Though it does feel a bit like juggling. I’ve been stupid and been dipping into several books that I’ve been meaning to get to for a while and one or two brand new ones.

This is a break in my usual routine of keeping two books going at the same time so that I can swap between them and if I’m not in the mood for one hopefully I’m in the mood for another but some how this usual pattern has been corrupted and I’m having an interesting time juggling everything.

I think it’s partly because I thought I might like to do some ‘Opening Chapters’ posts and with that in mind read the opening to a few, and then a couple more and now I’m on a mission to either post about them in part or or in full.

I thought you might like some thoughts and a glance at how I’m finding them so far.

Firstly I’m reading Iron Angel, the sequel to the debut Scar Night, I’m reading the paperback, and I have the final book, God of Clocks, waiting, so this one has taken a while to get to.

ironangel.jpgIron Angel is a bit of a different beast from Campbell’s first one. Now that’s we’re both settled into the world he’s created the opening shows that there is more than one got to worry about. I’m having great fun with the character John Anchor – his name says a lot when you know the his as a rope attached to him. I’m also a little sad about Dill but Campell has taken his tale to the next level.

It’s on the Summer Reads 2009 list, which I’ll admit was amazingly over ambitious has been an interesting challenge, though I think I’m going to have to admit that the Summer is over.

There is a strange synergy that seems to happen in my reading. I get books that aren’t covering the same thing but have an affinity to each other.

One big them that I have thre books exploring a similar time period through the lives of four extraordinary women.

missy Missy by Chris Hannah presents Missy, a nineteen-year-old flash-girl and opium user as she heads for a boom down in the 1862 American West. I’ve reached page 51. I’m not that caught up in her story, actually to be more accurate I’ve never been that excited by Westerns but I think I have to keep on going as Simon A  on Bookgeeks had this to say about it,

While Dol is not always easy to like, she is impossible not to admire, and her eventual epiphany, and the redemption that is promises, is a satisfying end to a very impressive debut novel.

themistressofnothing_thumb.jpgLeaving American and moving to Egypt but still around the 1860s we have The Mistress of Nothing by Kate Pullinger where Missy is a raucous character Sally a lady’s maid is more subdued but then she is in the service of Lady Duff Gordon. Another revelation is promised though this time unlike Missy, Sally discovers freedom but this is a luxury a maid can ill afford. Again 52 pages – there is something that that point where you decide if a book has grabbed you or not.  I’m not grabbed enough that if I put it I need to pick it up again but I do find the relationship between Lady Gordon and Sally fascinating and would like to see how the tale ends.

apropereducationforgirls_thumb.jpgThe final one is A Proper Education for Girls by Elaine di Rollo. It is set in 1950s and features the twins Lillian and Alice. Lilian has been banished to India and Alice is left behind in England as a strange curator to their fathers growing and eclectic collection which fills the huge family mansion. And she’s also alone with her father’s bizarre and hair raising schemes. This again deals with freedom but this time we see it from two completely different paths. Now this one I’m on page 114 of, and I think it’s the madness of the whole thing that’s driving me on.

At a minimum I have a feeling that I’ll easily and happily finish A Proper Education for Girls and Iron Angel and we’ll see if I can spend some more time in the company of Sally and Missy.

To celebrate the release of the paperback of The Temporal Void by Peter F. Hamilton on the 2nd October PanMacmillan are going to release a video interview with the man himself taking place on the 24th of September.

So do have a question about the Void trilogy, or any of the rest of his work, life or career that you’d would to pose to him? Please leave a comment and I’ll collate them and pass them on. I’ll put up the video when it’s ready.


Taking a deep breath and resisting the urge to explain in great detail why both of these comments might be a little silly, it seems to me that they also highlight a key challenge facing SF and Fantasy publishers. Anybody who knows SF and Fantasy knows that both genres incorporate an extraordinary variety of writers; a diversity that stretches the meaning of genre itself, if the term is to be applied. A significant number of people unfamiliar with SF and Fantasy, however, are inclined to make sweeping generalizations about them. It’s not a coincidence, of course, that these generalizations invariably attempt to identify a problem with genre fiction.

link: Aren’t we a little tired of this? – The Publisher Files

I thought I’d repeat my comment here:

The trouble is that sci-fi and fantasy and all the works that fall over that side of the literary divide can never be taken seriously as they are set in a childish fantasy world that has little bearing on reality. And hence have no bearing or the adult world and can not reflect upon reality or enhance humanity with it’s views on the human experience.

It’s hard to escape that as a view – it’s not mine but it’s logical enough argument that spending so much time reading about fantastical worlds that are so far removed from there here and now could be seen as a childish activity.

This of course totally misses the fact that some of the best SF&F put humans in extreme situations and explore how we adapt, grow, change and give a way of reflecting on the hear and now by taking us away from the mundane and everyday.

But there is a big literature and genre divide and it’s not to do with prejudice but the whole way that both sides tell their stories, where they linger and what they end up revealing.

And this is coming from someone that will happily read both sides of the divide and gets different things from both.

The trouble with the above is that both reviewers can no longer cope with flights of fancy and allow their inner child and their imaginations to just enjoy seeing the world differently. Something they probably haven’t done see they watched cartoons.

And the difference I guess between Sf&F fans and those that don’t enjoy it is that we allow are imaginations the scope to see the world and humanity through different lenses and those that feel that they are too grown up to do it?


 

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The cover says it all, ‘Continuing from Stealing Light’ (well it does on the final cover copy), so I’m going to have be careful what I say. About the first book I said,

I have a feeling that Gibson is going to be a quick rising star in sci-fi. He has the level of knowledge and skill to construct a story, he can twists these ideas around a cast of well conceptualised and constructed characters – human and non-human. And anyone who makes me want to find out what happens next is always going to get my vote.

I know what you’re thinking, does he manage it?

We start from almost exactly where the last book finished and Gibson notches up the pressure on Dakota and Corso straight away and in the process we get to meet a new race, the Bandati, who I can only think of as humanoid flies.

As the ending of Stealing Light opens up the possibilities and expands the Universe it’s good to see that Gibson has plan in mind and the two warring factions that make up two Bandati Hives have a vital role in how Nova War plays out. He keeps up the tension by keeping Dakota and Corso apart and in some ways opposing each other when they each end up working with the opposite Hives.

What I did find amazing was the Emissaries, the race that are equal to the Shoal in terms of advancement though they challenging them for control of the Universe.

And it’s this control that the Nova War hinges on and Dakota’s abilities that are central to how events could unfold. But for all this big picture stuff humanity again shows that it is only interested in guarding its own small pieces of power. Though that comes later and in a surprising way.

In fact the whole book is packed with surprises. Take the Trader and the measures which he will take in order to follow the Dreamers, what he does for self-preservation and how far his influence extends is almost religious devotion.

I did have a slight niggle with humanities involvement and their connection to events but this is a continuation of the ideas that came from Stealing Light and that was something that didn’t fit right for me then either. That though could be to do with my own thoughts about what they would or wouldn’t do rather than any real problems with the events themselves.

Dakota has the biggest journey of all, and it’s fascinating how she changes and how Gibson is able to keep it in realms that are understandable and also daring in scope.

If you haven’t read Stealing Light and enjoy science fiction your missing out big time. And Nova War only cements the fact that Gibson has a devious imagination, a sense of bigger picture and a more twists than a corkscrew.

I can’t wait to see what he’s going to do to Dakota next and what he’s going to make her suffer next.

That’s the tagline on twitter – #danwho and it’s not because they’ve never heard of Dan Brown. I think the problem is that there can’t be any person that knows a little about books that hasn’t heard of him.

It is what it is.

Well I for one am very excited by it not matter what my fellows on Twitter think.

For me DAN IS THE MAN! And that’s all I’m saying!


provenguilty

Proven Guilty by Jim Butcher
Published by Orbit and Out Now

I’m committed to The Dresden Files series and that presents a problem. I can no longer look at them in an unbiased way. I have feelings for Harry, Murphy and Bob. That means I’m going to forgive Jim Butcher a lot. But that also means that he has to work harder with each book to keep me coming back. If nothing moves and the series starts to repeat itself then the relationship is going to fizzle out.

Luckily, the fire is still burning for Harry, though it’s mostly in the form of hellfire. After the events of Dead Beat (that I reviewed in April) which involved a bunch of people trying to kill Harry and all the pressure was external Harry is back in detective mode.

At a Horror convention there is an attack in a men’s room The trouble is that the man being accused is the boyfriend of Michael’s daughter and rather than calling her family the daughter calls Harry for help. Harry though isn’t just their to bail them out but to help find who actually did it. The situation gets worse when some of the movie monsters at the convention come to life. And on top of that the Council give him a mission to find the truth in rumours of black magic and that can only lead to death.

Not only is Harry back in gumshoe mode but this time he’s back to being the hero saving the damsel in distress. And that is really where Harry shines. He needs to be saving someone apart from himself. His focus this time might be to stop any more killings but Butcher never misses an opportunity to complicate Harry’s life further and Harry discovers more issues the deeper he goes.

It’s hard not to spoil some of the surprises but we get to see a completely different side to Michael’s wife and Michael’s daughter. We get to see more of Summer and Winter and I have a feeling that Butcher is setting up some pretty fiery events in future books.

But this isn’t a set-up book. There is a real journey here. We get to see Harry confront personal fears, he builds stronger relationships with those around him by testing them to their limits in some cases.

I’m happy to see Butcher shifting focus and exploring some of the things that are closer to Harry. Even though it’s backed it does feel like a bit of a breather from the deadly events of Dead Beat and what sounds like is going to be a challenge of the next one, White Night, if the title is anything to by.

Butcher keeps Harry on his toes again as well as keeping the everything moving and revealing more details of the bigger picture that Harry is part of. He also manages to give a sense of other things to come. Which is clever because by the end we know that Harry is going to have at least one other majority important task that he won’t be able to fail, as well as knowing that Harry’s life is never easy.

A tweet from Stephen Fry appears to have sent a book about the afterlife from the murky depths of the book sales lists to the dazzling heights of number two. The online retailer Amazon yesterday reported a 6,000% rise in sales for Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives by David Eagleman. It went from number 3,629 to number two and the only discernible reason is this tweet from Fry: “You will not read a more dazzling book this year than David Eagleman’s Sum. If you read it and aren’t enchanted I will eat 40 hats.” The tweet was retweeted by Fry followers – hence the dramatic rise.

link: Tweet smell of success for book backed by Stephen Fry | Media | The Guardian

By anyone’s terms Mr Stephen Fry is a popular figure in British culture but he’s also a twitter star. And if you’ve been following him for any length of time you’ve have noticed something I can only call The Fry Effect – usually it involves the following events: Mr Fry wants to mention a weblink, he then checks to see if they can cope with the increase in traffic, they say they can, he posts the link and then the website crashes as numerous amounts of his followers all check out his recommendation as well as ReTweeting his post for others to do the same.

So it’s great to see that same Fry Effect being applied to the book Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives by David Eagleman by Canongate. And it looks like he’s caused a more than healthy increase in sales.

Incidentally, I mentioned the same book ages ago and Simon A reviewed it around the same time on BookGeeks.co.uk and gave it a great review. Not that Mr Fry would recommend a dub or anything ;)


Every year for the last of couple of years I’m been sorely tempted to take a Man Booker challenge and read the shortlist. And every year I someone can’t either fit it in or gather the energy needed tackle six weighty books over such short period. And this year you’ll be surprised to hear is no different  I just can’t commit to it. But I am going to read Wolf Hall when I can get the ebook for paperback prices and I have a feeling that The Little Stranger is going to be a Halloween read. Fawers has been getting some good comments to me as well.

 

Anyway, here is this years shortlist:

 

A S Byatt The Children’s Book (Random House, Chatto and Windus)

 

J M Coetzee Summertime (Random House, Harvill Secker)

 

Adam Foulds The Quickening Maze (Random House, Jonathan Cape)

 

Hilary Mantel Wolf Hall (HarperCollins, Fourth Estate)

 

Simon Mawer The Glass Room (Little, Brown)

 

Sarah Waters The Little Stranger (Little, Brown, Virago)

 

Anybody placing any bets?