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Book Review: Opium Dream
by Lang Reid
The latest novel from Jason Schoonover is Opium Dream
(ISBN 9-7483-0361-6) published and released by Asia Books in Bangkok. This
was such a riveting read that having taken the book on a visit to Bangkok
I had to ask for a late check-out from the Amari Watergate Hotel, because
I could not possibly wait to read the last two chapters later at home!
That introduction has probably enough words to let you know I enjoyed this
book, but I will expand.
It is a suspense novel set in Asia and the Middle East,
and is totally current. You will read mentions of Ho Chi Minh City,
Bangkok, Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, the Afghanistan war, Pakistani and
Russian soldiers, Iran, Baluchistan, Egypt and all points in between.
For the cast, author Schoonover has mined the
mother-lode of fantastic characters, many of whom the longtime expats in
this country will recognise immediately. Begin with Lee Rivers, his
carry-over hero from his last book; add in a beautiful Hmong girl; a
bucolic, belching Russian who eats garlic all day (you can almost smell
this guy while reading this novel); Rivers’ mate, the lanky Australian
Snake, who hits his head on a bracket in his plane all the way through the
book; a Belgian soldier of fortune; numerous CIA agents in all types of
guises and disguises; evil and bent Customs officials; Muslim extremists;
KGB agents and you should be getting the gist of it all by now. Once again
author Schoonover has written a "James Bondian" thriller, using
a plethora of individually nasty characters, mixed in with the good guys,
whom you can cheer on at every chapter.
The story revolves around the exploits of Rivers in
locating the Kublai Khan’s burial site, complete with a terracotta
entourage of hand maidens. Verification of their authenticity results in
their worth being ten million dollars, give or take a rouble or two.
However, there appears to be more than one group of people who would
prefer that Rivers turned in his archaeologists shovel. So much so that he
has to hire a bodyguard to protect him from the unknown assassins.
The ending, which seems to go on forever, as you
frantically turn page after page (and have to ask for a late check-out),
is totally dramatic with secret agents popping out of every closet, but
only the chosen few will survive.
The review copy was made available through Asia Books,
who indicated an RRP of 450 baht. Author Schoonover makes these books work
by skilfully blending believable people into unbelievable situations.
Because the character ‘fits’ it makes the situation the character is
in, one that the mind will accept - greedily. And on to the next page
please, and do not interrupt me, dammit!
In my review of his previous book, Thai Gold, I said that it should be
made into a movie. In an email from the author this week, it appears that
this is happening later this year. The movie moguls should also snap up
this book for the sequel. This is one helluva good yarn. Get it! You will
Movie Review: X2
I liked the first X-men and I was interested to see
this sequel, and this time I was not disappointed. It is one of the best
sequels I’ve ever seen - great fun and great characters.
After an assassination attempt on the US President, the
government is determined to neutralize the mutants by putting forth the
‘Anti-Mutant Registration Act,’ which would effectively eliminate any
peaceful co-existence. Vietnam veteran William Stryker appears in the Oval
Office, offering to help by destroying a training camp for mutant
terrorists. The so-called training camp is the Xavier Institute for Gifted
Youngsters. Those who watched the first movie or are familiar with the
comic books know that this is the headquarters of the X-Men, mutants who
protect a world that hates and fears them for being different. The problem
is, most of the X-Men are away when Stryker makes his move.
The cast gives wonderful performances; Hugh Jackman is
superb once again in the role of Wolverine and is given solid support from
Patrick Stewart as Charles Xavier. Halle Berry is the beautiful Storm,
there are old favourites as well as the introduction of many new mutant
characters that include Alan Cumming as Nightcrawler and Aaron Stanford as
Pyro. Ian McKellen once again plays Magneto as only he could.
There are spectacular action sequences but the movie
manages to hold onto a good storyline.
When you haven’t seen the first film or read the
comics the movie could be a bit confusing.
