more I find myself incapable of stringing together much in the way of coherent
thought, though that's probably as much to do with the two-month gap between
reading the book and writing this as much as anything else.
Not a book so much as (very) long-form
journalism, and exemplifying both the strengths and the weaknesses of the
genre. I will refer you elsewhere for far more erudite refutations of Wolfe's
linguistic scholarship than I could hope to manage. It should, however, be noted
early that the concern of this book is only tangentially language; The Kingdom of Speech is really
interested in how ideas are born, tested, and accepted or rejected. Almost by
accident Wolfe gives us something far more interesting than his fatuously
simplistic notions of linguistic evolution. Behold instead the 'Swinging Dick'
theory of scientific advancement.
The first time I read The Man in the High Castle was way back, before I ever imagined I might
end up living in Japan. Reading it a second time, it became apparent that there was a hell of a lot I missed, in
terms of both the Japan-related stuff and just as a side-effect of being younger
and dumber. The plan, however, was merely to refresh my memory before moving on to United States of Japan, which is
something of a tribute/homage/reimagining of Dick’s seminal work. I wasn’t
really going to talk much about the latter, except to the degree it informs USJ.
I’ll refer you back to my previous comments about needing a
bit of a breather after reading The Vegetarian, and what better way than with Marie Brennan’s Darwin genderswap
mind candy? I mean, it’s a superior sort of mind candy, certainly, but it’s
exactly the sort of world you can sink into without having to challenge
yourself to analyse every detail, should you so wish. And I so wished.
(well, more like halfway through) contender for book of the year. There is so
much going on here, so once I’ve given due prominence to the utterly raw and
visceral nature of book as a whole, I’m going to retreat into a bit of philosophising
while I try to get the rest of my thoughts in order.
I continue to love Saga. It is, as befits its name, now a sprawling soap opera of a
thing with supremely engaging characters and at least two or three genuinely
laugh out loud moments in each volume. Ghüs remains a joy every time he appears
on the page, and god help me but Prince Robot is somehow hilarious, despite
having proven to be an utter bastard.
The first of Womack’s Dryco series, or at
least the first one he wrote. Ambient
is the book to which Random Acts of Senseless Violence serves as a prequel, and while that story described
polite society’s shockingly rapid descent into dystopia, the one we’re talking about
here gives us the shit show already in full effect.
A hugely enjoyable steampunk western, which
inevitably leads me to draw comparisons with Molly Tanzer’s Vermilion, not least because that too
was driven by a queer woman in her teens with a gloriously engaging narrative
Gothic New Weird with a healthy dollop of
bildungsroman and one of the most gratingly pretentious protagonists I’ve encountered
since Catcher in the Rye. In fact, I’m
not even sure it is a bildungsroman, but there’s such a strong connection in my
mind between the annoyance I feel for both Holden Caulfield and Thomas Kemp, the
narrator of this book, that maybe I’m just collapsing them both in to each
There is a woman who occasionally crops up
on my twitter feed who spends a large part of her time responding to men with
anime avatars asking “BUT WHAT HAVE THE WOMENZ EVER DONE FOR US?” by sending
them explicit lists of accomplished women in science, politics, the arts, and
such like. A service that is both valuable and depressing in its necessity.
This book is basically the mediaeval version of that, made even more depressing
because apparently we’re still having these arguments more than half a millennium
later. Plus ça change.
Back when I was a teenager and still took
rugby, or indeed anything other than childcare and the concomitant challenge of
trying to fashion some sort of ‘me time’, seriously, the two best clubs in
England were Bath and Leicester. Growing up near the latter, they were, and
still are, my team of choice (indeed, I was briefly a member of their protozoan
academy, in the brave new world of those immediately post-amateurism days). While
the Underwood brothers were clearly the star attractions, the members of the
ABC club (the world being neither brave nor as yet new enough to convince the
Tigers to adopt numbers instead of letters on their shirts) were the kind of
club stalwarts who inevitably rose to fan favourite status, and of whom none
were more stalwarty than Darren ‘The Baron’ Garforth.
I read this straight after Occupied City, and to be honest I was
expecting to get a bit more of a compare/contrast thing going. That I’m finding
that harder to do than expected is, I guess, a function of the luxuries
afforded by both time and distance, as well not living under an occupying
In which I finally get around to one of
last-year-but-one’s must-read books and it is every bit as good as everyone
says it is. In lieu of anything approaching a reasonable amount of time to
compose my thoughts, I’ll instead remind you all of the impromptu dance contest
Pep and I held a few months back, and merely state that I concur with pretty
much everything my more erudite and better informed friend had to say.
