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Preview: my elves are different

my elves are different

Droll enough for ya?

Updated: 2017-06-22T12:33:09.044+10:00




Books should be judged on their merits ... the right thing to do in this circumstance is NOT REVIEW THE BOOK.



(image) You know it won't be wound up in just three volumes.



(image) I only counted three!

Books Read in February


Divided into star ratings:

The Time Traveller's Wife (2003) by Audrey Niffenegger
Harbour (2010) by John Ajvide Lindqvist

Zima Blue and Other Stories (2006) by Alastair Reynolds
Distress (1995) by Greg Egan
Bamboo Horses (2005) by Hugh Cook
Why Should I Cut Your Throat? (2004) by Jeff Vandermeer
Best Served Cold (2009) by Joe Abercrombie
Last Argument of Kings (2008) by Joe Abercrombie
Before They Are Hanged (2007) by Joe Abercrombie
The Blade Itself (2006) by Joe Abercrombie

Engineering Infinity (2010) ed. Jonathan Strahan
Jasper Jones () by Craig Silvey
The Age of Ra (2009) by James Lovegrove
Arslan (1976) by M. J. Engh
The Magician's Nephew (1955) by C. S. Lewis
The Age of Zeus (2010) by James Lovegrove

The Inheritors (1901) by Joseph Conrad and Ford Madox Ford
Handling the Undead (2010) by John Ajvide Lindqvist
Terminal World (2010) by Alastair Reynolds

Against Gravity (2005) by Gary Gibson
The Age of Odin (2010) by James Lovegrove



(image) How can someone who writes for Breitbart complain about nihilism?









(image) I'm terrible for turning the passing of Brian Jacques into a joke about yiffing.

Books Read in January


Divided into star ratings:


The Caryatids (2009) by Bruce Sterling

Let the Right One In (2004) by John Ajvide Lindqvist


The Silent Land (2010) by Graham Joyce

Hull Zero Three (2010) by Greg Bear


Cowboy Angels (2007) by Paul McAuley

Cold Comfort Farm (1932) by Stella Gibbons

Foreigner (1994) by Robert J. Sawyer

Fossil Hunter (1993) by Robert J. Sawyer

Far-seer (1992) by Robert J. Sawyer


Empress of Eternity (2010) by L. E. Modesitt, Jr.

Mariposa (2009) by Greg Bear

Quantico (2005) by Greg Bear






(image) Haven't done one of these in a while ...









(image) Based on a tweet by Martin Lewis!



(image) L. E. Modesitt, Jr's Empress of Eternity piqued my interest because it centered on the study of a mysterious artefact (the Big Dumb Object trope).
Unfortunately, I found the novel dragged for me a little. I didn't particularly care about the characters, and often found myself trying to straighten out who was who in my mind.
It's set over three points in time millennia apart, which reminded me a little of A Canticle for Leibowitz. I wouldn't recommend this novel unless you're a die-hard L. E. Modesitt, Jr. fan, or a fan of the BDO genre.

