Friday, July 07, 2006

Catching up on my Reading

My fiction reading has seriously tailed off in recent months, to the extent that I suspect I've barely read a dozen novels since the New Year. Instead I've generally been reading history and genetics books, but in the couple of weeks since I had the actual, genuine, not just 'Man Flu' Flu I seem to have regained my love of reading and have got through four books in the last week which doesn't sound all that much but represents a significant return to form for me. .

Most of it has been utter tat, right enough, starting with reading Gary Russell's Scales of Injustice. So long as you can ignore the fact that Russell describes Auschwitz quack and vile disgrace to humanity, Josef Mengele, as a 'genius', the book actually manages to rise to the heady heights (for Mr Russell anyway) of scrpaing mediocre. Gary Russell is in the (un)fortunate of obviously loving Doctor Who, being in a position to get commissions and, sadly, being a truly, hideously bad writer. It's not possible to say authoratively that his lofty position at Big Finish gets him those commissions, but how else to explain the choice of this book as one of the BBCi online books when so many better written, better plotted and more interesting books could have been chosen? Or why Justin Richards (range consultant for the BBC) keeps getting commissions from Big Finish, even when he's clearly not suited to the subject in question. It's not good for the quality of the BBC Doctor Who range, but given the fact that Richards seems determined to write the majority of the new turgid Tenth Doctor range himself, maybe it doesn't matter anymore.

Next up was Trevor K Grant's The Day the Earth Frazzled which was as close to 30s pulp sf as you're ever likely to see in this modern, terribly ironic age. It's maybe not the best written book in the history of the genre, but it does drip authenticity (and uses words seldom seen in literature, ancient or modern). There are rumours Grant, one of the great unknowns in the horror-pulp sf genre, is considering publishing a third novel, but it's hard to believe he's published even one, to be honest...

After wandering through Frazzled, I read the novelised sequel to Survivors by Terry Nation. It's hard to describe this without giving away various plot points from the brilliant TV sries, but suffice to say that it continues the story of Abby Grant from the end of Season 1, only in a style more suited to Nation's vision for the series than Terrance Dudley's Good Life TV version.

Finally, I read Simon Messingham's UFO/Doctor Who crossover novel, The Indestructible Man. After a run of pretty dull DW books stretching back to the phenomenal Fear Itself, tIM was genuinely enjoyable, even for someone like me who has yet to get round to watching UFO . I rather enjoy seeing the Who regulars getting put through the mill and here, as in several other Who books, the things which happen to the TARDIS crew are so extreme that you simply have to ignore the fact that there would have to be a fairly massive bout of memory loss to explain the fact that such extemeties are never mentioned again. Here, the Doctor is killed, Jamie is brain-washed and Zoe falls in love all within the first fifty pages or so so God alone knows where it's suppose to slot into continuity. Nicely written, with some exciting sections (for all that it's occasionally all too predictable), this is Messingham's best Who book by a margin.

I now have Simon Bucher Jones' Ghost Devices and Steven Saylor's Judgement of Caesar to read. Looking forward to that.

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Blogger Stewart M. said...

Do you have a list (mental, or otherwise) of your favourite SF novels? We could always swap recommendations, as I'm getting a taste for what sorts of things you like.

I agree - I don't think Who has ever seen a worse writer (or even director!) than Gary Fucking Russell. God, I hate him - in just about every way.

If you want a huge laugh, go read his 'Why Tom Baker will not appear in Big Finish' thread over at the Outpost... not so professional.

8:33 pm  
Blogger Stuart Douglas said...

I don't know if I have favourite sf novels, so much as favourite writers. So I've never read a book by Olaf Stapledon (Star Maker in partiuclar is utterly astonishing and is - for me - the greatest achievemtn in sf), Paul Magrs or Cordwainer Smith I didn't like. I also love Brian Aldiss, Alfred Bester, Terry Pratchett, chunks of Asimov and Arthur C Clarke, Michael Marshall Smith (sf only, not those bloody awfulserial killer books of his), PKD, James Blish, Neal Stephenson, Walter Miller Jr, Bob Shaw, Le Guin and probably dozens more who've slipped my mind at the moment.

My favourite novel of all time isn't really sf at all but has some very vaguely fantasy elements - Lord of the Dance by a Scottish author called Robin Lloyd-Jones.

And all that said, two of the best sf debut novels I've read in years are by Who's own Phil Purser-Hallard and Nick Wallace.

10:11 pm  
Blogger Stewart M. said...

I actually would put City of the Saved up with my top 20, somewhere...

I have Fear Itself on my shelf but have yet to crack it open.

I recently had a bit of luck at a second hand shop and ended up with an almost complete collection of NAs and MAs... all in mint condition.

Are there any you've never read and/or are seeking?

5:41 pm  
Blogger Stewart M. said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

7:10 am  
Blogger Stuart Douglas said...

You should read Fear Itself right now - it's excellent.

As for the NAs/MAs, I just comleted my collection last month after paying something ridiculous like £40 for a second hand copy of The Dying Days.

7:21 pm  
Blogger Stewart M. said...

Wow, I thought that one was worth 50 quid at least - and here I was, trying to get nearly that amount for a mint copy of 'A Device of Death'...

2:42 am  
Blogger Stuart Douglas said...

And a Device of Death isn't even very good :-)

2:51 pm  

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