Terry Nation - Survivors
This is the novel that sparked the 1970s TV show and the terrible remake from a couple of years ago. It’s good too.
I’ve read lot’s of these immediate aftermath post-apocalypse things over the years. They’ve become a sort of SAS survival guide for me; John Christopher’s ‘Death of Grass’, ‘The Earth Abides’ by George R. Stewart and ‘The Road’ by Cormac McCarthy are the most recent. I know for certain that I’d be terrible in such circumstances. I’ve no useful practical skills whatsoever.
The book concerns the life of one small group of people as they band together and attempt to survive the aftermath of a pandemic. The plot here almost exclusively deals with the practicalities of life. There are some almost perfunctory nods towards some sort of conflict with a newly formed autocratic society nearby but they are sparsely featured.
I picked this book up early today out of curiosity and finished it late this afternoon so a light read yes but still enjoyable.
Louis Neibur - Special Sound: The Creation and Legacy of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop
I was really stoked when I discovered the existence of this. I'd been hoping there was a book on the Workshop that I could read but had somehow managed to not notice this one.
In the end I did feel a little let down by it. Neibur has obviously done his research and he blatantly knows his subject but his writing, for me at least, was cold and lacking passion. He doesn't seem at all interested in the people. His entire concern is in the musical aspects and in the gear but even in that he's not concerned about glorious eccentricities like the 'do not fiddle with' and their other homemade gear which would allow us to learn more about glorious eccentrics like Workshop engineer Dave Young. Indeed the people of the Workshop get short shrift some only a cursory mention others not even that.
I don't want to appear too negative though as in it's way it was an interesting read but I'm an anthropologist / sociologist by qualification and by inclination because I like to know about the people and on that score this just didn't deliver. If however it's the technical details of both the compositions by and the composition of the Workshop then I'm sure this book will amply fulfil your requirements.
Kim Newman - Anno Dracula
Wow! Now that was a trip worth taking. Newman's reinvention of the Dracula mythos, indeed the whole vampire mythos, is a sumptuous and beautifully literate experience.
The basic conceit is simple. What if van Helsing and his followers had failed to stop the Count and he had fully implemented his plan to conquer and rule Britain? Here his marriage to Queen Victoria has brought all of the famous vampires out of hiding and has led to the adoption of vampirism by many within the country from politicians to beggars. Into this society comes the fear and outrage engendered by a spate of murders of vampire whores in Whitechapel by a killer christened first 'Silver Knife' and later, more famously (or infamously) 'Jack the Ripper'.
Newman makes no attempt to hide the identity of his ripper, it's one of the first things the book divulges and instead we are allowed to view, Columbo style, the slow advance of Charles Beauregard, agent of the Diogenes Club, as he investigates and eventually solves the crimes.
This is secondary however to the changes in both society and the individuals around Beauregard. The novel is bigger than a mere whodunnit. There is, in the great spirit of the Diogenes Club's most famous member (along with his brother and his author), a plan most devious, a plot most wonderful and a scheme most subtle that only the most indolent (no offense to Mr. Newman) could have conceived of it.
It's wonderfully written with subtle changes of pace and tone which carry you along as much as the plot. Newman's writing was only known to me through his articles in Empire and his excellent book on Apocalypse Movies so this was a real revelation.
A joy from start to finish. I'm very much looking forward to the second one now but that's not due until April 2012. in the meantime though (September) he's taking a crack at Moriarty which should be excellent fun.
Kim Newman – Anno Dracula vol. 2: The Bloody Red Baron
When I started reading this I wasn’t really in the mood for a novel (too tired) and so the first 50 or so pages were a bit of a slog as I kept stopping to read comics. Once I had time to wake and liven up a bit I started the book in earnest and boy what a ride.
This second volume of the Anno Dracula tales moves the action onto the 1914-18 war. Dracula is now one of the leaders of Germany and the motivating force behind the German War Effort.
At Schloss Adler various ‘scientific’ experiments are being undertaken on the various members of the JG1 squadron of air aces under Baron Manfred Von Richtofen.
Rallied against these are the British aces and the Diogenes Club. As before there’s a plethora of both action and intrigue but with the focus being much more confined this volume lacks the scope of the first. It’s still a wonderful react though filled with fun and adventure and fangs.
There’s a back-up story too. A pastiche of Twilight and P, G. Wodehouse involving a meeting of elders at a drafty old English country house up North. There’re dirty deeds afoot and the Diogenes Club sends Winthrop and Genevieve to investigate. They’re soon embroiled in a murder whilst the plucky (and slightly dim) young, vampire besotted, love struck lady of the house along with the ancient (but teenaged Kill Bill style) Japanese bodyguard investigate what soon transpires to be a rather grand plot waiting to be uncovered.
It’s a great little read. Long enough to be very satisfying but short enough to ensure it doesn’t outstay it’s welcome.
Kim Newman – Professor Moriarty: The Hound of the D’Urbervilles
I’d been waiting to read this since I read the Anno Dracula book last year. It turns out I had already read part of it on the BBC Cult Holmes site. It was a story about Irene Adler getting one over on Moriarty and Moran and I really dug it. I remember thinking at the time that I could have done with more of the same. Turns out there’s a book full.
Like the Holmes stories this is told via the companion, in this case Sebastian Moran and his move from trouble making Colonel to right hand man to the Napoleon of crime. The stories themselves are pastiches / homages of the Holmes (and others) tales such as Baskerville / D’Uberville and the Red Headed League / Red Planet League, the latter being my favourite part of the book as it was beautifully done.
Watson was a bit maligned but then again Moran maligns everyone and is hardly a reliable narrator. Moriarty is utterly despicable and irredeemably conceited; his contempt for Holmes after they meet is palpable. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Newman is pretty ensconced these days as one of my favourite authors and this was a glorious read.
Kim Newman – Doctor Who Novellas: Time and Relative
This is the first of a short series of novellas published before the relaunch and featuring Doctors one through eight.
The series starts off with a tale concerning the first that directly precedes the ‘Unearthly Child’ storyline. This tale pits a confused and lonely Susan and a small gaggle of schoolmates against an elemental from Earth’s past called ‘The Cold’ that has decided it wants its home back from all these pesky human things.
Grandfather is uninterested in helping. In fact he thinks ‘The Cold’ has a very good case. It’s not till the end that Susan manages to ignite in him the spark of helping (or ‘meddling’ as he refers to it).
It’s written as a diary (Susan’s) which usually makes me squirm but Newman is skilful enough to make it work in this short format.