General Books thread
10 January 2013 at 12:35 #1105PhaseShift @phaseshiftTime Lord
A general thread to talk about your choice of reading material. We can expand this section in the future to discuss specific genres, authors or specific books.11 January 2013 at 02:09 #1199janetteB @janetteb
I mostly read non-fiction now. I received a pile of books on Anglo-Saxon history for Christmas which will keep me going to the next ritual book exchange. My partner and I put the books we buy through the year away to give to each other at Christmas.
Favourite “genre” books include Lord of the Rings, Hobbit and Silmarillian. I have yet to wade through all the more recently published stuff. Thought I might start reading aloud at dinner to the family. Will probably have all the uneaten vegies thrown at me.
Another favourite is Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, and the classic Hitchhikers series. Forgot to metion the TV series in that thread. Other Sci Fi/Fantasy titles I’ve enjoyed include the Northern Lights Trilogy by Phillip Pullman, the Howl stories by Dianna Wynne Jones, A Handmaid’s Tale, Harry Potter, and the children’s Chronicles of Ancient Darkness series by Michelle Paver.
Janette13 January 2013 at 15:05 #1363Anonymous @
Can I just say I’ve just discovered Patrick Hamilton. What an amazing author – or at least his earlier works before he became too ravaged by drink, apparently. Am currently reading Hangover Square. Fantastic book. Tragic, funny and quite an interesting examination of a murderously troubled mind. Like Brett Easton Ellis filtered through Graham Greene….5 February 2013 at 22:00 #2419Miapatrick @miapatrick
@janetteb, I love Johnathan Strange… I love 18-early 19th century novels, and that is a wonderful example of an historical/fantasy novel that fits well in the time period. And Handmaids tale is in my top three dystopian novels.
@jimthefish: love Patrick Hamilton, not read that one yet. Re: Brett Easton Ellis- which of his have you read? I loved Lunar Park, then found Imperial Bedrooms oddly reductive- like Glamourama coming after American Psycho. I don’t know anyone else who likes him, though.5 February 2013 at 22:30 #2421
Oh, Jonathan Strange is fun. Though very difficult to get through the first part – Mr Norrell is not only a boring little man, he even reads boring.
But once you do struggle through that first part, it’s a great novel.6 February 2013 at 04:59 #2429janetteB @janetteb
We know that Moffat has drawn inspiration from books in the past, ie Time Travellers Wife. Given his love his fairy tales how apt if he were to take ideas from Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell. English fairy lore is so rich and mostly forgotten. That is a rich source of Who inspiration. So is Clara a log of wood?? (No. I think she was far too animated.)
Janette10 February 2013 at 10:38 #2573Anonymous @
the Brett Easton Ellis book that I remember liking the most was Less Than Zero. But it was a long time ago, when I was young and hedonistic myself. I’d probably find it deeply irritating now…
And on a general note, I’d recommend Ian Sample’s book on the hunt for the Higgs Boson — Massive. It’s a cracking read, I’m finding.3 April 2013 at 11:24 #4107
Very sad news about Iain (M) Banks today: http://www.orbitbooks.net/2013/04/03/a-personal-statement-from-iain-banks/
If you are unfamiliar with his work, then check it out especial Look To Windward – read it, note the dedication, note the publication date and marvel at the insight: http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/1841490598
For his non-SF I recommend Complicity. http://www.amazon.co.uk/Complicity-Abacus-Paperback-Iain-Banks/dp/03491057153 April 2013 at 13:15 #4109Anonymous @
Yes, very sad news about Banks. I’ve never really got really into his SF work yet — too many silly names for my liking. But The Wasp Factory, The Bridge, Complicity and especially The Crow Road are definitely in my top 20 fave books of all time…3 April 2013 at 16:34 #4111
It is sad news, though I admit that I’ve tried two of his novels (Feersum Endjinn and The Algebraist) and concluded that he wasn’t an author I like.
