April Books

Non-fiction 6 (YTD 19)
Adventures with the Wife in Space, by Neil Perryman
Anglicising the Government of Ireland, by Jon Crawford
Understanding the Lord of the Rings, eds. Rose A. Zimbardo & Neil D. Isaacs
Homage to Catalonia, by George Orwell
Other People’s Countries, by Patrick McGuinness
Need for Certainty, by Robert Towler

Fiction (non-sf) 4 (YTD 12)
Buddenbrooks, by Thomas Mann
Revelation, by C. J. Sansom
The Good Husband of Zebra Drive, by Alexander McCall Smith
Cheese, by Willem Elsschot

SF (non-Who) 5 (YTD 27)
Any Given Doomsday, by Lori Handeland
Inverted World, by Christopher Priest
Deathless, by Cat Valente
The Ocean At The End Of The Lane, by Neil Gaiman
Assassin’s Quest, by Robin Hobb

Doctor Who 4 (YTD 26)
Amorality Tale, by David Bishop
Return of the Living Dad, by Kate Orman
Hope, by Mark Clapham
A Handful of Stardust, by Jake Arnott

Comics 1 (YTD 3)
Aldébaran #5: La Créature, by Leo

~6,300 pages (YTD ~26,300)
5/20 (YTD 24/85) by women (Zimbardo, Handeland, Valente, Hobb, Orman)
0/20 (YTD 2/85) by PoC

Reread: 1/20 (YTD 3/85) (Inverted World)

Reading now:
10 Billion Days & 100 Billion Nights, by Ryu Mitsuse
The Empress of Mars, by Kage Baker
Neptune’s Brood, by Charles Stross

Coming soon (perhaps):
The Finches of Mars, by Brian Aldiss
Cyberabad Days, by Ian McDonald
Goodbye To Berlin, by Christopher Isherwood
The Road to Middle-Earth, by Tom Shippey
Dotter of Her Father’s Eyes, by Mary and Bryan Talbot 
Madame Bovary, by Gustave Flaubert
Green Living for Dummies, by Michael Grosvenor
Flora Segunda, by Ysabeau S. Wilce
The Secret Agent, by Joseph Conrad
Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand, by Samuel R. Delany
The Memoirs of Elizabeth Frankenstein, by Theodore Roszak
Orbitsville by Bob Shaw
Death in Venice, by Thomas Mann
Ireland Under the Tudors, by Richard Bagwell
Desert Wisdom, by Henri J.M. Nouwen
A Guide to Tolkien, by David Day
Brussel in beeldekes
Crash, by J. G. Ballard
Teenage Religion and Values, by Leslie J. Francis
Dawn, by Octavia E. Butler
Rogue Queen, by L. Sprague de Camp
[Doctor Who] Island Of Death by Barry Letts
[Doctor Who] The Death of Art by Simon Bucher-Jones
[Doctor Who] Anachrophobia by Jonathan Morris

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Wednesday reading

Current
10 Billion Days & 100 Billion Nights, by Ryu Mitsuse
The Empress of Mars, by Kage Baker
Neptune’s Brood, by Charles Stross

Last books finished
The Ocean At The End Of The Lane, by Neil Gaiman
Cheese, by Willem Elsschot
Assassin’s Quest, by Robin Hobb
Homage to Catalonia, by George Orwell
Other People’s Countries, by Patrick McGuinness
Need for Certainty, by Robert Towler

Last week’s audios
[Doctor Who] The War To End All Wars, by Simon Guerrier
[Orson Welles] Around the World in 80 Days
[Orson Welles] Dracula
[Orson Welles] A Christmas Carol
[Doctor Who] Night of the Stormcrow, by Marc Platt
current: [Vienna Salvatore] The Memory Box, by Jonathan Morris

Next books
Cyberabad Days, by Ian McDonald
Goodbye to Berlin, by Christopher Isherwood
[Doctor Who] Island of Death, by Barry Letts

Books acquired in last week
Het Verdriet van België, by Hugo Claus
Other People’s Countries: A Journey into Memory, by Patrick McGuinness
The Rise and Fall of Languages, by R. M. W. Dixon
Finches of Mars, by Brian Aldiss
Warbound, by Larry Correia
Parasite, by Mira Grant
Neptune’s Brood, by Charles Stross
The Butcher of Khardov, by Dan Wells

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Links I found interesting for 30-04-2014

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April Books 7) Adventures with the Wife in Space, by Neil Perryman

One never knows, with a book based on a blog, if it’s going to be just a recycling of the best pieces, perhaps augmented a little, or something a bit different. This is something a bit different. As many fans know, Perryman persuaded his wife Sue to watch every single episode of Old Who first shown from 1963 to 1996, and then blogged her distinctly non-fannish reactions. Watching Old Who from beginning to end is something that others have done (myself included) but it is of course fascinating to see what someone unburdened by fan lore makes of it. Her three 10/10 stories, incidentally, were Spearhead from Space, The Seeds of Doom and City of Death, and her lowest rating, -1/10, was for Time and the Rani.

But the book has surprisingly little of the blog in it; it’s the story of Neil’s life, and his life with Sue, and his life with Doctor Who, and it’s a moving tale of growing up in the late twentieth century and living in the early twenty-first, and making sense of the world through a show that started the day after Kennedy was shot, ended just after the Berlin Wall fell and then started again in 2005. And what is nice is that the project, which started as his request of Sue, became for her a matter of pride – to get through the next story, and the next, and the next. (And there are a lot of them.) It’s a lovely book, and anyone who knows a Doctor Who fan will enjoy it.

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April Books 6) Hope, by Mark Clapham

Fairly standard Eighth Doctor story, with the Doctor unravelling a local political intrigue as the price of regaining the Tardis, mislaid as so often. There is a very nice Anji subplot exploring her relationship with poor Dave who was killed in her first appearance, eleven books ago.

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April Books 5) Inverted World, by Christopher Priest

I had of course read this many many years ago; it won the BSFA Award in 1974 and got a Hugo nomination (beaten by The Dispossessed, which is fair enough). I liked it back then, and I liked it again on re-reading. The core concept is that our protagnist and his people are involved in transporting their city, on rails, across a landscape of varied terrain; and we discover that the landscape itself changes drastically, as does their experience of it, depending on how far ahead or behind they venture on the city's path.

The at the end there is a Big Reveal, which completely inverts our take on the city and what exactly is going on. I see some critics complaining that this spoils the story, but for me it doesn't – it makes the point that everyone's perspective is wrong, in the end, and the inversion may not be where you think. Having said that, the logic of the conclusion is not a hopeful one for the people of the city.

By the way, this is one of the longest great circles on land, Hong Kong to Lisbon:
map

I have spent some fruitless time trying to identify a credible longer route from south-eastern China to Sierra Leone or Liberia, skirting north of the Gulf of Suez and south of the Caspian, but am not convinced by any of the options. If there is one, it would be significantly longer than the Portuguese option.

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The Drashani trilogy

The Burning Prince, by John Dorney
The Acheron Pulse, by Rick Briggs
The Shadow Heart, by Jonathan Morris

This is a brilliant idea, though it’s taken me over a year to write it up; Big Finish did a trilogy featuring successively Peter Davison (who I met in Slough last August), Colin Baker (who I met in Antwerp today) and Sylvester McCoy (who I met in LA in February last year) as the Doctor, travelling alone on each occasion, and intervening in the affairs of the Drashani Empire. Kirsty Besterman, who I hadn’t otherwise come across, plays a different character in all three plays, the beautiful Princess Aliona, then Aliona’s cousin Cheni, than Aliona’s clone; James Wilby appears as the mysterious character Tenebris in the second and third plays.

They are three quite different plays. In the first, The Burning Prince, the Fifth Doctor gets stuck into a dynastic marriage situation which turns out to have more complications than expected; there are a couple of excellent plot twists. The Acheron Pulse is a bit weaker, featuring some comic barbarians who are fine but don’t add a lot to the story; but at the end it picks up quite significantly, with the Doctor trying to set things right. The Shadow Heart has some memorable guest characters – Chase Masterson as intergalactic bounty hunter Vienna Salvatore, Eve Karpf and Alex Mallinson as a couple of scrap merchants who roam the stars in a gian snail – and a lovely plot structure where the story starts halfway through the Doctor’s timeline, and he first comes into it (from his perspective) half way through us listening to it.

