Friday, March 27, 2009

Comics Stuff that gives me hope

-The first volume of DRAMACON creator Svetlana Chmakova's NIGHTSCHOOL is being released by Yen Press in April. She and I did a couple readings together a year or three back, and she had a lasting impression on me as being just a really, legitimately nice person. To the best of my knowledge, she's also the only person on earth to have a copy of PARTING WAYS signed by both the artists and the writer, which I think is really neat, though I can't really articulate why.

-The Future of Comics (I) Fiona Staples' new WildStorm series, NORTH 40, written by PS238's Aaron Williams, was recently announced as part of the imprint's new "creator-driven" comics line. And, if I'm not mistaken, her first Wildstorm work, SECRET HISTORY OF THE AUTHORITY, written by Michael Costa, is on sale...actually, now, I think*. You should all rush out and buy three copies immediately: one to read, one to give other people to read, and one to save as a collectible that will someday pay your childrens' college tuition.

OK. maybe you should only buy two copies.

-Boom! Studios has struck a deal to get their Muppets and Disney comics on the newsstands. If they're put on a level where kids can actually see/reach them (unlike, say, the Archie digests in Safeway checkout stations), this is fantastic news for Boom! and quite possibly the wider North American comics industry as well, helping hook a new generation of comics readers at a young age. Mind you, that presumes the Muppets are still recognizable to younger readers as the slice of awesome they are (or at least once were--haven't watched any new Muppets stuff in years...), but at least The Incredibles should be able to find traction, both with kids and parents who'll be able to recognize a "safe" property for kids to read.

-After the commercial success of 52 and the less successful COUNTDOWN and TRINITY series, DC's trying something different with its upcoming weekly series, WEDNESDAY COMICS. Even if it didn't have a pretty good-looking creative roster, I'd be seriously tempted to buy it for its oversized newspaper "unfold it to read" format. While the content's obviously going to be a big deal in making or breaking the thing, I'm in love with the idea of this thing. Nice to see a major comic company breaking away from the floppy/hardcover/trade format, giving creators a different kind of canvas to work on and readers a new (or at least uncommon) comic-reading experience.

-In addition to WEDNESDAY COMICS, DC's also bringing backup stories into some of its titles as value-added material to go along with a price rise. Steven Grant did a fantastic job explaining why the backup story thing is a great idea on almost all fronts, as well as why it probably won't work, in this week's Permanent Damage column.

Even if it doesn't work, between a creator-driven line, WC and the backups, these are looking like non-curse interesting times for DC creators at least. If there's an element of "let's throw everything at the wall and see what sticks" to it, well, at least they are trying to find new stuff to stick. Hopefully some of it will and the perception of what mainstream comics can be expands a little.


(*I checked, and yes it is on sale now.)

Cowboys & Aliens, coming soon to a television screen near you

James Marsters (Spike of Buffy the Vampire Slayer fame) recently finished shooting an original Sci-Fi Channel film about a rogueish cowboy who's finds himself battling an alien invasion.

At first, I wasn't sure how to feel about this. But, as it seems likely to me I won't be receiving additional money if/when a Cowboys & Aliens film is made (if ever), after some consideration I'm leaning towards not really caring. I mention it primarily to try and cut off questions along the lines of "Hey, is that movie with Spike in it based on the comic you co-wrote?"


Sunday, March 22, 2009

Andrew Watches: SAW

(Note: If you're interested enough in reading my thoughts on a horror film, you might be interested enough to read my thoughts on the horror genre in general, in a post that was originally intended to preface this very post.)

I should say upfront that it's certainly possible SAW benefited from the low expectations I held for it going into the film. I don't get that sense the way I did when I didn't feel I'd wasted two hours of my life on "Blade III", but I've got to say, I wasn't exactly brimming with hope when I started watching.

I knew going in that the movie's near-omnipotent killer, "Jigsaw", had a philosophy that could potentially set him apart from the standard horror film Jason/Michael Myers "You are a teenager having sex, therefore I will mercilessly slaughter you" antagonist. But since SAW's release I'd also heard it frequently lumped together with "Hostel" as torture porn/gorno. I don't get my kicks out of being grossed out, so that reputation is actually why it took me so long to get around to seeing it, and why I wasn't expecting much beyond a hopefully visually interesting but most likely unpleasant viewing experience.

