Get your spectral doublet and hose on - you're nicked.
It is difficult to imagine two things, on reading this novel - firstly, that the same person whGet your spectral doublet and hose on - you're nicked.
It is difficult to imagine two things, on reading this novel - firstly, that the same person who was responsible for the execrable Doctor Who episode *Remembrance of the Daleks* (it had Sylvester McCoy in it - ergo, it was execrable) could have written this rather spiffing bit of Sweeney-on-magic; and secondly, that Ben Aaronovitch has never been a member of the Metropolitan Police. The sheer level of police procedural research here is breathtaking - either Aaronovitch is a truly Olympic-class bullshitter, or he has undertaken a monumental amount of background reading. Aside from that, the ideas are fresh, the jokes are funny, there are genuine surprises, and the characters are not clichés. Full marks to Aaronovitch, too, for making a principal villain out of - well, that would be telling....more
I read this book at the same time a friend introduced me to Axe Cop: Volume One, the popular online cartoon strip drawn by a 29-year-old man to his 5-I read this book at the same time a friend introduced me to Axe Cop: Volume One, the popular online cartoon strip drawn by a 29-year-old man to his 5-year-old brother's instructions. Hollow City has disturbing similarities. Whilst it's undeniably atmospheric, continuing the same weird grab bag of characters from Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, it lurches from new made-up thing to new made-up thing. In Axe Cop: Volume One, the storyline changes with the same frequency you'd expect from the mind of a five-year-old ("Meanwhile, in the ocean...", "but then he got dinosaur blood on him and changed into Dinosaur Soldier", etc.). In Hollow City, new and previously unknown facts about the Peculiar World are serendipitously revealed every time the author needs his cast to go someplace else. For that reason, it isn't quite up to the mark of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, but it's well worth a read. There is one unexpected reversal, in particular, which is quite clever and will surprise you unless you've been reading in Agatha Christie mode....more
Well worth reading. The first few chapters contained many, many bits that had me tearing out my hair in frustration that I hadn't written them myself,Well worth reading. The first few chapters contained many, many bits that had me tearing out my hair in frustration that I hadn't written them myself, and this is always good. Like many other books that go on a completely random walk through the author's back brain, this one creates a highly effective atmosphere of lurking menace - because what is out there *is* so random, you have absolutely no idea what it might be or how it might be combatted, being in the same position as a *syndrigast* who can see nothing of his enemy but his shadow.
Does it have weaknesses? The Floridian bits had Yup, This Guy Comes From Floorda stamped all over them. To someone who recently experienced the tender ministrations of Merthyr Tydfil A&E, the Welsh bits seemed imperfectly Welsh. And it was in danger, once the curtains had been pulled back and the Big Mystery was there in centre stage, of becoming an underage superhero story. What stops it from quite straying into that territory is the weird whimsicality and, occasionally, almost total uselessness of the superpowers involved (Having a second mouth in the back of your neck...having bees inside you...). This book's Level Boss is also satisfyingly evil. Read it. It's splendid. I'm now on Book Two....more
How does this man use a safety razor without decapitating himself? Apparently, in order to write books like this, Dan Brown has to be suspended from aHow does this man use a safety razor without decapitating himself? Apparently, in order to write books like this, Dan Brown has to be suspended from a door lintel in gravity boots, to allow the creative juices to drain into his brain. Just imagine how the book might have turned out if he'd written it the right way up....more
...and yes, it *does* sound like the tagline to an ad for a popular brand of dishwasher tablet. Thomas Covenant has by now harped on his leprosy so lo...and yes, it *does* sound like the tagline to an ad for a popular brand of dishwasher tablet. Thomas Covenant has by now harped on his leprosy so long that even his own private leprosy specialist is banging his surgical-masked head against the walls of the consulting room. W C Fields proved to us via his comic genius that it was possible to make an audience laugh at a blind man. Stephen Donaldson has proven that it is possible to make me hate a leper. ...more
Two stories masquerading as a novel. Both stories are brilliant in concept. The first concept is that the gods made all the stars that line the heavenTwo stories masquerading as a novel. Both stories are brilliant in concept. The first concept is that the gods made all the stars that line the heavens, and the world's highest mountain, Stardock, is where legend says they were launched - cue Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser climbing to the peak to obtain starry riches beyond their wildest dreams. The second concept is that two evil wizards hire our heroes, unbeknown to all four parties involved, for opposing sides of a fight to the death. All modern fantasy writers have to face much the same decision reproduction furniture makers do, which is - am I going to deliberately go at this Queen Anne table I've just made with a belt sander to make it look authentically eighteenth century? And while I'm at it, are the characters in my pseudo-mediaeval world going to call each other 'you' or 'thee and thou'? The latter is very difficult to pull off unless you're a man who can comfortably turn up to an Oxford Union balloon debate as Alaric the Goth and address it in fluent Gothic (J R R Tolkien allegedly did this, and a few other people have also been able to manage archaic grandiloquence - Jack Vance was one, James Branch Cabell was another). Fritz Leiber, though he's wonderfully imaginative and often genuinely funny, often seems to ring a little hollow in that respect. But don't be put off by my nitpicking - this book is well worth reading....more
The act of reading this book was the most amusing part about it, as I read it over several weeks on trains between Euston and Northampton. The cover oThe act of reading this book was the most amusing part about it, as I read it over several weeks on trains between Euston and Northampton. The cover of the edition I read brazenly announced that it was 'Adolf Hitler's Science Fiction Masterpiece', and the artwork had Adolf riding a gleaming motorcycle out of a monstrous phallus-shaped space rocket, the whole thing backed by a colossal red swastika. I got a few funny looks. It's the sort of book which makes the devil whisper in your ear: "Take the tube to Golder's Green and read it ostentatiously in Starbuck's."
