June 23rd, 2013


June Books 12) Starship Fall, by Eric Brown

Had she still bee in love with Ed Grainger, and used me to get to him, guided by drug-induced visions of her future? Or had she merely been a slave to the drug, and craved knowledge of her destiny?
Sent to me by the BSFA last year as a freebie, a novella from Newcon Press about the narrator's love affair with a once-famous actress who has a secret past of mind-altering alien drugs. Not doing anything terribly new, but does what it does well enough. I haven't read anything else by Brown, but I will now look out for more.

June Books 13) EarthWorld, by Jacqueline Rayner

Anji opened her bag and fished for the slim black phone. No network. Surprise surprise. So they were in the past – or on an alien planet – or, just possibly, in Wales.
This is one of the books repackaged as part of the 50th Anniversary collection, but as it happened I read it because it is next in the series of Eighth Doctor Novels as I have been progressing through them. I liked it a lot, though it is fairly heavy on continuity - the Doctor is still suffering from amnesia, new companion Anji is mourning the death of her boyfriend in the previous volume - and I see this is a bit of a barrier for some of the GoodReads reviewers. This picks up the murderous amusement park referenced in the title, but also lots of mad alien stuff and entertaining misinterpretations of Earth history, all stuff that has also been riffed on by New Who. Rayner is rarely less than solid, and I enjoyed this one a lot, as part of the ongoing Eighth Doctor story arc.

June Books 14) The Gondola Scam, by Jonathan Gash

The canal runs straight from the landing-stage into the heart of what is left of Torvello's great square. Now it's not even a village green. The great stone arches of the fifteenth century bridges, the dazzling fondamento, the might of empire literally fallen and overgrown.
This is a reasonably good illustration of both the strengths and weaknesses of the Lovejoy books. On the plus side, Gash actually uses both Lovejoy's home setting in East Anglia, for the first quarter of the book, and then a richly imagined Venice where he becomes part of an industrial scale forgery operation, the details of the manufacturing fake antiques outlined in all their loving complexity. On the downside, women continue to throw themselves at Lovejoy for no apparent reason, he continues to treat them abominably, and the actual forgery plan is baroque to far beyond any point of plausibility, and the supposedly comic ending is almost identical to that of The Vatican Rip, published three years earlier. I think those who don't know the Lovejoy novels could take this as a fair sample of what they are like.

June Books 15) Miradal: Erfgoed in Heverleebos en Meerdaalwoud

De geschiedenis van een bos en een landscap is het resultaat van samenwerking tussen verschillende vakgebieden. Voorjaarsbloemen en archeologisch erfgoed hangen bijvoorbeeld beide af van de bodem. Het verhaal van prachtig gekleurde loopkevers die 'gevangenzitten' in een oud bos omdat ze hun vliegvermogen verloren hebben, is een boeiende mengeling van biologie en geschiedenis.

The history of a woodland and a landscape is the result of cooperation between difference disciplines. For instance, spring flowers and archaeological monuments both depend on the soil. The story of beautifully coloured beetles, 'imprisoned' in the old woodland because they have lost the ability to fly, is a fascinating mixture of biology and history.

This is a big beautiful book about the woodland near our house, which I have already been using to locate nearby tumuli. Despite the gorgeous illustrations, it's not really a coffee-table book, with eight very carefully researched chapters about various aspects of the area's history and ecology. Given my own interests, I admit I found the geology and history more interesting than the biology bits (I have difficulty telling an oak from a rhododendron), but even so it was pretty interesting.

In particular, I love the idea of hidden landscapes; the first chapter on the geology drew my attention to things like the London-Brabant massif (here just the "Brabantse sokkel", but looking it up led me also to the lost continent of Avalonia) and the Diestian Sea. It's also interesting to reflect that the number of tumuli, both Bronze Age and Iron Age, and various other Gallo-Roman remains in the woods, all suggest that the woods themselves are a comparatively recent historical development and that much of the area was in fact agricultural in ancient times. Historical maps show the woods actually advancing over the last few centuries. (Ents? Triffids?)

It is, I'm afraid, all in Dutch, edited by Hans Baeté, Marc De Bie, Martin Hermy, Paul Van den Bremt and Sara Adriaenssens, and published by the Davidsfonds, as part of their wider project of promoting Flemish culture and heritage: a good example of this sort of thing.

Finding the tree

Way back in February 2006, I helped F with the ceremonial planting of his municipal tree.

Fergal plants his tree

The commune dedicates trees to all the children turning seven in each calendar year. Most people pick up their trees for their own garden; we don't really have room, so opted to have it planted in the municipal garden. We were the only people to turn up to do the planting in person, along with two municipal gardeners and the journalist who took this picture.

I went back today to try and find it, and I think we succeeded:

F is now more than twice as old as he was in February 2006, and he has clearly grown more than the tree has!