Tag Archives: Book Reviews

More dreams, fewer pipes

I get published, y’know.

Now, I announced the release of the Noir anthology from Newcon Press aaaages ago, but the world of reviewing moves pretty slowly when it happens off-line, and only now has this incredibly flattering write-up of my story “A Boardinghouse Heart” made it onto the hallowed pages of Vector, courtesy of the mighty Martin McGrath (who is not know for cutting crap fiction any slack, I might add). Quoth McGrath, the story:

“… is very fine indeed — compact, dense and intelligent, it is more-or-less everything I’d hoped for when I picked up the collection. It’s a detective story — or at least it’s a story with a detective in it — set on the slippery streets of a richly realised city. The protagonist, as should be the case in all good noir stories, is hopelessly out of his depth and beset by those more powerful and cleverer than he is. The most effective element is the way in which the story immerses you in a city, gives it history and heft, yet never burdens the reader with hefty exposition. I also liked its refusal of any heroic narrative. It’s a fine achievement and worth the price of admission on its own.”

That price of admission is £2.01 as a Kindle ebook, and rather more for paperback or hardback (signed) versions, should you be tempted by this effusive praise.

There have been few reviews of the Twelve Tomorrows anthology, possibly because MIT Tech Review took a somewhat “fire and forget” approach to promoting it, but the October print edition of Locus picked it up in two separate columns, in one of which Gardner Dozois declares:

“[t]he best stories here are Lauren Beukes’s “Slipping” and Paul Graham Raven’s ”Los Piratas del Mar de Plastico (Pirates of the Plastic Ocean)”, both of which manage to inject human drama into their visions of the future, as well as characters you care about who are faced with situations where they have something and something significant at stake.”

Which is a fairly writer’s-workshop-y kind of compliment, perhaps, but it comes from a man who’s been in the anthology editing game for almost as long as I’ve been alive, so I’m gonna go right ahead and take him at his word. Twelve Tomorrows also available in ebook form for UK readers via everyone’s favourite rapacious and riparian online retailer, for a mere £5.99. A steal, really, when you see who else is in there alongside me.

Last but not least, albeit considerably less glamorous, here’s an article I wrote for Water & Wastewater Treatment Magazine about Pipedreams, one of the big meta-projects of the Pennine Water Group, wherein I am currently embedded as a postgraduate researcher. Even though I struggle to explain my own research concisely, I can at least explain that of my colleagues, wot?

OMFG SPOILERS

In response to viewer and listener feedback received during the recently-finished football season, the BBC has decided that pundits and newscasters on all BBC media properties will be forbidden from mentioning specific details of league matches until it has been determined that everyone interested in watching or listening to the live commentary has had a chance to do so.

Barraged by complaints from viewers stuck at work or with family while crucial matches were broadcast, the Director General felt obliged to respond and address the issue. “Obviously, it’s been unfair of us to discuss major events and turnarounds in football matches – final score, goalscorers, red cards and the like – when there are still loyal fans who’ve yet to watch or listen to the game via timeshifted media. Why should they be denied the chance to enjoy our football-related programming just because there’s a chance the element of surprise might be removed from their enjoyment of their home team’s performance?”

Asked how the BBC intended to deal with the possibility of other media outlets leaking the same details while some fans remained unfulfilled, the Director General replied: “We’re planning to set up a dialogue with other venues to establish a sort of universal code of practice. It is to be hoped that rogue venues will not breach the code and race to broadcast the full detail of a match in their discussion of it; it would be very callous of them not to consider the possibility of a fan accidentally clicking through to a discussion of a game they had yet to watch. After all, it’s not the fan’s responsibility to avoid every venue where discussion might occur; that onus lies clearly on the media and the punditry, and it’s to the shame of this industry that we’ve let this run unchecked for so long.”

Faced with the suggestion that such a code of conduct would be unpolicable and tantamount to a form of censorship, the Director General asserted that it is clearly the duty of the media to forestall discussion until a point where everyone can participate in it equally. “It’s just the right thing to do, isn’t it? After all, if we told them they’d be better off avoiding football-related media until they’ve had a chance to catch up, we’d be being monstrously unfair to that minority of people. They should be able to read, listen to or watch whatever they want without fear of finding out something they’d rather not know yet, and we have to consider that desire – born as it is of a form of deferred gratification – to be more important than the inconsiderate lust for discussion of everyone else. That lust has led to pundits taking an almost sadistic glee in discussing the particulars of certain matches, especially the most important or contentious ones, and – to be frank – the sooner we quash this unpleasant thread of elitism, the better off everyone will be.”

