August 2nd, 2004

Susanna Clarke in the NY Times

A rather lovely piece about Susanna Clarke (and Colin Greenland) in this week's New York Times [registration required if you're not using BugMeNot], in the light of her forthcoming novel Jonathan Strange & Mr Norell.

(I'm just at the end of chapter 2 and it's as wonderful as the article intimates)
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    The Afro-Celt Sound System - POD - Further In Time Remix By Mass

A Monday afternoon "writing a column" review: Glory In Death

J.D. Robb's " Death" series of near future police procedural romances are a strange fish. The SF is terrible (if not quite as bad as Adam Robert's salt-burning stars), the characters bland and anodyne, and the romance superficial. Yet there is a story in Glory In Death that keeps you reading Robb's potboiler story to the end, if just to find out that you were right about who did it all along...

Glory In Death finds Eve Dallas agonising about her relationship with an ex-criminal, while someone seems to be murdering people he knows. She wants to believe that her lover is innocent, but can't be sure - and is drawn into a drama that is very much of her own making. It's a tawdry affair, and one that could easiy be resolved with a little thought and analysis, but Dallas is blind to the truth and consumed with guilt when her own friends become targets.

Another light read, and part of a series that is probably best avoided.
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Another Monday "writing a column" review: Miss Wyoming

First a quick confession: Douglas Coupland is one of my favourite writers. While in Toronto recently I lept with joy on his two Canada-only photo essay books, Souvenir of Canada and Souvenir of Canada 2 (think of them as Polaroids from the Dead, but about what makes Canada Canadian).

So to Miss Wyoming, possibly his most accessible novel to date. A delightful love story, it's a tale of two lost people finding each other, and in doing so, finding direction. Susan Colgate is a one-time teen actress and rock star wife who disappeared after a plane crash, to re-emerge a year later a changed person. John Jonson is a film star who nearly dies, and while hovering between this world and whatever, has a vision of Susan. It's destiny that will bring them together, helping them both find redemption in the ruins of mass market culture, all in LA, the capital of trash culture...

Coupland weaves a tale of the roads that led them to their meeting, before leaving us to speculate on possible futures. It's a tale about the things that make a difference, the moments that make us who and what we are, wrapped up in the minutae of everyday existence.

Wonderful, fulfilling fiction. Highly recommended.
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A Monday evening "Still writing a column" review: Time On My Hands

What would you do with a time machine and a political agenda? Quantum physicist Jasper Hudnut has an idea - he'll send someone back to the 1930s to stop Ronald Reagan from ever becoming President of the US. Broken-hearted travel writer Gabriel Prince, the narrator of Peter Delacorte's 1999 Arthur C. Clarke Award short-listed novel Time On My Hands, is that man.

Finding himself in 1938, Prince falls in love with a doomed starlet, becomes a film writer at Warners (by remembering "High Noon"), and starts to befriend the left-wing Dutch Reagan. It's an ill-fated friendship, as Reagan drowns. Prince never wanted to kill him, so round the time loop he goes again. It's another journey that's going to end in death and disaster. For one thing, the time machine was stolen from 22nd time travellers, and the owners are in 1938 and want it back, and Prince's Spanish Civil War film script is turning into a hot potato.

Delacorte delivers a complex story of paradox, and the ease with which one man in the right (or is it wrong) place can change history. There's a flash of an alternate 1984, where Reagan's death has led to a very different world - but it's a world that Prince can't live with, knowing that it cost the life of a man he's found to be a genial companion and of the woman he loves.

Time On My Hands is a readable romp through time, asking the perennial question: "What would I do differently if I had another chance?"
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Another Monday evening "still writing that bloody column" review: Anonymous Rex

Eric Garcia's Anonymous Rex postulates the biggest conspiracy ever: dinosaurs didn't become extinct. In fact they're still here, living alongside humans, just wearing complicated disguises full of clamps and zippers that make them look human. It's a world where dinosaurs are your next door neighbours, and where some of the most famous feuds in history where actually territorial disputes between apatosaurs bearing grudges...

Vincent Rubio is a raptor - and a LA private eye on the ropes with a serious basil habit. His partner died just as they were about to break their biggest case, and he's now reduced to divorce stakeouts and dodging the bailiffs. A fire at a nightclub means a job that'll actually pay decent money for once. Unfortunately for Rubio it's a trail that will reopen old cases and old wounds, delivering the reader a dose of humourous hard-boiled detective action. Rubio is an engaging and sympathetic character, with a wry outlook on life. He's beaten but unbowed, and looking for a new lease on life. Perhaps this case is going to be his salvation. Sure, there's a little violence, but it's nature red in tooth and claw.

Garcia delivers a fun tale, with a dose of satire hidden amongst the dino-on-dino action.

Recommended. Even if you're not into dinosaurs.
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