Dark Meadow

a vampire pomeranian?

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Booklist: John Wyndham, "Assorted Works"

John Wyndham
The Kraken Wakes
The Chrysalids
The Midwich Cuckoos
The Trouble With Lichen
5 Mugs

I've said over and over how great John Wyndham is an an author, which is why it saddened me so much when I reviewed "Stowawy to Mars" and it left such a very bad taste in my mouth. So, in order to restore the balance, I bring you Wyndham at his best: "The Kraken Wakes", "The Chrysalids", "The Midwich Cuckoos", and "The Trouble With Lichen". I'd also bring you "Day of the Triffids" but I seem to have mislaid my copy so haven't read it recently enough to feel sure of reviewing it.


The Kraken Wakes:
The ostensible plot, of aliens trying to take over the world from deep under the sea, can be more or less put to one side, if not ignored in its entirety. Wyndham follows Wells in "War Of the Worlds" and never explicitly reveals where the 'alien' threat has come from, leaving you to make up your own mind, as it should be. Moving away from the alien causation, you have here an allegory for global warming, and a biting comment on the idiocy of the Cold War, and weapons of mass destruction. Themes include, but aren't limited to the traditional Wyndham cannon of 'fear of the other', apocalypse, and benign military.

The Chrysalids:
The plot lays the ground for that of "A Canticle For Liebowitz", and many others. You have, once more, the post-apocalyptic world, fear of the unknown, religious fanaticism, and racial tensions (the only black people are only found on an island of 'deviants'). This is one of the more overtly sci-fi books that Wyndham wrote. It is set in the unidentified future (most of the other are in the near-present) in a post-apocalyptic world gone to hell in a hand-cart, where 'mankind' survives in a few small pockets including Newfoundland. Any genetic deviations are a sin against God, and destroyed the instant they appear, even children. So what happens when the deviations don't have any physical manifestations, but are purely mental? Their scripture doesn't define what is normal for the mind so, is telepathy a gift or a curse?

The Midwich Cuckoos:
Most people know this story from the film "Village of the Damned". A small rural town suffers a 'day out' and wakes to find all the women folk impregnated... Nine months later lots of golden eyed children are born and start to cause all kinds of mayhem.

The Trouble With Lichen:
Immortality is just around the corner, apparently, as the result of a rare lichen. This is one Wyndham's books that doesn't resort to aliens in order to get the plot off the ground. Based totally in believable (at least believable in 1960) science this novel addresses how mankind my cope if they were faced with the possibility of immortality, or at least a vastly extended lifespan. One of the first books, to my knowledge, that addresses what might happen if people really could live to 300 and the social upheaval that would ensue. Asimov does similar, at around the same time, with his Robot Series (Caves of Steel, The Naked Sun, Robots of Dawn etc, leading to the Foundation series) but sets it firmly in the fantastical future.

Some general points:
Love Wyndham. Always will, hence the five mug rating for all of them. Here are few random observations I've made on this latest read through.

There is a repeat plot device of the outsider-reporter to whom events don't totally happen. They are invariably reports from after the events (looking back, hindsight), and attempts to assume the authority of historical narrative. A way of gaining our trust as an impartial observer, but at same time displaying the unique knowledge of the insider. Yes, as a device it is fairly obvious, but it works for him.

Women are, if not the main character (as in "The Trouble With Lichen"), then married to the main character, and shape what happens. Very much a partnership. In Kraken, it is the wife who realises that they may need to quit London in a hurry and lays in supplies. In Cuckoos, it is the wife who manages to keep the village calm. The women don't seek the fame, and frequently outsiders assume that it is the men who have done the work, but the men themselves don't claim any of the glory, and make it quite clear to the people that matter that it was the women who did good.

The theme of the military as good, there to help. Undoubtedly a relic of WW2. Quite a marked difference to the sinister and evil overtones that the military is painted with in most modern literature.

As an aside, there is also at least one Holmes reference in each book. More a little nod to Connan-Doyle's creation.

Amazing that on page 187 of Cuckoos, Wyndham in 1957 basically summarizes the plot of Independence Day and every other major sci-fi book and film since. Not sure if that's a sign of how visionary he is, or how little pulp sci-fi has changed in the last fifty years.

5 Mugs and a biccy for good measure
mug biccy


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Booklist: John C. Wright, "The Golden Age trilogy"

John C. Wright
The Golden Age
The Phoenix Exultant (The Golden Age volume 2)
3 Mugs and 2 Mugs respectively.

These were another impulse loan from the library. Basically I am working my way through the sci-fi/fantasy shelves and these were next. I found book one, The Golden Age mind-blowing. Original and full of new ideas. His take on the digital future is one that, whilst not brand-spanking new (rather similar in tone to Appleseed by John Clute, though not quite so brain-strainingly odd) is still different and fresh. It defines a futuristic civilization almost parochial in its outlook, being one of the few X-Century novels where the Einstein's light-speed barrier has not been circumvented, leaving humanity constantly looking inward, trapped within their own minds as much as the solar system.

Throughout The Golden Age you follow the fate of Phaethon (still not worked out how to pronounce it) as he realises the reality his living in is false, the result of a culture-wide amnesia, springing from some unspeakable deed he had done in the past. You struggle, as he does, to make sense of events, and to fit his fractured reality into what really happened. But, as you progress further in, you come to realise that perhaps what 'really' happened will never be known. You are forced to confront the nature of subjective and objective reality. It really does feel like a body-blow when you discover, along with Phaethon that everything he believes about his life is false.

The end of The Golden Age left me wanting more, so I straight away started on The Phoenix Exultant, which was possibly a mistake. It just doesn't fulfill the promise of the first book. Perhaps because I know there's another whole book to go after this one, or whether the central premise of not trusting your own perceptions is now well established, but this has nothing new for me in it. Instead of rooting for Phaethon, you want to bash him about the head with a baseball bat for being so stupid. The one (yes one) female character is about much use as a chocolate teapot. And she's supposed to be the strong version of one of the characters (characters can exist in multiple versions and bodies at the same time). The rest of the society is patriarchal and misogynistic to a fault. The threat of an external civilization seems shoe-horned in to give the author a reason to write book three. All in all, a huge disappointment. It is blatantly obvious that Phaethon is going to overcome the odds and be reinstated as the hero he feels himself to be, so why drag it out so long?

I haven't been able to find book three (The Golden Transcendence) at the library and I am not going to even spend 70p on requesting it from another library.

Number Mugs & Biscuits
A great start, sadly disapointing end
The Golden Age
3 Mugs

The Phoenix Exultant
2 Mugs



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Friday, July 15, 2005

Booklist: Neal Stephenson "Cryptonomicon"

Neal Stephenson
Cryptonomicon
5 Mugs

To say that Cryptonomicon is as important as Neuromancer by William Gibson isn't, in my view, an understatement. Both books share themes that are genre busting and, like Neuromancer, Cryptonomicon has suffered because no one knew how to really market it. How do you classify a book that, amongst other things, is a historical detective story spanning 8 decades, a book about the invention of the computer, about code breaking, the birth of the CIA, Nazi gold, the Japanese invasion of Manilla, has mention of D&D, Imelda Marcos, crosses three generations, and has a love story intwined in it as well?

As might be guessed from that rather broad spectrum of themes, Cryptonomicon is not a small book (918 pages including appendixes and footnotes)*1*. Whilst this is a book coming from a base of cyber-culture, it isn't science fiction. It steadfastly does not go beyond technology as is now, rather looks back to how we got here.

Stephenson is an author who's work I always enjoy reading, but who has improved with each book. There are recognisable characters from his other works in this book, and he continues his love affair with Far Eastern culture first detailed in Snow Crash, but unlike that work he doesn't loose it in the last quarter of the book. The tension remains till the very last page and what I love is that it just ends with no attempt to indicate what happens to the characters.

