January 23rd, 2010


January Books 14) Vampire Science, by Kate Orman and Jonathan Blum

I am going to read through the Eighth Doctor Adventures, though it will take me several years at a rate of one a month or so. Since I have already read Terrance Dicks' The Eight Doctors, Vampire Science is the next in line. I winced at first at the depiction of California vampires, so familiar from Buffy, who actually gets referenced (presumably meaning the Kirsty Swanson film rather than the TV series which started only a few weeks before the book was published in 1997). But actually the book takes the vampire mythology in a couple of interesting directions, one of which (the vampire nest squabbling about strategy) was later followed by Buffy, but others (the vampire intellectual researching what makes them vampires, the possibility of turning in reverse) which were new to me. With all of this, the book doesn't particularly tie into the vampire lore of the Whoniverse (ie Terrance Dicks' State of Decay and Blood Harvest, and Paul Cornell's Goth Opera). I also expected a bit more to be made of the San Francisco setting, given its relevance to the Eighth Doctor's only on-screen appearance (according to the lore, Grace Holloway was originally intended to be in the book but they couldn't get clearance). The book does however do quite a lot for the development of the Eighth Doctor as a character - he gives the vampires several chances for redemption - and his relationship with Sam (presented here as a companion of long standing rather than someone who tagged along at the end of the last book). There's also some intriguing continuity with a Jonathan Blum story which apparently brought the Seventh Doctor into contact with the US branch of UNIT. Anyway, a decent start to this little project, and I shall keep going.

January Books 15) The Uplift War, by David Brin

One of Brin's novels of the future universe where humanity has become part of a galactic culture of species Uplifting each other from pre-sapience to civilisation, homo sapiens being unique in that we achieved that status without external intervention.

The book is fun in a lot of ways - smart humans and chimps, and their allies, manage to overcome the prejudices and wishful thinking of the more nasty aliens. The most sympathetic male characters get to have sex (more or less) with the most sympathetic female characters. There is a lovely plot twist involving gorillas.

But I have to say the book is not one I can recommend. Partly it is that the humans (and their allies) rarely lose a battle or an argument; we are rather compelled to cheer for our boys. But more seriously, I think the novel's take on race issues is naïve and complacent. The intelligent chimpanzee characters are not allowed to rebel from the human agenda, yet disply no resentment of the control exerted over them, including their reproductive rights. Those who do make common cause with humanity's enemies get their come-uppance. (The only Bad Human who displays racial and gender prejudice is explicitly South Asian.) I think I would have been happier if the book had explored colonialism and race a little more profoundly. And my own thoughts on this have been very helpfully informed by the various racefail discussions of this time last year.

The only other Hugo nominee of that year (1988 awards, for 1987 publications) which I have read is Orson Scott Card's Seventh Son, which I guess is an even more blatant presentation of an American myth in genre terms. The other nominees were When Gravity Fails by George Alec Effinger, The Forge of God by Greg Bear, and The Urth of the New Sun by Gene Wolfe. The Uplift War was also shortlisted for the 1987 Nebula but beaten by The Falling Woman by Pat Murphy, a much shorter and much better book.

Top LibraryThing Unsuggestion: New Moon by Stephenie Meyer!

January Books 16) The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak

A gripping narrative of a girl growing up in Munich before and during the second world war; she steals books from the Mayor's house, her foster parents hide a Jew in the basement and everything is distorted by Nazism and then by the war. The story is told in the first person by Death, who gets plenty of clients in the course of the book. Lots of good description, though I wasn't entirely clear about the conclusion.

Top LibraryThing Unsuggestion: Institutes of the Christian Religion, by John Calvin