26 April 2008

"Well, Narnia and barmier don't rhyme, to begin with."

I've only just noticed that my column for this month is now up at Surefish. In retrospect, I may have got a little carried away with the S.F. theology towards the end.

This is slightly unfortunate, as I'm now writing a review for Surefish endorsing this book, which claims to have discovered a "secret imaginative key" to C.S. Lewis's Narnia septet, based around the tenets of medieval astrology.

And yes, I know how that sounds, but in point of fact Michael Ward's argument is so well-informed, persuasive and -- if you actually know anything about Lewis's thought -- downright reasonable, that I can't imagine not endorsing it. And as someone who reads Fortean Times religiously every month, I have some experience of evaluating dodgy arguments. (Actually, "religiously" sounds wrong in that sentence. In fact I probably read Fortean Times secularly every month.)

If you don't believe me, that's probably fair enough, but if you find Lewis's work interesting enough to be open to new perspectives on it, do give the book (or even this summary) a read before dismissing it. Perhaps you'll decide I'm less insane than the readers at Surefish are now likely to believe.

Otherwise, I've been grindly slowly onwards on the reading front. River of Gods is still huge and difficult to fathom -- I'm perhaps two-thirds of the way through now, but it's slow going. I'm finding that McDonald's use of local (Indian) vocabulary goes way beyond scene-setting and into the realms of deliberate obscurity. The book has an "If I know this, why don't you?" air, which might seem reasonable (if smug) if its target readership consisted of Indians and indologists, but is only going to irritate the average western reader. There's a glossary, admittedly, but it's hopelessly sketchy.

In other respects it's a pretty good character-driven S.F. novel, although there are a hell of a lot of characters. Perhaps a cast list would have been more useful than the glossary.

I think the only other things I've read are a couple of Doctor Who books, The Pirate Loop (mindless fluff, nothing like as good as the author's capable of) and The Many Hands (immensely better, but still suffering from its curtailed length).

I'm also halfway through Reginald Hill's A Cure for All Diseases, which as a police procedural set in modern Yorkshire suffers rather from being closely based on an unfinished Jane Austen comedy of manners set in 18th-century Sussex. Crime writers are weird.

01 April 2008

Do Ordinands Dream of Electric Priests? ...etc.

To accompany today's (ahem) fortuitously-timed news story about the first automated church minister package, my latest column on the spiritual dimensions of artificial intelligence is up at Surefish.