January 29th, 2010

tardis

January Books 25) Short Trips [19]: Dalek Empire, edited by Nicholas Briggs with Simon Guerrier

In an agony of indecision before Christmas when Big Finish announced that they would stop not only publishing but even selling their Short Trips anthologies, I bought half a dozen of them (based on a combination of reported scarcity and LibraryThing ratings) of which this is the first in sequence. It's a bit variable, to be honest; I was not blown away by the three Dalek Empire series of audio plays, and about half of these stories are explicit tie-ins to it (and it also includes the script for the Seventh Doctor crossover into that series, "Return of the Daleks", which has a rather implausible though well-conveyed denouement). The standout pieces for me were Simon Guerrier's "The Eighth Wonder of the World" (despite its unexpected revelation that Evelyn Smythe is an archaeologist as well as a historian) and James Swallow's "Museum Peace", which I already knew as it was released as a Big Finish audio freebie late last year.
earthsea

January Books 26) The Language of the Night, by Ursula K. Le Guin

This book has been strongly recommended to me for years, and I am glad I finally obtained it and read it. It is a collection of Le Guin's writings about sf and fantasy, almost all from 1973 to 1978 (one piece on Philip K. Dick dates from 1967), originally published in 1979 and revised for a 1989 edition. It is all fascinating stuff, with the standout essay being "From Elfland to Poughkeepsie", which describes the rhetorical style of good (as opposed to bad) fantasy, and also includes the memorable line, "they are not only crazy but Welsh".

The other particularly remarkable piece is her 1988 fisking of her own 1976 essay, "Is Gender Necessary?", where she critiques her earlier defence of The Left Hand of Darkness, admitting that from a feminist perspective the book is not a success, and concluding that "women were justified in asking more courage of me and a more rigorous thinking-through of implications".

I am writing this in transit and may return to it for further thoughts if I have the opportunity, but meanwhile thanks to those (namely fjm here and mylescorcoran here).

Top LibraryThing Unsuggestion: A Million Little Pieces by James Frey