Interzone 294 Edited by Gareth Jelley (Books 2023, 5) πŸ“š

I posted a photo of this when it arrived, to show its new paperback-book format. It’s an issue of Interzone: it’s fine, but nothing in it was particularly outstanding. Several decent stories, an interview with Christopher Priest, the usual book and film reviews and ‘Ansible Link’, the cut-down version of Dave Langford’s Ansible newsletter(the mailing list of which, I realise as I type, I seem to have fallen off; I haven’t seen it in a few months).

Interzone is worth getting to keep up to date with the scene, if nothing else.

That all sounds bad. People worked hard on these stories. I think I just don’t really get on very well with short stories, something I’ve mentioned here before.

The Rings of Saturn by WG Sebald, Translated by Michael Hulse (Books 2023, 4) πŸ“š

The Rings of Saturn is a very unusual book. My copy has this classification on the back: ‘Fiction/Memoir/Travel’.

Well make up your mind, I might say!

And yet, it is all those things, and the combination makes a compelling, readable whole.Sebald (or, the narrator) goes on walks around Norfolk and Suffolk. Along the way his thoughts carry him on paths that both parallel his physical ones and diverge far from them in both time and space. He muses on history, architecture, biography, geology, ecology, and much more.

This Guardian ‘Where to Start With…’ article saves it for last, as ‘the one you’ll want your friends to read’. Which is fair enough.

I still don’t understand why he gave it that title, though.

The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage by Sydney Padua (Books 2023, 3) πŸ“š

Fantastic graphic novel about the inventor of the Difference and Analytical Engines and the first programmer.

Together they fight crime.

Well, not quite. But they do meet Wellington, Brunel, Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carroll), Mary Ann Evans (George Elliot), and other famous Victorians, and have adventures.

A fabulous romp.

Bomber Jackson Does Some by Bob Boyton (Books 2023, 2) πŸ“š

First, cards on the table, Bob is a friend of mine. Bomber Jackson Does Some is his first novel, self-published in 2012. He gave us a copy back then, and it’s taken me till now to read it.

Just because of the size of my to-read piles, not any quality concerns.

Bomber is an ex-boxer and an alcoholic. At the start of the novel he has just got out of prison. As you might imagine from such a setup, things largely go downhill from there. His thoughts include a fair amount of slang, some of which I didn’t understand, but the meaning was usually clear from context. For example, he refers to two homeless men as ‘real old-fashioned paraffins’. Paraffin lamp = tramp, I assume.

It’s written in first person, present tense, which I think is quite a hard voice to sustain. Bob does a good job of getting us inside Bomber’s head, and the story flows along at fine old rate.

All in all, top stuff. Recommended if you can get hold of a copy.

Together We Will Go by J Michael Straczynski (Books 2023, 1) πŸ“š

Content warning: suicide

The first book of the year. JMS of Babylon 5 fame tells the story of a group of people who, each for their own varied reason, want to end their life.

One of their number arranges a final bus trip, across the USA, with the plan being to drive off a cliff in California. There are legal implications, so the law gets involved.

It’s desperately sad, yet happy and life-affirming at the same time. It’s told through first-person accounts of each of the characters, who have been asked to journal their experience. They’re very well-developed and you grow attached to them.

So you don’t want them to die. But you do want them to make it.