Directed by Bryan Singer
Patrick Stewart ... Professor Charles Xavier
Hugh Jackman ... Logan/Wolverine
Ian McKellen ... Erik Lehnsherr/Magneto
Halle Berry ... Ororo Munroe/Storm
Famke Janssen ... Dr. Jean Grey
James Marsden ... Scott Summers/Cyclops
Rebecca Romijn-Stamos ... Mystique/Raven Darkholme
Brian Cox ... Gen. William Stryker
Alan Cumming ... Kurt Wagner/Nightcrawler
Bruce Davison ... Senator Robert Kelly
Anna Paquin ... Marie D’Ancanto/Rogue
Kelly Hu ... Yuriko Oyama
Aaron Stanford ... John Allerdyce/Pyro
Katie Stuart (I) ... Katherine ‘Kitty’ Pryde/Shadowcat
Michael Reid MacKay ... Jason 143
Mott’s CD review:
Pink Floyd -
The Division Bell
by Mott the Dog
5 Stars *****
After the abysmal "Final Cut" in 1983, which
had every song written by Roger Waters and the same gentleman had already
fired founder member and keyboard player Rick Wright, Pink Floyd was laid
to rest as a band without even touring the album.
Roger Waters was not allowed his way and after many court battles lead
guitarist David Gilmour was allowed to legally own the name of Pink Floyd.
In 1986 he reassembled Pink Floyd with Nick Mason, Floyd’s original
drummer; re-instated Rick Wright behind the keyboards; and replaced Roger
Waters with the bass playing skills of Rick Wright’s son-in-law Guy
Pratt, which immediately increased the musical ability of the band. In
early 1987 "A Momentary Lapse of Reason" was released under the
Pink Floyd banner, proving that Pink Floyd were no spent force, but still
had a lot to offer. It would have been a travesty of justice if "The
Final Cut" had been Pink Floyd’s epitaph, as, by any band’s
standards, it is a bad album; by the standards set by ‘The Floyd’,
appalling. Only selling on past glories.
But ‘’Momentary Lapse of Reason" was a huge
commercial and critical success (except in Roger Waters opinion) and was
followed by a huge tour of the world’s biggest stadiums. To commemorate
this ‘The Floyd’ released a double CD live recording called
"Delicate Sound of Thunder" (1988), featuring many supporting
musicians giving fine renditions of songs from the last album and reworks
of past classics, also to enormous sales.
After a couple of years recuperation the fifteenth and
(probably) final ‘Pink Floyd’ album was released in 1994, "The
Division Bell". How fitting that here, finally, should be their best
and most complete work. Not bad value either at over sixty-six minutes
worth of music. In Mott’s Fantasy Pink Floyd’s Live set "The
Division Bell" is the only album to showcase four songs, unless you
count the ten different sections of "Dark Side of the Moon", or
the six pieces in "Atom Heart Mother". (You have to limit
yourself to three and a half hours. You can’t expect the guys to play
David Gilmour’s vocals and guitar have never been
more splendid; Nick Mason by his own confession has never had a better
drum sound; and Rick Wright makes a mockery of Water’s decision to fire
him, his keyboard playing throughout is nothing short of breathtaking,
proving that he is the only keyboard player for Pink Floyd. He even takes
lead vocals on one track, "Wearing the Inside Out", his first
solo vocal on a Pink Floyd album in over twenty years.
The music opens with the very spacey "Cluster One’’,
where the solo efforts of Gilmour and Wright build together till sliding
smoothly into first song proper "What do you want from me".
"Cluster One" was the only song from the album not to be played
live on the "Division Bell Tour", which is a shame as it is a
marvellous opening to the album and would have made a very effective
opener to the live show. (It also just happens to be one of the songs on
Mott’s Fantasy Live set list.)
‘’Marooned’’ won a Grammy in 1995 for Best Rock
Instrumental Performance. Not bad for a bunch of old dinosaurs.
"High Hopes", the album’s closing song, and
if you like a final goodbye from the band, encompasses all the glorious
facets of "The Floyd" in its eight and a half minutes. Perhaps
reminding you of a short ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ with it’s changing
musical landscape and mystical lyrics.
"The grass was greener,
The light was brighter,
With friends surrounded,
The nights of wonder,"
If you have this album in your collection you know what
I am talking about. If not, immediately go out and buy it and discover why
‘Pink Floyd’ is the Greatest Band in Space.
David Gilmour/Guitars and Vocals
Rick Wright/Keyboards and Vocals
What do you want from me
A great day for freedom
Wearing the inside out
Take it back
Coming back to life
Lost for words
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