own, were prohibitively expensive compared to hard copy or e-book formats, but an Audible subscription effectively gives you one free book each month, which is about all I have time for, so in I jumped. I think I've discussed how much I enjoyed Clive James' memoirs before. Therbs even caught me wandering through Sydney one day, chuckling at them inside my headphones. I particularly enjoyed fact that they were narrated by Clive. Put me right back in my childhood, it did, listening to his voice. I'm glad I will now always have them. (Unless Amazon, which owns Audible, decides arbitrarily to delete them from my system).

The next book I got was also a memoir, this time by Stephen Fry. Again, the experience of listening to the book was amplified, so to speak, by having Fry himself narrate it. He's a polished performer and I can't think of anybody more suited to telling his own story. I made my way through that book while we were on holiday down in Byron Bay.

For my next title, however, I decided to go with something other than a memoir. Anthony Beevor's The Second World War. Beevor came to prominence after my huge research binge on World War II for Weapons of Choice, so although I was aware of him – he was hugely popular talent at a couple of festivals I attended – I'd never dipped into his work. All of his books are massively and exhaustively researched, and they tend to run long. I didn't feel that I had the time.

Enter Audible. A lot of people get into audiobooks during their daily commute. That's not an issue for me, because I work at home, but I do have long stretches of time each week that could be put to better use. Walking the dog, watching kids sport, some forms of exercise. I sometimes listen to podcasts, but increasingly found myself drawn to audiobooks after the experience with James and Fry. Beevor's war history has had some great reviews, like all of his books, and it promised to be the sort of thing that would deliver a lot of value for money. I think there's something like 20 or 30 hours worth of listening.

So, bought it, loved it. Or am still loving it because at the moment I am only up to the battle of Alamein. He's a great writer, of course, with a strong clear voice. He doesn't make the mistake of letting the writing gets in the way of the story, and 1939-45 did serve up some great stories. There are any number of reasons to love this book, but two stand out for me. Firstly he doesn't allow any one nation to hijack the story. Everybody gets a look in, from the USA and the USSR down to New Zealand and Romania. All of his reporting of Australian war history has so far been so accurate that I'm willing to credit him with commensurate accuracy about everything else. Second, when telling such a vast story it can be tempting to get caught up in the great sweep of events, while skating over the little details. Longtime readers of Anthony Beevor will know one of his strengths is painting a grand canvas with small flourishes. From the woebegone tale of the Korean man which opens the book – this poor bastard ended up fighting in almost every theater of the war – to the gruesome details of daily life on the Eastern front, the granular detail of history is never lost in the broad brush strokes.

If you're looking for some slightly heavier summer reading, or listening, I couldn't recommend it highly enough. I'd be tempted to set it as a book club title, but it is very long, and I suspect it would drive away a lot of people who have no interest in this sort of thing.

17 Responses to ‘Anthony Beevor's The Second World War’

Spanner mutters...

Posted November 6, 2012
I have commute time to burn. Speak to me more of this audible.com feature. Me have credit card and wants to listen to stuff.

Oh and where is me next ebook? Ug Spanner want more Stalin hammer.

Me should haul self off to bed. Red wine is bad even when have cup day off. Ug.

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Spanner would have you know...

Posted November 6, 2012
On a less drunken note.

I consider audio books (unabridged) pretty good value for money. I can read way quicker than someone can read it too me. So 40-50 hours of audio is not bad value per hour of enjoyment in the car. I'll pay for a good book with a good narrator and be very happy with it.

Oh yeah ug.

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w from brisbane would have you know...

Posted November 6, 2012
When I speak to my mate in the Kimberley, he often mentions an audio book he has recently listened to. He loves them and got into them because it is quite standard practice in the Kimberley where 8 to 10 hour drives are normal. He said to me, if I doubt how popular they are up there, all I would need to do was wander into the Broome public library and see the size of the audio book collection.

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Matthew K ducks in to say...

Posted November 6, 2012
Maybe I should give audio books more thought, what with ipods and all those other new fangled gizmos. And the fact that all my reading has left me needing glasses *sigh*.

But it's a slippery slope - next I'll be wanting those godless electric lights.

Explodey goodness is all very well, but maybe there's too much emphasis on that and not enough on the enormous strides made in peace - every school leaver here has heard of the Battle of Britain but how many know about the Great Reform Act?

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Matthew K mumbles...

Posted November 6, 2012
Oh and love me some Clive James, familiar fixture of my childhood too! I read his Unreliable Memoirs books - 'cos my my mum said it was full of filth.

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NBlob is gonna tell you...

Posted November 6, 2012
Oh that's gotta p!ss you off.

20 minutes of response evapamorated.

Will try again @ lunch.

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Surtac puts forth...

Posted November 6, 2012
Yeah, got into audiobooks in the car a few years back when I had a twice daily 45 min school run / commute combo with Youngest Daughter. Lots of Pratchett Discworld stuff, Simon R Green's Deathstalker series, but also Cornwell's Sharpe and all of the Fleming James Bond titles. And she became quite addicted to Dan Carlin's Hardcore History, particularly the epic Fall of the Roman Republic series.

Sadly, I 'm back to a 15 min commute now and it just isn't long enough to get right into this stuff anymore. But maybe I should try again ...

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Suetonius asserts...

Posted November 6, 2012
Beevor's book on Stalingrad is particularly good. I read it a few years ago. It's a meticulous and very well written history - but it's more than that. I thought I knew all I needed to know about Stalingrad and the war on the eastern front. But Beevor not only kept me interested and reading, he made me think about the conflict, and by extension the whole history of the twentieth century, in a new way.

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John Birmingham ducks in to say...

