Fragile Cromwell: "Wolf Hall" by Peter Kosminsky

 

NB: I have not read the novels yet, but I’m afraid I’m going to be a little negative.

 

I had a “couple” of problems with this drama: firstly, I thought it felt a little ‘empty’ in terms of atmosphere. The camera-work, lighting and (to a lesser extent) the art-design was, for me, rather ‘plain’ – as if they were going for a very orthodox, no-frills adaptation of the novels. Likewise, I also thought that the soundtrack was rather dreary and ‘safe’ – although ‘Tudor Pop’ admittedly isn’t my cup of tea. It would be nice – in general – if TV dramas would take more of a risk with their soundtracks: in the last week, I have re-watched Paul Thomas Anderson’s “There Will be Blood” (with Jonny Greenwood’s superb, experimental soundtrack) and then saw Birdman (which has a soundtrack almost solely composed of avant-garde jazz percussion) and was struck by how much these films were enhanced by a more original approach to background music.

 

If you’re into period pieces, read on.

Original post:
antao.booklikes.com/post/1577487/fragile-cromwell-wolf-hall-by-peter-kosminsky

Gaming All-Nighters: "The Player of Games" by Iain M. Banks

Review:

The Player of Games - Iain M. Banks

“All reality is a game. Physics at its most fundamental, the very fabric of our universe, results directly from the interaction of certain fairly simple rules, and chance; the same description may be applied to the best, most elegant and both intellectually and aesthetically satisfying games. By being unknowable, by resulting from events which, at the sub-atomic level, cannot be fully predicted, the future remains make-able, and retains the possibility of change, the hope of coming to prevail; victory, to use an unfashionable word. In this, the future is a game; time is one of the rules. Generally, all the best mechanistic games – those which can be played in any sense “perfectly”, such as a grid, Prallian scope, ‘nkraytle, chess, Farnic dimensions – can be traced to civilisations lacking a realistic view of the universe (let alone the reality). They are also, I might add, invariably pre-machine-sentience societies.”

 

 

In “The Player of Games” by Iain M. Banks

 

 

 

“I… exult when I win. It’s better than love, it’s better than sex or any glanding; it’s the only instant when I feel… real.”

 

 

In “The Player of Games” by Iain M. Banks

 

 

 

Some of the imagery in Bank’s novel concerning gaming strategies closely remind me of my own: “In all the games he’d played, the fight had always come to Gurgeh, initially. He’d thought of the period before as preparing for battle, but now he saw that if he had been alone on the board he’d have done roughly the same, spreading slowly across the territories, consolidating gradually, calmly, economically … of course it had never happened; he always was attacked, and once the battle was joined he developed that conflict as assiduously and totally as before he’d tried to develop the patterns and potential of unthreatened pieces and undisputed territory.” This means you know you’ll get a biased sort of review. Just so you’re warned.

 

 

If you’re into SF, read on.

Original post:
antao.booklikes.com/post/1577104/gaming-all-nighters-the-player-of-games-by-iain-m-banks

Post-scarcity Society: "Consider Phlebas" by Iain M. Banks

Review:

Consider Phlebas - Iain M. Banks

When Banks died, I was in the process of starting one of my usual re-reads of the Culture novels. I decided it was not the time to start that re-read. I said to myself, “I’ll just wait another couple more years.” It’s now 2017, and I’m not sure I’ll re-read them now in one large gulp. I want to be able to savour the remaining books over time. One of my main attractions to Banks’ novels lies in his version of AI. Stephen Hawking and colleagues worry about tooth and claw Darwinian features of AI, that threaten us all. Why not allow for the possibility that a truly superior intelligence would follow its own independent moral code? Banks’ machine minds have values and follow courses of action that are far more admirable than what our species can manage.

 

No longer being able to look forward to a new Iain. M. Banks novel every twenty months or so is a source of great sadness. “Consider Phlebas” was such a dazzling, utterly astonishing tour-de-force, the grandest and saddest of all space operas, which nothing before or since has even come close to. And I can still remember the delight of coming across a ‘hard’ SF writer whose politics were, for a change, anti-authoritarian.

 

If you’re into SF, read on.

Original post:
antao.booklikes.com/post/1576341/post-scarcity-society-consider-phlebas-by-iain-m-banks

Causality Violation SF: “Version Control” by Dexter Palmer

Review:

Version Control: A Novel - Dexter Palmer

“For months now, Rebecca had felt what she could only describe as a certain subtle wrongness – not within herself, but in the world. She found it impossible to place its source, for the fault in the nature of things seemed to reside both everywhere and nowhere. Countless things just felt a little off to her.”

 

In “Version Control” by Dexter Palmer

 

A lot of the debate around this book must be surely undermined by the lack of a clear definition of time.

 

The idea of time ‘moving forwards or backwards’ is just a metaphor that people adopt because it’s easy to identify with physical objects that move and since time is a dimension- a dimension of space-time, the continuum in which everything has its being. Time itself doesn’t ‘move’ or ‘pass’ any more than length can pass or move. However, everything moves, or occupies a series of different points, in space-time. I also suspect that our perception of time as a progression in one direction, with a remembered past and a future of multiple unrealized possibilities, is a ‘fiction’ or mental construction that allows us to make sense of cause and effect. If we could imagine a being outside of space-time, whether God, or Vonnegut’s Tralfamadoreans, that being would see all those points simultaneously. As we do when we remember someone’s life.

 

 

If you’re into SF, read on.

Original post:
antao.booklikes.com/post/1575961/causality-violation-sf-version-control-by-dexter-palmer

Bloviated SF: "The Ninth Rain" by Jen Williams

Review:

The Copper Promise - Jen Williams

’I’m fine,’ she said again, her whole body shaking. She reached out a hand to the plants growing in their neat rows and saw with wonder that she had slumped next to a tomato plant. There were tomatoes growing on it, tight in their skins and perfectly red. After A moment, she reached out a trembling hand and plucked one from its stem, jerking a little as she did so. […]”

 

In “The Ninth Rain” by Jen Williams.

 

A tomato?

 

The great city of Ebora didn’t seem so alien after all…If I were reading a physical book, this would probably be the only book that I’d purposefully abandon at a train station, hoping that it would go to some “Lost Items” limbo. I’m an old-school SF fan, and I hate the way the SF shelves in the bookshops are increasingly dominated by great slabs of swords’n’sorcery, usually endless volumes of the same stuff by the same author, like they’re paid by the meter. And the covers are astonishingly awful – like SF covers were in about 1968. Yech. My point is that the fantastic genre has always been with us ever since the first bard sat at the hearth and sang his songs.

If you’re into SF, read on.

Original post:
antao.booklikes.com/post/1575314/bloviated-sf-the-ninth-rain-by-jen-williams

Intertextual SF: "The Grace of Kings" by Ken Liu

Review:

The Grace of Kings - Ken Liu

Lord Garu, you compare yourself to a weed?” Cogo Yelu frowned.

“Not just any weed, Cogzy. A dandelion is a strong but misunderstood flower.” Remembering his courtship with Jia, Kuni felt his eyes grow warm. “It cannot be defeated: Just when a gardener thinks he has won and eradicated it from his lawn, a rain would bring the yellow florets right back. Yet it’s never arrogant: Its color and fragrance never overwhelm those of another. Immensely practical, its leaves are delicious and medicinal, while its roots loosen hard soils, so that it acts as a pioneer for other more delicate flowers. But best of all, it’s a flower that lives in the soil but dreams of the skies. When its seeds take to the wind, it will go farther and see more than any pampered rose, tulip, or marigold.”

“An exceedingly good comparison,” Cogo said, and drained his cup. “My vision was too limited to not have understood it.”

Mata nodded in agreement and drained his cup as well, suffering silently as the burning liquor numbed his throat.

“Your turn, General Zyndu,” Than prompted.

