February 2nd, 2008

earthsea

February Books 3) No Great Mischief

3) No Great Mischief, by Alistair MacLeod

A rather beautiful novel about the experiences of generations of a Highland family settled in Nova Scotia, with excursions to Scotland and various other parts of Canada; interlocking tales of tragedy and loyalty, against the backdrop of global conflicts, both recent and long past. (I had not realised that Wolfe was a commander both at Culloden and Quebec.) MacLeod's style feels somehow more Scottish (eg Iain Banks) than Canadian (eg Robertson Davies). I read it very quickly, but enjoyed it a lot.
buzz

Iain Banks in Brussels

As mentioned a few weeks back, Iain Banks gave a lunchtime talk in Brussels on Tuesday, in Scotland House which is the top two floors of the building where my own office is located. (The building also houses the Brussels representations of Norway, just below Scotland; Sweden, occupying the three lowest floors; and Gibraltar, around the corner from my office; and of course I myself have certain quasi-diplomatic duties too.) The Scots put on a decent spread of standard Brussels sandwiches; I was pleased to see both guidoeekhaut and quarsan there as a result of my publicising it. Both of them have already written the event up on their respective blogs.

The actual lecture room was filled up, with a dozen people left standing at the back after the 150 or so seats were taken; we were welcomed formally by the jolly Linda Fabiani, Scotland's Minister for Europe and Culture, and then Iain Banks immediately began by standing up and dominating the entire room, leaving the unfortunate Scottish attaché for fisheries and agriculture (nominally chairing the meeting) cowering in his seat and attempting to interject the occasional question.

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Anyway, great fun; I was feeling pretty grotty, but the event lifted my spirits for the rest of the day.
tardis

I, Davros

This is just a brilliant sequence of audio plays - apparently now available with the set of BBC Davros DVDs, which does make that sound like an even more attractive purchase, and comes close to conferring the stamp of accepted canonicity on the stories. Davros is, of course, perhaps the only character for whom you could develop a detailed back-story like this; the Master is too closely linked with the Gallifrey mythology, and there are not really any other villains of serious depth (some might come close - I have a high regard for Mavic Chen, myself.) This could have turned into the most awful fanwank, but in fact we have a tight, taut set of plays depicting the rise of Davros through the ranks of the Kaled leadership on Skaro against the background of the "Forever War" against the Thals. Terry Molloy reprises the title role (apart from most of the first play), and in the last play we get Peter Miles as Nyder.

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In summary, a brilliant set of four plays, which I suspect would stand on their own as dramas even for a non-Who fan.
doctor who

Horror of Fang Rock, The Invisible Enemy, Nightmare of Eden

Sorry for much Who posting today, but this one brings me up to date with three stories from the Tom Baker era, indeed from two different parts of Graham Williams' term as producer: his first two stories from 1977, and his second last from 1980.

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So, one and three quarter excellent stories, the rest not so good.