should be ashamed
Join Date: 19 Oct 2005
Location: Highlands of Scotland
Re: Palimplists 2013
- Space Family Stone by Robert A. Heinlein - the quintessential Heinlein mix of Family Values, obedience to higher authority, reckless disregard for petty governmental restrictions, and the virtues of being able to do calculus in your head while in free fall (useful when squaring the circle of obedience to higher authority while demonstrating a reckless disregard for petty governmental restrictions). Nostalgic fun.
- Pavane by Keith Robert
- The True Adventures of the World's Greatest Stuntman by Vic Armstrong. In which I discovered a local chap with whom I have a nodding acquaintance (just) has worked on films starring Robert de Niro, Clint Eastwood etc. Small world.
- When the Comics Went to War by Adam Riches, Robert Frankland and Tim Parker.
- Worlds of the Imperium by Keith Laumer - Clonk! Sock! Pow! 1962 SF novel which pads out a short story's worth of plot with a lot of fist fights.
- Captain Black: a Romance of the Nameless Ship or Captain Black: a Sequel to "The Iron Pirate", depending on which edition you read. Well that was a marathon. I started this sometime towards the end of last year. I started reading this version online but got so irritated by all the typos I searched out the original scans from which the OCR had been done. Found out just why the OCR became utterly unreadable garbage from time to time and then had a rush of OCD madness and started to proofread the OCR. I had to borrow a copy of the 1911 edition of the book from Cambridge University library to fill in the missing pages. Next month sometime I'll finally get some print on demand place to burp out a copy of my meticulously corrected text which I will place on my bookshelves next to my copy of The Iron Pirate and then ignore, probably for the rest of my life. I have no idea why I'm doing this. It is a godawful book. The first one had a weird manic drive, the second is just repetitive and boring - though the moment where the pirates' submarine is attacked by a giant cuttlefish as it shoots the rapids down an underground Spanish river is something I won't forget in a hurry.
- Shane and Other Stories by Jack Schaefer
- A Sillitoe Selection by Allan Sillitoe
- Mr Fortune's Maggot by Sylvia Townsend Warner
- A Journey to the Centre of the Earth by Jules Verne. Another never-read-before 'classic' of early SF. Verne apparently never left France. Having read this I wonder if he ever left his desk or lifted anything heavier than a pen. The amount of stuff the three protagonists lug about in this book is hard to comprehend. In addition to a two hundred foot long rope ladder, pick-axes, crow bars, four month's supply of food, flasks of brandy, a raft of scientific instruments etc. etc. etc. they also managed to pack a barrel containing 50 pounds! of gun cotton. This comes in useful when the travellers' way is blocked by a huge granite boulder. Amazingly it takes only 6 hours with a crowbar to carve a hole big enough to accommodate the gun cotton. Which makes me think either the granite was bloody soft (take it from me granite isn't) or Verne doesn't have a clue what he's writing about. Fifty pounds (25kg-ish) is the weight of a bag of cement and, according to my dad who played with plenty of the stuff during his National Service days, the volume would be about that of 25 house bricks. Then add the weight of the barrel itself... It's nonsense. I can forgive Verne the bizarre (to modern eyes) geology and palaeontology he writes about, he was playing well within the boundaries scientific knowledge/theory of the time* and was famously dismissive of Wells for inventing unscientific motors for his stories but I can't forgive him for things like this which are just stupid, lazy storytelling.
*The word 'palaeontology' had been coined less than 30 years before he wrote A Journey to the Centre of the Earth.
- The Tenth Victim by Robert Sheckley. Another never-before-read classic which is extra surprising given that Sheckley is a favourite author. This may have just become my favourite Sheckley. Short, sharp, and brilliantly funny. Laugh out loud funny. There is one long sequence of controlled chaos that had me laughing solidly for several pages. Best book of the year so far.
- Doctor Who: The Only Good Dalek by Mike Collins (Artist), Justin Richards (Author) Totally Crap 'Graphic Novel' which took five people to colour in.
