Tuesday 25 October 2011

The Ice Princess at Hell’s Corner

The juxtaposition of the 2 books I just finished could not be more startling.  Camilla Läckberg is one of the new generation of Swedish detective writers and The Ice Princess was her first book, whilst David Baldacci is a thriller writer in his prime. Result – the Ice melted in the blaze of glory that is Hell’s Corner.

  The Ice Princess

Camilla Läckberg

I borrowed the audio of this from a friend. Having been so taken with Stieg Larrson’s
Trilogy as an introduction to Scandinavian thriller writers I wanted to give another one a go. Sadly not in the same category.

I don't normally read or listen to abridged versions which this one was. It was OK. Reasonable plot, reasonable characters , not a particularly strong central one for a detective for whom there is a now a series of books. For now I shall put this down to the editing and abridgement for radio and may give another one a go as and when.

ashramblings verdict : 3* passable thriller


Hell’s Corner


David Baldacci

I have got totally hooked on The Camel Club series, by its characters, by Baldacci’s style and the voice of the excellent narrator  Ron McLarty

The assortment of characters that make up the Camel Club are very real, with clear, true voices and brilliantly delivered by the narrator. Readers of my previous blog post will know just how much I am loving reading this series

The 5th book in the series definitely does not disappoint, if anything it is the best so far, the rest were good, this was outstanding. A roller coaster of a great read, ducking and diving, wrong turns and diversions as Oliver Stone unravels the mystery behind  what appears to be the accidental triggering of a bomb without a target inn the grounds of Lafyette Park, opposite the White House in Washington, DC. The plot twists and turns in abundance: in the hands of a less accomplished thriller master this would wear the reader down, not so here. Hooked is inadequate a word, as is my 5*

ashramblings verdict :  5*  If you have never tried a Baldacci, do. Start at the beginning of this series and read them all even if it is only to enjoy the tumultuous piece of thriller writing that is Hell’s Corner

Thursday 20 October 2011

Reasons to be cheerful Part 3

( I suspect only readers of a certain age and disposition will get what the the title of this blog refers to  = everyone else – go google!)

The fact that power cuts happen has never been a real issue. Reality is that Orissa sells its power to better off neighbouring state of Andrah Pradesh. And powers outs are fine when they are regular or scheduled. No power between 7 and 8PM? No problem just make sure you have the water boiled for your nightly cuppa before 7PM, then puts your feet up in the dark and sip a nice brew.

We’ve been pretty lucky recently, with our power outs being scheduled or at least occurring at a regular time. But this week has been back to 20 minutes on, 2 minutes off, 10 minutes on, 30 minutes off etc etc all through the day. It is unpredictable, irregular, unscheduled.

We have UPS power backups in the office, one is attached to each PC. The idea of these Uninterrupted Power Supply units is that their battery charges when there is power and then when there is no power, you have battery supply for 20 minutes. Plenty of time to finish a piece of work, save your work and properly close down the PC. That is if they worked properly.

Sadly their battery life is not good. With the above erratic power outs being typical the batteries never get much of a chance to fully charge up.  Instead of 20 minutes of power in reality you get about 5 minutes. After about 30 seconds their warning buzzer starts bleeping (Annoying noise No.1), and then the interval between bleeps gets shorter as time passes until it is bleeping constantly (Annoying noise No. 2). Finally it just completely cuts out.  Eventually the battery cannot recharge and just bleeps constantly if switched on.

In practice this means that all work which involved an electrically powered piece of equipment stops for a length of time from 30 seconds to all day. That means no PCs, no router, no internet. No fans, no light. And try not to open the fridge door too often if the power cut if for more than about 4 hours or your fridge will start to become an incubator. Any ice in the freezer compartment will have melted so good excuse to have another one of those frozen fruit juice slabs – cold, sweet – or frozen water melon sticks (Upside No. 1)

Of course if you have a laptop you are not dependent upon mains power. But remember that battery that started of as having life of say 5 hours (depends on what you run and how) now after two years of tropical dampness, low and changeable voltage power supply only has a life of under 1 hour.  My colleague’s laptop’s battery is basically fried which means her laptop goes down, without warning, each time their is a power cut.

So “what did you do when the light's were off?”  I can always find something to do, even if it is jotting down some thoughts onto paper. There are also tasks around an office which need doing and which everyone puts of doing. Once I got everyone to muck in a clear the paperwork off all the shelves and sort what should be kept from what could get flung away; we’ve done planning on pieces of paper. By the way I have been a whole 2 years without seeing a yellow sticky or any other form of Post-it note either in use or available!

