Monthly Archives: September 2018

Death on the Edge

It was lovely to be offered a short story by Sara Paretsky last week, as we wait impatiently for her new novel Shell Game which will be out in four weeks’ time.

Death on the Edge features V I Warshawski back in her childhood neighbourhood, sorting out a fatal dispute with a school background, under the critical eye of her former boyfriend Conrad.

It’s a story that has all that you expect of a V I story, except that it is shorter.

Aimed at the American market (or did the rest of us just get forgotten?) it’s not entirely easy to buy this short e-story. But I set the Resident IT Consultant to work, and after masquerading as his younger brother for ten minutes, the story was in my possession.

Sara Paretsky, Death on the Edge

Advertisements

George and the Ship of Time

The sixth and last book about George, and I’d been on tenterhooks ever since Lucy Hawking had him jump aboard a spacecraft heading into outer space at the end of the fifth book. It’s a good cliffhanger, but I was sure George would soon be back on Earth again, among his friends.

I was right. Sort of.

George and Boltzmann, the robot, return to Earth after first having failed to turn the ship around. But it’s not exactly the place they left; it’s hot, dusty and deserted. But Boltzmann assures him they are ‘in Foxbridge’ where George lives. Lived.

Lucy Hawking, George and the Ship of Time

After a slow start, where I kept expecting things to become clear and a bit more normal, this story turns into a fully fledged time travel dystopia. Where the earlier books have featured criticism of aspects of modern life and the way science and the environment are ignored by the government, this is much more serious.

The duo do meet up with humans, and other creatures, odd robots, but they live in the future. George is seen as strange, if not downright dangerous. They’re in Eden, which is paradise. In a way, at least.

There is much that is dysfunctional in this place, ruled over by a tangerine coloured man by the name of Trellis Dump. The second Trellis Dump. I’ll leave you to interpret that as you see fit.

The reader keeps thinking that this can’t really have happened. If this is the future, then George’s family and friends must be dead. But if this Dump era can be reversed, then the people alive now would cease to exist. It’s quite a conundrum, and I won’t tell you how it ends.

I would like to think that those who read this book will have, or adopt, sensible opinions regarding war and destructive weapons, and climate change, and possibly even oddly coloured politicians.

The really shocking aspect about all this is how long the war lasted.

(As always, illustrated by Garry Parsons, and at the back of the book there are scientific papers aimed at its young audience. But I missed one by Stephen, as he used to sign off.)

The Thin Blue Line

Or Den tunna blå linjen, as it is in the original. This is Christoffer Carlsson’s fourth and final book featuring Leo Junker, and like many reviewers have pointed out, it has a rather good last line. But I’ll let you get to that on your own.

Christoffer Carlsson, Den tunna blå linjen

It worked quite well, reading this now, with me having skipped books two and three. I got to know Leo in the first book, and now I was able to catch up with where he’d got to, guessing a few things, about colleagues and lovers. There was enough to tell me what had happened to his school friend Grim, on the other side of the law.

Grim reminds Leo about the young Chilean girl they met years ago, and who was murdered five years before this story takes place, and asks, no, demands, that Leo looks into her unsolved death again. And this really opens a hornet’s nest.

This time Leo isn’t half drugged all the time, so he functions a little better. He’s also been reinstated as a policeman (although, for how long?) so can do what detectives need to do when they detect. Though at times it appears as if Swedish law makes it hard for the police but easy for the criminals. So it’s fair…

Stockholm is as unappealing as it was; the suburbs, but also the supposedly nicer places in the city centre. In the police you have crooked people and stupid people, as well as the hard-working middle ground people, trying to keep the place safe.

I couldn’t help but feel bad about the fate of the Chilean refugees/immigrants, who must have arrived with great hopes, only to end up dead, or very nearly.

Christoffer’s knowledge of criminology is what makes the plot so believable. It’s different to many other crime series where you suspect that the author just made stuff up. This really does feel like the inner workings of the police force, where the law in its eagerness to protect everyone, makes it impossible to corner criminals in a way that they can be tried in court and jailed.

