Book Review: Cell (Stephen King, 2006)

cell-1Year: 2006
Author: Stephen King
Publisher: Hodder (UK)
Format: Paperback (reviewed)
Pages: 350
ISBN: 9780340921531

[note: this is a slightly tweaked version of a review previously published on my other blog, in 2018]

On October 1, God is in His heaven, the stock market stands at 10,140, most of the planes are on time, and graphic artist Clayton Riddell is visiting Boston, having just landed a deal that might finally enable him to make art instead of teaching it. But all those good feelings about the future change in a hurry thanks to a devastating phenomenon that will come to be known as The Pulse. The delivery method is a cell phone – everyone’s cell phone. Now Clay and the the few desperate survivors who join him suddenly find themselves in the pitch-black night of civilisation’s darkest age, surrounded by chaos, carnage and a relentless human horde that has been reduced to its basest nature…and then begins to evolve. There’s really no escaping this nightmare. But for Clay, an arrow points the way home to his family in Maine, and as he and his fellow refugees make their harrowing journey north, they begin to see the crude signs confirming their direction. A promise of a safe haven, perhaps, or quite possibly the deadliest trap of all…

Stephen King’s Cell is – in my opinion – the sort of book that becomes a bit more relevant with each passing year. The story’s broken civilisation setting is nothing new and the ‘journey’ format, starring a group of survivors heading out into a new world full of danger, has been done before by the same writer (see The Stand for one example) but the fact that mobile phones are the cause of doom and destruction? Well, that part seems more and more plausible with each passing year.

We do after all, live in a world where so many rely on their phone for so much. People are glued to them on buses, trains and even in social gatherings where they are supposed to be communicating with real people (remember those?). Drivers would rather risk crashing, whilst crawling in traffic, than missing a vital Facebook update and there is of course, an app for everything.

So Cell’s premise of a brain-scrambling virus distributed globally via mobile networks, and wiping any trace of civilisation from their owner’s minds, doesn’t seem so far-fetched as a form of cyber terrorism that could metaphorically nuke most of the world’s population in one fell swoop. The book doesn’t focus on who was responsible for this attack or where they orchestrated it from because that isn’t the point. Instead, Cell takes the reader on a journey with a group of survivors who are thrown together in the wake of this catastrophe because they were either fortunate enough to not have their phone with them or because they didn’t own one in the first place.

There is the typical rich, satisfying detail that you’d expect to find in a Stephen King book, especially with regards to the primal, unfeeling violence that those affected by the cellular virus (known as ‘The Pulse’) inflict on others in the immediate aftermath. It feels real and a fair prediction of what might actually happen should such an event hit a technology-reliant Western society. As with any Stephen King book, no punches are pulled when it comes to the description of the violence and gore and this only helps make the survivors’ situation feel even more vivid.

Once the initial impact of The Pulse has brought civilisation to its knees, Cell then focuses on the main characters and how their mental state responds to suddenly being thrust into a world drowning in nonsensical madness, where only the fittest will survive. The main character is an everyman up-and-coming artist named Clayton Riddell who just wants to get home and find his young son, hoping that he hasn’t switched his phone on and that he still lives. He joins up with other survivors – who have their own harrowing stories – and they set out to escape Boston, make sense of the situation and find safety.

I really enjoyed Cell the first time I read it and re-reading it today, in 2018, it was just as good. The characters are very likeable and relatable as ordinary, everyday people. The mental journey and development that they go through also feels believable and you – the reader – do feel as if you are on this journey with them (albeit in the safer confines of the real world!) and the book becomes an addictive page-turner like most of Stephen King’s output. I also really enjoyed the detail, the descriptions of the violence and the state of the ruined world.

It’s a testament to King’s writing, and the way that he crafts endearing characters, that Cell also managed to sucker-punch me, striking me right in the feels when one of the group is suddenly killed without warning. It came out of nowhere and genuinely made me angry towards the killer! I can’t say that I experience that sort of emotive response to a book very often.

