Saturday, May 21, 2011


I was struggling today with the aftermath of the night out in Bangkok; various minor examples of idiocy in the hotel room, like getting my legs stuck in my trousers and falling over, failing to understand how the shower worked, and forgetting how to put clothes into my suitcase. It's a minor miracle I didn't manage to fall out the window/catch fire/ring up the front desk of the hotel and scream random obscenities down the phone.

Still, I got out, and to really understand what it's like to live in Thailand ... I went back to the Siam Paragon mall and wandered endless air-conditioned corridors until I felt ill and had to eat a sandwich. Perhaps it was the less-than-nutritious breakfast of two Krispy Kreme doughnuts. Or perhaps it was the infinite supply of awful beer on the Khaosan Road. But when did that ever disagree with anybody?

Eventually I ended up back at the hotel, and then veered off to the airport to fly home. I read Halfheads on the way back, a sci-fi thriller set in a futuristic Glasgow, where vast amounts of money and technology are spent on lobotomising criminals and putting them to work as manual labourers. That didn't make much sense. It seemed just a way to hang a series of fairly disgusting events together, rather than somebody clearly thinking through what the consequences and implication of such a society would be.

Plus it was apparently written by somebody with two tin ears, or else the translation from Scottish to English makes everyone sound implausible. And then whenever there is a neat parallel between two different strands of the plot, the author has to call them out, just in case you hadn't noticed. Rather like if every five minutes in 28 Weeks Later a subtitle had flashed up saying "We really mean Iraq in 2006, everyone". As opposed to the subtlety with which 28 Weeks Later approached the subject of colonialism and -

What was I saying? I mean, I really like 28 Weeks Later as a meditation on loss/fear/disappointing your children, but at the same time, it is just "hey! Look at the Yanks mucking stuff up!" for a couple of hours...

Anyway, Halfheads is one of those books that trundles on and that you feel forced to finish - a bit like The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. The plot is pretty atrocious, the future is evinced just by the occasional slang name for a gun, and the central premise feels like a load of old toot. When Robert Rankin's work is more internally plausible, I think there's a problem.

Oh, and Rankin doesn't write things like
Will looked as if someone had run over his face with a steamroller
unless somebody really does have a completely flat face. Or am I just being too picky?

Anyway, home now, with a suitcase full of silk scarves and toy elephants. A good way to begin the weekend.


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