December 05

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104 in 2014 : November

I’m crossing the finish line of the challenge with a month to spare? Weird, I wonder what our reading challenge will be for next year?  Time to talk to the other coaster conductors and see what’s coming up the tracks.

100: FF : Family Freakout

The final volume in the FF series, which is basically the Fantastic Four series without the actual Fantastic Four. The main characters a group of precocious children who want to be superheroes, or villains. That’s a great deal of fun, and I enjoy the booked, but it’s probably better to start with the previous volume. FF: Faux Four.

101: The Flash, Volume 1: The Dastardly Death of the Rogues

So, people familiar with the Flash series know that one of his villains is an evil Flash from the far future. In this book, the writers stretch that to the point of absurdity. A police force from the far future comes to the modern era, to arrest the heroic Flash for a murder they believe he is about to commit. Now, that’s great: there’s a lot of philosophical fun to be had on if you’d be morally justified intervening in this way. Douglas Adams did some writing on it as I recall… Then it all falls apart.

The future police have the powers and code-names of modern Flash’s villains. When they arrive, the modern Flash’s Rogues fight their future variants. It is profoundly unclear why the future police have chosen their codenames based on 21st Century murderers. It is also unclear why the 21st Century villains can hold their own against people with far future technology including time travel (which gives you limitless prep time). The story ends on a teaser which no longer matters following the reboot in new 52.  Hard to recommend.

Criminal Manchester cover102: Criminal Manchester : Experiences of a Special Correspondent

This is an excellent little booklet. A 19th Century newspaper magnate grabbed a man who had just come out of prison and said “Wander around the seedy part of town. Tell us what you see. Shock the middle class.” Well, I imagine that’s what he said. It’s a brilliant little slice of social history in the Mayhew mould. Recommended for people interested in the period, and in true crime stories.

I listened to the Librivox version, but Internet Archive has it as an ebook.

103: The Present Picture of New South Wales by D.D. Mann

David Mann was shipped to Australia for forgery in 1799, worked his sentence, and entered the civil service in the young colony. This book was published when he returned to England in 1811. It is dedicated to Governor Hunter, so its bias is overt in the cheerful way of Victorian-era sycophancy.

Parts of the book are dry reading. The lengthy lists of how man of each animal the colony has, for example, are a trial to get through. I found the material about the  availability and prices of the various foodstuff interesting because I’m into culinary history (we used to be big on purslane, people…). The later sections are made up of recommendations for administrative reform, which forces the author into a fine balancing act, since he does not want to criticise the Governor.

Recommended for people interested in the history of early Sydney.

I listened to the Librivox version, but Internet Archive has it as an ebook.

Sword of Welleran cover104: The Sword of Welleran and Other Tales by Lord Dunsany

This is a beautiful series of early fantasy stories, by a master of the genre. Actually, I’d go further, Dunsany’s work helped to define the genre. The Sword of Welleran seems like sword and sandal fantasy, but that’s because so many people have stolen and recycled his ideas. The plots are thin, but as an exercise in style, these are wonderful. I’d particularly recommend the eponymous short story and The Fortress Unvanquishable, Except for Sacnoth.

I’d recommend this to fans of the genre, who want to dig deep into its DNA. I listened to the Librivox version, but Internet Archive has it as an ebook.

105: 51 Tales by Lord Dunsany

This is an odd little book. It has tiny stories, arguably vignettes, that mass, undeveloped, in its pages. Many are excellent, some are weak, all are finished so quickly that unless you choose to linger they seem lost in the flow of stories. He cheats a little: many of the stories are effectively the same story. There’s a bleak humour that emerges from many of the stories. Recommended for people interested in early works of the weird.

I listened to the Librivox version, but Internet Archive has it as an ebook.