Monday, May 07, 2012

April book round-up

Dear, please undo your stupid annoying-arsed changes, you idjits.  Ta ever so.

Full Dark House, Christopher Fowler
First in a series of detective novels featuring octogenarian police officers Bryant and May.  I picked up the first three B&M novels in a "container book" sale, which I think must be what happens to remainder books that get shipped out here instead of pulped or retired to Hay-on-Wye.  Given Fowler's previous bibliography, I was expecting something more in the supernatural line - or is that exactly what he'd want me to think?! - but in fact this is a fairly straight-up mystery.  Cast and crew in a controversial performance of Orpheus in the Underworld in Blitz-era London are being bumped off, and Bryant fancies he can detect a classical Greek theme to the murders.  Very good, but not so totally amazing that I absolutely had to read books 2 and 3 right then.  The Lovely Jo tells me the series improves.

In the Court of King Crimson, Sid Smith
Library book.  This intelligent, balanced and insightful book charts the fortunes of King Crimson across its many line-ups and across 30 years' worth of boundary-pushing music (up to the release of The ConstruKction of Light in 2000).  Includes track-by-track critiques not just of the KC studio albums, but of a couple of the key players' non-KC albums too.  Crimson is lucky to have such a fine biography as this - I wish some of my other favourite bands were as lucky.

By Light Alone, Adam Roberts
Disappointing.  Normally I'm all over an Adam Roberts book, but here I found the first 100 pages a chore, pushed on to the end of the first section at around p.180, then skimmed the rest.  Looked like a lot of unexpectedly flaccid prose and a twist at the end that was heavily telegraphed even on a skim reading of earlier sections.
The SF premise - food rendered unnecessary by photosynthetic hair, with all the sociopolitical implications that brings - has potential that just isn't tapped for at least the first half of the book, and didn't look well developed thereafter from what I could see.  The real premise is the kidnapping of a rich couple's child, and their divorce and political activism that follows the child's return a year later.  With only minimal tweaks to remove the SF angle, this could be a conventional thriller set in the present day.  Problem one is that I'm not in the market for conventional thrillers, and problem two is that it just isn't thrilling enough, certainly not early enough in the book to maintain my attention.  Between this and Yellow Blue Tibia, I'm starting to wonder whether Roberts has already passed his peak.

Among Others, Jo Walton
Borrowed from a friend, with the additional recommendation that it appears on this year's Hugo Award Best Novel ballot.  A teenage girl, the survivor of the incident that killed her twin and may have been caused by her mother's dabbling in fairy magic, is sent to a girls' boarding school far from home.  The genre story is that she's trying to thwart her mother's evil ambitions while retaining her own benevolent magical abilities, although this only registers as a side plot.  The real story is that she's an outsider and a lover of science fiction who undergoes a fannish awakening at school.  It's basically identification candy for SF fans, which I suspect is the main reason for its appearance on the Hugo ballot - it's punching above its weight thanks to its unabashed (and, if the truth be known, frequently intrusive) playing of the geek card.  Comes across as at least semi-autobiographical (or "transreal" to borrow Rudy Rucker's coinage).  It's a pleasant read, but there's just not a lot of substance to it.

The Last Days of Kali Yuga, Paul Haines
Collection of short stories (sadly posthumous) by a NZ genre writer with a preference for psychological horror.  Borrowed from a friend principally because it's on this year's Sir Julius Vogel (SJV) Awards ballot in the anthology category.  Generally good writing, albeit not my usual taste.  Top stories include "Doorways for the Dispossessed", "Hamlyn" and "Yum Cha".  The extraordinary "Wives" (which also appeared on its own in last year's novella category) also deserves a mention.  Top stories sadly don't include "The Past is a Bridge Best Left Burnt", new to this collection and also in this year's short story category, and worthy of shrugs in my opinion.

Cat's Cradle, Kurt Vonnegut
Ex-library, picked up last year, first time of reading, largely due to the fact that it was referenced several times in Among Others, so was fresh in my mind when I cast around for my next read.  Entertaining enough.  Picked up Slaughterhouse-Five at a book sale this weekend, so we'll see how that pans out.

1 comment:

Steve P said...

Hi John!
Been trying to locate you on FB... found Jo though!
Mssg me!