Everything Is Nice

Beating the nice nice nice thing to death (with fluffy pillows)

Saturday Morning Links (A Day Late)

with 5 comments

When Strange Horizons want someone to review a mainstream SF novel they call on me (or Dan). The Guardian have more money and cachet so when they want someone they call on Ursula K LeGuin. She reviewed Journey Into Space by Toby Litt yesterday:

The theme of the ship of fools is old and tried, and has provided matter for many a good story; but this is a ship of blockheads. Perhaps it’s a good thing to remind us of the dangerous stupidity of our species, but if there’s no end and no contrast to the stupidity, the story itself sinks into the inane.

My own review will be appearing in Strange Horizons some time in the near future and Joanna Briscoe reviews They Is Us by Tama Janowitz, another example of mainstream SF, just over the page:

The profundity and subtlety of recent futuristic dystopian literature creates a standard that is hard to match. After Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake, Cormac McCarthy’s The Road and Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go, any prophetic vision runs the risk of appearing derivative. Tama Janowitz rises to the challenge by injecting her bleak portrait of a future America with flippant humour, her message elevated by absurdity as she wilfully veers into the parodic. The result is funny but flimsy.

Continuing with reviews, Partick Ness on Gullstruck Island which sounds interesting. However, I was more interested in Ness’s lead paragraph:

It’s JK Rowling’s fault. After the mammoth Order of the Phoenix, so primed were readers for a concluding epic that The Deathly Hallows’s 607 pages seemed, incredibly, a bit mean. Have you noticed, though, that it’s only middle-aged reviewers who complain about the length of children’s books, not the children themselves? Frances Hardinge’s delightfully inventive Gullstruck Island cooks along for 504 ripe, rollicking and endlessly creative pages. If that sounds exhausting to you, maybe that’s the point. Maybe that’s why it’s a kids’ book.

I am some way off being middle-aged but I am a reviewer and I am given to moaning about the length of books. It is also a complaint Adam Roberts (who must be getting on towards middle age) recently made of Ness’s own kids’ book.

Elsewhere in the paper, Salman Rushie asks is there such a thing as a good adaptation? To which the only answer can be: yes, of course, there is, Jesus Christ, what is the point of paying subeditors if this is the best they can come up with? Glossing over the unfairly short shrift Rushdie gives both The Sword In The Stone and Spider I will instead highlight this portion of the article:

British reality programmes are adapted to suit American audiences as well; Pop Idol becomes American Idol when it crosses the Atlantic, Strictly Come Dancing becomes Dancing With the Stars – a programme which, it may interest you to know, invited me to appear on it last season, an invitation I declined.

This idea entranced me long enough for me to burn my breakfast.

Written by Martin

1 March 2009 at 10:51

5 Responses

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  1. some time in the near future

    Next Friday, to be precise.

    It is also a complaint Adam Roberts (who must be getting on towards middle age) recently made of Ness’s own kids’ book.

    Ness notes that “when the Guardian edited the review for space, they took out a self-deprecating sentence where I fully acknowledged that my own books “are hardly Penelope Fitzgerald miniatures”.”


    1 March 2009 at 12:13

  2. […] Journey Into Space; I’m extra-intrigued now, because Ursula Le Guin didn’t like it, but Martin and Paul did. Posted in Books, Reading, SF. Tags: Books, Fantasy, Reading, […]

  3. …Roberts (who must be getting on towards middle age)

    My, yes indeed.

    My problem with length was specific to Ness’s book, though; not a general scorn for long YA or children’s books as such. Ness’s book is too long for the story it tells, I think.

    Adam Roberts

    2 March 2009 at 13:27

  4. You are right to avoid generalisations. However, in my experience, it is a very rare long book that escapes the problem of being too long for the story it tells. To pick the example he uses, The Deathly Hallows’s 607 pages seemed not mean but tortuously understuffed. At least Ness partially dodges the issue through pace.


    2 March 2009 at 14:23

  5. […] mentioned Ursula K LeGuin’s review of it earlier and, as usual, I disagree with her but it does make interesting reading and I will be looking […]

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