August 5th, 2010



This was a five-part series first broadcast on radio in 2007. I've seen a couple of other reviews on the web which were distinctly underwhelmed, but I rather enjoyed it. The title character is a museum attendant who gets swept into a search for the Lux Ater, the Book of Black Light, which will provide a link between string theory and alchemy, at the behest of 400-year-old alchemist Nikolai, who steps out of one of the paintings in the museum. Other incidental characters include Oneira's odious boyfriend who spends most of the sequence reduced to a bucket of water and able to communicate only by farting gurgles. There are some sophisticated jokes about philosophy and some nice one-liners.

The episode titles are 1) The Big Chill (featuring a mutating fridge), 2) Sleight of Mind, featuring the powers of the electric company, 3) A String of Time, featuring Philip K. Dick and Roger Bacon, 4) The Thing with Two Cappuccinos, with a horde of android baristas, and 5) Mind the Gap, where Oneira spends most of the episode talking to herself. I had not previously heard of the author, Robert Easby, or of either of the two leads, Lindsay Marshall as Oneira and Peter Marinka as Nikolai, but they all impressed me and I shall look out for them in future. Not quite as profound as perhaps it aspired to be, but I enjoyed it.
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One small step for woman

Dame Rosalind Marsden has been appointed as the next EU Special Representative for Sudan, and is the first woman ever to be appointed as an EUSR. The current 11 EUSRs are listed here, and the previous 23, with variable formatting, here. Oh well, 35th time lucky, eh?

August Books 3) Black Blade Blues, by J.A. Pitts

Sarah Beauhall is a blacksmith living in modern Seattle, who is grappling a) with the fact that her favourite sword turns out to be a relic from the Norse mythos, pursued by dwarves and dragons, and b) with her own relationship with her girlfriend. It's not the first urban fantasy I've read set in the Pacific North-West - mizkit's Walker Papers series are also set there, though her central character is a police mechanic swept into a combination of Celtic and Native American myth. Oddly enough the last fiction I read outside my self-set reading lists was also sfnal, also set in Seattle, and also had a title whose first word was "Black".

Black Blade Blues is not terribly profound, and probably won't win any awards. But I thoroughly enjoyed it: Sarah getting to grips with the sword and Katie, and the dragon in pursuit of both, in the context of the Renaissance Faire / SCA subculture of the states of Washington and Oregon, makes a cracking good yarn, with groundwork laid for more books to come - which I will certainly try and get. If you're not sure if you like urban fantasy, this is not a bad place to start; if you do like it, you'll probably like this.