Books Feed

From Christie to Bolaño: Adam Roberts' Five Favourite Puzzle Whodunits

Adam Roberts - The Real-Town Murders

I love puzzle whodunits. On account of my crime-novel-loving mother I grew up in a house full of them, which meant that—when I ran out of SF titles—I would pick a green-liveried penguin off the shelf and read that instead: Margery Allingham; Michael Innes; Ngaio Marsh; Edmund Crispin. And of course Agatha Christie. I read huge numbers of such books growing up. I still read them today.

Continue reading "From Christie to Bolaño: Adam Roberts' Five Favourite Puzzle Whodunits" »


Pennywise and Paper-Thin: Why IT’s clown is too two-dimensional to be terrifying

Pennywise by Caspian WhistlerSo, you know the drill: spoilers ahead.

A few months ago, when we rolled out The Official Pornokitsch Taxonomy of Villains ™, I promised two things: An Obsessed, and a Monster. Half of that promise was fulfilled last month with our look at Khan(s). This month, I deliver on the second half by focusing on the most notorious monster of 2017: Pennywise the Dancing Clown, from Stephen King’s It. I’ll mostly be focusing on the 2017 film version, but will reference other versions as appropriate, since the most famous portrayals – i.e. the novel, the 1990s miniseries, and the latest film – all differ in some respects.

So, let me start with the obvious bit, something we’ve all known in the deepest recesses of our beings since childhood:

Continue reading "Pennywise and Paper-Thin: Why IT’s clown is too two-dimensional to be terrifying" »


Draft Posts and Middling Along

A week on the road and with a really, really tetchy computer, but - I'm back. And straight into the middle of things.

Middle Relievers Don't Win the Cy Young

We tendency to lionise the start and the end of creative projects, and forget about the middle bits. 

We all become 'authors' as soon as we open a Word file, 'artists' as soon as we buy paint, 'bloggers' as soon as we register our domain name. By contemplating creation - simply by having an idea - we re-identify ourselves.

But then, we also leap to the other extreme. A creator isn't 'allowed' to claim that identification until they have successfully created. You're not really an author until you finish a book. (Or perhaps even publish one.) You're not really an artist until you finish a painting. A blogger without posts is a poor example of the breed. This isn't unfair: inspiration might be the easiest part of the project. Socially, we should celebrate the do-ers and which means focusing on the evidence of what they've done.

But what about everything in-between?

Continue reading "Draft Posts and Middling Along" »


Fiction: Jade City (Extract) by Fonda Lee

Dragon-jade-from-BM

Even in the shade, sweat trickled down the backs and faces of the year-eight students. Ten of them stood nervously, each behind a short tower of hot bricks. “One more,” said the master, and the assistant year-threes hurried to the fire pit with tongs, carefully but quickly removing bricks from the flames and placing another on top of each of the ten smoldering stacks. One of the waiting year-eights, named Ton, muttered quietly, “Ah, what to choose, pain or failure?”

Continue reading "Fiction: Jade City (Extract) by Fonda Lee" »


Sweet Savage Love, Romance and Realism

Sweet Savage Love

I've been reading a lot of vintage romance novels.

Incidentally, you get a lot of very special looks on the Underground when you're reading a well-worn copy of Sweet Savage Love. Especially, I suspect, as a thirty-something dude.  

My romance reading is pretty new, it only started around three years now. What began as curiosity blossomed into, slightly unexpectedly, a genuine passion for the books. That's a metaphor for you. They're a lot of fun, they're culturally interesting, and - I don't want to gloss over the key point here: I really enjoy them.

Continue reading "Sweet Savage Love, Romance and Realism" »


The End of the World(s) as We Know It

I'm fascinated by instances where the creators of video games, RPGs, or comics change their worlds. The joy of fantasy is that everything is completely malleable. The history, the politics, the very physics of the universe - all can be changed at the creators' whim.

But what happens to the readers and players who are committed to that world? How do they deal with the upheaval?

Continue reading "The End of the World(s) as We Know It" »


What if Apple bought publishing?

Chocolate Dinosaur
If you're going to be a dinosaur, be a chocolate one! (via Reddit)

Apple announced a $1b 'war chest' for original content (Wall Street Journal). This is still much, much less than its rivals - Netflix spends an estimated $6b each year, and Amazon Video $4.5b. Let's face it. That's a lot of money, but the world's richest company may be critically far behind. They can't follow in their rivals' footsteps with any hopes of catching up.

So, here's a lateral way of approaching it. What if they just bought the entire British fiction publishing industry?

Continue reading "What if Apple bought publishing?" »


Amazon is a Slytherpuff and Other Revelations

The brand that lived

The managing director of the Licensing Industry Merchandising Association nails it in a guest piece for Campaign

Harry Potter is more than the films, more than the books. It is a genuine lifestyle brand.... Along the way its brand DNA has grown to encompass imagination in all its infinite possibilities, outdoing conventional fashion brands at their own game.

I've argued in the past that Batman, Superman, Spider-man are all t-shirt brands with comic book spinoffs. I think Harry Potter belongs in that pantheon as well: geek culture brands where the identification is now so embedded that they're part of the visual vernacular. It isn't just about a nerd franchise being in Primark, it is about a nerd franchise being in Primark and coverage in the Sun.

If anything, Harry Potter's gone a step further and given us four lifestyle brands. Superhero logos say, generously, something about you. But the four Hogwarts houses have become a socially-accepted Meyers-Briggs self-classification

Continue reading "Amazon is a Slytherpuff and Other Revelations" »


50 Books on Imagining and Re-Imagining Cities

image from https://s3.amazonaws.com/feather-client-files-aviary-prod-us-east-1/2017-08-12/8cef1c9a-0c5b-4709-8d9f-88c5b1bf0a13.png
Moil houses from China Miéville's Un Lun Dun

I've been thinking about cities - and how we imagine and definite and interpret them - since the panel at Nine Worlds was announced. The panel itself, chaired by architect Amy Butt, and featuring Verity Holloway and Al Robertson, was brilliant and free-ranging.

One thing we didn't do is lapse into 'here are some books about cities that I recommend'. I'm grateful we skipped that because a) that's boring on a panel and b) that makes cracking blog content. Listicles are good fun.

Continue reading "50 Books on Imagining and Re-Imagining Cities" »


Are independent bookshops the new conspicuous consumption?

Nom nom nom

Elizabeth Currid-Halkett's new book looks at the changing consumption habits of the wealthy in the West (especially America):

Over the past 100 years, improvements in technology and globalization have made consumer goods increasingly accessible to the average American. Currid-Halkett says this led to the “democratization of conspicuous consumption,” which has made consumer products a less appealing way for the wealthy to show their class. Rather, acts of conspicuous consumption are now focused on limited edition versions of goods that are difficult to imitate, like $20,000 Birkin bags and rare vintage wines.

Continue reading "Are independent bookshops the new conspicuous consumption?" »