June 5th, 2011


June Books 6) The Unwritten Vol 2: Inside Man, by Mike Carey

Having raved about the first volume of this series yesterday, I am equally glad about the second volume today, a collection of seven issues (I think), the first four taking Tom Taylor to a French prison where the governor reads Tommy Taylor books to his children and the Song of Roland makes an appearance, the next two taking Tom and his allies Savoy and Lizzie Hexen to Stuttgart in 1940 and a confrontation with Goebbels over the film of Jud Süss, and the last being a horrifying side story of a thug trapped in the form of a fluffy bunny rabbit in a children's book. The title of this volume at first appears to refer to a blog kept by one of Tom Taylor's fellow prisoners, but expands in meaning to ask what is inside any of us.

The Stuttgart section has bravely included several quotations from Hitler in the original German, without translation. My German is good enough to get the meaning (and spot a few transcription errors) but I wonder how this will go down with the average reader?

But basically I liked it a lot, and unless Bryan Talbot surprises me it will get my Hugo vote.

2011 Hugos: Best Novel

Really not difficult for me to rank these.

5) Blackout / All Clear, by Connie Willis. I have only read half of this but I find it hard to imagine that the second half will lift it off the end of my ballot - too padded and just not really very interesting. Alas, it will probably win the Hugo as it already (and inexplicably) has the Nebula.

4) The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, by N.K. Jemisin. I note that I said I enjoyed this a lot when I read it over a year ago, and it has been widely praised. But I find I now cannot remember much about it, which is no doubt more my fault than the author's, but means I can't really give it a high vote.

3) Feed, by 'Mira Grant'. A good book about the zombie apocalypse which slightly disappointed in that I hoped the plot would turn out more complex than it did.

2) Cryoburn, by Lois McMaster Bujold. Unlike the Connie Willis book, which retreads her old themes and characters at much greater length but to no greater effect, Bujold has taken her characters to new territory here, both in terms of planetary setting and in terms of emotional maturity. It's not the greatest of the Vorkosigan books but it is a welcome return to form after the wobble of Diplomatic Immunity.

1) The Dervish House, by Ian McDonald. I really think this is Ian McDonald's best book yet, his trademark lush prose intersecting with near-future nanoterrorism and much older mysteries in a richly imagined Istanbul. I know that I am probably biased by affinity with both the author and the setting, but I don't have much hesitation in giving it my top spot.

Previous Hugo category write-ups: Best Novella, Best Novelette, Best Short Story, Best Dramatic Presentation - Long Form, Best Dramatic Presentation - Short Form.

June Books 7) Something in the Water, by Trevor Baxendale

One of the first run of Torchwood novels, which I am just now getting into (just in time for Miracle Day). A fairly standard monster-of-the-week story, the monster in this case being an alien which poses as a lake creature and infects male humans with its offspring. I felt the writing style was a bit clunky at first but it seemed to get tightened up as we went on. The front cover and spine feature Burn Gorman as Owen, and he does get more exposure than the other four, but we get a fair bit of Jack and Toshiko as well. Will be looking out for more of these.

June Books 8) Grandville Mon Amour, by Bryan Talbot

Again, thanks to the Hugo shortlist I have tried one of the great graphic novel writers for the first time, and while I was not as blown away by this as I was by the first two volumes of Mike Carey's The Unwritten, I am realising that I should look out for more Talbot. Grandville Mon Amour is set in an alternate London and Paris, where all characters (apart from a couple of human muggers) are anthropomorphised animals: Inspector LeBrock, the central figure, has the head of a badger. England has recently regained independence and declared itself a socialist republic after a bloody occupation by France, and LeBrock finds himself investigating an escaped prisoner and a series of murders which take him to a top-level political conspiracy. To be honest the plot was not terribly surprising, and (unlike Spiegelmann's Maus) we never get a good handle on why some people are badgers, others dogs and others again hippopotami, but the loving and colourful detail of the story's bizarre background, combining familiar landmarks with inhuman faces and steampunk technology, is pretty memorable.

West Belfast By-Election

It may have escaped your notice (it almost escaped mine), but there is a by-election in West Belfast on Thursday, due to Gerry Adams having left to represent County Louth in the Dáil.

The last time Sinn Féin got less than 50% of the vote here was in 1992, and the last time they got less than 60% of the vote here was in 1998. The result is therefore not in serious doubt. The candidates, and the votes each of their parties got in last month's Assembly election and last year's Westminster election, are as follows:

candidateMay 2011May 2010
Paul Maskey (SF)22,902 (66.1%)22,840 (71.1%)
Alex Attwood (SDLP)4,567 (13.2%)5,261 (16.4%)
Brian Kingston (DUP)2,587 (7.5%)2,436 (7.6%)
Gerry Carroll (People Before Profit)1,661 (4.8%)-
Bill Manwaring (UUP)1,471 (4.2%)1,000 (3.1%)
Aaron McIntyre (Alliance)365 (1.1%)596 (1.9%)

I am guessing that the votes will be counted during the day on Friday.