Books acquired in June

Doctor Who: The Writer’s Tale by Russell T. Davies
Oracle by Ian Watson
The Sycorax (Doctor Who Files 4) by Stephen Cole
The Slitheen (Doctor Who Files 3) by Jacqueline Rayner
Rose (Doctor Who Files 2) by Jacqueline Rayner
The Doctor (Doctor Who Files 1) by Stephen Cole
Dalek I Loved You by Nick Griffiths
Malpertuis by Jean Ray
"Torchwood": The Sin Eaters by Brian Minchin
Five Have a Mystery to Solve by Enid Blyton
Girl Genius Volume 8: Agatha Heterodyne and the Chapel of Bones by Phil Foglio
Y: The Last Man Vol. 10 – Whys And Wherefores by Brian K. Vaughan
The Dresden Files: Welcome to the Jungle by Jim Butcher
The Host by Peter Emshwiller
The Hidden War by Michael Armstrong
Doctor Who – Forever Autumn (Doctor Who) by Mark Morris
Doctor Who – The Last Dodo (Doctor Who) by Jacqueline Rayner
Doctor Who: The Pirate Loop by Simon Guerrier
Doctor Who – The Price Of Paradise (Doctor Who) by Colin Brake
Doctor Who – Sick Building (Doctor Who) by Paul Magrs
Doctor Who Sting of the Zygons by Stephen Cole
Doctor Who – Wetworld (Doctor Who) by Mark Michalowski
Doctor Who: Wishing Well by Trevor Baxendale
Doctor Who The Art of Destruction by Stephen Cole
Doctor Who Wooden Heart by Martin Day
Adventures on the High Teas: In Search of Middle England by Stuart Maconie
The IRA: A History by Tim Pat Coogan
The Corinthian Project: Decide Your Destiny No. 4 ( " Doctor Who " ) by Davey Moore
Diaspora by Greg Egan
Woman Warrior, the by Maxine Kingston (1998)
Millennial Rites (Doctor Who Missing Adventures) by Craig Hinton
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Doctor Who Quiz Book of Dinosaurs by Michael Holt
Buddenbrooks: The Decline of a Family by Thomas Mann
Doctor Who and the Genesis of the Daleks, by Terrance Dicks
Doctor Who – Warriors of the Deep, by Terrance Dicks
Doctor Who – Terminus, by John Lydecker
Doctor Who and the Invisible Enemy, by Terrance Dicks
Doctor Who and the Ice Warriors, by Brian Hayles
Doctor Who and the Carnival of Monsters, by Terrance Dicks
Doctor Who – Full Circle, by Andrew Smith
Eyeless in Gaza by Aldous Huxley
The Pollinators of Eden by John Boyd
Moment of Eclipse by Brian W Aldiss
The Atlas of Climate Change: Mapping the World’s Greatest Challenge by Kirstin Dow
Decalog: Ten Stories, Seven Doctors, One Enigma (Doctor Who) by Mark Stammers
Short Trips and Side Steps (Doctor Who (BBC Paperback)) by Jacqueline Rayner
Short Trips (Doctor Who Series) by British Broadcasting Corporation
A Princess of Roumania by Paul Park
Trading Futures (Doctor Who) by Lance Parkin
Byzantium! (Doctor Who) by Keith Topping
The Emperor’s Babe: A Novel by Bernardine Evaristo
Doctor Who: Endgame by Terrance Dicks 
Doctor Who: Verdigris by Paul Magrs
Doctor Who: Zeta Major by Simon Messingham
Doctor Who and the Face of Evil
Doctor Who and the Creature from the Pit
Doctor Who and the Dinosaur Invasion
Doctor Who and the Planet of Evil
Doctor Who and the Planet of the Spiders
Doctor Who and the Krotons
Doctor Who – Castrovalva
Doctor Who Programme Guide Volume 2
by Jean-Marc Lofficier
About Time 3: The Unauthorized Guide to Doctor Who (Seasons 7 to 11), 2nd edition by Tat Wood
The Restoration Game by Ken MacLeod
Serenity, Vol. 2: Better Days by Joss Whedon
The Inner Shrine: a Novel of Today by Basil King
The Vorkosigan Companion by Lillian S Carl
Loven-Boven geschiedenis der stad Leuven by François Stas
Shortcomings by Adrian Tomine
Fables: March of the Wooden Soldiers – Vol 04 (Fables) by Bill Willingham
War and Pieces: 11 (Fables) by Bill Willingham
Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea by Guy Delisle
The Ancient Languages of Europe by Roger D. Woodard
1632 by Eric Flint
Resistance: A Novel by Anita Shreve
The Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio
Schlock Mercenary: The Body Politic: 2009 Hugo Reader Copy by Howard Tayler
Confession of Zeno by Italo Svevo
"Doctor Who": Revenge of the Judoon by Terrance Dicks
Fallen Angels by Walter Dean Myers
Robert Anton Wilson Explains Everything: Or Old Bob Exposes His Ignorance by Robert Anton Wilson
What It Is We Do When We Read Science Fiction by Paul Kincaid
The History of Tom Jones: A Foundling by Henry Fielding
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June Books

