March 22nd, 2013

sarahjane

SJA first season (2007) and Time Crash

So, I reach the first full season of the Sarah Jane Adventures. Absolutely excellent stuff, and if you haven't watched it you should. The episodes are 30 minutes long, which again is a bit awkward for my commute (two 20-25 minute trains with 5-10 mins between them); I also found I tended to want to watch the good bits again, and there are quite a lot of them.

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I very much enjoyed rewatching all of these. In particular, it's striking that none of the five SJA stories is very bad, and two (Gorgon and Whatever?) are really superb. There are various runs of Old and New Who where there are five consecutive decent stories (most recently before this, the run from Dalek to The Parting of the Ways which is actually six good stories in a row), but it is rare to have an entire season where even the low points are still pretty watchable. And Time Crash is an added bonus.

< The Curse of Fatal Death | The Webcasts | Rose - Dalek | The Long Game - The Parting of the Ways | Comic Relief 2006 - The Girl in the Fireplace | Rise of the Cybermen - Doomsday | Everything Changes - They Keep Killing Suzie | Random Shoes - End of Days | Smith and Jones - 42 | Human Nature / The Family of Blood - Utopia / The Sound of Drums / Last of the Time Lords & The Infinite Quest | Revenge of the Slitheen - The Lost Boy & Time Crash | Voyage of the Damned - Adam | Reset - Exit Wounds

buzz

March Books 8) 2312, by Kim Stanley Robinson

She was looking at the sun, now four fingers high over the jagged black horizon. “Oh my God, look at it,” she said. “Just look at it.”
Wahram tried, but it was too bright, too big.
A rambling combination of detective story, solar system travelogue, and rather unconvincing romance, this book may be the favourite on the BSFA shortlist for Best Novel, going by GoodReads / LibraryThing statistics. James Nicoll and Vandana Singh have pointed out some of its failings. I too was disappointed by it; I found myself several times looking up from the screen (reading on various combinations of iPad and iPhone) and thinking, "This narrative technique was done much better in the Mars trilogy by Kim Stanley Robinson. Who is it who wrote this book and is trying to rip off KSR's style? Oh..."

In particular, I felt that a couple of important plot points were simply badly done - the mysterious person who appears on Io quite early on, and the kidnapping of our heroine while visiting China, are both important developments which are just under-reported. Also, the policeman at the heart of the detective story element behaves in an utterly unprofessional way in terms of sharing his speculation on the crime (the destruction of a large city on Mercury, and related events) with our protagonists - it is as bad as The Terminal Experiment. As both Singh and Nicoll point out, our heroes' decision to crucially intervene in the ecosystem of Earth is arrogant and crazy, but reported in entirely positive terms. And there is a crashingly dull lecture on revolutions in the middle.

There are good bits too. There are two excellent descriptive set-pieces - the long walk through the tunnels of Mercury, and the dangerous spacewalk in the orbit of Venus - which really grabbed me. The descriptions of worlds other than Earth are vivid and engaging (just a shame about Earth then). But it's a bit of a trudge to get to those parts.

(Also, annoyingly, "Yggdrasil" was mis-spelt "Ygassdril" at several points.")
buzz

BSFA Best Novel: My vote

Not very difficult for me to rank them:

5) Empty Space: A Haunting, by M. John Harrison - possibly jetlag while reading it, but apart from Anna Waterman I found the characters unengaging, and I had difficulty following the plots and grasping how or why they intertwined.

4) 2312, by Kim Stanley Robinson - rambling and dubious but with a couple of good set-pieces.

3) Intrusion, by Ken MacLeod - a good book but quite a tough read, also tantalises with mind-blowing stuff happening off-screen.

2) Jack Glass, by Adam Roberts - a lot of clever stuff; a lot of entertaining writing; ending perhaps a bit too clever, but a good read.

1) Dark Eden, by Chris Beckett - I really liked it, subverting a lot of expectations of young hero versus conservative small society on an abandoned planet.

I'll be happy enough if any of my top three wins.
lovejoy

March Books 9) A Rag, a Bone, a Hank of Hair, by Jonathan Gash


'These aren't padpas, Doshie,' I said. 'They're tsavorite.' A tsavorite is properly green grossular, a sort of garnet discovered some seventy years ago near Kenya's National Park at Tsavo. Its lovely green lies between deep Sri Lankan emeralds and a peridot. (Tip: Don't buy a tsavorite unless it's above one carat in size.) 'Measure its single refraction, Doshie, to prove it isn't green tourmaline or green zircon. Save me a trip to London. Also, I know nothing about precious stones.'

For someone who claims over and over that he hates London, Lovejoy spends a lot of time there in this novel, which has all the rambles of the later books in the series (only three more after this, including The Ten Word Game and Faces in the Pool). At least, however, there is a core plot - with admittedly an awful lot of distraction - in which an even randier than usual Lovejoy attempts to wreak justice on those who have hounded a former lover, caused the death of her husband and threatened their son. (Whose son? Hmm.) There are some lovely Lydia moments as well - she is the most entertaining of the semi-regular characters in these books, and will get an unexpected twist in her tale in a couple of books' time - and the usual incredible detail about antiques and other issues (such as the precise distinction between a padparadsha and a tsavorite). I don't think this is a gateway book for non-Lovejoy fans, but it's an entertaining book for those of us who are.