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So unbelievably it’s the end of February already, and the end of this year’s Sci-fi Experience. When I signed up for this I set myself some fairly modest goals (you can find my original post here) and connected it to the 42 Challenge which I’m also participating in (in which I’m also participating? – grammar – a tricky thing).
Sadly, for all sorts of reasons, I didn’t read nearly as much as I had intended to, but it was really great fun and got me thinking quite a bit about science fiction and what it is. I found some new authors, and at least one classic which I know I will read again (this one, if you’re interested). I’ve also found myself dipping into the Book God’s copy of the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, probably a bad idea as it set off a couple of trails which led me to even more authors that I haven’t read – I’m managing to resist the temptation so far (but only just)
The stats are: 3 short stories, four novels started, three finished and reviewed, and one still in progress. Not bad given a bout of flu where I couldn’t read for about a week…….
Pavane by Keith Roberts paints a picture of an alternative western world where Elizabeth I was assassinated in1588, the Spanish Armada won, the Protestant Reformation in Europe was defeated, the New World didn’t gain its independence, and the Catholic Church Militant holds sway.
The resulting world is technologically backwards in most respects (no cars but steam driven road trains; no phones but semaphore towers etc.), superstition is rife and the Inquisition (now known as the Court of Spiritual Welfare) continues to put people to the question. Oh and the old ones, in the person of Fairy, are still lurking around, watching and occasionally assisting.
This is less a novel than a series of linked stories which begin in 1968 (the year the book was published). I was immediately attracted by the basic premise (those of you who read this blog regularly will know that sixteenth century history is one of my great loves) and I found the book absolutely fascinating – a complete world which is internally logical. All of the stories are good, my favourite being Corfe Gate where a young woman leads a rebellion against the Church in south-west England, which is where the stories are mainly set.
I enjoyed this very much, although it does throw up a question for me about what we really mean by sci-fi, something which I occasionally find puzzling. This book has a number of fantasy elements, but I suppose it falls into the sci-fi genre because of the alternative history aspect.
The Encyclopaedia of Science Fiction describes Pavane as “moody, eloquent, elegiac and thoroughly convincing” and I think its well worth a read.
This week’s topic is what’s in a name, and it’s all about the meanings of favourite character names and whether they suit the character or not (to paraphrase what was described much better here).
On eof my favourite novels is Family Happiness by Laurie Colwin (long overdue for a re-read) and one of the reasons I enjoyed it so much was the main character with the wonderful name of Polly Solo-Miller Demarest. So I thought I’d find out what the name Polly meant.
What was interesting was that I found different meanings in different places, I assume becuase Polly as a name in it’s own right is fairly new (in the UK it’s usually a diminutive of Mary). The meanings were “bitter” and “great sorrow”. The second one I can see fitting in the context of the story (which is about a woman in love with two men, a synopsis which doesn’t do justice to how light and well-written the novel is) but bitter didn’t seem right to me at all.
And that makes me wonder whether the author just liked the sound of the name, or whether she had researched and carefully picked it….
So this week’s question is “How do you arrange your books on your shelves? Is it by author, by genre, or do you just put it where it falls on?”
Well when we first moved into this house over 10 years ago I started off with really good intentions, and shelved my books by genre, and within genres alphabetically by author. As I say, we’ve now been here a while and things have changed in a big way, so now I just put new books where I can find a suitable space.
We installed new bookcases last year (I talked about it here); suffice to say, the shelves don’t look like that anymore…..
Carl at Stainless Steel Droppings saw this meme on another blog and did it himself for fun, and I thought at the time that I would do the same but it’s taken me a little while to get round to it.
Like Carl I was really surprised by some of the titles listed as sci-fi or fantasy but I rather like that as I’m always amused (and slightly annoyed) by authors who write sci-fi books and try to pretend they haven’t.
Anyway, herewith the list with those I’ve read in bold and those I have tbr in italics.
- Douglas Adams: The Hitch-hikers Guide to the Galaxy (1979)
- Brian W Aldiss: Non-Stop (1958 )
- Isaac Asimov: Foundation (1951)
- Margaret Atwood: The Blind Assassin (2000)
- Paul Auster: In the Country of Last Things (1987)
- Iain Banks: The Wasp Factory (1984) – wonderful!
