Daily Archives: Tuesday, 9th Aug 2005

Amazonic oddness

Humph. Amazon seem to have a server problem thingy. Some of the time, some of the images that are supposed to show you the covers of the books and things I’m reviewing are replaced with bright orange banners that link to Amazon’s home page instead of directly to the item in question.

Mutter. Apparently, they are working on it…..

The Big Over Easy – Jasper Fforde

Fforde’s previous books[1] featured literary detective Thursday Next, and were set in a world where fiction is altogether real. They’re quite unlike anything else I’ve ever read, and are a lot of fun. But now, Fforde is beginning a new series. And he’s still playing with the borders of reality[2]. What we have here is a police procedural thriller[3] set in a world ever so slightly different from our own.

Detective Inspector Jack Spratt[4] is head of the NCD (Nursery Crimes Division) in Reading. Passed over for promotion, generally sidelined and about to have his division wound up, Jack’s not happy. He’s even less happy that he failed to secure a conviction in the case of the killing of Mr Wolff by the three Pigs.

Detective Sergeant Mary Mary isn’t too happy, either. She’s transferred from Basingstoke, and with an eye on her career, she’d rather be working for the glamorous Detective Chief Inspector Freidland Chymes[5], who’s well up in the Guild of Detectives and who always gets a good write-up in Amazing Crime Stories. But instead, she finds herself assigned to Jack and his small group of misfits.

Then the Big Case comes in, and nothing will ever be the same again[6]. Humpty Dumpty has had a fall, and it’s going to take a more than some King’s horses and men to put him together again. But did he fall, or was he pushed? But Humpty has been depressed lately – could he have killed himself? Or is something more sinister going on?

Why was Humpty buying shares in a footcare company on the verge of collapse? Why does Chymes want to take the case away from Jack? Is any giant (or tall person) safe near Jack? Will Mary fit in with Jack and his staff?

All this, plus a beanstalk and much more.

Madder than Robert Rankin on one of his really good days. Very silly, very funny, and yet still manages to be an involving story with sympathetic characters.

A sequel is promised. I’m looking forward to it already.

[1]

[2] Or something like that, anyway
[3] Sort of
[4] Who doesn’t eat fat, and has an unearned reputation for killing giants
[5] OK, warning time. A lot of Fforde’s humour comes from characters with silly names. Friedland Chymes is one of many. Personally, I like that kind of thing :smile:
[6] Fforde is deliberately playing every cliché in the detective story book…

Absolution Gap – Alastair Reynolds

Hmmm, this review is a wee bit late, but here goes….

This is a continuation of the story told in Revelation Space and Redemption Ark, but leads us into some new territory.

As usual, there are several threads, which eventually come together. Refugees from the war with the Inhibitors[1] are looking for a haven. Their leader, Clavain has retreated into himself, leaving their colony to be led by a genetically modified pig named Scorpio.

And on the planet Hela, enormous “cathedrals” travel endlessly around the world, waiting to observe a recurring miracle.

Everything comes together in a suitably dramatic manner, and a decision has to be made that will have far-reaching consequences for humanity.

In typical Reynolds fashion, very few things are as they first seem, and it takes a while before events become clear.

It’s big, it’s bold, it’s Reynolds. If you’ve read his other books, you’ll want to read this one, too.

[1] Ancient machines designed to “inhibit” intelligent life by destroying anyone and anything that develops interstellar travel

Robert Rankin – The Brightonomicon

Oh good, it’s another Robert Rankin book. Rankin, who I’ve mentioned before is one of a small number of authors whose books I always buy in hardback as soon as they appear. Waiting nearly a year for the paperback is not an option. Just for a change, the latest novel isn’t the sixth in a trilogy, or part of any of his ongoing series. But on the other hand, it does cross reference with events, people and ideas from many of Rankin’s other stories, so it’s not strictly a stand-alone novel.

So, what’s it about then? Ah, well. Asking that about a Rankin novel is missing the point, somehow. I mean, there is a plot, and I could give you a synopsis[1], but that wouldn’t really tell you much. But there again, perhaps I should…

It’s the 1960s[2], and our teenage hero has taken his girlfriend to Brighton with the intention of having what I believe is known as a “dirty weekend”. Unfortunately, this is interrupted when he is thrown into the sea and (so he believes) drowns.

He is pulled from the sea by none other than Hugo Rune, a towering and mysterious presence in many of Rankin’s books. Having lost his memory, Rune gives him the name “Rizla”, which might ring a faint bell with regular Rankin readers. Rune employs Rizla to assist him in a bizarre series of exploits centred around the “Brighton Zodiac”[3]. At stake is the future of the world. Can Rune and Rizla prevent the evil Count Otto Black from gaining control of the Chronovision[4] and becoming World Dictator? Well, yes. Of course they can, but there’s a lot of extreme silliness and fun on the way.

And at the end of the quest, Rizla regains his memory, and we find that he’s a very old friend[5].

Completely nuts, very, very silly, and highly recommended.

Or you could wait for the paperback.

[1] I’ve always wanted to say “synopsis”. I may have to say it again at some point.
[2] Mostly. Many quite outrageous anachronisms and the like are to be found here
[3] You’ll have to read the book to find out about that :tongue:
[4] Which has also been mentioned in other Rankin books…
[5] To anyone who’s been reading Rankin for a long time, anyway :grin: