Something of which under normal circumstances I would heartily approve, of course. But not the way it’s described here. ↩︎
To be fair, spending a lot of time reading on the web, plus some reading comics, etc: these also need to be considered. ↩︎
An enjoyable present-day story of magic in Somerset and London. Mostly the country, with Glastonbury and Avebury and such places featuring in passing.
Four adult sisters are making their different ways in the world, but their mother disappeared a year ago. Ghosts and the spirits of stars sometimes wander the family home, where one of the sisters still lives, and the others come and go. A comet is due in the sky soon, and magic threats appear to be building.
Magic realism, you could call it, in the sense that it’s set in the real worlds and magic is just there, for this family and a few other people at least. Everyday problems of relationships and such are part of it. The boyfriend of one of the sisters is a ghost.
I enjoyed it, and will probably read the sequel, which is out. My main problem with it was that the four sisters' voices weren’t distinctive enough. The story is told from their multiple viewpoints. This is helpful to me, because it’s something I’m struggling with myself. Indeed, my supervisor suggested that maybe I shouldn’t have so many viewpoints.
Three. I have three. Hands up who thinks that’s too many?
The second of Aaronovitch’s series about the division of the Metropolitan Police that deals with magical goings-on. It’s a fun romp – I laughed more often than you might expect.
I don’t know how long ago I read the first one, Rivers of London, but I didn’t write about it here, and it must be a while, because I don’t remember much of it. Still, the backstory is handled nicely here, so I could get by fine.
A lot of it is about jazz and jazz musicians. It’s likely to make you check out the odd track.
This is five volumes of graphic novel that I read over a period of about a month or so, and — OK, you know how we all thought that Watchmen is Moore’s magnum opus, at least in comic terms?1
We were wrong. Promethea is the best thing Moore has done, by some margin.
In my humble opinion, of course.
The character Promethea is sort of a personification of the human imagination. She has manifested through various women in history, called from the immateria into the “real” world by an artist — usually unknowingly, at least at first — when she is needed.
There are, of course, forces ranged against her, from demons to the FBI. The Earthbound part of the action takes place in a sort of alternative comic-book New York, where there are “science heroes” like the Five Swell Guys.2
University student Sophie Bangs is writing a term paper on the recurrence of the character of Promethea through myth and literature and comics, when she is attacked by a mysterious shadowy entity. A version of Promethea turns up to help her, and… well, read it and see.
And as well as the storytelling, the art is incredible, with some wildly challenging layouts; but it never gets in the way of the story. It is magnificent, spanning all of fiction and myth and religion and magic, and reminding us that those are all the same thing. Looked at one way, anyhow.
Also known as the Dark Gifts trilogy. I bought the first while at the recent BSFA meeting where Vic James and Lucy Hounsom, another fantasy author, interviewed each other. I enjoyed their conversation so much that I bought the first book in each of their trilogies.
I don’t read fantasy much, and I don’t really care for dystopias in SF, as I’ve mentioned before. So this being a fantasy dystopia, it shouldn’t really appeal to me.
But it turns out it’s great.
Apparently it was pitched in jest as ‘Downton Abbey meets Game of Thrones in a world where Voldemort won.’ And… yeah, I guess. I haven’t read or seen Game of Thrones, and the time period is more-or-less present day. And none of the magical people (or Skilled ‘Equals’) is as out-and-out evil as Voldemort. But it’s not a bad description of the setup.
The idea is that there are people with magical abilities — referred to as ‘Skill’ — and they are the aristocracy and rule the country. Or at least they have been since Charles the First and Last was killed by one of the Skilled, and they — also known as ‘Equals,’ ironically — took over running the country. Britain is an ‘Equal Republic.’ One thing that annoyed me at first is that there is no mention of what happened to Scotland. It appears to be part of Britain in the present day, but Charles the First (in our reality) was before the Acts of Union. Although not before the Union of the Crowns, so I suppose the Equals just took over Scotland too, by getting rid of the monarchy.1
Anyway, the worst part about the rule of these magical Equals is ‘Slavedays,’ wherein everyone is required to spend ten years of their lives as slaves. They get some choice in when they do it, but while you’re doing it you’re a slave, with everything that implies.
I found it hard to cope with the idea that people would just quietly accept this state of affairs. But I suppose if it’s been that way all your life, and it’s the law of the land… But I couldn’t help but think, wouldn’t people revolt against it?
Not surprisingly, of course, a trilogy like this is not about the maintenance of the status quo.
It’s really good. Well worth a read.
This is a great story about how some people have to fix things in the aftermath of something they did that may change the world fundamentally, if not destroy it. With that description it sounds very similar to Ellis’s earlier webcomic (with Paul Duffield), Freak Angels.
Which is a fair enough assessment, though the triggering event in this case is a combination of AI, the internet, and old magic; as opposed to the psychic powers in the older work. Ellis has deeply embedded the “start late” advice often given to aspiring authors. Both of the works under discussion, and some of his others, start long after the events that set their plots in motion.
It can be a very effective device. We get to know characters who already know each other, and the past events are revealed gradually, through conversation and flashbacks. And the fact that the protagonists don’t at first fully understand what they did means that we learn along with them.
This is great, but the only frustrating thing is that these three volumes — comprising fifteen issues of the comic — are to date all that there is. I don’t know if they plan to continue it, but the last issue came out in November, and the story is far from over. Googling has not so far revealed the answer to this.
The book that I got at the British Library event last week. It’s short stories by Niffenegger, illustrated and/or converted into comics by Campbell. Some of them very good, and the collection as a whole is well worth a look.
Themes include cats, angels, fairies, and more. Worth a look.
Yes, it’s halfway through the second-last month of the year and I’ve just finished my fifth book. Five in a year. That’s very poor. But this book was a large part of the reason for that.1
At over 1000 pages of very small text — close to a million words, I’ve heard — this is a mammoth work. It’s also really, really good.
As befits such a large work, it is a whole made of many parts. It’s split into three main sections, with each of those having eleven chapters; along with a “Prelude” and an “Afterlude.” The first is a series of short stories or vignettes, most of which are not obviously connected. They are all set in and around an area of Northampton called the Boroughs, at various times in the past and present.
In the second we find out what happened to Mick Warren, the closest thing we have to a protagonist, after he died aged three, before he came back to life again. The third brings it all together, after a fashion. Moore has always had trouble with endings — just consider the mighty Watchmen, whose ending was actually improved by the movie.
Did Alma Warren’s pictures save everything, and stop the destructor? Of course not: it always happened that way and always will. That’s the central thesis of the novel, the idea of eternalism, that time is static, and we only experience change because we happen to be moving along that axis at one second per second. This is of course similar to the viewpoint of Dr Manhattan in the aforementioned Watchmen, so we could suppose it’s a worldview that Moore has had for some time, though in his acknowledgements he suggests that he came to believe it during the years he was writing Jerusalem.
There is a chapter in book three that is written in the style of Joyce in his Finnegan’s wake days. It’s hard work to get through, but well worth it (though with hindsight if you were to skip that chapter I don’t think you’d miss much of the plot). Anyway, it’s a monster work, and well worth the time it takes to read.
OK, I declare this the start of Potter Week. I'm just on my way to Stratford, where we'll eat at Pizza Express, before going to see Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.
Then this time next week we’ll be getting ready to head out to a bookshop for a midnight launch party for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.
It is a time steeped in magic.