Magical London – Gaiman, Stross and Aaronovitch

Finding a good new-to-me writer and series is always a delight and I’m celebrating my discovery of Aaronovitch and The Rivers of London by putting them in the context of some books I’ve known much longer.

Charles Stross: The Laundry Files

A mash-up of Fleming – Deighton – Le Carre spy novels and Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos? Why not? And some cubicle-life workplace humour for light relief? Sure. The result won’t be to everyone’s taste but some of us will find it to be great (gory, gruesome) fun.

Continue reading “Magical London – Gaiman, Stross and Aaronovitch”

Zen and the Art of Saving the Planet

Zen and the Art of Saving the Planet coverZen and the Art of Saving the Planet

Thich Nhat Hanh

Rider, 2021

Zen and the Art of Saving the Planet is a very worthwhile book with a couple of odd aspects.

The general reader is likely to read it exactly as it is presented, as a book by Thich Nhat Hanh (“Thay” to his many followers) with commentaries from one of his senior students. As such, it is wise, gentle and encouraging, like everything else of his that I know.

Continue reading “Zen and the Art of Saving the Planet”

Black Swan – a Koorie Woman’s Life

Black Swan coverBlack Swan – a Koorie Woman’s Life

Eileen Harrison and Carolyn Landon

Allen & Unwin, 2011

All reviews say more about the reviewer than they pretend to, but this one is far more personal and autobiographical than most.

Black Swan came to me as a review copy when it was first released, but the newspaper I freelanced for wasn’t interested so I set it aside for myself. It has been on my shelf ever since. In the aftermath of thinking again about Singing the Coast, its time has finally come: its parallels and contrasts with that book and with my own life made it particularly relevant to me this year.

Eileen Harrison was born into a large, close-knit family on the Aboriginal Mission at Lake Tyers on the Gippsland Lakes. She grew up there, attending the mission school while I was attending the state school in Leongatha, 250 km away. I went on to secondary school; she was not allowed to. Rather, she and her family were uprooted by a new government policy and sent to the Western District, far from extended family.

Continue reading “Black Swan – a Koorie Woman’s Life”

SF bookshelf

This is a collection of tiny reviews of science fiction and fantasy. They are books which I liked enough to recommend but haven’t reviewed at length (often because I couldn’t find time). The collection is structured like a blog, with the most recent additions at the top, and dates are the dates of my mini-reviews, not book publication. It began as a comment-string to an identically-titled post on Green Path which drifted away from its environmental theme and into general SF.

Here’s an index, now that it’s long enough to need one:
The ScarBabelThe Year of the JackpotChildren of MemoryFuturistic Violence and Fancy SuitsReconstructionThe Seven Moons of Maali AlmeidaThe AnomalyFlyawayFrom Here On, Monsters

The Scar

The Scar (2002) is set in the world of Perdido Street Station, China Mieville’s breakthrough second novel. It’s a completely separate story, however, set mostly on a floating city. It resists categorisation but I will call it epic steampunk with magical elements. Whatever it is, it’s very good. Iron Council, the third of Mieville’s novels set in the same world looks good, too


Babel (2022) by R.F. Kuang is an alternate-history novel presented as fantasy. The fact that the novel’s central characters meet and bond as first-year students of magic makes Oxford in the 1830s look like a grownup version of Hogwarts; so far, so generic. Never mind; the fantasy aspects will attract readers who wouldn’t pick up a straight historical novel and that’s all to the good.

Kuang’s main concern is anti-colonialism. Babel eviscerates the British Empire through the protagonists’ political awakening; and the subtitle, on its title page but not on its cover, articulates its mood. In full, it is Babel, or the Necessity of Violence.

Continue reading “SF bookshelf”

Singing the Coast: Masks, Mists, Mirrors, Maps

  • This is a reflection or meditation on Singing the Coast, rather than a review as such. It grew out of a short review I wrote for the Townsville Bulletin at the time of publication. I may have submitted it to an academic journal (I can’t even remember whether it got that far) but really, I wrote it for myself as a way of trying to make sense of a very strange piece of story-telling. I have posted it here on Words & Images because it connects with concerns about indigenous history and heritage in The European colonisation of Australia. A word of warning: it’s long.

Singing the Coast
Margaret Somerville and Tony Perkins
Aboriginal Studies Press, $34.95
May 2010

Singing the Coast attempts to preserve a specific Aboriginal vision and share it with white society. One of its two authors, Margaret Somerville, is Professor of Education at Melbourne’s Monash University, while the other, Tony Perkins, is identified as a ‘cultural knowledge holder and member of the Garbi Elders of Corindi Beach’. With the help of Tony’s fellow Elders, they present essential elements of Gumbaynggirr culture through stories passed down in aboriginal families on the coast between Nambucca Heads (NSW) and Yamba, stories which relate the patterns of their daily lives and weave them into the timeless presence of the country.

Continue reading “Singing the Coast: Masks, Mists, Mirrors, Maps”