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Showing posts from December, 2006

2006, A Year in Books: Worst Reads of the Year

As I wrote in yesterday's best books roundup, this is not going to be an very long list--it might just be that I'm developing a better bullshit detector, but I didn't read many genuine stinkers this year. Which might seem like something to be grateful for, but I've found that a truly terrible book can be a blessing in disguise--few things are as fun as a no-holds-barred rant against a novel that offends one's sensibilities simply by existing in the universe. Which is what the year's worst reads roundup is all about--it's how I compensate myself for having read these books in the first place. As it was last year, this list is presented in ascending order of horribleness.
Misfortune by Wesley Stace

I think Wesley Stace must live in a cave. How else to explain the fact that, in his debut novel, Stace chose a premise all but identical to that of Jeffrey Eugenides's sublime, Pulitzer-winning novel Middlesex--male child raised as a girl--and then sat back and d…

2006, A Year in Books: Best Reads of the Year

Another year gone by. The time for listmaking is once again upon us (or, as those overhasty folks who were posting year-end summaries at the beginning of the month or even, I ask you, in November would have us believe, already long past) and the news is not good. I've mentioned on more than one occasion that 2006 was not turning to be a great reading year for me, but it was only when I sat down to compile this list that I realized how dire the situation truly was. This is not to say that I read a great many bad books this year--tomorrow's worst reads of the year list is as anemic as this one. Rather, what 2006 was short on were remarkable reads--remarkably good or remarkably bad--with the result being that I can come up with more candidates for the honorable mentions list than for the year's best reads list. Which is probably the main reason for the massive drop in the number of books I read this year--75--compared to previous ones--106 in 2005 and 99 in 2004. When you put…

Recent Reading Roundup 10

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Not so sure if there's any point posting anything on Christmas day, but here are some of the last books of 2006. I'll have some year-end thoughts later this week.
Seven Types of Ambiguity by Elliot Perlman - on a Friday afternoon nearly ten years after they last saw one another, unemployed teacher Simon kidnaps the young son of his ex-girlfriend Anna. The boy is soon recovered and returned home, unharmed, but the kidnapping causes an upheaval in the lives of a large group of people, some of whom--Simon and Anna, Simon's psychiatrist and his daughter, Anna's husband and his business associate, a young prostitute in love with Simon--emerge in this novel to narrate the events preceding and following Simon's reckless, inexplicable act. Seven Types of Ambiguity bills itself as a Rashomon-ian synthesis of conflicting perspectives, but there are two major problems with this description. The first is that the seven characters--who come from different social backgrounds, hav…

The Once and Future President

Strange Horizons's reviews section published a piece yesterday that I've been looking forward to for quite some time: Graham Sleight's retrospective on The West Wing, in which he argues that Aaron Sorkin's political drama can and should be read as science fiction. On one level, of course, the claim is silly: there is nothing in the series outside the canon of current political or scientific possibility (or what we as outsiders might imagine those to be.) The West Wing is entirely mimetic. Of course, in another sense, it's trivially true that The West Wing is sf. It's a piece of alternate-world science fiction: presidential elections take place in 1998 and 2002, not in leap years; the September 11th terrorist atrocity does not take place; and global events in general follow a different track from our recent past. I want to argue, though, that it's sf in a more profound sense, the Roger Rabbit sense. It makes an argument, as sf does, about possibility, abou…

On the Other Hand, 'Rogue Landscaper'?

Nathan Fillion joins Tim Minear's new show Drive:
The show, from 20th Century Fox TV and executive producers Tim Minear, Ben Queen and Greg Yaitanes, chronicles an underground race across America.

Fillion will play Alex Tully, a charming, rogue landscaper who is coerced into joining the race to search for his wife who had been abducted.Let's all just cross our fingers and hope that the Firefly/Wonderfalls/The Inside curse has run its course.

Via. There are a few brief scenes from Drive in this self-made Minear fan video.

Clyde Bruckman's Final Repose

Peter Boyle has died.

It's something of a shock to discover that even ten seasons of Everybody Loves Raymond aren't enough to tarnish his performance in that single, magical X-Files episode.

UPDATE: A few remindersofthepast.

"The Screwfly Solution" by James Tiptree Jr.

With impeccable timing, Showtime's Masters of Horror anthology series chose this last friday to air an adaptation of James Tiptree Jr.'s short story "The Screwfly Solution". I say impeccable not only because Julie Phillips's extremely well-received biography, James Tiptree Jr.: The Double Life of Alice B. Sheldon, has brought Tiptree back into the limelight in recent months (Niall at Torque Control has an excellent list of Tiptree-related links, including several stories), but because it was only this last week that I finally got around to reading Her Smoke Rose Up Forever, which collects eighteen of Tiptree's short stories, including, yes, "The Screwfly Solution". With the eerie, disturbing piece still fresh in my mind, I was quite curious to see what writer Sam Hamm (interviewed here about the task of adapting the story) and director Joe Dante would make of it, and the adaptation, in turn, gives me a chance to discuss some of my reactions to Tiptr…

Use of Weapons by Iain M. Banks

Previously on AtWQ's adventures with Iain M. Banks: The Algebraist started out very strong but then descended into silliness (see review). Consider Phlebas maintained a serious tone throughout, but was ponderous, overlong, and badly written (review). Feersum Endjinn was a hell of a lot of fun, not to mention very imaginatively constructed, but built up expectations of an explosive crescendo which it never paid off (no review, but check out item 3 on this recent reading roundup).

I'd like to report that Use of Weapons, by far Banks's most lauded SF novel, is Just Right, and in many ways it does answer my complaints about my previous forays into his back-catalogue. Unlike The Algebraist, it has the courage of its convictions, sustaining its theme of social commentary all the way to its end. Unlike Consider Phlebas, it is just about the right length, much better written, and manages to develop its characters and themes without stalling the narrative. Unlike Feersum Endjin…

Have We Learned Nothing From Torchwood?

Dark Horizons links to this article:
According to an exclusive source to Dreamwatch Magazine the BBC are presently in negotiations with Kudos Entertainment about doing a follow up series, which will be set some time in the 1980’s and is being pitched as ‘Ashes To Ashes’, which is also a David Bowie song title. The new show should it go ahead will likely feature several of ‘Life On Mars’ more established characters only further on in their careers. As to which characters will return for this spin – off remains shrouded in secrecy.It should probably be noted that this is pretty fuzzy news, and Dark Horizons has certainly been known to repeat unsubstantiated rumors.

Self-Promotion 11

My review of M. John Harrison's most recent novel, Nova Swing, appears in today's Strange Horizons. If you're coming here from there, you might also be interested in this essay, which discusses my reactions to three of Harrison's previous novels--Signs of Life, The Course of the Heart, and Light.