On reflection I think the first of these is the best, but they are a neat assemblage.

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April Books 4) Buddenbrooks: The Decline of a Family, by Thomas Mann

has been urging me literally for years to read this, as have others, and I finally made it – even tried the first few chapters in German, but got a bit stuck on obscure articles of clothing and furniture that I wasn’t taught in school (apparently a “Vatermörder” is a stiff collar, not someone who has killed their father).

Anyway, the Woods translation did me very well. It’s the story of the Buddenbrook family in Lübeck in the 19th century, and how things basically go downhill for Tom and Tony, the son and daughter of Consul Jean/Johann Buddenbrook who built up the business empire, and at the end an account of the childhood of Tom’s son Hanno. The history of Germany rumbles by in the background, 1848 and 1871 and so on glanced at in passing; but Mann is much more interested in the family dynamics of the siblings (there’s also a disinherited half-brother, a disreputable younger brother and a much younger sister who gets married off to a Baltic clergyman) tied up with continual and increasing worries about money. There are a lot of interesting things in the telling, about architecture, colour and music (this last especially important both for Hanno and his disreputable uncle Christian), and I can see why one might want to come back to it again.

At the same time, it feels like a bit of a literary sidetrack. Yes, it draws in a good way on Middlemarch and War and Peace, but I think that both are better books in themselves, and also both are more satisfactorily linked to the politics of their setting. Mann is perhaps a bit better at engaging our interest in characters who are themselves pretty flawed. At a time when European loved family sagas like this, you can understand that it won him his Nobel prize. Yet 1902 was the year that Joyce graduated from UCD, Virginia Woolf had just wound up her studies at King’s College London, and Proust was getting to grips with translating Ruskin. Greater things were around the corner.

I do appreciate, with tinges of regret, the care taken by Woods in translating the various German accents and dialects. Lübeck and Hamburg are close but different; Tony’s second husband is Bavarian, and Woods translates him as an American redneck, rough at the edges but with a heart of gold, encountering a much posher set of in-laws. It’s hilarious and effective, though of course it introduces a slightly different dynamic; the original Herr Permaneder is actually a proud Central European, always going on about the mountains and the beer of his homeland in nearly impenetrable Bayrisch, and the Munich/Lübeck dynamic is completely different from the Texas/Sussex dynamic. So, while it’s very entertaining, it’s also a bit of a step from the original authorial intent. I guess it’s unavoidable. Certainly, “Why, howdy do?” is a decent enough translation of “Ja, grüß Eana Gott!” and I don’t think a translation could be much more accurate without excessive resort to footnotes.

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April Books 3) Return of the Living Dad, by Kate Orman

I’ve finished 16 books since 1 April, and so far only got around to blogging two of them, plus there are a whole bunch of Big Finish audios old and new that I want to write up. Next Thursday is a day off work, so maybe that will help. But I suspect I’ll still be writing up my April reading in mid-May.

Anyway. My last two write-ups were somewhat cranky. This is not. In Return of the Living Dad, Orman (with input from Paul Cornell) brings back Bernice Summerfield, several books on from her departure as a regular character, and tracks down her father, who apparently escaped the future Dalek war in which she thought he had been killed, and has settled in England in 1983 where he is involved in a convoluted alien plot. I suspect non-fans wouldn’t get as much out of this, but I really liked both the fairly intricate plotting (involving a potential nuclear war), and what Orman does with the characters, taking most of the regulars (Seven, Chris, Roz, and Benny andd Jason) a little beyond where they had been before. Having said that, I see one reviewer complaining that nobody who wasn’t a rec.arts.sf.drwho reader in the early 1990s could possibly enjoy the book; I propose myself as a counterexample. There’s also some interesting treatment of the question of the Doctor’s true name – nothing inconsistent with new Who, but coming at it from a different direction. I have only 8 New Adventures to go, and I think I’ll miss them.

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Wednesday reading

Current
Assassin's Quest, by Robin Hobb
The Ocean At The End Of The Lane, by Neil Gaiman
Cheese, by Willem Elsschot

Last books finished
The Good Husband of Zebra Drive, by Alexander McCall Smith
Deathless, by Cat Valente
Understanding the Lord of the Rings, eds. Rose A. Zimbardo & Neil D. Isaacs

Last week's audios
[Doctor Who] Moonflesh, by Mark Morris

Next books
Homage to Catalonia, by George Orwell
Dawn, by Octavia Butler
Need for Certainty, by Robert Towler

Books acquired in last week
Elric of Melniboné and Other Stories, by Michael Moorcock
Corum: The Prince of the Scarlet Robe, by Michael Moorcock
Crash, by J.G. Ballard
The Ginger Star, by Leigh Brackett

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“Opera Vita Aeterna”, by Vox Day: Latin lessons

Theodore Beale, aka Vox Day, has kindly made his Hugo-nominated story “Opera Vita Aeterna” available as an ePub here (many online links for other Hugo nominees are listed by John DeNardo here).

I’ll save discussion of the story’s literary merits to my review of all the nominees in this category; for now I want to indicate some areas for linguistic improvement, specifically in the use of Latin in the story. There are a number of slightly odd usages, and three that I spotted which are flat-out wrong. Going in reverse order as they appear:

  1. Towards the end of the story we are brought to a room called the “Cella Mundus”, the chamber of the world. But “Cella” normally means a small room, and this one is very big; also, “Mundus” should be genitive “Mundi”.
  2. The central character belongs to a body called the “Collegium Occludum”, presumably the hidden college. There is no such word as “Occludum” in Latin; the writer should have written “Occlusum”. (I see that Occludus is the name of the home planet of the Death Spectres in Warhammer 40k; perhaps this is the source of the confusion.) “Occlusus” is closer in meaning to “closed up” than to “hidden”, but in fairness that may have been the intended meaning.
  3. The title itself, “Opera Vita Aeterna”, is wrong. Though the phrase is not actually used in the story, it’s fairly clear that it is intended to mean “The works of an eternal life”. However, the long-lived protagonist completes only one work in the story, albeit a long one in many parts, so “Opera” should be “Opus”. In addition, “Vita Aeterna” should be genitive (the same error as “Mundus” above), so that would be “Opus Vitæ Æternæ”. Finally, of course, the use of “eternal” in this context to refer to a long-lived being in the world of the living jars as being rather different from its normal context in Church Latin to refer to the afterlife; it might have been better to choose another word entirely.

I hope these pointers are useful to anyone else who wants to write a story with the odd Latin phrase thrown in, particularly if one of those phrases is given prominence by putting it in the title.

(I was also surprised to read that the monks in the story had three books of “approved apocrypha”, surely an oxymoron.)

You can, of course, vote for the Hugos yourself by joining this year’s Worldcon, Loncon 3, here.

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Retro Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form) of 1938

observed of the 1939 BDP nominations:


Now, the good thing about that is that they are all available online from several archive sites. I will link to them from here, but you can find them on the Internet Archive as well. (My links are single MP3 files, though you can probably find other formats if you poke around.)
Around The World In 80 Days (23 October 1938)
A Christmas Carol (23 December 1938)
Dracula (11 July 1938)
The War Of The Worlds (30 October 1938)

Unfortunately no recording is known to survive of the fifth nominee, the BBC’s 11 February 1938 live 38-minute TV adaptation of R.U.R. by Karel Čapek, thought to be the first ever BBC science fiction play.

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Hugos and Retro Hugos: GoodReads / LibraryThing stats

I was able to prepare this a couple of days ahead of time, so the numbers may have shifted in the interim. As usual, I have ranked by descending order of GoodReads users who have rated each of the nominated books.