However, he’s one of the rare authors who manages to write both quality SF and mainstream literary fiction; he’ll be missed.3 April 2013 at 18:34 #4113Craig @craigEmperor
Yes, very sad. I’ve not read any of his SF yet for some reason, despite owning some of it, but I have liked a lot of his fiction (although some has also been disappointing). As @pedant (IAmNotAFishIAmAFreeMan) suggests, Complicity is a really great book. A beautiful, angry, masterpiece that is just as relevant now, if not more so, than when it was written. “You”, as the reader, become complicit…
There’s a great piece on him by Val McDermid in The Guardian:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2013/apr/03/iain-banks-my-fife-friend3 April 2013 at 18:35 #4115
I went thro a big Iain Banks phase in the 80s. The Bridge, Espedair St, The Wasp Factory in particular seeped into my brain. I also remember being blown away by Consider Phlebus and Player of Games particularly because this was a UK author (and a Scottish one at that) who could write “big” scifi to challenge the US icons like Heinlein. Comes over as a really nice man in real life, and kudos to him for never playing the “celebrity” game3 April 2013 at 18:58 #4123HaveYouFedTheFish @haveyoufedthefish
Iain Banks – while I still can’t entirely rule out that there is definitely no God, I can at least now be 100% certain that if He is there, He definitely doesn’t like a good book.
Ohhhh …. Bollocks.4 April 2013 at 15:02 #4165
@Bluesqueakpip The Algebraist is one I couldn’t read – you could tell when Banks was in the hands of a weak editor, and that one really slipped through the “Er, Iain mate, less of the self-indulgence please” net (The Business, in a different way, suffer a similar issue). One the other hand, at least he aimed high and missed, rather than not aiming high at all.
But Consider Phlebus, The Player of Games, Against A Dark Background and Inversion (not universally popular but I think very clever) more than outweigh the weak ones.4 April 2013 at 15:47 #4167Anonymous @
@pedant — that’s a really nice little piece.
I met Banks briefly many years ago — I think just about the time that Walking On Glass had been published — and he seemed to be a top bloke. He did me the honour of signing my much thumbed copy of The Wasp Factory.
But let’s not forget that the man is not dead yet. Let’s all just wish him as much happiness as he can fit into the time he has left and also remember that he touched and changed a great many more lives than most manage to do.
But he will be sorely missed when the time comes…4 April 2013 at 22:26 #4181PhaseShift @phaseshiftTime Lord
Yes, @pedant that was a good tribute. I have to admit I love a lot of his books, but there are a couple I don’t get along with. I think my favourites have to be “Player of Games” and “The Crow Road”, which I think is one of the best books on family, death and grief I’ve read. I was delighted to see him interviewed as a special feature on the DVD release and see him enthusing over the adaptation in a way you don’t often see authors doing. It was bloody marvellous though.
If anyone fancies trying small slices of his wicked humour, try “State of Play” a collection of short SF stories. It includes one Culture story, but don’t get put off if you haven’t read the others. It stands up on its own (and worked remarkably well as a Radio 4 play).
Also – a shout out for his guide book “Raw Spirit – In search of the perfect dram”. I will eventually get to do what I’ve promised myself I’ll do for a few years, and take my well thumbed copy, make a selection and do a lap of honour in his footsteps.
He’s kept MrsPhaseShift and I amused for years, and we can only wish him the best of times for whatever time he has left.4 April 2013 at 23:06 #4195
*Nods*4 April 2013 at 23:31 #4197
Coincidentally (or was it destiny?!) Dougray Scott who played older brother Lewis in the TV adaptation of the Crow Road (and went on to star in various Mission Impossibles) is featured in 1 of the upcoming episodes. Which was filmed on location in Scotland.
<hangs head. why did I not know about this when it was happening? 🙁 >4 April 2013 at 23:32 #4199
And yes agree, lovely tribute @IAmNotAFishIAmaFreeMan24 April 2013 at 09:28 #6569Miapatrick @miapatrick
@IAmNotAFishIAmAFreeMan- thank you for that link. How brilliant is that announcement? ‘Do me the honour of becoming my widow’. I have a personal love for ‘ghoulish humour’. It really does work. And a good reference to the NHS, which at the moment might do some actual good.