- The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald - one of those never read before 'children's classics' which left me very very underwhelmed.
- The Dark Side of The Earth by Alfred Bester - a 1964 collection of short stories.
- Midworld - Alan Dean Foster an earlyish SF from the prolific Alan Dean Foster winner (wikipedia informs me) of a 2008 Grand Master award from the International Association of Media Tie-In Writers. There's an International International Association of Media Tie-In Writers?
- The Big Gold Dream by Chester Himes. I like Chester Himes. He makes me laugh.
- Molly Zero by Keith Roberts. Oh dear. The first (and I hope it will be the only) book I have read written in the second person present tense. Or at least the only one that doesn't end each chapter with a decision and instructions on which page to turn to next:
What a piece of crap. I like Robert's writing. His Pavane is one of my all time SF greats. But this is endless repetitive meandering drivel. Basically we spend a couple of years wandering round a post-apocalyptic future with a petulant teenage girl who can't make up her mind whether she's gay or not (did I mention this was written by a middle-aged man?). During the course of the novel she falls in with various types and groups who give her ample opportunity to learn how shit everything really is. (It's Candide with tits!) The resolution is obvious from start and simply isn't worth wading through the book to get to. Molly Zero jointly won the 1980 British Science Fiction Association Best Novel Award. As far as I can find out, it has never been reprinted (in English) since. His next book, Kiteworld, was a cracker.
You decide to fight the Balrog. You draw your sword and attack... Turn to page 45
You decide to flee the Balrog's foetid lair. You grab the chalice from the altar and start to run... Turn to page 127
- Preludes & Nocturnes by Neil Gaiman et al - yeah I know it's a comic book.
- Sturgeon in Orbit by Theodore Sturgeon. Pretty turgid bunch of stories which I struggled with and was rewarded in the end by the final story, a brilliant example of old-school schlock of monumental awfulness. The Incubi of Parallel X tells of a distant future where invading midget aliens have harvested the world's women for some vital ingredient for margarine - or something. Whatever the reason, the aliens were destroyed and now the world, with an over-abundance of men, is sinking into barbarity. Save, that is, for our hero whose father built a Gateway and hid lots of women in another dimension before inconveniently getting himself killed and taking the secret of its access with him. Needless to say after 20 years our hero finds a way in, for "even thirty or forty year old women would be of some use", only to find as the gateway collapses behind him (three dramatic chords please!) that the women are Giants! Some strange slippage in the fabric of blah blah has caused giant women to strut around the pages of a 1951 edition Planet Stories.
Luckily this make-it-up-as-you-go-along theoretical physics applies to time too. The hero thinks 20 years have passed; the women think it is a matter of months. Our hero is stranded in a world full of huge GOOD LOOKING! (i.e. not 'thirty or forty' year-old) women. Luckily for him, his girlfriend, back in the lab, fixes the dimensional gateway dingus damaged by the religious nutter on the loose and he gets home. The women take a bit longer to get back as they have to take a detour through another universe to get themselves back to normal size. Gloriously awful. I suspect the story was written to order to fit this cover painting.
'Remember the vibratory interaction theory of matter? It hypothesised that that universes interlock. Universe A presents itself for x duration, one cycle, then ceases to exist. Universe B replaces it; C replaced B; D replaces C, each for one micro-milli-sub-n-second in time*. At the end of the chain, Universe A presents itself again. The two appearances of Universe A are consecutive in terms of an observer in Universe A. Same with B and C and all the others. Each seems to its observers to be continuous, whereas all are actually recurrent. That's elementary.'
*give or take a bit.