Mata hesitated. He was not witty or quick on his feet, and he was never good at games like this. But he glanced down and saw the Zyndu coat of arms on his boots, and suddenly he knew what he should say.

He stood up. Though he had been drinking all night, he was steady as an oak. He began to clap his hands steadily to generate a beat, and sang to the tune of an old song of Tunoa:

 

The ninth day in the ninth month of the year:

 

By the time I bloom, all others have died.

 

Cold winds rise in Pan’s streets, wide and austere:

 

A tempest of gold, an aureal tide.

 

My glorious fragrance punctures the sky.

 

Bright-yellow armor surrounds every eye.

 

With disdainful pride, ten thousand swords spin

 

To secure the grace of kings, to cleanse sin.

 

A noble brotherhood, loyal and true.

 

Who would fear winter when wearing this hue?

 

“The King of Flowers,” Cogo Yelu said.

Mata nodded.

Kuni had been tapping his finger on the table to follow the beat. He stopped now, reluctantly, as if still savoring the music. “By the time I bloom, all others have died.’ Though lonely and spare, this is a grand and heroic sentiment, befitting the heir of the Marshal of Cocru. The song praises the chrysanthemum without ever mentioning the flower by name. It’s beautiful.”

“The Zyndus have always compared themselves to the chrysanthemum,” Mata said.

Kuni bowed to Mata and drained his cup. The others followed suit.

“But, Kuni,” said Mata, “you have not understood the song completely.”

Kuni looked at him, confused.

“Who says it praises only the chrysanthemum? Does the dandelion not bloom in the same hue, my brother?”

Kuni laughed and clasped arms with Mata. “Brother! Together, who knows how far we will go?”

The eyes of both men glistened in the dim light of the Splendid Urn.

Mata thanked everyone and drank himself. For the first time in his life, he didn’t feel alone in a crowd. He belonged—an unfamiliar but welcome sensation. It surprised him that he found it here, in this dark and sleazy bar, drinking cheap wine and eating bad food, among a group of people he would have considered peasants playing at being lords—like Krima and Shigin—just a few weeks ago.”

 

In “The Grace of Kings” by Ken Liu.

 

 

If you’re into SF, read on.

Original post:
antao.booklikes.com/post/1574028/intertextual-sf-the-grace-of-kings-by-ken-liu

Eye-Opening SF: "Saving the World Through Science Fiction – James Gunn, Writer, Teacher and Scholar” by Michael R. Page

Review:

Saving the World Through Science Fiction: James Gunn, Writer, Teacher and Scholar (Critical Explorations in Science Fiction and Fantasy) - Michael R Page, Foreword by Christopher McKitterick, Donald E Palumbo, C W Sullivan III

“Thus, traditional criticism’s charge that science fiction isn’t, in general, ‘literary’ because science fiction writers don’t focus on or have the artistry to deeply delve into character misses the point that science fiction isn’t about character, it’s about ideas. And therefore, science fiction should be judged by a different set of criteria than mundane mainstream fiction is evaluated.”

 

In “Saving the World Through Science Fiction – James Gunn, Writer, Teacher and Scholar” by Michael R. Page

 

Don’t critics ignore SF because there’s far too much of it, and the vast majority of it – like any sector of genre fiction – is a bit safe, geared more to selling to a niche of fans than the mass market? Certainly SF fandom is obsessed with genre distinctions (steampunk, space opera, mundane, whatever) that have absolutely no currency in the mainstream world – just like crime fandom (maybe to a lesser extent) worries about distinctions between golden age, hard-boiled, procedural and so on.

In both cases the really good stuff, the stuff that transcends the formulae and has something worthwhile to say – Atwood, or Houllebecq, or Alan Moore, Ballard, or Gunn – it “does” get noticed, it’s just that people don’t call it SF anymore.

 

 

If you’re into SF Literary Criticism, read on.

Original post:
antao.booklikes.com/post/1573523/eye-opening-sf-saving-the-world-through-science-fiction-james-gunn-writer-teacher-and-scholar-by-michael-r-page