booklist 3oct12

October 3rd, 2012 | stuff2012

This is getting desperate.

* ALPHA, Greg Rucka

* LONDON’S OVERTHROW, China Mieville

* THE ISLANDERS, Christopher Priest


* Jeff Noon’s CHANNEL SK1N


* ANGELMAKER, Nick Harkaway.


* BACKROOM BOYS, Francis Spufford

* DEAD WATER, Simon Ings

* HIGH LIFE, Matthew Stokoe (I think Frankie Boyle recommended me this)

* RATNER’S STAR, Don Delillo

* MURDER AS A FINE ART, David Morrell

* THE FORBIDDEN BOOK, Guido Mina di Sospiro & Joscelyn Godwin


* TOPLOADER, Ed O’Loughlin


* EMBASSYTOWN, China Mieville


currently reading 1oct12

October 1st, 2012 | stuff2012


The Northland Trilogy

September 18th, 2012 | stuff2012

Stephen Baxter’s NORTHLAND TRILOGY – made up of STONE SPRING, BRONZE SUMMER and IRON WINTER – tells an alternate history where Doggerland wasn’t swallowed up by the North Sea by 5500BC, because the people of Doggerland built a great Wall to keep the sea out.

Doggerland is a fascinating thing, because its lowlands surely would have changed the course of history if they’d gone unsubmerged.  Ana, another of Baxter’s long line of sour autism-spectrum protagonists, leads the construction of a Wall that will eventually become a city in and of itself.

If Ana saw Zesi coming, she showed no signs of it. ‘This is the future,’ she said gravely. She held her own shovel over her head like a hunter’s spear. ‘The future.’

The first book is an amusing piece of world-building (quite literally),  It’s a bit airport-novel in more than one place, but it does have moments in it like the above, which I love.  The second book is a Ripping Yarn of the old school, with no real pretense of alternate-history beyond some dressing.

The third book postulates that the lack of agriculture in the Doggerland way of life, in this alternate world, allows a new glacial age to arrive.  Baxter also cites the Younger Dryas glacial period as being triggered by icy floods chilling the North Atlantic and killing the Gulf Stream.  Which is interesting, as a wall big enough to dam the North Sea would stunt the Gulf Stream all on its own, turning much of Britain and Scandinavia into tundra.  All the way through the third book, I was waiting for someone to reveal the secret of the sudden “longwinter” as “you dammed the fucking sea, what did you think was going to happen?”  But no, apparently some dodgy point about early anthropocene climate alteration was to be made.  Which, regardless of its potential veracity, just seems a lot less interesting than “we built this fucking great wall to save our civilisation and now it’s killing the world.”  Now that’s a ripping yarn.  It’s also, of course, my projection on to the author’s work and intents, and deeply unfair.  I remain disappointed with the last two books.  But STONE SPRING is often thought-provoking, full of potential, and a book to contemplate.

Booklist 17sep12

September 17th, 2012 | stuff2012

Why do I keep adding to my booklist?  It’s a sickness.  But Lili and I went shopping the other day, and…

I haven’t read any Christopher Priest in ages, but I happened to meet him and his wonderful partner Nina Allan in Brighton the other week, so I decided it was time.  And you can’t pass up a China Mieville polemic, especially in so delightful an edition (full marks to The Westbourne Press there).

The List Of Shame grows.

Booklist 1sep12: McLuhan’s Massage

September 1st, 2012 | stuff2012

I’m adding to it.  Why am I adding to it?  I’m mad.  Also I really wanted to re-read THE MEDIUM IS THE MASSAGE, which I haven’t looked at since I was 20, probably.  It turned out I didn’t have a copy in the house.  (I have an ancient copy of UNDERSTANDING MEDIA in the attic, and the only image of that particular edition I could find online is here – )

The other night, iTunes DJ threw up an old Terence McKenna talk about Marshall McLuhan, called RIDING THE RANGE WITH MARSHALL McLUHAN – hey, here’s an mp3 of that talk – and I found myself thinking about him for the first time in years.

To give you a flavour of McLuhan – a Canadian media theorist and James Joyce scholar manque, here’s a snip from an interview he did with Playboy (yes, once upon a time people really did buy it for the articles) in 1969, talking about television:

By requiring us to constantly fill in the spaces of the mosaic mesh, the iconoscope is tattooing its message directly on our skins. Each viewer is thus an unconscious pointillist painter like Seurat, limning new shapes and images as the iconoscope washes over his entire body.

The iconoscope is tattooing its message directly on our skins.

This is, remember, 1969.  His major work was already done, at this point.  In the Seventies, he was lecturing at the University of Toronto, at the same time as writer/director David Cronenberg was attending.  McLuhan was dead by 1980, three years before Cronenberg’s VIDEODROME, with its grim McLuhan stand-in Brian O’Blivion was released.  And if you’ve seen that film, then you get the extra bleak irony there.

This is the edition of MEDIUM IS THE MASSAGE I grabbed off Amazon. Nice clean cover design. I’ve been writing something as a spare-time, hobby kind of thing that’s intended to use a lot of infoviz — charts, graphics, etc.  And so, when the McKenna audio popped up, I naturally thought of it again, looked for it in the house, and then bit the bullet and ordered one.

Why on EARTH are McLuhan’s works not in ebook form?  That’s a sick gag to pull on the man’s legacy.

The title’s something of a joke: Marshall McLuhan’s buzzphrase was “the medium is the message” – this title was, it’s said, a production typo, and it amuses McLuhan so much that he kept it.

I may end up re-reading all of McLuhan – in fact, it occurs to me that I may never have read COUNTERBLAST or WAR AND PEACE IN THE GLOBAL VILLAGE.