The time has come…

… the Walrus said, to talk of many things:

Here is a slightly random brain dump with a literary bent.

I have just finished another incredible Alistair Reynolds book, House of Suns. Thanks to the fantastic @waarg for the loan. Reynolds is definitely my go to guy when I have no Iain M. Banks to read. They have both created convincing imaginings of a futureverse, populated in believable ways, by which I mean populated by characters and technologies which we would like to believe will come to pass, benevolent super-computers, machine people with heart, alien worlds with visual wonders to blow the mind, etc. Some books are better than others, House of Suns is good, but never quite as great as I think it could have been, certainly not as great as Reynolds at his best. But then I am talking about the best books by the best sci-fi authors out there, so the odd dip in high standards is excusable.

I have simultaneously been reading book eleven in the wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan, Knife of Dreams. This is the last book written wholly by Jordan before his untimely death, and it is as enjoyable as fans of the series might expect. As I start book twelve, written from Jordan’s extensive notes by Brandon Sanderson, I have to say it is not without  a sense of trepidation. This story has taken twenty-one years to emerge, book one was published in 1990, the final part, book fourteen is due to be published in 2011, and a change in the author’s hand at this late stage could do untold damage to something that has been an epic part of may readers lives. The first few pages of Sanderson’s book twelve were uncomfortable reading, but by page 100 or so I’m beginning to notice his presence less. I can only hope that Jordan chose his successor well.

I’ve also read three more of the Martin Beck series by Maj Sjowall & Per Wahloo – The Laughing Policeman, The Fire Engine that Disappeared, Murder at The Savoy. One can only be disappointed that the authors stopped this series at ten books.

New to me was author James Anderson, but I picked up his Agatha Christie style classic crime novel, Affair of the Thirty-Nine Cufflinks, in a January sale, and enjoyed it enough to buy the other two in this series.

I had been planning to read Neal Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book since it was published, but for one reason or another it eluded me.  I have now rectified that oversight and I am so pleased I did. There is no doubt that this is strictly speaking a children’s book, but as with so many other books of this category it is a delightful and rewarding read for adults too. There is no point saying anything about Gaiman, it has all been said, he is a master of the storytelling craft. In the foreword or afterword Gaiman says that he had spent 20 years writing the book, having started it when his now adult son was a child riding a tricycle around a graveyard, and he was struck by the first nugget of the story. It makes me feel better about having taken a couple of years in my turn to get around to reading it. If you ever had any ambition to write fiction, read the opening few lines of this book, it will either inspire you or make you realise the error of your ways. Genius. At. Work.

Like many other readers of crime fiction I have been drawn into the writing of the Scandinavians. Yes many years ago I too read Miss Smilla’s Feeling for Snow, and recently I have read the real pioneers, Sjowall & Wahloo, mentioned elsewhwere and above. I have read and loved Larsson’s  Millenium trilogy. But for me the start of it was Henning Mankell. I had read all of his Wallander books to date and I just have to make an appointment with his ‘final’ Wallander novel, out about now, to finish the series. And whilst I have been trying to avoid spoilers this is the story which I’m already suspecting will see Mankell kill him off. In order to prepare myself for the loss of Wallander I have recently taken up with a new detective Harry Hole, creation of the Norwegian author Jo Nesbo. I determined to start at the beginning, hunted through the shelves of many book shops and found that Redbreast was the earliest title. Of course after I was well in to that book I discovered two earlier Harry Hole novels which have not yet been translated into English. Of all people you’d imagine I would have done some internet research too(!) So what of my new friend Harry? I liked him. I liked him from the opening chapter, through the trials and tribulations of his investigation and this excellent novel all the way to the finale. I am already anticipating the next in the series.

I’m also continuing my somewhat random meander through the books of Kate Atkinson having failed to get a couple of them in the correct sequence from the protagonists perspective, I am now reading One Good Turn. This is another Atkinson novel with elements of crime and the police which avoids being ‘relegated’ to the less well respected category of a ‘crime book’. I hope readers of crime books will not pass Kate Atkinson by, she writes a very great story, every time in my experience, and many of these stories feature things that avid readers of crime fiction will recognise and enjoy.  Categories are crap, don’t be bound by them, it’s part of marketing and audience profiling. Read good books by good writers.

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