February 11th, 2012


February Books 4) Osama, by Lavie Tidhar

An alternate history novel where the War on Terror never happened, but instead the history of our world is experience in a series of pulp novels about Osama Bin Laden; the plot concerns the central character's quest for the author of these stories, which takes him on a long journey including a brief step into our timeline. So it's basically The Man In The High Castle recast for today, though with lots of added literary allusions to the noir genre in particular. I wasn't completely satisfied; like a lot of alternate history stories, this seems very pleased with its own cleverness (perhaps in a slightly different way to most of them), and I found the low-key ending a but unsatisfying after such a convoluted journey. But Tidhar does hold a mirror up to the history of our own times and get a rather interesting reflection. I like this more than the other BSFA nominee I have read but hope I like others even better.

This was also the first book I had read using Amazon Kindle software, thanks to a free giveaway - my normal ereader at present is Aldiko on my Android (which I basically use for ebooks, videos and Tweetdeck these days) and also still Mobipocket on my Blackberry (which I use for actual phone and email). I can see that the Kindle software has better bells and whistles than the other ereaders, but I instinctively distrust Amazon's control of what I have downloaded, and doubt that I will pay for any Kindle books until it opens up.

Three Sarah Jane audiobooks

I noted recently that there were only two Sarah Jane audiobooks which I had not yet listened to, so went out and gt them; and then through some brainstorm actually loaded the MP3 player with one I had already heard rather than either of the new ones.

February Books 5) The Time Capsule, by Peter Anghelides

I noted in September 2009 that this is very enjoyable, marred by some uneven pacing, and I stand by that; I should also note that Anghelides is good at settings, be it a supermarket invaded by aliens or the Natural History Museum.

February Books 6) and 7) The Shadow People, by Scott Handcock; and The White Wolf, by Gary Russell

The two remaining books both had the same basic plot formula - Sarah Jane, Luke, Clyde and Rani go for an adventure in the countryside, in the first case because Sarah gets sucked into a school trip to Wales, in the second because the kids become involved with her journalistic investigations into a Dorset village. But they took the formula in interesting new directions, the shape-shifting aliens who are The Shadow People pushing for a deeper exploration of identity than is usual in this sort of literature, and the remnant spaceship survivors of The White Wolf undergoing a rather tragic process of closure to their story. Both stories also have pleasing continuity chrome, The Shadow People explicitly referring back to the Big Finish Sarah Jane audio Ghost Town and The White Wolf adding substantially to our knowledge of Aunt Lavinia. As with all the Sarah Jane audios, I strongly recommend them, and not just to fans. (No previous knowledge of Aunt Lavinia is required.)

Which takes me to the end of the whole set of ten Sarah Jane audiobooks. There isn't a duff one in the list, frankly; I don't think there is any other range of Who stories which made it into double figures without producing a clunker. I see that on LibraryThing I have given slightly higher marks to The Thirteenth Stone by Justin Richards, to Deadly Download by Jason Arnopp, and to Judgement Day by Scott Gray. (Apart from the three reviewed above, the remainder of the series are The Glittering Storm and The Ghost House by Stephen Cole, Wraith World by Cavan Scott and Children of Steel by Martin Day.) They are all well-written, well-read (all but the last two by Elisabeth Sladen), pleasing to fans and accessible for non-fans. If your routine allows for ebooks of about a CD's length, you could do much, much worse than these.

February Books 8) Let The Great World Spin, by Colum McCann

A novel following an assortment of characters through their lives in New York over a period in August 1974, when they are linked by a fatal car accident and the experience of watching a man walk a tightrope strung between the towers of the World Trade Center. A New Yorker friend spotted this in my bag while we were in the pub, and expressed scepticism that any writer could properly capture his native city; I can't judge that, but I did find it a satisfying and dramatic read, McCann capturing various voices to make an interesting story which is also fairly obviously an allegory for the impact of 9/11.

It was interesting to read this at the same time as both Lavie Tidhar's alternative take on 9/11 and Van Wyck Brooks' examination of New York culture in the early nineteenth century.

Eastercon: I will be there; will you?

I decided soon after moving to Belgium that the only reason to fly rather than take Eurostar to London would be to attend an event which was actually taking place at one of the airports. But as it happens, Olympus 2012, this year's British national science fiction Easter convention, is taking place at the Heathrow Radisson. So I will fly from Brussels, possibly the first time I have ever done that route by plane other than to make onward flight connections.

Wiill you be there too?