A new collection of short stories from
Shirley Jackson, most of which have previously been printed in other
collections, and I think all of them first appeared in various periodicals during
the 1950’s. Annoyingly, I think the latter form of publishing does more for
them than anthologizing them together like this, as en mass it becomes clear
that the writing, or more specifically the plotting, can be fairly formulaic. In
many ways the biggest weakness of this collection is the collection.
Odd little Lolita-esque novella about a
bored and repressed high school dropout getting into a sadomasochistic
relationship with an elderly man. Divertingly uncomfortable in and of itself,
but to be honest the thing that sticks in my mind the most is how the blurb on
the back gives away plot points that don’t occur until three pages before the
end. I get that the constant cry of “Spoilers!” can be pretty tedious, but
really. Three pages from the end.
Welcome to the Craft Sequence, I guess.
Good, solid secondary (?) world urban fantasy, featuring lawyer-wizards, gods,
and disaffected wage slaves. It’s kind of addictive, so I’m probably going to
work my way through the first five books in fairly short order (the sixth is
due out this autumn). More thoughts on the deeper meanings of this blend of
High Fantasy and Late Capitalism when I’ve got it all under my belt, as I’m not
entirely sure it’s all working quite as it should just yet. Short term,
however, I’ll merely state that Three
Parts Dead is a better book than Two
Serpents Rise: the central character is more compelling, the philosophical editorializing
is less intrusive, and the story is less reliant on a fairly predictable
face-heel turn. As I write this I’m partway through Full Fathom Five, and while some of these flaws are still evident,
I’m pleased to report that for the most part things are definitely moving in
the right direction.
On the one hand, I loved this, on the
other, I found myself in a broadly grudging agreement with Ishihara Shintaro,
which those of you who know me (and him) will understand is not a position I
ever really wanted to find myself in.
Set in and around the Mau Mau Rebellion which preceded
Kenyan independence, an incident I’d previously heard of but know shamefully
little about. Political dimensions aside, what’s surprising about this book is
just how much it sweeps, despite its
relatively short length (barely 240 pages). I was expecting the politics, I
wasn’t expecting the melodrama, nor was I expecting them to mesh quite as well
as they did.
I am, once more, rendered incoherent by Li's
writing. I genuinely can't fathom how anyone is capable of producing anything
simultaneously so precise yet so supple, so pitiless yet so profoundly humane.
A full compendium of M. John Harrison’s
Viriconium stories, originally published separately (as three short novels and
a short story collection) between 1971 and 1985. I’ve previously written about how
superb Harrison is as a stylist, and while that’s clearly evident here, I also
suspect that reading all these stories together like this didn’t really do them
Continuing what has become an impromptu ‘CompetentWomen’ season here on this is how she fight start, we have the first volume of
Rosemary Kirstein’s long- and glacially slow-running Steerswoman series.
Working my way through the canon. Slim
book, fat (if not entirely watertight) ideas. Thinking of collating a
Linguistics in SF list. There’s this, Embassytown, Snow Crash, and of course 1984. Any other ideas?
I enjoyed this book. In places I enjoyed it
very much indeed. Please bear that in mind, as I’m going to spend most of what
follows talking about its many faults. Though to be honest, they’re all really manifestations
of one fault. It is all, appropriately enough, just a little too… a little too.
I think I’m becoming more nostalgic in my middle
age, and especially so when it comes to my reading. More and more I find myself
harking back to the things I read as young(er) adult, not so much conceptually
but emotionally. Part of this is the natural passage of time and experience, I
think, but the more comparators you have for something the harder it becomes
for it to raise its head above the herd.
opera of a sort, despite the fact very little of it takes place in space. Marge
Taishan is an anthropologist charged with investigating the planet Jeep.
Unknown generations ago it was settled by humans, whose society has long since
reverted to pre-industrial modes. An attempt at recolonization failed once it was
discovered that he planet harbours a virus which kills all men (and a good
proportion of women), leaving the planet isolated and the survivors
stunning and mercifully short journey through the inner lives of a young woman
in inter-war Brazil. Lispecter's works have had a bit of a renaissance in
recent years (as far as I'm aware, at least), and I can see why. The prose
switches seamlessly between mimesis and stream-of-consciousness, as the orphan
Joanna creates her own worlds as she passes through being raised by intolerant
relatives and a loveless marriage to the unfaithful Otávio. I say 'mercifully short'
because the effect of this constant tumult is as exhausting as it is
captivating, and in the perfect marriage of form and function the reader can occasionly
become as exasperated with Joanna as the characters around her; god help me,
but I genuinely laughed out loud at some of Otávio's more exasperated
interjections. Excellent stuff.
Sentences is, at least as far as plot goes, about a
poem that causes anyone to read it to die. The blurb suggests that this conceit
is shared with The Ring, but for me
the obvious comparator is Monty Python:
A surprisingly nostalgic reading experience,
this. A ripsnorting thriller praised by a number of authors I like (Philip
Pullman, Alastair Reynolds) and which, despite being set in the early 1990’s,
has a distinctly Cold War feel that threw me right back into the Tom Clancy
novels I ploughed through as a teenager. It’s also utterly ridiculous.
Everyone wants coffee except Dr. Tijou, who
struggling to explain why I found this line is so funny, but it provided my first
book driven LOL of 2017: a good three or four minutes of guffawing about tea. I
am, however, going to give an explanation a bash, because if nothing else it's
going to be a good way of working through exactly why I enjoyed this book so
The first book of the year gets 2017 off to a
mixed start. On the one hand, this garnered a fair amount of praise and I can
see why: it's well written, thoughtfully plotted, and the characters are only
too believable. But on the other, it also served to remind me that coming of
age stories really aren't my cup of tea at all. If I were less of a middle-aged
curmudgeon I'd be able to praise this for more that its technical execution,
but as it stands I'll just say that if pig-headed and self-obsessed teenagers
are what floats your boat then you could do a lot worse than this.
So I finally acquired a replacement copy of this, and it was
good. In the light of having read most of Gibson’s other stuff it was a little
underwhelming, to be honest, in that it’s a very, very obvious bridge between Neuromancer (the plot’s essentially a
carbon copy) and the Bigend ‘cool hunting’ books, and it doesn’t manage to
execute either aspect quite as well as those it links together. Judged as a
stand-alone work, however, it’s a very slickly executed piece of cyberpunk,
which is only to be expected, I suppose.
I'm pretty sure I've read some Stephen King before, but I'm
not sure what. I know I've read The Running Man, but I'm not so sure about
stuff he's written under his real name. I've a vague recollection of a book
featuring about a rich writer and a terrifying lake, which doesn't really
narrow it down all that much.