But doing something during power outs is not the usual state of affairs. Normally everyone has nothing to do ,so they sit around and chat.

This is grating on me more than usual this week! Perhaps it is because I am very busy working to complete things before leaving India. Perhaps it is people’s lack of initiative. Perhaps it is that managers don’t plan work for their subordinates to do during such times. Perhaps it is because I feel a little stressed. Probably it is all of the above and more. There you have it .

Reasons to feel stressed part 1

(1) Perhaps it is because one of the jobs I am doing is one I don’t really know how to do, I have never done before and I am not finding it straightforward to figure it out.

(2) Perhaps it is because one particular person in the office when he does not  have anything to do has the habit of standing beside me watching and asking inane questions. I have been through the polite requests not to do this. I have been through the assertive requests not to do this. I have been through the blatant “Go away” request. What to try next? Blockhead!

(3) Perhaps it is because having agreed a completion plan, new tasks keep being added. OK I know all about requirements creep and I can manage  prioritising and reprioritising no problem. But it is still reflective of the same lack of planning and lack of  urgency which abound here in India. Several of these tasks could have and should have been done months ago. Most required action on someone else behalf after my initial involvement and before my final involvement.

(4) I suspect the last few weeks are amongst the most stressful for volunteers - tying to get things finished, trying to get flights home arranged, trying to get your exit paperwork in order, trying to figure out what you will be doing when you get home, where to live, will you be able to find work

(5) I hate formal goodbyes and I just know there will be one here. Indians really like their formality, speeches etc. Me, I like to just quietly go.

(6) I took a gamble earlier this month and told my house agent to find new tenants now my existing ones have vacated amicably, so effectively I have no where to stay when I get home. If Plan A AND Plan B fall through  - sXXt ! :) 

Reasons to be cheerful  part 2

(1) I will have completed the whole 2 year placement! and with some nice sustainable work outcomes. Hooray! No mean achievement, girl!

(2) I am still financially solvent. I feel like giving a “I’m still standing” finger to those politicians, bankers and economists who mess with folks savings!

(3) I will get to eat cheese, and ham,  and lamb …

(4) I will get to drink cider, gin and tonics…..

(5) I will get to see friends and talk with them for more than 5 minutes

(6) I will get to show emotion, to hug and be hugged, to hold hands, dance and let my hair down

(7)  Plan A has always been to volunteer. As of this week, Plan A is looking at least feasible. I received a placement offer from VSO with a tentative start date of mid February 2012. The process is for me to consider this, do due diligence, and give a basic Yes/No response. Then if Yes, write up my reasons why I think I can do this role, send this to VSO for the recruiting NGO and await their decision. So for now I am in due diligence mode. There are pros and cons, not least because it is a poorly drafted  job description – why are all organisational development roles so poorly spec’ed out?  I’ll post more about my due diligence efforts in a separate post. For now, I’d love to hear from anyone with experience of living and working in Nigeria, or who can put me in touch with someone they know who has lived and worked there, especially if that was in the northern part of the country, Zaria city, Kaduna state to be precise.

And that all has to be weighed up against Plan B  - a tip to toe overland Africa trip

(8) Plan B has always been to go travelling, specifically I wanted to do an African transect. NSEW. Arab Spring makes North Africa crossing still a little fraught and recent developments in Kenya have to be watched closely, but one cannot live one’s life in fear and crossing the road is perhaps the most dangerous thing we do every day without giving its hazards more than a passing thought.  So the thought was to go with an overlanding truck group. Whilst would love to do it free style  and organised trips have their limitations, they also have the advantages of less hassle over driving and coping oneself with mechanical failures and for me just now the advantage of company after 2 years mainly on my own. Ok my ideal would be to hitch up the wagon with the right company, have a mechanic in our midst and go slow in 4x4 packed with tent, sleeping bag and spending numerous nights under the African skies by the camp fire. Dreams.  Reality could get close, but with the sacrifice of speed.

These trips have fixed start dates, with West coast route leaving in November before I get home. So I had been looking at just doing the East Coast route. But just when I think I had identified my first choice operator (trying to avoid the totally party time 18-30 type trips) this idea took a set back in October when they pulled out of running trips in Africa.  So back to the drawing board and what I have come up with is an other operator starts London in early April, crossing Europe, Istanbul, down through the Middle East, Cairo and then on down the east Coast route, crossing over via Botswana to Namibia and ending up in Cape Town in mid November? I’d love a companion – anyone interested? 

