BooksOfTheMoon

The Best of C.L. Moore

By C.L. Moore

Rating: 4 stars

Although I knew the name CL Moore, I was unfamiliar with her work and thought she was a New Wave writer, not Golden Age, so it’s been interesting to read these stories, all written in the 1930s and 40s. We think of much of the work of that era to be very plot-oriented, with little in the way of emotional underpinning or characterisation. I don’t think that can be said of Moore’s work, judging by this sample. Although the characters perhaps aren’t emotionally developed in the modern sense, they are much more vividly drawn than in much of the work of Moore’s peers of the era.

Shambleau is the work that made Moore’s name, introducing the character of Northwest Smith and the woman that he saves from an angry mob who turns out to be more dangerous than he thought. My favourite story in the collection is probably the final one, Vintage Season, in which a man rents out his house to a group of strange foreigners. This story is based around a trope that modern readers will readily identify, but which was startlingly original at the time (the author notes in the afterword that she thinks it may be have been the first story use this particular trope). It’s handled well, with a little sting in the tail.

There’s a surprising (to me, at least) amount of theology in the book. Not only is there the very direct Fruit of Knowledge about those first days in the Garden of Eden, but Daemon discusses the concept of the soul and The Bright Illusion has two gods fighting on an alien world, and a man who wonders about an afterlife.

So a fascinating look back into a different era of the genre, and to see how Moore’s writing contrasted with that of the men around her. She brought emotion into a genre that was, at that time, staid and with mostly cardboard characters. The stories themselves, while coloured by their time, are well worth reading.

Book details

ISBN: 9780345247520
Publisher: Random House Inc
Year of publication: 1976

Snuff (Discworld, #39)

By Terry Pratchett

Rating: 4 stars

At the insistence of his wife, Commander Vimes reluctantly agrees to take a holiday with his family to the country. Of course, as everyone knows, a policeman can’t get his suitcase unpacked before there’s a crime that demands to be solved. And the crimes here are so big that the law can’t keep up.

I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this book. I’ve not been hugely fond of the later Discworld books, but this one was remarkably fun. Vimes might be getting on a bit, but he’s still practically vibrating with righteous anger. He’s very different from the Vimes we met way back in Guards! Guards!, and now struggles to find somewhere to point his class angst, given that he’s joined the very class that he once railed against. He has, to some degree, come to terms with the fact that he now moves in vaulted circles and his word causes tremors in the money markets as much as to the criminal classes.

It’s fun watching Vimes be Vimes, running around being cleverer than his enemies think he is, but his utter confidence, and, I suppose, that of the author, in the police and the law, is… well, a bit less self-evident than once it was. And he spends a lot of time bullying and steamrollering people around him, leveraging his position and his wealth to do so. And yet, when the crime is as awful as what goes on here, you’re cheering Vimes on all the way.

The goblins are interesting as well. Even in a city as diverse as Ankh-Morpork, they’re vilified, and as for the country, where They Do Things Differently, well, let’s just say that Vimes is justified in getting angry. In the city, when Angua and Carrot find a goblin to talk to, they find an eager second generation immigrant, wanting nothing more than to put his own heritage behind him in the name of fitting in and making his way in the world as it is. That’s sad, but also something that I can sympathise with, and relate to.

It’s nice to read a book where the police are the good guys, always standing up for justice, without being beholden to power or money. I guess that’s one of the points of fiction – to show us a better world. Maybe one day, our real-world police forces, whether that’s in London, Minneapolis or Glasgow will be equal to the Ankh-Morpork City Watch.

