Saturday, 16 January 2077

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Monday, 24 April 2017

Eliza Dushku to produce and star in BLACK COMPANY TV series

Eliza Dushku, best-known for playing Faith in Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the lead role on Tru Calling and Dollhouse, is bringing Glen Cook's Black Company series of novels and short stories to the screen. The actress is attached to produce and star, with her taking on the role of the Lady.

Glen Cook's novel series began in 1984 with The Black Company. It is followed by Shadows Linger and The White Rose, the three books retroactively named The Books of the North (or The Black Company Trilogy). It was then followed a spin-off interquel, The Silver Spike, and The Books of the South, consisting of Shadow Games and Dreams of Steel. The series continued with the four-volume Glittering Stone series (Bleak Seasons, She is the Darkness, Water Sleeps and Soldiers Live). Cook is currently writing Port of Shadows, which is set between The White Rose and the later books in the series.

The Black Company is known for its strong moral ambiguity as the titular mercenary army is hired by the Lady and her Northern Empire to crush its remaining enemies. However, the army gradually realises the threat posed by the Lady and the Empire and betrays her, joining forces with the prophecised saviour figure known as the White Rose. A series of alliances and betrayals follow, until the Lady, reluctantly, is forced to lend her military and magical aid to the Black Company when faced with the threat of an ancient, greater evil known as the Dominator.

The Black Company was dark and gritty at a time when most fantasy was anything but, with a strong cast of memorable characters. Central to the saga is the complex and occasionally tortured relationship between Croaker, the chronicler and sometimes leader of the Black Company, and the Lady, a former arch-enemy turned highly redoubtable ally.

The series is also noted for its profound impact on later fantasy series: Steven Erikson and Ian Esslemont have credited it as the primary influence on their Malazan Book of the Fallen series (and, indeed, they "borrowed" Cook's naming conventions for their series), whilst George R.R. Martin has credited Cook as one of several influences on A Song of Ice and Fire.

The TV project is being produced by Dushku and David Goyer (Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy) and will be shopped to TV networks in the coming weeks.

This is interesting and unexpected news, but Dushku could make for an interesting Lady and the series is different enough from a lot of the fantasy genre to stand out from the crowd. However, the series gets more grandiose as it goes along, with larger battles involving more magic appearing. It'll be interesting to see if the developers can get a network interested who'll be willing to spend the money required to do the story justice.

Thursday, 20 April 2017

WHEEL OF TIME TV series picked up by Sony

Sony Television Pictures have confirmed that they are the company who purchased the Wheel of Time TV rights last year and are now actively developing the project for television.

The saga of the Wheel of Time TV rights is long and complex. Suffice to say, a company named Red Eagle Productions attempted to get a film or TV show of The Wheel of Time made for over a decade before their option was due to expire in early 2015. To keep the rights, they self-funded a brief TV pilot based on the prologue to The Eye of the World, the first book in the series, resulting in a legal tussle with the Robert Jordan Estate. Last year we were told this tussle had been resolved and the TV project was moving forwards with an unspecified production partner, now revealed to be Sony.

So far no TV network has picked up the series, but there will likely be keen interest from a number of sources. HBO, I am informed, are not remotely in the running, preferring to develop series of this magnitude in-house and are also not interested in developing internal competition to Game of Thrones and its rumoured, early-in-gestation spin-off series.

The network most likely to show the series is AMC. They have been developing an enviable portfolio of genre programming, spearheaded by the ratings-destroying The Walking Dead, and have previously worked with Sony Television on Preacher, Better Call Saul and, of course, Breaking Bad. They are also rumoured to be the frontrunners to air the Dark Tower TV series (a prequel spin-off from the forthcoming Idris Elba movie), also in development with Sony. The main concern over AMC being involved is that they are infamously frugal, with even the massively popular Walking Dead made on a relative shoestring budget (for its scale) of about $3.2 million per episode. The Wheel of Time would comfortably require $5 million per episode at the start and a lot more later on, which AMC would seem less likely to stump up for. However, AMC likely want their own Game of Thrones-challenging fantasy show and would know that this would come with a much higher price tag.

Starz are also likely a strong candidate. They are more generous with the pursestrings and have likewise worked with Sony Television on their breakout success, Outlander. Showtime are also possible, as Sony has worked with them on Masters of Sex and The Tudors, but are perhaps less likely to stump up the large budget required.