If I have any criticisms of Cell then they would be the inconclusive ending (which kind of leaves the reader to decide on what ultimately happens) and the fact that some new allies are introduced during the latter stages of the book yet there isn’t really the time to explore their characters and get to like them as anything other than a late-game support cast. I found that I was only there to see what happened to Clay and his original companions, not the new additions to the group.

Overall though, Cell is a great book and one of the better ones in Stephen King’s ‘modern’ lineup. I do tend to prefer the older, horror/supernatural-orientated books but Cell still manages to feel a little like those past glories while also having the other foot planted in a more current era.

Comic Book Review – Savage Red Sonja: Queen of the Frozen Wastes (Dynamite, 2007)

DSC_0125Year: 2006
Format: Trade Paperback (collects issues #1-4 of Savage Red Sonja: Queen of the Frozen Wastes)
Artist(s): Homs (interiors), Frank Cho (Covers), Will Murai (Colours)
Writer(s): Frank Cho, Doug Murray
ISBN: 9781933305387

Savage Red Sonja: Queen of the Frozen Wastes delivers an action-packed story and incredible art as Red Sonja, the She-Devil with a Sword battles the beautiful and deadly Ice Queen and her army of Yeti warriors! Under the Frozen Wastes, Sonja will work to lead and army, and restore the broken spirit of the Ice Queen’s human slaves.

Queen of the Frozen Wastes is my first foray into the world of Red Sonja. I have no doubt that there are much better stories starring the She-Devil with a Sword for me to discover but there were a few reasons that I opted for this particular TPB. Chiefly, it was the Frank Cho covers that drew me in. Cho is one my all-time favourite artists when it comes to depictions of powerful yet immensely sexy and voluptuous women, and his style is a perfect fit for an amazonian warrior woman like Sonja who is incredible to behold (with her ever-impractical chainmail bikini) and totally badass.

Secondly, it’s because I’m a cheapskate! I found this book used on ebay for £8 delivered. You can pay two, three or even four times that for a variant cover of a single, newer Red Sonja issue so being able to pick up a TPB, collecting this four-issue series and all of the variant covers, for less than a tenner seemed like a deal to me.

Unfortunately, Cho is only the cover artist for this series but bitching about that too much would be doing a massive disservice to the interior artist, Homs. I’ve not come across Jose Homs’ work before but I really enjoyed it here in Savage Red Sonja. He has a great understanding of anatomy and I didn’t see a single awkward or unrealistic pose. I especially liked some of his slightly more dynamic panels where there are overhead view of standing characters with perfect foreshortening.

The battle scenes are full of energy and movement and there is no shortage of bloody violence and death as Homs ensures that Sonja lives up to the ‘Savage’ part of this series’ name.

The plot sees Sonja out in the titular Frozen Wastes, leading a band of warriors against raiders. These are no ordinary raiders however, and Sonja winds up being captured and taken to a subterranean world of cannibalistic Yeti-men where imprisoned warriors are used as slaves and even food. Ruling over this twisted realm is a creepy queen with the ability to heal wounds in an instant; an ability shared by her warriors who have some sort of link to the Queen. Essentially, their injuries are mirrored on her own body and and both the Queen and her injured men can instantly recover from stab or slash wounds.

This seemingly immortal queen, as the only female, has been the sole source of reproduction for her people over the ages but she desires more children – stronger children – to ensure the survival of her tribe. What she seeks is some sort of freaky lesbian sexy time with Sonja to achieve this. I don’t quite know how the biology of all this is supposed to go down but Sonja is having none of it, despite being overpowered and even put on a leash as the Queen’s (sex) pet.

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Sonja manages to escape, reinvigorate the enslaved men, and start killing shit as she refuses to bend the knee and accept her imprisonment in this sinister underground world. Heads roll and the blood flows as the She-Devil with a Sword hacks her way through yeti men, hulking berserkers and massive beasts.

