Sunday, July 23, 2006

The horror, the horror (and the sci-fi, the sci-fi)

In a comment to a post below, swlrir asked for suggestions for recommended reading lists for genre fiction (SF, Fantasy and Horror). Not wishing to clog up the post with a huge comment, I thought I'd start a new thread for suggestions (and brief reasons for their recommendation).

SF:
William Gibson - "Virtual Light/Idoru/All Tomorrow's Parties"
The vision of the future in Gibson's "Bridge Trilogy" is either a utopia or a dystopia depending on your viewpoint. More accessible than some of his other work, there are some striking images (a community living on the superstructure of a post-quake Golden Gate Bridge, for instance).

Patrick Tilley - "Fade Out"
Almost forgotten in the wake of Tilley's magnum opus "The Amtrak Wars", this tale of contact with an alien technology has been oft-copied but never bettered. If we were to lose all the technological advantages of the last 70 years, how would we cope? (Hint: It would be a bit like calling our tech support helpdesk...)

Ray Bradbury - "Fahrenheit 451"
It would be remiss of me as a librarian to leave this title out. The tyranny of censorship has never been more eloquently described. A classic example of how science fiction can be best placed to treat the big themes of modern life.

Fantasy:
Stephen Donaldson - "The Mirror of Her Dreams/A Man Rides Through"
As with Tilley and Gibson, the less well known works are often gems and this small series is no exception. The central idea, that a young woman is transported to another world where mirrors have a very different, and much more dangerous use, is a great hook. As ever, Donaldson's imagery is striking and his inventive use of language is always interesting.

Robert Holdstock - "Mythago Wood" et al
The "Mythago Wood" series of novels and short stories are an intriguing look at the form and function of myths, especially those Northern European ones we've always taken for granted. Arthurian knights, Robin Hood and the Green Man all crop up in various guises throughout these books, and after reading these you'll never think of British folk traditions as cosy ever again, (not that lonewytch ever would!) nor will you be quite so relaxed walking through woodland in future!

William Goldman - "The Princess Bride"
There are few books that one could honestly say transcends age groups and genres, but this is one of them. Ostensibly it's a fairy story, told to a bedridden boy by his grandfather, but in reality it's much more than that. Yes, it's got beautiful princesses, dread pirates, Spanish swordsmen, giants, albinos and villainous Sicilians; but it also has a lot to say on friendship, honour and dare I say it, true love. Plus the film rocks!

Horror:
William Peter Blatty - "The Exorcist"
A lot more thought provoking than the publicity surrounding the film suggests, this is a profound look at the nature of evil. It's also a lot more equivocal than the film, leaving it up to the reader to decide in many instances whether the events are religious or psychological in origin.

M.R. James - "The Collected Stories"
M.R. James was the Edwardian Stephen King: he painted a picture of a plausible, recognisable world, then introduced something alien, malign or downright diabolical into it. Some of the stories are legendary, such as "Oh Whistle and I"ll Come To You, My Lad" with its creature posessing "a face of crumpled linen". Others, such as "The Tractate Middoth" are cool because they introduce the idea that libraries can be really creepy places!

Stephen King - "Salem's Lot"
I've always been something of an evangelist for Stephen King: he's a lot more subtle and interesting a writer than he's given credit for. This inventive updating of the vampire mythology, centring on the infestation of a township in New England says as much about small town life as it does about bloodsucking creatures. All you need to know about "Salem's Lot" is that without it, there would be no "Buffy the Vampire Slayer".

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Some men are born great

Some achieve greatness, some have greatness thrust upon them... This week greatness is being thrust upon one of our co-bloggers. Today's Times has an article wherein our esteemed e-resources guru Michael is interviewed about working as a librarian. Excellent work, say we all.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

You'll believe a man can fly at the Graphic Novel Reading Group!

Yes, it's that time again: the GNRG (Graphic Novel Reading Group if you're not too lazy to type) is almost upon us. It's this Saturday (July 15th) at 3.30pm, in the Adult Fiction section at Bolton Central Library.

We'll be talking about Art Spiegelman's Maus, as well as Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi and the usual assortment of stuff we've all been reading. I will no doubt have seen Superman Returns by Saturday, so I expect to be quite excitable. It's a bird! It's a plane! No, it's Michael wearing a Superman T-shirt!

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

SFX Online Reading Group

Hi:

People out there may like to know that SFX, that indispensible magazine, is starting an online Reading Group.

Each month a classic SF title is up for discussion.

A-list authors like Stephen Baxter & Jon Courtney Grimwood will be joining in the discussions.

You can e-mail your reviews/comments/reactions to sfx@futurenet.co.uk, or post on the books section of the website's forum www.sfx.co.uk/forum.

Each month the magazine will carry a feature on the spotlighted book, starting with issue 148, available 30th August.

The first selected title is HG Wells' "The War of the Worlds", and you have until 3rd August to read and submit your reactions.

I'll be having a go : anyone else interested?