Harvest of Time

1 Mar

“The Harvest of Time” by Alastair Reynolds is sn original Doctor Who novel featuring the Third Doctor (my favourite), the original Master (Roger Delgado incarnation) and the folks at UNIT.

There are mysterious happenings at sea and UNIT is drawn in.  But as UNIT is drawn further into the morass, someone is trying to unpick The Master from the fabric of time.  Soon, it will be as it he never existed…

This was a great read that took me right back to my childhood Doctor Who watching. The characters were kept perfectly inline with the actors who played those roles.

There was so much of the Master that I was nearly delirious with joy.  Roger Delgado will ALWAYS be my favourite Master.  None of the others even come close.

The Master is pretty much the star of the book on many levels, so I really can’t say too much about the book without giving away the plot.  Suffice to say Alastair Reynolds has a lot of fun with the Master.

Would recommend “Harvest of Time” to all Doctor Who fans, new Who and old.

Dwarves in Space

26 Feb

First off I will say that I was gifted a copy of the book “Dwarves in Space” by the author, Sabrina Zbasnik, to read and review.

The book was described to me as “Tolkien, Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, and Firefly merged in a transporter accident”.  I honestly couldn’t come up with a better description myself.

This is about the third or fourth book by Sabrina Zbasnik I have read, and I have to say that her writing style improves with each book.

“Dwarves in Space” is brilliant.  The characters are well rounded, interesting, and individualistic enough that it is easy to develop favourites.  I am really hoping for more books using these characters as I really want to see more of the Elven assassin, Talesin.

The book follows the adventures of Captain Variel of the Elation-Cru and her merry band of misfits: elves, a dwarf, an orc, a djinn, and an accidental human passenger.  Not to mention the slightly insane onboard computer.

“Dwarves in Space” does have the feel of being the introductory novel for a series, but that does not detract from the enjoyment of it.  The first sequence sets the tone for the back story, which is not fully explored… I expect that will be in later books.  Then it’s on to a rollercoaster ride of spills, thrills, chills and the occasional outbreak of lunacy.

Read.  Enjoy.

The Will of the Dead

23 Feb

An elderly man is found dead at the bottom of a flight of stairs and his Will is missing.  Meanwhile a series of jewel robberies is taking place across London; carried out by “iron men”.  Scotland Yard is at its wits end.  Enter Sherlock Holmes.

That’s pretty much the plot for “The Will of the Dead”, and it’s a ripper of a read.  I started it last night and did not put it down until I had finished it.

The book could be considered pre-steampunk, as it ties into George Mann’s ‘Newbury and Hobbes’ series of books, with the events taking place many years prior to “The Affinity Bridge”.  The link between the worlds, however, is via Charles Bainbridge, who in this book is an Inspector at Scotland Yard and a friend of Lestrade’s.  Newbury and Hobbes do not appear.

“The Will of the Dead” is also an excellent Sherlock Holmes pastiche.  Mann has captured the friendship between Holmes and Watson perfectly.

The book is also well plotted and well written enough to satisfy even the fussiest Sherlockian.

Highly recommended.

Blue Nun, Black Tower, and Pixie’s Pee

15 Feb

Over the weekend I was reading Graham Norton’s memoir “The Life and Loves of a He Devil”.

It was startling to realise that Graham and I had similar upbringings, even though we’re different sexes and were raised on opposite sides of the world.

The thing that made me laugh the most was his comment that in Ireland during his childhood there appeared to be only three wines available: Blue Nun, Black Tower and Mateus Rose.

Those wines are pretty much central to celebrations during my childhood too.  My dad had a burning dislike of Mateus Rose.  He always referred to it as Pixie’s Pee.  The one occasion I took a surreptitious sip from my mother’s glass, I immediately agreed with him and came to the conclusion that the pixie in question needed to see a urologist urgently.  I’ve never attempted to drink it again.  Just the sight of a bottle gives me tremulous shudders of disgust.

Blue Nun was another I felt had a picture of the factory on the bottle!  It was the most appalling wine I had ever tasted when I was young.  I was strongly convinced that they’d put vinegar in a wine bottle by accident.  Blue Nun is probably the reason that I am not overly fond of dry white wines these days.

Black Tower was a different proposition.  I loved the vaguely medieval styled label on the bottle and the wine was sweet enough to appeal to my palate without being cloying.  A romantic through and through I would sip away daydreaming that I was actually drinking the popular medieval sweet wine rhenish.  No idea if Black Tower is a literal descendant, but it was certainly a romantic one in my book.  It’s also the reason that I have no time for wine snobs.  Just because something is expensive, doesn’t mean it tastes good, in my book.  Black Tower is the only white wine I view fondly.  Mention Black Tower to a wine connoisseur and watch them have a hissy fit of epic proportions.

In New Zealand there was a fourth wine making a quartet of cheap and cheerful wines.  This was a sparkling red known as Cold Duck.  My father, the evil bugger that he was, solemnly informed me that Cold Duck was made from the distilled, fermented blood of frozen ducks!  It was a wine that most bottle shops turned a blind eye to underage individuals purchasing.  They knew that there was no way kids could get drunk on it.  It wasn’t in the system long enough for the alcohol to take effect.  Two glasses and you’d be heaving up the whole horrible fizzy mess.

Graham’s book made me feel more than a little nostalgic.  I wonder if the local bottle shop has Black Tower?

Sherlock Holmes: The Breath of God

1 Feb

“The Breath of God” is a wonderful Sherlock Holmes pastiche from author Guy Adams.