(9)  Plans for the period immediately after flying home on 12/13th November are slowly beginning to take shape. I am dependent on friends sofa and spare rooms until I can get dental  and medical checkups done formally should I take the VSO placement route. Also I need to get my eyes tested and new spectacles lenses in all my glasses and sunglasses. Mundane things but critical. I also need to buy clothes  - in typical girly fashion, “I have nothing to wear!” Time is constrained because I am heading back to Algeria so need to get  visa for there renewed. Hopefully all that can be completed by early December letting me spend 6 weeks or so chilling in the dry desert heat, by the camp fire, with good companions. Anyone else feel like coming? Then a few weeks back in the UK before either heading of on placement, or a slightly longer few weeks before heading of travelling. or something completely different, who knows!

reasons to be cheerful >>> reasons to be stressed = life is still  good!

Monday 17 October 2011

Where did all the circuses go?

Water for Elephants


Directed by


Francis Lawrence


First of all a really good story line, with solid performances from the leads Reese Witherspoon as Marlena, Robert Pattinson as Jacob, and Christopher Waltz as August.

Its funny how sometimes you are drawn subconsciously to films with the same actor in them. I recently watch Twilight, just to see what the phenomenon was all about, and then I picked up this one not realising Robert Pattinson was in both. He has that certain something of a screen presence: be it as the Edward Cullen, the vampire at school or Jacob Jankowski, the young naive child of Polish immigrant parents and  would be vet. However the performance that drew me was  that of Christopher Waltz as the effervescent, somewhat demonic showman struggling to keep the show on the road or more accurately the rails, dishing out cruelty to animals and performers alike, whilst being besotted by his wife as she and the young Jacob fall in love, brought together by their mutually caring for the animals. The story of Jacob’s falling in love with the circus and with Marlena is told Titanic style as Jacob the old man (Hal Holbrook) recants the untold story behind a  circus disaster from 1931 to a young big topper.

I did not know the director at all and was surprised to find he  is a music video director and has made only a handful of feature films. Impressed by this rendering which brought back memories of circuses coming to town as a child I have made a mental note to check out his others

ashramblings verdict 4* A polished (no pun intended) rendition of a good story. Highly recommended

Sunday 16 October 2011

Be Kind Rewind

Be Kind Rewind

Directed by

Michel Gondry

Remember when you used to rent video tapes and how it was so infuriating when the previous user did not rewind the cassette even when the sticker said Be Kind Rewind?

Comic caper with a touch of redemption set around the inadvertent wiping of all the tapes on the video store when the owner is away. It tells how two bumbling attendants, played by Jack Black and Mos Def , set out to remake, without any money, every film their customers want. Their home made “sweded” versions of standard like Ghostbusters &  RoboCop push up rental sales for the store. How they do it provides the comedy. The impact of their actions provides the redemption part as their down at heel neighbourhood rallies round and community spirit shines through.

I struggled with the early part of this film (it is not my sort of comedy) but it slowly grew on me. There’s support from Mai Farrow as the somewhat eccentric neighbour, Danny Glover, as the store owner with a soft spot for the music of Fats Waller and some good small parts for some young actors and actresses. I was particularly taken with Mos Def as the less wacky one of the pair who is left in charge of the store.

ashramblings verdict: 3* In many ways it is a vehicle for Black, so if you like his style then have a look see, but if you don’t Be Kind to yourself bypass it.

A class act on the Home Intrusion theme

The Strangers

Written & Directed by

Bryan Bertrino


I was impressed!  The writer/director looks very young in his imdb photo and I couldn’t find out very much about him but I think he did a stunningly good job on this film. Ok as readers of this blog will know Horror films are not normally my cup of tea, but every so often one just hits the spot. This one has shades of Stanley Kubrick’s Clockwork Orange and Michael Haneke’s Funny Games about it and Yes I think it holds it own amongst these class acts.

