To The Last Word Blog

0

Film Review: La Puta y la Bellena

Almost entirely unknown in the English-speaking world, the Argentine-Spanish co-production, La Puta y la Ballena (2004) is one of the most hauntingly beautiful, intelligent, and imaginative films of the last decade. From the trailer one might anticipate a cross between Land and Freedom (present day protagonist investigates old letters and uncovers a personal connection to events during the Spanish Civil War), and The English Patient (elegantly evoked period romance …

0

Book Review: Night Film, Marisha Pessl

Night Film is the second novel by Marisha Pessl, the follow-up to her 2006 award-winning bestseller, Special Topics in Calamity Physics. It recounts the quest of disgraced investigative journalist Scott McGrath to uncover the truth about reclusive film director Stanislas Cordova. Some years previously Scott was manipulated into making a serious allegation against the director on the TV news programme Nightline, an unsubstantiated claim which seriously damaged …

0

Book Review: Stardust, Nina Allan

Stardust is one of three books by Nina Allan published so far this year. First was the story collection Microcosmos. Next came the novella, Spin. Now we have Stardust, published as a very striking hardback by PS Publishing as PS Showcase #11. Stardust is subtitled The Ruby Castle Stories, but who (or what) is Ruby Castle? Actually Ruby Castle is a person, rather than a place. But these six stories and a poem tell us very little about her. She only appears in one story, and then …

0

Book Review: Spin, Nina Allan

Nina Allan’s Spin is the second in a series of novellas published by the Third Alternative Press, home of leading UK genre magazines Interzone and Black Static. I should mention that the book was sent to me by the author because she liked my Amazing Stories review of her collection, Microcosmos. She also sent me a copy of her other new book, Stardust, which I review here. So I am predisposed to like Spin. Set in an alternate Greece, Spin is a reworking of the myth of Arachne. Layla is a weaver, a …

0

Book Review: The Peacock Cloak, Chris Beckett

Chris Beckett has been publishing short stories since 1990. His debut novel was The Holy Machine, followed by Marcher, and last year, Dark Eden,which won the Arthur C. Clarke Award for the Best SF novel published in the UK in 2012. His first collection of short fiction, The Turing Test (2008), won the Edge Hill Prize. The Peacock Cloak is his second collection, bringing together a dozen stories first published between 2008-12. Most of these stories originally appeared in Asimov’s or …

0

Book Review: Growing Pains, Ian Whates

Growing Pains is a new collection from the highly talented British author and editor Ian Whates. Whates is the author of the Noise series of space operas and the urban fantasy trilogy City of 100 Rows. He edits the on-going Solaris Rising anthologies and various entries in the Mammoth Book of series, including the Alternate Histories and SF Wars volumes. Whates also manages his own NewCon Press. You can read my review of the recent NewCon Press edition of …

0

Book Review: Intrusion, Ken MacLeod

Some decades from now, Hope Morrison is a young woman living in London with her husband, Hugh, and four year old son, Nick. Health & Safety laws have driven most women from the workplace, so Hope works from home answering enquiries, translated into English, for a Chinese website. Solar panel farms in Africa have ended Hugh’s first career as a wind power engineer – his father Nigel still works on the family home island of Lewis, now dismantling the giant …

0

The Mirror of Our Dreams

There is a curious phenomenon not exclusive to science fiction fandom, it is prevalent in pop music worship and other places, by which those afflicted feel a need to establish rivalries. The Star Wars fan who vociferously attacks all things Star Trek. And vice versa. The Star Trek fan determined to argue against every facet of Babylon 5. Those who can not enjoy both The X Files and Fringe. New Who vs Old Who. It goes on. These rivalries exist almost exclusively in the minds of fans. It is …

0

Book Review: Bellefleur, Joyce Carol Oates

As I mentioned in my post Stephen King – A Beginner’s Guide I became interested in the work of Joyce Carol Oates because of her association with King. As early as Danse Macabre (1981) King was writing admiringly about Oates’ work. The compliment was returned when Oates introduced King’s speaking engagement at Princeton in 1997. Bellefleur is the first book I have read by Joyce Carol Oates. She has written a vast number of titles, rivalling King in her output. So many …

0

Book Review: Joyland, Stephen King

In Stephen King’s best novel in years, 11.22.63 (2011), the veteran author revisited the period of his youth, the 1950s and ‘60s. A character from the present, our present, went back to 1958, encountered love, tried to stop a killer. In King’s Joyland it is a decade after the fall of America’s Camelot. In the summer of 1973 Devin Jones, a young man working his way through college (University of New Hampshire) takes a dogsbody job (pun very much intended) at an old style amusement park. On the …

1

Book Review: Microcosmos, Nina Allan

In the forward to Microcosmos Nina Allan explains that, having forgotten the finer details of the requirements for the collection, with her stories tending to ‘run away with themselves’ and being rather long for short stories, she had amassed considerably more material than the book would be able to contain. She had intended a survey of her work from the publication of her first book, A Thread of Truth (2007) up to The Silver Wind (2011). However, with a target length of 60,000 …