- Merchanter's Luck by C J Cherryh. My first read of a novel by the prolific Cherryh (60 books since the mid-1970s) left me not particularly impressed. I spent a lot of the book wondering what the hell was going on and why. This despite the fact that people were endlessly explaining the situation to each other back and forth and then going off and explaining it to someone else. Sometimes there were long discussions where the local (to the newcomer, incomprehensible) political situation was explained and the characters would then go off and explain it all to someone else. Lots and lots of yadda yadda yadda in the book - interspersed by moments when the plot looked it finally might start to get going... whereupon everyone would start another round of yadda yadda explaining in tedious detail (including details of bank transactions) what was going to happen and why it was a bad idea. Maybe those familiar with the 'universe' the book was set it (developed in, currently, 27 novels and seven short story anthologies) might have had more idea but I was at a loss. I spent a lot of the time parsing sentences to try and work out what they meant too. A very odd stream of conciousness writing style that left me cold. The plot, when it finally emerged from under all the baffling verbiage, was very thin.
- The General Zapped an Angel by Howard Fast. The author of Spartacus writes SF! Just. A couple of these stories are passable, a couple are hopeless, couple are bloody awful, none would have been accepted for any SF mag of the period (or since). I doubt if they would ever have seen the light of day if Fast hadn't been a very established, well selling author.
- Eye Among the Blind (1976) by Robert Holdstock - well, I have no idea what that was all about. The human race died from inexplicable something, and some aliens evolved backwards (even after they had died), and the hero wasn't afraid any more at the end of the book. Ursula le Guin liked it (or got paid to like it) on the back cover. I've never understood any of her books either so I suspect it was just too damn smart for me.
- Trullion: Alastor 2262 by Jack Vance. I think I may be, finally, getting Vance. That was most entertaining.
- The Chessmen of Mars (1925) by Edgar Rice Burroughs. That too was fun, in a godawful compulsive guilty page-turning way.
- The Making of The African Queen, or: How I Went to Africa with Bogart, Bacall and Huston and Almost Lost my Mind by Katherine Hepburn. Chatty little memoir about the making of a film I haven't watched in far too long. Not very informative but entertaining enough.
- The Space Merchants by Frederik Pohl, C. M. Kornbluth. Another of those books that regularly appears in those '100 all time great SF novels' list which, it turns out, I have never read before. Its place on all those lists is well deserved. It's a great little book.
- Angado by E C Tubb. The 29th of Tubb's Dumarest books and almost exactly the same as all the others. This time though there was a gay character. Gosh!
- The Lion Game by James Henry Schmitz. At the time they were written the Telzey Amberdon stories were widely regarded, at least by the readership of Analog magazine where they first appeared and would often make the cover. This fix-up of three of the short stories into a rough facsimile of a novel makes me wonder why. It's awful. A heroine is 15 year old a genius, a law student, and a psi supergirl who can instantly hypnotise bad guys at will (except when she can't because the story would just stop if she did). Galumphing, leaden prose full of 'and then and then' telling loads of make it up as you go along back-story which just add layers of spurious complication but do little to advance the plot. (Heroine is captured and escapes, captured and escapes, captured and escapes, the end.) Yawn.
- Takeoff! by Randall Garrett - a reread. 'Humorous' SF which for the most part left me unamused; apart from the very funny, spot-on parody of E E 'Doc' Smith, "Backstage Lensman". The only reason I kept the book.
- The Paradise Game by Brian Stableford.
- New Worlds of Fantasy #3 ed. Terry Carr - small collection of short stories in which I discovered you could use the word 'fuck' in an American mass market paperback back in 1965.
- The Case of the Howling Dog by Erle Stanley Gardner. Another in my Unread Authors I Have Known About All My Life Project. The Case of the Howling Dog is a Perry Mason mystery. It is shit. Mason, as a character, is an arrogant arse who alternates between endlessly repeating the facts as known in the case so far to every character that wanders into the plot (thus in chapter two he recaps the events that took place in chapter one, in chapter three he recaps chapters one and two etc.) and brusquely ordering his cardboard minions to perform legally dubious acts without explaining why (apart from repeating variations of the same self-serving speech about his duty to protect his client/s). In the end there's the expected courtroom scene in which Perry pulls dramatic magic plot rabbits out of thin air and gets his client off. (Magic rabbits include the totally out-of-the-blue revelation that a character is ambidextrous, the announcement in the papers of the discovery of two bodies under a concrete floor at the original crime scene by detectives who didn't bother to tell the DA's office before they started digging. (The 'tecs were responding to an anonymous tip off from Mason, delivered to a local newspaper.) And the fact that the dog shot at the scene of the crime wasn't the dog everyone thought it was but an identical dog substituted by the murder victim to cover up the murders of the two people under the concrete floor.) In the end whodunnit isn't resolved, though the implication is that the client who Perry has proven innocent was the guilty party.
