Everything Is Nice

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

Archive for April 19th, 2009

‘On K2 With Kanakaredes’ by Dan Simmons

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Here’s a story leading off this so-called cutting edge anthology that could have been published anywhere in the science fiction field in the last forty years… I could see this one in the Saturday Evening Post in 1968, for crissakes.

So says Al Sarrantonio, instantly undermining half his rationale for inclusion. He is right. This is essentially a mountaineering story with aliens thrown in. He justifies its inclusion – in “doth protest too much” language – on the grounds that it is good.

It is pretty good. Mountaineering is inherently dramatic and Simmons is skillful enough to make the best use of this. It remains a story about an attempt to summit on K2 though. The framing device is unconvincing and although there are a couple of nice touches around the inclusion of Kanakaredes, a six-limbed alien, in the climbing party he is mostly a silent partner.

Quality: ***
Shiftiness: *

Graham asked about a running total. I’m not sure exactly what he meant but a running cummulative score for the anthology would be pointless and I can’t be bothered to do a running average. You’ll have to wait until I’ve read all thirty stories.

Part of Redshift.

Written by Martin

19 April 2009 at 16:29

Posted in sf, short stories

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The Prettiest Whistles Won’t Wrestle the Thistles Undone

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Hands up if you like concept albums. No, I didn’t think so.

The other day I heard ‘The Rake’s Song’ on the radio and thought to myself, oh, I must buy The Decemberists’ new album. The story of a widower divesting himself of his unwanted children (“Expect you think that I should be haunted/But it never really bothers me”) it is a great track and fits into the simply accompanied Victoriana story telling tradition of Picaresque, their breakthrough album. It is also completely atypical of the album.

The Hazards Of Love follows in the footsteps of 2006’s The Crane Wife by embracing multi-songstory arc and Seventies rock but here it is taken to the next level. The whole album forms a single narrative (the plot is on Wikipedia) and the music is even brasher and swampier. This is not a welcome development. I’ve been listening to it all weekend and it takes at least that long to get a handle on it. It definitely isn’t an album you connect to on the first listen and, in fact, when I first heard it I thought I’d made a big mistake. Once the narrative has sunk in a you start to see The Hazards Of Love as a whole things improve. The music still jars though and whenever Shara Worden starts booming the voice of the Forest Queen I lose interest. Perhaps Colin Meloy should have made this into a musical as he originally planned.

(By the way, to my surprise it is It’s Blitz rather than Beware that I have found myself returning to.)

Written by Martin

19 April 2009 at 09:30

Posted in music

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