An intriguing possibility is FX. FX and Sony previously worked together on The Shield, Rescue Me and Justified. FX is probably underrated in the TV stakes, but their portfolio of shows is far more impressive than might be first thought: in addition to the above, FX have also produced Sons of Anarchy, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Archer, American Horror Story, Legion, Atlanta, The Americans and Fargo (the latter two both strongly claiming the title of Best Show on TV). FX also showed Red Eagle's self-funded pilot back in 2015. Although that was a self-funded advert with no creative input from FX, FX did pick up a lot of queries about the project and obviously would be aware of the ratings and other feedback.

More tantalising would be a collaboration with an online streaming service. Sony have worked with Amazon on Mad Dogs and The Last Tycoon and with Netflix on The Get Down. Both Amazon and Netflix would likely loosen the pursestrings for The Wheel of Time (Netflix is spending $7 million per episode on Altered Carbon, and that novel is all but obscure compared to WoT) and Sony are likely interested in exploring the streaming space further.

Sony have confirmed that they have already hired the writer and showrunner for the series. Rafe Judkins entered the Hollywood sphere in 2005 as a contestant on Survivor before becoming a writer. He has since worked on The 4400Chuck, My Own Worst Enemy, Hemlock Grove and Agents of SHIELD. Judkins frequently collaborates with screenwriter Lauren LeFranc, so it may be possible she will also write for the show.

The next step will be finding a network partner and beginning the process of developing scripts and casting. I suspect it will be 2019, at the earliest, before we see The Wheel of Time on TV. But although it will be a while before we see Rand, Loial and Nynaeve's Braid on TV, at least we now have a beginning.

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Monday, 17 April 2017

Thimbleweed Park

1987. A dead body has been discovered on the outskirts of the town of Thimbleweed Park. FBI agents Angela Ray and Antonio Reyes lead the investigation and soon discover that there are some very weird things going on in the town. Meanwhile, Delores Edmund has been banished from her family home and fortune after abandoning the family pillow-manufacturing business to become a video games designer, but is summoned back to hear the reading of her uncle's will. And, in an abandoned fairground, Ransome the Insult Clown, dreams of escaping his fate and removing his clown makeup after he was cursed by a mysterious voodoo lady.

Thimbleweed Park is a throwback adventure game, employing the same SCUMM interface as the classic LucasArts video games of the late 1980s and early 1990s. The SCUMM system was created by Ron Gilbert, Gary Winnick and David Fox and employed in their game Maniac Mansion (1987). It would go on to be used in a further seven games in its original form. LucasArts would release another four games with a more streamlined (but less versatile) interface before ditching it in favour of a 3D engine with very awkward controls and more limited puzzle-solving. Bizarrely, Telltale Games (founded by ex-LucasArts veterans) would find great success with an even more limited engine (which almost removes all puzzles and inventory use altogether), leaving fans of real adventure games with relatively slim recent pickings.

Until now, anyway. Gilbert, Winnick and Fox have reunited and created a new game using the SCUMM interface. In Thimbleweed Park you control five very different characters and have to direct them around the town, solving puzzles, picking up useful items and discussing matters with other characters. Early in the game your main focus is on solving the murder, but later on you also have to fulfil Delores' uncle's stipulations so the will can be read and then all five characters come together to try to break into a spooky factory and confront the darkest secrets of the town.

Like the LucasArts games, it is not possible to die and it is almost impossible to bring about a failed state where you cannot continue (and the one main way of doing that does have a warning that you should save the game first). As a result, playing Thimbleweed Park is a relatively relaxed affair as you move around the town trying to solve the game's various puzzles. The game mostly plays fair, with the solutions to the puzzles being mainly logical and straightforward (and of course walkthroughs are already available if you get really stuck).

The game is funny, although it does strike a few bum notes, and the characters are reasonably interesting, especially Ransome the angry clown and Delores, the game's main protagonist. These characters are developed to the point where it feels like the designers lost interest in some of the other characters as development proceeded: Ray and Reyes have relatively limited character development in comparison. Overall, Thimbleweed Park nails the atmosphere, humour and strengths of the LucasArts adventures and improves on them in several areas, such as the addition of fast travel and a "run" ability to move around more quickly.

