April 9th, 2010


April Books 6) Nightshade, by Mark Gatiss

This novel in the New Adventures of Doctor Who series is in fact downloadable from the BBC website here in various formats, with added comments by Mark Gatiss from 2006 (after his TV stories The Unquiet Dead and The Idiot's Lantern had been broadcast).

The setting is a familiar Whovian one (most recently seen in The Eleventh Hour): rural England, alien menace, the Doctor sorts it out. To be specific, we're in a Yorkshire village in December 1968; Gatiss packs in a lot of detail, including some memorable characters - the staff of the local radio observatory; the young man who develops a relationship with Ace; the elderly actor who used to play Professor Nightshade on telly (a mixture between Quatermass and the First Doctor). Gatiss says in the notes that he was trying to write a Who book that really belonged more in the horror genre; it works for me.

The next New Adventure in sequence is Paul Cornell's Love and War, which I read a year and a half ago (and greatly enjoyed); but I shall skip it for now and go on to Ben Aaronovitch's Transit - I am not a particular fan of Aaronovitch's writing, but let's see if this will bring me round.

April Books 7) Untold Stories, by Alan Bennett

I don't know Alan Bennett's work all that well; I think the only other book of his I have read is the previous non-fiction collection, Writing Home, and I've seen a very few of his plays - The Madness of King George, The Insurance Man, a student production of Getting On, probably a couple of others; and really really enjoyed The Uncommon Reader. But it doesn't really matter; these are memoirs of a shy English writer born in Leeds in the mid-1930s and looking back on his life from the years around the turn of the century. Bennett has become something of a national institution, though he would hate to be described as such, and writes here about why he turned down a knighthood in 1996 ("it didn't suit me").

The two most effective pieces in the book are the very long opening piece about his mother's mental illness and the rest of his extended family, particularly her sisters (one of whom died after wandering out of a mental hospital; Bennett himself found her body), and the rather shorter closing piece about his own, so far successful, battle with bowel cancer, a legacy of his father's side of the family. In between are long, amusing extracts from his diaries between 1996 and 2004, and various other pieces mostly about the arts in Britain and his own work which didn't appeal to me as much but are, as usual with Bennett, engaging and often bitterly funny. Recommended.

Yet Another Story ID - AKICILJ

manjushra asks if I can identify this story. I can't, so I turn it over to the collective wisdom of Livejournal:
Genre: Sci-fi, feminist, could be authored by Sheri Tepper although I have read all the synopses I can find of her major works and it doesn't seem to be there.

Imagine the scene: we are a human-like (possibly human) race on an alien planet, but we've been here for ages and lost touch with the technology that brought us here. That's all a dim legend. We live in cliffs, in tunnels and holes we dig/bore. There are some strange taboos and real dangers: never leave the cliffs/go outside at night, don't ask questions about girls who go missing.

Cutting to the chase: the plot centres around the revelation of an obscene coming-of-age ceremony for girls, where they are chained down outside the cliffs and left to the mercy of the rather horrible flying/insectoid? aliens.
Any thoughts?

Fermanagh and South Tyrone, for a change

The Unionist parties have selected a joint candidate for Fermanagh and South Tyrone, who will thus have the backing of the DUP, UUP and Conservatives. This is the first time that there has been a single Unionist candidate in the constituency since 1997.

The lucky candidate, Rodney Connor, used to be Chief Executive of Fermanagh Council. Recruiting public officials to Unionist politics has sometimes ended unhappily in this part of the world. Sitting MP Michelle Gildernew of Sinn Féin is also being challenged by former TV journalist Fearghal McKinney of the SDLP, and by former history teacher Vasundhara Kamble (originally from Mumbai) of the Alliance Party.

The UUP/Conservative alliance was supposed to deliver non-sectarian politics; not a lot of evidence of that in the implementation.