Non-fiction: 9 (YTD 45)

Shakespeare: 1 (YTD 19)

Fiction (non-sf): 6 (YTD 28)

SF (non-Who): 5 (YTD 41)

Who 2: (YTD 16)

Comics: 10 (YTD 16)

6 (YTD 34/165) by women (Woolf, Atwood, Rayner, Foglio, Carl, Rowling)
2 or 3 (YTD 9 or 10 / 165) by PoC (Tomine, Munif, and not sure if I can count Urrea)
Total page count ~9,400 (YTD 48,100)
Owned for more than a year: 6 (Sunset at Blandings, The Enchanted Isles, This Immortal [reread], Cities of Salt, The Devil’s Highway, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix [reread])
Other rereads: none (YTD 20)

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June Books 33) Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

I enjoyed this more than I remember doing first time round. I still think it has some pretty serious flaws. I find Harry’s adolescent surliness for much of the book simply boring, and his reconciliation with Dumbledore at the end feels flat to me since we have always been pretty sure that it was going to happen. And the construction of the legal system and governance of the wizarding world is not quite substantial enough to be described as superficial. (Just one example: in what sort of school would the Slytherin supporters’ merciless mockery of Ron Weasley not result in serious disciplinary measures against the perpetrators?)

Having said that, the high points were higher than I remembered. There are some good descriptive passages, especially of particular settings – the forest, the Ministry; and the second order characters, Sirius, Luna, the twins, etc, all get much more development. (One is a bit sorry for Cho Chang whose subplot gets lost in the second half of the book.) I still think this is one of the weaker volumes of the series, but I think I must have raced through it so fast first time round that I missed a lot of its better elements.

I’m going to end my Rowling re-read here, since this was the first part of my programme of returning to popular books I have read but not previously written up on Livejournal, and I have written up volumes six and seven. Next in this sequence is therefore Tolkien’s The Hobbit.

< Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone | Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets | Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban | Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire | Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix | Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince | Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows | The Tales of Beedle the Bard >

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Cold tea

Inspired by this thread between and , I just tried cold-brewing some tea – filled the cup with cold water, put in a teabag, left it for twenty-five minutes, drank it.


Probably should have left it in the fridge as recommends, so that it is refreshingly cold and not halfway to room temperature; probably should have left it a bit longer as well; but a pleasant experience none the less and not too dissimilar from what I have bought across the counter as “iced tea” in the US. Here in Belgium, “ice tea” is carbonated, heavily sweetened and often flavoured with peach or lemon. I still prefer it to other soft drinks, but that is not saying much.

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Linkspam for 30-6-2009

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June Books 32) The Vorkosigan Companion, edited by Lilian Stewart Carl and John Helfers

It will be fairly obvious that I spent most of the weekend sitting in the garden reading in the wonderful weather we have been having; my back is still not completely right so I have been taking it easy. I am relieved to report that this book brings me to the end of my Hugo reading, as the only other nominee in its category is an art book which I am not going to buy. (Though if anyone wants to send me a review copy…)

It feels a bit elegiac, and if anything belated, to look at a handbook to Bujold’s Vorkosigan universe. It is five years since the latest story of the cycle was published, and the most recent novel came out in 2001. Bujold continues to publish, but has switched to fantasy these days, and her silence about the likelihood of a return to the world of Miles and his family is increasingly deafening edited to add see and ‘s comments below for the latest on this.

