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books - The Villages

hutch0
Date: 2008-02-08 21:42
Subject: books
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Location:the utility room in the sky
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Next up is Legacy, by Greg Bear. It'd be stretching things to say I'm a huge fan of Bear's work; I've only read a couple of his novels and some short stories. I enjoyed Eon a lot, Eternity not so much. I thought Queen Of Angels was a marvel, if a bit hard to get into. Legacy was okay. It's a prequel to Eon and Eternity and is basically one big bit of worldbuilding, which Bear does very well. The ecoi, the alien organisms dominating the planet Lamarckia, are really well thought-out, and the story hustles along. There's nothing necessarily wrong with it, I was just kind of, `yep, okay, next.' There's a terrific Bear short story called `Petra' which I like very much indeed, and I'm more inclined to recommend that to people than Legacy.

Next is Nova Swing by M John Harrison. What a dreadful novel. Really. The prose is turgid and purple, the plot is a mess, the dialogue sounds as though it came off the back of a cornflakes packet.

Just kidding.

Nova Swing is the real thing. It's an honest-to-god marvel. I am a huge fan of Harrison's work, all the way back to before I went to university and I devoured The Pastel City in a single sitting, the lovely A Storm Of Wings and then The Centauri Device. And then the Viriconium stories, which I thought were among the strangest and most wonderful things I'd ever read.
After that, apart from some short stories - of which `The New Rays' is unforgettable - I kind of lost track of Harrison until a few years ago when he published The Course Of The Heart, and not long after that Signs Of Life. I keep saying that Chris Priest's The Prestige is one of the best books written in English in the past fifty years, and I think The Course Of The Heart is another. It's an astonishing thing, really astonishing.
A couple of years ago, Harrison `returned' to science fiction (although he'd never really been away) with Light, which knocked my socks off and of which Nova Swing is a kind-of sequel.
As ever, Harrison's writing is completely beyond reproach. His prose is like no one else's. His dialogue is the best in the business. He manages to invest the most mundane things with strangeness, and vice versa - John Grant does that in The World, another book you should read - and he does some of the best names I've seen. Nova Swing has a sort-of-hero named Vic Serotonin and is set on a world named Saudade, in a city which has a lot in common with Viriconium.
My one quibble with it is that anyone who hasn't read Light - which itself came at you from kind of an oblique angle - will have a lot of trouble understanding this book. I've read Light and I have no idea what Nova Swing is `about.' I suspect I'm going to have to read it again a couple of times before it makes sense. I suspect I'm going to enjoy doing that.
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RealThog: Jim's bear pic
User: realthog
Date: 2008-02-09 23:33 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:Jim's bear pic

Yet another reminder that I must give Harrison a try some day. I sort of missed books like The Pastel City when they were everywhere, back in the day (I'm not sure how I missed them, because at the time I was reading virtually everything that had "Fantasy/SF" on the cover), and I've never really caught up. Thanks for the warning that Nova Swing isn't the ideal place to begin!

Oh, and thanks too for the entirely gratuitous plug given to The World. I'll make sure that fiver's in the mail on Monday.
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hutch0
User: hutch0
Date: 2008-02-10 20:46 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I'm not saying Nova Swing is impossible to read if you haven't read Light - it's a marvellous work - but there's an awful lot of backstory and stuff that's not explained at all and I can see it mystifying people.

The World's a terrific book, too, and more people should read it.

Edited at 2008-02-10 08:46 pm (UTC)
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