You know from the beginning what the end is, but I was on the edge of my seat waiting for how it was going to get there. The reasons for Doll Face and the other masked intruders is never explained, indeed the only hint of an explanation is the “It will be easier next time” line near the end. So yes there is gratuitous violence but it comes late. It is suspense that the movie is full of, not horror. It is atmospheric throughout as we watch the young couple(played beautifully by Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman) dealing with a pivotal point in their relationship, face the unknown terror of intruders. Its blend of suspense creating moves (like the looping record, the alternately friendly – menacing intrusions of the masked trio, the moving of the mobile phone etc) balance nicely with some intensely emotional scenes as they try to repair the relationship breach. For the most part, there is only these two actors on screen. Their performances are riveting. Many internet sites did not rate this movie highly but not me. I really liked it.

ashramblings verdict : a stunning debut. A young director to watch (4*)


He cooked and cleaned at our Old Aged Home. He brought us chai when we had visitors and snacks when meetings went on late. He brought replacement gas bottles round to my house on his cycle. He wielded a extra long handled brush for cleaning the wings of ceiling fans. He was due to get married in December. A quite small man, physically lithe and full of energy and action, he was always on the go with big wide eyes and a constant smile.  He was 28.
My VSO colleague Gina was here on Tuesday and Wednesday this week to help us build our new web site. During our training session on Tuesday, something was not as normal, there was no chai that afternoon. I noticed it but then forgot about it until I came into the office early on the next day. Pralad had it seems gone down with fever on the Sunday, taken malarial medicine but had succumbed to coma and died at 4AM Wednesday morning.
Pralad had  worked at Shakti for over 7 years. Sadly I don’t have a picture – he was always there, behind the scenes, never in the photo! Pralad’s family come from a village only some 40miles from Rayagada. The vehicle wanted 4000 Rupees to transport his body back for burial. An exorbitant amount of money in local terms Shakti paid for this. There was a post mortem on Wednesday  morning and funeral arrangements had to be made. As per local tradition this happens very quickly. It was all over by Wednesday evening.
imageMalaria is endemic here in this part of Orissa. In the two years I have been here there have been regular instances of people getting malaria. Our field staffs are particularly prone, but office based staff have also succumbed. Everyone else has come through it. Pralad was unlucky he didn’t just get malaria caused by Plasmodium vivax, Plasmodium ovale, and Plasmodium malariae , he caught the cerebral malaria form caused by Plasmodium falciparum  which is a horrid, swift, effective killer – fever, enlargement of spleen and liver, coughing up of blood, renal failure, brain damage, unrousable coma. Fatality rates are over 20%.
As a volunteer we all get mosquito nets and antimalarials.  Pralad had a net. If you live here you cannot take these malarial medicines all your life, they are strong drugs. But as a temporary resident why not – the old adage of prevention being    better than cure certainly applies . I know some volunteers do not take their antimalarials. Readers will remember my dilemma last year when I was suffering from the side effects of my original antimalarials. In the end I stopped in May 2010 hoping the Hot season was too hot for mosquitoes, and started back on a different regime, Larium, upon my return in August after my trip home. Monsoon and post monsoon seem to be the worse periods. So far I am safe and well.
Not so Pralad, even with malarial net, he was bitten by an infected mosquito sometime  over the past couple of weeks. He went from being a healthy young man to dead one within 3 days!  A salient lesson for us all.
From Health Care
Some Orissa Malaria facts (Source)
Orissa reports
23% of all malaria cases in India
40% of Plasmodium falciparum  cases in India
50 % of deaths from Plasmodium falciparum  cases in India

Photo “Awareness raising re malaria and the proper use of mosquito nets”
courtesy of Shakti Organisation

Monday 10 October 2011

Money money money…life in a world without cash

Dussera is a big holiday here in this part of India when people travel home to  see family. In that way a bit like Thanksgiving is in the USA. People also buy new clothes at this time. The clothes shops give extra discounts to entice you to part with your money in the period between Dussera and Diwali holidays.  Everyone spends and everyone moves. Consequently the trains are full, the roads are crowded, and the ATMs are empty. I completely misjudged it this year and was left without money for 6  whole days!

Ok I slightly exaggerate, slightly. I got down as far as having 60 Rupees in my hand! That’s less than £1 GBP. Remember that here no one uses plastic.  I’ve not seen a credit card, or a shop with a EFTPOS swipe facility in all the time I have been here. Cash is king!

My little experience of surviving without cash for 6 days shows just how great people are in rallying round. First it should be said that I always had a back up. My neighbourhood grocer has in the past stood me my shopping when the local ATM has been out of action when the electricity supply has been off, so I always had a fall back position of a quiet word in the friendly ears with Kieran Kumar!

The first nice reaction from people happened mid holiday period. Mr P volunteered to lend me some cash to tie me over. Considering we have a “Don’t ask, don’t be refused” sign in the office regarding salary advances, I thought this was really nice personal gesture. So that got me restocked up with a few item like eggs, cooking oil, milk, cereal, etc That was on Wednesday 5th. I raided my store cupboard, cooked up eggs, tomato khadjura, lentils and beans and kept my last tin of tuna for a treat.