Pretty much the entire cast of Cryptonomicon's characters appear in Stephensons next work, the Baroque Cycle, which explores the same themes of power, information, secrecy, money, and war, but in the 17th/18th centuries. Stephenson doesn't do things by halves - the Baroque Cycle comprises three books all over 900 pages long - but I challenge you not to like an author who gets a 'Lawrence Prodding Stick' into a book essentially about computers, or the word 'bop' into a historical novel set in the 1700's.

5 Mugs





Definate definate desert island book. Gar!

Endnotes:
*1*Got to love a novel with appendixes and footnotes :DBack



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Booklist: Stella Gibbons "Cold Comfort Farm"

Stella Gibbons
Cold Comfort Farm
5 Mugs

So you have spent your teenage years reading the classics, possibly voluntarily, but more likely being forced to for some English class. How do you rebel? Read Cold Comfort Farm. A beautiful, funny, poigniant, deeply twisted book lampooning entire genres. Set in an unspecified period that bears a striking resemblance to the 20's/30's, the characters include the heroine with a talent for organising who plans to 'live off her relatives', the best friend whose collection of brassieres is desired by a museum, Aunt Ada Doom who saw something narsty in the woodshed, cousin Seth the farmhand who hankers to be in the movies, his mother Judith who has an incestuous fixation on him, and her husband Amos who's sole ambition in life is to go round the country preaching in a Ford van. I challenge anyone not to have at least a snigger as Gibbons sends up (among others) Hardy, Austen, the Bronte sisters, Lawrence, Coleridge, et al.

Not much more I want to add about this book. The film staring Kate Beckinsale and Ian McKellen is a damn good adaptation and worth watching.

5 Mugs





Last thing: Drain the well, there's a neighbour missing!



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Booklist: F. Scott Fitzgerald "Tender is the Night"

F. Scott Fitzgerald
Tender is the Night
3 Mugs

I am not totally sure what the fuss is about Fitzgerald. I finally got around to reading the Great Gatsby a few months ago, and finished Tender is the Night just after Christmas after talking to a Fitzgerald-fan (she made it sound good) and, whilst I enjoy his stuff, I think I must be missing something. I did like this though: a great view of 1920's expat culture in Europe if nothing more. The ending though, I do like Fitzgerald's endings.

The book is split into three sections, each one populated with the same characters, but seeing them from different angles. Without giving too much away, by the end the characters you think are going to top themselves are doing great, whilst the main protagonist is a washed up heap of scum. Love it!

I made the mistake of reading the introduction, written by a scholar who completely deconstructs the entire book, pulling out the major themes (or what he feels are the major themes) which, ok, is what he was paid to do, but having just read the book and quite liked it, I didn't want to then read about how it is totally about incest. Looking back at it now, sure, there's a fairly incestuous undertone, but it is one thing to accept this about a book, and quite another to have your nose rubbed in it.

4 Mugs




I'm not sure if I would recommend this book or not. Fitzgerald is an important author and it does detail the between-war period beautifully with a lyric, depressive, twist, but at the same time I can think of books I would rather read. Bit like Schindler's List - you're glad you've stuck with it, but one would hardly say it had been a party. Put it this way, it won't be in my Desert Island list, whilst Cryptonomicon, Pride and Prejudice, and Cold Comfort Farm would be.



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Booklist: Clive Cussler "Sahara"

Clive Cussler
Sahara
0 Mugs

Time, unfortunately, for a bad review. Don't, under any circumstances, read this book unless you are a committed fan of brainless adventure novels with plot twists you can see coming from the other side of the galaxy, no suspense what so ever, and a female character you would cheerfully throttle. This is one of the few times I was rooting for the bad guys when they were trying to kill her! No, I am not being too harsh. Even though I wasn't expecting greatness when I picked it up (totally on impusle and because Matt McConaughey looked fine on the front cover), I admit I was expecting better than I got. This has to go on the list with all of Dan Brown's books (novel is too good a word), to be avoided like the plague. To quote Monty Python: "RUN AWAY! RUN AWAY!"

