November 2004 books

November 2004 was grimly dominated by the re-election of President Bush, which I honestly had not seen coming. It was an important lesson to me to avoid wishful thinking in my elections analysis in the future. The newly re-elected Bush administration immediately recognised Macedonia as Macedonia, which probably played an important role in the failure of the following week's referendum which would have reversed some elements of the post-conflict local government reform if it had passed. We presciently published a report on South Ossetia, and I had another op-ed on Moldova. My one work trip was to Geneva, where I rather bravely drove there and back; I remember a long and valuable walking conversation with Pat Cox beside the lake, where he gave me some invaluable career advice ("read the paperwork before the meeting"), and also giving Hattie Babbitt a lift to Geneva Airport as I departed. We actually managed two family trips, one ot the Ardennes with the kids, and one with just the two of us to the Hague for a dance performance connected with the royal wedding earlier in the year.

November 2004 books

Non-genre 7 (2004 total 19)

SF 3 (YTD 71)

2,800 pages (YTD 46,000)
3/10 by women (YTD 34/130)
None by PoC (YTD 2/130)

The best of these is Tove Jansson's quiet novel, The Summer Book; you can get it here. The Hartwell/Cramer collection is particularly good this year. You can get it here. On the other hand, I could not see the point of Magnus Mills' The Scheme for Full Employment. If you want to try it anyway, you can get it here.


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Wednesday reading

This Is How You Lose The Time War, by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone
In Praise of Disobedience: The Soul of Man Under Socialism and Other Writings, by Oscar Wilde
The Idea of Justice, by Amartya Sen

Last books finished
The Raven Tower, by Ann Leckie
About Writing, by Gareth Powell
Once Upon a Parsec: The Book of Alien Fairy Tales, ed. David Gullen
The Testaments, by Margaret Atwood
Unsheltered, by Barbara Kingsolver
Selangor, by Gerry Barton

Next books
The Critique of Pure Reason, by Immanuel Kant
Arc of the Dream, by A. A. Attanasio

Seraphina, by Rachel Hartman

Second paragraph of third chapter:
When I was eight years old, Orma hired me a dragon tutor, a young female called Zeyd. My father had objected strenuously. He despised dragons, despite the fact that he was the Crown's expert on the treaty and had even defended saarantrai in court.
I was moved to get this after hugely enjoying Hartman's Tess of the Road, a finalist for last year's Lodestar Award. Seraphina didn't blow me away quite as firmly, but I still thought it was very good - a YA novel about a girl growing up in a kingdom which has reached an uneasy peace with its dragon neighbours, herself concealing the secret that she is actually half dragon and half human. There's a lot of good stuff here about being othered, body dysmorphia, racism and prejudice, and loyalties split between family and state; and music as a counterpoint to combat. I have the second book of the sequence on my shelves too. You can get it here.

This was my top unread sf book, my top unread book by a woman and my top unread book acquired in 2019. Next on the first of those piles is The First Men In The Moon, by H.G. Wells; next on the other two is Small Island, by Andrea Levy.


Exhalation, by Ted Chiang

Second paragraph of third story ("What's Expected of Us"):
By now you've probably seen a Predictor; millions of them have been sold by the time you're reading this. For those who haven't seen one, it's a small device, like a remote for opening your car door. Its only features are a button and a big green LED. The light flashes if you press the button. Specifically, the light flashes one second before you press the button.
Ted Chiang has published very few short stories, but they are all good and most of them have won awards. This is a collection of his more recent work. Some of these I remembered very vividly indeed - "The Merchant and the Alchemist's Gate", "The Lifecycle of Software Objects" and "The Truth of Fact, the Truth of Feeling". I had completely forgotten the title story, but I loved it when it was a Hugo finalist and I loved it again this time. There are two brand new stories here as well, "Omphalos" in which Young Earth cosmology is true, and "Anxiety Is the Dizziness of Freedom" which opens communications with parallel Many-Worlds universes. All tremendously good stuff, getting my 2020 reading off to a good start. You can get it here.


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BSFA 2019 Best Art: my nominations

Always conscious that my own tastes are not everyone's, I had a look at the 27 works which are on the long list for this year's BSFA Award. I must say that the quality of the art is in almost all cases fantastic. It's interesting to note that there are two exbibitions on the long list, one "A New Life in the Village" by Cedric Mizero, which I have to admit I did not feel had many sfnal aspects, and United Visual Artists' "Other Spaces", which ran at The Store X on the Strand in London last year. I am not voting for either, but it's good to have exhibitions in the mix.

One artist gets three works on the long-list (unless you count "Unknown", who also has three). Julia Lloyd's three book covers are very diverse from each other, and certainly I would not have guessed that the same had was behind them all. Again, I'm not voting for any of these but I did like them:

After due consideration, I am casting one of my four votes for "Exile's Letter", a graphic story by the Mill and Jones, which is about construction, destruction and renewal. Having an actual graphic story in this category may be pushing the boundaries, but I found it refreshingly different.

Two of my other three choices are alternate covers for the same book, Deeplight by Frances Hardinge. Left is the cover for the US edition by Aitch and Rachel Vale, right is Vincent Chong's for the UK edition.

And my last choice is Andreas Rocha's wistful lansdcape cover for Jaine Fenn's Broken Shadow.
But go look at them all, and make your own choices.

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