“There is no case,” he told her. “There’s a series of random and implausible crises that make no sense other than if you believe the most dramatic possible shit. And there’s a dead girl at the end of it all.”
Inspector Tyador Borlu lives and works in the city of Beszel. As the story opens, he is investigating the murder of a woman found dead in a quiet Beszel street. She is identified as Mahalia Geary, a foreign student attending Beszel’s university. What starts out as a standard murder investigation quickly becomes more complex as Inspector Borlu’s inquiries lead him to the “neighboring” city of Ul Qoma. He joins forces with local Detective Quissim Dhatt and they attempt to unravel the truth about the murdered woman’s connections with both cities.
2009 Del Ray edition. Cover by FWIS
I want to start this review with the book’s synopsis because it is a cracker!
‘In 1944, as waves of German ninjas parachute into Kent, Britain’s best hopes for victory lie with a Spitfire pilot codenamed ‘Ack-Ack Macaque’. The trouble is, Ack-Ack Macaque is a cynical, one-eyed, cigar-chomping monkey, and he’s starting to doubt everything, including his own existence. A century later, in a world where France and Great Britain merged in the late 1950s and nuclear-powered Zeppelins encircle the globe, ex-journalist Victoria Valois finds herself drawn into a deadly game of cat and mouse with the man who butchered her husband and stole her electronic soul. Meanwhile, in Paris, after taking part in an illegal break-in at a research laboratory, the heir to the British throne goes on the run. And all the while, the doomsday clock ticks towards Armageddon.’
Ack-Ack Macaque was the joint winner of the 2013 BSFA Best Novel Award along with Anne Leckie’s Ancillary Justice. It is British author Gareth L. Powell’s third novel and is a much-expanded version of his 2007 Interzone reader’s poll-winning short story of the same name. Powell has since penned two highly-rated sequels: Hive Monkey (2014) and Macaque Attack (2015). His latest novel is Embers of War (2018), a space opera which has also been garnering very positive reviews. Continue reading
End of the World Blues opens in a Tokyo subway station where a young woman, Nijie, is stashing a suitcase full of money into a coin-locker. It then jumps to Roppongi Hills, a popular drinking area in Japan’s capital where Kit Nouveau owns and runs a bar with his wife, Yoshi. Kit’s bar, ‘Pirate Mary’s’, is frequented by a mix of regular drinkers, art students, foreigners, and bosozoku bikers. One night, Kit is walking back to his bar when a stranger attempts to rob him. As the robbery looks to be turning deadly, a good samaritan’s sudden and shocking intervention turns Kit’s world on its head.
Kit stared drunkenly at the man’s Colt automatic, then at his own watch. ‘Okay,’ said Kit, ‘it’s yours.’
This was not the response his mugger had been expecting. (p.27)
Daisen Temple, Mt. Daisen (near where I live).
Happy Autumn everyone! It’s the best time of the year for reading (according to Japanese people). What books or comics are you enjoying at the moment?…
I’m in the middle of reading Philip Pullman’s The Book of Dust. So far, it has been a very comfortable read and I’m nicely into it.
Now that Hallowe’en is over for another year, I think it’s time for a retrospective post about my second year of blogging about books. Two years, eh? Where did the time go?… I spent some of it reading, but not enough really. I was too often tempted by some of the quality TV drama appearing on Netflix and Amazon Prime, notably Stranger Things, Mister Robot, Fargo, Jessica Jones, American Gods, Luke Cage, and Star Trek Discovery. How about you? Does TV still tempt you, or are you only in it for the books?! Continue reading
“What an undercover narcotics agent fears most is not that he will be shot or beaten up but that he will be slipped a great hit of some psychedelic that will roll an endless horror feature film in his head for the remainder of his life, …” (p.67)
I can’t seem to focus on writing this review because of the tiny bugs crawling all over the keyboard. Each time I brush them off, they return in greater numbers. Jerry says he can’t see them but that doesn’t mean they’re not there, right in front of me, blocking out the screen now. Jesus, they’re all over my hands Jerry, help me get them off. Whaddya mean there’s nothing there? Wait a minute, are you recording this? What?.. No, I know you don’t have a camera but I swear I can hear something that sounds just like a video camera’s lens adjusting its focus. No, I’m not being paranoid. I can feel it zooming in on me right now. I’m what?.. You think I’m talking too much? Talking or thinking? Shit, I need a couple of tabs to calm me down. Do you have any, Jerry? Please man, I’ll spot you a couple back when I get some. When?.. Friday. I promise, man. Yeah, I know what I said last time but…
A Scanner Darkly won the BSFA Best Novel Award in 1978. It is a story set in a (then) future 1994 which focuses on surveillance, recreational drug use, addiction and withdrawal. The main character is Bob Arctor, an undercover narcotics agent who is sharing a house with a couple of users. The drug of choice is “Substance D” or “Death”. Arctor is searching for a lead to the supplier(s) of the drug. Continue reading
“In my mind I saw or heard or remembered the deafening sound of the engines, brilliant flashes of light in the dark sky around us, a large bang that was repeated whenever I moved my head, a shock of cold as the windscreen in front of my face was shattered […], voices on the intercom, the huge and terrifying surge of the sea, the cold, the terror.”
