Squeeeeeeeeee-post 2

Could it be? Really? Time for ? Been about a month*, so I guess so…

So, it’s been a month, another two books for my Book Clubs - Iain “I Can’t Believe It’s Not M” Banks’ The Bridge (Woo Yay Go Banks!) and Arthur C Clarke’s Rendezvous with Rama. I also read (some of) the Ray Bradbury Sound of Thunder collection - due to time constraints this was picking stories by their title and there were some really good ones in there (For R is For Rocket I scrawled “Ralph <3s Chris Forever” as my note about it 8-).

SPOILERS: The Bridge is the first of Banks’ books I’ve re-read (mostly due to time constraints). It’s also the one Banks identifies as his favourite and it’s easy to see why. I love it. Re-reading is always interesting to see what I remember and what I don’t. I did remember the bureaucratic hell of the bridge and I did remember the downgrading when he challenged the doctor’s suggestions. I didn’t remember the barbarian and the familiar (which is a huge shame - I thought they were bloody hilarious. Also, I love dialects and find that their use in books forces me to slow down and then really savour the language).

Rendezvous with Rama well, I was able to get a lot of opinion out of this book… not a lot of good opinion, but you have to take what you can get with Book Club choices sometimes. Poor characters (one character had some back story but only in order to provide a bit of kit they needed, one was religious, and one was a sexist mysoginist arsehole). In all three of those case we also have examples of stories which just get abandoned. There a whole chapter on one thing (well, four) which never get mentioned again. This is just awful, and writing it down now I want to deduct even more points than I did when I was raging about it in the meeting.

Instead, on a “aliens which completely ignore us” topic, I would suggest Roadside Picnic by the Strugatsky Brothers. Another Nine Worlds recommendation, the Sci Fi Masterworks series has this one covered, which is more than can be said of other works by them (the cheapest I could find was nearly a tenner for a used book, £25 and £40 was more common and “new” were in the hundreds of pounds range) and, after reading that first book, I do want to read more. In Roadside Picnic, parts of Earth are the site of an alien “roadside picnic” and the detritus they leave behind is so technologically advanced that we are probably only able to use a smartphone as a hammer. Brilliant book, highly recommended.

I’ve also found time to read (I think this should be understood as “I’ve cleared practically everything from my diary in order to read”) Roz Kaveney’s Rhapsody of Blood: Rituals and Reflections. It is definitely fair to say that, if books were the way to achieve godhood, I’d be fearing a visit from The Huntress any time now the way I’ve devoured these books. They are the first two volumes of a planned four-book series (The Rhapsody of Blood) recasting myths and legends and religions and histories into a coherent whole. Two main protagonists are taking the supernatural world and kicking it into submission - Mara as the immortal Huntress protecting the weak against the strong who wish to use the Rituals of Blood, and Emma Jones (it was an Emma Jones that prompted my first Squeeeeeeeeee-post) as the intuitive modern day humility hammer of awesome. They save the world numerous times each book. Wonderfully funny (the image of the ghostly girlfriend of Emma Jones doing her best zombie impression while vampires (“awwww baby fangs”) around her are acting with supreme dignity is an unshakable image for me - but this is not a zombie, ghost or vampire book). I mentioned earlier my love of dialects for forcing me to slow down and savour the written word… I needed that here… I was so engrossed by what’s happening and the humour that I fear I have let the wonder of Kaveney’s language slip me by. Reflections is not out until later this year, so you’ve got plenty of time to read Rituals... I, on the other hand, am now waiting for Book 3...

Moving out and away from books, to TV. Orphan Black was mentioned a lot at Nine Worlds. A ten part series, part funded by BBC America. Tatiana Maslany plays… well… a huge proportion of the characters which, given it’s a show about clones is unsurprising. And she isn’t just playing slight variants - every character is different and looks different. This must have been hell on make-up, wigs and wardrobe. I’ve only seen the first few episodes so far and what started off as a simple “Oh, I can take her identity, that’ll be handy” premise has escalated rather well.

Another medium now, Theatre. Went back to see The Boy Who Kicked Pigs which I saw in The Studio at The Lowry earlier this year and fell in love with. It’s since had a stint in London and a stint at the Edinburgh Fringe. Going back to it was every bit as good as the first time, and the motorway pile up is a piece of theatrical genius. It’s set to do a tour in 2014 so do keep an eye out.

Coming up, I still have to crack the spines on a stack of Cory Doctorow. For the Book Clubs I will be reading Red Shift and The Weirdstone of Brisingamen by Alan Garner for Warrington and Brave New World by Aldous Huxley for Manchester. I have also picked Hal Duncan’s Vellum to my To Read Mountain and am enjoying it so far - another queer author re-writing the entire Earthly mythology (and beyond 8-). (now comes with correct title too 8-) and a release date of 24th October.

Alex
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(*I’m not deliberately planning one a month, but there were just a few new things to go Squeeeeeee about and waiting a month seemed appropriate)

P.S. next month we're nominating books to read for the next batch of the Manchester SF Book Group. We tend to prefer SF to F, and I am on a mission to get greater diversity in there (after the last batch was all dead white men). While I'm all for putting some Delany on there (Nova or Stars... probably), we're quite keen on stuff published this century too (most of my Diversity knowledge comes from stuff which is probably further over the F side than this group tends to want to go or quite old). Any suggestions gratefully received - non-western, people of colour, queer, women, disabled.