Goodreads Librarything
number average number average
WoT 1: The Eye of the World, by Robert Jordan 138,047 4.15 10,028 4.04
WoT 2: The Great Hunt, by Robert Jordan 113,965 4.16 8,109 3.99
WoT 3: The Dragon Reborn, by Robert Jordan 106,175 4.19 7,589 3.97
WoT 4: The Shadow Rising, by Robert Jordan 79,596 4.18 7,242 3.90
WoT 12: The Gathering Storm, by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson 60,806 4.30 2,645 4.27
WoT 5: The Fires of Heaven, by Robert Jordan 59,296 4.07 7,006 3.80
WoT 13: Towers of Midnight, by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson 58,462 4.39 1,828 4.29
WoT 6: Lord of Chaos, by Robert Jordan 57,243 4.04 6,831 3.75
WoT 7: A Crown of Swords, by Robert Jordan 53,204 3.93 6,523 3.55
WoT 8: The Path of Daggers, by Robert Jordan 49,418 3.85 6,243 3.48
WoT 9: Winter’s Heart, by Robert Jordan 46,033 3.85 6,003 3.47
WoT 10: Crossroads of Twilight, by Robert Jordan 40,258 3.78 5,677 3.42
WoT 11: Knife of Dreams, by Robert Jordan 42,521 4.07 5,059 3.84
WoT 0: New Spring, by Robert Jordan 31,517 3.94 3,681 3.69
WoT 14: A Memory of Light, by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson 26,241 4.51 861 4.31
Parasite, by Mira Grant 3,134 3.69 288 3.85
Ancillary Justice, by Anne Leckie 3,100 3.98 386 4.08
Warbound, by Larry Correia 1,353 4.45 44 4.38
Neptune’s Brood, by Charles Stross 997 3.74 177 3.78

Obviously a somewhat unusual situation, with one of the nominees consisting of 15 separate volumes with almost 12,000 pages published over a period of 22 years.

Anyway, in for a penny, in for a pound: here are the equivalent rankings for the Retro Hugo nominees for Best Novel of 1939.

Goodreads Librarything
number average number average
Out Of The Silent Planet, by C.S. Lewis 35,406 3.90 6,073 3.85
The Sword In The Stone, by T.H. White 10,748 3.92 1,652 3.95
Galactic Patrol, by E.E. “Doc” Smith 1,865 3.95 849 3.54
Carson of Venus, by Edgar Rice Burroughs 657 3.67 363 3.32
The Legion of Time, by Jack Williamson 27 3.33 82 3.30
I am surprised that Sword in the Stone is so far behind Out of the Silent Planet. I guess it’s been some time since the Disney film…

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Conrad’s story. And Tanya’s. And Liam’s.

Read this.

http://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2014/01/15/save-me-time-or-the-life-and-times-of-liam-theodore-cassidy-brunstrom-part-one/

Save Me Time, OR, The Life and Times of Liam Theodore Cassidy Brunstrom, Part 2

Save me Time, Or, The Life and Times of Liam Theodore Cassidy Brunstrom, Part 3

Save Me Time, OR, The Life and Times of Liam Theodore Cassidy Brunstrom, Part 4

Save me Time, OR, the Life and Times of Liam Theodore Cassidy Brunstrom, Part 5

Save me Time, OR, The Life and Times of Liam Theodore Cassidy Brunstrom, Part 6

Save Me Time, OR, The Life and Times of Liam Theodore Cassidy Brunstrom, Part 7

http://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2014/01/30/save-me-time-or-the-life-and-times-of liam-theodore-cassidy-brunstrom-part-8/

Save me Time, OR, The Life and Times of Liam Theodore Cassidy Brunstrom, Part 9

Save Me Time, OR, The Life and Times of Liam Theodore Cassidy Brunstrom, Part 10

Save Me Time, OR, The Life and Times of Liam Theodore Cassidy Brunstrom, Part 11

Save Me Time, OR, The Life and Times of Liam Theodore Cassidy Brunstrom, Part 12

Save Me Time, OR, The Life and Times of Liam Theodore Cassidy Brunstrom, Part 13

Save Me Time, OR, The Life and Times of Liam Theodore Cassidy Brunstrom, Part 14

Save Me Time, OR, The Life and Times of Liam, Theodore, Cassidy Brunstrom, Part 15

Save Me Time, OR, The Life and Times of Liam Theodore Cassidy Brunstrom, Part 16

Save Me Time, OR, the Life and Times of Liam Theodore, Cassidy Brunstrom, Part 17

Save Me Time, OR, The LIfe and Times of Liam Theodore Cassidy Brunstrom, Part 18

Save Me Time, OR, The Life and Times of Liam Theodore Cassidy Brunstrom, Part 19

Save Me Time, OR, The Life and Times of Liam Theodore Cassidy Brunstrom, Part 20

Save Me Time, OR, The Life and Times of Liam Theodore Cassidy Brunstrom, Part 21

Save Me Time, OR, The Life and Times of Liam Theodore Cassidy Brunstrom, Part 22

Save Me Time, OR, The Life and Times of Liam Theodore Cassidy Brunstrom, Part 23

Save Me Time, OR, The Life and Times of Liam Theodore Cassidy Brunstrom, Part 24

Save Me Time, OR, The Life and Times of Liam Theodore Cassidy Brunstrom, Part 25

Save Me Time, OR, The Life and Times of Liam Theodore Cassidy Brunstrom, Part 26

Save Me Time, OR, The Life and Times of Liam Theodore Cassidy Brunstrom, Part 27

Save Me Time, OR, The Life and Times of Liam Theodore Cassidy Brunstrom, Part 28

Save Me Time, OR, The Life and Times of Liam Theodore Cassidy Brunstrom, Part 29

radbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2014/03/04/save-me-time-or-the-life-and-times-of-liam-theodore-cassidy-brunstrom-part-25/

Save Me Time, OR, The Life and Times of Liam Theodore Cassidy Brunstrom, Part 26

Save Me Time, OR, The Life and Times of Liam Theodore Cassidy Brunstrom, Part 27

Save Me Time, OR, The Life and Times of Liam Theodore Cassidy Brunstrom, Part 28

Save Me Time, OR, The Life and Times of Liam Theodore Cassidy Brunstrom, Part 29

Save Me Time, OR, The Life and Times of Liam Theodore Cassidy Brunstrom, Part 30

Save Me Time, OR, The Life and Times of Liam Theodore Cassidy Brunstrom, Part 31

Save Me Time, OR, The Life and Times of Liam Theodore Cassidy Brunstrom, Part 32

Save Me Time, OR, The Life and Times of Liam Theodore Cassidy Brunstrom, Part 33

Save Me Time, OR, the Life and Times of Liam Theodore Cassidy Brunstrom, Part 34

Save Me Time, OR, the Life and Times of Liam Theodore Cassidy Brunstrom, Part 35

Save Me Time, OR, The Life and Times of Liam Theodore Cassidy Brunstrom, Part 36

Save Me Time, OR, The Life and Times of Liam Theodore Cassidy Brunstrom, Part 37

Save Me Time, OR, The Life and Times of Liam Theodore Cassidy Brunstrom, Part 38

Save Me Time, OR, The Life and Times of Liam Theodore Cassidy Brunstrom, Part 39

Save Me Time, OR, The Life and Times of Liam Theodore Cassidy Brunstrom, Part 40

Save Me Time, OR, The Life and Times of Liam Theodore Cassidy Brunstrom, Part 41

Save Me Time, OR, The Life and Times of Liam Theodore Cassidy Brunstrom, Part 42

Save Me Time, OR, The Life and Times of Liam Theodore Cassidy Brunstrom, Part 43

Save Me Time, OR, The LIfe and Times of Liam Theodore Cassidy Brunstrom, Part 44

Save Me Time, OR, The Life and Times of Liam Theodore Cassidy Brunstrom, Part 45

Save Me Time, OR, The Life and Times of Liam Theodore Cassidy Brunstrom, Part 46

Save Me Time, OR, The Life and Times of Liam Theodore Cassidy Brunstrom, Part 47

http://conradbrunstrom.wordpress.com/2014/04/18/save-me-time-or-the-life-and-times-of-liam-theodore-cassidy-brunstrom-a-conclusion/

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The Farewell Letter of Gabriel Garcia Marquez

From http://www.prrb.ca/articles/issue08-marquez.html

If God, for a second, forgot what I have become and granted me a little bit more of life, I would use it to the best of my ability.