I must say we do a brisk trade in this house of lending the books out to visitors, who usually return them gratefully, asking for more and complimenting us on our taste; and they are favourites to reread as well.

The Companion is rather thin for its price. It starts with several interesting bits from Bujold herself, but then has some not very inspiring essays on various aspects of her works. The best by far is Marna Nightingale’s description of Bujold fandom; I’ll shout out also to Doug Muir for his introduction to The Warrior’s Apprentice. But I couldn’t really recommend the book to anyone who is not a Bujold completist, and I’m afraid it goes fourth on my Hugo ballot for Best Related Book, which therefore looks like this:

  1. Rhetorics of Fantasy
  2. What It Is We Do When We Read Science Fiction
  3. Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded
  4. The Vorkosigan Companion

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June Books 30) Girl Genius 8: Agatha Heterodyne and the Chapel of Bones, by Phil and Kaja Foglio

Agatha Heterodyne is struggling with the legacy of her family castle, which has a mind of its own (or several minds, as it turns out); meanwhile Gilgamesh Wulfenbach is trying to break into the castle and rescue her, against the wishes of his father the baron. The Foglio art style is distinctive (and a bit of googling revealed why I thought it looked familiar); the plotting and scrioting decent enough. It’s a fun romp, but difficult to appreciate without having read the first seven volumes. Unlike the other Hugo nominees this hasn’t yet been published in a single edition, so you have to read it off the website; no doubt the eventual dead trees version will have some explanatory front matter.

I have now read all six nominees for the Best Graphic Novel category in this year’s Hugo awards. Two observations strike me. First, some of them are not particularly good. This is often the case with Hugo nominations, with the Best Short Story list usually containing one or two total clunkers. I notice that not a lot of nominations were actually received in this category, and will be interested to see what the cutoff to get on the shortlist actually was. For all that, I hope that future WorldCons keep this as a Hugo category; comics are an important part of the sfnal world, and really this award should have been instituted decades ago.

Second, a lot of graphic novel series are pretty damn impenetrable if you jump in in the middle. The only two nominees which I really unequivocally liked were a) one based on a TV show which I loved and b) a standalone book (also based in a non-comics continuity). The other four included two climaxes to ongoing sagas (one of which I already knew, and the other of which I didn’t) and two volumes in ongoing stories where much of the humour rests in established characters with whom I am unfamiliar. I wonder to what extent Schlock Mercenary and Y fans will vote for these particular books as if they represent the entire series, without really reflecting on how they stack up compared to the Serenity or Dresden Files nominees as stories in their own right. Of course, this is a problem that exists in other Hugo categories as well, notably (but not only) the Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form) award, and again is no reason not to choose a Best Graphic Novel.

My votes are pretty clear in my mind, as follows:

  1. Serenity: Better Days
  2. The Dresden Files: Welcome to the Jungle
  3. Fables: War and Pieces
  4. Girl Genius 8: Agatha Heterodyne and the Chapel of Bones
  5. Y: The Last Man: Whys and Wherefores
  6. Schlock Mercenary: The Body Politic

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June Books 29) About Time: The Unauthorised Guide to Doctor Who, 1970-1974, 2nd edition, by Tat Wood

I read the first edition of this two years ago, since when it has been sitting on the shelf with the other volumes of this superb series of handbooks to Doctor Who, looking a bit thin in comparison with its fellows. This second edition is massively expanded from the first, with most of the new material simply being more of the same excellent analysis of the programme’s context (in this case the early 1970s) plus a lot more analytical essays and 147 endnotes (which is 142 more than in the first edition; though I repeat my complaint about them being endnotes rather than footnotes). There is loads more information about what was going on behind the scenes, most of which is very interesting; my own recent back problems make me very sympathetic to Jon Pertwee. A welcome shift in Wood’s attitude has him attempting to incorporate New Who continuity into Old Who analysis, rather than the invective he was previously lapsing into; this offers him room for writing such essays as “All Right, Then… Where Were Torchwood?” and additional evidence for “When are the Unit Stories Set?” There are a couple of other standout pieces, “Why Did We Countdown to TV Action?” on the early 1970s Doctor Who comics, and “Why Didn’t Plaid Cymru Lynch Barry Letts?” which ostensibly attempts to explain Wales to Americans but actually has a lot of good points to make.