If I have one critcism of Queen of the Frozen Wastes, it’s that the ending is quite abrupt and a slightly unsatisfying conclusion to the enjoyable action that comes before it. It could have done with a couple more pages perhaps. Obviously, as a four issue series, it’s also quite short with a good chunk of this TPB taken up with all of the alternate covers and some sketchbook pages from Cho and Homs at the back.

That said, for what it is, Savage Red Sonja: Queen of the Frozen Wastes is an enjoyable, untaxing read that you can really kick back with. The plot is average but the visuals, the defiant character of Sonja and those glorious Cho covers make this a miniseries worth picking up.

I do have to give a shout-out to the first few pages though, where Sonja is in the wastes and saying that she hates the cold, yet is out in a blizzard in her bikini with a token fur hood/cloak as her only defence from the elements!

Coronavirus: getting its power from the media

Coronavirus Generic 1

Yes, it’s two posts in a row about the hot topic of the moment: the Coronavirus. Now, I’m as sick of hearing about this damn virus as you probably are, but what I have to say in this post felt like a topic in its own right so here it is.

I want to discuss whether we – as a species – are overreacting to the Coronavirus and granting it too much power over us.

But a little disclaimer before I get into this shit. I’m in no way attempting to downplay the Coronavirus or pretend that I am some sort of expert with an inside line. Here, on this blog, I have previously spoken about the importance of accepting that you know nothing and that you must always prepare to be wrong about something, and I continue to subscribe to these philosophies. I’m no scientist or medical expert and I accept that I could be totally wrong with my regards to the Coronavirus.

In defence of the seriousness of the situation:

  • The virus is highly contagious and spreads ridiculously easily
  • There is no vaccine available
  • The elderly and those with pre-existing health conditions are at a real risk

It’s this last one that’s particularly important because it’s easy to bang on about how we will endure the Coronavirus as we would the flu, but there is an entire section of our community that doesn’t feel as invincible and with good reason. A standard flu could be fatal for them but at least there is a vaccine available. What I’m saying is that it’s a bit ignorant and selfish to only think about ourselves and those in our age bracket.

That said, I remain sceptical.

While I agree that the Coronavirus is a serious threat, I DO believe that we are overreacting. Shutting everything down. Panic-buying toilet roll and hand gel. Crippling the economy. The panic-buying is down to people being idiots. The rest? Well, the media and the governments of the world need to take a good look at themselves.

What SHOULD be happening is an appeal for calm. We need to try and carry on as usual and not live in fear of somebody in the same room sneezing. Unfortunately, the media LOVE this shit and the more dramatic and apocalyptic they can make the Corona sound, the better. As I said, we need to get our shit together and not give the virus so much power over our thoughts and day-to-day life. Understandably, it’s pretty difficult when the news channels be like

Corona-1

The first thing to realise is that our media is incredibly misleading. Only last night, for example, I heard the BBC news refer to the Coronavirus as a “disease”. That’s factually incorrect for starters.

Next, they like to highlight the seriousness of the situation by repeating how many hundreds (or thousands depending on where you live) are infected. The thing is, these figures are the total confirmed cases that have been recorded since the beginning of the outbreak. What the media doesn’t do is subtract all of the people who have recovered. Instead, they keep on stacking the cases up, implying that all of these people are still infected and recovering (which is false).

Thirdly, every new Coronavirus-related death is hammered home for maximum effect but you have to look beyond the headlines. Every person that has died here in the UK for example, has been of an older age and already suffering with underlying health conditions. Yet, millions of fit and healthy younger people are absolutely bricking themselves. I don’t have any actual figures but I’m reasonably confident that as many, if not more people, have succumbed to the regular flu since 2020 kicked off.

The news media is doing the world no favours by broadcasting Coronavirus updates on a 24/7 loop. What they are doing is fueling the fire and encouraging panic, forcing governments to react accordingly and cause MORE panic by taking drastic measures such as quarantining entire cities or cancelling public gatherings. When measures such as these are taken, it MUST be an end-of-the-world scenario, surely? I saw the following post on a forum that I’m a member of and I have to say that it hits the nail squarely on its head:

“I’m not worried about coronavirus.

