Friday, December 29, 2006

Everything I Have Read In The Last Year - or started anyway

Well all the books. I haven't included all the backs of cereal packets, bus tickets and road signs I 'must have looked at:
  1. The Day of the Locust - Nathanael West
  2. The Beano - Rony Robinson Cracking little read. Half-way through I seem to remember it having being dramatised on radio 4 (passed over to Merriol if only for the Sheffield connection).
  3. The Gangs of New York - Herbert Asbury (started and quickly abandoned)
  4. Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell (because my ex, Linda, hated it and boy is she wrong! I love this. Read it in two sittings.
  5. The End of Eternity - Isaac Asimov. (Not as good as it used to be).
  6. The Clue of the Twisted Candle - Edgar Wallace ( free text on my Palm pilot - abandoned. I find reading on the Palm a bit of a chore and save it for 'last ditch nothing else to read and desperate for something to read' times, but, even then, I found this to be totally unreadable crap.
  7. Sagittarius - Ray Russell (A former Playboy editor who can't write SF, but can do a passable ghostie story though)
  8. Nobody's Perfect - Anthony Lane (Collected New Yorker film reviews)
  9. Last Laugh Mr Moto - John P Marquand (Bizarre!)
  10. Dick Donvan the Glasgow Detective- J E Preston Muddock
  11. The Chase - L M Alcott (an early novel and hilariously awful Harlequin style "romance")
  12. Virtual Light - William Gibson
  13. Today We Choose Faces - Roger Zelazny. Abandoned on page 76(ish) had no idea what was going on, didn't care, and I suspected the author was in the same boat.
  14. In Custody - Anita Desai (hard to believe this boring pointlessness was short-listed for the Booker!)
  15. Red Shift - Alan Garner
  16. A Gift From Earth - Larry Niven. Only one man can save everything because he has unexpected Psionic powers - or something. SF plot 3a. Yawn!
  1. Surfacing- Margaret Atwood. Pub. Virago books 1972. Says it all really; standard Virago stuff of the period: all men are oppressive, brutish, casual rapists unable to articulate their emotions. All women are cyclical earth creatures who, if given a chance, become one with Nature and "sense" things. As a man I almost fell for this thesis during the Feminist Revolution (hah!) but it looks very crude today. First Margaret Atwood book I have not enjoyed.
  2. Infernal Devices - Phillip Reeve (because it has been sitting unread since I bought it the day it was published - and the next in the series is out tomorrow!) Cracking, rip-roaring, blood and thunder ripping yarn. Loved it!
  3. The Mammoth Book of Best New Science Fiction 12- Science Fiction for Mammoths? this has got to be good! It's an occasional pick up and read a couple more short stories between real books thing. Blessed with insanely clumsy title.
  4. The Destiny Man - Peter Van Greenaway, abandoned half way through.
  5. The Innocence of Father Brown- G K Chesterton (unfinished).
  6. Them - Jon Ronson
  7. Cosm - Gregory Benford (SF with graphs - but no story)
  8. The Invisible Man - H G Wells (I couldn't find another book with a 4 letter title in my TBR pile)
  9. Thinks... - David Lodge (Just how many humorous novels about sexual peccadilloes in a provincial English University life are there? Though this one was more thought provoking than most.)
  10. Uncle Petros and Goldbach's Conjecture - Apostolos Doxiadis
  11. The Einstein Intersection - Sam R Delany (the second book in a row - it was central to the Uncle Petros book - to mention Godel's proof that in any mathematical system there are propositions that cannot be proved or disproved within the axioms of the system - what are the chances of that eh?)
  12. The Strange Death of Lord Castlereagh - H Montgomery Hyde
  13. Hippopotomus - Stephen Fry (Unfinished)
  14. The Tonto Woman and Other Western Stories - Elmore Leonard
  15. The Gold at Starbows End- Frederick Pohl (...and guess what! Yet another mention of Godel's Proof. What the hell is going on here?
April and May
  1. Sentenced to Prism - Alan Dean Foster (total crap but all that my brain can handle at the moment. A self-hypnosis aid.)
