Friday, 26 September 2014

What I've been reading: The State of the Art, The Thirteen and a Half Lives of Captain Bluebear

If you ever plan on coming to visit me, my house has an important rule: don't leave your books unattended.

Seriously, unattended books will be kidnapped, and read, and you may get them back when I have finished. It is a known hazard, a general health warning applying to any house which I inhabit. You think that my husband might have worked that out by now...

Yay! Banks.
So, I've just reread The State of the Art and endured the ensuing resentful glances. Oh, but I do like this book. Yes, it isn't Surface Detail, and, yes, Iain M. Banks was clearly feeling out the possibilities of this genre rather than pushing them, and - if I'm honest - it reads like something written near the beginning of someone's career, but none of that matters. If you're sick minded, cynical and left-wing, it's a total gem.

A collection of short stories with a SF bent, told with all of Banks' freshness and wit. Although some are clearly better than others, and none of them reach the scope or heart-rending grandeur of some of his later work, there is not a single bum note. And, invariably, his world-building floors me. In the two Culture stories, we see a civ that is fully realised and remarkably rendered. Okay, I wouldn't recommend it as an introduction to Banks, or to anyone who wasn't already into their SF, but it's worth picking up a copy. Or stealing one from your life partner.

Now for something a little more....



Okay, sometimes, you just encounter a book that leaves you utterly unsure how to... I don't even...

What does this cover tell you?
The 13 1/2 Lives of Captain Bluebear by Walter Moers! Perhaps I'm taking it all too seriously. I don't know. Send help. Send supplies. Send me a bloody bookmark.
It's huge, it's confusing, it's...

Part memoir, part encyclopaedia of the continent of Zamonia (you know! Zamonia, with the Demerara Desert and Atlantis and the Gloomberg Mountains...) it feels very eighteenth century. I suspect it reads a little like Gulliver's Travels (which, to my shame, etc. etc.) except that Gulliver's Travels was not narrated by a blue bear of middling size.

I have got through just over half of the titular lives and... No idea. Completely lost. Don't even know why I'm still reading other than the fact I seem to have lost the ability to stop. This is not the kind of book I'd recommend to read when from sleep deprivation. It doesn't make any sense and I really don't think its going to start any time soon. I will keep you posted - unless I actually start to hallucinate.

If that happens you can all send me cards during my convalescence.

Take care!

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