Fine posts for 2008

Given that mere popularity doesn’t reflect quality, here’s my personal selection of my best, timeless posts for 2008. Happy reading!

Review: “Without Warning” by John Birmingham

Cover of Without Warning by John Birmingham

John Birmingham has followed up his highly-successful Axis of Time trilogy of military thrillers with another “ripper yarn” novel, Without Warning: America is Gone. It’s a good read, but not as good as it could be.

Like Axis of Time, which posited a 21st-century naval task force suddenly finding itself at the Battle of Midway and the final volume of which I reviewed earlier, Without Warning is alternative history. One the eve of the 2003 Iraq War, an unexplained energy field obliterates all human life across most of the United States. As the world realises the last remaining superpower is gone, the novel tracks the political and military conflicts which emerge through the eyes of characters ranging from a US general at Guantanamo Bay to a female assassin working undercover in France.

My perceptions of Without Warning are coloured by Katie Harris’ comment that my recent Gonzo Twitter effort was like Hemingway. I still haven’t read any Hemingway, but I’ve been thinking about writing styles. In a previous review I described William Gibson’s noir prose as “a richly textured cabernet merlot” in comparison with the “slab of VB” simplicity of Adrian d’HagĂ©’s action thriller. Birmingham’s writing is another slab of VB. It’s a fast, easy read without too many difficult words or complex metaphors to slow you down.

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Gonzo Twitter 1: Saturday Evening in Newtown

Twitter bird cartoon by Hugh MacLeod

I’ve always thought that my essays are my best work, even if I say so myself. I’ve done observationals before, like Saturday Night at The Duke and Burnt out sofa, burnt out life. But this one’s different.

As I walked home through Newtown last Saturday evening, I started sending little observational comments to my Twitter stream:

Actually still on Darlington Rd, a long-haired woman plays melancholy guitar on the terrace-house balcony as a currawong flops past.

As I moved into King Street, I kept going. As I went to Kelly’s On King for a beer, I kept going. I discovered that a rapt audience was watching my comments — although not everyone liked the volume of material. I suggested they use Twittersnooze to unfollow me for a while.

The 140-character limit imposes a certain staccato style which I quite like. I was chuffed to be compared with Oscar Wilde and George Bernard Shaw and (especially) Hunter S Thompson!

Here, then, is my first attempt at Live Gonzo Twittering — as others decided to call it, though I’m not sure the label is quite right myself — across about 90 minutes last Saturday night. the only changes I’ve made have been to fix some typos. Is this the best way to present it after the fact? Enjoy!

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