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Island of the Skull - Matthew Costello

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Genre: Crime / Thriller / Author: Matthew Costello / Mass Market Paperback / 336 Pages / Book is published 2005-11-14 by Pocket Star Books

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      06.10.2009 16:37
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      One book waiting to be pulped

      Somewhere in the depth of Hollywood is a filing cabinet containing ideas for prequels and sequels that no one ever wants. What happened to 'Spartacus' after he is crucified? Is anyone still talking about Fight Club after 'Fight Club' ended? Some films are best left as a standalone product that gives you one succinct story. However, if these films make money suddenly an unnecessary sequel appears - 'Men in Black 2', 'Pirates of the Caribbean 4', the list is endless. I don't care about the characters before or after their greatest moment; you are never going to recapture the magic of the original so why bother? What's worse than a decent film getting an unwanted sequel or prequel is when a rubbish film does. As much as I like Peter Jackson I do think that his remake of 'King Kong' was atrocious. However, being an incredibly shallow person this did not stop me from buying a novel that was the official prequel for the film when I saw it in a bargain bin. Why did I bother?

      I imagine that very few of you asked yourselves what happened to the characters of 'King King' before the film. How did Ann Darrow become a struggling actress, how did Carl Denham get the map of Skull Island? Matthew Costello explores these pressing questions in 'King Kong - Island of the Skull'. In depression era America jobs are hard to come by, Ann finds herself unable to get work in the theatre and must travel to the casinos to get work as a performer. Meanwhile Carl is hunting for cash to fund a huge movie that will explore places unknown. Luckily for Jack an adventure is occurring on the other side of the globe where ex-navy diver Sam Kelly is searching for pearls. His journey takes him to a mist shrouded island that contains a primitive world with dinosaurs and giant apes. Can Sam escape the island to get a map back to civilisation - a map that perhaps Carl can buy?

      'Island of the Skull' is perhaps the most unwanted novel of all time. There is no reason that Ann and Carl etc could not have led exciting lives before the events of 'King Kong', but author Matthew Costello soon puts pay to that. Ann and Carl lead seemingly uneventful and bland lives; so why do we want to read about them? Half of the book follows the thread of these two individuals as they lead up to meeting one another as 'Kong' begins. These sections do not contain monsters from the deep; nor do they contain angry primates kidnapping pretty blondes. Instead Costello writes a book about tough times in depression era America. In of itself this is no bad thing and although the book is pretty basic it does paint a picture of a struggling economy. Fair enough....... but this is not what I read a book about Kong for! I want mayhem, destruction, passion, hairy apes, cannibals, disaster, less hairy apes.

      And to an extent you get them. The one area of interesting content is about former Navy diver Sam. Sam is a character who does not appear in the film, but provides the map. We follow him as he loses his job in the navy and finds work diving for pearls. Sam and the crew stumble across Skull Island and get up to similar hi-jinxs as in the film. However, they hardly make it onto the island and do not directly interact with Kong; instead Kong is only mentioned in passing in the book and remains in the shadows as if to be discovered later in the film. Therefore, the book reads less like it is about King Kong and more about a chance happenstance when some random men come across a strange island and draw a map. Because Jackson would want to save all the big moments for the film he does not allow Costello to explore the island further. The only stand out moment is in the seas around the island when Sam and a fellow pearl diver are attacked underwater.

      For all intents and purposes 'King Kong: Island of the Skull' is a book that should not exist and has no other reason to than a chance to cash in on a popular movie. The film itself did not make a huge impact on the collective conscience so the prequel novel, released at the same time, was always going to struggle. What makes the book even more pathetic is that it adds nothing to the film and feels like a waste of time and effort on both the reader and writer's part. No one is interested in the uneventful lives of people; if they were 'King Kong' would have been about a man called Brian who works in the local Dry Cleaners whose ambition is to appear on TV talent show 'The X Factor'. I imagine that the potential audience of a prequel to 'King Kong' would already be pretty small; even these people will end up being disappointed by this book. Remember, some things are in the bargain bin for a reason.

      Author: Matthew Costello
      Year: 2005
      Price: amazon uk - £4.86

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