Given that, I was actually surprised by the filmmakers' restraint, visually-speaking. Sure, there are some icky things in it. The scene where a girl has to dig through a guy's stomach to find a key probably got the highest Eww factor from me, but having said that, it was nowhere near as graphic as it could've been (they could, for instance, have shown her actually digging through the guy's stomach, rather than just holding several blood-slick intenstines.)

There were plenty of elements that could've been grosser and/or more blatant, but it seems to me the filmmakers elected to either leave the most potentially repellent visuals off-screen or present them in a stylized fast-motion blur. I suspect a lot of that's down to making the most of a low budget, but that doesn't automatically make the sequences bad. Actually, the worst bit of the film was likely down to budget issues, but it doesn't involve anything particularly violent or disturbing--it's Danny Glover and the killer in a car chase through a foggy night, and is distracting because of its artificiality. With no visible background, streetlights, star-filled sky, anything but blackness, and just the top half of a car visible, I could practically sense the film crew on the soundstage...

The storytelling was surprisingly dense. Multiple POVs and flashbacks carry the jigsaw puzzle motif over into the narrative itself, allowing the viewer to slowly put together a story from different pieces of the larger whole. The central character is a doctor played by Cary Elwes, an actor I've pretty much always had trouble with--I can never seem to shake the perception that this is Cary Elwes acting and suspend disbelief enough to buy into his characters' reality. Pretty much everything in the film revolves around him, though it's not happening because of him. He, like most of the characters, is a victim: of a troubled marriage; of the police, who suspect he's behind a series of elaborate and deadly games; of a shadowy figure following him around and an even more sinister figure behind it all.

I'll admit I was pleasantly surprised by the killer's final reveal--probably because I wasn't paying as close attention to the movie as I could've been, but still. But for me, the highlight of the film wasn't that reveal, but rather a single line from one of the few characters who survived one of Jigsaw's games: "He helped me."

Like the antagonists in Se7en or Alan Moore and Brian Bolland's The Killing Joke, Jigsaw's not just randomly killing people--he's trying to make a point. He doesn't want his victims to die, he wants them to fight to live, so they can better appreciate the life they've got. Unlike Se7en and 'Joke, in SAW at least one of the characters acknowledges value in having been put in an utterly horrific situation and forced to do awful things. I understood Jigsaw's motivation before I saw the film, but I was surprised to see one of his victims to some degree validate his actions. It's sick and twisted and, to me, wonderful--exactly what I want from a horror film.

The film isn't without its problems, but taken on its own merits, SAW stands head and shoulders above most horror movies. Visually minimalist but well-considered, densely layered storytelling, flawed and unlikeable but still generally understandable's right up there with Hellraiser and Se7en in my book.

Having said that, I don't plan to watch any of the multitude of sequels. I have a hard time imagining them adding anything worthwhile to the first one, and it seems likely to me that, if the first one weren't as horrifically graphic as is could be, with Hollywood being what it is, the follow-ups probably multiplied "disturbing" into the "truly tasteless", possibly even "irredeemably exploitative." Which is what Ebert and Roeper and probably a lot of other critics felt the first one was.

But I enjoyed it.


Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Text and Fury, Signifying

Back in the dark days when I painted buildings for a living, I had a boss named Roland.

Roland was a character. He tried very hard to be a balanced, thoughtful person, and he just...wasn't. A bad drug experience had fried his nervous system when he was a teen. He spent years meditating, trying to get back some sense of equilibrium--assuming he had any equilibrium to begin with, which as time went on I started to seriously doubt.

Roland was filled with rage. He struggled to control it, but he lost the struggle on nearly a daily basis. His attack on a private contractor who pushed his buttons too much over the course of a job stands out as the most violent altercation I've ever been involved with. I tried to hold him back. He shoved me aside, knocked a five gallon pail of paint over onto a freshly stained hardwood floor, took a swing at the contractor (who, I must admit, I'd fantasized about decking myself--he really was a dick). I'd seen him mad before, but this was something else.

Roland was perpetually pissed off. But he was almost incapable of admitting--or maybe it wasn't admitting, so much as recognizing, what was making him angry.

No, in retrospect, I think it was admitting it that was the problem. His self-image as a zen figure was vitally important to him. Whenever something went wrong on a job--and something always went wrong--he'd clamp down on his fury, try to maintain the image of composure he delusionally believed he'd carefully crafted over years of therapy and meditation.

