Tuesday 17 September 2013

Poetry in (e)motion: the words of Scroobius Pip by Scroobius Pip


Scroobius Pip came to prominence with “Thou shalt always kill” as part of a hip hop duo but he startred as as spoken word artist turning up to entertain lines of people queuing for bands or poets. He put a call out for people to illustrate his poems and then chose the ones he liked best for the book. As it is a variety of styles there are some I liked a lot and some that were OK.

Overall – if you’re a fan of his work then you’ll love this, if you’re not a fan this is a pretty good introduction, however as with all poetry it’s better performed I feel

The rise of Ransom city by Felix Gilman


I really wish I’d managed to write a review right after reading this to do it justice. Gilman has followed up on The half-made world with a stunning sequel. Together they are definitely in my top 10 reads this year. To avoid spoilers I won’t sum up the plot except to say that although it follows, in time, the events of the first book it departs from it as well. This time round we follow Harry Ransom who has invented a process that he feels will change the world. We see a lot more of the world especially the world of the Line in this book and meet a whole host of complex and captivating characters. This is literary fantasy at its best, comparable to Shriek: an afterword by Jeff Vandermeer (one of my favourite books) and cements my impression that Gilman is an author to watch. I will be revisiting Thunderer so I can read The gears of the city and await his next book eagerly. For those who have not read The half-made world I advise to read that first, although this could potentially standalone but you’d lose some of the effect I feel.

Overall – must read sequel but read The half made world first

The falling sky by Pippa Goldschmidt


Jeanette is a young post-doctorate chasing a permanent position at university. She goes on a viewing trip to Chile and discovers an anomaly which, if not just an observational glitch, would throw much of modern astronomy in doubt (something that would make red shift unreliable). Her boss encourages her to publish hinting that it will aid her career and when she does she is not prepared for the consequences. On the home front she embarks on a new, intense relationship that goes in an unexpected direction. To top it off her sister died when she was young and she has never got over it and as both her professional and personal lives start to spiral the trauma of losing a sister makes itself felt again. This is an engaging and interesting read. It has mixed reviews elsewhere and reading some of the ones that give it a poor rating I feel it necessary to point out that not everything is wrapped up at the end so if you want your plots to all be resolved look elsewhere as this is the biggest gripe people seem to have. For me it was a bit more realistic and the way it’s written, to explain why would contain spoilers though. A nodding acquaintance with astrophysics would enhance the read but isn’t totally necessary, although I have read some reviews saying there was too much science in the book.

Overall – Engaging and interesting read

Comets: visitors from deep space David Eicher


The book has a foreword by David Levy of Levy-Shoemaker fame and Eicher himself is a comet finder. This book is simply everything you ever needed to know about comets, what they are, what they’re made from, where they come from, how they’ve been viewed throughout history, how to find them and even how to photograph them. As there will be a bright comet in the sky later this year http://www.cometison2013.co.uk/ it has been rushed out a bit but to honest the book doesn’t seem to suffer from it. The science is patiently and expertly explained so that it’s very accessible and if you have any interest in comets I highly recommend this book.

Overall – hugely enjoyable pop science. Look to the skies!

The fictional man by Al Ewing


I was enjoying this book at the beginning: it has a nice premise, that it is possible to translate fictional characters into flesh and blood people, and a nice writing style. About half way through though I realised I was hooked and when I had to put it down to go to work I couldn’t wait to get back to pick it up again. As it develops it gets more and more interesting even if some of the twists could perhaps anticipated. The utterly flawed main character keeps us involved with the plot and as it becomes ever more deliciously meta the writing becomes ever more impressive. There is a lot to like here, the narrator with all his flaws always holds your attention, his self-narration  You're a good Joe, Niles. You really are a good Joe, the whole fictional idea and its execution, the supporting characters - especially the fictionals, the story within the story and the other story within that story, the creepy horror of peg boy, the crazytown feel of Ewing’s alternative LA and Niles’s attempt at getting into film. Well before I run into giving it all away I’ll stop, except to say that you should read this and I hope I haven’t over-egged the review!

Overall – Highly recommended especially if you like metafiction and stories about the creative process

Lupus Rex by John Carter Cash


The crow king is dead and as the Murder of crows gather in the Murder field to choose the next king they send away all the other animals that follow the Order including the badger, mice, rat and especially the quail. When some quail are discovered to be missing three turn back who become our main protagonists. When the hidden past begins to be revealed the forest becomes ever more dangerous as an ancient enemy returns. Told in an idiosyncratic voice this is comparable to Watership Down in its feel of a fable and anthropomorphism and I bet Cash will be fed up of that comparison very quickly! It also has a mythic, almost epic fantasy feel on occasion.  As YA its simplicity could perhaps put some off but after a while I was drawn in and didn’t have my usual problems with that medium (YA is not a genre I believe as you can have YA horror or YA SF etc.). Cash drops you straight into the world with no expositionary run up and it takes a few pages to catch up. The characters are alternatively trope like and deep and at times the prose takes a weird turn but is always lyrical and readable and thoughtful.

Overall – Dare I say that this is YA for people who don’t like YA but also will fully satisfy those who like YA?   

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