In past months…

Been reading:

Across the Universe by Beth Revis is a YA generation ship story, the first in a series – I thought it explored a lot of interesting ideas, although I felt it suffered a bit from ‘stupid character’ syndrome (ie. the main characters taking ages to figure out something that the reader has realised long ago). I picked it up because I read great reviews of it on Tansy Rayner-Robert’s and Random Alex’s blogs.

Eon by Alison Goodman, is a wonderful high fantasy with a girl-disguised-as-boy protagonist (Eon), and a lot of very high political stakes. Eon can also be a bit dense at times as to what is going on around her – perhaps this is just an ‘adult reading YA’ problem.

Deadline by Mira Grant is the follow up to Feed which I bought and devoured as soon as it was published. I really enjoyed it, but it had its problems – repetitive, a narrator whom I found frustrating, and a few plot twists which left me undecided as to how I felt about them. Despite that, I’m really looking forward to the third book and seeing how Grant wraps up the series.

Solitaire is Kelley Eskridge’s only published novel, and it’s a fantastic piece of science fiction. I only wish she had written another novel – maybe I’ll have to find some of her short stories.

– I have loved all of Tana French’s novels – while they sometimes push your ability to suspend your sense of disbelief, French’s writing and plotting is just so enjoyable. Faithful Place was no exception to the trend – a really wonderful mystery novel.

And watching:

– I binge watched the first season of Game of Thrones, which I loved – I have never read the books and I don’t think I will. The TV series seems to condense them very nicely (and then I won’t have the trauma of starting to read an unfinished series).

– The fourth season of True Blood is its usual very enjoyable mess of too many plot threads (and vastly improves upon its source material, I think – we don’t have to listen to Sookie’s interminably dull inner monologue about her morning routine, which is what most of Charlaine Harris’ books spend a lot of time going over).

Torchwood: Miracle Day is a full season of Torchwood being shot in the US with Gwen (and family), Captain Jack and a whole lot of new American characters. It is suitably thrilling and disturbing, and I’m enjoying it enormously. In the first episode, there’s a scene where Gwen slips a pair of pink earmuffs on her baby daughter before sprinting down a corrider, holding the baby with one arm and shooting at a helicopter with the other. I love Gwen.


(Photograph taken by my father in Antarctica, where he worked for a year when he was about 23.)

My father and I were watching the first half of Shackleton last night, the miniseries with Kenneth Branagh as Shackleton. I have always enjoyed stories of Antarctic expeditions, probably because of hearing my own father’s stories, but sometimes they do strike me as a little pointless – this struggle to be first, to be the fastest, to take the longest route.

And of course, with Shackleton’s story, you know how it ends, a failed expedition.

“The man went towards the manager’s house and we followed him. I learned afterwards that he said to Mr Sorlle: ‘There are three funny-looking men outside, who say they have come over the island and they know you. I have left them outside.’ A vey necessary precaution from his point of view.
Mr Sorlle came to the door and said, ‘Well?’
‘Don’t you know me?’ I said.
‘I know your voice,’ he said doubtfully, ‘You’re the mate of the Daisy.’
‘My name is Shackleton,’ I said.
Immediately he put out his hand and said, ‘Come in. Come in.’
‘Tell me, when was the war over?’ I asked.
‘The war is not over,’ he answered. ‘Millions are being killed. Europe is mad. The world is mad.'”
(from “South” by Ernest Shackleton)

I have always rather liked the story of Lawrence Oates (probably because of the noble self-sacrifice idea), and particularly after I read Geraldine McCaughrean’s book The White Darkness, which features the ghost of Lawrence Oates as one of the characters. I know that sounds odd, but it’s the most wonderful book – a little traumatic, but wonderful.

“Tragedy all along the line. At lunch, the day before yesterday, poor Titus Oates said he couldn’t go on; he proposed we should leave him in his sleeping-bag. That we could not do, and induced him to come on, on the afternoon march. In spite of its awful nature for him he struggled on and we made a few miles. At night he was worse and we knew the end had come.

Should this be found I want these facts recorded. Oates’ last thoughts were of his Mother, but immediately before he took pride in thinking that his regiment would be pleased with the bold way in which he met his death. We can testify to his bravery. He has borne intense suffering for weeks without complaint, and to the very last was able and willing to discuss outside subjects. He did not–would not–give up hope to the very end. He was a brave soul. This was the end. He slept through the night before last, hoping not to wake; but he woke in the morning–yesterday. It was blowing a blizzard. He said, ‘I am just going outside and may be some time.’ He went out into the blizzard and we have not seen him since.”
(Robert Falcon Scott)

Read & Watched in March

This March:

– I watched one and a half seasons of The Tudors for the first time, and am enjoying its lush and lavish scenery.  The frequent nudity is amusing –  I’m sure Cardinal Woolsey often enjoyed nude massages by his mistress.  Henry is now getting a wee bit tired of Anne, and Jane Seymour has just hove to on the horizon.  I expect a tragic beheading by the end of Season 2.