There is also remarkably little violence. It’s the lack of hope that gets to you.

Rosier today

Don’t worry. I can think happy thoughts as well. I didn’t want to leave you all weekend with a cursed non-event.

Roses

The Resident IT Consultant regularly tries to kill these roses.* I’m guessing that’s why they flourish.

*On my orders, so don’t blame him.

At least I got a walk

Can I just ask? Does this look like an event?

Event at Waterstones?

Does it look like an event where there would be no technical difficulties in letting intending audiences know that it’s been cancelled?

I hate Eventbrite. But I have believed that one of its advantages is that everyone who signed up for an event would be easily contactable in case they have some news.

Instead, the only place I eventually discovered that my event at Waterstones in Stirling last night had been cancelled, was on Twitter. It’s not the kind of place I head to, to check my event hasn’t been cancelled, before I head to the event. I suppose I should. I can’t see why, though. I don’t even have to be on Twitter to have booked the event. That was all on Waterstones website, and Eventbrite.

Waterstones non-event

But as I said, I got a walk out of it. It didn’t rain. And it helped me think about the future.

The Bear, the Piano, the Dog and the Fiddle

You remember the piano-playing Bear? The Bear who couldn’t help but play the piano, and who became incredibly famous and successful?

He’s still big – he’s a bear, after all – and possibly taking so much of the attention that other musicians hang up their instruments. It’s what happens to Hector, a fiddle player, who’s never seen without his friend, Hugo the Dog. They go home, and Hector not only doesn’t play any more, but mopes. And sleeps. And with Hector’s back turned, Hugo starts taking an interest in the abandoned fiddle.

Hugo might be just a Dog, but he can play. And then he’s recruited by Bear, to join Bear’s Big Band.

As in many friendships, words are said, and Hector and Hugo part.

But because this is a children’s picture book, it’s not hard to work out what must happen. Tears everywhere.

David Litchfield, The Bear, the Piano, the Dog and the Fiddle

The illustrations in David Litchfield’s book are so gorgeous and so grown-up – by which I mean they appeal to adults – that you just have to love this book. For me it’s another instance of wanting to tear the pictures from the book and frame them.

Sven Wernström

Sven Wernström died last week, a few days before the Swedish elections, and on the day the Swedish Academy finally got together again to try and make things better.

I knew I’d blogged about Sven before, but had to do a search to see when and what about. On here I wrote about losing hope. That was a couple of days after the referendum which plunged us into more despair than I could imagine on that day. And we still had the US presidential election to come. Little did we know.

Checking Swedish Bookwitch I found more posts; interestingly both posted on the same date, a few years apart. One was an almost regular thing on some of Sven’s books. The other was about discovering his blog, where he sought solace after his wife of almost seventy years had died.

He lived another five years, making it to 93, which is good going. Checking his blog just now, I found Sven had not written for a while, and all his last posts were about death. So maybe he’d been diagnosed with something and had been ill since. Or he was ‘just’ feeling low.

Sven was a dedicated communist, and wrote books for children and teens in what can be said to be fairly red terms. That’s why the Retired Children’s Librarian didn’t care for most of his writing. When I read about his death, there were others who felt the same way, but also some who praised his books for what they’d meant to them. So, as with the elections last Sunday, we are all divided and all different. Which is how it should be.

I’m guessing that those of us who loved his books, might have done so because at a young age you are less into literary merit, or the lack of. I’m also going to assume that those who still dislike his books, are of a different political persuasion. As for me, I don’t reckon I will reread the books I still own. I’m not sure I would be able to see which of the opinions is more right than the other, and I don’t want to lose my memories of what once seemed great.

And perhaps by today it is good that Sven has been reunited with his Inga. I hope so.

Sven Wernström in screencap from Dagens Nyheter

(Dagens Nyheter articles are behind a paywall…)