Confession of a fan

So, Intruder – Foreigner book #13 – read and reread. I take a look at the shelf, and at the LibraryThing collection listing my To Be Read books. What then do I do?

Well, what is more natural than to reread Deciever (#11) and Betrayer (#12)!!!

I would lie if I said that it was my first reread. And the only reason I chose not to reread Conspirator (#10) too, and thus reread the previous story arch in its entirety, was that I had a very vivid memory of the goings-on in that one and didn’t feel a need to renew the acquaintance.

I’m not going to disseminate books 11 and 12 in detail. I just want to say that every time CJ Cherryh releases a new book I read it as fast as I can and every time I love it, more or less. And I have to admit that sometimes I don’t know if that love is because the book is truly good or because I’m, well –  a fan, and thus slightly off my head.

But reading Deceiver and Betrayer AFTER having read Intruder proved them to be even better now, when read as “history” than I first thought them to be.

Yes, there’s always inconsistencies. Some things you suspect is due to the author’s memory loss (hey, the film industry has continuity secretaries but what author can afford such assistance?!), and most of them are unimportant, like the colour of a dress. Others might change the story, like the vanished (and not) Bujavid apartment. But sometimes things that seemed weird or obscure when you first read about them gets crystal clear in hindsight, and many of the things in Intruder made happenings in the two previous books so much more clearer.

At least to me. So now I enjoyed those two books even more than I did in my previous readings of them, and it makes me realise that while Cherryh is no Ian McDonald or Iain M Banks, just to mention two of my other favourite authors,  she is a master of macro-politics, intrigue and character development.

She rocks, and I am totally justified in being a fan!

Feels good :D

And because I can’t just leave the Foreigner universe there I think I’ll go reread some old goldie. Like Intruder (#2).

*wanders off…*

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Review: Ture Sventon Privatdetektiv – en samlingsvolym, by Åke Holmström

Nothing short of hilarious!

When I was a kid I loved the stories about the lisping year-round Shrovetide bun-eating private-eye Ture Sventon. My memories as to why has been vague – I mainly remembered the stories being generally thrilling, but what isn’t to a 8-year old kid?! So, some time ago I found a omnibus containing three unabridged books, none of which I had, at a thrift shop. A 1970 hardcover edition, in very good condition. For the bargain price of 9 SEK (or approximately UK£0,8/€1,01/US$1,32). Of course I had to get it and read it, immediately, and well I was rewarded!

Now, it took some time to get around to the last of the three books (Ture Sventon i London). The reason was the intrusion made by the release of Cherryh’s Intruder, which demanded to be read and reread instantly. Now that is finished the last book went by in a whirr, and was almost as shrewd as the other two (Ture Sventon Privatdetektiv and Ture Sventon i öknen).

Ture Sventon Privatdetektiv (Private Detective) is the very first book in the series. Lisping private eye sits in his empty office wondering how to make odd ends meet, without a client in sight. He’s the very best of the best and the only problem is no one but himself knows that. So – no clients. The book tells the story of how he got his magic carpet, how he met his sidekick the inscrutable and ever so polite Omar, and how he got his reputation as a world class private eye.

The second book is Ture Sventon i öknen (Desert Detective). Sventon’s new fame has resulted in him being overloaded with work and he decides to go visit Omar in his oasis in the Arab desert, as a vacation. He is a bit worried over food – this Shrovetide buns needs refrigerating. Luckily he is acquainted with a fridge inventor who lends him a prototype of a new suitcase-sized fridge which shrinks the food, to maximise storage volume. Of course the prototype gets stolen, and so the story begins…

The last book in the omnibus, Ture Sventon i London, takes the reader to the English city and lets us experience the famous London fog as a practically broke English Lord needs help solving the mystery of the pointy shoes he has seen peek out from under a curtain in the library, not to mention the mysterious sounds that has his cook and maid threatening to quit.

All three books are deftly illustrated by Sven Hemmel and all of them are funny. Written to imitate the hard-boiled private eye books of the 1920’s but for kids so cleansed from the typical elements while retaining the style there is no end of what wonders Ture Sventon can do.

In Sweden there has been a debate concerning a perceived racism in the books. I can honestly say that I think that is pure paranoia. The books in this omnibus were written in 1948, 1949 and 1950 and while being a bit naive and simplistic in the portrayal of Omar and of Arabs – Omar can’t understand why anyone would drink tea when there’s coffee to be had, he takes his vacations in a tent in an oasis and he owns three camels – he displays none of the signs of a colonial and (or) sexist attitudes present in other authors of that time. The focus of the debate has been a book not included in the omnibus discussed here – it is called Ture Sventon i Paris, where he goes to France to find out what happens to the vanishing castles. Omar disguises himself as Sventon’s chauffeur, and he do so by applying black shoe polish. The way it is written it was clearly meant to be funny, even from the start – who on Earth would be fooled by that trick? Yet the book was omitted when the others were re-published recently.

Compared to the Tintin albums, which had to be redrawn and retold even during the lifetime of Hergé and despite that displays a colonial, racist and sexist attitude that leaves a sour aftertaste, Ture Sventon is clean and safe. And hilarious!

A real treat, if you ask me.

Some of the Sventon books have been translated to English – his name then is Tam Sventon.

Review: Intruder, by C.J. Cherryh

CJ Cherryh is a master of conspiracy. So much so that readers experienced with her works suspect every single small turn of word as an indication of something brewing in the background… and her great mastery, one of them, is to sometimes actually let thing be just what they are while suddenly seemingly safe things flare up, evolving fast into major incidents. Great in building suspense!

After having spent the entire munitions store of the continent-spanning aishidi’tat during the last story arch not a single shot is fired in Intruder, book number thirteen in the Foreigner series, and first in this fifth three-book story arch. Not that the sense of danger is lessened; rather we now move into the domain of political plot-making and manipulation, with the situation in the aiji’s innermost circle as the focus point, paired with the healing of the aishidi’tat; something not appreciated by everyone.

In one scene Bren reflects that neither the aiji nor he is the young men they used to be and this captures some of the reason this series manages to uphold interest – the characters evolve over time, as do the complexity of the story, and the story is allowed to span not a book or two but five or six, or more; it could be argued that every one of the thirteen books are part of one and same story, as it spins out over the years.

In some ways the Foreigner series is like a loved TV show. You get to know the people and eventually even the ones that you dislike becomes familiar and understandable and, sometimes, loved. Each new instalment, then, can’t be judged as a standalone but on its qualities in respect to character and plot development in relation till what came before. This book takes Bren and his aishid back to Shejidan and firmly brings back stability, at the end, while plot and characters develop in a satisfying way, consistent with earlier goings-on, which means this is a very good episo… sorry, book.

One of the draw-backs of the familiarity is the tension between “human” and “alien”, and the many ways in which we can misunderstand one another even when we think we’re doing just fine, is mostly gone. Bren has become rather deft in interpreting man’chi, and in asking his aishid when he is in doubt. This has turned the series from being pure science fiction and more into a political sitcom, even when it is obviously involving aliens, space ships, and – perhaps – more aliens. Hopefully we’ll see more of the alien-human interface and its pitfalls during the rest of the story arch – Tabini HAS allowed Cajieri to see his associates from the ship for his ninth birthday :)

So, a promising start to a new sub-tale :)