The Curious Incident Of The Rick In The Bookshop

Finally the word is out!!!

Curious

I even made a video with the late John Gielgud over my shoulder to announce it (CLICK HERE TO HAVE A LOOK).

On August 25th we’ll be in Dubray Books for my first ever Rick O’Shea Book Club event in association with the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre and The National Theatre of Great Britain. On the night I’ll be interviewing the impossibly talented playwright Simon Stephens, the man responsible for bringing Mark Haddon’s book from page to stage.

Rick O'Shea Evening

The event is ahead of the arrival of the award winning play, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, which comes to the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre from 6-10 October as part of the Dublin Theatre Festival.

So, to mark in your diary, come down on Tuesday 25th August at 6.30pm at Dubray Books on Grafton Street and I’ll be conducting a discussion on how the book moved from page to stage, a Q&A with Simon Stephens himself and we’ll have competitions and discounted tickets for the show.

There is no booking required, just turn up on the night! The chats about the event will continue over on my FB Book Club HERE.

As for the show itself…

WP_20150718_19_09_21_Pro

Book Review – Armada by Ernest Cline

ZZ48DF98EC

 

There are few things more disappointing as a reader than to have a much anticipated second novel fall short of your high hopes. And here we are.

Armada is the second novel from professional fanboy and screenwriter Ernie Cline and tells the story of Zack Lightman – an obsessive gamer finishing high school who works part time in a video games store. His dad was killed at the age of 19 in an explosion in a sewage factory (seriously!).

We open with Zack staring out the window in class and them witnessing a spaceship buzzing his school. Not just any spaceship, it’s one from a series of alien invasion videogames he and the world are obsessed with – Terra Firma and Armada.

He starts digging around in his late father’s conspiracy theory journals and uncovers that his dad believed the entire computer game and science fiction movie industry to be influenced by shadowy forces with an agenda.

Fairly quickly in the story Zack finds out that Armada is more than a game – it’s a simulator designed to train the human race to defend itself from an impending alien invasion and that everything that goes on within it is actually happening in the real world.

Problem one – the book is so awash in sci-fi and gaming references that if you don’t start getting them very quickly you’ll find yourself feeling on the outside of quite an exclusive tent. I got a huge amount of them and even then there were times when I felt that he was having a wink at someone else over my shoulder. The book seems to be written for a very specific subset of gaming geeks and if that’s all you’re aiming at, fair enough. It just excludes pretty much everyone else.

It’s not just simple “may the force be with you” stuff. Ask yourself if the references “I find your lack of faith disturbing”, the name Moonbase Alpha, the phrase “by the hammer of Grabthar” or hundreds of others like it mean anything to you? Nope? You’ll be lost here…

You’d forgive all this if the story was compelling and original – it’s not. It’s full of standard tropes we’ve seen before and other stuff that’s just plain silly (at one stage a Global Council made up of Stephen Hawking, Michio Kaku and Neil deGrasse Tyson amongst other conducts a video conference call during an alien invasion).

Writing convincing action sequences in books like this is hard, here he hamstrings himself because most of the action occurs when the main characters are playing simulations and remotely controlling drones who are fighting the actual battles. Although I understand there’s a huge industry on Youtube of watching people playing console games I find it incredibly dull. Even duller than that is watching someone write about watching someone play a console game (even if the fate of the human race is at stake).

If you ever saw movies like Tron and The Last Starfighter in the 80s or even Galaxy Quest at the end of the 90s then where this goes will be familiar. Zack even says at the very beginning “Implausible crap like that only happened in cheesy ‘80s movies like Tron or WarGames or The Last Starfighter”. But then that’s exactly what Ernie Cline he goes on to write…

Unfortunately it’s one of the least original books I’ve read in a long, long time. There are very few sparks of the unexpected anywhere within its pages. Sci-fi and speculative fiction at its best is an arena of ideas, a mirror of who we are now and sometimes just mind-blowing. This is none of those. What’s so frustrating is that there is a compelling, dark, interesting “join the dots vast conspiracy” story in here somewhere, he just chooses to go the other way.

Sadly the book isn’t a patch on his first novel Ready Player One – a dystopian future book set in a dirty, ugly, resource-shy 2044 where the human race mostly lives plugged in to a vast utopian internet called the Oasis. Its creator and owner dies and then sets an elaborate game based on obscure 80s computer games to decide who gets control of his estate. It had wit, adventure and was a genuinely interesting take on the genre – Steven Spielberg announced last month that he’s to direct the upcoming movie.