I wouldn’t, possibly, say everything that is in my mind, but I would be more thoughtful l of all I say.

I would give merit to things not for what they are worth, but for what they mean to express.

I would sleep little, I would dream more, because I know that for every minute that we close our eyes, we waste 60 seconds of light.

I would walk while others stop; I would awake while others sleep.

If God would give me a little bit more of life, I would dress in a simple manner, I would place myself in front of the sun, leaving not only my body, but my soul naked at its mercy.

To all men, I would say how mistaken they are when they think that they stop falling in love when they grow old, without knowing that they grow old when they stop falling in love.

I would give wings to children, but I would leave it to them to learn how to fly by themselves.

To old people I would say that death doesn’t arrive when they grow old, but with forgetfulness.

I have learned so much with you all, I have learned that everybody wants to live on top of the mountain, without knowing that true happiness is obtained in the journey taken & the form used to reach the top of the hill.

I have learned that when a newborn baby holds, with its little hand, his father’s finger, it has trapped him for the rest of his life.

I have learned that a man has the right and obligation to look down at another man, only when that man needs help to get up from the ground.

Say always what you feel, not what you think. If I knew that today is the last time that that I am going to see you asleep, I would hug you with all my strength and I would pray to the Lord to let me be the guardian angel of your soul.

If I knew that these are the last moments to see you, I would say “I love you.”

There is always tomorrow, and life gives us another opportunity to do things right, but in case I am wrong, and today is all that is left to me, I would love to tell you how much I love you & that I will never forget you.

Tomorrow is never guaranteed to anyone, young or old. Today could be the last time to see your loved ones, which is why you mustn’t wait; do it today, in case tomorrow never arrives. I am sure you will be sorry you wasted the opportunity today to give a smile, a hug, a kiss, and that you were too busy to grant them their last wish.

Keep your loved ones near you; tell them in their ears and to their faces how much you need them and love them. Love them and treat them well; take your time to tell them “I am sorry,” “forgive me, “please,” “thank you,” and all those loving words you know.

Nobody will know you for your secret thought. Ask the Lord for wisdom and strength to express them.

Show your friends and loved ones how important they are to you.

Send this letter to those you love. If you don’t do it today…tomorrow will be like yesterday, and if you never do it, it doesn’t matter either, the moment to do it is now.

For you, with much love,

Your Friend,
Gabriel Garcia Marquez

(Thanks to Leah Moore for linking to this.)

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Wednesday reading

Current
Assassin’s Quest, by Robin Hobb

Last books finished
[Doctor Who] A Handful of Stardust, by Jake Arnott
Aldébaran #5: La Créature, by Leo
Anglicising the Government of Ireland, by Jon Crawford
Revelation, by C. J. Sansom

Last week’s audios
[Doctor Who] The Acheron Pulse, by Rick Briggs
[Doctor Who] The Shadow Heart, by Jonathan Morris
[Doctor Who] The Evil One, by Nicholas Briggs

Next books
The Good Husband of Zebra Drive, by Alexander McCall Smith
Deathless, by Cat Valente
The Ocean At The End Of The Lane, by Neil Gaiman

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April Books 2) Any Given Doomsday, by Lori Handeland

God, this one was awful too. It had a fair bit of buzz on LibraryThing at one stage, so I bought it then and forgot about it. But it’s a very formulaic urban fantasy, with many elements shared with ‘s Urban Shaman series, which did almost all of them earlier and better. The one partial exception is the sex, which starts off hot and heavy, but then rapidly becomes both tedious and unpleasant. A waste of time.

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April Books 1) Amorality Tale, by David Bishop

This was Bishop’s first professionally published Who book, a Past Doctor Adventure taking Three and Sarah Jane back to December 1952 where smog, East End gangsters and aliens form a deadly brew. I thought it was pretty poor. The East End gangsters talk like college students. The portrayal on the Church is anachronistic and unrealistic. There are some good desriptive moments and some elements of pathos, but it’s really not great.

In particular, the aliens’ evil plan is uncomfortably close to the Holocaust. As has been discussed at length by people better qualified than me, this is one of those topics that Who can never really do. Doctor Who, however seriously we may sometimes take it, is fundamentally entertainment; the Holocaust is not. The book has a gross error of taste and judgement at its core.

(I have enjoyed Bishop’s later work – particularly the second series of Sarah Jane Smith audios – but this is a wobbly start to say the least.)

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Further (on a restricted filter)

Latest from the job coalface:

The two interviews of six and nine days ago both went OK, I thought. Perhaps a bit less happy with the one with ex-employer; they have another candidate to interview after Easter, apparently, and will only make the decision then. I said that I was happy with the professionalism of the recruitment process – last time they hired me, the boss phoned out of the blue and offered me a job I hadn’t even applied for.

The private sector one went rather well. I now face a final interview on Thursday with their overall European boss and the local Brussels manager, and I think that will be the crunch moment. But I clearly already have two senior people pushing my candidature internally. What’s particularly interesting is that this job was not advertised – it tumbled out of my wider network. So even if it doesn’t work out, I’m confident that something else will come up soon enough.

Meanwhile I’m getting increasingly fed up with the current place. An email went to all staff last week announcing that several new hires are to be made, and “those most concerned” are “working on job descriptions and recruitment plans”. One of the new hires is for my office, where I am currently the only member of staff, so I was a bit surprised to get this news in this way – either they thought I was working on a job description and recruitment plan, and just hadn’t told me, or they thought I wasn’t the person most concerned about who works with me. It turns out to be the latter. Hmph.

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End of an experiment: the second paragraph of the third chapter

I quite enjoyed posting the second paragraph of the third chapter (C3p2 for short) of each book I read in March as a one-month project, but I don’t think I will continue the practice. I am tardy enough at writing up books and audios in timely fashion as I get through them (it’s now 12 April, I’ve finished 9 books so far this month, and haven’t posted about any of them yet), and adding an extra step in the process doesn’t seem all that wise. 

However, it was interesting to see that, in the majority of cases, the C3p2 was a really good taster for what the rest of the book would be like. My favourite was probably Animal Farm, but there were lots of other good examples too. It comes out as a fair point of comparison, or a possibly useful yardstick while browsing and thinking if you want to get stuck in.

The exceptions, oddly enough, were the Doctor Who books. Hardly any of them had a good C3p2, or one which really gave a flavour of the rest of the book. (The game books did have C3p2’s which gave an indicative flavour, but they were all pretty bad books.) Perhaps the traditional pacing of Who books is such that Chapter 3 doesn’t always signpost the rest of the story terribly well.

Anyway, it was interesting to try this. Thanks, , for inspiring me.

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March Books 27) Tarzan and the Forbidden City, by Edgar Rice Burroughs

Second paragraph of third chapter:

“Tarzan will be in full charge of the safari,” said Gregory.

This is a fairly rambling quest story of lost Europeans and sacred jewels in hidden cities (there are actually two of them, not one as implied in the title). I read it because it was published in 1938 and is therefore eligible for the Retro-Hugos; sfnal content is supplied by intelligent apes and an underwater base. Tarzan cares much more about white people than Indians, and more about Indians than apes, and more about apes than Africans, as far as I can tell; there is a telling moment when he and his friends allow a galley to sink with its slaves still chained to the oars, giving it barely a glance. It didn’t get onto my Retro-Hugo nomination list, and won’t get my vote if it is nominated.

Despite all this, it’s a story with an interesting history. It may have seemed familiar to me because it was adapted as the fourth episode of the animated Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle show which I watched as a child. But it originated as an adaptation by Burroughs, in six parts under the title The Red Star of Tarzan, in Argosy earlier in 1938, of a radio story by Rob Thompson, Tarzan and the Diamond of Asher, whose 39 episodes can be found here. It was apparently also used for a newspaper comic strip in early 1938, and adapted for the Tarzan comic in 1970. One of those stories which sums Tarzan up, in any medium.

