Saturday, 31 January 2009

Eulalia! By Brian Jacques

With this being the 18th book in the Redwall series, Jacques has settled into a comfortingly familiar style of story-telling.

For those who don’t know, the Redwall books are a cross between fantasy and medieval action/adventure stories with all of the characters being animals. Each type of animal has its own general personality, with the characters themselves being individuals. So rats, ferrets, weasels and other vermin type creatures are always the villains, roving bands of raiders or pirates. Moles are somewhat country-bumpkin like with their “boo-urr” speech patterns. Badgers are fierce warriors, otters are playful and good fighters. Hares are posh, stiff upper lip “what what” types who fight for the badger lords of Salamandastrom. My personal favourites have always been the GUOSIM – Guerrilla Union of Shrews in Mossflower. A bunch of homicidal, easily enraged shrews with rapiers.

This particular book doesn’t mess with the pattern of previous books, there are two major hero stories, we also follow the villains (2 bands of them this time) and Redwall Abbey is in danger. Like I said, it’s all very comfortable. However, I don’t read Redwall books for something new each time, just like I don’t expect an episode of CSI to turn into Battlestar Galactica and Jacques has become a master at these stories.
Each of our heroes are likable, this time a hedgehog taken in by the Abbey exiled for a season for stealing, or borrowing as he calls it. A hare called Mad Maudie, regimental cook and troublemaker, also sent away from her home of Salamandastrom on a quest.

The characters are well drawn, as I’ve come to expect from these books, and the author still has no qualms about calmly killing off one you’ve grown to like without remorse. It’s the constant sense that any of the characters could be killed that keeps it exciting.

This isn’t the strongest of the series, but it’s by no means weak. If this was your first Redwall book, I have no doubt that you would hunt down the others to read and enjoy. The story isn’t quite as dense as some of the previous ones and it felt a little rushed through to me. I’d have liked a few more events fro the heroes to battle through and the final battle doesn’t quite reach the heights of previous books.

This makes it just a solid entry to the series, without the truly memorable characters or deaths from some of the earlier books. Don’t let that put you off though, it still entertains and rattles along at a good pace. What more would you want from an adventure story for children?

The Site

The second of the BBC’s comedy pilots makes a much stronger case for getting a series than last week’s fairly weak opener.

The Site is about a young man who left his family’s pig farm, coming back for his father’s funeral. While this might not sound like the greatest set-up for a comedy, it delivers plenty of laughs.
Much of the humour comes from the use of flashbacks to demonstrate the point a character makes. The first one is of a scarecrow having the day off, and we cut to him on a rollercoaster.

It’s been compared to the League of Gentlemen in the papers, and I can see why. Although it’s not quite as dark as the Gentlemen, it does mine a rich vein of quite twisted humour. Gypsy terrorists blowing up cows, demon possessed pigs, not to mention Denzil from Only Fools and Horses pretending to be Tom Cruise and violently opposing any attempts to blow his cover.

A wide variety of nicely drawn characters populate this pilot – from the son desperate to get back away, the somewhat dim mother, the pig-loving Yorkshire Mafia boss and a stupid work placement kid who can only tell if he’s met someone before by checking his notebook where he has sketched their faces, very badly.

There are lots of familiar faces in this show and they bring a high quality to the material, which had me laughing out loud often.
I hope this gets picked up for a series, I would certainly watch more of this show.

It’s still available on iPlayer until the 5th or 6th of February