Ian Banks is one of my favourite authors. Ian M Banks I have always intended to try out- my mother, who reads a lot of sci-fi highly rates him, but hadn’t tried any of the ‘literary’ fiction until I gave her ‘The Bridge’. ‘The Bridge’ is, I think, my favourite of his books, and one of my favourite books, and now, association of ideas, I really wish we could have had an Ian Banks written episode of DW.
I was just coming to terms with Terry Pratchett having Alzheimer’s when I found this out. He also manages to talk about his condition with dignity, grace and humour. From personal experience I know how hard it is for someone, when they’re very ill, to put on a public face and manage other people’s reactions. Sometimes it brings out the best in them. I think humour is a wonderful gift, and the one thing that saves us, sometimes, from complete despair.14 May 2013 at 15:58 #9067overunder @jamesunderscore
I have only read one Iain Banks book, The Wasp Factory, which was furtively passed around my school like some kind of forbidden item when we were kids. I liked it very much, but somehow never got round to reading anything else of his. I fully intend to rectify this at some point, especially in light of all the praise he has received from people since his announcement.
An author I really like is Adam Roberts. He writes very literary and postmodern Sci-Fi, and his books are by turn hilarious and ingenious. His prose is some of the best in the genre, rich, descriptive and brilliantly subtle. I think my favorite of his is probably Yellow Blue Tibia, which is about a Sci-Fi writer in Soviet Russia and has one scene in particular, an interrogation by the police, which made me laugh so much that my wife thought I was losing the plot. I think Roberts would write an excellent episode of Who. He’s definitely a fan, and has even written a parody Doctor Who/Lynne Truss mash up called “Doctor Whom E.T. Shoots And Leaves”22 May 2013 at 20:42 #10397Anonymous @
It’s rather late in coming, but a random internet search today told me that Harry Harrison died in August last year.
There was a point in my life when he was a writer that meant rather a lot to me, so I’m definitely feeling a little pang at learning of his passing (as well as strangely feeling a little guilty at not learning about it sooner, as if I’ve somehow let down a favourite Uncle in some way).
I have to admit that I was never what you’d call a massive SF or fantasy fan growing up. At least not in the realm of literature. In terms of comics, TV and film, I loved the space age and the fantastic but I was never really that interested in reading about it. And I’m afraid that holds today, with perhaps JK Rowling and Philip Pullman being possible exceptions. I love Game of Thrones, for instance, but when Mrs Fish bought me the first two volumes to read, I just couldn’t get past the first few chapters.
There were two strict exceptions to this when I was growing up and my reading habits were forming. One was Doctor Who (as I’ve said many times now when I was growing up Who was for me a primarily literary phenomenon) and the other was Harry Harrison.
And like Terrance Dicks, the other major writer who loomed over my childhood and early teens, Harrison could probably never be really described as great literature. But it’s probably true that along with Dicks he was probably the greatest influence in my wanting to be a writer myself.
Harrison’s biggest claim to fame is probably his novel Make Room, Make Room which was the basis for the film Soylent Green but for me his best work were the Stainless Steel Rat series of books. The Stainless Steel Rat, aka Slippery Jim di Griz, was an intergalactic conman and thief who, along with his wife, a partially reformed psychopathic murderer called Angelina, were recruited by the Special Corps, a shadowy organisation which used captured criminals to catch the even worse criminals. His missions largely involved foiling alien invasions, time-travelling paradoxes, banana republic dictators and a shadowy bunch of sadistic brainwashing experts called The Grey Men.
Slippery Jim was an irresistible mix of Han Solo and James Bond with perhaps a dash of the moral code of the Doctor. He never killed and always used non-lethal weapons. (The same could not be said of Angelina, however.) His adventures were also very funny, often being described by reviewers as ‘Pythonesque’. He predates the likes of Douglas Adams, Terry Pratchett and Jasper Fforde by some time but he was for me the first example that SF didn’t have to be pompous or po-faced.
And, as I say, there was a strong streak of morality throughout his novels. It’s from Harrison that I probably learned that humour is a vital part of how we relate to others, as well as a respect for other lifestyles, and a deep and instinctive mistrust of authority and disciplinarianism. He also taught me a love of language and of writing.
