Friday, September 12, 2014


Trollhunter is a Norwegian "found footage" mockumentary looking at a government conspiracy covering up the existence of Trolls in the Norwegian countryside.

The style is a cross between "Blair Witch Project" and "Dark Side of the Moon" (I loved the clip towards the end where the Norwegian PM is talking about trolls impeding the expansion of the Norwegian electricity grid). Three students investigating bear poaching come across a suspicious man (with truly frightening scratches down the side of his vehicle) and decide to follow him. They get more than they bargained for, including a thorough smearing with "troll stench".

Highly recommended if want to watch something different and enjoy horror movies.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Burmese Days

I was travelling through Burma last year and thought (unoriginally it seems) it would be a good opportunity to read George Orwell's "Burmese Days - readily available from streetside hawkers for a dollar or two (one of the pleasures of south east asian travel).

Burmese Days was Orwell's first novel and (like "1984" but to a lesser extent) reads like an auto-biography of sorts - Orwell served in the Indian Imperial Force of Burma for 5 years in the 1920s before his return to London to become a writer.

The book itself is set in a minor outpost of the British Empire, with the colonial administrators grappling with the heat, boredom and political machinations of the natives using techniques ranging from racial superiority, brutal suppression and excessive alcohol consumption.

Like most of Orwell's books you won't find yourself feeling uplifted by the time you've finished reading it, but it is an interesting companion piece for anyone wandering through Myanmar as it slowly opens up to the modern world.

E-books of Burmese Days can be found here and here.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

A Delicate Truth

I always enjoy a good John Le Carre novel and his recent book "A Delicate Truth" was no exception.

Le Carre seems to be taking an increasingly jaundiced view of the British government and it's intelligence agencies, in particular the unholy alliance between "New Labour" and neo-conservative political and industrial players from the US.

"Delicate Truth" tells the tale of a civil servant from the Foreign Office who is caught up in the machinations of a dodgy Minister and an unethical military contracting firm calling itself "Ethical Outcomes".

"Delicate Truth" has received better reviews than some of Le Carre's other recent novels, with this piece from the Sydney Review of Book being a good example - Cast As A Spy.

A Delicate Truth is a return to form. It’s not The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, but it is a much more impressive and engaging book than Our Kind of Traitor, and in many ways it has an edge on A Wanted Man. We are not quite in the heartlands of le CarrĂ©’s mythic stamping ground, but we are in a place of murky darknesses and grey confusions. We are in the realm of the horrors that can be perpetuated under the cloak of security, in a world where every cloak must always come with a dagger, and truth and justice are liable to be stabbed to death. A Delicate Truth could scarcely be more pertinent (for what that’s worth) because it is concerned with the kind of moral anxieties that afflicted Bradley Manning – who was mercifully found not guilty on the capital charge of aiding the enemy, but went down heavily nonetheless – and brings to mind the controversies surrounding WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and the fugitive American whistleblower Edward Snowden. Indeed, Simon Jenkins, the former editor of the Times, recently singled out A Delicate Truth as an allegory of the evils currently in play.

Like all Le Carre novels it ultimately ends in tragedy but I enjoyed the ride.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Galileo's Dream

Galileo's Dream is one of Kim Stanley Robinson's more interesting works, paying homage to what may be the first science fiction book - Johannes Kepler's book Kepler's Dream. The story tells a detailed history of Galileo's life in Renaissance Italy, interwoven with brief periods of time in the Jovian moons in 3020. Like many of Robinson's books, this one is long and filled with dense tracts outlining Robinson's theories about science, politics and history. While these can be somewhat heavy going at times, in general this book flows well and leaves you feeling profoundly moved by Galileo's long life and the contribution he made to human history. Recommended.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

The Godfather of Kathmandu

The Godfather of Kathmandu is the 4th installment of John Burdett's Bangkok based series of detective novels.

In this episode, Sonchai juggles investigating the grisly murder of a Hollywood film director who has gone to seed while having to grapple with the latest task that Colonel Vikorn has set for him in his eternal struggle with General Zinna to see who is the most corrupt individual in Thailand.

Both plot threads take Sonchai to Kathmandu, where he falls under the sway of a Buddhist guru who wants to reverse the Chinese invasion of Tibet.

Its not the best book in the series but it is entertaining as always.

Wanting: A Novel

Richard Flanagan is the Tasmanian equivalent of Tim Winton - one of Australia's truly gifted modern writers.

"Wanting" interweaves the stories of novelist Charles Dickens, Tasmanian governor Sir John Franklin and an aboriginal girl called Mathinna in an interesting although slightly unsatisfying story that illuminates a period of history that I didn't know much about.

Not one of Flanagan's best books but worth a read nevertheless.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Good Reads

I've been using "Goodreads" a lot lately - its like a Trip Advisor for book readers - worth checking out.