No spoilers. It would be too difficult not to give the entire plot away.

0 Mugs - an Earl Grey
I have no cute graphic for books this bad as yet, but I will devise one at somepoint I am sure. *shudder*

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Booklist: Michael Chabon, "The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay"

Michael Chabon
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay
4 Mugs

I have Jo to thank for pointing this book out to me (for 'pointing', read 'got it off the shelf of the library, brought it too me, and saying "you have to read this"'). And I am glad she did - this is a highly enjoyable book, though he does kind of owe me an ending. Chabon writes well enough that you genuinely do care what happens to the characters. I was forced to keep reading well past normal bedtime because I didn't want to leave it at a depressing point. Warning, there are quite a few depressing points.

I really did love this book - I am going to be buying it (or at least putting it on my 'to buy' list) which I only do for books I really like. I am not going to say much more about it here apart from why are you reading this crappy review and not the book?!, mainly because I don't want to spoil your enjoyment of it. So, go read it, and then we can have a long discussion about how the ending could have been made better. Damn it, but I want all the characters to be happy! That's it.

4 Mugs




Still reading this site. Naughty. Go, read Kavalier and Clay! Now!



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Booklist: Ray Bradbury, "The Illustrated Man"

Ray Bradbury
The Illustrated Man
3 Mugs & a Rich Tea Biscuit

This is a collection of short stories by one of the greats of short-story telling. Some people sneer at short stories, saying that they are a cop out and not proper literature. Not true in my opinion. A well crafted short story can be a gem, making us think of things in a new way, and at his best Bradbury excells at the art. The Illustrated Man, unfortunately, is not Bradbury at his best. Which is not to say that you shouldn't read it - Bradbury on an off day is still better than the majority of people on a good day - and there are one or two in the collection of 16 that are really rather supreme. It was published in 1952, which should clue you in to the mind-set it was written from. America had recently proven they had the power to wipe us clear off the face of the Earth, racial tensions were reaching critical mass, the space race was just in its infancy, and new technology was appearing on the scene faster than ever before.

Read the rest of the post for details of a few stories in particular I want to tell you about.


The Other Foot: This starts out amazingly. The premise of the story is that in the 60's, Mars was settled entirely by black people, and, whilst they are making a great community, back home on Earth it's WW3. Cut to 20 years later and a lone rocket, with a few (white) surviors, lands on Mars, ready to extend the hand of friendship. For Earth has been effectively destroyed and they want to move the remaining hundred thousand or so to Mars to start over. Cue much racial tension, hatred, and reverse apartheid action, for the Martians haven't forgotten all the Earthlings had done to them and theirs.

Up till the last page of this I was totally hooked, thinking what an amazing tale this was, and how cleverly Bradbury had, by turning the tables with whites being the oppressed, made a clear and powerful statement of the stupidity of segregation and the need for reconcilliation. This has all the makings of a modern day parable I thought to myself. And then, he goes and wimps out. Read it for yourself to find out why, but I closed the book in disgust, went into the kitchen, and wailed at Jo for half an hour about what a chicken Bradbury is.

The Highway: Apparently, The Highway is famous in American/Atomic history circles for being an insightful look at apocolyptic America. I went into it with an open mind and enjoyed it, though it is really short, even for a short story (5 pages), but I wouldn't say it was amazingly insightful into post-apocolyptic America. The bomb is mentioned once and I am still not certain why the people were streaming north INTO America, but what the hey. For me, the story tells you more about the rich ignoring the poor on their doorstep and how, even when one way of life is wiped off the map, everyone else just keeps on going. The complete surprise and total lack of regret expressed by the Mexican when the American says 'the world is over' is beautiful in its simplicity and applicability to todays climate. What do they mean, 'the world'?