His other works ranged from the straight space opera — the Deathworld trilogy — to more comic, vaguely subversive, parodic SF — Bill The Galactic Hero, Star Smashers of the Galaxy Rangers — and his own straight ‘serious’ SF — Make Room, Make Room and West of Eden.
If you never read any Harrison, then I’d recommend you pick one up at some point. They’re largely easy reads and a lot of fun. He’s probably never going to make the SF hall of fame like Asimov or Aldiss but he was definitely a solid part of my formative years and today I’m feeling rather sorry that he’s gone.22 May 2013 at 22:21 #10410
@jimthefish – you missed out The Technicolor Time Machine!
A very funny novel about a failed movie director employed by a studio which is about to go bankrupt. Thing is, he knows this mad professor who’s invented a time machine – so he manages to persuade the studio head that they can use the time machine to make a blockbuster historical drama about the Vikings…22 May 2013 at 22:34 #10412Anonymous @
@bluesqueakpip — good call. I remember really enjoying that one too. I also remember enjoying A Transatlantic Tunnel Hurrah. A very funny, vaguely Steampunky, alt history thing….7 June 2013 at 16:57 #11993curvedspace @curvedspace
@bluesqueakpip I’m glad to hear that you also perceived the first half of Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell different from the second half. I put it down about halfway through; I just couldn’t take it droning on any more. I left it for nearly six months. However, unlike other books that I’ve abandoned forever, I kept thinking about it. When I picked it up again, I was surprised at how good it was. It was like a whole ‘nother book!7 June 2013 at 18:16 #11995
@curvedspace – yes, it is, isn’t it? Jonathan Strange & Mr Norell is a most peculiar book – I once described it to someone as a book that’s all depth and no surface. I do now tend to warn people to keep struggling on – it really is worthwhile!9 June 2013 at 16:58 #12086
Iain Banks has passed away.9 June 2013 at 17:10 #1208710 June 2013 at 00:08 #12112
Just came across this very touching, and very personal response by Neil Gaiman, to Iain Banks’ passing10 June 2013 at 00:21 #12113Craig @craigEmperor
@scaryb Thanks for the link to the Gaiman tribute. Banks’ death hit me harder than I thought it would, perhaps because it has all been so sudden.10 June 2013 at 19:08 #12125Cath Annabel @cathannabel
@craig @scaryb I found the news hit me harder than I was expecting it to, as well, given that I didn’t know the guy, just his books (have to say, I loved Iain Banks and struggled with Iain M Banks…) . I do know why though – as I lost a friend earlier this year who also died far too soon, also from cancer, and also thought he had more time than he did have, and left his family and lots of others who loved him stunned and devastated. So it woke up all of that emotion for me – and reminded me how much I hate evil bastard cancer. Anyway, am about to read The Crow Road which I’d unaccountably missed so far. Which has the added benefit of allowing me to abandon both Alan Hollingshurst and Marcel Proust for the time being…11 June 2013 at 16:07 #12133Caconym @caconym
Sad news indeed about Iain Banks – and I hope you enjoy The Crow Road Cath which has always been a favourite and is sort of famous for its opening sentance. I like both his incarnations – the sci-fi can take a bit of getting used to with some very creative structures in some of the books (is is Use of Weapons where the story is told in two chronological directions?), but at the end of the day who wouldn’t want to live in the Culture. And he could name a spaceship like no other.12 June 2013 at 22:17 #12180
For @craig in particular and any other Banks fans – this was just broadcast on BBC Scotland but will be available on iplayer very soon. Interview with the great Kirsty Wark, recorded about 3 weeks ago. It’ll make you laugh and cry at the same time. And then want to go and kick something because it’s just so unfair!13 June 2013 at 11:53 #12198
@jimthefish Sadly I only came across Harrison’s Stainless Steel Rat through 200oAD (illustrated by the fabulous Carlos Ezquerra) but I still loved the stories and the character – no doubt filtered down though. Btw Slippery Jim di Griz… JimtheFish… ?13 June 2013 at 18:46 #12226Anonymous @
@scaryb — thanks for the interview link. I’m missing the bugger already. Now trying to have a go at some of the SF for about the 100th time. Maybe this time I’ll get past the silly names and get into it.