There are several negatives. The game has a large number of fourth-wall-breaking gags and metacommentary on old adventure games. This starts off entertaining but gets a bit old later on. I also can't help but feel that some of the humour and writing - such as the continued digs at Sierra adventure games when Sierra haven't made an adventure game in that style for over twenty years - is a tad dated and self-indulgent. As someone who's played almost every adventure game LucasArts put out and therefore gets all the gags, I found this vein of humour a little too forced. For younger players and newcomers I can imagine it could get quite alienating. It also doesn't help that a couple of puzzle solutions are dependent on foreknowledge of older LucasArts game (such as the old "Navigator's Head" trick from The Secret of Monkey Island).

Another is a complaint I've had ever since playing Maniac Mansion way back in the day. These games, in my view, don't handle multiple characters very well. Your player-controlled characters don't speak or interact with one another very much (aside from swapping the occasional inventory item), and the puzzles sometimes involve telepathy which has no in-game explanation (one character doing something in one location to trigger an event another character can capitalise on elsewhere). It's also very fiddly to discover that three inventory items are needed to solve a puzzle and you have to manually gather the characters together to swap stuff around. It's not coincidental that the best-regarded LucasArts adventures, The Secret of Monkey Island and its sequel, feature only one controllable character and only one inventory to manage.

Still, Thimbleweed Park (****) is resolutely entertaining. The pixel art is gorgeous, the music is limited but excellent, the voice acting is pretty decent (and can be turned off if you really want to pretend this 1990 again) and the writing is mostly sharp (if occasionally self-indulgent). It's not as good nor as funny as the Monkey Island titles (Tim Schafer's absurdist streak is sorely missed), not as enormous and compelling as Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis, but stacks up well compared to Maniac Mansion and Zak McKraken, and is far less obtuse and stonewalling as those games could be. The game is available now on PC, Mac and X-Box One, with a PlayStation 4 version to follow shortly.

Sunday, 16 April 2017

The Czech covers for China Mieville's novels are awesome

Behold below the Czech cover art for the novels (and one short story collection) of China Mieville:

On the top row, from left, that's King Rat, Perdido Street Station, The Scar, Iron Council and Looking for Jake. On the bottom row, from left, there's Un Lun Dun, The City and The City, KrakenEmbassytown and Railsea.

You may recognise the cover art for Perdido Street Station and The Scar from the original UK editions from Pan Macmillan. The artwork is all by Edward Miller (a pseudonym for artist Les Edwards), also known for his work for PS Publishing (including on the Malazan limited editions and on Scott Lynch's books). After The Scar came out the UK publishers decided to switch to a more generic and standard art style before switching again for the dark, moody covers they are still using today. Although these are okay, the surreal and bizarre imagery from Miller was very appropriate for Mieville's work and it was a shame to see him go.

The Czech publishers clearly agreed, as they retained Miller to keep working on the cover art for their editions of the novels. I couldn't find any information on a Czech edition of Three Moments of an Explosion, This Census-Taker or The Last Days of New Paris, so it's unknown if they will continue to use Miller for their works.

Thanks to Outthere Books for spotting this intriguing development.

Lucasfilm confirm that STAR WARS: REBELS will end after Season 4

Lucasfilm have released the first trailer for Season 4 of Star Wars: Rebels, their animated TV series set between the events of the movies Revenge of the Sith and Rogue One. They have also confirmed that the series will end this season.

Over the course of three prior seasons, we have seen the Rebel Alliance coalesce out of small guerrilla cells scattered all over the galaxy and the Empire expend considerable resources in trying to stamp out the movement before it gains momentum. But they have failed, with many worlds now in open rebellion against the Empire. The crew of the starship Ghost continue to provide support to the Rebellion whilst dealing with their own issues and being hunted down by the Imperial tactical genius Grand Admiral Thrawn.

The fourth season will focus on the Rebellion establishing the base on Yavin IV and will, presumably, explain the fate of the main characters and why they are not around during the events of the original movies. Producer Dave Filoni also promises that at some point we will see the flipside of events in Rogue One (in which several Rebels ships and characters either cameoed or were referenced). There will also be new cast additions, most notably perennial Star Wars favourite Warwick Davis as Rukh, Grand Admiral Thrawn's Noghri bodyguard and assassin (and, as those who've read Timothy Zahn's novels know, quite an important character in the old Expanded Universe).

Season 4 of Star Wars: Rebels will debut in the autumn.

Friday, 14 April 2017

First trailer for STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI released

Lucasfilm have released the first trailer for Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi.