When I read the first edition of this I hadn’t yet seen all the Pertwee stories, and tended to go and look them up in Wood and Miles after I had finished watching them. Now I want to watch several of them again to see the things I missed first time around. An excellent handbook, and I am very glad that Wood is planning a seventh volume to cover the first years of New Who.

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June Books 28) The Summer Tree, by Guy Gavriel Kay

I love Kay’s later works, Tigana, The Lions of Al-Rassan, Sailing to Sarantium and Lord of Emperors, so I was prepared to be forgiving of this earlier work. It is a competent enough portal fantasy, with five young Canadians wrenched into a largely Celtic world to fulfill a variety of quests. There is some odd pacing of info-dumping, and the characterisation is not as good as in Kay’s later works – did he take the wrong lessons from his work on The Silmarillion? But it’s decent enough, and is interesting for the way it draws on various different cultural roots without too much disharmony – the Summer Tree of the title being a particularly good example (Neil Gaiman uses it in American Gods as well, but more intrusively). So I will read the sequel in due course.

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June Books 27) The Inner Shrine [by Basil King]

This was the best selling book in the USA in 1909, a century ago. I downloaded it from Project Gutenberg after reading John Scalzi’s piece about the bestsellers of yesteryear, and how they are forgotten. (Does anyone want to join me in reading Florence Barclay’s The Rosary next year, a century after it topped the charts?)

The Inner Shrine is probably a decent enough novel in the romance genre, and people who like that sort of thing today will probably enjoy this as well. After an opening couple of chapters in France, where the older heroine’s first husband dies in murky circumstances, we then shift to New York, where the challenge becomes to unite three pairs of lovers sundered by circumstance and social codes (all are, or have been, very rich). You probably aren’t going to read this, so I shall reveal that the “Inner Shrine” of the title is a woman’s heart, which can be unlocked by the three words “I love you.” That is probably the crucial data point that will help you decide if you want to read this book or not.

I think I gained also some insight into the strict code of morals of the American east coast aristocracy as it affected my own grandmother, who almost shared a name with the younger heroine of this book (Dorothy rather than Dorothea) and was born into a family of transatlantic steel magnates in Philadlphia in 1899; her uncle became Attorney-General of the United States and her step-brother was a Pulitzer Prize winning literary critic. I knew her, of course, as a crotchety and somewhat snobbish old lady, but it’s interesting to get a more direct insight into where that came from.

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June Books 26) Y: The Last Man: Whys and Wherefores, by Brian K. Vaughan

Stephen King describes this on the front cover as the "best graphic novel I've ever read", which of course is not a helpful data point unless you know how many graphic novels King actually has read. Is Neum the prettiest seaside town in Bosnia-Herzegovina? Was Dick Cheney the greatest US vice-president ever to come from Wyoming?

I'm afraid it didn't really work for me, though I think I can see why Stephen King and his fans like it. The premise has our hero, Yorick, unexpectedly surviving some disaster which killed all other men – and I think also almost all male animals – in a contemporary earth; this last volume has him juggling contacts with his friends and lovers, and with the Israeli and Russian female military teams trying to capture him and his Y chromosomes.

I found the whole thing a bit unconvincing; almost all the surviving women seem to be young and beautiful, and where John Wyndham did diffirent bits of this story in various interesting ways, Vaughan doesn't. I think this is the tenth and last volume of a series of books about Yorick/Y, and perhaps earlier ones were more compelling, but this one won't be getting a particularly high vote from me.

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June Books 25) The Dresden Files: Welcome to the Jungle, by Jim Butcher

This is a graphic novel based on a series of books by Jim Butcher which had a TV show as well; but it was all new to me, and I only got it because it is on the Hugo shortlist.

It’s actually very good. Our hero, Harry Dresden, is a hardboiled private investigator who also happens to be a wizard, and is routinely called in to help solve mysterious cases in Chicago. The plot here, involving odd goings-on and strange deaths in the Lincoln Park Zoo, is pretty straightforward; the villain, being English, is easy to spot, and the rest is just routine defeat the bad guys stuff. But it is told vividly and with a certain humour, and very well drawn by Ardian Syaf (who is also ‘s illustrator for Chance). This is my first encounter either with the Dresden Files or with Syaf’s work, and it has certainly whetted my enthusiasm for both – especially for Syaf.

