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Books I’d Save From the Apocalypse

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End of the world checklist:

  • Tinned food
  • Water
  • Medical supplies
  • Cornflakes
  • Peanut butter (crunchy)
  • LOST complete series boxset (and DVD player)
  • BOOKS

Cheery subject, I know. If you want something more optimistic for a Saturday Easter morning, think of this post as Books That Should be in Print Forever instead.

There are a lot of books I’ve read more than once. But if I only had a box or suitcase that I could fill with books to take into some underground bunker or up into space in a ship to escape the destruction of Earth (or, if you’re still wanting something more optimistic, a box or suitcase I could fill with books to make sure there was always a copy that survived) then the following books would go in there.

This list could be full of profound books with hidden meanings or moral messages that would teach the survivors of the apocalypse lessons for the future. A couple of the books might carry messages and morals. But most of them are on this list because they mean something to me, because they’ve had an impact on my life, because they remind me of some important time or a family member. And some of them I’d take because waiting out the apocalypse in an underground bunker would probably be boring and I’d want something action-packed and entertaining to read.

In no particular order…

1 – The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling 

It might be a cliche now to include these books on the list, but they’d go in the box anyway. Not just because they’re great books, or because they inspired millions of people to read, but because I grew up with them and would not be a writer without them. I grew up with Potter. They were fuel for my imagination, keeping it stoked while I was writing my own stories. They were an escape too. Rowling built a world that felt real. There’s some pretty good messages running through the seven books too. Good triumphs over evil, hope can be found even in the darkest of times, family is important, friends are important… Potter is a full-package, and they deserve to survive the apocalypse.

2 – Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton 

It’s different from Potter, but this goes into the apocalypse suitcase for many of the same reasons. I grew up with this book, and the movie. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve seen the original film (it’s somewhere north of sixty). I watched it every weekend for years with my grandad when I was younger. I still watch it once or twice every year. It reminds me of my grandad, my best mate, and another source of inspiration for my writing. After we’d finish watching the movie, we’d make up our own sequels, taking it in turns to fill in parts of the story. As for the book itself, it’s a hugely entertaining, cautionary tale. Don’t f**k with nature.

3 – 11/22/63 and Under the Dome by Stephen King

I came to King pretty late, in my late teens. I almost passed over his books, dismissing them as just horror stories (even though I’m a big fan of horror movies). But then I read 11/22/63 and King proved he was more than just a horror writer. He writes characters like no one else, characters that step out of the pages and clap you on the shoulder, who you know after a few chapters. His skill is crazy. I’d take these two of King’s books in particular because they taught me a lot about writing, and they’re hugely entertaining, and they carry some pretty important messages too.

4 – Watership Down by Richard Adams

Another book I grew up with. This is more than just a story about rabbits. It reminds me of primary school and a time when everything seemed huge and possible, before shit gets real and there is more to deal with than swapping jam sandwiches for ham ones at lunch time with your friends, playing Harry Potter in the school yard with sticks for wands. Watership Down is also well written, full of morals and life lessons and rightly deemed a classic of children’s literature.

5 –  His Dark Materials by Phillip Pullman

Controversial religious aspects aside, his Dark Materials is a complex, gripping trilogy that was like Potter in that it inspired a whole generation of readers (and still inspires). It’s funny, touching, real (for a fantasy novel with talking polar bears) and has many other messages other than the obvious religious ones. Let’s hope The Book of Dust will live up to the dizzying heights of the original series.

6- The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

The obvious moral messages this series carries would offer some valuable lessons for a post-apocalyptic Earth, but The Hunger Games is just another series that inspired a generation. It helps that it’s massively entertaining too.

7- A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin

Come on, man, it’s Game of Thrones. Blood, battles, betrayal and dragons. Enough said. It goes in the apocalypse suitcase.

8 – The Old Kingdom series by Garth Nix

Sabriel, Lirael, Abhrosen, Clariel, Goldenhand. This series isn’t perfect, but it’s inspiring, gripping and well written. It also offers some solid life lessons and a continuing message of finding your true self and accepting it.

9 – The Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan

Like Potter, I grew up with this series. My parents bought me the first book for my birthday one year and I read them until my copies fell apart. Like Potter, they funny and entertaining, but they’re also strong on messages about family and friendship and they got me through some low times.