He'd generally hold it in for about fifteen minutes, after which someone would invariably do something to give him an excuse to go off. What the something was was pretty much irrelevant. It could be something you'd done regularly every thirty seconds since you met him; it just so happened that you'd finally do it once too often shortly after he found out he'd been passed over for a big contract, or someone was refusing to pay the agreed-upon amount. Once he got mad at me for coughing. Another time it was because I and another painter decided to go home after a twelve hour day, rather than staying an additional eight hours to finish a job, as Roland spent the next week repeatedly pointing out he would have (the fact that every time he pushed himself past fourteen or so hours of work he'd lose the next two days following to exhaustion and whacked-out sleeping patterns never registered in his thought processes.)

This post isn't about Roland.

I was angry this afternoon. Really, deeply pissed off.


Because my webpage isn't the way I want it to be, yet. It hasn't been what I want it to be for months, but today I was almost in tears and emitting throat-shredding yells, so great was my frustration over this relatively insignificant issue. (Tiina wasn't home when this happened--if I absolutely must completely lose my $#%, I'd prefer to do it in private.)

It didn't take long for me to recognize that, of course, I wasn't really upset about the webpage.

I know why I felt--continue to feel--angry and frustrated. There's not a whole lot I can do, no obvious action I can take to effect positive change at the moment. All I can do is acknowledge the emotions and what's causing them and ride things out till my mood improves, taking care to ensure that the people around me know that if I'm more negative than usual, it's not because of anything they've done.

I reckon this puts me a step or two up from Roland. But it still sucks.



Screenplay revision for the Thing My Managers Believe Will Actually Sell This Time No Honestly This Time For Sure is done. Finally. Post-script depression will set in soon. Because I'm not miserable enough as it is.

The artist for my story for the Big Anthology has bigger fish to fry and can't get it done for the deadline for the next volume. I'm scrambling, trying to think of something that the editors and another artist I'd like to work with might go for.

It's really not working. Then again, I've had everything mentally backburnered while I work on the screenplay. Now that that's out of the way, I'm faintly hopeful I'll be able to come up with something that satisfies everyone over the weekend.



Did I mention that Robert Burke Richardson's THE MATRIARCH comic is in the latest Previews catalogue? Because it is. The first 30-some pages of the book can be found online here. Give it a read, and if you like what you see, please go order a copy at your local comic shop. The publisher isn't Marvel or DC, so odds are it won't show up there if you don't.


Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Ego Ipse Custodes Custudio (I think that's what the button said)

Ever since I saw it a few hours ago, I've been toying with what could've been done to make the Watchmen film a better movie. For a variety of reasons my daylight savings time/yoyoing weather pattern-fried brain couldn't possibly begin to accurately describe at this moment, I find myself semi-convinced the film would've worked better if they kept the squid and cut Dr. Manhattan.

The big thing I keep coming back to is how much the elements largely drawn from Watchmen #4 were nowhere near as successful in depicting Manhattan's 4-D perspective onscreen. Partly I think that's down to time limitations, but the voiceover also really took me out of the movie. I also tend to believe Moore really used the techniques specific to comic storytelling to full advantage in a way that a dynamic medium couldn't--the fragmentation of time worked on the page because the reader was able to visually perceive two pages worth of crosstime panels/information at a time. He returned to those techniques, arguably refined them somewhat, in the Hypernaut story from 1963 and bits of Promethea.

At least, so it seems to my aforementioned fried brain, which is tossing all this out from a memory that's dodgy at the best of times.

In any event, I now feel inspired to reread Watchmen, just to remind myself what so affected me about that book and maybe better understand why the film didn't get the job done as well as it could have. I don't think it was bad, but I also don't think it was particularly good, and it certainly wasn't good enough. For me, it's just kind of...there. I'm engaging with it on an intellectual level rather than an emotional one, even more than I do most films these days.

I could go further, but I've procrastinated on revising this screenplay I'm supposed to be working on far too long as it is. More later, if you're unlucky.


Monday, March 9, 2009

Great Moments in Christianity: March 9, 2009

"Sure, a guy raped his stepdaughter for years and impregnated her with twins at the age of nine, but let's keep our eyes on the real evil here."

Not a quote of the day--the #*%&wit bishop who excommunicated a bunch of folks who put a nine-year old girl's wellbeing ahead of church doctrine didn't use those exact words. Nevertheless, it's exactly what the aforementioned #*%&wit was saying.