The Last Jedi is the direct sequel to 2015's The Force Awakens and picks up where that movie left off. The Resistance has won a victory over the First Order by destroying its Starkiller weapon, but the First Order remains very much intact. Kylo Ren, badly wounded in lightsabre combat, is being healed and tutored by his mentor, the mysterious Supreme Leader Snoke. Finn remains badly injured from the same battle.

The film's main narrative thrust, however, appears to centre on Rey and Luke Skywalker. Rey has located Luke on a remote planet and is learning the ways of the Force from him, but Luke appears disillusioned by the Jedi ways, declaring that it may be time for the organisation to disappear.

The Last Jedi will be released on 15 December this year.

David Morrissey cast in THE CITY AND THE CITY adaptation

Veteran British actor David Morrissey will head the cast for the BBC's adaptation of the China Mieville novel The City and The City. Morrissey will be playing the role of Inspector Tyador Borlu, a police detective in the city of Beszel who gets caught up in a murder investigation.

The City and The City is a cross-agency murder mystery with a twist: the twin cities of Beszel and Ul-Qoma coexist at the same point in space/time, with people, shops and buildings from the two cities jumbled alongside one another. People can transit from one city to another through special checkpoints, but any attempt to interfere in the operations of one city from the other results in a "Breach" with potentially catastrophic results.

It's a bizarre, dizzying concept to get across in prose and I'm curious how the BBC are going to handle it on screen. I've liked the idea of the "current" city being in colour and all the buildings, people and objects from the other city being in black and white, with it reversing when the characters cross over, but that might be a little too hokey (and expensive).

David Morrissey is one of Britain's best actors, first attracting notice for the 1992 mini-series Framed in which he starred with Timothy Dalton and Penelope Cruz. His subsequent roles included TV shows such as Our Mutual Friend and Sense and Sensibility. In 2008 he starred alongside David Tennant in a memorable Doctor Who Christmas special. More recently, of course, he attracted renewed fame and attention for his role as the Governor in the third and fourth seasons of The Walking Dead.

This is excellent news and raises interest for this already intriguing project. The City and The City is filming now and should air in 2018.

Thursday, 6 April 2017

Just Cause 3

Rico Rodriguez has returned to his home island of Medici to remove the brutal dictator Di Ravello. He finds a nascent rebel army that is hamstrung by a lack of leadership and bold tactical ability, so, aided by his childhood friend Mario and the technical genius Dimah, he sets about building them into a more effective fighting force.

In 1999 the epic roleplaying game Planescape: Torment asked, "What can change the nature of a man?" Many answers were offered, such as love, idealism or religion. But, in an unfortunate lack of vision, the game never answered "Standing upside down under an enemy helicopter simultaneously firing two Uzis and then rappelling onto a nearby building and grappling the helicopter to a fuel tank, with predictable results." Doing that sort of thing certainly changes the nature of a man.

Just Cause 3 defies convention by being the third game in the Just Cause series, which is what happens when crazed Swedish video game designers decide to merge the Far Cry and Grand Theft Auto games and see what mayhem results. Like the Far Cry series, Just Cause 3 is set in an exotic location where you have to bring down a charismatic dictator by allying with rebel groups and leading them into battle. Like Grand Theft Auto, the action takes place in an enormous open world with a vast number of vehicles, from motorbikes to jet fighters, to steal ("liberate for the resistance") and utilise in battle.

Expanding on the use of the grappling hook in Just Cause 2, Just Cause 3 also gives Rico a tremendous amount of personal freedom of movement. As previously he has access to an infinite number of parachutes, but also now has a wingsuit that allows him to fly around like a lunatic bat if he so wishes. These can be combined with the grapple to allow him to paraglide up the side of mountains or be towed along at speed by passing trains. A tremendous and satisfying number of giggles can be had by just throwing Rico around the environment and finding out just what he can do with his increasingly bizarre equipment set (which is more impressive than Batman's by this point).

The game's storyline is enjoyable nonsense, although enlivened by much better writing and voice acting than previously. Dimah, the slightly mad scientist of the resistance, is hilarious and there's a growing narrative element as Rico discovers the extent to which his entire life has been manipulated by the CIA. This storyline remains unresolved at the end of the game, and is a pretty big clue that the team are preparing a Just Cause 4 to continue this thread. There's also a lot more story missions (about four times as many as Just Cause 2), with scripted set-pieces to help break up the open-world mayhem.

