03 January 2005

Recent Acquisitions

Christmas this year was splendid on many fronts. It was, however, somewhat less productive of presents in the form of books than I was hoping, although I did get a new phone and some of the CDs I asked for. (B. and I also received as joint presents a number of items of kitchen equipment she particularly wanted, which is of course very pleasing and not irritating in the least.)

I did, however, manage to acquire the following, by courtesy of my kind and generous birth and marriage families:

Natural History by Justina Robson. Interesting exploration of biological posthumanism, with characters who are passenger airships, deep-space probes and giant breeding machines for creating all the other types of people mentioned. I'm only 100 pages in, but so far it's providing the kind of exploration of the subjectivity of posthuman existence which I found so lacking in Greg Egan's Diaspora. I've not read any of Robson's previous novels, but she's damn good.

1602 by Neil Gaiman. Gaiman's reimagining of the Marvel superhero universe for the year 1602, with a pleasingly spurious time-travel justification. I'm not an avid reader of Marvel, and indeed have learned most of what I know from the recent films based around their characters, but I found this most entertaining (particularly Dr Carlos Javier and his School for the Sons of Gentlemen). 1602 seems not to have been terribly popular among Gaiman's fans, but this kind of creative exercise, of fitting an existing narrative pattern (or complex of patterns) into a novel setting is something I find enormously intellectually stimulating. The example par excellence is Alan Moore's The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, with its Victorian superhero team-up. Speaking of which...

The Killing Joke by Alan Moore. Not really Moore's best work, despite being his take on by far the best superhero / supervillain pairing, Batman and The Joker. I still prefer Arkham Asylum, but The Killing Joke has its undeniable moments.

The Writer's Handbook 2005 edited by Barry Turner. Useful for work, obviously, so rather less exciting than the others, but still very necessary (and little-sister-in-law tempered the utility of it by also giving me The Killing Joke, so she's lovely anyway).

In addition, a very nice book token from a generous grandfather-in-law allowed me to purchase:

Raw Spirit by Iain Banks. One of my favourite fiction authors, both SF and mainstream, writes as his first non-fiction book a travelogue of Scottish whisky distilleries. This is the sort of project you can only really get away with suggesting when you're very very famous.

Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell (white cover) by Susanna Clarke. New author, absolutely vast historical-fantasy novel which has been raved about widely. Currently half price from Blackwell's, if anyone's interested.

Newton's Wake by Ken Macleod. I've been wanting this for a while -- MacLeod is another favourite of mine, although his obsession with left-wing politics (much though I approve of it in theory) has become rather overbearing after seven novels. This is his first non-series novel (although I suppose he may yet write a sequel). Looking forward to it, but slightly cautiously.

It may take me quite a while to get around to reading some of these, given that I'm still working on The Separation, which I bought with birthday money back in November... and given that another birthday present, Banks's The Algebraist (which I must get round to reviewing here) took me a month and a half. Who knows, maybe they'll even last me until next birthday.

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