The holiday started on Sunday 2nd and continued through Friday 7th. On Saturday morning my sabzi walla re appeared and I sent her away saying come back on Monday. She came on Sunday! I had been hopeful of the ATMs being restocked on the Saturday or Sunday, but alas no such joy . I had to explain to her that I had no money ‘gote såptahå sabu dina rupee kichi nahi’ seemed to work, when I tried to explain that was why I sent her away the previous day, she got a fit of the giggles and started jabbering away in her mix of Telugu and Oriya, the jist of which I understood to be I should take my vegetables and pay her later! Amazing! In the end I raided the pennies jar and counted out the 1 and 2 rupee coins  that collect there and paid her 3 Rupees short!

Onto Monday afternoon and my office colleague, who had also been doing the rounds of the ATMs looking for money, said he saw a queue at one on his way into the office. Later that evening, Sanjay and I set of on the office motor cycle to see if we can find a working ATM.  3 ATMs later, we found a queue of 6 people  waiting at the railway station ATM. An optimistic sign I reckon! By the time I had my turn, the queue behind me had grown to another 8-10 people: clearly word of a working, stocked ATM travels fast! 

Those 6 transactions in front of me took about 30 minutes. The first 2 passed of without hitch and I didn’t really notice the time ticking by, it was a really nice cool evening to be outside. Then it was the turn of a tall man in a yellow Tshirt . It was clearly not at his usual ATM, he was reading every instruction closely and was having a problem with his card.  Now let me explain how ATM booths work in India. Everyone crowds into the  booth - there’s no standing waiting respectfully outside when you conduct your financial transactions in private. No, this is India, everyone gets inside! But in such circumstances  as this, folks are even keener to see what is going on and why this man’s transaction is taking so long. No one complains, indeed lots of advice is offered – ‘pull the card out more quickly’, ‘give it a wipe clean’ etc  But this time it is all to no avail.

The next guy tries his card just to prove the machine is still functioning. It takes forever to print  out his receipt but he gets his money, a few hundred rupees. It is now my turn. I tell yellow Tshirt to try again. Still no luck and he gives up. I step up the the ochy! Everything goes smoothly until I tell it how much I want. It sits there processing my request for what seems like an eternity. Again the advice comes from the folks at my rear. ‘Cancel it’, ‘it's got stuck’, ‘Try again’. I hear sounds of “card problem” further behind me from way outside the booth. More advice form inside the booth. ‘No don’t cancel, wait, the light’s on, its going to print’. The bleeping starts. Finally an ‘Unable to proceed’ with my request message appears !!! Ah Ha I think, I asked for too much money.  I half what I initially asked for and me and my entourage wait again. Money arrives, then the long wait on the receipt again. Everyone is amazingly patient.

Sanjay and I start to head back to the office. We are about half way when we run out of petrol! Luckily we are fairly near the petrol pump. Again as we are determining exactly what is wrong with the bike several people collect to see what is going on, and to offer advice on the clutch, on how to wiggle the bike to get the last drop out of the tank! After getting us moving again we just stall a little further on. We give up. I walk and Sanjay pushes the motor bike the last 5 minutes to the refill point. We joke about  how funny it would be if their was no petrol! In a town used to having no power, and no good road, it takes having no money in its strides, but no petrol would be a joke too far!

Eventually around 9PM I got back home. The whole house was already locked down for the night. Just as  I was locking up my own door, out comes my landlady’s daughter carry shopping bags. They had been to market. Realising I had no money they had bought me some fruits and some mushrooms with the expectation of me paying for them when the ATMs had cash.

Aren’t people just great! Thank you everyone!