It’s the various governments, medias and general population’s panicking in pants-wetting fear reaction to coronavirus that I find worrisome.

Overreaction to new threats is part of the human condition but I’m feeling increasingly uncomfortable about our current media and leaders apparently being unable to resist the drama and seeming hellbent on putting the shits up themselves and everybody else when they should be calming things down.”

I have wondered: what if this virus had never been given a label? What if it wasn’t being given the top billing on every news bulletin? Would we all just be walking around complaining about how much flu was going around? I think we might. After all, doctor’s waiting rooms were heaving last December with flu-riddled patients so, given how inaccurate and suspicious China’s reporting of the Coronavirus has been, how do we know that it wasn’t already doing the rounds before the official announcement of the outbreak? Obviously, that’s just a loose theory, and I’m sure that I can be proved incorrect, but hopefully you get my point.

The news media has transformed the Coronavirus into a boogeyman and given it an incredible amount of power over us that I’m not happy about.

Social media has also played its part by allowing everybody to post images of empty supermarket shelves and whip the populance into a panic-buying frenzy that is entirely unnecessary. The hysteria on the likes of Facebook and Twitter is possibly more destructive than the traditional news because millions are constantly viewing their feeds and gradually being convinced that they too must surely need to start stockpiling supplies. After all, if everybody else is doing it, it has to be the right thing to do…right? FOMO and all that. Baaa.

corona-4

There are some nuggets of positivity that have come out of social media’s Coronavirus coverage however:

corona-2

That’s the sort of can-do attitude that we need! None of this miserable doom-mongering.

My outlook on the Coronavirus is simple: there’s only so much you can do. I’m going to be cautious, keep washing my hands (as advised) and do what I can to keep my germs to myself but, at the end of the day, if it’s going to happen, then it’s going to happen. Worrying and losing your shit isn’t going to help.

I firmly believe that we need to remain calm and relieve the pressure on our society and economy by NOT giving the Coronavirus so much power. Above all, don’t be a stupid fool and fill your spare room with bog roll. If everybody carries on as usual, and shops as normal, then there won’t BE shortages. All of these shortages are entirely artificial and caused by people stockpiling for no reason. Automated re-ordering systems in shops aren’t prepared for such a sudden influx of sales and will take time to catch up. That doesn’t mean that X item is no longer available. It just means that businesses and systems run on projected sales that are based on past shopping trends. These systems are being overloaded by monstrous sales volumes that they haven’t anticipated. Likewise, the  manufacturing sector wasn’t ready for such a rapid upturn in demand.

Don’t be a sheep.
Don’t stockpile like a greedy, panicky douche.
Don’t assume that this is the end of the world.
And, just maybe, don’t keep checking the news every hour.

corona-3

Coronavirus: Exposing our world’s greatest illusion

Yes, even Unfiltered Opinion isn’t immune to the dreaded Coronavirus. I’m not infected here at UO Towers but the situation has provided me with some food for thought.

Heading off on a brief (but wholly relevant) tangent, one of my favourite series’ of books ever written are Robert E. Howard’s Conan adventures. It is in one of these entirely unapologetic and totally non-PC stories (Beyond the Black River, 1935) that I came across a fantastic quote that has stayed with me ever since:

“Barbarism is the natural state of mankind,” the borderer said, still staring somberly at the Cimmerian. “Civilization is unnatural. It is a whim of circumstance. And barbarism must always ultimately triumph.”

conan-1

We put an incredible amount of faith in our civilisation, society and – above all – the controlled order of things. We believe ourselves to be intelligent, highly sophisticated and far above the primitive nature of our caveman ancestors. Furthermore, we assume that everything around us is here to stay forever – as solid and dependable as Conan’s muscles.

