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Book Review

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Book Review: Opium Dream

by Lang Reid

The latest novel from Jason Schoonover is Opium Dream (ISBN 9-7483-0361-6) published and released by Asia Books in Bangkok. This was such a riveting read that having taken the book on a visit to Bangkok I had to ask for a late check-out from the Amari Watergate Hotel, because I could not possibly wait to read the last two chapters later at home! That introduction has probably enough words to let you know I enjoyed this book, but I will expand.

It is a suspense novel set in Asia and the Middle East, and is totally current. You will read mentions of Ho Chi Minh City, Bangkok, Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, the Afghanistan war, Pakistani and Russian soldiers, Iran, Baluchistan, Egypt and all points in between.

For the cast, author Schoonover has mined the mother-lode of fantastic characters, many of whom the longtime expats in this country will recognise immediately. Begin with Lee Rivers, his carry-over hero from his last book; add in a beautiful Hmong girl; a bucolic, belching Russian who eats garlic all day (you can almost smell this guy while reading this novel); Rivers’ mate, the lanky Australian Snake, who hits his head on a bracket in his plane all the way through the book; a Belgian soldier of fortune; numerous CIA agents in all types of guises and disguises; evil and bent Customs officials; Muslim extremists; KGB agents and you should be getting the gist of it all by now. Once again author Schoonover has written a "James Bondian" thriller, using a plethora of individually nasty characters, mixed in with the good guys, whom you can cheer on at every chapter.

The story revolves around the exploits of Rivers in locating the Kublai Khan’s burial site, complete with a terracotta entourage of hand maidens. Verification of their authenticity results in their worth being ten million dollars, give or take a rouble or two. However, there appears to be more than one group of people who would prefer that Rivers turned in his archaeologists shovel. So much so that he has to hire a bodyguard to protect him from the unknown assassins.

The ending, which seems to go on forever, as you frantically turn page after page (and have to ask for a late check-out), is totally dramatic with secret agents popping out of every closet, but only the chosen few will survive.

The review copy was made available through Asia Books, who indicated an RRP of 450 baht. Author Schoonover makes these books work by skilfully blending believable people into unbelievable situations. Because the character ‘fits’ it makes the situation the character is in, one that the mind will accept - greedily. And on to the next page please, and do not interrupt me, dammit!

In my review of his previous book, Thai Gold, I said that it should be made into a movie. In an email from the author this week, it appears that this is happening later this year. The movie moguls should also snap up this book for the sequel. This is one helluva good yarn. Get it! You will enjoy it.

Music CD Reviews: Pink Floyd - The Division Bell

by Mott the Dog

5 Stars *****

After the abysmal "Final Cut" in 1983, which had every song written by Roger Waters and the same gentleman had already fired founder member and keyboard player Rick Wright, Pink Floyd was laid to rest as a band without even touring the album.

Fortunately Roger Waters was not allowed his way and after many court battles lead guitarist David Gilmour was allowed to legally own the name of Pink Floyd. In 1986 he reassembled Pink Floyd with Nick Mason, Floyd’s original drummer; re-instated Rick Wright behind the keyboards; and replaced Roger Waters with the bass playing skills of Rick Wright’s son-in-law Guy Pratt, which immediately increased the musical ability of the band. In early 1987 "A Momentary Lapse of Reason" was released under the Pink Floyd banner, proving that Pink Floyd were no spent force, but still had a lot to offer. It would have been a travesty of justice if "The Final Cut" had been Pink Floyd’s epitaph, as, by any band’s standards, it is a bad album; by the standards set by ‘The Floyd’, appalling. Only selling on past glories.

But ‘’Momentary Lapse of Reason" was a huge commercial and critical success (except in Roger Waters opinion) and was followed by a huge tour of the world’s biggest stadiums. To commemorate this ‘The Floyd’ released a double CD live recording called "Delicate Sound of Thunder" (1988), featuring many supporting musicians giving fine renditions of songs from the last album and reworks of past classics, also to enormous sales.

After a couple of years recuperation the fifteenth and (probably) final ‘Pink Floyd’ album was released in 1994, "The Division Bell". How fitting that here, finally, should be their best and most complete work. Not bad value either at over sixty-six minutes worth of music. In Mott’s Fantasy Pink Floyd’s Live set "The Division Bell" is the only album to showcase four songs, unless you count the ten different sections of "Dark Side of the Moon", or the six pieces in "Atom Heart Mother". (You have to limit yourself to three and a half hours. You can’t expect the guys to play all night.)

David Gilmour’s vocals and guitar have never been more splendid; Nick Mason by his own confession has never had a better drum sound; and Rick Wright makes a mockery of Water’s decision to fire him, his keyboard playing throughout is nothing short of breathtaking, proving that he is the only keyboard player for Pink Floyd. He even takes lead vocals on one track, "Wearing the Inside Out", his first solo vocal on a Pink Floyd album in over twenty years.

The music opens with the very spacey "Cluster One’’, where the solo efforts of Gilmour and Wright build together till sliding smoothly into first song proper "What do you want from me". "Cluster One" was the only song from the album not to be played live on the "Division Bell Tour", which is a shame as it is a marvellous opening to the album and would have made a very effective opener to the live show. (It also just happens to be one of the songs on Mott’s Fantasy Live set list.)

‘’Marooned’’ won a Grammy in 1995 for Best Rock Instrumental Performance. Not bad for a bunch of old dinosaurs.

"High Hopes", the album’s closing song, and if you like a final goodbye from the band, encompasses all the glorious facets of "The Floyd" in its eight and a half minutes. Perhaps reminding you of a short ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ with it’s changing musical landscape and mystical lyrics.

"The grass was greener,

The light was brighter,

With friends surrounded,

The nights of wonder,"

If you have this album in your collection you know what I am talking about. If not, immediately go out and buy it and discover why ‘Pink Floyd’ is the Greatest Band in Space.

Main Musicians

David Gilmour/Guitars and Vocals

Rick Wright/Keyboards and Vocals

Nick Mason/Drums

Guy Platt/Bass

Dick Parry/Saxophone


Cluster one

What do you want from me

Poles apart


A great day for freedom

Wearing the inside out

Take it back

Coming back to life

Keep talking

Lost for words

High hopes

To contact Mott the Dog email: [email protected]