Book details

ISBN: 9780552166751
Publisher: Corgi
Year of publication: 2012

The Confusion (The Baroque Cycle, #2)

By Neal Stephenson

Rating: 4 stars

It feels like Quicksilver, the first book in this series, was just an (extended!) prologue, establishing the setting and characters, as we finally start getting some plot in this one. This one interleaves the stories of Jack Shaftoe, last seen being taken as a slave on the high seas, and Eliza, the woman he rescued, ironically enough, from slavery. After Jack somehow gets better from syphilis, he joins with a diverse group of fellow slaves, escapes, steals a vast horde of treasure and goes on the lam. Eliza, meanwhile, loses and regains her own fortune, becomes a duchess twice over, has a child kidnapped, gets her revenge, takes several lovers, as well as helping free a young woman from slavery (and the scene with Bob and Abigail is among my highlights of the book).

We occasionally drop in on Daniel Waterhouse and other characters from the first book, but not very often or for very long. This is very much Jack and Eliza’s book. I’ve always liked Eliza, right from the moment we met her in the last volume, and nothing here changes that. She continues to show the strength of character and flexibility of mind that’s a joy to read. I was never hugely fond of Jack, meanwhile, in the last book, but he’s grown on me here. He still makes awful decisions, but he’s charming and genuinely wants to do the right thing, when he can.

Stephenson still piles in the words. He gleefully discusses, in great detail, various complex financial machinations and how they can be used for mischief, most of which I still don’t understand, and don’t think it’s worth the hours of my life to go back and reread in greater detail. But for all that, it’s remarkably readable. Although part of me wonders how much that’s through being inured to it by reading Quicksilver first.

I definitely want to know where the story is going next, but I think I’ll take a break and read something a bit lighter (and shorter) before tackling the conclusion to the series. I still don’t think it’s science fiction though.

Book details

ISBN: 9780099410690
Publisher: Arrow Books Ltd
Year of publication: 2005

Gunnerkrigg Court Volume 8: Catalysis

By Thomas Siddell

Rating: 5 stars

Gunnerkrigg Court continues to be, as far as I’m concerned, the best comic on the web. Volume 8 of the collected series collects chapters 69 to 77 and deals with Annie’s return from the forest after her meeting with Loup, only to be confronted with, well herself. It covers the two Annies having to get to grips with each other and their relationship with others around them, as well as Kat’s ongoing work (the robots and their growing religion, with Kat the centre of it continues to be intriguing and not a little creepy).

Reading Anthony’s interactions with Forest-Annie after her return is so much more poignant in light of current events in the comic. I hated Anthony so much when he first came back into Annie’s life, but we’ve had windows into his soul since then and now I pity him more than anything.

I love the characters in this series, and I love the way that the two Annies start to have their own distinct personalities and how they work out the problems between themselves and become stronger. And Kat, dear Katerina, bending time itself to her will to save her friend, but not able to talk to Annie about her own doubts and fears. The characterisation is so good, but Siddell keeps the balance between plot, character and humour perfect, sometimes using no more than a glance or a single panel to convey so much.

Also, wow, showing the Tick-Tock birds, right back in volume one, and then dealing with the resolution of that seventy-odd chapters — and fourteen years — later! That’s some impressive planning going on there.

So yeah, a great ongoing story, loveable characters (gossipy Cvet is my favourite new character in this volume) and constantly maturing art. Absolute brilliance.

Book details

ISBN: 9781684156658
Publisher: Archaia
Year of publication: 2021

Hilda and the Troll

By Luke Pearson

Rating: 4 stars

I really enjoyed the Netflix TV show of the same name that is based on this comic series, so went looking for the original material. This first volume is very short and introduces us to the irrepressible Hilda and her adorable deerfox, Twig, as they encounter a troll in the wilderness where they live. The story is pretty simple but does a good job of introducing the characters and the world they live in. The art is very close the animation style of the TV show, which isn’t unexpected since the creator of the comics was very closely involved with the animated series too.

It’s a lovely little comic and well-suited to younger readers, with plenty of (gentle) action and lots of humour, and very quick to read for not-so-young readers.

Book details

ISBN: 9781909263789
Publisher: Flying Eye Books
Year of publication: 2015

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