Saturday, 24 February 2018


Miyuki Miyabe, 1998 [Deborah Stuhr Iwabuchi and Anna Husson Isozaki, 2005]
(December 2017)

I'm branching out! (Slowly.) I've a guest review of this over at Rachel Cordasco's excellent SF in Translation site. It was an interesting, if often flawed, read. The book. Not the site, which is excellent. Did I mention that?

Friday, 5 January 2018

The Book of Dust

Phillip Pullman, 2017
(December 2017)

His Dark Materials will forever hold a very special place in my heart. I read the first two instalments in paperback just before The Amber Spyglass was released, so was able to take in the whole sweep of the trilogy in pretty much a single dose. More poignantly, I read that final volume just after I'd decided to come to Japan for the first time, and to try to make my relationship with my then girlfriend work long distance.* You'll understand why the dénouement to Will and Lyra's story hit particularly hard. I love the books with a passion, and have recommended them to countless people since, but will probably never reread them.

So The Book of Dust is all very exciting, finally giving me a full length opportunity to get back into Lyra's world.** And what a world. Biblical floods, Homeric journeys, and a notable episode in Wallingford, a small town in Oxfordshire I know fairly well because my grandparents used to live nearby. When I lived in London I visited them fairly regularly, and the journey that makes up the second part of The Book of Dust reads like my old rail itinerary in reverse. Nostalgia smacking me in the face every which way. Is it possible to separate that out from my experience of reading this book? Or even necessary or desirable? Clearly not. I therefore have nothing witty or insightful to say about this book except that, while you can't cross the same river twice, it's good to be home.

Sunday, 24 December 2017

A Christmas Carol

Charles Dickens, 1835-1854
(December 2017)
Every year I mean to read this book at Christmas, and every year I forget until about December 29th, at which point the moment has rather passed. I finally got the pitifully small affair that represents my act together this year, and it was in no way worth the wait.
He’s not subtle as a writer, is he? Soporific at points, certainly (though this is as much about the influence of the passage of time on prose style as Dickens’s writing itself), but never afraid to assert and reassert and rereassert the Moral of the Story until the reader has been bludgeoned into shame-faced coma of ethical contrition. The most notably thing about reading A Christmas Carol—having obviously been exposed to adaptations of it in various other media for as long as I can remember—was how Scrooge has basically repented of all his sins by the midway point of the visit of the Ghost of Christmas Past, yet we’ve still got two-and-a-half more apparitions’ worth of spectral hectoring to go.

Friday, 1 December 2017

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Bookmark Six

Having made a sort of peace with the state of the world (or, at the very least, having developed better coping mechanisms for dealing with the Ongoing Shitshow), I was able to read something that approached a decent number of books this year.

Monday, 20 November 2017

Agents of Empire

Noel Malcom, 2015
(November 2017)

A fascinating book. Takes as its premise the interconnected stores of a family of minor Albanian nobility, and follows them through their various trials and tribulations in Venice, the Balkans, and Istanbul in the late 1500s. Slightly ponderous writing, but not overbearingly so, and every so often contains gems such as this: "…the chronicler Ureche would have nothing good to say about Aron. His main passions, allegedly, were 'pillage, debauchery, gambling and bagpipe-players.'" Thorough, enlightening, and on occasion surprisingly funny.

Friday, 17 November 2017

Never Let Me Go

(November 2017)

Gyah. What a singularly frustrating book. What, to be more specific, a singularly frustrating narrator.

Friday, 10 November 2017

Within the Sanctuary of Wings

(October 2017)

And so the Lady Trent books reach a suitably rousing conclusion. Suitable in that while great affairs of state and nation are settled with no little help from our protagonist, for most of the book not very much seems to happen at all. It’s Shangri-La with scurvy, in a nutshell.