Posted November 6, 2012
I'm listening to the Stalingrad sections of The Second World War now. Fucking harrowing. we naturally focus on the conflict in western Europe when thinking about the history of the war, but the bulk of the fighting was done in Russia and China.

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NBlob would have you know...

Posted November 6, 2012
Love the story about the Stalingrad Grain Research Centre, who died of hunger rather than harm the science of wheat & barely breeding by eating their samples. Commitment to the science with a capital Comm.

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NBlob asserts...

Posted November 6, 2012
I’m not a big consumer of audio-books. My Dad eats them up due to post-stroke partial-blindness. Recently mum has been looking into downloads as previously they were largely dependent on borrowing from the local library which was good, but frequently the CDs were scratched in the worst possible place, like when Poirot says “Ze murderer can only be schrttzzzzdk dk dk dk dk dk.”

I feel a little like some slightly soiled and smelly manic priest wandering the world, grabbing strangers by the arm and urging them to find salvation in The Pod-Cast. It is starting to embarrass SWMBO when at a dinner party I insist everybody must “Reject their Classic-Rock FM ways“ cast off their “Icy cold cans of coke, nasal delivery technology and another nonstop block of Oz cock-rock with Farnsey, Barnsey and Chisel” embrace the love, the warmth , the community that is Pod Casting. The spittle flecked ranting and the bulging Marty Feldman eyes may be disconcerting but the grabby talons just seem to put people off.

So let me say in my calmest, most reasonable voice.

Podcasts are good.

‘This American Life’ is really good, in fact most things by National Public Radio are AWSM.

‘Conversations with [that nice young] Mr Fidler’ is really Fkn AWSM. I’d recommend you start with Richard de Crespigny. Pilot of that QANTAS A380 out of Singapore which experienced not a massive engine explosion but the “Unconstrained liberation of disc elements.”

Dr Karl is a personal god of mine, he has his own Podcast series, popped into [that nice young] Mr Fidler to discuss the current thinking on how Everything came to be, and pats SE2KB on the head like an endearing, but clumsy puppy.

I know Dan lurks here and will be Jonesing to hear it so; RESTEPC for a neat little Indy Podcast out of Brisbanistan ‘Smart Enough to Know Better.

ABC Radio National, the BBC, Canadian Broadcasting Comission and USAnian National Public Radio all put beautiful crafted stories. Some of the independents are just Ranty Mc Rant with a head ful of coke and bad opinions. Part of the fun is listening to a couple of episodes and seing what they do. EG: JB put me on to ‘The Incomparable’ the other day. The first ep I listened to was an hour long discussion of Game of Thrones [Snore-a-rama for someone not into the show] but the next ep was an entertaining discussion of SciFi in SitCom – sort of. Pretty Good.

’Best of all.

Rumours abound in the darker corners of the Intermaweb that *drumroll* Birmo San may be considering, a side line into podcasting. To apply a little Dr Yobbo style tempered hyperbole, I think this is an even better idea than eating meat.

You can quote me, I can see it on the packaging “NBob says “A Birmo Podcast is a better idea than eating meat.” A big claim I know, but hear me out.

His Scribeyness has a good voice. Not what you’d call a classically trained voice, but his adnoids have dropped and his momma smacked him upside the head and made him pick up each and every dropped H. He has diction and clarity. He doesn’t race through a presentation jamming the ideas and words up like an Indy car smash.

He also has the Journo’s skill of extracting story. Most everyone over the age of 40 has a story in them, Birmo can apply the long nosed pliers and bic lighter to extract that story.

He has access to an army of multi skilled GE’d monkeys who could be easily be taken off the typewriters and trained to manipulate basic sound editing software.

I’d vote for the first series of 5 to be 1 hour eps that combine Diggers in the RSL front bar telling personal Xplodey Goodness stories, edited with a historian’s overview of a campaign. We all think we know the story of the Owen Stanley Ranges, or the HMAS Sydney, but how much do we really know, how much could we know - if we could hear the voice of the men who were there. These diggers are dropping off the twig 19 to the dozen. Someone with skill, interest, some knowledge, respect, sensitivity and less hair than them should save their stories before they are lost forever.

And I reckon it'll make him another $quillion.

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Matthew K reckons...

Posted November 6, 2012
Epic post from Nbob there, red bull really works don't it?

Really bJB? You gonna invite us kiddies to settle down at your feet by the fireside as you open a huge leather bound tome?

I guess the popularity of audiobooks is linked to living on an epic size continent, here in Britain we're more of a brief trailer kind of size.

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Dino not to be confused with puts forth...

Posted November 7, 2012
Oh Uncle JB,

Do, do tell us a story, Pleeeeaase Uncle JB tell us a story !

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Blarkon is gonna tell you...

Posted November 7, 2012
I've had an audible subscription continuously since 1999. It's farking awesome (and my library is pretty huge at this point). I've gone through more devices than I can count, but audible always seems to follow me.

Stalingrad is a very good book. I read it between my first and second visits to the city and it provides a lot of context for Russian paranoia. Stalingrad was the meat grinder and people in Volgograd today are still digging up bits and pieces from that battle.

(the war museum there is definitely worth the visit if you find yourself in the area, as is the shrine under Mamayev Kurgan)

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w from brisbane mutters...

Posted November 7, 2012
JB, Have you considered 'Weapons of Choice', the audio book series, as read by Havock?

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KathB asserts...

Posted November 7, 2012
Love Audible. I listen while cleaning - it's the only thing that makes it remotely bearable. There's some great old-school Doctor Who on there too.

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John Birmingham swirls their brandy and claims...

Posted November 7, 2012
Cool! I also listen while cleaning. Especially mopping for some reason.

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Respond to 'Anthony Beevor's The Second World War'