December 20th, 2016


Short Trips: The History of Christmas, ed. Simon Guerrier

Second paragraph of third story ("The Feast", by Stewart Sheargold):
Ben Jackson brushed a cold snowflake from his face, wrapped the large coat tight around himself, and stepped from the TARDIS. Stepping out into the unknown was like testing his land legs after time spent at sea. He gazed about. They had landed in a cramped alley, the crooked, dilapidated houses arching inwards to meet one another. Coopers' barrels lined the wall near a stout wooden door. Must be a pub, Ben thought cheerfully. He could do with a drink. It was the simple things he missed, travelling with the Doctor. Oddly, this didn't feel like London; too quiet, too calm, despite the dark hour of the night. But the Doctor had assured them it was, even if he'd been vague about the year.
A lot of the Short Trips anthologies are Christmas-themed, and this is probably the only one I will read at the appropriate time of year if I keep on going through them at one a month. Christmas is a fairly narrow theme, but here it is taken pretty broadly: liadnan of this parish looks at Roman-era astrology (not the only author to go for that time period), and there are a number of good short tales here - 25 in 231 pages, so about 9 pages each - and for once no real stinkers. I guess the ones that stick in my mind most are "Christmas on the Moon" by Simon Guerrier, "She Won't Be Home" by Joseph Lidster, and "Saint Nicholas's Bones" by Xanna Eve Chown. But in general it is a good seasonal entertainment.

Next in this sequence is Short Trips: Farewells, edited by Jacqueline Rayner.


Kings of the North, by Cecelia Holland

Second paragraph of third chapter:
Raef stood up in the prow, his face wet with spray. He had not sailed these seas in fifteen years. He had tasted the salt tang on his lips now the first time he left the shore, at the far side of this ocean. The harsh edge in the wind made his blood race.
I had expected this to be a non-genre historical novel; in fact although it's based fairly closely on the historical events of the 1014-1016 period in and near England, the central character, Raef, has magical powers and is contending also with dark forces attempting to seize control of whoever is on the throne that month. I have to say I did not enjoy it much. It is the third book in a trilogy, and I think it may work much better as a climax to the other two; I found it difficult to remember which feuding dynast was which (George R.R. Martin has done that much better) or indeed to care particularly which of them would win (spoiler: Knut). I was struggling with other unengaging books at the time and it really cut into my reading rate.

This was one of the remaining books recommended to me by you guys at the end of last year, and I'm afraid you did not guide me well on this occasion. Next on that particular list is The Habit of Loving, by Doris Lessing, but the whole list is likely to be rejigged by my end-of-year survey.