This alternate history tale of identical twin brothers won the BSFA Best Novel award in 2002. It is set before, during and after WWII, with most of the narrative focusing on the twins’ experiences during the extensive bombing carried out by both countries. One twin, Jack, is an RAF bomber pilot and the other, Joe, is a conscientious objector who drives an ambulance for the Red Cross. Both twins share the same initials, J.L. Sawyer.
“In ancient times cats were worshipped as gods; they have not forgotten this.” – Terry Pratchett
Art by Josh Kirby
Terry Pratchett’s seventh Discworld novel Pyramids won the BSFA Best Novel award in 1989. I re-read it as part of my BSFA Reading Challenge. It is the first book in the Discworld series that can be read as a standalone story. That is, there aren’t any recurring characters in this book, but it is set in the Discword universe. (If you are new to the Discworld experience then here is a link to the Wikipedia page.)
Pyramids tells the story of Teppic, a young man who is heir to the throne of “Djelibaybi”, a kingdom which is a caricature of ancient Egypt. At the beginning of the story, we join Teppic as a trainee assassin attending the Assassin’s Guild in the city of Ankh-Morpork.
“All assassins had a full-length mirror in their rooms, because it would be a terrible insult to anyone to kill them when you were badly dressed.”
“To my mind, the best SF addresses itself to problems of the here and now, or even to problems which have never been solved and never will be solved – I’m thinking of Philip K. Dick’s work here, dealing with questions of reality, for example.” – John Sladek
Tik-Tok (1983) by John Sladek won the BSFA Best Novel award in 1983, beating Gene Wolfe’s ‘The Citadel of the Autarch’ as well as Brian Aldiss’s ‘Helliconia Summer’, to name just two of the other four nominees. It is a darkly humorous satire that casts a wry eye on such topics as art, celebrity, power, politics and slavery.
Sladek opens the story with a nod to the creator of the Three Laws of Robotics, “As I mov(e) my hand to write this statement …”, introducing us to the titular character Tik-Tok, a robot who is a hard-working domestic servant and house painter for a suburban American family. Tik-Tok decides that his “asimov circuits” are just a delusion designed to fool robots into believing that they must not harm any human being. He rebels against this perceived deception by committing a series of increasingly violent acts against his so-called masters. This novel charts his swift rise to the top as he ‘Patrick Batemans’ his way through the upper echelons of society. Continue reading
“I can’t help believing that these things that come from the subconscious mind have a sort of truth to them. It may not be a scientific truth, but it’s psychological truth.” -Brian Aldiss
This is the first Brian Aldiss work that I’ve read. It won the BSFA award in 1971. It’s a collection of fourteen short stories he wrote between 1967 to 1970. It includes ‘Super-Toys Last All Summer Long’ which was the inspiration for the movie ‘A.I.’
I didn’t know much about Aldiss or his writing, but I’d heard his name before. Coincidentally, just before I began reading this book I saw him in a Phillip K. Dick documentary I watched on youtube. He came across very well and spoke highly of PKD.
‘I had reached the age of six hundred and fifty miles.’
I have read about the importance of opening lines in drawing a reader into a novel. Well, this book has one of the most original and intriguing opening lines that I have ever read. It made me so curious to know more about the “I” and his unusual age.
Christopher Priest won the BSFA 1974 Best Novel Award for this work. I first heard about him when the film adaptation of his book ‘The Prestige’ was released in 2006. When I decided to begin my BSFA Best Novel Reading Challenge, I discovered that Priest had won the award 3 times. Considering how good this novel is, I am really looking forward to reading his other two award winners, ‘The Extremes’ (1998) and ‘The Separation’ (2002). Continue reading