Wednesday, 23 September 2009

starting to come out of hibernation

Hello my friends

after a suitably slow summer of avoidance of anything that felt even remotely like work i'm starting to get back in the swing and doing things again.
i've spent most of the last 3 months with my head buried in a succession of books and it's been a lot of fun. i'll put some vague write-ups about some of them below.

WWR is in limbo until i can get a new seedee player as mine decided to die on me the other week. it's the fourth player i've trashed in the last 3 years which probably speak volumes about how much i use them.

in the next month or so there should be a couple of new albums from me. the long awaited collaboration with Banks Bailey is imminent - i just need to make some tweaks to the sleeve design - and very soon will see the split cassette on Agharta with Andreas Brandal. I've only heard snatches of his music through his myspace so it'll be interesting to catch some more.


these aren't really reviews so much as things i put on the board at Whitechapel. so if they seem oddly worded that's why...

I've just, as in 5 minutes ago, finished 'The Warlord of the Air' by Michael Moorcock. It was fantastic. It's been a while since i enjoyed anything quite so much. Barstable (the protagonist) is a slightly dim man with a moral compass that points straight ahead. Moorcock takes him on a journey to the heart of his misconceptions regarding the steam-driven 'utopia' he has found himself in in a way that is realistic, believable and wonderously fantastical. I have the other two waiting to be read but i'm going to eke them out over what remains of my holiday.

Michael Moorcock's The Land Leviathan. the second in his oswald bastable steampunk series was, whilst not being the airship and anarchist laden romp of the first (The Warlord of the Air), still a fine way to spend the day. This one spent more time on world building than on plot development which made for a nice gear change but i'm hoping the third will be a combination of the two.

Richard Brautigan - The Hawkline Monster. I love Brautigan. I read his In Watermelon Sugar way back in my stoned youth and loved the unrepentant hippie utopianism of it. Trout Fishing in America (probably his most famous) came next and was also wonderful but in a more poetical Beat manner. The Hawkline Monster is on the surface a more straightforward novel where two killers are hired by Miss Hawkline to kill the monster that lives in the caves under the house. Such a mudane plot was never going to satisfy Brautigan though and things soon take a side-step. For me though it's the gracefulness and the dance of his prose that is the real joy.

have finally finished Lud-In-The-Mist by Hope Mirrlees. It turned out to be a proper windbag of a novel. Endlessly impressed by it's own intelligence without ever really putting that intelligence to work in a meaningful way. By the halfway point i found myself referring to it as Lud-In-The-Mud as a result of the effort involved in wading through the sticky morass of the authors prose. I think there was a pretty nifty little tale in there somewhere but her writing style was distinctly lacking in any sort of wit or melody and as such it never ceased being an effort to keep my attention on the page.

have just finished The Osiris Ritual by George Mann, the second of his Newbury & Hobbes Steampunk mysteries. I thought the first (The Affinity Bridge) was a fun, if a little flawed, romp through a fog-ridden london that mixed zombies, robots and airships into an entertaining neo-victorian thriller. It's recommended for those looking for a more than satisfyingly pulp steampunk fix.
this second one wasn't as good as it's predecessor. The plot was a little rushed and lacked grandeur and scope but mostly i think he sacrificed too much of the world-building that was so well done in the first. I heartily approved of how naturalistic he allows the newly emerging technology to feel but half the joy (for me at least) of this sort of genre fiction lies in how the author interweaves technology and the subsequent cultural and societal changes into the narrative. i felt like i didn't learn anything new about the universe he's created and without that it may as well have been set (to an extent) in our own victorian era.
That said though, Mann has an engaging style and the book was a fun, fast-paced read with a third volume still to come.