June 19th, 2012


Links I found interesting for 19-06-2012


June Books 15) Waking the Moon, by Elizabeth Hand

This is a tremendous novel, ancient pagan mysteries linked with dubious academics and sinister conspiracies, all based around a fictional sinister Catholic university in Washington DC; not so very different from the plot elements of Dan Brown's novels, only much better written and much more interesting. Some brilliant scenes of simmering sexuality and emotional confusion; a satisfactory amount of drawing from genuine mythology, with extra lore invented by the author which plugs in rather neatly. I'm surprised that it is not better known, it feels like a taproot text for much of the recent wave of urban fantasies.

June Books 16) Dying in the Sun, by Jon de Burgh Miller

Another Second Doctor novel featuring Ben and Polly (no less than five spinoff books are set between The Power of the Daleks and The Highlanders, if you count a Telos novella and an annual). Although there is an interesting idea here of alien intelligences infesting the movie industry (done better than in Pratchett's Moving Pictures, though this really isn't saying much), it is let down badly by the writer's failure to get American idiom at all accurately and by some ludicrous plot points - at one point a murder suspect outwits two policemen guarding his home to smuggle a corpse inside, for instance. And poor Polly gets possessed / hypnotised yet again; when I've finished reading her novels I'll do a count of just how often this happens to her.      

June Books 17) Sauron Defeated, by J.R.R. Tolkien

The end of the story of the writing of The Lord of the Rings, including Tolkien's attempts to plot out the very end of the story - Gollum always had a role in the destruction of the Ring, but exactly what that was took some time to work out; but Saruman only gradually emerged as the villain in The Scouring of the Shire, and a postscript of Sam and Rose and their children twenty years on was dropped on the advice of Tolkien's beta readers (I wonder if whether J.K. Rowling was given the same advice about the end of the Harry Potter series; if so, she ignored it).

The book also includes drafts of an unpublished novel called The Notion Club Papers, written in the mid-1940s, in which a club of academics - in 1987! - listens to one of their number who has uncovered, through his dreams, another variation on the story of Eärendil and the fall of Númenor which was one of the earliest elements of Tolkien's mythos and which he never quite got right. What's interesting about The Notion Club Papers is that it clarifies the reason for part of the failure: the characterisation is all in the framing narrative, and the epic mythos all in the Númenor bits without really much in the way of interesting personal glimpses. What Tolkine managed in The Hobbit and particularly in The Lord of the Rings was to unite the epic and the personal, but it was only after long years of effort and rewriting, and I don't think either half of The Notion Papers was really salvageable. Still, it's interesting to map the roads not travelled.