RE. Slippery Jim … yes, it is rather appropriate. And I definitely wanted to be Slippery Jim di Griz when I grew up. So maybe it was a subconscious thing when Jim The Fish was mentioned in The Impossible Astronaut. I just like the name basically.
Forgot all about the 2000AD adaptations. I personally didn’t think they were quite as good as the books. I love Carlos Ezquerra’s art but I wasn’t crazy about how he imagined Slippery Jim. He got Angelina spot-on though. Dream casting for Jim for me would be an in-his-prime Dennis Quaid, I reckon…13 June 2013 at 20:42 #12239Whisht @whisht13 June 2013 at 22:12 #12242Anonymous @
@whisht — yes, Carlos definitely based his Jim di Griz on Coburn and I can kind of see why (if you’ve seen Coburn in his Flint movies). But it wasn’t really how I personally imagined Jim. Quaid had the roguish cockiness I imagined for him. God knows who you would get to play him if you were casting it now. I can’t think of a single actor in Hollywood who has the charisma to pull it off.13 June 2013 at 22:49 #12243Whisht @whisht
@jimthefish – yeah, I (probably) agree!
I went a bit voracious as a young kid for Sci-Fi in a pretty undiscriminating way, but hoovered up Stainless Steel Rat (as well as loads of other stuff). I think I remember your memories of the books and think I agree, but can’t quite remember how I pictured him.
But it wasn’t as Coburn!14 June 2013 at 00:16 #12250
Ezquerra definitely modelled Slippery Jim on Coburn,
which was my only exposure to it, so didn’t have a problem with it, but I was aware of rumblings from fans of the book. I really loved CE’s layouts and you could tell he loved doing spaceships and spacey-buildings. And a definite thumbs up to 2000AD (pre ratbag Murdoch takeover) for crediting the writers and artists – were they the first comic to do that? The girls ones I devoured before then never did.
It’s funny how you can get such vivid ideas about book characters (and places) then you see them in a film (or comic) adaptation and wonder how they could have got it so wrong.
Heck, was only going to post a panel, but then I found the whole page 🙂14 June 2013 at 10:01 #12259chickenelly @chickenelly
Neil Gaiman is in charge of the Grauniad Book site for the day: http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/booksblog/2013/jun/14/neil-gaiman-taking-over-guardian-books-site1 July 2013 at 13:08 #13055Anonymous @
OK, I want to bring Madeleine L’Engle to your attention. Her ‘young adult’ book A Wrinkle in Time brought me into the sci-fi (SF? SyFy? gaaah, who cares about monikers) world as a small child in the wilderness of the Los Angeles suburbs.
This novel is where I learnt the word ‘tesseract.’ Although it’s characterised in the book by a woman bringing up her skirt in two hands to illustrate how an ant could walk across two points in time, according to Wiki a tesseract is ‘a four-dimensional shape (hypercube) that, when represented in three dimensions, looks like a cube inside a cube with spokes connecting the corners of the two cubes together.’ i.e., a wormhole. Yeah, well, an ant walking across the folds of a skirt is easier to imagine, thank you Wiki.
The novel was written in 1959 – 1960 so it’s even more amazing that the protagonist was a teenaged girl – in a book about time travel, alternate universes, alien planets, etc.
Re-visiting the novel as a fully-fledged adult, I’m a bit perturbed by the religious sentimentality (but hey, if you’ve ever been to America, you know how pervasive religion is there). The sequel was A Wind In The Door, and sees our female time-traveler going microscopic as she investigates her brother’s mitochondria.
Just wanted to bring this up, as I assume that British fans of time-travel haven’t been exposed to the American version that was swirling around before Hartnell landed in Potters Lane.2 July 2013 at 16:34 #13087Anonymous @
More Neil Gaiman on the way … http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2013/jul/02/neil-gaiman-sandman-prequel
Neil Gaiman’s Sandman returns for prequel
Author to release six-issue series focused on ‘the one story we never got to tell’2 July 2013 at 17:05 #13090Anonymous @
I actually am an author. The first novel in my series will be published soon. I will let you all know when the release date is set in stone. I am just waiting on having my novel edited and formatted.