Thursday 6 October 2011

What matters to you?

ashramblings supported charity this year is Cancer Research, donate via our
We’re 58 and in the Pink! campaign Just Giving gadget to the left
The somewhat expected news of Steve Jobs’ death aged 56 greeted me this  morning, another victim to cancer.
Now I’ve never been a great fan of the Mac (more a PC girl myself), but I own an iPod and use iTunes, although I don’t really like the way they work compared to some other mp3 players, synchronising with one computer is too restrictive, and as an early adopter of the Sony eReader, Apple missed out on me again as a user.
That said, I can but admire the concept, the design and the marketing of one of the world’s biggest brands. How many other world figures have truly touched, impacted and changed  the everyday lives of so many folks across the planet?
Reading his obituary I was struck by the common sense of the man and specifically by this quote.
"Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn't matter to me … Going to bed at night saying we've done something wonderful … that's what matters to me."
Steve Jobs, as quoted in his Guardian obituary
So I thought a fitting tribute to his vision and philosophy of life would be to ask everyone to post their own “what matters to me” comment here on the blog (let’s try and get them all in one place, so please do not post to the facebook rendering) and see what a diverse range of things inspire people to get up in the morning and make them feel entitled to a good nights sleep.
So let me start….
……for now, what matters to me is to have helped someone achieve something for themselves which they either did not know how to do or how to find out how to do beforehand or did not have the courage or confidence to attempt.

Monday 3 October 2011

A Rag, Tag and Bobtailed Consortium of Washington Truth Seekers

Camel Club No. 3 Stone Cold




David Baldacci


I listened to the first two book in this series some time ago as an introduction to Baldacci’s thrillers and really should have followed straight onto the third as the story continues from a baseline set in book 2 The Collectors and book 1 The Camel Club. The reader has a lovely sounding, slightly gruff, older male voice which I really liked. It suited the story and suited the main character Oliver Stone, ex US government assassin.

The Camel Club of the series title is a rag, tag and bobtail conglomerate of folks Stone, rare books librarian Caleb Shaw, obsessive Milton Farb , ex agent now anti war protester Rueben Rhodes and side kick veteran Secret Service agent Alex Ford. The characters are just great, well crafted and very human. It is the details Baldacci gives that makes them so real and personable from the physical descriptions to their familiar circumstances, to the emotional context of their characters.

“Harry Finn rose as usual at six-thirty, made coffee, let the dog out into the fenced backyard for its morning constitutional, showered, shaved, woke the kids for school and oversaw that complicated operation for the next half hour as breakfasts were gulped, backpacks and shoes grabbed and arguments started and settled. His wife joined him, looking sleepy but nonetheless game for another day as a mother/chauffeur of three, including a precocious, independent-minded teenage boy.

Harry Finn was in his thirties with still boyish features and a pair of clear blue eyes that missed nothing. He'd married young and loved his wife and three children and even held sincere affection toward the family dog, a floppy-eared golden Labradoodle named George. Finn was an inch over six feet tall, with a long-limbed, wiry build ideally suited for speed and endurance. He was dressed in his usual faded jeans and shirttail-out clothing. And with round eyeglasses on and his intelligent, introspective expression, he looked like an accountant who enjoyed listening to Aerosmith after a day of crunching numbers. Although he was amazingly athletic, living by his wits was actually how he put bread on the table and iPods in his kids' ears, and he was very good at his work. Indeed, there were very few people who could do what Harry Finn could. And live. He kissed his wife good-bye, hugged his kids, even the teenager, grabbed a duffel bag that he'd placed near the front door the night before, slid into his Toyota Prius and drove to National Airport on the Potomac River right outside of Washington, D.C.”

I like his paced style. The story line crosses the underworld/mob and the connections and progresses along very nicely linking in international espionage hit squads. I was so hooked at the end of this third book, with its Dumbledore moment near the end, that I have immediately started book 4 Divine Justice

Baldacci’s website has book intros, excerpts from the audio versions, for anyone interested

The Camel Club 

The Collectors

Stone Cold

Divine Justice

Hell's Corner

As far as I know only his first novel Absolute Power has been made into a movie – why none of the others? Who knows! Pity!

ashramblings verdict: (4*) If you like a real good thriller, this series is for you, but read them from the beginning and be prepared to read them all.

Sunday 2 October 2011

Independence day without the humour

Battle Los Angeles


Directed by


Jonathan Liebesman


Fast action thriller following basically the same premise as other alien invasion movies, with gritty determined band of brothers taking down the alien’s command and control centre. The usual civilians are picked up along the way, but the love interest is played down, there are no happy reunions with loved ones at the end, only solidarity with the staff sergeant the group did not initially want but came to understand, respect and follow. The film is heavy on effects, but interestingly sparse on real close ups of the aliens, save the makeshift autopsy, or much sense of the wider battle ranging beyond. The viewer is totally with this one small group of marines, in their isolation from the rest of humanity, as they make critical decisions, with limited information and little time. I was surprised to find myself on the edge of my seat with this movie.


ashramblings verdict : a good enough rainy afternoon thriller (3*)