– Connie Willis’ Blackout, which I was awaiting with much anticipation, was rather disappointing simply because it is one book that appears to have been just chopped in half by the publishers.  The last page helpfully tells me to keep an eye out for All Clear which will be published later this year.  Yes, thanks ever so much for that – it would have been nice to know prior to plunging my way through Blackout and being brought up short at the ending.  I will read All Clear, of course, because I think Connie Willis is marvellous, but Blackout is not really a book in itself, nor is it part of a series – it’s a poor half-book, stuck in a pair of covers all by itself.

– I have discovered, rather belatedly, the world of podcasts, specifically those to do with sci-fi and fantasy.  Galactic Suburbia, which I am impatiently waiting for a fourth episode of, is an Australian podcast by three women discussing all aspects of sci-fi and fantasy (or speculative fiction, which is a nice categorisation for all sorts of things that I love), and particularly feminist aspects of speculative fiction.  Great stuff.  And their most recent episode, with a couple of snippets about SwanCon, has made me wonder about the attraction of conventions, which I’ve always figured are more for the… I don’t know, costume-wearing fans, rather than myself.  But perhaps this deserves re-thinking, particularly with AussieCon4 in Melbourne this year.

Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy is another cool podcast, featuring interviews each week with a bunch of different authors.  I like the wide variety of its topics, from Tolkien to robots used by the military.

– I also watched the fourth season of Weeds, which was an interesting transition from a show in which Nancy is a sympathetic character, dealing weed to keep in her kids in the lifestyle to which they have become accustomed (and somewhat clumsily navigating the various drug cartels along the way) to the Nancy of the fourth season, who is employed by drug traffickers, and whose children are involved (however peripherally) in the drug trade.  With her determined blindness to certain aspects of the organisation she’s involved with, she is a much less sympathetic character, and the whole show spirals into a darker place, in which the humour that fitted so well in the earlier seasons seem a little misplaced.

In April, I’m looking forward to some more Tudors, a new Robin Hobb book, and a couple of novellas by Australian authors about outer space and unicorns.

Watching, reading

I am watching The Incredible Hulk, without a great deal of attention – partly because it’s not a very good movie, and partly because I much preferred Eric Bana as Hulk. I know most people thought that movie was far too long and faux-arty, but I liked it. I like the origin story more than Bruce and Betty (what names) dashing around the countryside trying to escape the military, who at present appear to be staging a war on what I think is a university campus. Very inconspicuous, guys.

After deciding that AS Byatt’s Possession was too long and too filled with poetry for me to ever read properly (I can be a scatty reader at times), I am now listening to it and enjoying it tremendously. (Although I must confess that every time there’s an entire chapter of epic poetry I have been flicking through them.) It is the perfect book to listen to – filled with rich language, letters, poems and diary entries – I am so fond of epistolary novels. And I am enthralled – do we ever find out the whole story of RH Ash and Christabel LaMotte? Don’t tell me, I don’t want to know. I am a fair way through now – disc 12 of 19 – and listening to Christabel’s French cousin writing in her first journal, about how much she wishes to be a writer, and perhaps a poet like dear Christabel.

Movie Log – Da Vinci Code

These were some of the fireworks I saw on the insanity that is Territory Day in Darwin (which means the ability for the general public to let off fireworks wherever they choose).

Wandering around the video store (which despite the absence of videos I cannot seem to start calling the DVD store) with instructions to “grab a movie to watch tonight”, I ended up renting The Da Vinci Code – not with any great hopes of it being a good movie, but judging that as Husband had read the book he may find it less objectionable than Serenity (aka cowboys in space), which I also rented to re-watch. We agreed that while The Da Vinci Code was terribly written, perhaps the story was exciting enough to make a good movie.

“I don’t think,” I mused after watching Paul Bettany screaming in agony while strapping a length of hooks onto his calf, “that the insane albino monk character quite works on screen.” Said insane monk is easier to accept on the page – watching him creep about in brown hooded cloak and sandals, in the decidedly modern streets of Paris and London, is ludicrous. Inspired by the pages and pages of exposition the book suffers from, Tom Hanks as the smug Robert Langdon finds it necessary to provide short lectures on various subjects which sound just as awkward as they do in the book. While the bewildered and troubled Sophie does her best on behalf of the audience to ask our incredulous questions – “The who? The what?” – it is difficult to get worked up about their quest. Why do we care who the current descendant of Jesus is? Particularly when the “royal bloodline” is going to be rather watered down several thousand years later. The answer seems to be, “Because the bad guys do – look, they’re trying to kill us!”, which I don’t find particularly satisfactory.

And why – which is never explained – is there only one descendant? Have the bad guys been so diligent in killing off Jesus’ great-great-great-etcs that we’ve ended up with one left? I find that hard to believe – and I can’t remember how or if Brown resolves that in the book. And the good guys, who so diligently protect Jesus’ progeny, also apparently have a penchant for pagan sex rituals. Make up your mind, lads – you’re either sacrificing your lives to protect the Christian bloodline, or you’re getting in on pre-Christian rituals. One or the other, please.

A fairly dreadful movie, although amusing in parts (most of those involving Paul Bettany’s insane albino monk). Neither of us feel any great compunction to read Brown’s sequel, scheduled for publication later this year, although I probably will at some point. It would be interesting, after all the criticism of Brown’s writing (I particularly liked Stephen Fry’s “arse gravy of the worst kind” description) whether he has changed anything for this book – although why change a formula that works, I suppose.