February 20th, 2008


that'll be us back, then

I think I may have mentioned that I'm not the world's most relaxed air passenger, so maybe you can imagine the thoughts that went through my head last week, having gone through the security and passport and the Buying Experience at Stansted and having sat down in the aeroplane and done up my seatbelt and watched the aircraft being rolled back from the terminal, when we were told that the pilot couldn't start the engines.
"The little engine that starts the main engines seems to be malfunctioning," Our Pilot told us. "It has no bearing on safety and we'll just get a little help from the ground crew."
Mostly what I thought was ...has no bearing on safety? The aircraft is broken. How can that have no bearing on safety?
Actually the pilot was right. We waited about twenty minutes and then a compressor truck turned up to bump-start the engines and after that the flight was fine.

As was the week in Poland. The weather was cold, we had snow over the weekend, and the party we had to celebrate Bogna's parents' fiftieth anniversary was really very good. Everyone had a happy time.
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Next up is White Night, by Jim Butcher. This is the latest in a series of novels about Harry Dresden, a Chicago private investigator who is also a wizard. Sort of a cross between Merlin, Han Solo and Philip Marlowe. I really enjoyed it. I thought it was very well-written, worked fine as a thriller, was full of good meaty characters and good dialogue, and Butcher has really thought about magic and how it works in Dresden's world - it has proper rules and conventions and isn't just a case of a character snapping their fingers and some miracle happening. Dresden himself - as you might expect nine books into the series - is a well-rounded character, mortal yet full of power. I think he and I will meet up again. I'll have to go back to the beginning of the series and start properly.

Then there's The Glass Books Of The Dream-Eaters by GW Dahlquist, which I bought partly because it has one of the more bonkers titles I've seen recently. It's hard to describe this one. It takes place in 19th Century Europe, and it's set in an imaginary city and country which appear to occupy roughly the same position as London and England, although with many differences - although the rest of the world seems unchanged. I'm not sure whether the right word for it is Ruritanian or Graustarkian, but anyway it has stuff in common with Conan Doyle and Rider Haggard and Sax Rohmer and Anthony Hope, bolted onto some worldbuilding that reminded me a little of Perdido Street Station. There is derring-do, breathless, unlikely escapes, mysterious trains, a dirigible. I don't know if anyone out there has seen The Assassination Bureau, with Diana Rigg and Oliver Reed, but that kind of catches the flavour of it.
At the centre of the book is a science-fictional device - the theft of personality - and the attempts of a mysterious Cabal to use it to their own nefarious ends, and three unlikely heroes who oppose them. My one quibble is the inclusion of some fin de siecle eroticism, which I didn't think suited the book.
It's a long book, but it does canter along, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. There's apparently a sequel, whose title escapes me, but I think I'll track it down when it comes out in paperback.

And finally for this roundup, Simon Hoggart's The Hands Of History, which rounds up his Guardian Parliamentary sketches covering the Blair Years. We don't get 9/11 or the death of Diana, because they're in a previous book, but the rest is a joy to read. I've gone on about Hoggart before, so `nuff said. I can't see it being of any more interest to those of you on the other side of the village pond than a similar roundup of sketches about the House of Representatives would be over here, but I spent many a smiling moment with it.
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