What's this all about, then?

This is my blog on Livejournal, which I have been running since the spring of 2003. Since late 2003, I've also been using it as a record of (almost) every book that I have read; I read a lot (in non-plague times, I have a long commute) and wanted to keep a good note of what I read. At 200-300 books a year, that's over 5000 books that I have written up here. (These are the most recent.)

As the twentieth anniversary of my bookblogging comes closer, I've also been revisiting each month of reviews every six days or so, so you'll see some less recent reviews mentioned.

As well as books, I have been going through the films that won the Oscar for Best Picture in sequence and the films that won the Hugo or Nebula for Best Dramatic Presentation or equivalent.

And during the COVID-19 pandemic, I've been trying to keep discipline and write something about it every ten days.

Also used for occasional commentary on other stuff, but you'll find my Facebook and Twitter are more live.

And I'm in the middle of a run of marking daily Doctor Who anniversaries, from 1 July 2020 to 30 June 2021.

I am sticking with Livejournal for now out of inertia. Dreamwidth is similar (and I'm mirroring this there) but it lacks some of the key features I like here (post-dating posts, decent image management). Some day I will bite the bullet and go with Wordpress.

Comments welcome, though sometimes quicker to email me at nicholas dot whyte at gmail dot com.

The Serpent Sea, by Martha Wells

Second paragraph of third chapter:
Nothing had changed since last night. The others in the hall breathed deeply in sleep, except for some of the warriors on the far side of the room. From the soft noises, they were enjoying each other’s company under the blankets. Good idea, he thought, and flipped the blanket back up to settle down again and nuzzle Jade’s neck.
Second book in the series about shape-shifting dragons in a slightly steampunky world. Our hero from the first series must try and retrieve a crucial item from the groundlings (ie humans). Decent enough, but I don't quite grasp the enthusiasm that some people clearly feel for the series. You can get it here.

Believe it or not, this was the top unread book on my shelves by a woman. Next on that stack is Boys in Zinc, by Svetlana Alexievich.

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Whoniversaries 7 May

i) births and deaths

7 May 1908: birth of Valentine Dyall, who played the Black Guardian in 1979 and 1983 and Slarn in Slipback (1985)

7 May 1964: birth of Craig Hinton, author of several Who novels and a Big Finish Who audio, and inventor of the work 'fanwank'.

7 May 1998: death of Seymour Green who played two villainous sidekicks, Hargreaves the butler in The Seeds of Doom (Fourth Doctor, 1976) and Mestor's chamerlain, Slarn, in The Twin Dilemma (Sixth Doctor, 1984).

ii) broadcast anniversaries

7 May 1966: broadcast of "Don't Shoot the Pianist", second episode of the story we now call The Gunfighters. The Doctor is mistaken for Doc Holliday, with potentially fatal consequences for Steven.

7 May 2005: broadcast of The Long Game. The Doctor, Rose and Adam visit the far-future broadcasting hub on Satellite Five.

7 May 2011: broadcast of The Curse of the Black Spot. The TARDIS is marooned onboard a 17th century pirate ship whose crew is being attacked by a mysterious and beautiful sea creature. Becalmed and beset by cabin fever, the pirates have numerous superstitious explanations for the Siren's appearance. The Doctor has other ideas, but as his theories are disproved and every plan of escape is thwarted, he must work to win the trust of the implacable Captain Henry Avery and uncover the truth behind the pirates' supernatural fears — and he must work quickly, for some of his friends have already fallen under the Siren's spell.

iii) dates specified in canon

7 May 1915: sinking of the Lusitania, as depicted in second episode of The Sirens of Time, the very first Big Finish audio in 1999.

7 May 2157: the Daleks destroy Pluto's satellite Charon, as described in Craig Hinton's 1997 novel GodEngine.

April 2011 books

This is the latest post in a series I started in late 2019, anticipating the twentieth anniversary of my bookblogging which will fall in 2023. Every six-ish days, I've been revisiting a month from my recent past, noting work and family developments as well as the books I read in that month. I've found it a pleasantly cathartic process, especially in recent circumstances. If you want to look back at previous entries, they are all tagged under bookblog nostalgia.

Lots of travel this month, starting with another visit to Chișinău, in the course of which I also visited Comrat, the capital of the Autonomous Territorial Unit of Gagauzia, one of those fascinating footnotes in constitutional history. The Gagauz are Christian Turks, culturally and economically very close to Russia; it was the day after the fiftieth anniversary of Yuri Gagarin becoming the firs man in space, and the local museum had a display that made it clear that the Gagauz feel this was every bit as much their success as that of any other part of the former Soviet Union. (Still using my crappy HTC Desire camera, sorry.)

Mid-month, Anne, F and I had a trip to London courtesy of my mother, taking in the Doctor Who exhibition at Earl's Court, the experience a bit dampened by the news of Elisabeth Sladen's death which broke that morning. On 30 April I arrived in Belfast again, ready to do BBC commentary for the Assembly election results.

My birthday was again a painful one health-wise. Like most of us who have too sedentary a lifestyle, I occasionally suffer from piles; this particular case got very bad and required minor but painful surgery on my birthday itself. My journey to Northern Ireland a couple of days later was not comfortable.

I read 34 books that month.

Non-fiction 8 (YTD 23)
Elizabeth's Irish Wars, by Cyril Falls
A is for Ox, by Lyn Davies
The Unsilent Library: essays on the Russell T. Davies era of Doctor Who, edited by Simon Bradshaw, Antony Keen and Graham Sleight
Vindication of the Rights of Women, by Mary Wollstonecraft
On the Subjection of Women, by John Stuart Mill
In the Heart of the Desert: The Spirituality of the Desert Fathers and Mothers, by John Chryssavgis
Toujours Tingo, by Adam Jacot de Boinod
Running Through Corridors, Volume 1: The 60s, by Robert Shearman and Toby Hadoke

Fiction (non-SF) 4 (YTD 19)
The Onion's Our Dumb World: Atlas of the Planet Earth
The Not So Star-Spangled Life of Sunita Sen, by Mitali Perkins
A Question of Blood, by Ian Rankin
Lady Chatterley's Lover, by D.H. Lawrence

SF (non-Who) 8 (YTD 25)
Tom's Midnight Garden, by Philippa Pearce
To Say Nothing of the Dog, by Connie Willis
Year's Best SF 12, edited by David G. Hartwell and Kathryn Cramer
Monsters of Men, by Patrick Ness
Declare, by Tim Powers
Generosity, by Richard Powers
The Time Dissolver, by Jerry Sohl
A Song for Arbonne, by Guy Gabriel Kay

Doctor Who, Torchwood, Sarah Jane, K9 11 (YTD 31)
Department X, by James Goss
K9 and the Time Trap, by David Martin
K9 and the Beasts of Vega, by David Martin
K9 and the Zeta Rescue, by David Martin
K9 and the Missing Planet, by David Martin

Judgement of the Judoon, by Colin Brake
Blood Heat, by Jim Mortimore
Doctor Who Annual 1983
The Face Eater, by Simon Messingham
More Short Trips, ed. Stephen Cole
Deadly Download, by Jason Arnopp

Comics 3 (YTD 6)
The Tides of Time, (mostly) by Steve Parkhouse
Kuifje in Amerika / Tintin in America, by Hergé
Tintin and Alph-Art, by Hergé

~8,500 pages (YTD ~28,800)
5/34 (YTD 14/104) by women (Wollstonecraft, Perkins, Pearce, Willis, Cramer; Lyn Davies is a man)
1/34 (YTD 6/104) by PoC (Perkins)

The best of these were Vindication of the Rights of Women, by Mary Wollstonecraft and On the Subjection of Women, by John Stuart Mill, which you can get in a single volume here; The Unsilent Library: essays on the Russell T. Davies era of Doctor Who, edited by Simon Bradshaw, Antony Keen and Graham Sleight, which seems to be out of print; and Tom's Midnight Garden, by Philippa Pearce, which you can get here. Hergé's Kuifje in Amerika / Tintin in America is awful, and you can get it here; but The Onion's Our Dumb World is even worse, and you can get it here but I really do not advise it.

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Whoniversaries 6 May

i) births and deaths

6 May 1945: birth of Nicholas Mallett, who directed The Mysterious Planet (Sixth Doctor, 1986), Paradise Towers (Seventh Doctor, 1987) and The Curse of Fenric (Seventh Doctor, 1989)d02-2k-c291[1].jpg

6 May 1976: death of Alethea Charlton who played Hur in An Unearthly Child (First Doctor, 1963) and Edith in The Time Meddler (First Doctor, 1965). Here she is from the same angle in both stories.

ii) broadcast anniversaries

6 May 1967: broadcast of fifth epside of The Faceless Ones. The Chameleons explain that they lost their identities. In an explosion.

6 May 1972: broadcast of fifth episode of The Mutants. The Marshal forces the Doctor to work for him by holding Jo hostage.

6 May 2006: broadcast of The Girl in the Fireplace. The Doctor, Rose and Mickey land on a far future spaceship and the Doctor become involved with Madame de Pompadour.

6 May 2017: broadcast of Kock Kock. Bill and her friends rent an old house to live in, but the floorboards and the walls are creaking, and there's a creepy Landlord lurking around. Can the Doctor save the day as creatures come crawling out of the wood?

6 May 2020: webcast of Pompadour, a creepy take on The Girl in the Fireplace.

iii) date specified in canon

6 May 1997: setting of Lance Parkin's Virgin New Adventure The Dying Days, featuring the Eighth Doctor and Bernice Summerfield.

The Gameshouse, by Claire North

Second paragraph of third chapter:
You will not find it now – no, not even its gate with the lion-headed knocker that roars silently out at the night, nor its open courtyards hung with silk, or hot kitchens bursting with steam, no, none of it, nothing to see – but then it stood in one of those little streets that have no name near San Pantaleone, just north of a short stone bridge guarded over by three brothers, for there are only two things that Venetians value more than family, and those are their bridges and their wells.
I've generally loved Claire North's novels, which all seem to involve different riffs on immortality. This is a set of three novellas, originally separately published, and I'm sorry to say it didn't work as well for me. The first one, The Serpent, is great: a young woman in Renaissance Venice becomes part of a secret game-playing fraternity, which sucks her into the high politics of the city. The Thief, set in Thailand in the 1930s, is a hunt where the protagonist is the prey. It somewhat stretched my suspension of disbelief. In the final section, The Master, the protagonists of the first two novellas become involved in a game for the future of the world with implausibly high stakes. I think my recent disappointed re-reading of Foucault's Pendulum put me in a suspicious mood regarding vast secret conspiracies. As I said, the first bit is very good. You can get it here.

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Whoniversaries 5 May

i) births and deaths

5 May 1937: birth of Delia Derbyshire, whose arrangements of Ron Grainer's theme for the title music of Doctor Who were used on TV from 1963 to 1980.

5 May 1939: birth of Terry Walsh, stuntman supreme especially during the Pertwee era.

5 May 1957: birth of Richard E. Grant, who played the 'first' Tenth Doctor in The Curse of Fatal Death (1999), the 'other' Ninth Doctor in Scream of the Shalka (2003) and then Doctor Simeon/The Great Intelligence in The Snowmen (Eleventh Doctor, 2012), The Bells of Saint John (Eleventh Doctor, 2013) and The Name of the Doctor (Eleventh Doctor, 2013).

ii) broadcast anniversaries

5 May 1973: broadcast of fifth episode of Planet of the Daleks. The Doctor and friends infiltrate the Dalek base to prevent the bacteria release.

5 May 2007: broadcast of The Lazarus Experiment. The Doctor and Martha discover that Professor Lazarus' rejuvenation process is not what it seems.