And first up this evening is Black Man, by Richard Morgan. I find myself in two minds about Morgan's stuff. Altered Carbon was very hard going, but I liked the rest of the Takeshi Kovacs novels enormously. I didn't like Market Forces at all. This one, I did like, with some caveats. It was a bit long (which is ironic, considering the next book I'm going to mention) and the last hundred pages or so seemed to fray a bit. But it lopes along and it carried me with it, and it asks some very real questions about race, racism, and what it is to be human. I thought it was quite brave, really, a bravery Morgan's publishers seem to have rewarded by calling the US edition Thirteen. It's strong stuff and I wouldn't recommend it to everyone, but it's worth reading.
And then there's The Dreaming Void, by Peter F Hamilton. This is a very long book, and it's the first in (I think) a trilogy. Big, expansive, space opera stuff. I like Peter's work a lot; he does place very well, which is a bit of a bugbear with me - the first part of Fallen Dragon, set in Northern Australia, is a lovely piece of writing. He does character slightly less well, and his big books are very slow. But that kind of works in his favour; you wind up immersing youself in the world he creates and following the characters from seemingly trivial decisions to their world-shaking conclusions. Having said that, I found myself getting frustrated with The Dreaming Void. There's an assault on a memory-storage vault which is very exciting (and very Morganesque) but seems needless in story terms - infiltration would have worked just as well, and would have been just as gripping, as flat-out invasion. I've waited a long time for this book to come out in paperback, and I'll have to wait a very long time for the next volume (it's not out in hardback until October or something) And it's a trilogy, so I probably won't know what happens until the 2012 Olympics are in full swing. On the other hand, full points to Peter for tackling a story in this way. I wouldn't have done it like this, but I admire him for it.
In the visual arts, I finally managed to watch Season Three of Battlestar Galactica. Strewth but that's tough stuff. I'd heard that this season jumped the shark, but if it did, I didn't notice it. It's true that there are a couple of episodes that don't go anywhere, but even they're streets ahead of anything you'll see on British genre television. And I'm starting to realise that the powerhouse performance of the whole series comes from Mary McDonnell. Edward James Olmos is marvellous, Katee Sackhoff's Starbuck is just barely balanced on the edge of totally crazy, James Callis's Balthar is marvellous, but McDonnell has an extraordinary stillness about her that I can't recall seeing before. I'd also like to give a shout-out for Michael Hogan and Aaron Douglas, who do remarkable work, particularly Hogan. Season Four better be good.
And then we have Season Two of Carnivale. I was worried I'd have a hard time getting into this because in Season One plot seemed to evolve, almost unbidden, out of atmosphere, but this season is a lot more direct. It is, I think, the best thing I've ever seen on television. It seems invidious to single out performers, but Clancy Brown is extraordinary as Brother Justin. Ralph Waite, who never utters a word, is very good, as are Amy Madigan and Michael Anderson. And I have lost my heart to Cynthia Ettinger. If, as I understand, there may never be another episode of Carnivale, the ending of this season just about slingshots the story forward in a satisfactory manner. But I want the full run, the one that pits Ben and Brother Justin against each other at Trinity. Extraordinary stuff.
And finally, finally, I have watched Hot Fuzz. Okay, it doesn't have the punch and immediacy of Shaun Of The Dead, but by god I enjoyed this.