Joining this lot would be a load of other Stephen King books, the Gone series by Michael Grant, a few other Michael Crichton books and, if there was room in the suitcase/box, I’d begrudgingly throw in a couple of Dickens.


Would you pack any of these books for the apocalypse, or do you have your own list? Drop your own suggestions in a comment below, it’ll be interesting to see if any books are suggested more than once or if anyone has something completely different… 

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them Review

Image result for fantastic beasts and where to find them poster

Save JJ Abrams and Star Wars: The Force Awakens I don’t think any director or film has had such a weight on their shoulders or such ardent fans to please. To say Fantastic Beasts had a lot to live up to would be an understatement. The Potter books and films have changed the world. Returning Potter Director David Yates had a task and a half on his hands, so too did JK Rowling who takes script writing reins here (and for the subsequent four installments).

And did they pull it off?

No doubt.

The familiar Potter soundtrack plays as the Warner Bros logo hovers forward through dark clouds… The opening sequence is slightly ambiguous, giving way to the familiar montage of Daily Prophet headlines about a dark wizard. But not the dark wizard we’re all familiar with. Grindelwald takes over bad-guy duties from Voldemort for this franchise and even though he doesn’t yet take centre stage, his menacing presence conjures some solid atmosphere.

Atmosphere is what David Yates does best, and the foreboding he brought to the final four Potter films is evident from the first few seconds of Fantastic Beasts. But Yates also brought style and awe to his Potter films and he doesn’t hold back on either with Fantastic Beasts. Every scene is rich in detail, most of which isn’t spotted until second or third viewings. The 1920’s New York setting is a big change from the epic landscapes and castle corridors of Hogwarts that we’re used to, but it’s just as compelling and makes Rowling’s world seem that much more real and sprawling.

Eddie Redmayne had a tough responsibility too, taking over protagonist duties from Harry, Ron and Hermione and having to carry what is essentially an origin story for the Fantasic Beasts series. Redmayne himself can’t be faulted. Newt Scamander is awkward, bumbling, avoiding eye contact and generally rubbing people up the wrong way, more Sherlock Holmes than Harry Potter. But at times Scamander doesn’t feel like the protagonist, mostly going along with what is happening rather than forwarding the plot. The other actors and their characters suffer the same, taking a step back so the world-building, plot and set-up can all be handled. The characters will be fleshed out in the next installment, but for now they’re not as compelling as Harry, Ron and Hermione. Where Rowling’s script does excel is in how contemporary it’s morals are. There are more than a few allusions to the divisions of today’s society, the prejudices and political turmoil and despite it’s period setting, Fantastic Beasts is never old-fashioned.

For all its awesome special effects and spectacle, slick directing and great acting, Fantastic Beasts is not perfect. Rowling’s script is sharp when it comes to dialogue, but a bit thin in story. The first film was always going to be more about set-up than story, and it is the case here. A slow first half and a slump in the middle throw the pacing off, and there is never a clear main plot to invest in. Gathering up the escaped Fantastic Beasts offers plenty of chances for great set pieces (Scamander’s imitation of a mating ritual, a chase sequence in a department store among a memorable dozen) but it isn’t strong enough to be the bones of a film. The various other sub-plots are interesting but, can at times feel all over the place and until the final, massively impressive, climax Fantastic Beasts is as scatterbrained as it’s main character.

But in that impressive climax, with a twist that I didn’t see coming and which I defy anyone to guess beforehand, and Yates’ pitch-perfect directing, the stunning CGI and photography, Fantastic Beasts does deliver a prequel worthy of the Potter films. Fans will be grinning at foreshadowings and at the mere joy of being back in the Wizarding World and newcomers may be a little confused but will find plenty of enjoyment.

Fantastic Beasts is not perfect, but neither were any of the Potter films. It had a tough task of setting up a world, story and characters, and overall… it pulled it off and promises great things for future installments.


Have you seen Fantastic Beasts yet? What did you think?

Life after Harry Potter

“The scar had not pained Harry for nineteen years. All was well.” Reading the final line of the Harry Potter saga was a strange experience, i can’t imagine what it was like for J K Rowling. But for me it felt as if a journey i had never wanted to end just did and i was left feeling, sounds corny, a little bit empty. Harry Potter had been something that was just there, virtually all of my life, it had been present. I had read each of the books, multiple times, seen every one of the movies, multiple times and now that it was over i didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t get into he book i picked up immediately after finishing Deathly Hallows because i just wanted to read another Potter book. Even the prospect of more Harry Potter movies couldn’t satisfy my appetite for another adventure at Hogwarts. 