Will rank this behind the Serenity story on the ballot but not far behind!

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Job opening

A friend of mine is looking to hire someone with the following qualifications (as he gave them to me):

Excellent English, preferably a native speaker
Very good French
Editorial skills
Experience of publishing on-line
Experience of / education in EU justice issues

(That last one seems to me to be the kicker, but I have honestly no idea of the level of expertise being sought – I suspect it may be enough to have studied a course which included EU law, but was not sure of the right question to ask him.)

The job starts 1 September for at least a year; it is based in Brussels. The salary is 1,700 monthly net of tax, plus a car and other perks. (I guess that grosses up to about 35,000? Or perhaps a bit more?)

My friend was a bit vague about the nature of the work; I got the impression that it is a private sector firm which has got an EU contract of some kind, to create a website which will contain easy-to-read summaries of complex EU documents, presumably in the area of “justice issues”. I recommended strongly that he should advertise it publicly, but he said he prefers to put the word out through the various networks, and he was sure I must know someone who fits his requirements.

Well, if you think you fit his requirements or know someone who does, contact me directly (by LJ message, or via the email address on my profile) and I’ll put you straight on to him.

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Linkspam for 25-6-2009

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June Books 23) Survival in Auschwitz, by Primo Levi

A tough but necessary read. Levi was one of the lucky ones: not killed immediately on arrival at Auschwitz; he was then too ill to be evacuated with most of the remaining prisoners when the camp was abandoned, but healthy enough to survive the ten days until the Russians arrived. In between he gives an unforgettable picture of life in unspeakable conditions, where the prisoner’s brutalised consciousness revolves around theft and the impossibility of personal hygiene, as something to focus on other than the crematorium chimneys in the next compound. It’s a very short book but packs a powerful punch. (And it is a shame that the translators abandoned the original title, Se questo è un uomo / If This Is A Man.)

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Top travel tips

If you are waiting in the departure lounge in Skopje airport, it is definitely worth paying €10 to sit in comfy chairs in the business lounge where there are free snacks, drinks and wifi.

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June Books 22) Byzantium! by Keith Topping

There are some aspects of this book that are so awful that I almost wanted to claw my eyes out. It is set in the city of Byzantium (the future Constantinople / Istanbul) in the first century AD. The city’s population appears to be mainly Jewish (divided between Zealots, Christians and those in between), with a Greek minority and a settled Roman ruling class.

It has minarets.

Huge thudding mistakes and discrepancies abound in the Latin phrases (one recurring example – the senior Roman government official in the city lives in the villa praefectus).

And the first century city has minarets.

The presentation of characters’ names is horrendously inconsistent – some are Latinised, some Grecianised, some Hebrew (or possibly Yiddish), and one who is called “Fabulous” (sic).

And he seems to think that there were minarets in the city before the Turkish conquest of 1453, and six centuries before the foundation of Islam.

Even the transcription of the opening of St Mark’s Gospel in Greek is incorrect, which is pretty astonishing as all you have to do is find a copy of Nestlé-Aland – I’ve got one I can lend you if you like. But (as you may have noticed) I keep coming back to the minarets; it’s only one word in one of the book’s rare descriptive passages, but it demonstrates the utter superficiality of the author’s research into the historical setting.

The train-wreck of the author’s attempts at world-building made it difficult to absorb the actual plot, but I did my best. It is set between the first and second scenes of The Romans – it turns out that the Tardis falls off a cliff near Byzantium and the Doctor, Ian, Barbara and Vicki all get separated when they get swept up in a riot in the city. A thinly contrived sequence keeps them separated until the end of the book when they discover the Tardis has been taken to Italy; in the meantime the Doctor has helped the local Christians write the Gospel of St Mark. Topping writes Barbara rather well, Ian very badly, and the Doctor and Vicki tolerably. (There is a framing narrative with Ian and Barbara, now married in 1973, taking their son to a museum where they see Ian’s old sword.) The most memorable of the supporting characters are some nymphomaniac Roman ladies, and that is not saying much.