The reality is that we, as creatures, haven’t actually changed all that much, and major epidemics such as the Coronavirus expose our civilised world for what it really is – an illusion. It’s an extremely thin and terribly fragile illusion too, as illustrated by how quickly we fall back on our primal survival instincts at the first signs of trouble, discarding all of our learned concepts of order and rationality. There could even be an argument to say that we are heading backwards when it comes to our behaviour and mental strength.

If you doubt me then may I point you to the utterly bonkers panic buying of toilet roll in Australia.

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What we see here is wholly irrational activity that makes zero logical sense. First of all, there have been no indicators to suggest that toilet roll – of all things – is going to be in short supply during a Coronavirus epidemic yet a lot of Australians are shitting themselves (pun totally intended) at the prospect of being caught short (another 100% planned pun) and not having access to a doomsday bunker’s worth of bog roll.

Secondly, why in hell is toilet roll being bought out above FOOD?

Thirdly, Australians are acting like sheep and buying crazy amounts of toilet paper because they see other people building these entirely unnecessary stockpiles and believe that there MUST be a reason for it. They don’t want to be left behind. In short, people are imitating their neighbours and fellow shoppers without asking themselves if it’s really necessary. Even the OG toilet paper panic-buyers had no evidence or inside information to justify what they were doing so what hope is there for those who are switching off their brains and following the herd? Blind, instinctive reaction is trumping calm rationale.

Point four: we have become entirely dependant on our lifestyle of convenience and consumerism, where everything is produced and provided for us in pretty packages. It’s a far cry from a time when we humans had to go out into the wild and gather resources for ourselves. Whatever we want, it’s there on a store shelf, available 24/7 – no effort, risk or skill required. We are totally domesticated and painfully vulnerable, depending on this structured way of life like a baby clings to a big, reassuring, milk-dispensing breast.

As Dr Rohan Miller from the University of Sydney says…

“We’re not used to shortages and scarcity, we’re used to being able to pick and choose what we want, when we want. So the rush to get toilet paper is just this sheep mentality to maintain that status.”

My fifth and final point?

Police were even called to a dispute on Wednesday, with reports saying a knife was pulled out in an argument over toilet roll between panic buying shoppers.

Head in Hands

To summarise the Australian toilet roll madness:

  • Irrational behaviour
  • Fear taking control
  • Utterly fucked priorities
  • Herd mentality
  • Instincts > rational thinking
  • Violence and aggression

Now, does ANY of the above belong in a civilised, ordered society where we claim to be “better” than our ancient ancestors? Does any of this gel with us supposedly being more intelligent and resilient than ever before?

This is where I was going to sign off, point having being made. However, in the time that I left this post unfinished, I have been on the frontlines of this madness. Yes, the bog roll panic-buying has come here to the UK – again, for absolutely no reason whatsoever. It has crossed over from the land down under without requiring a human-to-human transmission, so you could say that this braindead stupidity is far more infectious that the Coronavirus itself.

I work in the wholesale business and it was with great dismay, on Saturday, that I noticed customers wheeling big trollies of toilet roll to the tills. It wasn’t their fault, mind. Their shops had been cleaned out by rampant panic-buying crazies and so they had to come in and re-stock.

Worse still, we were cleaned out of painkillers and some medicines because, clearly, these are also hot commodities that any respectable British citizen needs in their Coronavirus-ready fallout shelter. Antiseptic liquids were another casaulty but these were being purchased by enterprising profiteers. One such businessman laughed and happily told me that people are buying anything with the word “antiseptic” printed on the bottle so he was stocking up to cash in on the situation.

The cracks in our concept of civilisation are growing a little wider it would seem. I can picture the borderer from Beyond the Black River nodding sagely as I type this…

Little notebook of wisdom [Part 2]

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Previously, I posted about how I had decided to utilise one of my (many) empty notebooks as a place to record snippets of practical wisdom. It would be a place to return to and remind myself of useful nuggets of truth whenever I’m in need of a good kick up the arse. This is another selection of the wisdom that I have jotted down.

Link to Part 1

Why do we fall?
So we can learn to pick ourselves up.

