April 24th, 2010


April Books 18) The Hanging Garden, by Ian Rankin

This Rebus novel got rave reviews in a couple of places, but I was not completely satisfied with it. It seemed more a novel of gangland politics than of police investigation; there is a horribly bungled police raid at one point which emphasises the relative powerlessness of the keepers of law in this story. There is a character who is a Bosnian woman victim of sex trafficking, but I felt that crucial details of her background didn't mesh with what little I know of that issue. There are two fairly dramatic crimes - a hit-and-run car accident involving Rebus' daughter, and another character found hanging (hence the title of the book), but both of these crimes turned out to be a little bathetic in their resolution. The subplot about war criminal escaping from post-1945 France and Gemany was not really concluded (except with paranoia agaist the British establishment, which may or may not be well founded). It does score well on the reintroduction of Rebus' relationships with his own family and, to an extent, with himself now that he is giving up alcohol. But I find it difficult to believe the somewhat anarchic working environment that he experiences. Probably I am wrong and simply imagine incorrectly that most people at that level of responsibility have and keep regular office hours. So only three points out of five on LibraryThing for this one.

April Books 19) Reaper Man, by Terry Pratchett

This was for some reason the only main sequence Discworld novel that had so far escaped me (I also have TAMAHER on the shelf). I guess it must be a relatively early book in the series; the undead are still rather unusual in Ankh-Morpork, and Ridcully appears to be a newish arrival at Unseen University (and the Bursar is fairly sane). I got a lot of laugh-out-loud moments from it, but wasn't completely satisfied with the plot; Death and the Discworld are to be under threat from, respectively, Elder Beings and supernatural supermarkets, and I didn't feel it hung together as a whole (a subplot about poltergeists, for instance, is simply abandoned). However, the core concept, Death attempting to become human remains an old idea, but still a good one.

April Books 20) The Crucible, by Arthur Miller

A great work, of course, about mass hysteria, groupthink, and evil. The editor notes in the foreword that for today's audience the McCarthy hearings, which were on his mind as he wrote, actually require more explanation than the Salem witch trials, which have been given a new lease of historical consciousnes largely by Miller's play; which is kind of ironic. There are some powerful scenes but I didn't find any standout quotes that lingered; the whole is greater than the parts. My edition includes also a deleted Act 2 Scene 2 set outside in the woods between Proctor and Abigail which makes their relationship more explicit, but I think it works better dramatically to leave that exposition to Act 4.

Despite having worked my way through the complete Shakespeare a year and a half ago, I'm still not great at visualising plays from scripts as I read them, so I hope I can find a screen version of this some time. Miller repeatedly breaks into his own script to give pen-profiles of a number of the characters, which helps to get a sense of how they might appear on stage, but almost all of the characters for whom he does this are male, even though the women are at least as interesting as the men if not more so. In particular this meant I had difficulty telling the teenage girls apart, and I expect I would have no difficulty in doing so in a theatrical production.

April Books 21) Doctor Who Annual 1970

This is a better effort than the previous annual, though we still have the irritation of "Dr Who" addressing Jamie and Zoe as "my children" and a couple of stories that seem to have been written with Hartnell in mind. But the art is a significant improvement, particularly the first of the two comic strip stories (which sadly leaves Zoe in the Tardis for most of the action). Only eight text stories this time, and they are all pretty standard landing-on-alien-planets stuff, though we are offered a completely different explanation of what happened to the Marie Celeste to that seen in The Chase five years earlier - the crew get abducted by aliens and die horribly when the Doctor is unable to save them. The usual mix of science and history articles includes a rather odd three pages on UFOs which seems to take them entirely seriously. All the stories feature Jamie and Zoe but one of the games for some reason has Jamie and Victoria.