My series is called Seven Deadly Sins. The first novel is titled Wicked. As Whovians, you all might enjoy my series. It is essentially a buddy / odd couple comedy set against a Contemporary Fantasy backdrop.
Here is the description of Wicked from my website:
Earth: it’s the promised land for Kin, beings from the astral planes.Some, beings of light.Others, The Fallen, beings of unimaginable evil…Seven Cyn is Kin and a CIA Operative. With her best friend Leon in tow, she flies to Wales in pursuit of an ancient relic, The Spear Of Destiny.Then throw the enigmatic Luc into the mix as he and Sev discover a love that defies the stars. Yet, there is a catch…Sev has been tasked with ending his life.Together, they uncover the location of The Spear and end up in a race against time with the survival of the whole entire Universe left hanging in the balance in a battle between good verses evil.Has Sev finally bitten off more than she can chew?
Enjoy! 🙂2 July 2013 at 17:18 #13093Anonymous @
Good luck with your book (and the whole series), @jillybeans – what age range will you be marketing it to?5 July 2013 at 01:24 #1319619 July 2013 at 23:12 #14156Anonymous @
Really didn’t know where to put this, Faces of the Doctor, as a new blog in itself, what? But I figured the most logical place was in the book section.
I’m sure a couple of you know that I’m a big AL Kennedy fan and I was re-reading some of her short stories recently and it struck me that one — Saturday Teatime — might be worth flagging up to people here.
As with all Kennedy’s stuff, especially her shorter fiction, it’s less than cheerful, with the only humour on display of the blackest kind. But as well as treading familiar tropes of sex, loneliness, emotional disconnection and so on, this one does it with an extremely personal and idiosyncratic personal reaction to the show.
Like I say, it’s definitely worth seeking the story out, but here’s a pivotal par and a really rather lovely reaction to the Doctor and the show:
And here’s the Doctor with the hat and the curly hair and the great big eyes. I’ve always liked him. The episode when he arrived to replace the preceding Doctor, I remember being nervous and little and troubled by change. I was trying to guess if he’d be nice and all right — keeping cautious the way that I might when I get a new teacher — and it took such a lovely short time to know he could be relied upon, was fine. The Doctor does what he ought to, sort things out. He opens doors when they need to be opened and he locks them when they should be shut and he shouts at important people who don’t expect it and he makes them listen and be sensible. I’m no longer young enough to believe that he exists, but he’s a good idea, entirely good, and when I’m by myself I still like to concentrate hard on the pictures that start each episode, because they haze forward and forward, seem like a tunnel to something, I don’t know what, but I’m quite sure I wouldn’t mind it. I would go there. I’d be brave. I have heard people talk about meditation and hypnosis and I imagine this is mine.
And later the narrator observes:
He mainly had dusty shoes, that Doctor — scuffed about and covered in pale dust, as if he’d been surviving, travelling all his life, as far away as he could be. I loved it when he wore the dusty shoes.
And as the narrator seeks to bring some order to her adult life, to escape it’s ‘awful mess’, she concludes:
This is all I want now — dusty shoes.
I’d be happy with that.
There’s obviously a lot more to the story than I’m explaining and I’m not doing justice to the subtlety and nuance of Kennedy’s work but I just thought that such a reaction to the show by such a major writer was just lovely. Needless to say, she’s top of my list of ‘name’ writers who I’d love to see write for the show.30 July 2013 at 15:34 #14609trinity36kao @trinity36kao
I’ve always wondered if there’s a official novel of doctor who?30 July 2013 at 19:08 #14615Anonymous @30 July 2013 at 19:10 #14616
@trinity36kao – Hmmm. First post really obvious on-topic trolling.
This’ll end well 🙂30 July 2013 at 19:15 #14621Anonymous @
@pedant – are you hoping for another hanging tonight?! You ghoul, you. 😀
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