- Iain M Banks: Consider Phlebas (1987) – not my favourite of his sci-fi works
- Clive Barker: Weaveworld (1987)
- Nicola Barker: Darkmans (2007)
- Stephen Baxter: The Time Ships (1995)
- Greg Bear: Darwin’s Radio (1999)
- Alfred Bester: The Stars My Destination (1956)
- Poppy Z Brite: Lost Souls (1992) – I’d have classed this as horror myself..
- Algis Budrys: Rogue Moon (1960)
- Mikhail Bulgakov: The Master and Margarita (1966)
- Edward Bulwer-Lytton: The Coming Race (1871)
- Anthony Burgess: A Clockwork Orange (1960)
- Anthony Burgess: The End of the World News (1982)
- Edgar Rice Burroughs: A Princess of Mars (1912)
- William Burroughs: Naked Lunch (1959)
- Octavia Butler: Kindred (1979) – on my wish list though!
- Samuel Butler: Erewhon (1872)
- Italo Calvino: The Baron in the Trees (1957)
- Ramsey Campbell: The Influence (1988 )
- Lewis Carroll: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865)
- Lewis Carroll: Through the Lookin-Glass, and What Alice Found There (1871)
- Angela Carter: Nights at the Circus (1984)
- Michael Chabon: The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay (2000)
- Arthur C Clarke: Childhood’s End (1953)
- GK Chesteron: The Man Who Was Thursday (1908 )
- Susanna Clarke: Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell (2004)
- Michael G Coney: Hello Summer, Goodbye (1975)
- Douglas Coupland: Girlfriend in a Coma (1998 )
- Mark Danielewski: House of Leaves (2000) – I found this really, really unsettling
- Marie Darrieussecq: Pig Tales (1996)
- Samuel R Delaney: The Einstein Intersection (1967)
- Philip K Dick: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (1968 )
- Philip K Dick: The Man in the High Castle (1962)
- Umberto Eco: Foucault’s Pendulum (1988 )
- Michael Faber: Under the Skin (2000)
- John Fowles: Tha Magus (1966)
- Neil Gaiman: American Gods (2001)
- Alan Garner: Red Shift (1973)
- William Gibson: Neuromancer (1984)
- Charlotte Perkins Gilman: Herland (1915)
- William Golding: Lord of the Flies (1954)
- Joe Haldeman: The Forever War (1974)
- M John Harrison: Light (2002)
- Robert A Heinlein: Stranger in a Strange Land (1961)
- Frank Herbert: Dune (1965)
- Hermann Hesse: The Glass Bead Game (1943) – one of my absolute favourite novels
- Russell Hoban: Riddley Walker (1980)
- James Hogg: The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justifies Sinner (1824)
- Michael Houellebecq: Atomised (1998 )
- Aldous Huxley: Brave New World (1932)
- Kazuo Ishiguro: The Unconsoled (1995)
- Shirley Jackson: The Haunting of Hill House (1959)
- Henry James: The Turn of the Screw (1898 )
- PD James: The Children of Men (1992)
- Richard Jefferies: After London; or Wild England (1885)
- Gwyneth Jones: Bold as Love (2001)
- Franz Kafka: The trial (1925)
- Daniel Keyes: Flowers for Algernon (1966)
- Stephen King: The Shining (1977) – more horror!
