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Showing posts from September, 2018

Books of Note

Universal Harvester by John Darnielle

Not surprisingly, like a lot of John Darnielle’s music, particularly those songs on the album The Sunset Tree (Pale Green Things springs to mind and is very much worth listening to), his writing only slowly reveals itself and its narrative direction. Not in any turgid or tedious fashion, but rather in an unhurried, gentler and more thoughtful way. Universal Harvester rolls gently along its path with only a few disconcerting and probably deliberate hiccups. It starts in Iowa in the 1990s with a young man, still living at home with his father but unable to leave because of the weight of his mother’s death, years before, in a car crash. The trauma tethers Jeremy and his father together like the gravitational pull of a dead star in a comfortable and predictable but numb orbit, but it’s never something that either of them can discuss openly.
Jeremy works at a VHS rental store, so we’re assuredly early-Worldwide Web era. His job is simple, repetitive, and keeps him and his father in entertai…

To Say Nothing Of The Dog by Connie Willis

For someone who enjoys maintaining the illusion that he knows a bit about literature and the writers who write it, I find I often lead off with contradictory disclaimers such as that which follows. I knew very, very little about Connie Willis prior to picking up a copy of this in my local Indie bookshop; it was an impulse purchase – SF Masterworks are few and far between in the gentrified stratum of Penarth’s main strip – so I grabbed it whilst collecting the latest Dog Man for my eldest wee fella. What I now know, if nothing else, is that she can write a pretty convincing and gently humorous novel about time-travel.
Our time-traveling academic hero, Ned Henry, frazzled by one (or more) too many jumps back in time for the crazed reconstruction project of the draconian Lady Schrapnell, is offered the chance to recuperate in the idyllic surroundings of the Victorian-era Thames river, punting and mucking about and whatnot. Unfortunately, his trip doesn’t quite go to plan as it transpires …