Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Books I read in April

Lacklustre month reading-wise and in so many other ways. The lustreless nature of this post reflects this.

Saga, Vol. 1, Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples. My interest in comics has waned over the past couple of years, but I had to have a look at Saga, given half of my Twitter feed spontaneously orgasms every time a new issue is published. I'm glad I did, as Saga is an extremely smart and funny sf saga. (That's about the limit of my verbal playfulness just now, sorry.) The initial six issues do a masterful job of establishing the setting and characters, and the story is gripping from the first frame. Which, incidentally, features a close-up of a major character grimacing and saying "Am I shitting? It feels like I'm shitting." If you find that kind of talk amusing, or at least intriguing - why is she shitting, if shitting she be? - then read on...

A Storm of Swords: Blood and Gold, George R.R. Martin. Loses none of the preceding volume's vitality (see my review in last month's round-up), indeed  bests it by drawing various storylines together or to an apparent close. Which is to say, lots of characters die, suffer unexpected twists of fate, and/or have various indignities forced upon them by their gleefully unsentimental creator. As a whole, A Storm of Swords is the best of the first three ASOIAF novels by a Westeros mile . (Westeros mile = the distance the average citizen of said land can walk without chancing upon brigands, having a limb hacked off, being drawn into a web of aristocratic intrigue, or having his or her surprisingly-well-sculpted and always hairless arse exposed to the world. So, about twenty of our Earth metres.)

Pobby and Dingan, Ben Rice. Charming novella set on the Lightning Ridge opal fields. Narrator Ashmol is the cocksure son of a miner; his sister Kellyanne is a more fragile child, devoted to her imaginary friends, Pobby and Dingan. When the fantastic duo go missing and Kellyanne becomes ill, Ashmol sets out to "find" the missing friends, in the process drawing the entire town into Kellyanne's fantasy.

Meditations on the importance of make-believe can tend towards the twee, but Pobby and Dingan is grounded by Ashmol's pragmatism and resourcefulness. His voice is wonderfully realised, even if the ockerisms are sometimes laid on a bit thick, and there is the occasional misstep - for instance, I doubt Ashmol would say "ass" instead of "arse". The pacing is perfect, building to a affecting, bittersweet climax. Pobby and Dingan is 90 pages of reading bliss.

My edition features a second novella, Specks In the Sky. This one reminded me of Magnus Mills in its straight-faced absurdity and lurking darkness. Again the teenaged narrator is brilliantly rendered.

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