  2. May Contain Nuts - John O'Farrell
  3. Lamb - Bernard MacLaverty (almost Wonderful but for the suddenness of the ending.)
  4. Limbo Lodge - Joan Aiken (I'm sure she writes Dido Twite books in her sleep these days.)
  5. Flushed With Pride: The Story of Thomas Crapper - Wallace Reyburn.
  6. His Master's Voice - Stanislaw Lem. Abandoned (and yet another mention of Godel)
  7. Starswarm - Brian Aldiss (Godel Free SF!)
  8. THE HEART OF THE MATTER - - Graham Greene
  9. Heritage of the Lizard People - Clark Darlton (Perry Rhodan 113 and utter scheiße) Interestingly my spell checker doesn't like the word " scheiße" and wants to substitute "Nietzsche" instead! OK it wasn't interesting
  10. Death's Demand - Kurt Mahr (Perry Rhodan 114 and even more utterly uberscheißeisch than the last one - at last something that make E E 'Doc' Smith's Lensman Series look like literature! Why am I reading it? Good question)
  11. Baggage - Emily Barr (abandoned at about pg 140 when I realised nothing else was going to happen except people were going to talk at each other a lot about nothing in particular and the annoying tense changes - each chapter starting in the 1st person singular present before shifting to the past tense and then back again to the present just before the end of the chapter - got totally on my tits.
  12. The Best From New Writings in SF - Ed. John Carnell.
  13. Tank Girl Vols 1&2 - Hewlett/Martin. Brain dead, mindless, very funny, very violent comic books about a kangaroo snogging psychopath in huge boots - and yes, I'm sure I moved my lips when I was reading them.
  1. Wilderness Tips - Margaret Atwood
  2. The Day The Martians Came- Frederik Pohl
  3. Enduring Love - Ian McEwan
  4. New Worlds 4 - Ed. David Garnett. Awful Wrightonian pointless stories of sex, violence, and violent sex (but not sexy violence). The low point of which was a story call The Last Phallic Symbol by Elizabeth Sourbut in which ALL penises, human and otherwise, turn out to be an alien life form which grafted themselves onto humans a couple of million years ago. As Earth is about to launch its first star ship all the penises in the world jump off their hosts and run off giggling and try and get on board the ship so they can return to the stars (stopping only to attack the odd stray cat on the way). Only a plucky bunch of lesbians armed with cricket bats and pointed sticks stand in their way. It it hadn't been so painfully earnest this weirdly Kilgore Trout like idea might have been hilarious. The author now reviews SF forThe New Scientist Magazine. Gawd help them.
  5. A Pale View of Hills - Kazuo Ishiguro (Abandoned)
  6. The Season of Mists - Neil Gaiman et al (OK, OK, it's a comic. I admit it!)
  7. Watching Trees Grow / Tendeleo's Story - Peter F Hamilton, Ian McDonald.
  1. Revolt in Proxima C - Robert Silverberg
  2. Star Trek 1 - James Blish (Dammit Jim, I'm on holiday!)
  3. Everything You Know - Zoe Heller
  4. Fingersmith - Sarah Waters. Cracking read! Makes me want to read Wilkie Collins again. I'm so annoyed that this has been on my TBR pile for so long!
  5. In Praise of Slow - Carl Honore
  6. Arthur & George - Julian Barnes
  7. Take Off! - A rarity, genuinely funny 'humorous' SF, which was worth it for the E E 'Doc' Smith spoof, Backstage Lensman, alone.
  8. Nine Hundred Grandmothers - R A Lafferty. More humorously odd SF short stories, including one in which a group of scientists search for something known not to exist by a close study of the absence of evidence for it.
  1. Further Rivals of Sherlock Holmes - Ed. Hugh Greene
  2. The Three Stigmata Of Palmer Eldritch - P K Dick
  3. The Incompleat Enchanter - De Camp & Pratt
  4. No Bed For Bacon - Caryl Brahms & S J Simon
  5. The Glass Key - Dashiell Hammett
  6. The Cometeers - Jack Williamson. One of the 'classic' Legion of Space series. 'Classic' in the sense of 1950s excruciatingly overwritten, over-padded guff about militaristic interstellar might being right. Weird subtexts; if I'm reading this aright, our hero was gang raped at the age of 12 by the villain and his cronies and has an almost incestuously close relationship with his mother. Not the sort of thing you normally find in 1950s pulp SF. Edit: It didn't get any better, fantastic coincidence piled upon fantastic coincidence, a space navy that keeps running out of fuel, and a lantern-jawed hero who burst into tears with monotonous regularity before he finally wins the respect of his father (and saves the Solar System) by obliterating an entire alien race with the push of a button. Also had one of those annoying semi-comic characters who talked about themselves in the third person. JunkMonkey hates that so much. He does.