And it's stuffed full of writing like this:
I don't think I'll be bothering again.
[Mason is pontificating to his assistant about courtroom psychology.]
Everly's face lit up. 'All right,' he said, 'now tell me just how that applies to the jury. I'm commencing to think I see.'
- Exploits of Engelbrecht: Abstracted from the Chronicles of the Surrealist Sportsman's Club by Maurice Richardson. Reread of a collection of strange stories telling of the sporting career of Engelbrech 'the dwarf surrealist boxer'. A book to be dipped into from time to time rather than consumed in one sitting. Very funny and stupidly expensive; I have no idea where I bought my copy but there's no way I paid the stupid prices being asked for the same (first) edition at Amazon.
- Uncle by J P Martin - I loved the Uncle books when I was a kid. (I was not alone.) I'm glad to say my kids get it too. This must be the third time I've read this for a bedtime read to Number One Daughter. (And talking of stupid prices....) 24
- The Listerdale Mystery by Agatha Christie. Another of the Unread Authors list ticked off. Twelve bland little stories which shunt around a limited number of pieces: Crooks pretending to be policemen, announcement of stolen jewels in the paper, immediate finding of stolen jewels by hapless protagonist (who puts on the wrong pair of trousers, drives off in the wrong car etc.), assumed racism:
all pretty meh. So what. One story had promise, The Girl on the Train, which was shaping up to be a fun Robert Lois Stephenson style farce - after an argument with his benefactor uncle the suddenly impoverished nephew (the above mentioned George) sets out at random to have an adventure, and before many paragraphs have passed is embroiled in a farrago of spies, foreign royalty, and midnight skulkings. Then sadly, the plot just ran out of steam and the story stopped far too soon. If I suspected for an instant that Christie wrote more stories like The Girl on the Train I would dig deeper.
George had the true-born Briton's prejudice against foreigners--and an especial distaste for German looking foreigners.
- Confessions of a Pop Performer by Timothy Lea - I hate nostalgia. I hate all that misty-eyed, "Ooh, things used to be so much simpler then, and the sun shone all the time, and plums used to taste of something" bullshit. Since I grew up in the 1970s I think I'm probably almost immune to nostalgia. The 70's were shit. No one could get nostalgic about the 70s. Occasionally I inoculate myself against nostalgia by going and go looking at some 1970s popular culture. The sort of thing people look at and say "Ooooh... They don't make 'em like that any more..." This time it's Confessions of a Pop Performer one of 19 'Confessions of' sex comedy books and it is unmitigated shit from start to finish. The only twinge of nostalgia it generated in me was that I had forgotten that women's breasts were often referred to as 'bristols' in British sex comedies; I don't think I ever heard anyone call them that in real life - and I'm positive no one outside the pages of the 'Confessions' books and the sleazy 'Reader's' (hah!) letters of wank mags referred to a woman's naughty bits as a 'spasm chasm'. The only laugh I got out of the whole book was reading on the back cover that
('Major' film? Colombia's other 'major' films of the year included: Taxi Driver, The Man Who Would Be King....)
'Confessions of a Pop Performer' is now a major film from Colombia Pictures.
- Twilight Strangler (1975) by Charles Miron
Even by the standards of the fevered shite I usually punish myself with this is an incredibly BAD book. It took me days to read what is a pretty small novel. There are only 181 pages in the book but I read far more than that. It's such a bewilderingly badly written novel that I had to read most pages at least once before I could make any kind of sense of them. It took me a good five minutes to get past the opening two sentences.
Who knew months needed advertising?