Lovecraft Number


Following on from the Asimov Number post, this system measures the collaborative distance between authors and H. P. Lovecraft.It's like a form of literary genealogy.Thus Bruce Sterling wrote The Difference Engine (1990) with William Gibson who wrote Dogfight (1985) with Michael Swanwick who wrote Mickelrede (2000) with Avram Davidson who wrote Something Rich and Strange (1961) with Randall Garrett who wrote The Beast with Seven Tales (1956) with Robert Silverberg who wrote Nightfall (1990) with Isaac Asimov who wrote Legal Rites (1950) with Frederik Pohl who wrote Doomship (1973) with Jack Williamson who wrote Cigarette Characterizations (1934) with Frank Belknap Long who wrote The Challenge from Beyond (1935) with H. P. Lovecraft.Once I got to Isaac Asimov it became simpler!0. H. P. Lovecraft1. R. H. Barlow (The Hoard of the Wizard-Beast)Zealia Bishop (The Curse of Yig)Adolphe de Castro (The Electric Executioner)Sonia Greene (The Invisible Monster)Harry Houdini (Imprisoned with the Pharaohs)Robert E. Howard (The Challenge from Beyond)Frank Belknap Long (The Challenge from Beyond)William Lumley (The Diary of Alonzo Typer)A. Merritt (The Challenge from Beyond)Duane W. Rimel (The Tree on the Hill)Henry S. Whitehead (The Trap)2. Ambrose Bierce (de Castro)Hannes Bok (Merritt)Ramsey Campbell (Howard)Lin Carter (Howard)L. Sprague de Camp (Howard)August Derleth (Howard)Walter B. Gibson (Houdini)Henry Kuttner (Moore)Richard A. Lupoff (Howard)C. L. Moore (Howard)Emil Petaja (Rimel)Tevis Clyde Smith (Howard)Richard L. Tierney (Howard)Donald Wandrei (Long)Jack Williamson (Long)3. Henry Hasse (Petaja - Rimel)Frederik Pohl (Williamson - Long)Donald A. Wollheim (Carter - Howard)4. Forrest J. Ackerman (Wollheim - Carter - Howard)Isaac Asimov (Pohl - Williamson - Long)Ray Bradbury (Hasse - Petaja - Rimel)C. M. Cornbluth (Wollheim - Carter - Howard)Lester Del Rey (Pohl - Williamson - Long)Albert dePina (Hasse - Petaja - Rimel)Robert A. W. Lowndes (Wollheim - Carter - Howard)John B. Michel (Wollheim - Carter - Howard)William Morrison (Pohl - Williamson - Long)Thomas T. Thomas (Pohl - Williamson - Long)Jack Williamson (Pohl - Williamson - Long)5. Ben Bova (Asimov - Pohl - Williamson - Long)Leigh Brackett (Bradbury - Hasse - Petaja - Rimel)David Drake (Thomas - Pohl - Williamson - Long)Harlan Ellison (Asimov - Pohl - Williamson - Long)Albert B. Feldstein (Bradbury - Hasse - Petaja - Rimel)Larry Niven (Asimov - Pohl - Williamson - Long)Robert Silverberg (Asimov - Pohl - Williamson - Long)6. Steven Barnes (Niven - Asimov - Pohl - Williamson - Long)Edward Bryant (Ellison - Asimov - Pohl - Williamson - Long)Algis Budrys (Ellison - Asimov - Pohl - Williamson - Long)Samuel R. Delany (Ellison - Asimov - Pohl - Williamson - Long)Gordon R. Dickson (Bova - Asimov - Pohl - Williamson - Long)Randall Garrett (Silverberg - Asimov - Pohl - Williamson - Long)Edmond Hamilton (Brackett - Bradbury - Hasse - Petaja - Rimel)Keith Laumer (Ellison - Asimov - Pohl - Williamson - Long)Jerry Pournelle (Niven - Asimov - Pohl - Williamson - Long)Robert Sheckley (Ellison - Asimov - Pohl - Williamson - Long)Theodore Sturgeon (Ellison - Asimov - Pohl - Williamson - Long)A. E. Van Vogt (Ellison - Asimov - Pohl - Williamson - Long)Roger Zelazny (Ellison - Asimov - Pohl - Williamson - Long)7. Forrest J. Ackerman (Sturgeon - Ellison - Asimov - Pohl - Williamson - Long)Kevin J. Anderson (Van Vogt - Ellison - Asimov - Pohl - Williamson - Long)Poul Anderson (Dickson - Bova - Asimov - Pohl - Williamson - Long)Alfred Bester (Zelazny - Ellison - Asimov - Pohl - Williamson - Long)Earl Binder (Hamilton - Brackett - Bradbury - Hasse - Petaja - Rimel)Otto Binder (Hamilton - Brackett[...]