There are so many more better SF books around at the moment – Armada is one best left on the shelf.

Events Coming Up

Probably should have done this ages ago but I’ll update across the Summer – stuff I’m doing you might want to come along to.

Tonight – Festival Of Curiosity 2015 – Round Room, Mansion House:

10406993_781748405211863_7457777252636623829_n

Me hosting a night of exploring the top curious minds in the world hacking the future of fashion, genetics, design and technology with Jack Horner (science advisor & inspiration for the Jurassic Park films), Miranda Wang & Jeanny Yao (TED speakers at 19 who have recently launched a new company called BioCellection), Alex Rothera (has worked as an Imagineer for Walt Disney Company Research Division and he is the Founder of Humane Engineering), Amy Congdon (a designer who is blurring the lines between bioscience, fashion and design), Alok Jha (science correspondent for ITV News), Aoife Mc Lysaght (Aoife is the Director of the Molecular Evolution Laboratory in Trinity College Dublin).

 

August 6th – Meltwater’s “Brain Food: Tasty Marketing Debate – Dublin” – Marker Hotel:

Meltwater

A morning for marketing, PR and media types. Adrian Weckler (Technology Editor of both The Irish Independent and The Sunday Independent), Martina McDermott Hurley (Head of Global Marketing of CityJet) and me all speaking about “Digital Influence: the challenges of getting it, guiding it and growing it in today’s hyper connected world.”

 

August 25th – Public Interview (details to come):

I know, I’m a tease…

 

August 30th – Public Interview (details to come):

A terrible tease…

 

September 11th – Public Interview with Anthony Horowitz – DLR Lexicon:

Horowitz

I’ll be talking to the legendary Anthony Horowitz about his new James Bond Book written from original Ian Fleming notes – Trigger Mortis.

 

October 13th – Radio 2.0 Conference – Paris:

radio 2

Unlikely you’ll be interested in this but I’ll be delivering a keynote speech at this radio conference in Paris all about the effective use of social media in radio.

 

October 15th – Web Awards – RDS:

press_web_awards_fb_share

You know what this is all about…

 

As well as all of this I’m going to be doing 2 public interviews in August – one with a world-famous American movie director, one with an award-winning playwright from the UK. Sorry to tease above, but I have to say nowt for now.

Details to follow.

Want to hire me for your event? Sure…

Details HERE.

Beer, Beer Everywhere…

Another month, another few things that I’ve tried that I think you might like to try too.

As usual none of the wanky tasting notes that I’m incapable of writing – just a few bits…

First things first – Brewdog are ledgebags. You know that already. I wrote a while back about a trip to Edinburgh including their pub there and you’ll see their beers appearing regularly in these posts. They were lovely enough to send me over a box of a few things I might like to try (to be fair I’ve tried almost all of them already!)

The surprise was Dogma – never tried before and delicious… Yummy the lot of them.

WP_20150710_19_23_12_Pro (1)

WP_20150721_20_53_47_ProWP_20150722_20_49_51_Pro

WP_20150710_19_51_42_ProWP_20150711_19_34_12_Pro

Also new are this from Radik Ale, ANOTHER 8 Degrees belter (I don’t like lagers at all, here’s the exception), Galway Bay’s edible (if heftily priced) Voyager and the surprisingly fantastic The Pilgrim from Wood Key (again, don’t love Red Ales and this is great).

WP_20150721_19_46_04_Pro WP_20150721_19_27_32_Pro

WP_20150711_20_39_03_Pro (1) WP_20150715_20_44_46_Pro (1)

Was in London last weekend – if you ever stumble upon these guys it’s a super spot, the Pressure Drop was new to me but top notch.

WP_20150719_13_57_15_Pro (1)

WP_20150719_13_53_53_Pro

And finally a few other things new that I’ve tried over the last while…

WP_20150704_21_45_18_Pro WP_20150703_19_09_54_Pro,

Enjoy…

Book Review – The Mark And The Void by Paul Murray

CHscUqYWUAEZSAa

To start with, Paul Murray gives us a good old-fashioned switcheroo for the two main characters in The Mark And The Void. Paul is a brash, crass, money-driven egotistic author years after his first success and failing miserably to come up with his new book. Claude is a principled, quiet, philosophy loving French banker working with the “Bank Of Torabundo” in the IFSC in the months just before the crash in a very thinly fictionalised Ireland of 2008.