Heather Howell tossed her blonde head six different ways, while from behind her a four rotor 1922 Oehmichen and 1939 antitorque tail Sikorsky helicopter came the sound of whirring cameras.
"Entice me" ordered Bert Neff, shooting his sixteenth commercial for the month of May.
I also spent a while listening to my inner reading-voice declaiming this book in the manner of a bad parody of a 50's Beat Poet with two reefer-high, frothy-coffee buzzing, black beret wearing, bongo-bashers patting their tom-toms in the background. It didn't make anything I was reading make any more sense but it kept me amused for a while. The whole book is very weirdly trippy. Odd for what is ostensibly a routine cop/crime novel. Ed McGinberg's 87th Precinct? The book is populated with characters (I'm being generous) who appear from nowhere and disappear just as quickly. The narrative slips (trips) seamlessly in and out of people's heads, from the present to the past then back again (sometimes arriving back in the head of someone else) without any clues why or when. Sometimes flashbacks handily flagwave their presence by wearing italics but mostly not. It's bewildering.
The sex scenes are great! Here's one of our murder victims - introduced two pages previously - having flashback sex with someone she just remembered in the previous paragraph:
Two pages after this she is dead, stuffed inside an oven of a plane on a crowded internal flight. She is not mentioned again. Mind you, the rest of the cabin crew don't have much of a chance to find her body because the book ends half a chapter later in a flurry of coincidences designed to get the book finished as soon as possible because the author has just noticed he's up to his required number of pages. We never do discover the why's and wherefores of the killer's motives - or how, on the last page, the hero got out of his own speeding car onto the back of the villain's speeding car and then be (simultaneously?) on the hood of the villain's speeding car. I need to read more of this guy's work.
Twenty pounds later he more resembled a boy who came into securities from business school. Denise could little resist when he invited her to his Gramercy Park apartment. She found herself admiring a Picasso linoleum cut.
"Erotic as hell, but pure genius," he said touching the back of her neck.
An hour later, in his blue and silver bedroom, she found herself more erotically stimulated by an imported vibrator with finger twirling action.
"Ralph, it's my first...!"
He never heard her final statement. His enlarged organ entered her like some missile hurtling through a sonar tunnel.
- Fahrenheit 451 - Ray Bradbury
- The Incredible Adventures of Professor Brainstawm by Norman Hunter. Another re-read for Daughter Number Two.
- The Rose by Charles Harness. Well that was disappointing. The previous novels I have read by Harness have been great, bonkers, Van Vogtian, dreamlike nonsense. Wide-Screen Baroque Space opera. The Rose, considered by many to be his 'best', is really a long novella rather than a novel which plays with the Art vs Science "Two Cultures" debate. Not that interesting. It's very talky and the artificial nature of the debate is so crudely set up that it is impossible to be engaged. The Rose was propped up to book length in my edition with a couple of early stories, 'The New Reality' and The 'Chessplayers' neither of which, in the end, are worth much. 'The New Reality' in particular goes to great lengths to postulate the mutability of reality, i.e. the world really WAS flat until it was discovered to be round, and throws in lots of discussion about Kant's philosophy (the word 'Noumenon' gets used a lot) before ending in that most pathetic of SF cliches: male and female protagonist alone in a new reality/universe and he just happens to be called 'Adam' and she is called 'Eve'. Dear God! even in the 1950 this was a hoary old cliché. (Though it does still get used. Last time I know of was the closing moments of Alex Proyas', best-avoided, 2009 film Knowing. It really is such a shit ending it sinks anything, no matter how brilliant, it is bolted on to.)
- Uncle Cleans Up by J P Martin bedtime re-read for Number One Daughter.
by Ray Russell - I think it was the phrase "...her breasts trembled like flowers in a light breeze." that did it. That and a Marenghian description of our young heroine/next victim's pubic hair as a "fleecy nest" a bit further down the page.
- Eats, Shoots and Leaves by Lynne Truss. That was fun, and I learned stuff.