I am having difficulty deciding whether or not this is the worst Doctor Who book I have read. The only ones that approach it in awfulness are Eric Saward’s novelisation of The Twin Dilemma and Topping’s Telos novella Ghost Ship. In the end I think Byzantium! takes the prize for sheer quantity of awfulness; it is roughly twice as long as the other two combined. I will send my copy to the first person who asks nicely; I have no interest whatsoever in keeping this book in my collection.

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June Books 21) How To Make Good Decisions And Be Right All The Time, by Iain King

A quirk of my self-imposed reading schedule means I got to this shortly after Russell’s The Problems of Philosophy, to which it is somewhat related. I know the author from our shared careers as political activists and operators, but this book is entirely about ethics, attempting to establish a universal code of how to make the right decision. Ethics and politics are not always considered in the same breath, but they are not far apart in their intellectual roots, and indeed my father was nominally professor of both at University College Dublin (they were put in the same department when the National University of Ireland was created, though I understand they have since been split).

King’s book is entirely about ethics, and while he refers to earlier writers (such as Rawls in particular) he seems to be putting forward a new schema, taking the search for value in one’s life as an axiom and working forward from there through empathy and obligation towards one’s fellow human beings to the Help Principle, that we should help other is the value of our help to them is worth more than the cost of that help to us. The second half of the (short) book works through practical examples of this principle in politics, romance and law.

I am not well enough read in philosophy to know how original all of this is, let alone how fairly King represents the views of other philosophers, but it is a very attractive and comprehensible argument, told in a chatty but far from superficial style. It reminds me most of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, though without the motorcycles, and it possibly has the potential to become a similar cult classic with the right sort of marketing. (Certainly has a catchy title.)

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June Books 20) Sunset at Blandings, by P.G. Wodehouse

This was Wodehouse’s last book, unfinished when he died aged 93 in 1975, here published just as he left it, with extensive notes by Richard Usborne. It is a Blandings Castle story, with the usual clutch of romances: one of the Emsworth nieces is in love with with a young man deemed unsuitable by her mother but who Galahad Threepwood smuggles into the castle; slightly more unusually, the Chancellor of the Exchequer is in love with one of the Earl’s widowed sisters, but feels his wooing style is being cramped by his police guard; and the Earl himself, of course, remains dreamily obsessed with the Empress (his pig). It is all very familiar, comforting and funny. I lent it to an eastern European friend last night who had never heard of Wodehouse, and she was laughing out loud by the second paragraph. I may see how easy it is to find cheap paperbacks of his earlier, complete books on eBay. (Especially the early Blandings ones, Summer Lightning, Heavy Weather and Full Moon.)

I must say that I approve heartily of the decision to publish the book as it was when Wodehouse left it, with Usborne’s detailed notes (which include also appendices on the floor plan of Blandings Castle and the train timetable). In the sf and fantasy world we have seen a number of posthumous or near-posthumous collaborations, and I have not yet heard of one that was any good.

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June Books 19) Fables vol 4: March of the Wooden Soldiers

Back to the narrative sequence of this excellent series, after my dipping forward to read the most recent, Hugo-nominated volume. Here we have Fabletown under direct and vicious attack from Pinocchio’s brothers, with sinister infiltration by the woman who calls herself Red Riding Hood, and wracked also by an internal power struggle between Old King Cole and Prince Charming. Which sounds really stupid but works really well; in particular, the battle against the wooden invaders is very vividly and memorably depicted.

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The Book Game

How it all worked out:

Round One: An Older Kind of Magic, by Patricia Wrightson

Round Two: Great Home Decorating Ideas, by Mike Lawrence and Jan Eaton

Round Three: The Afterblight Chronicles: Kill or Cure, by Rebecca Levene

Round Four: Diplomacy Lessons, by John Brady Kiesling

Round Five: Doctor Who: The Reign of Terror, by Ian Marter

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Who’s written the most Doctor Who books?

