Posts from 13th July 2005

Jul 05

Ten Books I Haven’t Read Since Childhood

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Among those of us with an interest there seems to be a kind of canon of children’s literature which centres on Narnia and the Moomins and then fans outward. I could talk about the Moomins for a thousand years but what about the books that didn’t make the trip over into my adult life? Here are some of them:

1. The GREEN KNOWE books by Lucy M Boston – stories of an old house and the children who have lived in it. Said children tend to meet each other through time quite a lot. I had a huge crush on one character, whose nature as i) being from the 17thC and ii) being not real made said feelings manageable. The actual books were very sedate with a strong sense of place.

2. BORROBIL by William Donaldson (i think) – two children walk into a wood on Beltane Eve and have a lot of Celtic styled adventures. Unusual in that the child protagonists do very little, they’re pretty much bystanders to most of the real danger, which is oddly comforting. Narnia for pagans, maybe. Borrobil is a comical Bombadil type by the way.

3. The LITTLE HOUSE books by Laura Ingalls Wilder – I was obsessed with these when I was about seven, oddly I guess since I didn’t read any other girl-identified books. The fascinating rhythms of another life, and a slow growth into adolescence, at which point I pretty much lost interest, though read on out of duty. (I think my tipping point was when her sister went blind).

4. A BOOK OF [X] by Ruth Manning-Sanders – the most well-remembered of an awful lot of fairy story books. [x] would stand for Monsters, Witches, Giants etc. Most of the tales were pretty interchangeable. High workrate.

5. THE ROSE AND THE RING by William Makepeace Thackeray – a bit of a cheat since I think I have re-read it again and what had seemed effortless fantasy to small me had become laborious Victoriana. Enjoyably sort-of-revisionist fairytale nonsense with a very satisfying tie-up between the first and final chapters.

6. STALKY AND CO. by Rudyard Kipling – boys being horrible to one another in boarding school, which I read well before I ended up at one myself. The incident I remember most clearly is one of a teacher sucking diptheriac goo out of a boys’ lungs – major ‘ew’ factor. I would like to read it again and may pick up a cheap edition.

7. CAN’T REMEMBER by Can’t Remember – it’s by the same person who wrote a boring book called Abel’s Island, a Robinsoniad involving a mouse in which nothing happens until well over halfway. His OTHER book (the one I actually remember fondly) involved a hobo dog and his life choices and adventures, he plays a piccolo and this made me want one. (A request that was rightly refused). The dog’s name MAY have been Dominic. The book was philosophical in tone.

8. THE BADGERS OF BADGER HILL by Someone Or Other – some badgers defend their hill against the evil tread of man. Post-Watership Down but more kiddy-aimed.

9. BOTTERSNIKES AND GUMBLES by Dunno Mate – Gumbles are round and plump, Bottersnikes are spiky and unpleasant, bite bite bite, fight fight fight. May have been Australian.

10. THE ADVENTURES OF THE LITTLE WOODEN HORSE by Ursula Moray Williams. And Gobbolino the Witch’s Cat which was basically the same book. The same book as Pinocchio if we’re being honest. Sorcerous kitten and toy horse subjected to tear-jerking tribulations in lots of very short chapters.

Next I may do the books I read as a kid that you’d have to pay me to sit through again.

DR WHO REVIEWS #5: almost all meat’s artificial these days

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The Fall of Yquatine by Nick Walters. Eighth Doctor (if you stick with this for long enough you will learn that 8th Dr = ALARM BELLS), Fitz and Compassion.

8th Dr books are the ones you need to look out for. As far as I gather they pretty much fall into the latter category that I mentioned yesterday, of the Who books with serious ARCS and STORYLINES and Capitalised First Letters of each word of Great Portent. They also jettison all comprehensibility for the casual reader, which means you’re either dragged kicking and screaming into reading the lot to find out what the chuff is going on or you throw the book away in disgust.

I of course, have the luck of being the former. CURSE YOU!

Anyway. This being the second in a quite large story arc called ‘the future war’, it’s slightly hard to explain. The Doctor’s original TARDIS has been destroyed. No joke, no gimmick. Gone. His new TARDIS is a half-TARDIS, half-woman called “Compassion”. The Doctor is being hunted down by the Time Lords. No idea why, and not sure if the previous book tells us. DO NOT ASK ME FURTHER, minions. WOTAN SAYS DO YOUR OWN RESEARCH or join me in my madness :)

Thus, the strongest theme I found in the book were the conflicts between Compassion – the being she was before block computational devices turned her into a TARDIS type 120 (yeah yeah I know), and the ‘machine/animal’? that is the Time And Relative Dimensions In Space deus ex machina… unfortunately the book tends to set up the fact there is this conflict, and leaves it at that. A device for the reader to try and draw their own conclusions? Just a very slow burning question? To be fair, if I were a new TARDIS I’d probably not cope utterly well.

Another Compassion theme starts when the Doctor fits a Randomiser to Compassion to try and hide from the Time Lords. Unfortunately, he doesn’t ask Compassion, who is still half human. The subsequent bloody forced extra component drives Compassion furious, and she runs away from the Doctor. To try and remove it, she gets driven mad by pain and ends up killing one of the surgeons she hires to try and extract the Randomiser, which by then had fully integrated itself into Compassion’s body. This has the bonus effect of now not letting her control where she materialises, and she becomes trapped in the Time Vortex.

MEANWHILE! The happy clappy woo and yay planet Yquatine is a very poor anagram of the word ANTIQUE plus an extra y – (do you SEE) – is bimbling away, being the centre of the Minerva System, and the President is keen on taxation routes. As an aside, can I just give a holla out to Dr Who writers – use new ideas please, your anagrams are boring and I’m not just saying that as a Scrabble player. However a Menace is going to Attack the System &c &c. To be fair, they’re quite a creepy menace and there’s a real sense of horror as the planet in it’s first timeline is totally destroyed and acid rain washes down on the devastated planet. But as Monsters remain Monsters and the Doctor remains the Hero, off they pop at the end and I won’t spoil it for you exactly how he does it…

Another split up adventure again! Not having read many books, I must ask if is this entirely normal? The Doctor tries to save the planet, Compassion gets stuck in the Time Vortex with an uncontrollable Randomiser, and Fitz is thrown back in time a month before the planet gets destroyed and works in a bar until the day he knows will arrive serving drinks and pies to all sorts of rather yawnsome aliengs.

One of the great things I always think about Who is happens to be the interaction between the Doctor and his assistants, but the books seem to be trying to take this apart as often as possible – in order to fit in as many different aspects as possible I think they’re actually reducing what makes Who great. The story suffers from being disjointed, a slightly redundant feeling ‘love story’ between the President and a surgically enhanced lady into which Fitz pointlessly gets involved and I’ve been left with the feeling that the book is acting as a sort of “placeholder” to realistically give Compassion some time to adjust to being an actual TARDIS.

On the whole, I judge it decidedly average, but with enough redeeming features for it not to fall down into baaad.