Saturday, January 13, 2007

Read in 06

The sequel to last year’s literary round-up; maybe a couple of recommendations for you if you’re feeling stuck:

Coalescent - Stephen Baxter --- a family of women sheltering beneath the ruins of Rome evolve into a hive mind. Very slow burning start, but worth it.

Space - Stephen Baxter --- more big ideas; mindblowing stuff, but character takes second place to concept.

Spin - Robert Charles Wilson --- planet Earth gets trapped in time for 30 billion years. Proper sci-fi: questing, transcendant, expansive.

Neverwhere - Neil Gaiman --- approached with trepidation, the twelve year old trauma of the TV series still fresh in my mind. 380 pages. Cover to cover in one day.

Knees Up, Mother Earth - Robert Rankin --- Brentford for the Cup! Most fun I’ve had with a Rankin novel in years.

Seeker - William Nicholson --- triumphant follow-up to Wind on Fire; thrilling and moving.

Jango - William Nicholson --- sequel to Seeker. Exciting, spiritual stuff, but a little too similar to Slaves of the Mastery?

Arthur: King of the Middle March - Kevin Crossley-Holland --- 12th century teen learns of duty and responsibility from legendary namesake. An evocative and mature childrens’ novel of growth and loss.

Blood Fever - Charlie Higson --- James Bond as a schoolboy. No smoking, boozing, sex or nihilism, but amazingly still recognisable.

The Stone Book Quartet - Alan Garner --- Garner’s family biography; a meditative, haunting and universal collection of novellas about initiation and place.

Decline and Fall - Evelyn Waugh --- The perils of a public school teacher. Mean, intolerant, prejudiced, and shamefully funny.

Thread of Grace - Mary Doria Russell --- Fascists shelter Jews in WWII Italy. A haunting, evocative tale of human struggling.

The Man in My Basement - Walter Mosley --- Cash poor wastrel agrees to hold guilt-ridden capitalist hostage. Tiny but devastating novel about power, responsibility, race and self-invention.

Little Scarlet - Walter Mosley --- Easy Rawlins patrols riot torn LA in search of a killer. Dag, Mosley’s good.

Two-Bear Mambo - Joe R Lansdale --- Pre-diluvian Klan antics in backwards Texas town. Later Hap and Leonard books are a lot better, but still a fun, grotesque read.

Captains Outrageous - Joe R Lansdale --- Hap and Leonard on gruesome Mexico romp.

Lucifer: Exodus - Michael Carey --- graphic novel, so very quick read.

Lucifer: The Wolf Beneath the Tree - Michael Carey --- ditto .

Lucifer: Crux - Michael Carey --- GET ON WITH IT!

Lucifer: Morningstar - Michael Carey --- reading this monthly must have been torture. Here we have the end of the universe; if the end of the universe involved a fight scene and a conversation with God.

Daredevil: The Murdoch Papers - Brian Michael Bendis --- Matt goes down! Inevitable conclusion to 5 year epic. Satisfying, but comix, so utterly impermanent.

Top Ten: The 49ers - Alan Moore --- Prequel to third best title of ABC line. He makes it look so easy that you don’t realise how good he is.

Gotham Central: Half a Life - Greg Rucka --- Renee’s another fine Ruckan leading lady; the dialogue sharp, but the plot a bit meh.

Fables: Legends in Exile - Bill Winningham --- WTF? People think this is great? It must get better.

Seven Soldiers: Volume One - Grant Morrison --- read this twice, as I just couldn't get behind Morrison's storytelling the first time.

Seven Soldiers: Volume Two - Grant Morrison --- Well I moved on to volume two, so it must have won me over. Plus, Manhatten Guardian number 4 is one of the best singles I’ve ever read.

Seven Soldiers: Volume Three - Grant Morrison --- bunch of new stories start. Liked Bulleteer and Frankenstein. Mister Miracle, not so much.

The Crafty Art of Playmaking - Alan Ayckbourn --- salty old seadog dishes out essential, though sometimes obvious advice, laced with anecdote and example.

Writing for Television - William Smethurst --- solid, practical advice from Brit TV producer. Shame the examples were so out of date.

Million Dollar Screenwriting - Chris Soth --- great help with my 14 day screenplay.

Crafty TV Writing - Alex Epstein --- okay, I cheated, and skipped chapters 6-9. Otherwise, great.