- Marghanita Laski: The Victorian Chaise-longue (1953)
- Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu: Uncle Silas (1864)
- Stanislaw Lem: Solaris (1961)
- Doris Lessing: Memoirs of a Survivor (1974)
- David Lindsay: A Voyage to Arcturus (1920)
- Ken MacLeod: The Night Sessions (2008 )
- Hilary Mnatel: Beyond Black (2005)
- Michael Marshall Smith: Only Forward (1994)
- Richard Matheson: I am Legend (1954)
- Charles Maturin: Melmoth the Wanderer (1820)
- Patrick McCabe: The Butcher Boy (1992)
- Cormac McCarthy: The Road (2006)
- Jed Mercurio: Ascent (2007)
- China Mieville: The Scar (2002)
- Andrew MIller: Ingenious Pain (1997)
- Walter M Miller Jr: A Canticle for Leibwitz (1960) – long overdue for a re-read I think
- David Mitchell: Cloud Atlas (2004)
- Michael Moorcick: Mother London (1988 )
- William Morris: News from Nowhere (1890)
- Toni Morrison: Beloved (1987)
- Haruki Murakami: The Wind-up Bird Chronicle (1995)
- Vladimir Nabokov: Ada or Ardor (1969)
- Audrey Niffenegger: The Tine Traveller’s Wife (2003)
- Larry Niven: Ringworld (1970)
- Jeff Noon: Vurt (1993)
- Flann O’Brien: The Third Policeman (1967)
- Ben Okri: The Famished Row (1991)
- Chuck Palahniuk: Fight Club (1996)
- Thomas Love Peacock: Nightmare Abbey (1818 )
- Mervyn Peake: Titus Groan (1946)
- John Cowper Powys: A Glastonbury Romance (1932)
- Christopher Priest: The Prestige (1995)
- Francois Rabelais: Gargantua and Pantagruel (1532-34)
- Ann Radcliffe: The Mysteries of Udolpho (1794)
- Alastair Reynolds: Revelation Space (2000)
- Kim Stanley Robinson: The Years of Rice and Salt (2002)
- JK Rowling: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (1997)
- Salman Rushdie: The Satanic Verses (1988 )
- Antoine de Sainte-Exupery: The Little Prince (1943)
- Jose Saramago: Blindness (1995)
- Will Self: How the Dead Live (2000)
- Mary Shelley: Frankenstein (1818 )
- Dan Simmons: Hyperion (1989)
- Olaf Stapledon: Star Maker (1937)
- Neal Stephenson: Snow Crash (1992)
- Robert Louis Stevenson: The Strange Case of Doctor Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1886)
- Bram Stoker: Dracula (1897)
- Rupert Thomson: The Insult (1996)
- Mark Twain: A Connecticut Yankee at King Arthur’s Court (1889)
- Kurt Vonnegut: Sirens of Titan (1959)
- Robert Walser: Institute Benjamenta (1909)
- Sylvia Townsend Warner: Lolly Willowes (1926)
- Sarah Waters: Affinity (199)
- HG Wells: The Time Machine (1895)
- HG Wells: The War of the Worlds (1898 )
- TH White: The Sword in the Stone (1938 )
- Gene Wolfe: The Book of the New Sun (1980-83)
- John Wyndham: Day of the Triffids (1951)
- John Wyndham: The Midwich Cuckoos (1957)
- Yevgeny Zamyatin: We (1924)
I’m quite pleased with the number I’ve read, given that the inclusion of some of these on the list seems a little odd to me, and appalled as always by the number I have on my tbr pile.
For many people Jasper Fforde is an acquired taste, but I’ve always been glad to say it was one that I acquired early and I have enjoyed both his series of novels.
First Among Sequels is a return to the world of Thursday Next, Jurisfiction agent, supplier of floor coverings to the people of Swindon and cheese smuggler. I’ve always liked Thursday, her complicated family and cloned Dodo, Pickwick. Unfortunately, I was vaguely disappointed in this one, even setting it aside for several days.
The plot for this novel managed to be both simple and complicated at the same time, so I’m not even going to try to summarise it; if you have read any of the others then you will know what to expect., and if you haven’t, I really wouldn’t recommend you start here.
There were too many things going on, and I think I found the alternative Thursday Nexts (I’m not even going to try to explain how she manages to work alongside two alternative versions of herself) irritating.
However, I persevered until the end and was rewarded with some good jokes, interesting set-ups and a cliffhanger which presumably will lead us into another instalment. But these couldn’t save it from being somewhat unsatisfying.
Things have been a little quiet around here lately, largely due to a mixture of
- contracting the flu (where I couldn’t do anything including reading and on the one day I dragged myself into the office for a couple of hours a colleague said I looked shocking – in a sympathetic way of course)
- spending some time with family in Glasgow (it was my birthday and I went with my brother to see St Mirren play their first match in their new stadium – see picture), and
- the effects of the bad weather on my return to London, which has had everyone in a bit of a tizzy and upset the natural order of things.
Back to normal shortly, I hope