BOOK REVIEW: The Dark North Volume 1

A collection of five Scandinavian illustrators and writers shines a light on the talent of fantastic art and unique storytelling.


northAs a print addict and graphic admirer, I am not immediately attracted to adult comic books, having left comics behind when I discovered girls.

In many ways, I find adults enjoying comic books and playing similar video games as not my favoured tribe. I find it a bit sad that these people should be out finding life, not living narrowly within their digital version of it; but maybe that’s because I’m an older bastard and was lucky enough to travel and see the world in the pre-surveillance days.

The Dark North (Volume 1), however, was a great and welcome surprise. Comprising of five stories that meld classic Norse mythology to fateful and modern-day road-trips, I found this collection of work unsettling and in many ways beautiful.

This is a coffee table book for those who look north for stories and not south. This is ice, not sand, darkness, not light. It is made by people who live by opposites, people born out of the aurora borealis, but who also spend discomfiting, different days.

The five stories here are wide-ranging, the first begins to be an American road trip, the driver following ghosts down and up a highway, lost in the quest. Wonderfully illustrated, it is like watching performance art in the Arctic circle, it is a great introduction to the other four stories.

These are less accessible to print addicts like myself, the art more gloomy and intense, where the power of Thor and the myths of local tales are wielded to overcome the reader.

This project came out of Kickstarter and the successful funding meant the dreams of the collective of individual were realised, Volume 2 is on its way and I will not only be reviewing it, I shall be reading and looking at it with great interest.

BOOK REVIEW: A Boy Made Of Blocks – Keith Stuart

Guardian Games Editor Keith Stuart has written a wonderful book about autism, parenthood, marriages… and Minecraft


keithIt’s sometimes difficult to read a book by somebody you know. Usually, you read to read these books early because the author wants early feedback on their work and has sent you a copy.

Moreover, it’s difficult to be objective. It takes courage, time and big blocks of bollocks to write a book, especially for a journalist who writes for a living every day. They say that there is a book inside every journalist… and that’s where it should say.

Thankfully, A Boy Made Of Blocks by sometime lunch-colleague, Facebook friend and story-colluding Keith Stuart gives me no such dilemmas. This is a book by a journalist that bears no relation to his written work, except the game Minecraft, a subject often covered by Keith as the Guardian‘s games editor.

I didn’t get given this book, Keith didn’t ask me to review it, I paid a hardback price at a bookshop and I thought it was wonderful. What’s even more authentic is that I still don’t know whether Keith ever worked as an estate agent, his marriage was in trouble or if he was a bad parent.

In the book, however, the main character is all of these things and, like Keith in REAL life, he does have an nine-year-old son on the autistic spectrum. But this is not just a mea culpa, it is a well-timed, dramatic and smooth piece of work.

It flows by just like those guilty pleasures such as One Day by David Nicholls. Easy to read, very familiar scenes to any UK parent and centred on a game Minecraft that is even more recognised.

I really loved this book. It’s tender, sweet, honest and will be uncomfortably close to any who have suffered marriage breakdowns, reversals or break-ups because of unexpected events. You can read it in two or three sittings, but when you finish it, you’ll feel good.

It will be interesting if Keith writes another book as good as this, perhaps every journalist has at least one decent book in him, but I’d really like Americans to read this book, especially after the woes of 2016. If Keith breaks America, that would be a very fine thing.

Recommended read: 9/10

BOOK REVIEW: CISO – Desk Reference Guide

If you are a new Chief Information Security Officer (CISO), then this easy-to-use guide is for you.

cisoEvery week seems to bring another huge cybersecurity crime or leak of personal data by hackers. The challenge for CISOs is a huge one, but one this book helps to assuage.

This guide is essential for those who have been recently promoted or hired to be CISOs and has been co-written by three of the most experienced experts in the business; three men who work out of US city San Diego.

Bill Bonney, Matt Stamper and Gary Hayslip are the authors and I went Gary in the city this year when looking for stories in San Diego. Not only does he adore his subject, but he is passionate about keeping the hackers out of his city and out of his cybersecurity face.

These three amigos met three years ago after appearing on several panels together at industry trade shows and events and with a century’s worth of experience between them, it seemed increasingly clear they should collaborate on a book for CISOs, particularly those at medium-sized companies.

This book is certainly not for the layperson and I found it hard to understand, but I’m not a CISO, just somebody who is attempting to write about this crucial subject and to encourage people to take cybersecurity seriously. For individuals, sometimes all it takes is to change passwords and add two-tier authentication to protect emails and data.

The CISO – Desk Reference Guide is one for those at the aforesaid mid-size companies and also in academic- and City Hall-based CISO jobs, the latter of which are sometimes the most vulnerable gateways to those who would steal our souls, be they governments, IP-rustlers or blackmailers.

Recommended reading for those who would protect us, especially as attacks are expected to accelerate in 2017.

BOOK REVIEW: The # Monumeta Social Media Book

Many have tried to write fiction based on social media with mixed success. Monumeta goes a long way to being the definitive work on the subject.

monumetaWhat is The #Monumeta Social Media Book? At first look, it appears to be a hashtag-led manual that will teach readers how to use the media. However, this is misleading, this book may finally be the fiction that brings together modern-day reality, old school storytelling and a possible future.
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150-WORD BOOK REVIEW: Rise Of The Machines – Thomas Rid

Rise Of The Machines is not an easy read, but one that is worth all the effort it takes.

machinesThe theme of Rid’s book can be illustrated by US countercultural writer Richard Brautigan who wrote about humans being looked after by ‘machines of loving grace’.

Rid refers to Brautigan’s words of loving grace towards machines and to a lot of things besides. He tracks the theory of cybernetics, a control theory of machine and man, from its post-World War II origins through the myths and realities of its evolution.

Nicely written in spite of its complicated premise, Rise Of The Machines is a weighty read, but a very useful reference book to anybody interested in our possible or impossible futures.

The previously unwritten story of Russia’s cyberattack against US institutions in 1999 may be an act of war that may yet determine a probable future, and not a optimistic one at all.