Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Trashy novels

are in my opinion the balm of the soul...

(It is always a bit of a dilemma, I do not want to offend the innocent novelist who Googles his or her title and finds it lumped in here under this perhaps not entirely flattering rubric, but I love trashy novels more than almost everything else in the world, really it is 'trashy novels' in scare quotes, and 'light reading' is the more appropriate moniker! In my opinion it is a compliment to describe a book as a trashy novel, and it has always been one of my most cherished ambitions--one day it might really come to pass!--that I will write a novel that will appear in a mass-market paperback edition with a foil cutout cover...)

I had another Terry Pratchett one over the weekend, Moving Pictures. Enjoyable, but not one of his best; the local jokes are excellent, but the conceit as a whole feels a bit forced.

And I've just finished a very good one by an author I'd never heard of--Dragon's Teeth, by James A. Hetley. It is a misnomer to call this urban fantasy, since it's set in small-town Maine, but that's the feel. Definitely recommended, especially if you like Charles de Lint, although now I am going to make a series of critical observations!

First of all, I wish this kind of book were more often written with a deep sense of humor--I never can quite take all the mythic past stuff! (But I must say this fellow does a very good job with the integration of magic with really well realized weaponry and computer stuff...) Second, what is the attraction of this notion of families of great wealth and connection to the land whose history in a place goes hundreds and hundreds of years back?!? I was perversely reminded of a quite different series, I cannot now at all remember the name of either the author or the detective but it involves a completely implausible scenario, an immensely wealthy townhouse-owning Manhattan homicide detective of ancestral old New York-Dutch descent with a sort of family cabal that possesses immense resources and sort of a secret key to the city, there is a vaguely Da Vinci Codeish feeling about this kind of conceit of which I do not really approve...

And finally, though this is certainly not the author's fault, there is something deeply at odds between writing and publishing practices in the SF-fantasy field and the situation whereby we buy books at bookstores! Usually I buy online and get books from the library, if you buy online there is no reason not to get the first installment either alone or in a bunch with subsequent ones. But I've been traveling quite a bit these last weeks, which for various reasons is more likely to land me in a bookstore and buying stuff to read (one reason is that traveling makes me tired & minor-nervous-breakdownish in a way that makes all unread books already in my apartment seem offputting, so that I seek lightweight new ones with the glow on 'em at the bookstore!). But the shelf life on new non-crime genre fiction is so short that you end up buying book #2 in a series, because #1 is not available in the store, and reading it in mild perplexity as to what exactly happened in book 1! They recap so much that you would probably not then want to read the first one--only you are still left with various things unresolved, and wish you could have had them the other way round...

(The thing I had this very strongly with recently--in fact more strongly, Hetley has done a good job filling in what happened in the first installment, only as I say he has almost certainly rendered that volume now redundant for me in the process--was Justina Robson's Selling Out. It seemed so strongly exactly what I most wanted to read that I bought it anyway, despite my sense that it was going to be annoying not to have read the first one--I had to put it aside halfway through and wait for the first one to arrive at the library...)

(This week and next I am going to revise my academic book manuscript, catch up on sleep, have a surfeit of light reading and swim as much as possible. That's it!)

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