Kalidescope: Got to love those gory, drawn out, death scenes in space. You are given no clue as to what went wrong, no real idea of why these men were in space in the first place, but you don't need that. The Kalidescope is a wonderfully written piece looking at how people face certain death. The ending is a little corny, but that can be forgiven, because you get a glimpse of a society where space is seemingly travelled by hardened Mormon vetrans (one guy has at least three wives on three separate planets. Brave guy). Yes, the image of space/colonies as the modern Wild West, is now passe but remember - 1952, not so much.

The Man: A space-age collection wouldn't be complete without at least one tale of the search for God in the cosmos. Patchy writing, good ideas.

3 Mugs & a Rich Tea Biscuit

This book epitomises the reason I love science fiction so much - in no other genre is it possible to explore so totally the different directions society could go in.



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Booklist: Jane Austen, "Pride and Prejudice"

Jane Austen
Pride and Prejudice
5 Mugs

This is a book that, hopefully, needs no introduction. If you are too lazy to read (shame on you), get your mitts on a copy of the BBC adaptation with Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle, as it is a damn good version. But back to the book. It tells the story of the trials and tribulations experienced by the two eldest Bennet daughters (Jane and Lizzy), and the course of true love. That's the surface. The more you read it, the more you realise that Austen had a wicked sense of humour and that she beautifully crafts her characters.

If you've seen the BBC adapation, I am sorry to have to break it to you, but there is no wet-shirt scene in the book. Sorry.

Five Mugs

I could, and do, read this book over and over again, and it never gets old. So I know what happens, but I still get a lump in my throat at the sad bits, and get all weepy with a warm fluffy feeling at the end. Definately a desert island book.


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Booklist: Margaret Attwood, "Oryx and Crake"

Margaret Attwood
Oryx and Crake
3 Mugs & a Rich Tea Biscuit

This is another book recommended by Moose. Really should stop talking to that girl - she is being detrimental to my studies ;) Anyhoo, those of you familiar with the Attwood canon of work will find all you are expecting in Oryx and Crake: dual story lines, messed up chronologies, with a post-apocalyptic setting remeniscent of Handmaid's Tale. The chronology/story-line isn't quite as confusing as Blind Assassin with it's four (or five depending on how you count) parallel themes, but I prefered Assassin to this. Not that Oryx and Crake is bad, it isn't, it is very good, especially at its chilling view of the near future and humanities downward spiral to self destruction, but I felt no connection to Snowman/Jimmy, and something was missing from the Children of Crake, so that I couldn't picture them fully either. Perhaps that is the point?

I am musing out loud now, so forgive me if I ramble. The more I think on that last point, the unreality of the Craker's, how they are missing something, perhaps that is Attwood's point? Because the Children were designed to be a new (read better ?) form of humanity, with certain traits omitted, we just cannot identify with them. It is the very flaws omitted from the Children which make us human.

Hmmm, I am just talking out of my hat. The idea I want to express is on the tip of my tongue, but I can't seem to put it into words right now. Don't be surprised if this review isn't rewritten a couple of times! As for the ending - pah! Left gloriously open so you can make up your own mind as to the fate of Snowman, humanity, and the Children of Crake, but I was left with a lingering sense of disapointment. Am I being too morbid in that I project fullscale destruction of the Children by the remaining humans? I can't see the two groups living together somehow. Part of me wants a Planet of the Apes-type ending, where the Children reign supreme, but if war/strife/etc simply isn't part of their makeup, how can that be? Or will the essential 'humanity' of the Children resurface. After all, they have started to make art...

I don't know. Something was off about this one to me. It didn't quite hit all the buttons I have come to expect Attwood to hit.

3 Mugs and a rich tea biscuit.

Just above the average three-mugger, but not quite up to a four-mug standard. Fans of Attwood, whilst enjoying this, won't feel it is her best. People new to Attwood might be advised to read Blind Assassin or Robber Bride first to get a feel for her work.