1

Stephen King – A Beginner’s Guide

For a long time I paid no attention to the writing of Joyce Carol Oates. But I kept seeing her mentioned in the context of modern American Gothic, being recommended by writers whose work I loved, particularly Stephen King. The admiration was mutual. In 1997 Oates introduced King when he gave his first reading at Princeton University. That day she described him as a great writer of Gothic horror. At different points in their careers King and Oates even had the same editor …

1

The Invention of Iain M. Banks

This piece was originally posted on 18 April, 2012. I’m reposting it now in memory of Iain Banks, who died on Sunday 9 June, 2013. I have recently reread Iain M. Banks 1988 novel The Player of Games. I did so because I have been selected as a World Book Night book giver, and of the 25 available titles the one I chose to give away was the Banks. I had a hard time picking, and I want to explain why I selected this particular book. But first, if you don’t know about World Book Night take a look …

1

Book Review: Objects in Dreams, Lisa Tuttle

Lisa Tuttle has long been one of the masters of the deeply unsettling tale. Last year her short story Objects in Dreams may be Closer than they Appear opened Jonathan Oliver’s excellent anthology, House of Fear, a collection of haunted and otherwise strange homes. That was one of my favourite books of the year, and that Tuttle’s tale was chosen to open a volume containing new work by such writers as Chaz Brenchley, Eric Brown, Christopher Fowler, Garry Kilworth, Joe R. Lansdale, Tim Lebbon and …

0

Book Reviews: This Shared Dream & In War Times, Kathleen Ann Goonan

Kathleen Ann Goonan’s In War Times, originally published in 2007, won the John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best Novel and the ALA’s Best Science Fiction Novel of the Year. A complex exploration of the political implications of alternative history, In War Times begins in 1941, with Sam Dance being given documents that lead to the opening of a parallel world in which Dance’s brother, Keenan, survived the attack on Pearl Harbor to work for a better future — as does Sam in “our” …

1

Things Fall Apart

Yesterday I read three articles worth considering for anyone serious about writing fiction. The first was The Widening Gyre: 2012 Best of the Year Anthologies by Paul Kincaid, written for the LA Review of Books. This piece looked at Gardner Dozois’s The Year’s Best Science Fiction : Twenty-Ninth Annual Collection, Richard Horton’s The Year’s Best Science Fiction and Fantasy : 2012 Edition and the Nebula Awards Showcase 2012. Kincaid begins his lengthy and extremely well-argued article thus: ‘The overwhelming sense one gets, working through so many stories that are presented as the very best that science fiction and fantasy have to offer, is exhaustion. Not so much physical exhaustion (though it is more tiring than reading a bunch of short stories really...

3

Book Review: Adrift on the Sea of Rains, Ian Sales

Adrift on the Sea of Rains is the first volume in Ian Sales Apollo Quartet. Available as a limited edition hardback (75 signed copies), paperback and ebook, this science fiction adventure falls between alternative history and parallel world story. It is the late 1980’s, the Cold War has gone nuclear and all that’s left of the human race is the crew of the US moon base Falcon. Colonel Peterson is looking for a way home before the food runs out. Hopes lie in a partially understood piece …

2

A Game of Pride and Prejudice

An interesting piece by Amanda Craig has appeared on the Telegraph website. The article, centered around the HBO television series of George R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones novels, joins the vast pile of opinion pieces addressing the debate ‘can fantasy fiction ever be any good’. Which is to say, should authors use their imagination or confine themselves to looking out the window and typing? These opinion pieces begin by stating the default premise, that fantasy …

0

We Need To Talk About Lionel (Shriver)

When it comes to literature men in the UK, US and Germany are reportedly in a tiny minority, reading just 20% of all fiction. Or so, writing in the Guardian, says Lionel Shriver. I don’t know if this is true. I know lots of men who read lots of fiction. Perhaps they are not representative. But then I assumed Lionel Shriver was a man. It’s an easy mistake to make. Shriver, a woman who changed her name from Margaret Ann, and won the female-only Orange Prize for Fiction for We Need to Talk About Kevin, offers what starts out as an excellent article about sexism in book marketing and cover design. She argues that despite the content of her novels having appeal...

1

A day with Jane Goodall

We spent Saturday with Dr Jane Goodall. Afterwards Jane asked me to write an account of the day. So here it is. Jane Goodall is excited. “Have you heard?” she says, as we eat lunch in the restaurant at Compton Acres in Poole. “We’ve been shortlisted for an Oscar!” She is referring to the film about her life, Jane’s Journey, which had its first UK showing at Bournemouth University. The scientist, conservationist and UN International Messenger of Peace, Dr Jane Goodall, DBE, spends …