Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Debuts, all good, but no Penny-Farthings, not even one.

It's coming up to Christmas, the busiest time of the retail year, don't you know, so my reading time is going to start shrinking. I'm onto my last couple of books of the year. Alan Campbell's Scar Night is taking my fancy at the moment.

It's an assured debut, and a lot of fun. If you like gothic adventures with airships, and huge smoky urban spaces. This territory has been mined out of late - coming from someone who has a gothicy adventure with airships and smoky urban spaces in his hard drive this is a little hypocritical - but I think I'm over airships. In fact I might actually start avoiding books with airships on the covers. They're cool and all, but as sense of wonder artefacts they've kind of normalised, they're more sense of "oh, an airship, behold its immense floatiness". I reckon we need more Penny-farthings on the covers of books, or maybe more elephants, but only elephants playing brass instruments – okay, I'll accept a little woodwind, too.*

Which doesn't mean I'm dissing Alan's book, it's got it's hooks in me, oh, yes, even if they're hooks dangling off airships, or angels – yes, it has angels in it, and I really don't like angels, but they work here, like they worked in Stepan Chapman's the Troika, and they must really be working because I generally avoid books with the winged folk in them.

Which goes to show that you have to take these things on a case-by-case basis, because, yes it has angels, yes it has airships, but I'm digging it quite a lot. Definitely worth considering as your Summery read.

Looking over the books I've read this year quite a few of them have been first novels. Stand outs for me this year were Martin Living's Carnies and Grace Dugan's The Silver Road both were accomplished works, both played with my expectations, and both have me wondering what these writers are going to produce next.

I hope they manage an elephant or two on the cover, or at least a Penny Farthing.While I'm waiting to find out, you should go and buy their books, and buy a copy of Scar Night as well.

*Think of it this way, an alternate world where Penny Farthings are the main source of transport, cars were never invented nor were airships, and bicycles grew to ever larger sizes, people ride them on great silver bridges that circle the globe, listening on their radiogizmogs to genetically modified elephants playing a kind of jazz. Oh, and there'd be lots of references to mysterious crystals, known only as the crystals of mystery.

The tag would go : In world without Airships, the Penny-Farthing is king.**

**And I'd actually mocked up a cover, but blogger's giving me a hard time, so that will have to do.


Matt Doyle said...

i'm reminded of the simpsons episode where the guy on the penny farthing comes to the front door and kicks bart in the face. now that was a cool way to work a penny farthing into a story! ;)

Trent Jamieson said...

Hey Matt,


That's one of my favourite scenes in the Simpsons. I think it's actually Homer that receives the kick, after a series of jokes in which he offends everyone. It also has one the best lines to preceed violence ever.

"Don't like the old time bikes, eh?"

Andrew Macrae said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Andrew Macrae said...

you mean like howard waldrop's 'fin de cycle', with steam-powered stilts and bicycles. :)

Trent Jamieson said...

Well, there you go. I've got to track that one down.If anyone was going to write such a story it would be Waldrop