Yes, this a much-overused quote from a certain bat-themed superhero movie but, if you subtract the pop-culture and t-shirts emblazoned with this quote, you will find that it remains an incredibly useful piece of advice. We seem to be petrified of failure, whether it’s due to being afraid of letting ourselves down or losing face in front of others. It also doesn’t help that our society and the media are set on punishing failure. However, failure is absolutely necessary in order to facilitate growth because how else are you going to learn what does and doesn’t work? It is only through failure that we can let go of our fears and learn to take risks. It is only through failure that we learn to analyse what went wrong, modify our approach(es) and become more adept at something. It is only through failure that we learn how to take the punches and move on from setbacks, rather than dwelling on them for prolonged periods of time.

Ask yourself: who is really living their life? Person A who takes risks and sometimes fails, but is at least trying new things and amassing experience, or Person B who stays inside their self-limiting comfort zone and devotes time and energy to mocking or criticising Person A’s failures?

Never ask advice of someone whom you wouldn’t want to trade places with.

This one seems obvious but we all do it from time-to-time, myself included. We ask the wrong people for advice on our problems and wonder why we get no closer to solving them. We need to learn to surround ourselves with the right people and not imitate those who are crashing and burning or hurting others for personal profit. As an example, a player of a man might be shagging multiple women and walking around with a big grin on his face right now, but would you want to be in his shoes when it all (inevitably) goes horribly wrong and his wife/girlfriend finds out?

Action > Inspiration > Motivation

Do something – anything

I – like many people – used to believe that you had to be inspired first in order to gain the motivation needed to take action. This isn’t entirely false as we all occasionally find ourselves struck by inspiration while going about our everyday lives. However, subscribing to the “Inspiration First” method is far from guaranteed to yield results. It’s why so many people don’t accomplish anything or better themselves; because they are sitting around waiting to be inspired – waiting for somebody/something else to come to them. It puts you in the passenger seat and can lead to a self-victimising attitude where you blame the world around you for not providing inspiration, when you should be out there hunting it yourself.

This isn’t to say that you need to become a larger-than-life go-getter who travels the world and seeks crazy adventure. “Taking action” means doing anything, as long as it’s something. For example, if you want to write but feel as if you are lacking inspiration, just resolve to write something – anything – to get the wheels turning. If a big essay needs writing but you aren’t feeling motivated, or are intimidated by the figurative mountain of work before you, simply decide to write a single paragraph. You may well find the pressure on yourself lifted and one paragraph will become two, then three. Before you know it, you could have filled several pages with words without noticing how long you have been at it.

Even with this blog, I’ve sometimes not wanted to write but I say, “okay, I’ll just type out the introductory paragraph.” More often than not, I’ll go on to produce the entire post or, at the least, a good chunk more than that opening paragraph. Often, it’s the act of getting started that is the most difficult but any small step towards achieving something can be enough to stoke your boiler, build up a strong head of steam and find forwards motion.

Movie Talk: The Sam Raimi Spider-Man Films Re-Visited [Part 2]

spiderman2posterRelease Year: 2004
Directed By: Sam Raimi
Starring: Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco, Alfred Molina, Rosemary Harris, J.K. Simmons, Donna Murphy

When I re-visited the first of Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy, I was somewhat apprehensive, expecting the movie to have aged poorly. I didn’t have such doubts about the first of the two sequels though. Spider-Man 2 was always regarded as the best of the three movies for multiple reasons, and I certainly remember agreeing with this sentiment back in the day following the release of the divisive Spider-Man 3. I do have a small confession to make before I get into Spider-Man 2 though: I’m writing this review having also already re-watched Spider-Man 3. I’m not going to talk about the final Sam Raimi Spider-Man film in this review, but I will say that – having watched the whole trilogy – Spider-Man 2 is still by far the strongest of the three.

For starters, only two years separate this movie from its direct predecessor, yet the CG felt vastly improved with far fewer of those small, unconvincing moments from the original that served as reminders of the film’s age.