Counting Telos and Quick Reads novellas, but not short story collections, Torchwood novels or SJA novelisations (gotta draw the line somewhere, that still leaves 460-odd books!), and giving each author a full credit for co-authored works:

Terrance Dicks leads the pack with 76 – 64 Target novelisations, plus also Timewyrm: Exodus, Blood Harvest and Shakedown from the New Adventures, The Eight Doctors and Endgame from the Eighth Doctor Adventures, and Catastrophea, Players, Warmonger, Deadly Reunion and World Game from the Past Doctor Adventures, and Made of Steel and Return of the Judoon in the Quick Reads series

Next with 17 is Justin Richards: Theatre of War from the New Adventures, System Shock and The Sands of Time from the Missing Adventures, Option Lock, Demontage, The Banquo Legacy, The Burning, Time Zero and Sometime Never… from the Eighth Doctor Adventures, Dreams of Empire, Millennium Shock, Grave Matter and The Shadow in the Glass from the Past Doctor Adventures and The Clockwise Man, The Deviant Strain, The Resurrection Casket and Martha in the Mirror from the New Series Adventures.

Next with 12 are David A. McIntee, Kate Orman, Stephen Cole and Gary Russell. McIntee has written NA’s White Darkness, First Frontier and SanctuaryLords of the Storm, The Shadow of Weng-Chiang and The Dark PathAutumn Mist and PDAs The Face of the Enemy, Mission: Impractical, The Wages of Sin, Bullet Time and The Eleventh Tiger.

Orman’s credits are for The Left-Handed Hummingbird, Set Piece, SLEEPY, Return of the Living Dad, So Vile a Sin and The Room With No Doors of the New Adventures, Vampire Science, Seeing I, Unnatural History and The Year of Intelligent Tigers from the EDAs, the PDA Blue Box and the Telos novella Fallen Gods.

Cole’s name is on EDA’s Parallel 59, The Ancestor Cell, Vanishing Point, Timeless and To the SlaughterThe Shadow in the Glass and Ten Little AliensThe Monsters Inside, The Feast of the Drowned, The Art of Destruction and Sting of the ZygonsFrayed because he wrote it as "Tara Samms".

Christopher Bulis on 11: NA: ShadowmindState of Change, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, The Eye of the Giant, Twilight of the Gods and A Device of DeathVanderdeken’s ChildrenThe Ultimate Treasure, City at World’s End, Imperial Moon and Palace of the Red Sun.

Steve Lyons also 11: NA’s Conundrum and Head Games, MA’s Time of Your Life and Killing Ground, EDA The Space Age and The Crooked World, PDAs The Murder Game, The Witch Hunters, Salvation and The Final Sanction, and NSA The Stealers of Dreams.

Gary Russell also on 11: include the novel of the 1996 TV movieLegacy, MA’s Invasion of the Cat-People and The Scales of Injustice, EDAPlacebo Effect, PDAs Business UnusualDivided LoyaltiesInstruments of Darkness and Spiral Scratch, and NSA Beautiful Chaos

9: Ian MarterGareth Roberts,  Paul Cornell, John Peel and Paul Leonard
8: Lance Parkin and Mike Tucker
7: Trevor Baxendale, Simon Messingham, and Malcolm Hulke
6: Barry Letts, Dave Stone, Jacqueline RaynerJim Mortimore, Marc Platt, Martin Day and Nigel Robinson (and I can’t be bothered to link any further)
5: Andrew Cartmel, Andy Lane, Craig Hinton, Gerry Davis, Keith Topping, Lawrence Miles, Paul Magrs, Robert Perry
4: Ben Aaronovitch, Chris Boucher, Colin Brake, David Bishop, Eric Saward, Jonathan Blum, Mark Gatiss, Mark Michalowski, Mark Morris, Nick Walters and Pip and Jane Baker
3: Christopher H. Bidmead, Daniel O’Mahony, Donald Cotton, Ian Stuart Black, John Lucarotti, Jonathan Morris, Lloyd Rose, Peter Anghelides, Peter Darvill-Evans, Peter Grimwade, Philip Hinchcliffe, Philip Martin, Simon Bucher-Jones, and Simon Guerrier
2: Brian Hayles, Dale Smith, Daniel Blythe, David Fisher, David Whitaker, Ian Briggs, Mark Clapham, Michael Collier, Mick Lewis, Paul Scoones, Robert Holmes, Simon A. Forward, Stephen Gallagher (as John Lydecker), Stephen Wyatt, Steve Emmerson, Terence Dudley and Victor Pemberton
1: Alison Bingeman, Andrew Hunt, Andrew Smith, Barbara Clegg, Bill Strutton, Dan Abnett, David Banks, David Lawrence, Eric Pringle, Glen McCoy, Glyn Jones, Graeme Curry, Graham Williams, Iain McLaughlin, James Swallow, Jeremy Hoad, Jon Blum, Jon de Burgh Miller, Jon Preddle, Kelly Hale, Kevin Clarke, Kim Newman, Louise Cooper, Mags L Halliday, Malcolm Kohll, Mark Chadbourn, Matthew Jones, Natalie Dallaire, Neil Penswick, Nick Wallace, Paul Ebbs, Paul Erickson, Paul J. McAuley, Paul Saint, Peter Ling, Rona Munro, Russell T. Davies, Simon A Forward, Simon Clark, Stephen Marley, Tom Arden, Wally K. Daly and William Emms