  7. Things Snowball - Rich Hall. Bit of a ragbag of stories articles and half worked out ideas but it did contain the funniest index I have read since Joe Queenan's brilliant If You Are Talking to Me your Career Must be in Trouble.
  8. The Child That Books Built - Francis Spufford (Abandoned - well hardly started really and someone else wanted to read it.)
  9. How Mumbo-Jumbo Conquered The World - Francis Wheen
  1. How to Lie with Statistics - Darrell Huff
  2. Ten Plus One - Ed McBain - an 87th precinct novel. Doubt if I will ever bother again.
  3. A Short History of Tractors in The Ukranian - Marina Lewycka (I gived up upon on page 119)
  4. The Script of the Play That I Should Have Been Learning For the Past Two Weeks - but kept putting off and now I'm in rehearsal and floundering.
  5. Legends From The End Of Time - Michael Moorcock
  6. The Road to McCarthy - Pete McCarthy. It seems to make sense reading travel books when I'm touring. I can easily identify with the feelings of "where the hell am I now?" when I wake up in the morning followed the crushing disappointment of realising - I'm still in Wick.
  7. The Space Mavericks - Michael Kring. Godawful SF. Worst thing I have read since the Perry Rhodans. A sample sentence from page 102 describing an alien city:
    There were soft arcs and soft lines, and none of the phallic boxes shooting from the sky that most primitive cultures seem to think necessary to prove themselves.
    Wha...???? Towards the end of the book our hero and a bunch of rentagoons attack a gaol which 'sprawled over an acre of ground.' That's 4840 square yards. About 69 yards (207 feet) on each side. Total crap.
  1. The Father of Frankenstein - Christopher Bram
  2. The Art Fair - David Lipsky
  3. Enterprise Stardust - Scheer & Mahr. The first Perry Rhodan book. A goldmine of bad writing. Chock full of sentences like
    "A sarcastic smile dangled from his lips."
    "Perry drew up his eyebrows."
    I haven't laughed so much in ages.
  4. The Radiant Dome - Scheer & Mahr. Perry Rhodan 2. OK, I'm a masochist but the sheer joy of the combination of bad writing overlaid with a thick treacling of bad translation is so delicious. Any half competent writer could tell this sort of story with their eyes shut but it takes extraordinary intellectual and creative power to come up with stuff like:
    Her spaceship is unable to start. Her degenerate crew is unable to repair the damage.They simply neglected to take along the spare parts because of criminal frivolity.
    Klein was observing Mercant while he spoke to the assembly. There was no hint in Mercant's eyes of what was going on behind his forehead. And yet it seemed to Klein he could sense a challenging irony hidden in the LLA Chief's words.
    This is genius stuff. It would be dead pure criminal frivolity to ignore it.
  5. Withnail and I (Screenplay) - for years after having abandoned watching this film I have wondered why and how it got the cult status it did. I remember thinking it was crap. I strongly suspect I was very wrong. The screenplay is brilliant.
  6. Larklight - Phillip Reeve. A delight. Pure page turning nonsense.
  7. With Nails - Richard E Grant's diaries. I have this overwhelming desire to see Hudson Hawk. Interesting to start with, inasmuch as it was nice to read that he too suffers from the same "I-can't-act-and-what-makes-me-think-I-can-and-everyone-will-find-out" TERROR as I do, but it got terribly name-droppy by the end.
  8. The People Vs Larry Flynt - The shooting Script- I picked it up. I opened it. I read in the intro:
    'The executives were giddily jumping up and down - "It's a Capra movie with porn!"'
    I had to buy it. I now want to read Hustler magazine - for the articles of course.
  9. The Secret of Platform 13 - Eva Ibbotson
  10. Amsterdam - Ian McEwan
  11. Wilson - David Mamet. this has to be the funniest thing I have read for years. I didn't understand a sodding word but I laughed like a drain.