Paul turns up one day and suggests to Claude that he’d love to write an everyman story of the banking world “like Ulysses” with Claude at the centre. Claude’s flattered and agrees but soon it becomes apparent that something else altogether is happening.

This happens against the backdrop of a fictional ailing Minister For Finance, a fictional toxic bank dragging down the Irish economy, myhotswaitress.com (with an “S”!), strip clubs, bankers seeing how far they can throw Rolex watches off rooftop bars, cryptic banking giants who communicate in e-mail riddles and dozens of other things that logic tells you couldn’t ever have happened but your gut knows are half a notch off the real world.

It’s pretty much spot on to compare the book to a Celtic Tiger Catch 22, what becomes disconcerting and, later on, nauseating is that in so many places you’re never sure whether behaviour and events you’re reading are genuinely bonkers high farce, insane parody, sharp satire or probably not too far from what actually used to go on in the dying days of Irish banking empire.

Yes, the trope of “Paul the blocked writer” falls squarely within well trodden ground that everyone from Stephen King to Woody Allen has mined but here he uses it like a dizzying series of matryoshka dolls. At one point Paul Murray is writing about Paul the author and all of the staff in Claude’s department who are wondering if, instead of being source material for Paul’s book, they are actually characters in a book being written by Paul the writer.

Ever see the movie Stranger Than Fiction?

The Mark And The Void is one of the most entertaining, mental, nonsensical, politically insightful, page-turning novels I’ve read in a long, long time. Buy copies and give them to people you know who just throw their hands up in the air and say “oh I don’t get any of that whole banking crisis thing” and who, thus, just ignore everything that happened. They’ll end up as furious and angry as I did after the last page. No, I mean it, I was livid at everyone around me for days afterwards.

It’s a pitch perfect thing of beauty.

Book Review – Distrust That Particular Flavor by William Gibson

9780670921546

I couldn’t have been more pleased than with this little gem I plucked off the shelf of Easons in Cork a few months back. It’s Gibson’s non-fiction essays dealing with everything from communications to the future of the then-infant internet, collecting vintage watches on eBay to his love of Japan to Steely Dan to “Disneyland With The Death Penalty” (his view of visiting Singapore in 1993).

Imagine someone who writes stuff like this fairly unwillingly (because he claims himself that he’s no good at it) and yet frequently in the course of these “untalented” meanderings opens the hood on the engine of the human race and allows you a look-see under into mechanics of a reality that you had no idea existed.

That.

Yes, some of the pieces are from as far back as the 90s, but, as this is Gibson, nothing in it seems dated. His seemingly impossibly prescient ability to talk about the future just as easily as if he’s talking about the past means everything here is still relevant.

It’s rare I can say that I’ve come away from a collection like this with lenses taken off (or put on, who knows!) my view of life.

His non-fiction is, no less than his fiction, mind-altering.

Book Review – Day Four by Sarah Lotz

DayFour-animated-cover_11a

You might remember me saying a lot of nice things last year about Sarah Lotz’s first book  The Three and Day Four, while strictly not a sequel, is set in the same world… sort of.

Unlike the last one though this is written through the eyes and experiences of a group of characters aboard a singles cruise in the Gulf Of Mexico on an ageing ship belonging to a cruise line with a questionable history. She brings us a cast including a dodgy medium milking her followers, her personal assistant at the end of her tether, a blogger trying to debunk the lot, a steward and many more in the centre of an eerie crisis.

The ship stops dead in the ocean on the 4th day of the cruise and it becomes quickly apparent that normal mechanical failure is not the cause when time marches on, conditions deteriorate, there’s no contact with the outside world and no help arrives…

As I said last time, Sarah Lotz writes multiple characters very convincingly and cinematically and this one rattles along with increasing stomach-churningness (from violence, backed up toilets, vomiting bugs and just the grinding sense of unease that gets worse and worse as the novel goes on).

I’ll be honest in that I did have a moment on the last 100 pages thinking “is that it?” but then, through a very nice pivot, she turns everything at an angle and stuff starts to make a much bigger sense, particularly in the context of The Three (and presumably whatever comes next). I do wonder what people who haven’t read the first one will make of this even though it’s strictly not a sequel. Next book please.