Asimov Number


Everyone's heard of "six degrees of Kevin Bacon", or the Erdős number ... I haven't really heard of anything similar for science fiction so I thought I'd work out people's "Asimov number".As with the Erdős number or Bacon number, the Asimov number measures the collaborative distance between an author and the starting individual - in this case, Isaac Asimov.Asimov himself has an Asimov number of 0. Co-authors with him have an Asimov number of 1. Their co-authors have an Asimov number of 2 and so on.Despite my choosing him because he was perhaps the most prolific author in science fiction, Asimov doesn't seem to have had many literary partnerships, according to the ISFDB.The list below isn't exhaustive ... feel free to suggest corrections if someone is in the wrong place, or if you work out someone else's Asimov number to include!0. Isaac Asimov1. Ben Bova (Beyond Our Brain, 1977)Harlan Ellison (I, Robot: The Illustrated Screenplay, 1994)Larry Niven (On the Marching Morons, 1981)Frederik Pohl (Our Angry Earth, 1991)Robert Silverberg (Nightfall, 1990)2. Steven Barnes (Niven)Edward Bryant (Ellison)Algis Budrys (Ellison)Samuel R. Delany (Ellison)Gordon R. Dickson (Bova)Randall Garrett (Silverberg)Keith Laumer (Ellison)Jerry Pournelle (Niven)Robert Sheckley (Ellison)Theodore Sturgeon (Ellison)A. E. Van Vogt (Ellison)Jack Williamson (Pohl)Roger Zelazny (Ellison)3. Forrest J. Ackerman (Sturgeon - Ellison)Kevin J. Anderson (Van Vogt - Ellison)Poul Anderson (Dickson -Bova)Alfred Bester (Zelazny - Ellison)Tobias S. Buckell (Sheckley - Ellison)Pat Cadigan (Sheckley -Ellison)Avram Davidson (Garrett - Silverberg)Michael F. Flynn (Pournelle - Niven)Harry Harrison (Dickson - Bova)Brian Herbert (Sheckley - Ellison)Nancy Kress (Sheckley - Ellison)Michael Moorcock (Delany - Ellison)Jody Lynn Nye (Sheckley - Ellison)Mike Resnick (Sheckley - Ellison)Kristine Kathryn Rusch (Sheckley - Ellison)Fred Saberhagen (Zelazny - Ellison)Charles Sheffield (Pournelle - Niven)Dan Simmons (Bryant - Ellison)S. M. Stirling (Pournelle - Niven)Connie Willis (Bryant - Ellison)John C. Wright (Van Vogt - Ellison)Jane Yolen (Sheckley - Ellison)4. Piers Anthony (Nye - Sheckley - Ellison)Robert Asprin (Nye - Sheckley - Ellison)Barrington J. Bailey (Moorcock - Delany - Ellison)Greg Bear (Stirling - Pournelle - Niven)Gregory Benford (K. J. Anderson - Van Vogt - Ellison)Ilsa J. Bick (Buckell - Sheckley - Ellison)David Bischoff (Harrison - Dickson - Bova)Ray Bradbury (AckermanMarion Zimmer Bradley (Bester- Sturgeon - Ellison)Jack L. Chalker (Resnick - Sheckley - Ellison)Storm Constantine (Moorcock - Delany - Ellison)James Doohan (Stirling - Pournelle - Niven)David Drake (Stirling - Pournelle - Niven)George Alec Effinger (Resnick - Sheckley - Ellison)Gordon Eklund (P. Anderson - Dickson - Bova)Chris Fowler (Cadigan - Sheckley - Ellison)Neil Gaiman (Moorcock - Delany - Ellison)Jack C. Haldeman, II (Harrison - Dickson - Bova)Joe Haldeman (Yolen - Sheckley - Ellison)Robert J. Harris (Yolen - Sheckley - Ellison)M. John Harrison (Moorcock - Delany - Ellison)Frank Herbert (K. J. Anderson - Van Vogt - Ellison)Dean Ing (P. Anderson - Dickson - Bova)James Patrick Kelly (Cadigan - Sheckley - Ellison)Holly Lisle (Stirling - Pournelle - Niven)Anne McCaffery (Nye - Sheckley - Ellison)Barry N. Malzberg (Harrison - Dickson - Bova)Richard Matheson (Bester - Zelazny - Ellison)Marvin Minsky (Harrison - Dickson - Bova)Rebecca Moesta (K. J. Anderson - Van Vogt - Ellison)Ward Moore (Davidson - Garrett - Silverberg)Karl Schroeder (Buckell - Sheckley - Ellison)Dean Wesley Smith (Rusch - Sheckley - Ellison)Mic[...]




Separated at birth


(image) Christian Slater and Leon Trotsky

'Lamplighter' by D. M. Cornish


The Foundling's Tale Book 2
2008, Omnibus Books, 717 pp, ISBN 978 1 86291 687 6

Sequel to Foundling.

Rossamünd is beginning his apprenticeship as a lamplighter, and it turns out to be a dangerous occupation. In D. M. Cornish's world, lamplighters tread the highways that thread the uncivilised outback of the Half-Continent.

These wilds are haunted by monsters, called "nickers" in Cornish's imaginative invented dialect, the implacable enemies of encroaching humankind. Although it seems that some monsters are friendly, and the bad ones may have legitimate grievances ...

Of course, the monsters are stand-ins for the indigenous people displaced by our world's colonial powers.*

Humans are slowly carving up the wilderness for farmland and an official policy of genocide against monsters is in place. Nevertheless, not all humans are unsympathetic to the monsters: our hero, Rossamünd, for example.