Successful Television Writing - Lee Goldberg and William Rabkin --- chatty and informative manual, with useful examples and interesting exercises.

Writing the TV Drama Series - Pamela Douglas --- more practical advice, plus some good analysis.

Babylon Five Scripts: Volume Two - J Michael Straczynski --- best episodes of season one.

Babylon Five Scripts: Volume Three - J Michael Straczynski --- and so farewell, my sapphic telepath. Great to read in conjuction with Patrick’s episode reviews.

Babylon Five Scripts: Volume Eight - J Michael Straczynski --- skipped a few volumes, to get to Season Four.

Babylon Five Scripts: Volume Nine - J Michael Staczynski --- B5’s best moments were always the silent, coming home to roost, hit in the face with consequences moments, not the oh-my-god-make-them-stop dialogues.

Lethal Weapon - Shane Black --- every early eighties action cliche you can imagine. A nonsense of a plot, but Murtaugh and Riggs one of the great pairings.

Rambo: First Blood Part Two - The Mission - James Cameron --- racist, macho gun-porn. You got a problem with that?

Bad Boys - Doug Richardson --- early draft with lame climax, but great dialogue throughout.

An American Werewolf in London - John Landis --- the decision to have the showstopping metamorphosis come about two thirds through when we’ve been expecting it from page one makes this script brilliantly tense and laden with doom.

Event Horizon - Philip Eisner --- spooky.

Copenhagen - Michael Frayn --- Bohr and Heisenberg attempt reconciliation in the afterlife. Frayn belabours his metaphor. Not as clever as it thinks it is.

Blink - Malcolm Gladwell --- proof, if more were needed, that we don’t really know why we do what we do.


  1. try and read a girly book this year

  2. Did you ever finish reading that Christopher Booker one, The Seven Basic Plots? Seem to remember you blogging about it. I've got it in my Amazon wish list and am peeved no one got me it for Christmas, despite it being marked highest priority. Looks like I'll have to buy it myself. Damn.

  3. Is that all? You lazy bugger...

    Heck, I can't remember what I was reading.

    Although my Work Buddy lent me three to read:

    Peter Hamilton's The Reality Dusfunction, which I'll try and get into a second time, The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell and Alistair Reynold's Century Rain.

    The Sparrow was excellent, and if you haven't come across it give it a shot. Century Rain got off to a slow start because I was too busy, but it's turning into a great read.

    I would certainly approach
    Neverwhere with trepidation because I thought American Gods sucked and hated the Neverwhere television series.

    The books I tend to read (or rather re-read) cover to cover in a day are Dennis Lehane's Kenzie & Gennaro novels. You must have read them, right?

  4. I've read Darkness, Take My Hand, which I thought was excellent.

    Neverwhere was much better than I expected it to be - anon, does Neil Gaiman count as girly? His writing is certainly fey enough. You'll never get me to sit down with a Lesley Pearce, so Gaiman will have to do.

    Those Hamilton books are fucking huge, aren't they? Loved the first two, but can't remember how the last one ended now.

    Alistair Reynolds is on the list - I've had Revelation Space on the shelf for years, and will get round to it.

    I loved The Sparrow, and the sequel, Children of God, is even better. One of the books on my list - A Thread of Grace is by the same author. As a historical (WWII) novel, I wouldn't have given it a second look if I hadn't read Mary Doria Russell's SF first.

    O_R, I never did finish the Booker tome, and feel a bit guilty about it. I liked what I read, but just got sidetracked.

  5. If you've only read Darkness, Take My Hand - which is brilliant - give the others a shot. Oh, and they have to be read in order.

    Sacred isn't as great -- I think Lehane calls it his "Ross McDonald" book -- but Gone Baby Gone and Prayers For Rain are just devastating. As the stories get darker, it's all about the humanity of Patrick and Angie.

    Just picked The Reality Dyfunction off the shelf. All 1221 pages of it. Blimey, you could do serious damage dropping this on a small mammal. It's usually only at night that I get the chance to read, and there was just too much information to digest in the first chapter alone.

    I'll get around to Children of God as soon as I can.

  6. You are clearly all big fat swots.

  7. When I said Century Rain was turning into a great read, that might have been a little premature.

    The last couple hundred pages just blew. Avoid.

  8. I know; speccy git, me. Nose in books all the time - oh the things I've missed out on.

    Put those books down, kids, and get some fresh air. Go and talk to some girls (or boys). You'll thank me for it later.