July 1st, 2012


July Books 1) The Fall of Yquatine, by Nick Walters

Doctor Who attempts to take on Babylon Five, just a little, in Yquatine, a world where humans and various alien species coexist in uneasy alliance. Except that when the Doctor arrives, it all gets destroyed, and then Fitz is warped back a couple of weeks and falls in love with the President's girlfriend as planetary doom approaches. Several ideas from this book also popped up in last year's TV Who, including the shape-shifting entities which deceptively contain the very people they look like. I enjoyed the same author's Dominion last year and I enjoyed this too.

I have to say that I like my current run of the Eighth Doctor adventures, which I'm nearly half way through as a whole. Fitz in particular is a brilliant concept, a sort of Everyman whose closest counterpart in the classic series was Ian Chesterton (who of course also comes from the 1960s). I bet that 95% of Who fans wouldn't even recognise Fitz Kreiner's name, though he has featured in more Who books than any other companion. I am brewing a longer set of thoughts on this.

July Books 2) The History of Tom Jones, by Henry Fielding

The classic novel of 1749, whose prose style is in places a bit tedious but also in places very funny. The plot is a basic romantic comedy, but it is enlivened by the authorial asides which open each of the individual books within the novel, and by the author's grasp of character which must have inspired Dickens. There are also a couple of passages which pastiche Homer, Vergil and I think the King James Bible, and there must have been others that I missed.

Some social points of the 1740s that I found interesting: women had few enough rights, but in Fielding's account retained an absolute right to accept or refuse an offer of marriage. Presumably coercion was a ground for divorce or annulment, and there must have been enough cases for it to be a real issue. I was also interested that Sophia's father is depicted as having much the thickest West Country accent of any of the characters, despite being the local squire. A hundred years later, I guess all gentlemen of his class would have been assimilated into poshness by public school; but in the 1740s you only needed to communicate with the locals in your rural fastness. Mr Western of course has no time for education or politics (his sister, who serves as comic relief, is also the most politically aware character in the book). I was also struck by the relative lack of animus to the Irish (cf Shakespeare, who scores rather badly there):
Sophia heaved a deep sigh, and answered, "Indeed, Harriet, I pity you from my soul!----But what could you expect? Why, why, would you marry an Irishman?"

"Upon my word," replied her cousin, "your censure is unjust. There are, among the Irish, men of as much worth and honour as any among the English: nay, to speak the truth, generosity of spirit is rather more common among them. I have known some examples there, too, of good husbands; and I believe these are not very plenty in England. Ask me, rather, what I could expect when I married a fool."
It was a bit of a slog in places but I am glad to have read it.

July Books 3) Code of the Krillitane, by Justin Richards

For what this is - a short New Who book aimed at people who don't read that much - it is rather good, a story of the Tenth Doctor on his own, reprising the Krillitane plot from School Reunion with some extra wrinkles and a one-off young male sidekick who is into computers but lacks social skills. The prolific Justin Richards on a good day (it can't have taken terribly long to write).

July Books 4) Keys to the Kingdom (Locke & Key Vol 4), by Joe Hill

A problem with the Hugo category of Best Graphic Story is that the nominees are often very diverse in form. Here, for instance, we have the fourth of a six-volume sequence, itself consisting of six individual issues of which the first three are relatively distinct from each other and the last three more closely linked; but there is a lot of background knowledge for the new reader to pick up. I found the fourth in the sequence, involving a young boy and a ghostly soldier, particularly effective, and there is an excellent twist at the end. But there are some pretty gory moments as well, and the plot is necessarily incomplete. I don't think I'll look out for more of this series as a priority.

(I note that the author's father won a Hugo for non-fiction in 1982 but has never even been nominated in the fiction categories.)

2012 Hugos: Best Graphic Story

I'm not going to read the last of this year's nominated works in the Best Graphic Story category, because for the last three years I dutifully ploughed through that year's Schlock Mercenary volume, found it dull and crudely drawn, and ranked it last (as did the Hugo voters two years of those three); and I don't see any good reason to put myself through that again.

I also find it difficult to compare an entire run of a graphic story with single volumes from series with which I am familiar and also a single volume from a series that I don't know. Even if you try to restrict your judgement to the material listed on the ballot paper, the fact is that your enjoyment and understanding of the volume in question is massively informed by your knowledge of how and if it fits into the wider narrative of the series as a whole (or even the author's work as a whole).

My votes in this category therefore leave me feeling a little uneasy. But I will cast them none the less as follows:

1) Digger by Ursula Vernon
2) The Unwritten (Volume 4): Leviathan, by Mike Carey, illustrated by Peter Gross
3) Fables (Volume 15): Rose Red, by Bill Willingham and Mark Buckingham
4) Locke & Key (Volume 4): Keys to the Kingdom, by Joe Hill, illustrated by Gabriel Rodriguez

[no vote] Schlock Mercenary: Force Multiplication, by Howard Tayler

See also: Best Novel | Best Novella | Best Novelette | Best Short Story | Best Related Work | Best Dramatic Presentation (Long Form) | Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form) | Best Professional Artist | Best Fan Writer | Best Fan Artist | Best Fancast | The John W. Campbell Award (Not A Hugo)