Rossamünd is slowly discovering some truths about himself, as well as about the sinister goings-on in the lamplighter organisation. Very slowly (for a lamplighter he doesn't seem to bright, haha).

It's pretty clear what's going on both with Rossamünd and an evident conspiracy around him, but it takes a long time for the boy to put the pieces of the puzzle together, and by then it seems that he's in checkmate.

It's great to revisit Cornish's world, which I maintain is very Australian in character, even if it is a world where Drs Frankenstein, Jekyll and Moreau were the ones who started the industrial revolution.

The book ends on something of a cliffhanger - Rossamünd's mysterious heritage is finally out in the open, after innumerable clues, but the real question is what happens next as he is saved by his patron, the wonderful monster-hunter Europe, and taken on as her factotum.

*Which makes me worry about the term 'nickers'.

'Foundling' by D. M. Cornish


The Foundling's Tale Book 1
May 2006, G. P. Putnam's Sons, 434 pp, ISBN 0-399-24638-X

It's really refreshing to see a young adult fantasy novel set in Australia, or an Australia-y setting. There may be scads of them out there but I've only read a handful so my refreshment is legitimate.

The first clue to the novel's antipodean setting comes with the glorious map of the Half-Continent (it really is the apotheosis of fantasy novel maps, and created by the author to boot).

If you squint at it you'll notice a passing resemblance to the south-east corner of Australia, with the focus on a city in a somewhat Adelaidean location (the author lives in Adelaide).

I'm willing to bet the Half-Continent is in the Southern Hemisphere, too.

The pattern of civilization on the landmass also resembles Australia, with towns and cities dotting the edges of a vast interior wilderness ... it makes me think of Phillip Drew's The Coast Dwellers: Australians Living on the Edge (1994) and poet A. D. Hope's Australia.

Drew theorized about the importance to Australian identity of (the majority of the population's) place at the fringes of an island-continent. Hope wrote:

... her five cities, like five teeming sores,
Each drains her: a vast parasite robber-state
Where second-hand Europeans pullulate
Timidly on the edge of alien shores.

And when you get into it, the world Cornish has built so vividly is a colonial one, with humans pullulating on the edge of the alien interior, a wild region infested with monsters. Human technology is at a steampunk level, but based on biological engineering ... more Mary Shelley than Isambard Kingdom Brunel.

More of that in later books, however ... the first book in the series is the familiar tale of an orphan going out into the world.

Rossamünd, bookish, raised in a foundlingery, dreams of a life of adventure but is the last-picked of his peers for an apprenticeship - being chosen for a lamplighter of all things. Leaving his bullying nemesis and kindly mentors behind to make his way to lamplighter HQ, he is immediately plunged into adventure.

Encountering villains, monsters, and monster-fighters, Rossamünd begins to have doubts about his society's insistence that the only good monster is a dead monster.

And that's exactly the kind of nuance fantasy novels should have (insert plug for Hugh Cook here) ... be suspicious of novels where there's a clear axis of evil.

Foundling is a real delight of worldbuilding, sprinkled with fun, deftly-defined neologisms and illustrations to create a vivid, immersive world.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, part 1


(image) This follows on from a tweet I made after seeing the movie.

Set design is one part of the Harry Potter films that I like a great deal. Production designer Stuart Craig has done a great job of bringing a world to life.

But I was rather annoyed to see Dumbledore's tomb (pictured above).

Is this the first time we've seen it? It looks like something you'd bury Mussolini in, not an eccentric old wizard!

What else in the quaint, gothic world of wizardry resembles this modernist monstrosity?

The only thing I can think of is the totalitarian statue erected in the Ministry of Magic during Deathly Hallows, and that is itself supposed to represent a sinister aesthetic break.

It seems as though the designer was completely ignorant of the look of Hogwarts, where Albus Dumbledore had happily spent much of his 115-year lifespan.

I'm too lazy to check the book to see how it is described, so maybe the tomb is true to Rowling's vision.

But either way I have no regrets that Lord Voldemort destroys it.

Kraken, by China Mieville


So I'm a quarter of the way through Kraken and discover that the book includes, quoted in full, a poem by Hugh Cook! The poem is completely appropriate for the novel - almost as if written for it -but still it's wonderful to see.

After writing a glowing forward to the new edition of The Walrus and the Warwolf, it seems that Mieville really has become an ambassador for the late and criminally little-known Cook.

Here's a link to the full text of Hugh Cook's The Kraken Wakes, originally published in 1977.