Mitch Benn’s Terra

It’s a perk, nay privilege, of working for a publisher that I often get to see manuscripts of books long before anyone else. So you may well see a few posts like this where I’ll start eulogising about a book that you won’t be able to read for months if not longer.

But I finished this one on the train home today and I’m still fizzing about it and I like to wax lyrical about stuff I like while it’s still fresh. I’ll do my best to avoid spoilers, but if you’re the kind of person who thinks a spoiler is hearing anything at all to do with the story (and there are people out there like that), then adios and I’ll see you next time, amigo.

There’s a great story behind how Simon Spanton at Gollancz acquired this book, and being a fan of Mitch Benn’s songs on the Now Show I was definitely intrigued if maybe a tad doubtful. ‘Celebrity’ authors’ books (though I doubt Mitch would cast himself as your typical sleb) are usually an exercise in stunt publishing and a quick buck for all concerned*, but by the end of the first page I was totally convinced that this was something special.

I won’t say too much other than TERRA begins with an alien from a distant planet abducting a human baby on Earth. The story starts like a Roald Dahl classic with the worst parents in the world, and then becomes a love letter to Douglas Adams, and then becomes its own thing entirely; truly wonderful, laugh out loud funny and genuinely moving, wearing its heart on its sleeve and daring you not to blub near the end. If there’s one criticism, it’s that it has that old SF trope ‘silly name syndrome’ – all consonants and no vowels – but even that seems to be a tip of the hat to Bradbury’s Martian Chronicles and you soon get into the groove.

The only downside is that it’s not out till 2013, but it’s going to be a key book for Gollancz and I’m sure you won’t be able to miss it. In the meantime, here’s Mitch’s finest 5m 27s…

*Yes, I hate to break it to you, but I don’t think Katie Price writes every word of her bestselling novels. Anne Widdecombe does write all her own stuff however, so you takes your choice…

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Cosmopolis

Went to see this the other night: seven people walked out during the screening and, as the credits rolled, a guy just along the row from us leaned over to his girlfriend and pleaded ‘Sorry’ loud enough for the whole cinema to hear (and got the biggest laugh of the evening).

This film seems to be polarizing people, and I’m definitely in the ‘didn’t like’ camp. Pattinson was fine, as were Juliet Binoche and Paul Giamatti, but it was alienating and obtuse and not as clever as it thought it was. And maybe that was the point, but I’d love to have seen Pinter* or Mamet have a stab at the dialogue in these vignettes; it could’ve been poetic and enthralling, but instead it felt like a series of drama school monologues.

And I know this isn’t your typical narrative-driven cinema, and I won’t usually be this negative, I’m generally a half-pint-full, well-they-didn’t-set-out-to-make-such-a-terrible-movie kind of bloke, but this one had me fidgeting like a six-year-old.

This is the latest in a series of movies I’ve seen where a director in his dotage is indulged by a studio and the results have been disappointing: Scott with PROMETHEUS, Malick with TREE OF LIFE and now this. Fair play, they’ve earned the right I guess but I’ll definitely think twice before parting with my Odeon points again.

*Yeah, I know he’s dead…