The End of an Era – #TheEndlessRiver #PinkFloyd

Back in 1987 I bought an album by a band I’d sort of heard of.  The album was Momentary Lapse of Reason, the band Pink Floyd.  Every so often, you listen to an album and realise you’ve come home.  To this day I’m not entirely sure what drew me to the album – it didn’t have the visual appeal of Anderson, Bruford, Wakeman, Howe, it didn’t have the “already heard it in school” pedigree of Jeff Wayne’s War of the Worlds.  But I bought it.  And the rest, as they say, is history.

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Y’see I’ve not really had much of a musical education from my parents.  My dad had Queen’s Greatest Hits in the car pretty much all the time, and he’s now graduated onto much more mellow Rod Stewart stuff *shudder*.  Mum?  Still not sure what she’d choose to listen to – Terry Pratchett audiobooks, at a guess.  So I’m largely self-taught when it comes to my musical taste.  If I’d had the internet, and known about Music Map, I’dve known that my progression through Yes, Deep Purple, Genesis and Marillion would’ve led me to Pink Floyd sooner or later. Probably sooner.

From that starting point, I got my hands on Delicate Sound of Thunder, the live album from the tour that followed.  From there, I filled in the gaps backwards to Dark Side of the Moon, introducing my then-girlfriend to the music along the way.  She picked up Animals, and somehome we’ve never quite managed to own The Final Cut.  Between us we’ve never really got into the pre-Dark Side stuff, it’s just a bit too raw, too un-finished.  Songs like Arnold Layne hint at the greatness that is to come, but it’s not quite there yet.

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Skip forward to 1996 and two poor students on a coach down to London from Edinburgh, off to see Pink Floyd on The Division Bell tour.  What an amazing night that was!  A packed Earl’s Court singing along to Wish you were Here is one of my treasured memories.  At the time, I think we all knew on some level that another studio album was unlikely.  The live album Pulse was recorded during that tour.  Still, not a bad run for a band – 7 solid albums without a bad track on them.  Not many bands can say that.

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Then in early 2013 rumours started circulating on the internet that there was going to be a new album.  And maybe a tour!  The tour rumour was quickly quashed but more and more information about the new album started to come to light…

The album would come from sessions recorded while the band were recording The Division Bell – and before the death of their keyboard player.  It would take it’s title from one of the last lines of High Hopes, the last track on The Division Bell.

The Endless River was released Monday 10th November 2014 and I, like many who had pre-ordered, had it downloaded and ready for the morning commute.

It is simultaneously quintessentially Pink Floyd while being unlike any other album they’ve released to date.  Broadly speaking, it’s just 4 tracks – but each is nearly 15 minutes long.  Largely instrumental, it flows and weaves through what feels like the entire history of Pink Floyd.   It is a thing of beauty.

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If you’ve not had the pleasure of Pink Floyd, do yourselves a massive, massive, favour and start listening.  Pick an album at random, from Dark Side of the Moon to The Endless River.  Don’t just listen to it once, listen to it over, and over, and over, and over.  Listen to it in darkened rooms where your brain isn’t distracted by anything else.  Listen to it with friends, tell them to shhhh when David Gilmour’s guitar solo for On the Turning Away starts.  Tell them to listen to the lyrics!  Above all, listen.

And do not mourn that there will be no more.  Celebrate that there is.

Book Review – Dying by the Hour, @koryshrum

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The sequel to Dying for a Living,  Dying by the Hour returns us to a world where death isn’t the handicap it used to be.

For those of you coming cold to Book 2 in a series, here’s the “Previously on Angel” sum-up.

  • A significant percentage of the population don’t stay dead when they die.
  • You don’t know it’s going to happen to you until it happens.
  • If you’ve got this, it’s called “Necro Regenerative Disorder” and the term “disorder” should tell you everything you need to know about how it’s perceived by Joe Public.
  • If you’ve got NRD, you can replace people at the point of death – literally dying for them.  The officially licensed, US-Government-sanctioned people doing this are Death Replacement Agents.
  • There’s a large, influential, and powerful church out to remove everyone with NRD as it’s against the wishes of God (and perfectly in line with the wishes of the head of the order).
  • Certain individuals with NRD are more special than others…

Got that?  Good.

Right.  Always tricky coming to book 2 of a series when book 1 was so good.  You’ve got to juggle the information you’re giving people who are new to the series with the information people coming straight from book 1 already know.  You run the risk of having large chunks copy-pasted across.  Simon R Green seems to feel the need to explain everything from chapter to chapter just in case you’d forgotten that “this is how things are… in the Nightside” from one page to the next.  Jim Butcher goes a little overboard in explaining how magic works in the Dresdenverse in every new book.  Kory gets the balance just about right.

Much of the “this is how NRD works” stuff is delivered in the form of a mandatory meeting all state employees have to attend.  Yes, this was done in book 1 but it’s not an out-of-place infodump in this book.  The rest is delivered piecemeal as the story needs it.

The whole thing does an excellent “this is book 2, let’s explore the world a little more” thing – more of the rules around death replacement are revealed, we meet the other factions out there vying for control, and we find out more about the Big Bad.  It’s all delivered from the point of view of either Jesse (NRD) or Ally (assistant) and the two storylines weave around each other, moving swiftly to the climax.  Nicely done, just as you’re getting somewhere with 1 character, you’re diverted to the other.

It’s not as self-contained as book 1 was.  With book 1, there wasn’t a need for a sequel built in.  Yes, it’s good to know there’s a sequel out there but it’s not essential reading.  With book 2, it feels much more like a set-up for book 3.  It’s half (or maybe 2/3) of a story that needs book 3 to complete it.  Strings are dangled, questions are unanswered.

There’s elements I didn’t like in this one.  One aspect of the storyline (trying to avoid spoilers here) is very like the TV show “Heroes” and I’m not sure how it will fit in with the wider world in book 3.  Will have to wait and see.

The politics in the world Kory’s created are rather involving.  I could picture articles in The Economist discussing some of the points raised and the laws being proposed in some US states regarding individuals with NRD.

To conclude…

Worth reading?  Yes.  Self-contained?  No – go and read book 1 first, then this.  Arguably, this book is “The Empire Strikes Back.”  Our heroes achieved victory in the previous book because they were under-estimated.  This time, they’re not so lucky.  Yes, they win some, but they lose more.  The game is changed.

Am I looking forward to the next one?  Yes.

My copy was kindly provided by Kory in exchange for a review.