Via rae-is, who at the beginning of her post effectively sums up my feelings on the matter in five words--well, three words, actually, with a couple used twice.


Saturday, March 7, 2009

Just when I think I'm out (of comics), they (comics) pull me back in...

This was actually a pretty interesting week on the comics front for me, and against all odds that had pretty nothing to do with the Watchmen.

After months of indifference from practically everyone in the medium who isn't in some way related to Zeros2Heroes, things comics-related suddenly started moving for me again. I got the OK to pitch for an ongoing comic anthology last week, did so over the weekend, got an "ok, go to the next step" with one of the stories pitched (they passed on a Spooky Kids short accompanied by kickass designs by artist extraordinaire John Keane--the fools, the damn fools!). Wrote the script on Tuesday, got notes on Wednesday, revised earlier today. One of the co-editors has already responded, stating he's happy with the latest draft. Hopefully the other one will be too, and then it'll be down to whether the artist can work the story into her schedule for the deadline for the next volume.

Even if it all goes south, it's still nice to be working on something in my preferred medium--and even nicer to have people responding positively to it. Which brings me to the next happening in this synchonicity-charged period:

After months of radio silence, an editor at a major comics publisher got back in touch with me to inform me that he liked my three pitches. He's kicked them up the chain for his bosses to look at, so hopefully I'll hear something on them in the next couple of weeks (which I'm interpreting as in the next six months, if I'm lucky). While it'd be great to get something I wrote picked up by a company that has a decent page rate for a change, this process has been so drawn out that I'm not holding out a lot of hope for anything happening on that front. If it does, great, but I'm trying to approach it as icing on my so far mostly theoretical comics writing career, rather than the cake.

While the advances on those two fronts largely came out of left field, the third high point of the week was something I'd been anticipating for some time, literally years. On Friday, I formally requested the rights to JEST CAUSE and CONVICTION back from Platinum Studios. I'd been faintly hopeful of getting one or both returned without the intervening period in which Platinum can either start principal photography on a TV show or movie (given the speed with which things happen in Hollywood in general, and the speed with which they haven't happened with these projects in particular, if this happens I'll probably fall out of my chair) or give me substantially more money than I got the first time round to extend their control of the properties for another painfully long period of time.

It was good that the hope for a quick return was faint, as my request to forego the renewal period was politely rebuffed. The reasons given for said rebuffing make perfect sense from the company's viewpoint but are still frustrating from mine, mostly because, prior to this week, I hadn't heard of them attempting to do anything at all with the properties for literally years and, for various reasons, can't see them succeeding in getting something going even if they were or are trying to get the properties picked up for development in non-comics media. I'd be fine with that if I had a published comic to show for either of them, but to the best of my knowledge, any work on producing a comic based on my scripts stopped long ago (in Conviction's case I don't think it even actually started). I've long since stopped expecting or hoping for production of a comic to resume unless and until I get the rights back (and even then, it's unlikely even I'd go much further with at least one of the properties--an idea whose "best before" date expired some time ago.)

Not that I'd be upset to see something happen in non-comics (read as "financially lucrative") media. According to my managers, even a project like Cowboys & Aliens, which I was only ever involved in as a comic and have had absolutely nothing at all to do with for...I think it's a couple years?, is apparently good to be associated with. Even if a C&A film never gets made--and at this point, I'm honestly surprised any film ever gets made--it's got some kind of "buzz", because of Robert Downey Jr.'s supposed connection to the project (last I heard, he was just in negotiations to be a part of the movie {a movie I don't think has actually been fully written yet}, which didn't strike me as something to be particularly excited about, but a lot of people seemed to be, regardless...). And buzz is supposedly a good thing in Hollywood, at least that's what the people who'll someday get 10% of my Hollywood earnings for knowing stuff like that tell me.

Getting the property back, a film deal, or some "buying myself out of crippling debt" money for Jest Cause and Conviction does presume Platinum's still going to be around a year from now, of course--something that might not seem like a great bet if you're on the outside looking in. I believe this was the third consecutive Previews catalogue with no Platinum books solicited. That would indicate they stopped soliciting even prior to Diamond's new benchmark levels being instituted, but it isn't necessarily as disastrous a sign as it might be in the case of some other smaller publishers. Platinum has a fairly long history of using the web to distribute its product (cutting costs by both eliminating printing and if not absolutely removing, cerrtainly curtailing the possibility of creator royalties. I believe DJ Coffmann has stated he never received ad revenues for his online Hero By Night work; I certainly never got any compensation beyond my initial advances on Cowboys & Aliens, Crimson Rose, and Jeremiah: The Last Empire, for online ad revenues or anything else.)

