Insanely having decided to not start another book until I had finished Bram Stoker’s Dracula, and not being able to connect to the story or the characters, I have spent January, and now a great deal of February, watching TV instead.
Part of the reason is I finally succumbed to Netflix, and upon doing so realised they had some series on that I hadn’t been able to catch previously but had wanted to watch, so it’s not solely Mr Stoker’s fault. But I want a scapegoat and this would never have happened if not his vampire classic hadn’t turned out to be so… boring.
So, what did I watch?
Firefly has been on top of my list for a long time. Never aired on Swedish television I couldn’t justify getting a DVD set, and the TV media never have been important enough for me to make use of illegal services. So, I started out with Firefly. Quite fun, and imaginative, utilising clichés in an inventive way. Somehow this is Space Western for real, the Wagon Train to the Stars Gene Roddenberry never made and never could had made, and I can see how it has acquired a following. Watching an episode now and then has been fun. Still some to go before I’ve watched them all I take them as mood arrives.
Meanwhile the rest of my family dove head first into Netflix – January really has been an orgy in television, except I had had other things to do. Work-related stuff.
Then one Saturday evening when none of us wanted to watch the same things – husband likes series such as Klovn and Shameless while I absolutely hate watching people making asses of themselves – we compromised and watched Black Books. We both laughed hysterically, so now we sit down and watch an episode whenever boredom threatens. Not the most inventive show ever it is at least European angst-humour, not the eternal same-same blandness of the US sitcom. And I do love that it takes place in a bookshop :)
One such night, a Friday I guess, I suggested we’d watch Sherlock. It aired on Swedish public TV about a year ago but none of us manages to catch scheduled TV – the time is just not there. We both like a good crime series, so agreed to try it.
About three and a half hours later we had watched the two first episodes, back to back. Husband, of course, is a whodunnit master, so always knew ahead what was coming, but I loved the visuals, the pacing, the inventive use of text overlays, and the apparent chemistry between the two main characters. So the next evening we sat down to watch the third episode. Then we wanted to watch the first episode of the second season, and realised it wasn’t on Netflix.
Watching back I think that is when I lost it. Because instead of sitting back and accepting the facts I went out and got the second season DVD. And the first season too, just to be sure.
Season two showed to be less whodunnit and more like fanfiction. The mysteries and crimes are important but the characters is even more so, and some of the plotting is …obtuse, for lack of a better word. Husband lost interest sometime during the Irene Adler episode so the two last ones I watched alone. Which allowed my obsessive streak to emerge.
This is nothing new. As a pre-teen and in my early teens I read and reread Lord of the Rings almost on a daily basis. Since then monomania has reared its head every now and then – most recently the first time I read Cherryh’s Foreigner series, for example, or her Chanur books, or… – but there’s many more examples of this happening. It is like some stories or some character portraits just click with my brain chemistry.
As when I ended up watching the original Star Wars trilogy checking the set design.
(I know. I’m a geek. There’s no denying it.)
With Sherlock I ended up watching all episodes several times, every time finding something new, something which I had previously missed, growing increasingly irritated with the world for the main cast to be engaged in fickle projects like The Hobbit, denying the audience a third season. (As a Trekkie I do make exceptions for Into Darkness. May 17 can’t be here soon enough.) It’s not that I deny them their success. It’s just that Sherlock is so much more interesting than those other things and I do worry a bit that simple TV productions will be a beneath them now when they have both hit the mother lode, economically speaking.
So. Now I need to get back to Dracula. Only 60 pages to go it shouldn’t feel like an impossible task. But I just can’t get my heart into it. There’s a stack of books I’d rather read, waiting for me, but NOT finishing it feels equally impossible.
Meanwhile I wonder if real British people live with the kinds of wallpapers featuring so extensively in Sherlock or if it is just me that thinks them fascinatingly ugly? Which leads me to a stay in Berlin were I learned something about cultural differences in interior decoration.
But that, surely, is another story.
A short story “sequel” to her In the Company of Others Julie Czerneda‘s The Franchise picks up on the background of one of the secondary characters, interweaving it with what became of the world after it was freed from the Quill threat.
Only 17 pages long – short! – it is a good example of the effectiveness of a well written short story, ending with an unexpected twist.
A must read for anyone who like me enjoyed In the Company of Others. The ebook can be found on her site, under Short Stories. Click on the treasure chest to find it!
The last quarter of 2012 was lousy.
Personal illness, dad crippled with aphasia after a stroke went undetected while he was at hospital, son bullied in school (for being a reader, and for being left-handed), major upheaval at work when my employer shifted ownership (we haven’t seen the last of that)… and meanwhile life has to go on.
It has been difficult to find strength enough to carry the day, and reading have been very erratic.
Presently I am reading Bram Stoker’s Dracula. I found it in a stand of Penguin Classics at the check-out counter in our local bookshop and I thought perhaps a total change would do me good. But I don’t expect to finish it before the year ends, I spend way too much time this winter break playing Skylanders Giants with son for that to happen. And tomorrow we’ll make a go at Settlers of Catan. Good fun!
So – here’s my wish for 2013; that all these things that have been troubling me will turn out better so I can find a calm space to read in.
I look forward to Guy G Kay’s River of Stars, and C.J. Cherryh‘s 14th Foreigner novel – Protector, both due in April. April will also see the last instalment in Jon Courtenay Grimwood’s Assassini trilogy – The Exiled Blade. And I am certain other books will find their way to me, newly published and old ones yet unread.
Granted I can find the energy for them.
Ahead, new year!