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Wednesday books

Current
Revelation, by C. J. Sansom
Anglicising the Government of Ireland, by Jon Crawford

Last books finished
[Doctor Who] Amorality Tale, by David Bishop
Any Given Doomsday, by Lori Handeland
[Doctor Who] Return of the Living Dad, by Kate Orman
Buddenbrooks, by Thomas Mann
Inverted World, by Christopher Priest
Adventures with the Wife in Space, by Neil Perryman
[Doctor Who] Hope, by Mark Clapham 

Last week’s audios
[Blake’s 7] The Magnificent Four, by Simon Guerrier
[Blake’s 7] False Positive, by Eddie Robson 
[Blake’s 7] Wolf, by Nigel Fairs
[Doctor Who] The Burning Prince, by John Dorney

Next books
[Doctor Who] A Handful of Stardust, by Jake Arnott
Assassin’s Quest, by Robin Hobb
Deathless, by Cat Valente

Books acquired in last week
[Doctor Who] A Handful of Stardust, by Jake Arnott
Sarah Brown’s Vegetarian Cookbook, ed. Ursula Whyte
The Reader’s Digest Good Health Cookbooks: Vegetables and Desserts, ed. Ursula Whyte
De Tweede Kus, by Conz

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March Books 26) Best Served Cold, by Joe Abercrombie

Second paragraph of third chapter:

He remembered sitting warm by the fire, up in the North in a good house in Uffrith, with a belly full of meat and a head full of dreams, talking to Vossula about the wondrous city of Talins. He remembered it with some bitterness, because it was that bloody merchant, with his dewy eyes and his honey tales of home, who’d talked him into this nightmare jaunt to Styria.

I rather bounced off the previous Abercrombie book that I tried, but enjoyed this much more – the tale of a mercenary who decides to take revenge on the local ruler who killed her brother and left her for dead, and gathers a motley gang of killers to implement her vengeance. There’s a particularly effective chapter towards the end where it first appears that we are getting a bedroom scene told from both participants’ viewpoints, but in fact they are in different bedrooms with different partners. It’s still really too long, but didn’t drag.

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March Books 25) Brick Lane, by Monica Ali

Second paragraph of third chapter:

She walked slowly along the corridor, looking at the front doors. They were all the same. Peeling red paint showing splinters of pale wood, a rectangular panel of glass with wire meshing suspended inside, gold-rimmed keyholes, stern black knockers. A door flew open and a head bobbed out in front of her. It was bald and red with unknown rage. She nodded but today it did not acknowledge her. Nazneen passed with her eyes averted to the wall. Someone had drawn a pair of buttocks in thick black pen, and next to them a pair of breasts with elongated nipples. Behind her a door slammed. She reached the stairwell and cantered down. The overhead light was fierce; she could feel its faint heat even as the concrete cold crept into her toes. The stairs gave off a tang of urine. She bunched the skirts of her sari with one hand and took the steps two at a time until she missed a ledge and came down on her ankle against an unforgiving ridge. She caught the stair rail and did not fall but clung to the side for a moment, then continued down, stamping as if the pain was just a cramp to be marched out.

I very much enjoyed this portrait of a world that I have occasionally glimpsed via my Bangladeshi relatives; our protagonist, Nazneen, stuck in an arranged marriage and transported to Brick Lane in London at the age of 18, gradually finds her own way to gaining control of her own life, managing her relationships with husband and her lover – both fantasists in their different ways – and transcending the tensions within her own community and between it and its neighbours. Meanwhile the letters she gets from her sister back home become increasingly gut-wrenching. The ending isn’t a completely happy one, but then, what ending is?

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Starborn, by Jacqueline Rayner

A neat and effective Companion Chronicle, starring Maureen O’Brien as two different versions of Vicki, and Jacqueline King (Donna’s mother on TV) as an unhappy medium. Well written and well performed, a good jumping-in place if you haven’t sampled the range and shows that the Companion Chronicles are still doing well even as they begin to reach the end.

Directed by Lisa Bowerman; i cannot think of any other Who drama where only women are credited as cast and crew.

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The 11 new Northern Ireland district councils – projecting the 2011 votes

For us anoraks, there is both frustration and challenge at the thought of the Northern Ireland council elections next month, taking place for 11 new local government districts, on completely redrawn electoral boundaries, with the full details of the last census not yet out in sufficient detail that the enthusiast can calculate changes down to townland or city block level.

However, some of us are trying. In particular, a contributor to Bangordub’s blog identified only as “Faha”, and a contributor to the Vote UK Forum known only as “Irish Observer”, have both made a go of looking at the new districts, electoral area by electoral area, to work out what the elections of 2011 might have looked like on the new boundaries and hence what we might set as a baseline for next month.

I have taken a different approach. For each of the 11 new districts, I have done my best to calculate an overall party vote based on the 2011 votes, and then to guesstimate the likely party strengths in each district, had those votes been cast on the new boundaries. I report also the 2011 census returns on community background, since that is usually the first question people ask about the statistics.

The scores on the doors are that six of the new eleven districts have a clear Unionist majority, and in three of those six the DUP starts within a seat or two of having an outright majority. Four of the eleven have a clear Nationalist majority, and I make Sinn Fein within spitting distance of a majority on their own in two of them, and the largest party in the other two. Belfast is more evenly split: I give Nationalists 27, Unionists 24 and the Alliance Party 9 seats of the new 60-strong council, based on the 2011 votes.

I emphasise that this is not about predicting the results of next month’s elections; this is about establishing a baseline against which the election results can be measured. With that caveat, I would say that the nominal total number of seats on the new councils for each party, which would mark an equivalent performance to 2011, are:

DUP 145 (20 Lisb&Cas, 19 ND&Ards, 19 M&E Ant, 17 Belfast, 17 Ant&Nby, 15 CC&G, 13 ABC, 9 Mid U, 8 D&S, 5 F&O, 3 NM&D)
SF 115 (19 Belfast, 18 F&O, 17 Mid U, 16 D&S, 16 NM&D, 9 ABC, 9 CC&G, 5 Ant&Nby, 3 M&E Ant, 3 Lisb&Cas)
UUP 77 (12 ABC, 9 F&O, 9 Ant&Nby, 8 M&E Ant, 7 ND&Ards, 7 Lisb&Cas, 6 Belfast, 6 CC&G, 6 Mid U, 5 NM&D, 2 D&S)
SDLP 67 (14 NM&D, 13 D&S, 8 Belfast, 6 ABC, 6 Mid U, 6 F&O, 5 CC&G, 4 Lisb&Cas, 3 Ant&Nby, 1 M&E Ant, 1 ND&Ards)
Alliance 34 (9 Belfast, 8 ND&Ards, 6 Lisb&Cas, 6 Ant&Nby, 4 M&E Ant, 1 CC&G)
TUV 3 (2 M&E Ant, 1 CC&G)
Greens 1 (ND&Ards)
PUP 1 (Belfast)
UKIP 1 (NM&D)
Others 18

Projections for the 11 individual councils below, along with wee maps which are taken directly from the DoE site at http://www.doeni.gov.uk/reform_maps/ and are therefore Crown Copyright, used here I hope with the shield of fair use.

North Down and Ards

(The whole of Ards district, and almost all of North Down district apart from the very small Cedar Grove corner which goes to Belfast – the North Down figures below are adjusted for the removal of Cedar Grove.)

Party Ards   N Down total %ge
DUP 11,732 8,991   20,723   41.9%
Alliance 4,512 4,527 9,039 18.2%
UUP 4,337 3,444 7,781 15.7%
Green 191 1,821 2,012 4.1%
SDLP 1,685 298 1,983 4.0%
Cons 129 721 850 1.7%
TUV 830 830 1.7%
Cty Pshp 800 800 1.6%
UKIP 427 427 0.9%
Inds 1,328 3,744 5,072 10.2%

Goes down from 48 seats to 40.
61.8% to Unionist parties; 4.0% to Nationalist parties; 34.2% for the rest.
2011 census: 75.05% P, 13.12% C, 11.83% Oth/None.
Edited to add: small corrections made to Ind and Community Partnership totals.

“Irish Observer” projects 20 DUP, 8 Alliance, 7 UUP, 1 SDLP, 3 Inds, 1 Ind U.
(“Faha” hasn’t got round to this one yet.)