  12. Notes on a Scandal - Zoe Heller. Thoroughly enjoyed this. if that is the right word; I was convinced, let's put it that way - though I stopped dead for a moment when the narrator, a pedantic teacher who at one point corrects the headmaster's grammar mid bollocking, uses the ugly, and very modern, tautology 'Hallowe'en night'.
  13. The Chronicles of Clovis - Saki. Deliciously nasty.
  14. Broderie Anglais - Violet Trefusis.
  15. To The Lighthouse - Virginia Woolf (Abandoned). Stuck in a B&B in a strange town with nothing to do, and warmed up by the Saki stories and the Bloomsberry Settish, Violet Refusis book I had just read, I though it was about time I tackled one of the Great Books of the Twentieth Century. Two hours later - and only 18 pages in - I gave up. I found it impenetrable.
  16. Legs- William Kennedy
  1. Excessions - Iain M Banks First of the Culture books I haven't thoroughly enjoyed. It felt very padded. The backstory to plot ratio was very... wrong. Every character, including those destined to die before the end of the chapter in which they were introduced, had to have a whole detailed history.
  2. Jungle of Stars - Jack L Chalker. Turgid SF pulp (the indestructible hero is called Paul Savage, that should give you the flavour) enlivened only by some moments of unintentional humour like this speech from a hard-boiled bureau chief to an underling:
    Enough of that, though. I have more serious work here - a bum situation. It smells, and I need help.
    puerile I know but it made me laugh.
  3. The Final Confession of Mabel Stark - Robert Hough. The fictionalised autobiography of a once famous female Big Cat tamer. The editors of this book need shooting. A spelling mistake on page one, numerous possible anachronisms including 'plastic roses' in 1928 and a strangely anticlimactic ending to what should have been a ripper of a book. Why he didn't write a straightforward biography puzzles me.
  4. The Cave Girl - Edgar Rice Burroughs. Even by ERB's notoriously low standards this was pretty dire.
  5. E=mc2 - David Bodans. Abandoned half way through. A pity because I have been looking forward to reading this for a bit. It got great reviews It turned out to be so dumbed down and stuffed full of meaningless analogies and imagery. Like this one for instance from a chapter exploring the potential energy contained in mass:
    A single page of this book,weighing only a few grams, seems be just an innocuous, stable mix of cellulose fibres and ink. But if that ink and cellulose could ever be shifted into the form of pure energy there would be a roaring eruption, greater than that of a large power station exploding.
    What the hell does that mean? Define large Power Station. What kind of Power Station? What kind of explosion? It's meaningless. I also disliked the breathy, "but what did this mean?, How did this relate to X,Y, or Z? The answer lay in the most unexpected place..." endings of chapters. It's a Discovery Channel way of trying to hold onto the audience before the commercial break. If this Trishing up is the best a 'gifted practitioner of popular science' (Independent) can do, I am in despair.
  1. New Worlds 4 -
  2. New Worlds 4 - That's not a typo. New Worlds is an SF magazine that has undergone several reincarnations. Sometimes the numbering continued from where the last incarnation left off, other times (at least twice) the clock was set back to zero. This is the third edition of New Worlds numbered 4 I have read this year (see June above). The stories in these two, published in 1972 and 1949 -I read them in reverse chronological order, were better than the drek I read in June and varied from the quaintly naive in 1949 (one author is so ignorant of the basic laws of physics that a stranded ship is able to escape an alien world because of its low escape velocity. Apparently the planet was spinning very fast and centrifugal force helped) to the archly self-consciously literary in 1972. Either way both of them were much more satisfying reads than the last incarnation with its escaping penises and gay characters disappearing up their own anus while doing sex in hyperspace.
  3. Starman Jones - Robert Heinlein.
  4. Ladies of Grace Adieu - Susanna Clarke. A disappointment. But then again, after Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, anything would be, and to her credit she neatly side-stepped the Second Novel Problem by publishing a collection of short stories. Many of them related to or set in the same universe as the first book but somehow if left me dissatisfied. The stories were okay but they didn't have that unpudownability that I was hoping for. The novel was an obsessive read for me an accidental find in a charity shop, the stories I could take or leave after buying the book new, a rare and special treat for me.
  5. The Unholy City - Charles G Finney. A wonderful book I reread every couple of years.
  6. Zorro - Isabel Allende (as yet unfinished)
  7. The Complete Robot - Isaac Asimov (ditto)

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