October 7th, 2012


September Books 23) The War of the Jewels, by J.R.R. Tolkien with Christopher Tolkien

The end's in sight; only one volume left of this exploration of Tolkien's incomplete writings to go. The War of the Jewels brings together some final notes from the Silmarillion and a few other essays. The first chunk, the Grey Annals, is yet another attempt to retell the Silmarillion stories but this time taking a year-by-year approach; it also has much more detail on the Dark-Elf Ëol and his fathering of Maeglin than I remember before. There's also a long section on the tragic wanderings of Húrin after the deaths of his children which I don't remember from elsewhere, though it may have been in the Tale of the Children of Húrin. Various essays include some reflections on the origins of the races other than Elves and Men, more Elvish linguistics and the story of the Elves' awakening. Several comments from Tolkien junior reflecting on how he now wishes he had done the Silmarillion a bit differently.

September Books 24-25) Sightseeing in Space, by Steve Lyons and by David Bailey

Another of the two-in-one Doctor Who books for younger readers starring Eleven with Amy and Rory. The first of these, Terminal of Despair by Steve Lyons, has monsters that consume hope from their victims. Lyons normally cranks out a good base-under-siege story (I guess he is the modern master of that sub-genre) but here I felt he was writing down to his readership a bit, reaching for the Terrance Dicks channel without quite reaaching it. The second story, The Web In Space by David Bailey, has some good moments but a rather complex plot involving space wars, cute if mildly homicidal anthropomorphic robots, and a cosmically giant spider and I didn't think it hung together all that well. One to get for younger friends or relatives who are sad that Amy and Rory have gone.

October Books 1) Torchwood: Consequences, by various

This was the first, and I think only, book of short stories about Torchwood, and a fine collection it is too. We start with "The Baby Farmers" by David Llewellyn, set in the Victorian Torchwood era which generated so much fanfic from just a few mentions on screen, a lovely canonification of this setting; and then there's what will presumably be the last ever Tosh/Owen story, "Kaleidoscope" by Sarah Pinborough, set in the Jack-less interval between Seasons 1 and 2, where I can partly interpret the alien tech of the title as fannish gaze on the characters.

There are then two linked stories set after Season 2, "The Wrong Hands" by none other than long-ago Who script editor Andrew Cartmel, an excellent creepy tale about an evil alien baby, and "Virus" by James Moran, where the baby's father turns up and which I'm afraid I found by some way the weakest in the book.

And we finish with the title story, "Consequences" by Joe Lidster, which brings up front the experiences of a woman who has been a briefly glimpsed background character in several of the previous Torchwood novels, and how her life has been turned into a story written by someone else. I thought it was rather clever.

That takes me to the end of the original run of fifteen Torchwood books, though there are another three out there. I have been in general very impressed. These are grown-up stories written for grown-up readers, and I note that they are as popular on LibraryThing as are the most popular of the Doctor Who ranges. Presumably they will now start turning up second-hand with greater frequency; well worth grabbing any of them that you see (with the exception of Sarah Pinborough's Into The Silence whose ending disgusted me). It's a shame that tie-in fiction doesn't get a lot of wider attention; these books are in general a lot better than some I have read from award shortlists in recent years.

Links I found interesting for 07-10-2012



Former Ulster Unionist David McNarry, expelled from his party for slightly obscure reasons back in May, has joined the UK Independence party. UKIP have 12 MEPs but McNarry is the first of their representatives in any UK-based elected parliamentary body. (They scored 0.6% in the last Northern Ireland Assembly election, 0.9% for the Scottish Parliament, but rather better for the Cynulliad Cenedlaethol Cymru with 4.6% overall and missing a seat in North Wales by less than 2000 votes; they got 3.1% but no seats in the last Westminster election, and have three members in the House of Lords.)

I really think this is the most interesting thing to happen in Northern Ireland party politics since the demise of Robert McCartney and his similarly named UKUP. (Yes, I’m serious – much more interesting than the consolidation of DUP, SF and Alliance, or the slow decline of SDLP and UUP, let alone the dull saga of the Conservative linkup with the latter or the flash in the pan of the Traditional Unionist Voice.)

UKIP are on an electoral roll. In 2009 they came second in the Euro-election UK-wide without even registering as a blip on opinion polls at the time. Now they are within striking distance of double figures in the latest polls, and surely must have a good chance of catching first place in the 2014 European elections, from their votes England, Scotland and Wales.

I’d have thought that there is a decent prospect, though far from a certainty, that a UKIP candidate could take one of the two Unionist seats in the European Parliament in Northern Ireland in 2014. Unlike the Tories, UKIP come with no grounds for suspicion of their true intentions; their branding is pretty perfect for an appeal for a one-off protest vote to habitual Unionist voters. There are parallels with Jim Allister in 2009, but my gut feeling is that UKIP, with a good candidate who starts to establish himself or herself now, should actually do better.

(And before anyone asks – no, I still don’t see any chance of two Nationalists winning seats in 2014.)

I imagine it will be a Euro-election only performance, of course – at Westminster in 2015 UKIP will be nowhere, and at the next Assembly election they should just about manage to keep McNarry’s seat (if he contests it) in the volatile Strangford, with Reilly having a chance in South Down, for a total of one or two out of 108. But it's an interesting intervention in Northern Ireland's rather undynamic political architecture.