Secondly, the origin story was out of the way, leaving Spider-Man 2 to do its own thing.

The best thing about this film though, in my opinion, is that it nails the character of Peter Parker and depicts the consequences of his double life authentically in a way that fans of the comic will be immediately familiar with. He may have crazy super-powers but the man behind the mask is still just a normal dude with normal problems. In fact, Peter is besieged by personal problems, all of them caused by his need to be Spider-Man and spend so much time swinging around New York, pulling people from burning buildings, stopping thieves or saving kids from being hit by cars.

He lives in a slum of an apartment and is always behind on rent. He can’t hold down his pizza delivery job. His college grades are slipping. He can’t tell Mary Jane how he feels about her because of his need to keep her safe from his enemies. He can’t help letting people down all the time because his activities as Spider-Man cause him to consistently run late or not be where he says he will be.

Peter is torn between staying true to the memory of Uncle Ben – and the iconic power-and-responsibility philosophy – and having a life of his own. The first portion of the movie sees Peter getting beaten down by all of this heavy life shit until he decides that enough really is enough. Taking direct inspiration from the classic Stan Lee/John Romita “Spider-Man No More” arc, he bins the costume (literally) and turns his back on Spider-Man.

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Unfortunately, a new villain is on the scene: Doctor Octopus, played by Alfred Molina. “Doc Ock” is one of Spidey’s oldest and most popular adverseries but I’ve never really been a big fan, purely because of his look in the comics where he was always drawn as a tubby bloke with a bad basin haircut and terrible costume. Not so here in Spider-Man 2. Doctor Octopus was drastically reinvented and looks utterly badass, more in line with the version from the ‘Ultimate’ universe. His extra appendages in particular look much more threatening than in the comics and are animated believably, thanks to the primary use of physical tentacles and practical effects which were then “topped up” with CGI.

While I loved Willem Dafoe’s Green Goblin in the first Spider-Man, there can be no doubt that Doctor Octopus is the better villain overall, largely because there is so much you can do with him and his tentacles. This is shown in the fight sequences which are much more dynamic in Spider-Man 2 and an absolute blast to watch, especially when Spider-Man and Doc Ock are fighting in freefall.

Doctor Octopus is also a tragedy of sorts. While he is the villain who will do whatever it takes to achieve his goals, he is also the victim of the science-experiment-gone-wrong. His wife is killed in the disaster and the inhibitor chip on his harness destroyed, allowing the tentacles to fuse with his nervous system and “speak” to him, poisoning his mind. After a titanic battle with Spider-Man at the movie’s climax, Ock does manage to regain control and redeem himself by sacrificing his life to destroy another dangerous fusion experiment that could have consumed New York. Some might bemoan this conclusion – considering Ock’s ruthless nature in the comics – but I think it was a fitting way to conclude the villain’s story given the fact that he was a good man and husband at the beginning of the movie.

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There’s also welcome closure to the will-they-won’t-they story of Peter and Mary-Jane as she finally discovers the truth about Peter. He still attempts to push her away but MJ decides that enough is enough and ditches her wedding to J. Jonah Jameson’s son, John, to be with Peter. So, Peter gets the girl at last but a vengeful Harry Osborn – armed with Peter’s secret and Daddy’s sanity-stealing serum – is waiting in the wings…

It sets the stage perfectly for Spider-Man 3 which is why it’s such a shame that the third film turned out the way it did.

But that should take nothing away from Spider-Man 2. The movie is perfectly-paced, authentic to the source material and packed with action. There are also some really fun supporting roles that help break up the bleakness of Peter’s life, such as the ever-brilliant J.K. Simmons as the Daily Bugle’s J. Jonah Jameson. I love the scenes at the Bugle as they are just so entertaining, thanks to Jameson’s ranting, Robbie Robertson’s (Bill Nunn) despair and the sharp Betty Brant (Elizabeth Banks). Comedy relief also comes from Peter’s landlord, Mr Ditkovitch (Elya Baskin) and his awkward-but-cute daughter, Ursula (Mageina Tovah). There are also the usual Stan Lee and Bruce Campbell cameos too.

