February 2nd, 2012

earthsea

January Books 28) Conrad's Fate, by Diana Wynne Jones

It's been a hectic week, so I'm late with posting on three books I finished on Monday / Tuesday. Conrad's Fate won my unread sf poll at the end of last year, so I expected to enjoy it and indeed I did; typical Diana Wynne Jones setting of the Chrestomanci nested worlds (this time with the interesting wrinkle that the English Channel never happened) with peculiar family secrets, ancient stately homes that are not even slightly what they seem, and a central character who comes to realise that his place in the world is what he makes of it rather than what other people tell him it should be. It's not perhaps as subversive or heartfelt as some of her other work but it's still very good. 
plovdiv

January Books 29) The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, by Anne Brontë

This won my unread non-genre poll at the end of last year (on a tie-break with Hard Times). I do not find the Brontë sisters' works all that compelling in general - in particular, I can't work up much enthusiasm for Wuthering Heights - but I really liked The Tenant of Wildfell Hall; Helen is an early feminist heroine, rushing into what rapidly turns out to be an unsuitable marriage and then making the tough choices facing any woman attempting to navigate their own course in a small-minded, small-town society. It's interesting that New England is her preferred haven of liberty. I was captivated by it (even though the end is telegraphed from fairly early on) and felt it worked better for me than any of her sisters' novels.
tardis

January Books 30) The Art of Death, by James Goss

I fear it must be getting a bit dull for my regular reader when I keep on praising James Goss's Doctor Who and Torchwood writing. (Unless my regular reader is James Goss, of course, in which case I imagine he approves.) But this audiobook is another winner, with the excellent Raquel Cassidy (who played Matt Smith's boss in Party Animals and the leader of both the Gangers and their human antagonists in The Rebel Flesh / The Almost People) telling the story in first person: she is art gallery custodian Penelope, showing off the indescribable Paradox to the masses, and developing a peculiar relationship both with it and with the three strange travellers who turn up at different times. I felt it borrowed a bit from Dan Simmons' Hyperion but perhaps did it better. Strongly recommended.