bunn (bunn) wrote,
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It is the opinion of philmophlegm that I should review some of the books I got for Christmas.


In no order, and trying to avoid any major spoilers:

Terry Pratchett: Making Money
Always good readable fun, Terry P. It stars Moist, who previously appears in Going Postal, and in some ways its the same plot: likeable swindler turns round failing Ankh Morpork institution. This is rather familiar ground, and although there are some good jokes and I like the little doggy (an important character) it did strike me as just a bit samey, and at the same time, perhaps a little hindered by the sheer quantity of backstory and plot devices from previous books. Though, of course, that's no doubt what legions of ardent fans want, and I suppose me too, to a certain extent.

Nigel Slater: Eating for England
I think this was an 'Amazon Suggests' that I put on my wishlist in a fairly random manner. It's by a celebrity chef, and is about English food, its history, associations, and the places where it is produced and sold, from jelly babies to artisan cheese to farmers market to sad corner shop cheddar.

What stuck me first was what a lazy book this is. It's real stream of consciousness stuff: you can just see him sitting down and writing two paragraphs before knocking off for lunch with a sense of well-earned achievement. None the less, it's very witty and I am forced to admit, lots of fun to read. I'm not entirely sure that I trust it though.

I was interested to learn that adding jelly to trifle is a modern innovation, 'real' trifle is jelly-less. Or so he claims. It's nice to encounter a celebrity chef who is prepared to admit that people eat Dairylea because they actually like it, rather than because they are Unenlightened.

Helen Dunmore: Ingo
Children's story about merpeople, set in Cornwall. Reading this was a weird experience, because it's a newish book, so I can't possibly have read it and forgotten it, but long ago I wrote about half of a very similar story. It's perhaps not that odd to be inspired to write about merpeople in Cornwall, and there are some elements that just follow naturally from that, but the overlaps came in more places than you'd expect just from that, and in ideas that aren't location or concept specific at all. Most odd.

I did enjoy this, but it's very clearly written to be the first of a series, and in the end I felt a bit cheated that most of the big issues were not resolved. The story didn't seem to be properly book-shaped on its own, it felt a bit empty. I was pleased in the end to decide that I liked my version better. Though the reason I never finished it was that I was also groping for an ending, so maybe that's another resemblance.


Chaz Brenchley: Dead of Light
A family with superpowers rule a town for their own Mafia-ish benefit. The tale is told from the point of view of the wimpish-yet-bohemian total whittle cousin, the only one with no 'powers' of his own. This status does not last the whole book, unsurprisingly. (Are there any books where people start out untalented and remain so throughout..?)

It reminded me of Diana Wynne Jones's Archer's Goon, if that had been written by an edgily trendy 22 year old in a leather jacket, and had 'Looads an' loooads o' killins'. It's also a little bit Highlander. (I don't know if Chaz Brenchley is actually 22, or if he (or she) wears leather. But he/she/it should be).

I'm quite sure this is planned to be one of a series too, but it does have enough shape to stand on its own feet. I will probably read the next one, but not with desperate fervour.

Megan Whalen Turner: The Thief
This is my favorite of my Christmas books so far. It's a Young Adult book: I'm not sure why, unless because there's no sex, the language is nicely simple and it's a bit on the short size, with big fonts! It's a bit RPGish - it's set in a sort of Greek setting, as if a Bronze Age Greece had survived to the Renaissance, and the tale is told by someone who might as well have a big label attached to him : "Human Thief: Chaotic Good"

None the less, it's very well told and there is a brilliant twist which I didn't spot in advance at all and I'm not going to tell you anything about it because that would spoil it.

It also has a couple of little tributes in there to Rosemary Sutcliff and Diana Wynne Jones: I spotted the Sutcliff one but not the DWJ so will have to re-read at some point. I definitely need the next book, but not in any way because this one was not complete and perfectly-formed in itself.

Joan D. Vinge: World's End
I am a bit of a JDV fan: so much more readable than the often more widely available Vernor. I'd read quite a few of her books back in the 80's, but I didn't own any of them because, well, there they were in the library, so... (This is not the only hole in my bookshelf because of this shortsighted approach...)

This is from the same series as The Snow Queen, which is probably her most well known work, and stars one of the best subsidiary characters from that book, the honourable police office,BZ Gundinhalu.

He ventures into the heart of a dangerous planet to rescue his two sleazy older brothers, in the process, encountering a strange intelligence strangely reminiscent of the plot of a Traveller adventure. This book would be pretty much incomprehensible if you haven't read The Snow Queen first, but luckily, I have, so I very much enjoyed it.

My copy is marked ©1984, but the feel is in places quite psychedelic: before I looked it up I thought it was older.
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