- The Tar-Aiym Krang by Alan Dean Foster under-achieving bit of cardboard, setting-up-the-series-to-follow SF which was littered with more than the usual amount of Batman SF (i.e. labelling everything with SFish sounding Bat Signs: Autochef, synthosteak, nictotubes etc.) Sloppily edited too. Maybe my apostrophe detector was on high alert after reading the Lynne Truss but I had never come across a "their's" before reading this.
- Jerry Robinson : Ambassador of Comics by N C Christopher Couch - Hagiography of the co-creator of Batman's sidekick Robin (and by extension every annoying kid sidekick in comics since), The Joker, the Batman logo, and sundry other bits of 20th Century iconography. I gave up reading the words after my third gushy encounter with : "of course no one knew then that in a few years time Jerry would..." etc. (or similar). Of course no one knew. No one knows. We don't need telling three times, in less than half a book, that people can't see into the future. Luckily there were copious pictures to look at instead.
- Tim Burton by Jim Smith & J Clive Matthews - Exhaustive, above average cut and paste review of Burton's film up to, and including, Planet of the Apes. The book does contain a couple of real clunkers though: they say Bela Lugosi never made a colour film when he starred in one, Scared to Death (1947,) and appeared in at least one other. Even more weirdly they seem to think George A Romero was an Italian director.
- The Book of Imaginary Beings by Jorge Luis Borges.
- Winter Holiday by Arthur Ransome
- Prologue to Analog ed. John W Campbell
- Uncle and His Detective J P Martin Daughter Number One and I reach the halfway point in the Uncleathalon.
- Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke. Come on Ms Clarke! it's been nine years... we need more! Please.
- Laughing into the Fourth Dimension: 25 Humorous Fantasy & Science Fiction… by Larry Lefkowitz. A review copy via Library Thing's EarlyReviewers. It's not good.
- Gods and Monsters by Peter Biskin - Collected articles and essays that could have done with a few explanatory footnotes in places.
- More Than Superhuman by A E van Vogt. The usual Vogty bewilderment served up in short stories - at least one of which later went on to form part of a novel.
- The Story of the Treasure Seekers by E Nesbit
- The Day After Tomorrow by Robert Heinlein. In a future America invaded by the masses hordes of 'slant-eyed', 'flat-faced', 'yellow', 'Mongoloid' Pan Asia only six men remain of the United States Army. Together they repel the invaders. The fact that they have just invented a brand new field of physics that enables them to slice the tops off mountains at the touch of a button, cure all known diseases and selectively set their 1920s style super-sciencey raygun weapons to select between those with 'Asian blood' and 'Caucasians' (people of African decent are totally absent from the book) is a bit of a help. Early datedly racist crap which I doubt (hope) is not in print any more.
- The Blonde Cried Murder by Brett Halliday a 1956 'Mike Shayne Mystery'. Workmanlike pulp.
- The Omega Point by George Zebrowski. Old style (even for 1972) SF in the Van Vogtian tradition. I'll not be rushing out to read the other two in the series.
- Diaries 1969-1979: The Python Years by Michael Palin
- The Torrent of Spring by Ernest Hemingway. My first Hemingway and I loved it. I never expected to find him funny but I laughed out loud.
- Lady Killer by Ed McBain - a early ( 1958 ) example of the 54 or so '87th Precinct' novels. Strangely compulsive reading. McBain can make not much happening stretch out for several pages and make it zip by in seconds.
- The Deadly Percheron (1967) - Odd little crime novel which starts off intriguingly enough. A young man visits the narrator, a psychologist, because he is being paid by leprechauns to give money away and wear hibiscus flowers in his hair. The psychologist accompanies the young man to his next meeting with one of the leprechauns and finds out the man isn't mad and then is pushed under a speeding train to wake up a yaer later later, unrecognisably disfigured and locked in a Psychiatric ward. Great start. By the end it it has lost its way in farrago of improbable co-incidences and stupidities. Pity.
Last edited by JunkMonkey; 20th May 2013 at 9:57.