The sequel to Tokyo Year Zero, and apparently the middle volume of a planned ‘Tokyo
Trilogy’, though given the continued absence of a final volume it’s probably
better if we don’t hold our collective breath on that score.
This was my first encounter with the
extensive works of Tanith Lee, and was a slightly contradictory experience.
There was a lot to like about the three slices of gothic horror in this slim
volume, but by many of the metrics I’d usually apply when deciding if a book’s ‘good’
or not it comes up short. Of course, this also begs the question as to how
reliable those metrics are.
A slim and brutal volume of short stories
in and about the Indian state of Assam. If, as I was, you are a little hazy on
the details, Assam is in the North East of the country, in that strange island
of India wedged above Bangladesh, and almost entirely sundered from the rest of
the country except for a slim corridor along the Brahmaputra.
So then, Le Guin. The little corner of
contemporary capital-C Culture I tend to most often inhabit might, for want of
a better phrase, be designated as ‘Progressive Speculative Fiction’. A clumsy
label, but you get the general idea. And within this niche the closest thing
going to an unimpeachable godhead, a figure held in universal awe and
reverence, is Ursula K. Le Guin.
I’m just going to park this here, as
another of the foundation texts for this month’s reading. Not going to do much
more than that as, to be honest, I’m completely incapable of saying anything
intelligent about it within the timeframe I’ve given myself. (Also,
bronchitis). Let’s just say that, taking the project as a whole, I don’t think
that will be a problem, so I’m just going to leave a space here for a link to
the eventual summary where I’m clearly going to tie it all up nicely and we’ll
all be able to bask in my powers of for-, and indeed in-, sight.
We’re going to kick off Arbitrary Theme Month with a couple of foundation texts, the cover blurb of the first of which
informs us that it is “perhaps the single most influential work in the history
of town planning.” Now, I realize that on first reading this sounds a little like
being the most famous Belgian, but that in itself is a measure of how little
thought we (still) seem to give one of the most important fields of human organization.
Kind of a novelty read this, in that I’ve
just wrapped up almost a year’s worth of study on the Native Speaker Ideal and
this seemed like an appropriate way to top things off. Also a great (by which I
mean flimsy as all hell) excuse to start collecting these Penguin Drop Caps
Done! The deadlines are gone, dissertations submitted, and its all over bar the shouting/final marks. And what better way to celebrate than by catching up on all those books I've not been reading for the past three years? I'm pleased to announce that February will be Arbitrary Themed Reading Month here on this is how she fight start. Go on, guess what the theme is...
A surprisingly simple story told
outstandingly well. Your sensawunda here in full effect, and more importantly it doesn’t feel spurious or unnecessary in the way a lot of the other outgrowths
of the Sandman mythos have done. Beautiful stuff, even if I am unfortunately too
far removed from the original series to pinpoint many, if not most, of the
loose ends being tied up. Still, I suppose that’s the secret to good fan
service, isn’t it? Throw it in in a way that doesn’t distract from the rest of
the story or alienate the your less fanatical readers. Still disappointed by
the relative absence of Death though, but then I always am.
And so as winter sets in and the cold
(theoretically) descends, I find myself yearning for the muscular embrace of a
hefty slab of epic fantasy. Thus I finally get round to finishing Morgan’s A Land Fit for Heroes trilogy, which is
clearly an explicit deconstruction of the genre so is all ever-so-slightly
clever-clever, but also swords! and dragons! and blood oaths!
I read these and they were good and I
sadly have very little to say about them that hasn’t been said many, many times
already. If I had the inclination, knowledge, or talent I’d offer some thoughts
on the differences and similarities between the two, and what that tells us
about the progression of gender (and indeed racial) politics over the last
century, but I regret that I find myself falling short on all counts.
Nonetheless, both are clearly necessary, if in markedly different ways.
Lumberjanes required me to get my eye in
somewhat (expectations, etc), but now that I’m better acquainted with what I’m
going to be getting I can honestly say that this is worth the hype. The second
volume is even better than the first: heartful, intelligent, and just
laugh-out-loud funny. I love this series.