When a man is found crushed to death in the snow with no sign of an attacker, Holmes and Watson are quickly on the case.  A case which appears to be more supernatural than criminal.  Is it a “Hound of the Baskervilles” scenario, or something much harder to explain by rational means?

As in Guy’s later book, “The Breath of God” has “borrowed” characters from contemporaries of Arthur Conan Doyle’s.  Algernon Blackwood’s Dr John Silence, William Hope Hodgson’s Thomas Carnaki, the psychic detective, and M. R. James’ Julian Karswell all play major roles in the novel.

The crowning character, however, isn’t fictional but real.  The crime leads north to Inverness, to Boleskine House and it’s “laird”…. Aleister Crowley.

Brilliantly written, with the friendship of Holmes and Watson as solid and wonderful as in Arthur Conan Doyle’s original stories, “The Breath of God” is a delicious romp of a book to delight all Sherlock Holmes aficionados, and lovers of Victorian adventure stories.  There is also enough of a creep factor for those who also enjoy Victorian ghost stories.

Superb on so many levels.

Sherlock in Gloucester – On a Bicycle?

22 Jan

I am absolutely fascinated by the photos coming out of Gloucester today.

Be warned.  I am about to speculate on one particular costume.  If you consider costume discussions spoilers then step away from this blog now.  Nothing for you to see here, move along, there’s a good chap…

Have they gone?  They have? Right…

Amanda Abbington’s costume both fascinated and delighted me.  The photos of her walking out of the cathedral with Benedict showed her wearing a very interesting costume.  She was dressed in a Victorian ladies’ bicycling costume.  The advent of the bicycle during the Victorian period created quite a vogue for ladies to take the air in a variety of only slightly scandalous attire.

It’s not the whiff of naughtiness around the costume that fascinated me, but rather the fact that I can think of only two Sherlock Holmes bicycle related things.  One is canon, involving the character Violet Hunter being followed when she cycles, but we are dealing with Mary Morstan here, NOT Miss Hunter.  The other is far more intriguing.

The movie “The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes” starring Robert Stephens and Colin Blakely had a cycling scene.  Holmes, Watson, and Madame Valladon aka Ilsa von Hoffmanstal (Genevieve Page) cycling around the Scottish Highlands.

Given both Mark Gatiss and Steve Moffat’s love of that movie, I am wondering if they are adapting that scene for Sherlock.

Amanda Abbington’s Mary Morstan has much more in common with Ilsa von Hoffmanstal than with Arthur Conan Doyle’s creation.  His Mary was a brave, but put upon, young woman.  Gatiss and Moffat’s creation is an assassin.  Ilsa von Hoffmanstal was a spy.

Mark Gatiss has form for sneaking bits of “The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes” into Sherlock.  He had me damn near falling off my chair laughing when I watched “The Empty Hearse” after he gave Una Stubbs’ Mrs Hudson one of Irene Handl’s Mrs Hudson’s lines from the movie.

A sudden thought… they were shooting in a cemetery the other day… there is an excellent graveyard scene in “The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes” as well!!!

Time will tell what they are doing.  I do know one thing.  This synthesis of traditional Holmes/Watson and modern Sherlock is delighting me no end, before it even gets to the screen.

Let Them Eat McDonalds

12 Jan

I don’t usually buy into any political bullshit, but there is something going on here in Victoria that I am deeply unhappy about.

A new children’s hospital is being built here in Melbourne at Monash, and the do-gooders are up in arms about plans to include a McDonalds in it.  Our Premier, Daniel Andrews, basically told them to piss off.  Have I mentioned I am starting to really like this man?

I agree with him 100%.  McDonalds in a children’s hospital isn’t about childhood obesity, or bad food choices, or lazy meals.  It is about giving sick children and their siblings a much needed treat.

I was a sickly child, not major hospital admission type sickly, but weak in the lungs, meaning every bloody winter was an endless round of colds and flu ending in lung infections, and on several occasions, pneumonia.  I also had allergies like no bugger’s business.

My parents knew how damn miserable I was most of the winter.  The rounds of doctor’s visits (even though my doctor was a sweetheart I adored) and pathology visits took their toll.  So my parents gave me little treats from time to time, when they could see I was getting badly down.

I remember having to sit for over an hour with my arms sticking straight out whilst a woman scratched various allergens into my skin to find out what I was allergic too.  To a little fidget like myself, this was almost intolerable.  Worse, with my arms straight out I couldn’t hold a book to read!  But I sat tight, because my mother promised me a special treat.  My very own tennis racket so I could hit balls against the side of the house.  I had wanted one for oh so long.  It was like being offered the Holy Grail.

My dad would buy me my favourite chocolate as a treat.  The long gone Cadbury’s Aztec.  A rich creamy chocolate centre surrounded by even richer chocolate.  I didn’t get chocolate often, so this was a treat to be savoured.  One occasion when I had pneumonia dad bought me the biggest block he could find!  It lasted about a month as I slowly ate it one delicious square at a time.

The usual treat from mum after a grueling doctor’s or path appointment was a trip to the local toy store near the doctor’s surgery.  They had a huge selection of books.  My treat was a new book.  The Hardy Boys books and the Trixie Belden books got me through many a miserable winter.

If McDonalds had been around when I was a child (we didn’t get a KFC until I was about 10 and I was in my early 20s before McDonalds shifted in), and I had liked it, it would probably have been my treat.

The point I am making is that sick and stressed children need treats.  To view McDonalds as nasty and horrible, and to ban them from hospitals takes away quite possibly the only thing making that hospital stay bearable for an ill child and their stressed, frightened sibling.

There is a special place in the Christian Hell for people who want to inflict that misery on children.

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