World’s End By Mark Chadbourn And Man vs Food (Random Review Day!)

This is going to be short and sweet.

It’s not good. What Chadbourn offers up is a tale of five chosen ones having to deal with an invasion/resurgence of long lost magical factions in Britain, which threaten to destroy the world as we know it.

What Chadbourn actually does is take Irish myths and set them all in England, mixing in a dash of Arthurian legend to boot. It’s a sloppy mix, which irritates an Irish reader, since there is no need for it to be so: there isn’t any reason for this book series not to be set in Ireland, other than a brief trip to Glastonbury, and it seems a case of an English writer not having interesting enough source material from his own country (which I don’t actually think is true) so he takes it from the neighbours instead and just applies it to his own land. It wouldn’t be so bad if more of the Arthurian side of things, more British folklore was included, but it just isn’t, to a sufficient degree.

But aside from that, the characters are two dimensional, the dialogue is bland, the story just moves from point to point in a mundane fashion, the bad guys are ill-defined at best and uninteresting at worst, the big twist at the end is pathetic, there’s little sense of danger or tension,  it’s all just very meh. Our five cardboard cut-outs hop around England finding magical items (whose origins are in Irish myth) with the greatest of ease, and whenever they get into trouble they leg it and leave the bad guys to slaughter a load of innocent civilians. It’s all good, because they get to be morose about it afterward. It can’t be modern fantasy without the characters spending half the book hating themselves. It gets tiresome, the endless litany of self criticism that each character decides to embark upon.

It doesn’t even matter to a large extent as by the end they all find out some crucial life defining moment of their past – all of them depressing in nature – was all set-up by some magical faction, so they could learn to be morose, depressing emos! It’s great, because Chadbourn gets to create a murderer seeking redemption character, then take away the actual murder part because the bad guys made him do it. No morally ambiguous heroes here! That’s far too complicated.

It’s also got this awfully condescending tone towards anything technological, which constantly gets shown up by magic stuff. I’ve never been able to quite get over some authors preference for that kind of thing (J.K Rowling has it spades, which is one of the big flaws I find in Harry Potter) and I have more respect for writers who, setting a fantasy story in modern times, are able to blend the magical and the electronic aspects of a universe together.

I could go on, but I lack the drive to do so. I suppose I should say, because I don’t like to be entirely negative, that is nice to see such Irish myths and legends be turned into something like this, since they are quite interesting in their own right. But this is a lazy attempt to do so. Judging by the reviews I found dotted around the internet, I seem to be a minority when it comes to that opinion.

I don’t want to be all Mr Negativity today, so how about something positive (and completely different)?

You know what I saw for the first time the other day and really liked? Man vs Food.

Now, I know that when the revolution comes and America collapses, Man vs Food is going to be given in evidence at the USA’s trial for crimes of excess. At its core, it’s a show about a guy going around the states and seeing where he can get the most gigantic servings of food, usually very unhealthy.

But there is something about this show I like. Adam Richman, the guy eating his way across America, carries this kind of energy into every episode, a  degree of humour and showmanship, making it more than  just a bunch of videos of people eating. Richman, while being a little overweight, is not shopping for moo-moos just yet, which works in the shows favour. He explores the culture of American places through what they eat and how they cook it, what particular foodstuffs are placed on a pedestal. It’s perversely fascinating, seeing what is considered the pick of the menu in downtown Baltimore or Little Rock, Arkansas. More than that, this is a show that makes you hungry, even if it might be a slightly disgusting way.

And in a TV world obsessed with complicated cookery shows, angry reality chefs and healthy eating, Man vs Food is a refreshing change of pace. This is a show where the very point is to find the most gluttonous meal possible and talk about how awesome it tastes, now how awesome it’ll make you look. It is understandable that it will turn some off – the excess on display is some episodes is truly startling and I do mean literally jaw dropping – but that just adds an extra level too it. Whether Richman intends to or not, likes it or not, he is showcasing part of America’s problem in relation to obesity. Man vs Food is all in good fun and has no pretensions, but for a viewer in Ireland, where the “big steaks” are paltry compared to those across the pond, it is a fascinating look at a culture that is obsessed with getting the most amount of food on its plate.

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