When pressed, the DG suggested that the same protocols will eventually be rolled out into all sports programming, and finally all news content in general. But wouldn’t this mean that eventually the BBC would be completely unable to discuss anything that had happened at all, ever? “We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it, I suppose,” responded the Director General. “But I’m positive that those to whom we extend the privilege of forestalling the discussion will be grateful for not having to think about what they read or watch, and that is reward enough for everyone, I’d have thought.”

For more background on this story, click here. Unless you’re worried that clicking there might reveal an important component of the events in question that will spoil your enjoyment of the discussion as a whole, of course; after all, you shouldn’t have to make that judgement call yourself.

Good winnings, bad endings, bad reviews and bad business

Good winnings:

Paul Raven and Claire weaver at the Arthur C Clarke Award ceremony 2008As the entire intarwubz have already reported, Richard Morgan’s Black Man scooped the Clarke Award last night. I hadn’t read the whole shortlist, so I can’t pass comment on its comparative worthiness, but I have read Black Man (reviewed it for Vector, too) and thought it was an excellent book, so no complaints from me.

The fact that Morgan is not just a very decent and interesting fellow but one of my new clients is also rather pleasing. Congratulations, Richard!

The ceremony was a lot of fun, and the Apollo Cinema was done up all sf-nal complete with gratuitous Star Wars extras; it was great to see lots of people I usually only interact with online, and an unusual experience to be plied with free booze and nibbles.

Although, judging by Niall’s picture of me stood next to the gorgeous Claire Weaver, I should probably be avoiding nibbles for a few months, or possibly even forever.

Bad endings:

The SF Signal gang roped me into another of their Mind Meld posts to talk about the best and worst endings in genre novels.

Unsurprisingly, I was far from being the only person to declare Peter F Hamilton’s Night’s Dawn trilogy to have the worst ending ever … there’s lots of other interesting opinions from names and faces old and new, so go take a read. You’ll get some good recommendations from it, I reckon.

Bad reviews:

Andrew Wheeler calls it how he sees it, which is why he’s one of the genre bloggers I most respect. His justification for writing negative reviews is chuntering out of my printer as we speak, so as to be pinned to my wall:

“On the one side, a reviewer always wants to be honest. If I liked a book, I want to say that — more, I want to explain what I liked about it, and, as best I can, how, I liked it. And I want to avoid soft pedaling a book I didn’t like.

But I’ve also gotten to a point in my life when I like to think of myself as an adult. And adults don’t cause offense inadvertently (as someone once said about gentlemen).

I’ll still probably say some critical things about the book in question […] but, if I can manage it, none of it will be gratuitous (unlike SF Eye), and all of it will be for a purpose.

So that’s the point: I complain because I love. Really.”

Selah, brother.

Bad business:

Right, it’s off to the day-job for me … *sigh*

Scalpel Magazine launches, plus more print vs. online debate

Having been out of town on the relevant evening, I’m late to the field in trumpeting the launch of Scalpel Magazine (although I actually mentioned it ages ago, and let the cat somewhat out of the bag in the process). Most of the genre blogosphere appears to have taken the news of a new reviews and criticism outlet fairly positively, notwithstanding Nick Mamatas and friends. There’s some fine content on there, too. I for one hope it will last the course – and not merely because I want another venue to send my own work to, either.

Pat Cadigan’s guest editorial for Scalpel mentions the decline of book reviews in mainstream print media, which is a hot topic at the moment, especially in the US. I’ve found that the Print Is Dead blog has had some wise things to say on the matter. Meanwhile, the UK’s very own Grumpy Old Bookman has added his dime to the jukebox:

“Finally, however, let us remember one simple fact. However erudite the print reviewer may be, and however exquisite his taste and critical judgement, he is handicapped by comparison with the most humble blogger. Our print man cannot link directly to other sources.

This is, I would suggest, a major problem. Twenty years ago, of course, no one could even imagine it. But now it has to be faced.”

That’s about right, I think. I’m not gloating about the declining relevance of print media (in reference to book reviews or anything else), but nor am I willing to shut my eyes on what, to me, is an obvious and irresistable trend. Selah.

Climbing free of the online book review sinkhole

My love and admiration for the ability of the internet to allow anyone and everyone to publish their thoughts and opinions should be well known to regular visitors. Sometimes though, I realise that I may be making assumptions about the way other people consume that information. Continue reading Climbing free of the online book review sinkhole