The game expands on the territorial mechanics of Just Cause 2, with you now having to liberate both civilian towns and military bases to secure control of a region. This is a fine idea in theory but in practice it falters a little bit. Going in and blowing up a base full of bad soldiers and mercs is one thing, but unleashing destruction inside towns without much regard for civilian casualties feels a little out of keeping with the game's storyline (in which Rico is a folk hero and man of the people). It would have been more interesting to have introduced a way of subtly undermining towns, recruiting locals to help sabotage infrastructure and so on, but nope, the only way of freeing towns is to go in and blow away every soldier in sight, topple statues and knock over propaganda speakers.

The game is definitely a step up from Just Cause 2 in how much it hand-crafts each town and base. Although a lot of the previous game's bases were identical in appearance and construction, this third game has a much larger number of assets it puts together in more interesting configurations. Enemy bases are also now defended by SAM sites, making the old tactic of simply raking a base with rockets from a helicopter to destroy it a lot more hazardous and forcing you to engage in much more close-up action.

There's a satisfyingly large array of guns and military vehicles to employ, and more opportunities to call in your rebel friends and fight alongside them, making the war feel more of a genuine, large-scale conflict rather than it just being Rico running around doing everything. As you paint the map blue you can see the front lines shifting and see the rebels gaining access to better equipment. The game sells the idea of a major conflict going on far better than its predecessor or the Far Cry series.

The story is enjoyable, the action is much stronger than in Just Cause 2 and, obviously, it's a more impressive game graphically. On the negative side of things, Just Cause 3 can get repetitive, especially if you choose to focus on the base missions and storyline. Some of the numerous side-missions (like stunt flying or taking part in street races) help break up the monotony of constant combat, even if they themselves can get quite repetitive after a while. There's also the feeling that the main villain, Di Ravello, is a very uninteresting antagonist, especially compared to the likes of Far Cry's Pagan Min and Vaas.

Otherwise, Just Cause 3 (****½) offers an inventive and vast amount of ways of let of steam, blow things up and have fun. It's the brainless action game genre at its very best. It is available now on PC, X-Box One (UK, USA) and PlayStation 4 (UK, USA).

Sunday, 2 April 2017

Unknown Pleasures: Inside Joy Division by Peter Hook

On 25 January 1978 four lads from Manchester performed their first gig under the name Joy Division. On 18 May 1980 their lead singer, Ian Curtis, committed suicide, bringing their career screeching to a halt. They later regrouped as New Order, wrote the biggest-selling 12" single of all time, founded the first superclub in the UK, wrote the only decent England World Cup football song, created The Killers (sort of) and broke up acrimoniously. Several times, although their latest split (in 2007) seems to be permanent. But it all began back in the late 1970s with four guys and their instruments playing in dingy, dark pubs in the north of England.

Joy Division are one of the bands that shook the music world. Formed after seeing a Sex Pistols gig and given early encouragement by the Buzzcocks, Joy Division rapidly eclipsed both bands in musical craftsmanship and critical acclaim, although commercial success eluded them for a long time. They only briefly tasted the fruits of success thanks to the success of the single "Love Will Tear Us Apart" and their second album Closer, both released after Ian Curtis's suicide. The band's influence was huge and long-lasting: Radiohead, Manic Street Preachers, Smashing Pumpkins, Red Hot Chilli Peppers and Moby (amongst many others) were inspired by Joy Division and would cover their songs or perform alongside them in their later guise as New Order. Other bands, such as Interpol and Editors, would base their sound more directly on Joy Division, to great success.

The story of Joy Division is bound up in the story of Ian Curtis and the story of Factory Records, that great Madchester outfit which brought so many great musicians to public notice. It's a story that has, over the course of forty years, been mythologised to a great extent, with Ian Curtis held up as a tormented soul, a wounded poet and artist-genius too good for this world etc etc. This mythologising would be fine except for the fact that most of it was done by people looking on from the outside or long after the fact. It wasn't until 1995's Touching from a Distance, written by Curtis's widow Deborah, that a more thorough and human perspective was brought to events. Two feature films have also explored the period: Michael Winterbottom's Twenty-Four Hour Party People (2002) is good but its comedic elements and the fact it tried to cover the entire history of Factory in a limited timespan meant the Joy Division era was given relatively little coverage; Control (2007) is far more in-depth and intricate, but it focuses more on Curtis's marital problems than his life in the band.

