Wednesday, 23 January 2013

other recent reads...


THE INGREDIENTS OF LOVE by Nicholas Barreau

This was quite a sweet, light romance about a woman who owns a restaurant recognising herself in a novel that she reads. Soon she's involved in a tale of ghost writers and editors with hidden lives - and the strange relationship we have with the books in our heads and their implied authors. All this makes it sound a bit more clever than it is. Really, it's a fun runaround. But you know that thing when books are translated from the French, or set in France, and somehow quite plain or banal ideas, phrases and sentences can take on a strange (though fleeting) profundity? Well, that.

Recommended, all the same. Though the female lead is completely nuts, I think.



DOCTOR WHO: THE WHEEL OF ICE by Stephen Baxter.

Another in BBC Books' occasional (ie, not regular enough) Past Doctor series - and an entry in their 'prestige authors' line. ('Prestige authors' is, I believe, the way they themselves have put it - to indicate big-sellers-in-their-own-genre.) This one is definitely highly recommended. I loved this. The TARDIS crew of 1968 is lovingly recreated - Troughton's Doctor is wonderfully clever, funny, warm and mysterious. Lots of interesting set-up and some clever ideas; some wonderful secondary characters - and spiffy new monsters. Blue baby dolls with needle teeth. Polymorphous blue soldiers.

I really like the shifting in scales that goes on - taking us from surfing trips across Saturn's icy rings - to huddled meetings in kitchens in suburban dwellings inside a bubble that is part of the celestial necklace where all the human miners live. That's true science fiction epic stuff, as far as i'm concerned - taking us from the tiny to the vast and back again, and barely stopping for breath. All very satisfying, I thought.


WILDWOOD by Colin Meloy.

This was pretty enjoyable, too. Children falling into a forgotten realm in the deep woods of Portland, where foxes and birds and various factions are at war. It's filled with eccentric touches and some bloodthirstiness - and some tropes very familiar from C.S Lewis. In common with Lev Grossman's recent 'Magicians' novels it's an attempt to create a very American otherworld fantasy, and that's interesting to watch develop. It is much, much too long, though. There is a middle section in which one main character is in a cell that seems to last for half the book, waiting while his counterpart in the plot catches up. Some moments have real emotional punch, though (as when the girl's brother is kidnapped, and when her parents confess their roles in the plot) and if the book was shorter these would have more impact, I thought.

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