As for taking a cruise, ever, Day Four has pretty much ensured that’s never going to happen…

Book Review – Horses Of God by Mahi Binebine

book236

One of those that didn’t win this year’s IMPAC it’s a small story of normal people involved in something huge.

Fuad, Yachine, Ali and Nabil all come from Sidi Moumen, one of the poorest slums in Casablanca. Their football team is part what marks them out from everyone else in the other slums and part gang, of sorts, for banding together and fighting other young lads.

Yachine narrates all from the afterlife as you realise fairly quickly that these impossibly poor kids slowly find themselves becoming a team of suicide bombers in the run up to the real life Casablanca bombings of 2003.

That’s the strength of the book – all too often people in the west wring their hands and wonder how it’s possible that young men like this can be “brainwashed” into committing unspeakable acts of violence against their fellow human beings. Here he shows how easy it is to become involved in something like this when you have absolutely nothing to lose and the promise of riches in the next life are dangled in front of you.

It’s a little older than the IMPAC list would give it credit (as sometimes happens with the quirks of these things) as it’s been out since 2010 and there’s  already a movie version.

Interesting, illuminating, but not something I’d go back to.

Holiday Reads – Summer 2015

Did this last year and people seemed to be interested so, just in case you’re heading off on holliers over the next while here are a few books you might want to consider bringing with you for the ride. All ones I’ve read in the last 6 months or so, all hugely worth your time.

Click on the quotes for my full reviews.

The Life And Loves Of A He Devil by Graham Norton

…an easy, very funny and genuinely laugh out loud in places read with more than its fair share of honesty about his personal life…

9781444790283

I Am Radar by Reif Larsen

…long, bogglingly ambitious and takes a little while to ignite but it’s one of the most involving, bonkers, batshit crazy and best books I’ve read this year.

22571542

The Glorious Heresies by Lisa McInerney

It fizzes, it crackles, it kicks you in the balls on a fairly regular basis, peels away the layers of what could have been dull stereotypes and it stuffs you to the gills with the most edible prose of the “read it again and again just to savour it” variety…

51edkfrjq9L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_

Only Ever Yours by Louise O’Neill

It’s not just YA, it’s top-grade speculative fiction and social commentary on 21st century media and how it pressures teenage girls. Top of the class.

untitled

The Water Knife by Paolo Bacigalupi

He tells a swift, brutal, real story in a wonderfully plausible universe that will leave you scared for your own future and left me with actual shivers down my spine at times.

The Water Knife

Spill Simmer Falter Wither by Sara Baume

It’s been a long, long time since I read something that made me, no, demanded that I re-read whole paragraphs because the imagery and words within them were so beautiful.

51OP9RhR1aL

The Girl On The Train by Paula Hawkins

The Girl On The Train isn’t the sort of thing I would have picked up myself. I’m hugely glad I did. It’s a great debut.

b5tr3khigaapq27

Touch by Claire North

…fast, smart, cinematic and with a cracking central idea. This is absolutely destined to be one of the biggest thrillers of 2015.

51RrFIEV1IL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_

Us by David Nicholls

The story of the fractured relationship between Douglas and his teenage son is genuinely real too. It moved me to tears more than once. You should read it.

21423525

Craft Beer Schtuff For July…

Another month, another set of new beverages I’ve had and places I’ve been to over the last while. Some things you should try:

WP_20150628_20_03_05_Pro WP_20150614_17_19_06_Pro

WP_20150610_20_22_04_Pro WP_20150610_18_19_51_Pro

WP_20150604_20_38_38_Pro WP_20150604_19_35_07_Pro

As well as that the guys at Franciscan Well were kind enough to send me this before it even has a name or a label! Lovely…

WP_20150624_18_31_08_Pro

I went back again to the brilliant Harbour Bar in Bray. Great beers on tap, food is super, nice atmosphere (everything from bikers to families to hipsters to just locals and it has rainbow flags flying outside!)

WP_20150614_19_30_01_Pro

WP_20150614_19_23_55_Pro

WP_20150614_19_23_28_Pro

And thanks to the lads at the Next Door Group for adopting Cormac and meself and sending a few growlers our way…

WP_20150619_12_03_23_Pro

All the old craft beer posts are HERE.