Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Bromley Cross Book Group: reviews

Mel sent me this, which came from the Book Group at Bromley Cross Library:

In December Bromley Cross Book Group compared the novels:

Du Maurier, Daphne - Rebecca

And Beauman, Sally - Rebecca’s tale

Those having previously read Rebecca chose Rebecca’s tale, which tells the story Du Maurier never told and is set 20 years after Rebecca’s death.

Those reading Rebecca loved the story of her free spirit and thought it a classic love story. Although Rebecca, the main character is absent, present only in the memories of others. Her power and the undercurrent of menace can be felt. They felt her affinity with the sea. They disliked the manipulative, controlling character of Mrs. Danvers. They thought the story a compelling exploration of jealousy and obsession.

The group concluded that Rebecca’s tale could not exist without Rebecca, although it stands alone, knowledge of the original is helpful. It was a good read and evoked the atmosphere of Rebecca. Some members felt more sympathy for Mrs. Danvers as she appears in Rebecca’s journal.

Thanks BX! I'll add this to Signpost as soon as the nice folks at Talis fix it for me...

Meanwhile, does anyone have any thoughts?

Update Feb 22 2007: The nice folks at Talis have indeed fixed Signpost. See the review here.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Review: Alfred Bester : The stars my destination (aka Tiger! Tiger!)

This book (In its old incarnation as "Tiger Tiger" ) has been a favourite of mine for a long time.

Stuffed with Big SF Concepts and moving at a cracking pace, it leaves the reader dizzy as the resolution of Gully's Revenge unfolds.

The 24th Century world "an age of extremes", is laid out in technicolor, with centre stage being given to the cultural and economic effects of Jaunting, ranging from the de-emancipation of women to the ludicrous anachronistic jaunt-free transportation of the very rich.

Gully, brutish lower-decks spacehand, abandoned to die in space, driven by hatred and pure survival instincts, manages to jury-rig the Nomad and flies her into the arms of The Scientific People, where he acquires his tiger tattoos, a very temporary wife, and even more reason to hate.

Returned to Earth, Gully single-mindedly begins his quest for revenge, beginning with rape and blackmail.

Gully Foyle is a monster, one of the least likeable protagonists in fiction, a “remorseless, treacherous, lecherous, kindless villain” : but somehow the reader still stays with him against the corporate and political enemies who stand in his way.

From here, Bester’s debt to “The Count of Monte Cristo” is obvious, as, after escaping from an escape-proof prison, Gully uses the limitless resources he recovered from the Nomad to become the super-rich playboy fop, Fourmyle of Ceres.

Tracking down the surviving crew of his nemesis, Vorga-T, Gully uncovers the deadly secret that caused his abandonment, and in a twist worthy of “The Revenger’s Tragedy” discovers that the fatal order was given by Olivia Presteign, the ice-queen heiress he has come to love.

He also discovers the nature and limitless destructive potential of the Nomad’s most valuable cargo, PyrE.

As Foyle pursued his revenge, he had been haunted, aided, and saved, by the apparition of himself, burning, tiger-masked, out of control.

Trapped in a burning cellar, seemingly unable to escape, Gully takes the next leap in his (and human) evolution : time-jaunting.

The burning man comes back from a future which has survived the cataclysmic war which has been going on in the background of Foyle’s personal vendetta, to guide and rescue his present-self.

The crossed senses of his striving are perhaps the closest print equivalent to the latter half of 2001 : astonishing for the late 50’s.

At the ending, as throughout the book, this headlong adventure still makes big and important philosophical points :

Does evolution only occur in the presence of deadly threat or overwhelming emotion? Is mankind as a whole or as a collection of individuals able to control its tendency to destruction?
Does wealth and power always corrupt? Can the most brutish of men become, by chance, or will, a saviour?

All this from a high concept headlong rattling yarn, which at the same time is one of the best revenge sagas since the ancient Greeks:
Quant Suff!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Functionality tweaks

I've been tinkering with Signpost a bit. There's a problem - basically, the part of Signpost that holds all of Wigan's community groups has got too big and I can't edit it properly - so I had to come up with a way around it.

I've moved the list to a new area. I still can't edit it the way I'd like to, but it provides a temporary workaround. Unfortunately, it affected the search box on the sidebar (you know, the one for Wigan's community groups. You use it all the time!!). A few minutes of HTML kung fu sorted it out and it looks no different from the user's perspective.

But I know it's not right, and that upsets me. I like things to be right, especially things I've made. I didn't realise that adding 295 records to a Signpost list would make it so creaky. Maybe I should have asked first, but I don't like maybes. My plan was to streamline the search function and improve findability by having all of the groups in a single list. I'm going to have to chop the list up into sub-lists, using the sort of categories I wanted to avoid in Signpost.

I'm hopeful that the nice folks at Talis will be able to do some kung fu of their own on the database for me when they migrate the data to their server. Fingers crossed!

Fight for your right

That's your right to read, not to party, despite what the Beastie Boys might tell you.

I found this link to a poster of readers' rights, illustrated by Quentin Blake, via the Librarian in Black. Could it sit happily alongside swlrir's manifesto? I like the illustrations, but I have fond memories of reading Roald Dahl as a nipper, complete with Mr Blake's wonderfully scratchy artwork.

The moral of this story: Bloglines is a very useful tool.