I’d say it’s a stretch for the DUP to get so close to an overall majority on less than 42% of the vote (they won 22 seats out of 48 in 2011), and the Greens somehow always manage to pull something out of the hat, if not quite what they wanted. So my gut feeling is that a reasonable projection of the 2011 votes to the new boundaries would give the DUP at least one less and the Greens a seat in North Down.
My call: 19 DUP, 8 Alliance, 7 UUP, 1 SDLP, 1 Green, 3 Inds, 1 Ind U.

Mid and East Antrim

(The whole of the current Ballymena, Carrickfergus and Larne districts.)

Party   Ballymena   Carrick Larne total %ge
DUP 10,999 5,356   3,374   19,729   42.0%
UUP 3,943 1,972 1,961 7,876 16.8%
Alliance 416 3,110 1,576 5,102 10.9%
TUV 3,259 784 4,043 8.6%
SF 2,003 766 2,769 5.9%
SDLP 2,060 652 2,712 5.8%
Green 294 110 404 0.9%
BNP 182 182 0.4%
PUP 146 146 0.3%
Inds 1,365 1,670 983 4,018 8.6%

The three councils currently have 56 seats, going down to 40.
68.1% to Unionist parties; 11.7% to Nationalist parties; 20.2% for the rest.
2011 census: 72.88% P, 19.34% C, 7.77% Oth/None.

“Irish Observer” projects 19 DUP, 8 UUP, 4 Alliance, 3 SF, 2 TUV, 1 SDLP, 3 Inds.
“Faha” projects 20 DUP, 9 UUP, 4 Alliance, 3 SF, 2 SDLP, 2 TUV.

Larne and Carrick in particular have a tradition of voting for independents, so I think the former is nearer the mark. It would have been impressive for the DUP to get half the seats on 42% of the vote (they won 24 out of 56 real seats in 2011).
My call: 19 DUP, 8 UUP, 4 Alliance, 3 SF, 2 TUV, 1 SDLP, 3 Inds (agreeing with Irish Observer).

Lisburn and Castlereagh

(The current Lisburn district, losing about 20% of its voters to Belfast, and the current Castlereagh district, losing about 40% of its voters to Belfast as well.)

Party   Lisburn   C’reagh total %ge
DUP 15,912 6,305   22,217   47.4%
UUP 6,526 1,495 8,021 17.1%
Alliance 3,833 3,521 7,354 15.7%
SDLP 2,159 2,071 4,232 9.0%
SF 2,377 640 3,017 6.4%
Green 372 573 945 2.0%
Cons 242 90 332 0.7%
TUV 282 282 0.6%
BNP 154 154 0.3%
PBP 50 50 0.1%
Inds 288 288 0.6%

The two councils together currently have 53 seats, to be reduced to 40; but the drastic transfer of 20% of Lisburn and 40% of Castlereagh to Belfast actually means, uniquely, a net increase of councillors per voter in the remaining territory (if I have my sums right).
66.1% to Unionist parties; 15.4% to Nationalist parties; 18.5% for the rest.
2011 census: 66.90% P, 23.95% C, 9.15% Oth/None.

“Irish Observer” projects 20 DUP, 8 Alliance, 6 UUP, 3 SF, 3 SDLP.
(“Faha” hasn’t got round to this one yet.)

The SDLP surprised me with their performance in Lagan Valley in the 2011 election. I think Irish Observer is too pessimistic for them and the UUP, and very optimistic for Alliance. But the DUP getting half the seats on 47.4% looks about right.
My call: 20 DUP, 7 UUP, 6 Alliance, 4 SDLP, 3 SF

Antrim and Newtownabbey

(Simply the two current districts amalgamated.)

Party   Antrim Nby total %ge
DUP 5,210   11,947   17,157   38.6%
UUP 3,391 5,407 8,798 19.8%
Alliance 1,919 4,496 6,415 14.4%
SF 2,931 2,647 5,578 12.5%
SDLP 2,806 1,467 4,273 9.6%
PUP 109 506 615 1.4%
TUV 363 0 363 0.8%
BNP 0 104 104 0.2%
Inds 321 877 1,198 2.7%

Goes down to 40 councillors from 44.
60.8% to Unionist parties; 22.1% to Nationalist parties; 17.1% for the rest.
2011 census: 61.10% P, 29.74% C, 9.17% Oth/None.

“Irish Observer” projects 19 DUP, 8 UUP, 6 Alliance, 4 SF, 3 SDLP.
“Faha” projects 17 DUP, 9 UUP, 6 Alliance, 5 SF, 3 SDLP.

The latter looks right to me.
My call: 17 DUP, 9 UUP, 6 Alliance, 5 SF, 3 SDLP (same as Faha).

Causeway Coast and Glens

(The whole of the current Ballymoney, Coleraine, Limavady and Moyle districts)

Party   Bmoney   Coleraine   Limavady Moyle total %ge
DUP 5,182 6,984 3,191 955   16,312   32.8%
SF 2,344 1,759 4,626   1,381 10,110 20.3%
UUP 1,563 4,047 1,169 909 7,688 15.5%
SDLP 1,133 2,066 1,770 1,036 6,005 12.1%
TUV 870 324 669 164 2,027 4.1%
Alliance 1,723 240 1,963 4.0%
UKIP 91 91 0.2%
Inds 347 2,642 508 1,998 5,495 11.1%

Goes down brutally from 68 councillors to 40.
52.6% to Unionist parties, 32.4% to Nationalist parties, 15.0% for the rest.
2011 census: 54.79% P, 40.21% C, 5.00% Oth/None.

“Irish Observer” projects 15 DUP, 9 SF, 6 UUP, 5 SDLP, 2 Alliance, 1 Ind U, 1 Ind Nat, 1 Ind.
“Faha” projects 15 DUP, 9 SF, 7 SDLP, 6 UUP, 1 Alliance, 1 TUV, 1 Ind U.

“Faha” is very optimistic that the SDLP could take 17.5% of the seats with 12.1% of the vote. Moyle in particular is a fissiparous electorate, used to voting for independent candidates, and “Irish Observer” looks to me to be closer to the mark in that regard. However, I agree with Faha that the TUV should be projected as defending a retainable seat.
My call: 15 DUP, 9 SF, 6 UUP, 5 SDLP, 1 Alliance, 1 TUV, 1 Ind U , 1 Ind Nat, 1 Ind.

Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon

(The whole of Armagh and Craigavon districts, almost all of Banbridge minus most of Ballyward ward, and the Caledon corner of Dungannon district. The Banbridge figures below are adjusted for the removal of Ballyward.)

Party   Armagh   Banbridge   Craigavon   Dgn total %ge
DUP 5,326 5,729 9,974 265   21,294   27.8%
UUP 6,972 6,064 6,845 206 20,087 26.2%
SF 6,259 1,811 9,304 96 17,470 22.8%
SDLP 5,379 2,197 4,026 37 12,639 15.2%
Alliance 830 1,137 1,967 2.6%
TUV 144 441 976 33 1,594 2.1%
UKIP 122 122 0.2%
Inds 1,136 335 917 2,388 3.1%

Goes down to 41 councillors from 65.
56.3% to Unionist parties; 38.0% to Nationalist parties; 5.7% for the rest.
2011 census: 51.74% P, 42.95% C, 5.31% Oth/None.

“Irish Observer” projects 12 DUP, 11 UUP, 10 SF, 7 SDLP, 1 Ind U.
“Faha” projects 14 DUP, 11 UUP, 9 SF, 6 SDLP, 1 Ind U.

I don’t think you can easily get 17 Nationalist seats on 38% of the vote, and I am also struck by how close the UUP and DUP are (this being one of the former’s hidden bastions of comparative strength).
My call: 13 DUP, 12 UUP, 9 SF, 6 SDLP, 1 Ind U

Belfast

(The whole of the current Belfast district, plus about 20% of Lisburn, 40% of Castlereagh, and the very small Cedar Grove corner of North Down. I have tallied the two parts transferred from Lisburn, Dunmurry and Drumbo, separately since they are dramatically different but – with apologies to my friends form there – have treated the transferred parts of Castlereagh as a block.)

