Books, Culture, Film, Gaming, TV & Radio

Why do some finales leave us dissatisfied?

Reading on Broadway, Oct 6, 2007, by Michele Markel Connors (3008x1692)Endings are tricky affairs, particularly for fiction and screenwriters.

They don’t always need to be comfortable or straightforward. In fact, they shouldn’t be. No matter what the medium, you expect the author to fulfil a sort of unwritten agreement that, at the end of it all, you will have gained something from taking the time to engage with their story. That could be as simple as learning something new (as the classic parables of old do) or it could be more personal (learning deep truths about the nature of life or society through the eyes of a character you identify with).

Endings and why some of them leave us dissatisfied have been on my mind recently, since finishing the finales to several video games and fiction series. Both mediums have presented me with examples of endings that livid up to my expectations and others that fell short.

Books, Culture

In Praise of Anthony Horowitz

Lots of people have inspired me through the years. Family members, friends, teachers, musicians, actors, artists, photographers, sportsmen, designers, explorers; all have had an effect at some point during my life. It’s Anthony Horowitz, however, that holds a special place in my memory because this amicable writer and storyteller has not only helped me shape who I am, he opened my eyes to the joys of reading and, in turn, unlocked the limitless potential of our world.


Alex Rider and Me

It was the summer of 2002 when I first meet Alex Rider. I was on holiday in Grenada with my family and was enjoying the sights, sounds and smells of the Caribbean. When we weren’t at the beach, discovering the island’s rich history of nutmeg farming or generally lounging about, I found my attention hooked not by my Game Boy Pocket, but by the inaugural adventure of this teenage spy.

Alex Rider was created by British author Anthony Horowitz – whose work was a big influence in making me realise reading could actually be enjoyable when I was young. Beginning with the death of his uncle, 14-year-old Alex is soon embroiled in an MI6 operation to investigate Sayle Enterprise’s research facility in Cornwall. What followed was a mesmerising spy adventure that had me reading chapter after chapter, oblivious to the heat of the Caribbean Sun. It wasn’t just the adventure itself, however, I quickly warmed to Alex as character, and over these 10 years he’s become my closest literary hero.

The reason I identify with Alex is because I see some of him in me, but he is also someone I could never be and possesses qualities and skills I wish I had. He’s courageous, intelligent, athletic, streetwise, selfless, multilingual, a proficient martial artist, confident, witty, claim, friendly and loyal. And yet, he is manipulated by MI6 and all kinds of people throughout the series. He is living a frightening, brutal life and because of this I came to sympathise with him all the more. It makes him all the more human. He feels fear, anger, regret, love and hate. Characters in the books doubt him because of his age, and I’m sure real adults do too, but there’s so much more to Alex.

An author once said something to the effect of “there’s no friend like a good book,” (wish I could recall the exact quote) and I’d have to agree. When I’ve been on my way to the Lake District, waiting for my train at Victoria station, lounging on my bed in Nottingham trying to take my mind off work and countless other places, Alex and his adventures have been with me even when others have not. The books have never failed to keep my attention held even in the most disruptive of environments, and it all goes back to Alex’s character and the finesse with which Horowitz constructs his stories. Alex is relieved to return home to the grey clouds and red buses of London after a narrow escape in the south of France. You feel his exasperation as he desperately tries to convince Sabina, one of his few friends and perhaps something more, that the Royal & General is an MI6 cover, when the organisation refuses to help him. And you feel his vengefulness when he discovers the whereabouts of the shady organisation, Scorpia, that killed his father.

I genuinely care about Alex, and I felt this more prominently than ever on the afternoon I finished reading Scorpia, the fifth book which deals with Alex’s parents and past, for the first time. The entirety of the final chapter is a steady build up to a defiant act of revenge. Alex is shot in the chest by a sniper. I could feel the moment coming as I read. I began to hang on to each sentence as if cling to the final moments of a friend’s passing. With the last few words, “Alex Rider smiled and closed his eyes,” I closed the book. That was the last I assumed I’d hear of my silent friend, and it very nearly brought me to tears.

But, no. It seems Horowitz hadn’t been about to kill off Alex – not yet at least. Since Scorpia, Alex has return in another three books (to discover how he survived the shooting I encourage you to read Ark Angel), and now his ninth and final adventure is upon us. In Scorpia Rising, 15-year-old Alex faces the international crime syndicate once again. Ever since Scorpia, I’ve approach every Alex Rider book as if it’s my last. I’m tremendously excited to see how Horowitz closes Alex’s saga. Having first spotted the books in primary school, read them all through high school and college, this final book is arriving at a time of great change for me as I prepare to finish my degree and move onto a new phase in my life. Alex has been with me from my childhood to the end of my teenage years, and as another landmark transition approaches for me, I look forward to join him on his final adventure.

Seeking ‘novel’ entertainment

Leisure time is scarce for many of us nowadays. If there’s one past time that relaxes and satisfies me in equal amounts after a long day it’s reading a good book. No TV, no loud music and no constant hum from my laptop. Just me, a literary work and my imagination. Bliss. Nevertheless, with all the writing, game playing and fact-related reading I’m doing these days, my reading list has been given far less attention than I had hoped to give it at the start of this year.

How fortunate then that books, unlike battery-depended portable devices, are immediately accessible. Whether I’m travelling around Nottingham, stopping off for lunch or relaxing in my not-so-comfy bed, I’ve always got a book to hand; ready to get me through the slow parts of the day. Tales of adventure, espionage, science-fiction & fantasy, local stories, myths & legends, humour, crime, horror and even romance.

Though I don’t dabble as much as I’d like these days, I’ve recently digested a few books, which certainly helps keep my expectations high for storytelling in other media. On the teen & older fiction side there’s Necropolis, Artemis Fowl and the Time Paradox and Superior Saturday. Some people – probably the ilk who feel smug about buying the adult editions of Harry Potter, when the normal editions are exactly the same – may consider me a little old for these books, but when I’ve been reading the work of these authors since primary school I most certainly shall read their newest works. Besides, some of their sagas still haven’t concluded yet, so I must see them through to the end.

About a month or so ago I finished Anthony Horowitz’s, The Killing Joke. Being one of the few adult books he’s written, I was unsure what to expect at first. All my doubts were soon put aside when his signature style of crisp characters, a motivating plot and intelligent humour shone through once again. There are even a few subtle jokes and references that will have anyone with a basic knowledge of theatre history cracking a broad smile. Crafting such brilliant novels time after time, he is definitely my favourite author.

The Silver Sword, a book recommended to me by my mother more than ten years ago, was another touching and reflective read. And just last week I finally closed Halo: The Cole Protocol – beyond the entertainment factor my reasons for reading it will become clear in a series of future posts that are coming soon. A slick first-half made me think I was in for a real treat when I got to the finale. Shame the plot tied itself up a little too neatly and avoided what could have been a climate finish. On the plus side the author did a great job of make the Covenant more than just ugly looking aliens, adding more weight to their history and dogmatic beliefs. On the flip side, there is a point where some of the military personalities become monotonous – a subtext of army recruitment and what it means to serve ones country is heavily embedded. OK, but not the best game-to-novel adaption I’ve read.

In the coming weeks I hope to fill you in regularly on what I’m reading, offer an opinion and give a few recommendations while I’m at it. At present I’m stumbling my way through one of the most taboo-ridden books I’ve ever come across. More on this criminal caper shortly.