Curious, I asked a number of Platinum employees what's happening with the company. I didn't really expect much in the way of an answer. Since Platinum went public, people there have been playing their cards very close to their chest when it comes to what's going on, citing information restrictions based on their public company status as the reason for their reticence to discuss things. This seems a little weird, at least to a non-business-minded person like myself, considering they now seem to have to publicly report their financial situation on a regular basis. But then, almost everything business-oriented seems weird to me. When it doesn't seem weird, it generally seems just plain evil, so weird isn't bad, not at all. It's for the best, both for me and the world in general, if this is stuff I continue to not understand. Ignorance may not be bliss, but I'll take it where I can get it.

While straightforward and detailed answers on the company's situation weren't forthcoming--shock!--most of the people I talked to did seem pretty upbeat about its future prospects (more upbeat than I'd be if I was working for minimum wage in Hollywood, anyway.) I gather they're looking at non-Direct Market distribution alternatives for future publishing. IM completely uninformed O, that would be a smart thing for them to be looking at. After all, the entire line of books being developed when I first started pitching to the company was aimed not at comic shops but very directly at mass market bookstores. I still think stuff like Adventures of Tymm and Jest Cause would work best in a graphic album format along the lines of Asterix & Obelix and Tintin--in fact, now that I think about it, if I ever do manage to get JC back and decide to do something with it as a comic, I'll probably return to the original script, which was written with at least an 8 1/2 by 11 inch page size in mind. Digest sized books still seem to be all the rage, but I was reading Asterix and Tintin when I was six years old and those books are still on store shelves today. It's got to have something going for it as a format to have lasted that long.

There's still some good people at Platinum, so I hope the company does survive--for their sake as well as my own. It'd be nice to get either a five figure cheque or my stuff back, but I've got at least a year before either of those is a reasonable possibility. Tick tock, tick tock...

(It's times like this I'm glad my managers don't read my blog--I'm supposed to have been working on revising a screenplay all week. That's where the money theoretically is, not this penny-ante, creatively satisfying comic stuff.)


The Horror.

(Note: This was originally supposed to be the opening to a post of my thoughts on a couple movies I've seen recently, PONTYPOOL and SAW. But it got out of control, so I'm posting it as its own thing and will hopefully get on to the movies in the next post or three.)

I don't really remember anything about the film "Congo", but I know I saw it in the theatre...three times. This was the nature of the addiction I had, an addiction that's been thoroughly cured by the behaviour of an increasing number of people who make up movie audiences.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: the VCR has ruined the experience of movies in a theatre, at least for me. I can't seem to go to a film these days without being overwhelmed by a desire to leap over three rows of people so I can viciously assault the increasing number of theatre-goers who apparently think they're in their living room, and that everyone in the theatre (read as "Andrew") is more interested in what they've got to say than the film itself.

I haven't paid much attention to Roger Ebert for several years, seeing as seeing films in their opening week is no longer the personal imperative it once was. When I was regularly going to the movies, Ebert was, for me, a fairly reliable barometer of what a film was like, someone whose opinions generally turned out to be in line with my own. There were two exceptions to this rule; the biggest one was his take on the horror genre.

As I recall, Ebert seemed to think horror films should be scary. Which is a reasonable thing to expect from the genre, especially for a reviewer. Speaking solely for myself, however, I don't really get a lot of enjoyment out of being scared, by films or anything else (possibly because I live in a state of semi-terror at the best of times). I will watch horror films from time to time, but that's in spite of the possibility that afterward I might find turning on the bathroom light in the middle of the night unnerving because part of me's convinced when I do I'll see a naked white-painted Japanese kid standing in the corner (as happened to me after I saw Ju-on.)

The first horror film I can recall ever going out of my way to see (and not in the theatre) was Clive Barker's "Hellraiser", which I rented and watched with a high school acquaintance the night before I moved out of my parents' place to go to art college. I didn't find "Hellraiser" scary, but I really enjoyed it (the comically clumsy and out-of-place effect of The Architect notwithstanding.) That experience provided me with a concrete sense of what I'd be looking for in pretty much all the horror films I'd see in the following years--not to be scared, but fascinated.


