You are currently browsing the monthly archive for October 2009.
Or the non-science-fiction-science fiction one.
So this is the latest from the great Iain Banks, one of my favourite authors. In the US (and possibly elsewhere, I’m not absolutely sure) this is being marketed as a science fiction novel, but not here in the UK where it’s being positioned as a mainstream novel which kind of has sci-fi overtones. I heard Mr B being interviewed on Simon Mayo’s radio programme some weeks ago and this was touched on, and he seems to regard Transition as non-sci-fi. Although I’m only a reader, I beg to differ….
The multiple universes, the mechanisms for travelling between them, and the all-powerful Concern all push me towards the sci-fi view. However you could see it as it’s described in the blurb which explains it as a “high-definition, hyper-real, apocalyptic fable” and a great deal of the action does take place in “our” world, in the period between the fall of the Berlin Wall and the attack on the Twin Towers. But an awful lot of it doesn’t…..
But setting all of that aside, it is a really absorbing story of politics and greed and paranoia and terrorism and torture and parallel worlds and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I particularly liked The Transitionary (which is probably just as well) moving between worlds and interfering in various ways for the greater good (or is he?) and Mrs Mulverhill and her habit of wearing small hats with veils, a style I never managed to pull off in the ten minutes when it was fashionable in the eighties. The structure of the novel, using multiple narrators really worked for me as well given the subject matter of the story, and although I had to read the end a couple of times to make sure I really had understood it, I found it a satisfying read.
And I don’t care, I’m going to claim this for the 42 Challenge.
Can’t wait until the next Culture novel, though.
Since I got back to London it’s all been about laundry and work. But hopefully I’ll be back to posting normally shortly, with reviews of two novels (the non-science-fiction science-fiction one and the it-really-freaked-me-out Swedish zombie one), excuses for why I’ve failed yet another challenge, and on Screen God a review of Pixar’s Up which seeks to explain why exactly I cried like a sentimental old fool……
This is the last full day of our holiday in Scotland; we start our two-day drive back to London after breakfast tomorrow, so this is also probably my last holiday post, though I don’t actually go back to work until Friday.
So today we just piled into the car and took advantage of the cold autumn sunshine to go for a picturesque drive around the Trossachs (not very good picture to the right) with a drive-by of Doune Castle where, amongst other historically important things, bits of Monty Python and the Holy Grail were filmed.
This is one of my absolutely favourite buildings in Scotland, and shamefully this is my first visit in years, but it’s still beautiful and still being lived in and I still very much want it for my own. And of course to get there you have to go through Auchtermuchty (my second favourite Scottish place name after Ecclefechan). The sun was shining and all was well with the world. Can’t believe I start the long drive back to London on Sunday…
Oh, and finally some idea of the autumn colours, again from Falkland…
We’ve now decamped to Perthshire, and for our first full day in the area we decided to take one of our favourite drives through Blairgowrie to Kirriemuir to Edzell, where we stopped off at Edzell Castle. This is one of our absolutely favourite places, and I’ve included a picture of the gardens which doesn’t do it justice by any means.
Then to Banchory, where we picked up Queen Victoria’s trail, through Ballater (where we stopped for afternoon tea at what was the station where the Royal trains would stop, and shopped in a grocer’s with the Royal Warrant on the wall), before skirting Balmoral and heading back Perthwards via Braemar and Glen Shee.
Would love to share pictures of the gorgeous autumn colours but a mixture of dampness and low cloud made getting a decent snap difficult; perhaps later in the week I’ll be luckier.
So, more Gothic creepiness from the wonderful Mr Priestley in Tales of Terror from the Tunnel’s Mouth, and a good read for RIP IV.
Robert Harper is returning to school, desperate to get away from his stepmother with whom he has been spending his time while his father is fighting the Boers in South Africa. Robert is travelling by train, and we first meet him on the platform with said stepmother, an emotional woman who has a premonition that something will happen to Robert, involving a tunnel and a kiss. Robert shakes her off, gets on the train and finds himself in a carriage which slowly fills up with a number of gentlemen also travelling to London.
Robert dozes off, and when he wakes up he finds that all the other passengers are asleep except for a young woman with red hair, dressed completely in white, who is sitting opposite him. The train has stopped at the mouth of a railway tunnel, and to while away the time the mysterious woman tells Robert a number of sinister stories, while he struggles to keep awake…..
Another really enjoyable collection, with a little mystery at its heart – who is the woman in white? What (if anything) does she want with young Robert? Why is everyone else solidly asleep?
Favourites in this collection are:
- The Glasshouse – you really shouldn’t get too close to some of those plants….
- The Crotach Stone – beware the auld folk….
- Sister Veronica – art appreciation and nuns…
And the illustrations by David Roberts are equally creepy.
This is my second read for RIP IV
So today being the last full day here in Ayrshire we decided just to point the car east and go for a drive. We were rewarded by glorious warm autumn sunshine, beautiful scenery, peace & quiet whenever we stopped to admire the view, and a number of beautiful houses to covet, all of course in the middle of nowhere and totally impractical. Still, you can dream, can’t you?
So The Kingdom Beyond the Waves is sort of a sequel to The Court of the Air (which I reviewed here) in as much as it takes place a few years after the events of that book and features some of the same characters but that’s as far as it goes. It’s possible, I think, to read this as a standalone novel, and a very enjoyable piece of steampunk it is too.
What we have is an adventure-quest-type story. Amelia Harsh, she of the gorilla-sized arms who appeared briefly in the first novel, has a bit of an obsession with the lost land of Camlantis, a perfect society blown into the sky to be hidden rather than fall prey to the barbaric hordes seeking to destroy it. She is funded in her search by the wealthiest man in Jackals, Abraham Quest, equally obsessed. She heads into hostile jungle territory on a submarine with a crew of liberated prisoners and a mercenary army of extremely effective female warriors. It becomes clear, however, that she has not been told the whole story, and there is danger and treachery aplenty before she reaches the end of her search….
As I said, this is very enjoyable, although I will be honest and admit that it took me longer to get into, mostly because I found it difficult to immediately engage with any of the main characters. But once again the world of Jackals and the other societies that surround it are so wonderfully imagined and constructed that I persevered, and there came a point when all the subplots and the main story came together and everything clicked in such a way that I was really keen to find out how all this was going to be resolved. Great stuff.
Yes, I have finally succumbed and watched Twilight.
The verdict is here.
It’s not pretty…..
Cardoness Castle is near Gatehouse of Fleet in Galloway and was built by the McCulloch family as a fortified house which would protect them during their various feuds with neighbouring families.
It’s a really dramatic building, easily spotted from the main road and really enjoyable to visit if you (a) love old ruins (which I do – I could insert a joke here about the Book God but will resist the temptation…) and (b) can guarantee some reasonable weather which we managed to do once again today.
I chickened out, though, and let my fear of heights prevent me from getting to the very top of the building where you have a magnificent view of the local countryside which is, after all, the point.