Monday, 26 January 2015

The Centauri Device

(January 2015)

Good lord but this but this guy can write. Maybe it’s just because I’m coming off a couple of novels whose prose could be charitably described as ‘utilitarian’, but this was an absolute pleasure. Such a relief to read someone who views language as a thing to bring pleasure instead of a bluntly functional tool with which to bludgeon concepts into the head of the reader.

Monday, 19 January 2015


Bill Willingham, Mark Buckingham, et al, 2002-2011
(January 2015)

I recently came into a couple of hundredweight of comics.

Oh Christ. Not like that.

Friday, 9 January 2015

The Cage of Zeus

(January 2015)

Before we begin, I’m going to refer you back to a previous post, specifically the opening paragraph, which I think must now stand as my standard disclaimer for Japanese SF. All clear? Good. So you’ll understand why I wasn’t expecting great things from this in terms of craft, but even so the first few pages of The Cage of Zeus must count as one of the most inelegant, leaden, and bluntly cack-handed opening scenes I’ve ever read in a professionally published novel.

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

All Men Must Die

With the turning of the year, as with the turning of the tide, one’s thoughts are inevitably drawn towards the cyclical nature of life. This arbitrarily designated point on our terrestrial orb’s procession around the solar sphere fittingly provokes consideration of where one has come from and where one is heading; while we may appear as if we are endlessly retreading the same repeating path around our own personal orreries there are nonetheless perturbations; the precession of our equinoxes are far from regular as we pirouette about whatever attractor is placed at the centre of our worldly existence. This time, then, as we literally turn the page on the ledger of our years, allows us a pause, a moment, in which to take stock to consider, to reconsider, what we have come to understand; to wonder what it is we have learned and what it may befit us to unlearn.

Saturday, 3 January 2015

Cat Country

(January 2015)

One of the main strengths of science-fiction as a genre, one of its main attractions for writers and reader alike, is how use of the speculative allows for a more honest examination of the real. The observer paradox is an ever-present concern in the social sciences, exacerbated by the fact that it is an essentially reciprocal process: the act of observing changes that which is observed, but as a component member of the observed the observer is themselves also changed. The trappings of SF allow for a certain distance, a cleaving of subject and object.

Monday, 29 December 2014

Locke and Key, Vol. 3 and 4

Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez, 2009-2011
(December 2014)

Last time I commented on how the slightly childish exaggeration of the visual style in Locke and Key served to exaggerate the horror through the contrast with the gore and anguish it depicted. Little did I know.

Monday, 15 December 2014

Surface Detail

(December 2014)

This is easily the longest of the Culture books, and arguably the weakest too, but we’ll come to that in due course. In the meantime I must confess that what I was planning to write about this has been unfortunately (and depressingly) overtaken by events in the real world.

Monday, 8 December 2014

It’s Me! It’s Me!

Japan is home to a very specific type of con-artist. There’s something called ‘Ore Ore’ Fraud (that ore being pronounced not as in a miner striking a seam of metallic rock, but as in an aggressively drunk Spaniard sarcastically celebrating the murder of a cow), which essentially translates as ‘It’s me, it’s me’.

The con works like this: the scamsters aggressively and persistently harangue their victims, often in their own homes, repeating the same simple message – “It’s me! It’s me!” – and through providing that information and nothing else hope that the natural credulity and weak-mindedness of their targets will act to embellish whatever details are necessary to convince them that this ‘me’ is someone who they actually know and appreciate and value. Once this cognitive sleight-of-hand has been achieved, the fraudsters then convince their marks to give them stuff that if they actually thought about it in any meaningful way at all they’d be extremely reluctant to bestow on them.