Tuesday, February 28th, 2012

kittiwake: (sea)
Great Dreamers! Tkett stared in awe and surprise at the object before them. It was unlike any starship he had ever seen before. Sleek metallic sides seemed to go on and on forever as the titanic machine trudged onward across the sea floor, churning up mud with thousands of shimmering, crystalline legs! 
As if sensing their arrival, a mammoth hatch began irising open -- in benign welcome, he hoped. 
No resurrected starship. Tkett began to suspect he had come upon something entirely different.


This novella takes place in the Uplift universe and follows on from the story in "Starship Rising". The Streaker has been on the run for so long that some of its mainly dolphin crew have suffered nervous breakdowns and regressed to a pre-sapient state and have been dropped off on the planet Jijo, along with a doctor and a few other healthy dolphins to look after them. The supposedly unoccupied planet is actually home to refugees from six galactic races who secretly live there in harmony with each other, but although the captain's idea was that the dolphins could set up a colony on Jijo, the doctor is worried that even it her patients do recover, it may not be possible for any of them to remain sentient in the long term, away from their human mentors and the technology of earth. The eccentric dolphin archeaologist Tkett is keen on finding an abandoned spaceship that can be adapted for use in salvaging the alien artefacts that the planet's previous inhabitants, an advanced race called the Buyur, dumped in an oceanic trench before leaving, but the sounds of machinery working deep under the sea, unknown to the planet's land-dwelling inhabitants, lead the dolphins to an unexpected discovery and a momentous choice.
kittiwake: (media)
Richard accepted the sad inevitability that he was now a follower of The Northern Barstows like everybody else in the country. He knew who all these people were and how they related to each other, and suffered a nagging itchy need to know what they would get up to next. This must be what it was like to be a newly body-snatched vegetable duplicate and click in sync with the collective consciousness of the pod people.

When a jockey is ridden to death by his model girlfriend at exactly the same time as the broadcast of an episode of massively popular soap opera featuring an identical crime, the Diogenes Club (the branch of the secret service that deals with anomalous events) is alerted by Scotland Yard. Ghost--hunter Richard Jeperson is assigned to the case, but he never watches ITV because the adverts disrupt his psychic powers, and he knows less than nothing about the soap opera, so a beautiful academic specialising in The Northern Barstows is assigned to bring him up to speed, while Richard's assistant Vanessa goes undercover as an actress, playing the new girlfriend of one of the main characters, nicknamed 'lovely legs' by the cast and crew.

This highly-enjoyable novella is an amusing paranormal whodunnit with a well-realised 1970s setting.
kittiwake: (fantasy)
''Unhappy poet! But it's your own fault, my dear fellow. You shouldn't have treated him so carelessly and rudely. Now you're paying for it. You should be thankful that you got off comparatively lightly.'
'But who on earth is he?' asked Ivan, clenching his fists in excitement.
The visitor stared at Ivan and answered with a question:
'You won't get violent, will you? We're all unstable people here . . . There won't be any calls for the doctor, injections or any disturbances of that sort, will there?'
'No, no!' exclaimed Ivan. 'Tell me, who is he?'
'Very well,' replied the visitor, and said slowly and gravely:
'At Patriarch's Ponds yesterday you met Satan.'
As he had promised, Ivan did not become violent, but he was powerfully shaken.
'It can't be! He doesn't exist!'
'Come, come! Surely you of all people can't say that. You were apparently one of the first to suffer from him. Here you are, shut up in a psychiatric clinic, and you still say he doesn't exist. How strange!'
Ivan was reduced to speechlessness.
' As soon as you started to describe him,' the visitor went on, 'I guessed who it was that you were talking to yesterday. I must say I'm surprised at Berlioz! You, of course, are an innocent,' again the visitor apologised for his expression, 'but he, from what I've heard of him, was at least fairly well read. The first remarks that this professor made to you dispelled all my doubts. He's unmistakeable, my friend! You are ... do forgive me again, but unless I'm wrong, you are an ignorant person, aren't you?'
'I am indeed,' agreed the new Ivan.
'Well, you see, even the face you described, the different-coloured eyes, the eyebrows . . . Forgive me, but have you even seen the opera Faust?'
Ivan mumbled an embarrassed excuse.
'There you are, it's not surprising! But, as I said before, I'm surprised at Berlioz. He's not only well read but extremely cunning. Although in his defence I must say that Woland is quite capable of throwing dust in the eyes of men who are even cleverer than Berlioz.'


I have read "The Master and Margarita" four or five times before, and this re-read was for the Motley Fool on-line book club.

Although the Moscow of this novel is a determinedly secular society, religion is still lurking under the surface, with Ivan using an icon as a talisman and other characters occasionally crossing themselves. Professor Woland and his fellow-demons cause trouble wherever they go, highlighting the hypocrisy and inadequacies of the Soviet system. The death of Berlioz after talking to Professor Woland at the park leads to chaos at Massolit (the society of writers whose management committee he chairs) , the housing committee of the building where Berlioz lived and the variety theatre where his flat-mate worked, and drives several people over the edge and into the local psychiatric hospital.

Woland and his demonic minions work on the vanity and greed of the Muscovites, tempting the women attending the variety show with the latest fashions from Paris, before showering the audience with roubles that later turned into scraps of paper, or what is even worse, into illegal foreign currency. Margarita is my least favourite character, embracing evil without a backward glance, and in my opinion getting an entirely undeserved happy ending.

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June 2012

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