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Showing posts from July, 2017

A Child Across The Sky by Jonathan Carroll

I don't have a problem, per se, with Jonathan Carroll. Indeed, I've long enjoyed hoarding his novels with a view to drip-feeding them into my life as and when the whim takes me. I have fond memories of The Land of Laughs, and even though, in parts, Bones Of The Moon annoyed me, I was uplifted and happy to have read it. 

A Child Across The Sky returns us to Bones... characters Cullen and Weber once more, this time related from the point of view of the former film director and latterly the director of a theatre company of terminal cancer patients in New York, Weber Gregston. His best friend and occasional collaborator, Philip Strayhorn has killed himself, in unusual circumstances, leaving behind him a legacy of horror movies, magical video tapes and an angel named Pinslepe, who may or may not be the angel of death and is also pregnant with Strayhorn's ex-partner Sasha, who in turn is pregnant with her and also with cancer.

Hmm.

Carroll has never felt the need to explain things,…

One Of Us by Michael Marshall Smith

It's been a lot of fun working through Marshall Smith's back catalogue once again, short stories notwithstanding, building up to the very exciting recent release of Hannah Green and Her Unfeasibly Mundane Existence which I hope very soon to devour and regurgitate for your pleasure, post-Wodehouse
Well, for my pleasure at the very least.
It also goes to show just how fallible and self-deceptive the old shallow human mind truly is. I'd almost no recollection of this one whatsoever, except for all the talking white goods (it's not all that juvenile, I promise*) which I'd assumed were actually in one of his other books.
Ah, the perils of chain-reading an author with a very pronounced style!
His three novels as MMS, first person narratives with a charmingly churlish and wise-crackingly unreliable central protagonist, could be read as three stories of the same character but taken from three discrete near-neighbour parallel universes. 
The voice is strong with this one.

Look To Windward by Iain M. Banks

I get the odd urge to revisit Iain M. Banks now and then, and after it's all over I wonder whether it'll happen again, having sated my appetite for feeling a bit dim. For nothing makes me feel stupid like a world that is intricately crafted, exhaustively described, but of which I have only an abstract perception, a vague silvery blur against the midnight black of empty space. Look To Windward is set on an orbital, a looped strip of world surrounding a hub in which dwells the Culture AI which created and curates the terrain, rivers, cities and lives of the population of millions (or billions) which live thereon. And it's under threat from a revengeful species with catastrophic justice in mind.

As a concept goes, the Masaq' Orbital has a touch of genius about it, a whimsical playground for a bored civilization, where the terra is formed for the maximum visceral excitement (or homely comforts) of the inhabitants, a place acknowledged to be at threat from the proximity of a…

Watching The English: The Hidden Rules of English Behaviour by Kate Fox

I think I stole this book from a holiday cottage. I must have done otherwise I can't remember where it came from.

Regardless, it's a lot of fun. I shan't go on at interminable length about each chapter and the conclusions the author draws about peculiarly English (read British) cultural and social morés, if that's not tautological; but, it is very odd, and sometimes squeamishly embarrassing, to clearly recognise in one's self the social ineptitude, studied aloofness, distaste for earnestness and ebullience of emotion, negative politeness and burning (but generally smouldering like a peat bog fire, rather than a towering inferno) sense of justice and fair play that she so succinctly pinions under the light of curious examination. 

Where the book falls down is in matters of style. This is clearly a book for the layperson. She is trying desperately to be on the reader's side, to have a laugh at herself and her own findings, so that the reader knows she is not being …

Only Forward by Michael Marshall Smith

I'm not an effusive type. Not unless it comes to beer of course, but even then I'm not exactly the sort of chap to  rant ceaselessly on the subject. 

Wait a minute, I know you're thinking, if he's starting with a denial then he's leading up to some sort of artificial epiphanic moment where he realises he IS effusive about something! Am I right?

Nope. 

Back in the early Xennial period I read all of this guy's work, including his short double-header with Kim Newman (see the Amazon link below–for those interested in how stupid I've been in giving away most of my books a few years back, the paperback at time of writing is selling second hand for OVER £100...), including *shudder* his collection of short stories*. I even read his first couple of 'horror' novels, none of which later. They were sharp, they were slick, they were funny, and you felt they had a brain behind them. I haven't changed my mind. Re-reading them has been a pleasure, but more for th…

The Bullet-Catcher's Daughter by Rod Duncan

It's been a while since I took a crack at any so-called steam punk; longer still because I forgot I had this on my e-reader. A downside of e-books is that their very incorporeality means they cannot remind you that they are yet to be read by their presence on the night table.

It was picked up at the same time as that other rather magnificent novel from Angry Robot for a similarly magnificent price [editor's note–it still seems to be discounted rather heavily as of 23rd June 2017; see the link below!], and appears to be the first in a series featuring Elizabeth Barnabus, daughter of destitute (and dead) erstwhile travelling circus owner. Miss Barnabus is an intelligence gatherer, or rather when disguised as her own brother she is, as the Leicester in which the novel takes place exhibits a particularly Victorian attitude to the work that a young woman might enter into.

Not all like the modern, equitable, meritocratic Britain of today, no.

Ahem.

The country, divided as if into Fattyp…