Eventually, though, i realised there were countless other awesome series’ out there. And whilst they would never provide a journey and experience quite like the Potter books, they would satisfy my appetite. A few of the books i enjoyed after Potter are listed below, but believe me, there are plenty more. 

Rick Riordan is an author i highly recommend any Potter fans to check out, i read the Percy Jackson books alongside the Potter books and the Camp Half Blood is just as awesome a place as Hogwarts. What’s also great is that the books are still going, with the Kane Chronicles, Heroes of Olympus already available and a Norse series in the works, Riordan has ample reading for anyone missing Potter. 

Another series i can’t recommend highly enough is Will Hill’s Department 19 (of which there will be 5 books). It’s less Harry Potter, more Van Helsing in the modern world, but there is plenty of action, adventure and monsters to satisfy any fantasy reader and there is rarely a dull moment in these books. Check them out.

Fablehaven, by Brandon Mull, is a middle grade-young adult series that should appeal to Harry Potter fans. Its based around the idea of a sanctuary for magical creatures but there is a whole host of sub plots and a gripping story arc. It may appeal more to middle grade but i certainly enjoyed all five of the books and would highly recommend you check them out. 

The Wardstone Chronicles, or Last Apprentice series in the US, is another must for Harry Potter fans. Its more horror/fantasy than just fantasy, but its extremely entertaining and the characters are great. Again there are plenty of creatures, adventures and action to appeal to any fantasy reader and Joseph Delaney is a great storyteller. This is definitely one for Potter fans to try and with a movie soon to be released (the seventh son) it could be the next big thing. 

The books of beginning by John Stephens are similar, somewhat, to Harry Potter and if you’re looking for an action packed, magical series to get involved in then this is perfect. I think its aimed at a middle grade audience but the writing is intelligent and witty and i had no problem immersing myself in this series. 

More recently, Chris Columbus (director of the first two potter movies) has released the first book in a series, The House of Secrets. Again this will appeal to Harry Potter fans and with an endorsement by J K Rowling you just know how awesome its going to be. A really enjoyable read and a series i will definitely be following in the future. 

Whilst Harry Potter can never be replaced, there are plenty of worthy successors, only a few of which i have recommended here.  

 

Harry Potter – A look back

Recently i started re-watching the Potter movies from the very beginning on blu-ray. I intend to start reading the books from the beginning for a sixth time, soon. It got me thinking about the first time i heard the name, Harry Potter. I was about seven years old and the image on the front cover, of a kid standing in front of a huge scarlet steam train, caught my eye. Ever since i read that first page i have been hooked on the books and the movies. I never imagined that the book i’d read, at that moment, would become the literary and movie phenomenon that it has done. 

In a way i grew up with the Potter books, each year i developed so did Harry and his friends. It was an annual event when a Harry Potter book would be published and i would be practically itching to step back into the halls of Hogwarts and explore the Wizarding world alongside Harry, Ron and Hermione. J K Rowling provided me and countless others the opportunity to leave behind the real world and immerse ourselves in a place that wasn’t all that hard to believe in. 

So why is it that the Potter books became so successful? One of the main reasons, in my opinion, is that it offered readers a chance to be a part of another world. The Wizarding World is a place everyone wants to go to: everyone wants to try a chocolate frog, get their wand from Ollivanders and play Quidditch. Rowling’s ability to paint this world as believable, as genuine, makes us as readers feel a part of it. We can all find something in common with one of the characters or find something to relate to in the books. 

Another reason, perhaps an obvious one, is that the books are awesome! The plot line is a tried and tested battle against good and evil, yes, but it is also rife with unique twists and turns and i don’t know about you but i was always wondering what was going to happen next. J K Rowling has the ability to draw you in from the very first page and not let go until the last and leave you hungry for the next book. Her world is rich in characters, places, history and culture and there is rarely a moment when their isn’t something new and exciting to discover. Each book is like a sweet shop, so much to choose from, to savour and  enjoy. 

I, for one, will never tire of returning to Hogwarts. Harry Potter is a series that, no matter how many times it’s read, will still offer some new detail you missed the first time, some clue or sentence that you might have forgotten. J K Rowling must be commended on providing readers with these books and another world to escape to. 

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