Now if you will excuse me I am off to read Blind Assassin once more to restore my faith in her skill. Not Handmaid's Tale though, that just plain freaked the hell out of me.


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Thursday, July 14, 2005

Booklist: Cherith Baldry, "The Roses of Roazon"

Cherith Baldry
The Roses of Roazon
3 Mugs

I really rather liked this one. I wasn't expecting on it, seeing as how I just grabbed it off the shelf as I was passing in the Library, but it turned out to be one of those one-day books I get sometimes. You know, the ones that you start over the morning cup of tea at 8am, and next time you look up you find its 1230 and you've finished. It is also one of those rare books - the one volume epic. There has been a notable (and rather depressing) trend in fantasy lately for the trilogy. Sometimes this works (Robin Hobb's three related trilogies are exquisite), but more often than not it is just an excuse for laziness. Often times you find enough ideas for one book stretched between three, sometimes more. Robert Jordan (will the Wheel of Time sequence NEVER end?) is more than a little to blame for this I feel, but I am sure Hollywood with it's love of sequels should shoulder some of the culpability, that, and other causes. But that's not what I want to get into now.


Roses isn't bad. It has a good premise - a medieval Brittany analogue, but where visions of the future and other slightly unconventional things (I hesitate to say magic) are the norm - the characters are nicely sketched out, and the tension builds to a pretty climatic ending. It's slightly predictable in that who ends up with who is clear from a good few units-of-distance-measurement away (bar one relationship that, whilst clearly doomed, wasn't totally obvious), and (I don't think I am going to surprise anyone here) good triumphs, but it is definitely a cut above the standard fantasy you find giving the genre a bad name.

If I have a problem with the book, it is with the ending. The last two or three chapters felt a little rushed - the sort of rush you get when the editor goes "Um, we're at 500 pages already and you're showing no signs of wrapping it up..." - and there was a uncomfortably forced messianic parallel which left a bad taste in my mouth. Think the Neo's ending in Matrix Three and you get where I am headed.

Other than that, I would recommend this book. Perhaps not enough to buy it full price, but get it out of the library again, and buy any other books of hers that I find (going cheap/on special offer). And make a mental note not to start reading one if you have to get an early night or have important work to do!

Three Mugs:

You know it's not going to let you down, but it doesn't challenge you in any way, or over stimulate you at all.



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Monday, July 11, 2005

Booklist: John Wyndham, "Stowaway to Mars"

John Wyndham
Stowaway to Mars
2 Mugs

Now I like John Wyndham, correction, I love John Wyndham. The man, I thought, could do no literary wrong. Day of the Triffids and The Kraken Wakes are two of my all time favourite books, bar none. The Midwich Cuckoos is also a cracking read, and an even scarier film (the Village of the Damned). As I said, Wyndham is a master of classic science fiction. Note I say 'classic' science fiction. By this I mean the story happens in the real world, based on Einsteinian & Newtonian physics, and quite firmly does not subscribe to the fantastical in any way. The stories are more to do with how ordinary people react to situations that, if a little odd, have their basis in what is happening hear and now. If you ignore the alien causation*1*, The Kraken Wakes is as relevant a tale about global warming today as it was when it was written in the 1950s. Ditto Day of the Triffids on genetic modification.

So I was more than a little disappointed by Stowaway. I hadn't heard of the book before, and after reading it, I can see why. Published in 1935 under the pseudonym John Beynon, this is pulp pure and simple. Not even very good pulp at that. One thing I always liked about Wyndham's work was that the women weren't your stereotypical bimbos - they were strong, in many cases saving the day time over time - which is rare even in modern science fiction, let alone pieces written over half a century ago. In Stowaway the two women are plot devices with no redeeming features. The wife of the main character is an educated woman who, once married, looses all idea of self-worth and reverts to stereotype, whilst the other woman... Again, meant to be a strong educated woman, but not so much with the brains. She'd been in the book one page and I was rooting for her to be pushed out of the nearest airlock, and I'm not a violent person!

