April 12th, 2009

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April Books 5) Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, by J.K. Rowling

I first read this the year it was nominated for the Hugo, and don't have a lot to add to what I wrote then, except that for some reaon I didn't enjoy it as much the second time round. Perhaps it is because I now know how the Sirius Black storyline ends?

< Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone | Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets | Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban | Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire | Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix | Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince | Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows | The Tales of Beedle the Bard >

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April Books 6) Music and Silence, by Rose Tremain

We're not quite sure how this novel made it onto our shelves; it won the Whitbread Prize in 1999 and is set largely in the royal court of Denmark in 1629 and 1630, where a young English musician falls in love with one of the king's estranged wife's maidservants. There's a lot of long lingering flashback to the earlier lives of the lovers, their respective bosses, and extended families; from my own interest, there's a child with an Asperger's-ish disorder; but I wasn't quite sure what it all amounted to. Still, it was a picturesque ride.
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April Books 7) Saturn's Children, by Charles Stross

Latest in my set of Hugo nominees for this year (and Anathem is sitting accusingly on the bookshelf, while I've ordered the paperback of Zoe's Tale for when it comes out later this month). Lots of good stuff here, with the setting a solar system where the robots have taken over after the extinction of humanity, and our narrator a sexbot designed to pleasure a race which no longer exists, dragged into espionage. Charlie gets significant points for insisting on the vast distances within the solar system, especially once you get out as far as Jupiter, never mind the Kuiper Belt.

He even came close to over-riding my general distaste for stories about cute (indeed, in this case, very sexy) anthropomorphic robots, with a decent ratiionalisation for their shape - the robots here are actually designed for functionality rather than anthropomorphism, and with sexbots the one implies the other. The prose is typically fastpaced and I'm afraid lost me a couple of times. Still, great fun as ever.
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April Books 8) The Big Time, by Fritz Leiber

Realised I had missed this out somehow as I worked through the Hugo winners, so went back to find it. History does not record what other works were in the frame, though other classic sf from 1957 which I have read includes The Door into Summer, The Black Cloud, Citizen of the Galaxy and The Midwich Cuckoos (and On the Beach is on my shelf, recently acquired but as yet unread). I would rate The Midwich Cuckoos more highly than The Big Time, but it was probably too British to be considered by whatever mechanism the Worldcon was using that year.

I've always liked this one, apart from one silly moment at the end - the psychological drama is resolved when two male characters decide to trust each other because they attended the same Cambridge college, several centuries apart. I hereby give notice that if the Right Honorable Peter Lilley MP, let alone some time-travelling avatar of Lord Cornwallis, both of whom are fellow Clare graduates, should ever try this on me they will get a rude response.

Apart from that, I love the setting - an enclosed space beyond space and time, a rest station in the ongoing Change Wars between Snakes and Spiders, two time-travelling factions changing the history of Earth (and, we understand, of many other worlds) for thei own ends, with little regard to the human and other lives that are put at stake. The story is rather theatrical in presentation, and one can easily imagine it being put on stage. Not as mature as his other Hugo-winning novel, The Wanderer, and with as I said a somewhat silly ending, but very entertaining all the same.