In case anyone ever asks you.

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June Books 18) This Immortal, by Roger Zelazny

Zelazny’s first novel, and one of his great ones, set on a devastated future planet earth with a Greek immortal lapsed terrorist as the protagonist. He was almost at the peak of his powers: in his late he hit levels of quality he had difficulty in reaching again in later, more comfortable times. The familiar Zelazny themes of death and fatherhood are already here. Conrad/Konstantin loses his wife (apparently, in an earthquake) and two other sympathetic characters die of natural causes; and his son (like himself immortal, but without his own eternal youth) recurs to utter prophecies and help at a crucial moment.

Two things make the book. The first is the fascinating character of the narrator, whose hard-boiled but occasionally lyrical voice becomes familiar (perhaps too familiar) in later Zelazny but must have been fresh in 1965. His past as a former fighter against the alien Vegans and quisling humans who have taken over the devastated earth, combined with his present as a chief administrator collaborating (at least superficially) with the administrationn makes us never quite sure what he is up to himself but eager to find out. He is a hero who is trying to keep his heroic identity under wraps. He does things like dismantling the Great Pyramid for laughs. And there are the little touches like dropping in on his friend’s daughter’s seventh birthday party.

The other thing is just the writing: first, the setting up and description of the bizarre blasted landscapes of the future Greece, the voodoo celebration in Haiti, the shift in perspective as he fights the golem, the Athens hotel room covered with plaques commemorating Conrad’s life as Konstantin (“I was really afraid to go into the bathroom”). And second, of course, the humour – the skill Zelazny had in combining the contrasting styles of demotic with epic and making it funny rather than just cheap.

The book is not without flaws. The plot (both the sequence of events in the story, and the conspiracy among several of the characters) has a lot of holes in it. Conrad appears to have married Cassandra without telling her how old he is; she in her turn surprisingly survives apparent death and then doesn’t contact him for weeks, showing up just in the nick of time to save them all from the Black Beast of Thessaly. (No apologies for spoilers – the book has been a classic for forty years.) The invisibilty of Conrad’s immortality to the administrative system is rather less credibly established than that of the protagonist of Zelazny’s later My Name Is Legion.

But I loved rereading it, and am wondering if I might make the complete works of Zelazny into one of my future reading projects. (I should add that I got the idea of setting myself reading projects in the first place after discovering from a biography that Zelazny planned his own leisure reading fairly meticulously.)

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June Books 17) The Devil’s Highway, by Luís Alberto Urrea

This is a gruelling, horrible account of how a group of Mexicans crossing the border into Arizona in 2001 were killed. In the first place, they were killed by the high temperatures of the desert, and by their lack of water and supplies; in the second place, they were killed by their guide’s losing the way and bringing them into the hostile, homicidal wilderness; but basically they were killed by the policies of the American and Mexican governments trying to prevent poor Mexicans from getting jobs in the USA. As a citizen of three states myself, I have never been a fan of tough immigration laws, and this awful story is a vivid demonstration that such measures promote human trafficking and ensure sordid deaths for those who are unlucky in the lottery of evasion. Urrea is merciful to all the humans involved with the story; the problem is with the system and the failure of political leaders to tell the truth about the labour shortage in the developed world and the true effects of pandering to domestic xenophobia.

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