Nothing about this book recommends it to the reader. The prose is forced, showing none of Wyndham's characteristic lyric turn; the dialogue is laughable and memorable only in its sheer appallingness; and there is no tension. Zip. Nada. On practically the very first page you are told that all the characters reach Mars, have fun, and survive the return trip to try again another day. Ok, Wyndham never was one for killing off his main characters, so we'll let that one slide a bit, but I felt no anxiety about what was happening, no curiosity about how it was going to turn out ok. There was no connection between the reader and what was happening on the page.

If I could come up with one redeeming feature, it is this: there is a constant undertone of the media as corrupt, wielding too much power, and willing to destroy anyone in the way of a story. In one lovely scene, two journalists are talking about how the wife of the main astronaunt/billionaire/playboy/adventurer couldn't bring herself to say goodbye before her husband set off to be the first man on Mars*2*. The first journalist is bewailing the lack of good photos. His friend turns to him and says "you should see the montage your photo people put together last night. Very touching. Bring tears to your eyes". Spectacle, throughout the book, is more important than facts.

Wyndham does try to get in the expected biting subtext, warning us of something in our present day culture that could easily go wrong in the future. He's a good little science-fiction writer in that respect. But it just goes wrong.

I wanted to like this book and am going to read it again just to make sure I didn't miss anything, but I don't think that I did. It just misses on all counts. When you read it, it is clear that it was one of those stories churned out for the pulp magazines in their hundreds. Something to pay the bills, but not to stand the test of time. It is a great sadness that John Wyndham didn't write more books, so we wouldn't be so desperate for any scrap of his genius left.

2 Mugs

I want it to be more, I really do, but I have to obey the rating system!

Endnotes:
*1*Yes, he resorts to aliens, but only as plot-device. In most of his 'alien' books, you never even see single alien from cover to cover.Back
*2*For she is a woman, and all women hate and fear machines, because they threaten our reproductive prerogative. Yeah, I have no idea what Wyndham was on when he wrote this either.Back



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Welcome to the Dark Meadow blog

Welcome. Dark Meadow is the counterpoint of my other blog, Bright Meadow. Here I will be putting such items as the Booklist reviews and film reviews as (and when) I get around to writing them.

Each week or so, I will be taking a picture of my latest 'booklist', and putting it on Flickr, tagged 'booklist' and posted as 'brightmeadow'. A quick search on the site will find them. You will see the latest stack of books in the list in the sidebar to your right. Just click on it, and it will take you to a page detailing all of the books. When I have read the books, and if I deem any of them worth talking about (the truly shocking, or the wonderful, I won't bother talking about the average, unless I am really really bored), I will post a review of them here. Ditto film reviews.

There are several ways of knowing when new stuff is put here:

  1. Subscribe to the RSS feed by pointing your aggregator at the stream for this site. You will find the stream on the right hand side of the page in the 'Keep in Touch' section.

  2. Subscribe to the RSS feed of Bright Meadow: when I put a review or something up here, I will be mentioning it there.

  3. Place the Technorati tag 'Booklist' on your watchlist. When I tag a new booklist post, it will come up there.

  4. I also tag the photos of my booklist on Flickr with 'booklist', so you can do a search there.

  5. If all this talk of tagging and the like is confusing you, just bookmark Bright Meadow and this site, and check in on me occasionally in the old fashioned way. Or drop me an email and I'll do my best to explain it all a bit better for you.


That's it for now, folks. Enjoy :)
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Monday, January 01, 1990

Whats With All The Tea?

The Penguin rating system works for me over at Bright Meadow for films and the like, but I feel in need of a different system for the book reviews. So, I've decided to go with the Tea System. You all know how I like my tea. It goes as follows:

  • 0 Mugs - Earl Grey. Don't go near this if you value your life. You've heard the phrase "there are fates worse than death"? Well, this is it, for the literary world. Don't say I didn't warn you.

