Everything Is Nice

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

Archive for June 14th, 2010

Check It: Gears

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This review of Boneshaker by Cherie Priest is notable for a) rightly pointing out that Strange Horizons is awesome and b) kicking off a blogosphere discussion on hype. But let’s ignore both of those things and concentrate on the real issue here: when will steampunk die? We’ve had our fun but it has turned into a bit of a monster now. Even those involved in the movement like Steampunk Scholar sometimes worry about the ignorance of their fellow travellers:

Like so much of what I read on forums and twitter regarding steampunk, these statements are indicative of a movement that hasn’t so much forgotten its roots as never known them. While there are steampunks who have read the original three (Jeter, Powers, and Blaylock), who watched Wild, Wild, West when it had nothing to do with Will Smith or giant steam-spiders, there are those who seem to think that steampunk is the product of the last three years of what I would call the steampunk boom years. Few steampunks read, and even fewer have read early steampunk, or proto-steampunk like Pavane or Nomad of the Time Streams, to say nothing of the handful that have actually read Verne and Wells. So I’m not too surprised when steampunks display an ignorance for the literary origins of the sub-culture.

Others who have found themselves co-opted into the movement aren’t happy. Author Philip Reeve says steampunk stinks and he wants nothing to do with it:

It seems that I’m becoming part of a movement, in much the same way that a half-digested peanut does when it passes through your lower intestine… Steampunk is a genre cul-de-sac: it’s Science Fiction for people who know nothing about science; historical romance for readers whose knowledge of history comes from costume dramas. May it soon go the way of that half-digested peanut, and be flushed into oblivion.

The title of this post is courtesy of Kate Beaton’s Hark, A Vagrant. “I put a shitload of cogs and watches on my boot.” Indeed.

Written by Martin

14 June 2010 at 14:07

Posted in genre wars, sf

Tagged with , ,

War Makes Monsters Of Men

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My review of Monsters Of Men by Patrick Ness is up now at Strange Horizons.

For me, The Knife Of Never Letting Go, the first volume of Patrick Ness’s Chaos Walking trilogy, was pure infatuation. It was a novel I knew little about, which I had requested to review on a whim, and within pages I was smitten. The Ask And The Answer was a different proposition. There were now expectations. As a result I was able to look at the novel more closely, more critically than its predecessor, but still with a generosity of spirit. And this was repaid by a bold novel which took the original adventure in a much more radical and hard-nosed direction. At the same time, despite Ness’s success in re-inventing his story, flaws did start to appear: an elevation of moral and political symbolism above what we might find believable; the dilution of the narrative voice; rather too much irksomely histrionic teenage angst; and a simplicity to its prose which sometimes veers into dumbing down.

Now the series concludes with Monsters of Men and those flaws haven’t gone away. They are minor, but from time to time their repetition does provoke a disproportionate reaction, as though Ness has forgotten to put the towel on the radiator after he’s used it just once too often. There is one particularly manufactured moral dilemma late on in the book that actually made me scream. More often, though, I am willing to overlook imperfections because of the obvious qualities the book is endowed with. Some I doubt I even see. I really think I am in love.

As that quote suggests, it is less analytical and more emotional than most of my reviews but I think that is what the novel required. As far as I am concerned, Chaos Walking is one of the most important works of both science fiction and children’s literature of the last decade.

Written by Martin

14 June 2010 at 13:42

Posted in books, sf

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‘The Hole Man’ by Larry Niven

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So we have a novum (a quantum black hole), an abandoned alien civilisation (which eradicates the need to explain the novum) and the most well-worn way of exploiting the novum’s dramatic potential (ie a murder). Niven isn’t particularly interested in drama though; he tells us the conclusion up front, leaving the story to limp on supported only by its characters and the novum itself, neither of which are particularly compelling. ‘The Hole Man’ won the Hugo Award for Best Short Story in 1975.

Quality: **
Hardness: ***

Written by Martin

14 June 2010 at 11:15