The Fractal Prince is a hard book to review. It picks up where The Quantum Thief left off. But were left it off? And were to? The Thief is after something but what, we don’t know, just as no one else in the tale seems to. Except perhaps Matjek, the head of the disembodied Sobornost; those who believe Mind is more precious than Matter and thus have left it behind. Who might be the one the Thief is after.
But not even the Thief knows, being denied his Sobornost qualities as part of a punishment.
Making any sense? Weeeell…
In this book the Thief is trying to get hold of a back-up copy of Matjek and the hunt takes him to Earth. And beyond everything else the Thief is a con artist so he cons his way into Earth politics, meeting up with the other thread of this story – the Gomelez sisters, living on an Earth were stories are viral, in all respects; in a post-apocalypse so wide it could just as well be another part of the galaxy.
The Earth parts I think the best. The overall context is still Brit SF, what with quantum theory and metaphysical minds, but Rajaniemi’s vision of a future Earth is poetic and visually wonderful, even in it’s monstrous ruin, filth and poverty.
Rajaniemi writes well – he manages to drag me into the book even as I sometimes have no clue about what really is going on. Not a book for everyone but I, I am looking forward to the next one which I hope will hold the conclusion.
I want to know what this is about!
I never really enjoyed Bilbo. To me, as a kid, Lord of the Rings was the real stuff, which I devoured again and again and again – dad had the series in a reviewers edition, translated to Swedish, three beautiful books now totally ruined by the pre-teen me sleeping with them under my pillow and then taping the covers together.
Renewed tries at the book did not alter my judgement.
Then an online acquaintance of mine, from the Green Dragon, posted a chapter by chapter analysis of the book. It was fascinating to see how much she could write about each chapter, in an interesting way, and I decided that maybe I should pick it up again but this time in the original English – I do have an Unwin paperback gracing my shelves.
And so I did.
The first half of the book is narrated as it is an oral tale, making use of the oral way of expressing what is happening. I am of course no expert in the English language, far from it, but to my ears the language of the first half is poetic, in a fun, rhyming, way. After the company pass through the Mirkwood the language starts to get more prosaic, and some of the flow of the text vanishes. At the same time Bilbo changes from a soft naive to being stealthily smart, in his own way, somewhat thanks to the Ring but also because he doesn’t strive for the big things, the gold, the treasure, or the heroism. The good things are the small things, like the smell of bacon and a cosy bed. The rest is only trouble. A kind of back to the roots nostalgia, which I dislike.
Despite this I can say that the original English is, while not great literature, certainly worth reading. The total opposite of the Swedish original translation, made by Britt G Hallqvist, which lack the poetry of the original text, even as it tries to copy it.
There is a new translation out but I can’t comment on it – the book is not good enough for me to own three different versions of it ;-)
It can come as no surprise that I greatly enjoy the science fiction of C.J. Cherryh, and while my favourite books are in the Alliance/Union & Compact Universe I am also a fan of the Foreigner series.
Deliberations is something as rare as a Foreigner short story. Not a prequel, but a glimpse into the atevi world prior to when Bren’s story begin it lets us see into the minds of Tabini and Ilisidi respectively, at the eve when Tabini is about to come of an age and to claim the aijinate. Most of the text is retrospective, with Ilisidi reflecting on her two stints as “almost-aiji”, and we hear her version of the modern history of the Aishidi’tat.
I am in two minds about the story. It is a Foreigner short story, and we get to meet two of the major players during a time we know about only through hearsay and rumour. Candy! But. The story is not true to history as we know it; it do fit recent developments but contradicts “common knowledge” and thus feel much like a retcon.
Which is fine. It is the author’s prerogative to do whatever the tale need.
It’s just that… it jars a bit, to someone like me. So. I am unable to decide on which side of the fence to set down; balancing precariously in the middle.
Sometimes that’s all one can do ;-)
So, at last, the latest Culture novel – The Hydrogen Sonata. Waited for, and welcome, even if it took some time to get around to. And it starts out promising. An entire civilisation – the Gzilt – is about to Sublime.
Throughout the Culture experience references are sometimes dropped about the Sublimed – entire civilisations that has decided they are finished with this corporeal existence, ready to transfer to another dimension. Still there, somehow, but not in any material way, and not bothered or bothering with everyday life of the physical.
So, do this novel give us any new clues, cues, or questions?
Well, not really. Because while the story do centre on the last days of the Gzilt it only makes clear that civilisations about to Sublime are just like any other civilisation – small-minded, scheming, conniving, lusting for acknowledgement, and on an individual level just trying to survive.
On the brink of Sublimation the holy text of the Gzilt is at risk of being revealed as a fraud; perhaps the result of an experiment initiated by a long-Sublimed civilisation not around to judge the success but maybe trying to send an envoy revealing the truth. Immediately the powers that set great personal pride in the finalisation of the process to Sublime starts to take measures, trying to ensure that the process will continue as planned.
But also starting to connive are some Culture ship Minds. Not entirely sure what they will do if and when they discover the truth they seem to meddle more for the general joy of it than anything else, and we get to read some funny dialogue all the while.
In the end nothing that happens – deaths and mayhem included – will change anything.
Of course there is discourse on some topics familiar to the reader of Banks’ Culture books, such as what makes one sentient; what is the ideal way to organise society, politically and economically; and the value of morality. Nothing of this feel like it adds anything to the discussion.
It is possible that my present mood makes the book injustice – while I read this my dad had a bad stroke which didn’t get treated decently despite that fact that he already was at the hospital. Such things puts something of a wet blanket on just about everything.
Because to be honest I never felt the story to drag and the dialogue between the ship Minds often made me smile. But nonetheless I feel confident in saying that while The Hydrogen Sonata is an able addition to the Culture sphere it isn’t up there with for example The Player of Games. Like with Excession this should be read by those who already are addicted to this particular universe.