  • 1 Mug - Asda's own brand teabags that have been sitting at the back of the cupboard for the past five years. Wet & Warm, nothing more. For when you have nothing else in the house, not even that bag of herbal tea you got in the junk mail as a trial.

  • 2 Mugs - Teatley Tea. The perfect brew for when you've come in from a hard days shopping. You'll read it, enjoy it, and forget you've read it the next day. Such books have their uses - perfect for the plane, or when suffering from a mild bout of malaria in a backpacking hostel in a rainforest in Borneo.

  • 3 Mugs - PG Tips Pyramid bags. You know it's not going to let you down, but it doesn't exactly challenge you in any way, or stimulate you at all. This author will be a trusty friend - you know you'll be able to pick up their latest books and not be disappointed, but not surprised at the same time. The literary equivalent of that old baggy jumper you keep in the draw for when you are having "One of THOSE days".

  • 4 Mugs - Assam tea. Life doesn't get much better than this. I have never yet regretted spending money on books that are this good. You will read them over and over and over again, and each and every time, you will come away with something new, and love it even more.

  • 5 Mugs - The finest first flush Darjeeling, drunk on the estate in the Indian hill country without milk. As good as it gets. Beg, borrow, steal, sell your favorite pet hamster, anything, but get your hands on a copy of this book. NOW! Shakespeare; Austen; Lenon; those dudes have stood the tests of time, and so will this.

  • There are also biscuits to indicate finer degrees of variation on the scale.


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About Dark Meadow

What is this blog about?
Dark Meadow is the counterpoint of my other blog, Bright Meadow. It is here that I will be putting such items as the Booklist reviews and film reviews as (and when) I get around to writing them.

Each week or so, I will be taking a picture of my latest 'booklist', and putting it on Flickr, tagged 'booklist' and posted as 'darkmeadow'. A quick search on the site will find them. You will see the latest stack of books in the list in the sidebar to your right. Just click on it, and it will take you to a page detailing all of the books. When I have read the books, and if I deem any of them worth talking about (the truly shocking, or the wonderful, I won't bother talking about the average, unless I am really really bored), I will post a review of them here. Ditto film reviews.

How will I know when there is something new on this blog?
There are several ways of knowing when new stuff is put here:

  • Subscribe to the RSS feed by pointing your aggregator at the stream for this site. You will find the stream on the right hand side of the page in the 'Keep in Touch' section.

  • Subscribe to the RSS feed of Bright Meadow: when I put a review or something up here, I will be mentioning it there.

  • Place the on your watchlist. When I tag a new booklist post, it should come up there, though Technorati has been hating me lately.

  • I also tag the photos of my booklist on Flickr with 'booklist', so you can do a search there.

  • If all this talk of tagging and the like is confusing you, just bookmark Bright Meadow and this site, and check in on me occasionally in the old fashioned way. Or drop me an email and I'll do my best to explain it all a bit better for you.

Why 'Dark Meadow'?
Well, I already had the Bright Meadow up and running when I realised the need for a sister site. Bright Meadow had rapidly become the day-to-day place, leaving little room for the more serious things I occasionally felt like saying. the 'Holm didn't seem the right place either, so I claimed Dark Meadow as well. That, and I thought it was a cool name, and wanted it before someone else snaffled it!

Why 'Vampire Pomeranian'?
Why not? I thought it had a nice dark ring to it, in keeping with the name of the blog. Also, I'd watched Blade Trinity like the night before, and the line had made me laugh, so, why not?

You seem to say 'Why Not?' quite a bit
Yeah, just noticed that myself actually. It does kind of explain my philosophy on life rather nicely. I'm a happy go lucky kind of gal, me, taking things as they come, and feel that (unless there is a damn good reason not to), you should do whatever makes you happy.

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