Oh and there’s another wet t-shirt contest tribute for Kirsten Dunst’s character, making me wonder if these were being intentionally written in at this point. No complaints here, mind!

Spider-Man 2 is what I class as a perfect sequel. It picks up the dangling plot points of the original while upping the ante with the action and effects. More importantly, I feel like I am sharing the journey of the main characters and it’s the near-seamless transition between the two movies that I really appreciate. It really is the kind of movie that is best enjoyed as a double-bill with its predecessor.

Book Review: The Compound Effect (Darren Hardy, 2010)

compound-effect-1Year: 2010
Author: Darren Hardy
Publisher: Da Capo Press (version reviewed)
Format: Paperback
Pages: 172
ISBN: 978-1-59315-724-1

No gimmicks. No hyperbole. No magic bullet. The Compound Effect is based on the principle that decisions shape your destiny. Little, everyday decisions will take you either to the life of success you desire or to disaster by default. Darren Hardy, publisher and editorial director of SUCCESS magazine, presents The Compound Effect, a distillation of the fundamental principles that have guided the most phenomenal achievements in business, relationships, and beyond.

I’m always interested in self-development books, especially if they promise to be something different. The Compound Effect by Darren Hardy did just that so I decided to give it a go.

It’s a good book with some practical ideas but I can’t say that it had the same sort of lasting effect that Mark Manson’s The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck did. I guess I prefer a straight-talking, cut-the-BS book that tells it like it is and forces you to realise and accept uncomfortable truths.

The premise behind The Compound Effect is sound. Hardy explains how positive, constructive actions stack up (or compound) over time and how the opposite is also true when we fill our faces with bad food, waste money on crap or slack off. Realistically, it’s all very basic stuff that we should already know but, to the book’s credit, the so-called ‘Compound Effect’ is illustrated with some particularly eye-opening examples. One that really made me sit up and pay attention was the cost of a $4.00 take-out coffee over an extended period of time. Assuming that you bought one of these on your way to work every week day (so five days), that’s $20.00 a week, $80.00 a month and almost $1,000.00 a year. Over a twenty year period? $51,833.79!

We all know that this is happening. It’s basic maths after all. But the sheer scale is pretty terrifying when it’s laid bare like that. This is Hardy’s Compound Effect in action and the point of the book is to get you to apply this to your own life in order to improve it.

This book is all about building consistency and momentum in your life in order to harness the power of the Compound Effect. It also goes into detail on adjusting the influences in your life (the people you associate with, the news you consume etc.), discovering what your “why” power is and not giving up in the face of adversity.

It’s all positive stuff but I felt that there were a few core points that were being dragged out via endless examples and figures/charts that were a little unnecessary. Also, despite the fact that this book is billed as a way to improve your overall life, it often seemed to be coming from a career/business/money-making angle, assuming that you – the reader – measure your success and self-worth by your status and bank balance. If, like me, you’ve already decided that this isn’t how you are going to define success or happiness, then it could be a deal-breaker.

Also, the book contains some worksheets at the back to use in conjunction with the different exercises that Hardy prescribes. The problem is that these aren’t the full versions and you can only obtain those by getting onto a mailing list at the book’s website. Once I did that, my email inbox was regularly spammed with advertisements for Hardy’s seminars and the like. Don’t get me wrong, I understand that the guy isn’t going to give up his time for nothing (and shouldn’t be expected to) but I would have thought that purchasing a full-price physical book was enough.

The Compound Effect is a decent book with some good ideas and messages that I will certainly take away with me. However, I don’t feel that is does a lot to dig deep into the human psyche and really help you overcome stubborn problems. It’s surface-level positivity that essentially tells you what you need to do but not necessarily how to remove existing mental roadblocks or explain why they are there in the first place.

As with all self-development books, however, this may have a greater impact on you than it did for me, depending on where you are currently at with your life and where you want to go.