Party   Belfast   D’m’y   D’bo   ex-C’reagh   C Gr total %ge
SF 28,234 5,946 5 95   34,280   31.2%
DUP 21,353 749 106 4,085 40 26,333 24.0%
Alliance 11,540 378 32 2,621 34 14,605 13.3%
SDLP 12,547 1,429 12 608 14,596 13.3%
UUP 7,836 229 48 1,222 28 9,363 8.5%
PUP 2,570 323 2,893 2.6%
Eirigi 2,062 2,062 1.9%
Green 1,320 143 13 1,476 1.3%
WP 760 760 0.7%
TUV 349 7 245 601 0.5%
IRSP 588 588 0.5%
Soc 434 434 0.4%
PBP 321 43 364 0.3%
Cons 103 30 6 139 0.1%
BNP 51 51 0.05%
Procapitalist 9 9 0.01%
Ind 1,274 1,274 1.2%

Old Belfast Council has 51 seats; this will increase to 60.
35.7% to Unionist parties, 46.9% to Nationalist parties, 17.4% for the rest.
2011 census: 42.47% P, 48.82% C, 8.71% Oth/None.

“Irish Observer” projects 20 SF, 17 DUP, 9 Alliance, 7 SDLP, 6 UUP, 1 PUP.
(“Faha” hasn’t got round to this one yet.)

It may seem odd to give the DUP 28.3% of the seats on 24.0% of the votes, but I’m with “Irish Observer” here. There’s still a small systemic bias against SF, in that population drift even in the short space of time since the new wards were drawn up has left them with a relatively greater number of votes needed per councillor elected. (Meaning that the Nationalist electorate is increasing, but increasing most in places where they were already strong; while Protestant population drift is taking voters out of what were already low turnout areas; I’m not suggesting any deliberate design effect in the process, which was transparent, democratic and professionally implemented.) So I’m projecting:
My call: 19 SF, 17 DUP, 9 Alliance, 8 SDLP, 6 UUP, 1 PUP

Mid Ulster

(The whole of the current Cookstown and Magherafelt districts, and almost all of Dungannon apart from the Charlemont triangle, which goes to the new ABC council.)

Party   Cookstown   Dungannon   Magherafelt   total   %ge
SF 6,135 8,204 9,732   24,071   40.6%
DUP 2,834 4,994 3,268 11,096 18.7%
SDLP 2,829 3,319 3,196 9,344 15.8%
UUP 2,650 4,317 1,972 8,939 15.1%
TUV 1,159 375 1,071 2,605 4.4%
Alliance 92 206 298 0.5%
Inds 2,039 850 2,889 4.9%

Goes down from 52 seats to 40.
38.2% to Unionist parties; 56.4% to Nationalist parties; 5.4% for the rest.
2011 census: 33.46% P, 63.77% C, 3.77% Oth/None

“Irish Observer” projects 18 SF, 9 DUP, 6 SDLP, 5 UUP, 2 Ind Nat
“Faha” projects 19 SF, 8 DUP, 6 SDLP, 6 UUP, 1 Ind Nat.

Those TUV votes are rather thinly spread but will transfer back to the DUP, so the Unionist parties are on 38% rather than 34% of the vote collectively – which should mean a fifteenth seat somewhere. And that number of votes for independent candidates should deliver two of them.
My call: 17 SF, 9 DUP, 6 SDLP, 6 UUP, 2 Ind Nats

Fermanagh and Omagh

(The whole of the current Fermanagh and Omagh districts)

Party   Fermanagh   Omagh total %ge
SF 11,276 10,353   21,629   40.9%
UUP 7,396 3,162 10,558 20.0%
DUP 5,332 3,624 8,956 16.9%
SDLP 3,867 2,943 6,810 12.9%
Alliance 119 324 443 0.8%
TUV 309 309 0.6%
Socialist 248 248 0.5%
Green 63 63 0.1%
Inds 2,226 1,671 3,897 7.4%

Reduced from the current 44 councillors to 40.
37.5% to Unionist parties; 53.8% to Nationalist parties; 8.7% for the rest.
2011 census: 33.08% P, 64.23% C, 2.69% Oth/None

“Irish Observer” projects 18 SF, 9 UUP, 6 SDLP, 5 DUP, 2 Ind Nat.
“Faha” projects 19 SF, 9 UUP, 6 SDLP, 5 DUP, 1 Ind Nat

Faha sometimes overlooks independents; I’m with Irish Observer on this one.
My call: 18 SF, 9 UUP, 6 SDLP, 5 DUP, 2 Ind Nat (same as Irish Observer).

Derry and Strabane

(The whole of the current Derry and Strabane districts)

Party Derry   Strabane total %ge
SF   14,011 6,834   20,845   35.5%
SDLP 15,805 1,605 17,410 29.6%
DUP 6,081 4,039 10,120 17.2%
UUP 1,642 2,359 4,001 6.8%
IRSP 879 666 1,545 2.6%
PBP 1,307 1,307 2.2%
Alliance 359 359 0.6%
PUP 204 204 0.3%
Inds 1,089 1,891 2,585 5.1%

Down from 46 councillors to 40.
24.3% to Unionist parties; 67.7% to Nationalist parties; 8.0% to the rest.
2011 census: 25.40% P, 72.16% C, 2.44% Oth/None

“Irish Observer” projects (with uncharacteristic vagueness) 16-20 SF, 10-13 SDLP, 7-11 DUP, 1-2 UUP, 0-1 Ind
“Faha” projects 15 SF, 15 SDLP, 8 DUP, 2 UUP.

I make SF 6% ahead, which surely reduces the chance of the SDLP tying them for seats. And with all those votes for independents floating around, I would have thought there must be a chance of one making it though. (In 2011, two were elected in one of the Strabane DEAs.)
My call: 16 SF, 13 SDLP, 8 DUP, 2 UUP, 1 Ind.

Newry, Mourne and Down

(The whole of the current Down district; the whole of the current Newry and Mourne district; and the Ballyward corner of Banbridge.)

Party   Down N & M   B’ward total %ge
SF 5,806   17,877 260   23,943   36.4%
SDLP 8,666 11.443 212 20,321 30.9%
UUP 3,346 4,078 103 7,527 11.5%
DUP 4,152 1,172 175 5,499 8.4%
UKIP 1,910 1,910 2.9%
Green 1,035 382 1,417 2.2%
Alliance 1,252 62 1,314 2.0%
TUV 408 17 425 0.6%
Inds 1,073 2,262 3,335 5.1%

Goes down from 53 seats to 41.
23.4% to Unionist parties; 67.3% to Nationalist parties; 9.3% to the rest
2011 census: 23.91% P, 72.32% C, 3.77% Oth/None.

“Irish Observer” projects 15 SF, 15 SDLP, 5 UUP, 4 DUP, 1 UKIP, 1 Ind Nat.
“Faha” projects 16 SDLP, 15 SF, 4 DUP, 3 UUP, 2 Ind Nats, 1 UKIP.

I have to say it’s difficult for me to imagine SF failing to convert a 5.5% lead in the overall vote into a margin of at least two council seats, let alone falling behind. Those numbers look to me more like:
My call: 16 SF, 14 SDLP, 5 UUP, 3 DUP, 1 UKIP and 1 Ind Nat.

There is plenty of room for disagreement, and in any case the real verdict on the numbers above will be rendered by the voters on 22 May.

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March Books 19-24) “Make Your Own Adventure” / “Find Your Fate”

These were the first set of Doctor Who game books, published in 1985-86; since then there have been a couple more sets, two published in 1986 by FASA and 16 Tenth Doctor stories with the series title "Decide Your Destiny" published between 2007 and 2010. These original six are all available for a penny/a cent plus postage on the second hand market. To my surprise, there is more to say about them than I had expected – including the very first Who story from a non-TV medium to be later adapted for television. They were originally published in the UK with the series title "Make Your Own Adventure With Doctor Who", and in the US as part of Ballanyne's "Find Your Fate" series.

Search for the Doctor, by David Martin

Quickest path to happy ending: 0-2-10-12-14-11-3-22-24-26-32-33

Second para of section 3:

The radio crackled again. 'Lost contact.' You slid down the side of the truck and sat with your head on your knees. Without Drax or K-9, what could you do?