It's funny. It's *very* funny, as a fake science fiction novel written by pavement artist Adolf Hitler who narrowly misses becoming a politician in Weimar Germany but instead travels across the pond to America and reinvents himself as a science fiction writer. However, this is the sort of thing that is funniest when done in thirty pages. This takes over a hundred, and by the end of the book I got the feeling I was ruminating on the same joke I'd first digested on page ten. Spinrad, however, has fascism down pat. The obsession with ritual; the well-nigh-homosexual hero-worship of perfect male specimens; the monomaniac fascination with personal destiny. This last point, of course (this being Hitler's fantasy), is actualized by Jaggar's Excalibur-like acquisition of the Steel Commander, the legendary Great Truncheon which only he can wield. In the end, it's all about the leather....more
I read this book because I read *Snow Crash*, which is several times more awesome than the Bible. This book had a great deal to live up to.
And it's okI read this book because I read *Snow Crash*, which is several times more awesome than the Bible. This book had a great deal to live up to.
And it's okay. The characters - particularly Nell, Hackworth, and Miranda - were beautiful, achingly sympathetic, beautifully observed. The story began as a tale of a man's devotion to his daughter, which led him off the path of wisdom, and of a second chance for an unwanted little girl who would otherwise have been an unremarkable child of the slums. It occasionally detoured into surprisingly interesting pieces of philosophy - the discourse between Hackworth and Lord Finkle-McGraw on the nature of hypocrisy, for example, exposes the hypocrisy of our own era whilst leaving Victorian Britain looking surprisingly moral. The world is built up with such detail, such painstaking care, and then -
I suspect what happened *then* was a phone call.
"Neal? Neal! It's me, your agent. Reminding you about that deadline you've got. The one we paid you all that money for."
This whole lovingly crafted universe is then packed away in double quick time, inside twenty pages. Suddenly, we are asked to believe, they found out that it were all a dream. Awesome cosmic forces, million-person armies rushing towards cataclysmic confrontation, meet not with a bang but with a whimper. And yet the interludes that deal with Nell's progress through the *Young Lady's Illustrated Primer* come to a careful, measured, meaningful climax, making you feel that the author actually *intended* things to end this way *all along*. Surely not? Surely everything meant something? Where is the brilliant heroin high I got from *Snow Crash*?
Of course, if I hadn't read *Snow Crash* first, I might have thought this was brill. And I do think it's a bit brill, actually. It just has difficulty, like Lazenby after Connery, in living up to its godlike predecessor....more
By-the-numbers Pratchett. However, it's a tribute to the colossal abilities of Pratchett that even his by-the-numbers stuff is okay. *Unseen AcademicaBy-the-numbers Pratchett. However, it's a tribute to the colossal abilities of Pratchett that even his by-the-numbers stuff is okay. *Unseen Academicals* was on form - a sensitive treatment of a subject he hadn't yet handled, with (considering his current medical condition) a poignantly valedictory final sentence, which he then proceeded to roundly contradict. *Snuff* takes the Ankh-Morpork City Watch - who have now been to Hammer Transylvania, comedy Arabia, the bowels of the Earth, and, so help me, the Moon - to the countryside. Where they never thought to go till now. And Sam Vimes meets a country copper, encounters one of the few fantasy species that hasn't yet been Pratchettized (goblins), suffers threats to his person and family (who exist, nowadays, principally to be threatened), and furthers the causes of race relations, feminism, and good old fashioned Lawn Order. Yes, yes, I *know* he did that last week. He's a creature of habit.
But it's Terry Pratchett. So it works. Even a bad book by Pratchett (and this isn't one) is worth ten by lesser mortals. Buy. Enjoy....more
Like so much of Aldiss, the Helliconia series combines colossal artistic talent with a grumpy, curmudgeonly view of the universe. The great wheels thaLike so much of Aldiss, the Helliconia series combines colossal artistic talent with a grumpy, curmudgeonly view of the universe. The great wheels that the stars mark out around each other - the driving point of the Helliconia series is the fact that a red star, Batalix, orbits elliptically around a much larger star, Freyr - act as metaphors for the wheel of fate which, as far as individual human beings are concerned, grinds exceedingly small. All species on Helliconia - the "human" inhabitants who are the stories' protagonists, the phagors who retreat to high mountains in the summer and descend to rule the planet in the winter, and the hoxneys, Wutra's worms and kaidaws that flesh out the Helliconian ecosystem, will all survive (have all *evolved* to survive) each successive winter. The individuals that make up those species, though, are guaranteed to perish horribly. Accordingly, Helliconia's sentient species revere the wheel - the Pannovalian god Akhanaba is so depicted, and in this, the final book, where we finally get to see the mysterious northern continent of Sibornal, there is an actual metaphor made stone in the shape of a colossal wheel filled with religious contemplatives cranking it perpetually around inside a mountain. O fortuna, rota tu volubilis....more