On a semi-related note, I checked an Ebert review for the first time in recent memory yesterday, to see what he thought of "Watchmen". Four stars out of five, with a fairly positive take on the film. It just goes to show how down on the theatre experience I am at the moment that this does nothing to make me want to see the film. I expect I will see it sometime in the next week, if only because Tiina's going to drag me along with her, and I'll probably like it just fine. But honestly, I'm having trouble working up any sort of enthusiasm for seeing it at the moment. I do, however, want to give the comic a reread--but I probably won't any time soon, because I've got a metric ton of stuff from the library to try and get through.


Monday, March 2, 2009

Andrew Reads: A SNOWBALL IN HELL, by Christopher Brookmyre

So the library manages to get this relatively new Brookmyre novel on the shelves prior to the last one, ATTACK OF THE UNSINKABLE RUBBER DUCKS--a book that, as yet, I've never encountered during a period when I had enough money to purchase it. Thanks a bunch, EPL.

I suppose I shouldn't complain--at least I did manage to get a Brookmyre fix without having to pay for it. Not that I'd have minded in this case, as it's a thoroughly enjoyable action adventure with some really neat twists and turns, all delivered with Brookmyre's trademark black sense of humour.

The plot revolves around three characters from previous novels: Simon Darcourt, the criminal mastermind terrorist-for-hire from A BIG BOY DID IT AND RAN AWAY; magician/bank robber Zal Innez from THE SACRED ART OF STEALING; and DI Angelique de Xavia from A BIG BOY DID IT AND RAN AWAY and THE SACRED ART OF STEALING.

Having survived events at the end of "Big Boy", Darcourt's spent the last several years in hiding, both from the authorities and one-time supporters who wouldn't be happy to discover he's not dead. He returns to public notice in a spectacular fashion, kidnapping public figures and subjecting them to various nasty but poetically just fates, all on camera for the viewing public, reality-tv show style.

I can't help but think there's a certain degree of sadistic wish fulfillment for the writer (there's definitely some for this reader) in the selection of Darcourt's targets. Darcourt's a self-absorbed sociopath, but he's an elitist self-absorbed sociopath, striking out at what even rational people might see as parties contributing to the decline of modern culture while using their own tools to expose the hypocrisy of the unwashed masses.

Still, one can't let people kill other people based on how many inches coverage they receive in the newspaper. And who better to help stop Darcourt than the person who kicked his ass the last time he showed his face? Enter DI de Xavia, who's just completely blown any chance she'll have of ever infiltrating another extremist muslim terrorist group by shooting one during a raid in a mosque.

She returns to Scotland to assist the effort to capture Darcourt. When her parents are captured by unknown forces (presumably the non-law enforcement people who're pissed off to discover Darcourt's still breathing), she's forced to work as a double agent, communicating privileged information on the investigation back to the kidnappers.

With all other options exhausted, de Xavia turns to the one manwho might be able to help her deal with her various problems without getting her or her loved ones killed--Zal Innez, who's abandoned his life of crime in favour of performing magic. Well, he's tried to abandon it, anyway--the bank he stole from in "Sacred Art" still has people looking for him, as do the criminals he betrayed after the robbery.

de Xavia and Innez are still smarting from the doomed affair they began a few years back in their previous appearancce together. Both know the other's lifestyle precludes any hope of a future together, but that doesn't mean they don't care about each other. Far from it--as soon as de Xavia shows up, Zal immediately drops his budding illusionist career in order to help her. He also plans to vanish as soon as she and her family are safe--for her own good.

It takes awhile for Brookmyre to get all the pieces of his story in place, but that's all right, as he keeps things entertaining and moving at a brisk pace until the dominos start falling. And when they do fall, it's a joy to read.

If I recall correctly, my biggest complaint with The Sacred Art of Stealing was that Brookmyre didn't play entirely fair with the reader--he presented surprise plot twists as though they were the result of misdirection, when readers weren't misdirected, they were just uninformed, not given the information necessary to guess what was coming. That's not the case here at all. The motivations and plans of the various characters are generally there on the page, but the author repeatedly manages the neat literary sleights of hand, revealing all is not what it seems to be without it ever feeling like he's cheated.

It's a really delightful book, in my opinion one of, if not the, strongest one of Brookmyre's I've read to date. Now I just need to find a copy of "Unsinkable Rubber Ducks"...