Unknown Pleasures: Inside Joy Division provides another viewpoint of the band. Bassist Peter Hook, always the band's most garrulous and painfully honest member, delivers a 300-page account of the band's history and does so in a readable and fascinating manner. Having been a Joy Division fan for over twenty years, I was pretty familiar with the story and thought that there was little else to learn. However, Hook's book is packed full of incidents and details that will be new to many readers. This is, after all, the first time we've had a book written by someone who was actually in the room when they decided to pick a new name, when they decided to recruit machine-like drummer Stephen Morris and when they played "Transmission" live for the first time at a sound check and stopped all of the other roadies and technicians dead in their tracks.

It's this inside perspective which makes the book a compelling read. Hook is a great story-teller but also a bit of a geek, having collected various Joy Division bootlegs and unauthorised recordings of gigs over the years. He provides a timeline mentioning every single gig the band played (where possible with setlists) and spends some time mentioning the gear he played with, such as the awful speaker which led to him switching to playing high notes so he could hear himself (and inadvertently giving the band their trademark sound). However, the majority of the focus is on the human story of the band and its curious internal relationships.

From left: Peter Hook, Ian Curtis, Stephen Morris and Bernard Sumner.

Hook and Bernard Sumner founded the band, initially as Stiff Kittens and then Warsaw, in 1976 after seeing the Sex Pistols. They went through an early rotation of singers and drummers before recruiting Curtis and Morris. In early chapters it's very much Hooky and Barney versus the world, old school friends who taught themselves to play guitar and bass and achieved something special. But the long-simmering musical tensions between the two set in surprisingly early on. Hook admits that it was Curtis, initially solely and later in collaboration with visionary (but stark raving bonkers) producer Martin Hannett, who held the band together through these periods of tension and helped mould their sound into what made them so distinctive. The book's focus shifts gradually from the Hooky & Barney Show to being more about Curtis, whose maturing lyrical prowess and his growing ear for a memorable song led to him becoming a more and more important figure in the band.

A lot of the book is taken up by thoughts on the band and their musical direction, but also about their laddish tendencies: the juvenile pranks they'd pull on support acts or their willingness to chat up girls despite having wives or girlfriends at home. Joy Division have a reputation for being an artsy and doom-laden band, but on the road they worked hard and partied harder.

The book achieves a surprising emotional charge once Curtis is diagnosed with epilepsy. The flashing lights at their shows would often trigger fits right there on stage, but Curtis was adamant he didn't want to leave the band and demanded they keep playing. His bandmates would oblige. In the book Hook admits this was a titanic mistake, but their own urgent desire to escape their crappy jobs in Manchester and enjoy life on the road made them turn a blind eye to common medical sense. It's at this point you remember these guys were only in their early twenties when all of this went down, as was their manager. Hook admits to feeling guilty that they didn't do more to help Curtis, but it's also clear (from both this book and Touching from a Distance) that Curtis believed absolutely and utterly in the band and would not countenance leaving it under any circumstances. Ultimately the pressure of wanting to stay in the band, being stricken with a debilitating medical condition requiring a huge amount of medication and being in a failing marriage all took their toll.

The end of the book is abrupt, but then the end of the band was abrupt. In the opening months of 1980 the band recorded the album Closer and the singles "Atmosphere" and "Love Will Tear Us Apart". They'd recorded their first-ever music video and several appearances on TV. They hit a new level of critical acclaim and were booked to play a tour of the United States. They had a series of impressive new demos in hand (which would later become New Order's first few singles, including the magnificent "Ceremony") and they seemed poised to explode into megastardom. Instead, their lead singer hung himself at home whilst listening to an Iggy Pop record. The long-lasting appeal of Joy Division, beyond the fantastic songs, has always been that idea of a band forever trapped in that moment, with no bad songs or phoned-in albums to their name, poised forever on the cusp of greatness but having it denied by tragedy. It's a mythic image that even Hook cannot dispel with his down-to-earth stories of four mates having a laugh on the road.

But Unknown Pleasures (****½) is also a very human book, very funny at times, touching at others and mainly free of rancour (Hook saves that up - with interest - for its follow-up Substance, about New Order). It'll certainly make fans want to reconnect with Joy Division's back catalogue and check out Hook's thunderous live shows where he plays the albums by the band in full. The book is available now in the UK and USA.