The story starts with "you" inheriting K9 from the late Sarah Jane Smith, in the year 2056; you then join forces with Drax from The Armageddon Factor, helping the Doctor to defeat Omega who is threatening to destroy the universe by taking over a nuclear research facility for his own ends. Obviously a lot of elements recycled from TV stories which Martin co-wrote with Bob Baker, and it's actually rather well done – a somewhat improvised team ("you", Drax and K9) trying to rescue the Doctor and thwart Omega. The options for success do then to be the last in the list for each page, with only two exceptions. But on the whole the "correct" choices are fairly signalled. There are a couple of anagram puzzles which are not terribly well integrated into the plot.

Crisis in Space, by Michael Holt

Second para of section 3:

Halley's Comet being a mere ten kilometres across, the four of you troop round it in next to no time. 'Just a dirty great snowball,' Turlough says.

This is the only one of the books written by someone who didn't write for the TV series, though Holt did write several Doctor Who quiz books. The protagonist, again "you" but also named as "Chris", joins forces with the Doctor, Peri and (anachronistically) Turlough to prevent the villainous Garth Hadeez from destroying the Solar System. The writing is really excruciatingly badly pitched, with Peri and Turlough making horrible and inappropriate puns on every page, and characters routinely bursting into song (ie doggerel).

Which is a shame because the narrative structure is rather interesting – there are two different happy endings, one of which comes from a plot set entirely in 17th century Prague:
0-1-2-3-5-11-13/68-43-20-40-39-28-14-26-30-25-44-49
and the other on Mars and Phobos (though it turns out not to actually be Phobos as we know it):
0-1-2-3-4-27-6-33-12-56-51-7-46-8-21-36-15-9-70
with also the option of time-slipping from Phobos to Prague for an epic story:
0-1-2-3-4-27-6-33-12-56-51-7-46-8-35-17-42-10-16-5-11-13/68-43-20-40-39-28-14-26-30-25-44-49
(There is one mistake that I caught – section 65 offers section 66 as one of the options, taking you from a Prague crossroads to a Martian crater; it should have been the otherwise orphaned section 38 instead.)
There's also one number puzzle which is fair and actually plot-relevant. It's a shame that the originality of the path structure was not matched by appropriate restraint in the writing.

The Garden of Evil, by David Martin

Quickest path to happy ending:
1-2-4-30-6-8-9-11-13-15-17-19-21-23-25-27-29-31-33-35-37

Second para of section 3:

'Why, what happened?' The Doctor was looking anxiously out of the rear vizor.

Probably the most interesting from the continuity point of view of the six books, this time "you" are a telepathic refugee from Earth, stranded in a camp on Gallifrey, rescued by the Doctor, and sucked into a struggle with the evil Maker who wants to, guess what, destroy Gallifrey and take over the universe. It's not exactly Gallifrey as we know it, though in fact it's not all that far off the Time War Gallifrey which we have seen recently. There are some silly die rolls and anagram quizzes, but in general the plot is pretty linear, and when Martin lets his hair down there's some writing that approaches being decent.

Mission to Venus, by William Emms

Only path to happy ending:
1-4-9-5-13-3-17-14-23-28

Second para of section 3:

You went to Burrigan's side. He had now drawn his own gun and looked as though he meant to use it. This would be sheer foolishness, you could see, as the Doctor and Peri also joined you; the crew also had armed themselves.

This was apparently based on ideas that Emms (who wrote Galaxy 4 had put together for a Second Doctor story to be called The Imps. I fear it may be one of those cases where we should be rather glad it wasn't made. The plot, such as it is, is about a rather tedious effort to manage dangerous plants on a vital spaceship run. The next sentence of this paragraph is not an opinion I shall often have cause to express, but in this case it is true. Terror of the Vervoids did it better.

The structure of the book is much the laziest of any of the six: at every turn, you are presented with three choices, of which in every single case the first two lead to failure and the third to success. From both section 14 and section 23, the two wrong options are section 8 and section 16, while sections 12 and 22 are fatal snippets which are not attached to any preceding text. I couldn't actually be bothered to work out which ending was meant to go with which previous section. The one mildly saving grace is that a couple of the false turns are so silly as to verge on gonzo surrealism: one option, for instance, has "you" gobbled up by Dracula and his brides (who are somehow occupying a cabin in a spaceship to Venus), and another leaves "you" trying to emulate the Scarlet Pimpernel in revolutionary France. But this is lazy stuff, contemptuous of the reader.

Invasion of the Ormazoids, by Philip Martin

Quickest path to happy ending:
1-11-2-6-13-15-10-18-29-35-14-12-46-16-31-19-17-24-55-30-4-28-36-44-42-45-47-54-52-59-38-57-48-60-41-66

Second para of section 3:

'Set what?' The lights go on flashing urgently. A warning buzzer starts. Something called 'static warning of temporal overload' starts blinking at you. Then you remember the Doctor fiddling with a small computer input panel. This might be the co-ordinate setting now required.

This one was the reason I sought these books out, after tremendously enjoying Philip Martin's audio play Antidote to Oblivion earlier this year. It's probably the best of the books from a literary point of view, though this is not a high bar. What's particularly pleasing is that most of the choices actually require some thought and analysis and reward careful consideration of the options; and yet a number of the "correct" options are presented as if you have made the wrong choice with duly impending doom, until you turn to the next section and discover that things actually get better. It has also quite a long pathway to victory. There are a couple of fairly straightforward puzzles which verge on actual relevance to the plot. If you are thinking of sampling these, this might be the one to start with. NB that a crucial early transition, from Section 6 to Section 13, makes No Sense At All.

Race Against Time, by Pip and Jane Baker

Quickest path to happy ending – an unbelievable 94 steps:
1-56-25-64-140-57-11-72-52-30-133-5-26-89-148-94-31-15-79-107-157-126-73-46-85-53-78-153-37-65-139-95-54-6-114-13-48-81-17-130-105-150-55-115-93-40-41-60-134-16-144-32-58-97-67-51-70-71-92-137-18-106-49-116-146-147-84-29-104-138-98-38-80-111-129-88-151-125-63-108-36-83-145-135-14-119-39-77-20-21-128-8-96-160

Second para of section 3:

Shaped like an armadillo, but with the speed of a jackal, a Quarintalardus springs from a camouflaged burrow and grabs you by the scruff of the neck. There is blur as you are given a short but sharp shake. The the Quarintalardus, smacking its lips, departs, leaving you flat on your back.

I had not realised that this book has a historic place in the history of Who – long before Big Finish plays, New Adventures or DWM comic stories were adapted to become episodes of New Who, the plot (such as it is) of Race Against Time was recycled within a year of publication to supply many of the elements of Time and the Rani – most notably the Rani running her biological experiments on a remote base, aided by specially designed monsters, here called the Ratapes, mildly scrambled with one change of letter to become the Tetraps in the televised story. So Time and the Rani is actually the first Who from non-televised media to be adapted to TV. (Though there's a story in the 1972 Countdown Annual with some resemblance to The Seeds of Doom.) However, it's very nearly the only point of interest. The choices leading to life or death seem pretty arbitrary; the puzzles are actually quite difficult and generally have nothing to do with the plot; section 153 advises us to "look back at 125" though in fact you can't possibly get to section 125 for another 50 steps. Reading these six books was a slightly mad idea anyway, but I really had to force myself to finish this one. I will say that the Bakers wisely dialled down the exclamation marks so prevalent in their novelisations.

So, what to learn from this? It was unfortunate that a run of Sixth Doctor stories in an untried format were published just at the time that the character himself was getting dumped by the Beeb. I think also that it might have been better to get authors who knew how to write single-player gamebooks to try their hand at Doctor Who, rather than the other way round. I don't have the detailed knowledge of the format that Demian Katz brings to his critique, but it's not difficult to suspect that this could have been done better. The internal illustrations, by Gail Bennett who also illustrated the Doctor Who Cookbook, are pretty good; the covers a little more iffy (Bennett clearly was at her best in monochrome). The three books by writers whose surname is Martin are better than the three books that aren't, but this is not saying much.

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