Review: The Bookman

The Bookman
The Bookman by Lavie Tidhar

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Fun, entertaining, and delightfully madcap. A bunch of hanging plot ends that I hope will be tied tighter in the sequel, but for the most part it’s a delightful mashing together of famous and not-so-famous Victorian figures– some historical, some literary– with wild-eyed Vernian and Wellsian narratives, ye grand old space oprey, general pyrotechnic madness.

Just bloody good fun, is what it is.

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AWARDS 2: BATTERSBY 0

A busy weekend for the rest of the Australian SF community this last weekend, with Conflux 9, the Australian National SF Convention, being held in Canberra. Sadly, Olympic-level skintness kept us from attending, which was a pity, because my one Conflux, back in 2006, ranks as my favourite convention experience (barring the Swancon at which I married Luscious, naturally. Yep, for those of you who don’t know, I married my wife at an SF Convention. Some might call it geeky. Some might call it realising that everyone we would have invited to the wedding were already going to be gathered in one place anyway…). Marc Gascoigne, Angry Robot head honcho, was Guest of Honour, and it would have been great to catch up with him the flesh for what would likely have been the only time ever. Ah, well.

The Australian SF ‘Ditmar’ Awards were announced at the Con, and The Corpse-Rat King was beaten to the Best Novel gong by Margo Lanagan’s Sea Hearts. There’s no shame in that: Lanagan is an immensely popular, multi-award winning author, and Sea Hearts has already collected a  swag of award nominations and wins. After losing out to Kirstyn McDermott in the recently-announced Australian Shadows Award, it makes me 0 for 2 in short lists this year. I’m disappointed– if you’re on a shortlist you want to win the thing– but not hardly surprised.

All of which means it’s time to get off my lazy arse– I’ll admit, I’ve been the very personification of slackness this last couple of weeks, as day job stress and general mehness overwhelmed me– and get back to finishing the works in progress. Father Muerte & The Divine is ready to line edit, I’m waiting to hear if Agent Rich can place Naraveen’s Land before I launch myself towards finishing the edits on it, and Magwitch and Bugrat, the children’s novel I started at the behest of Luscious and the kids, is 3/4 complete and needs to be rounded off.

As a way of finding the time, we set the alarm a half hour earlier this morning, rose in the dark, and I managed to shoot out 500 words before having to get ready for work. This will be the pattern from here on in. It’s nice to be nominated for awards, and sickening to watch a procession of everybody else get them all. work is the only cure.

So here’s a little extract from the first draft of Magwitch and Bugrat as a little literary sourdough starter:

              Bugrat found his own voice as he grew, and used it to ask questions, “What is this?” and “What’s that called?” and “What is this for?” and “Why?” and “Why?” and “why?” over and over again. Magwitch had never taught anybody before. She didn’t know how to make someone sit and listen and believe that she was the only one who knew the real truth about things. So she listened to Bugrat as much as he listened to her, and because he was allowed to do some of the talking, their little world slowly changed to fit his view of it, as much as it had once changed to fit her.
            “Why are they called headstones?” he asked, pointing to the slabs of stone that lay face down amongst the grass. And because she didn’t know, and because neither of them really believed that “Because they are,” was a real answer, headstones became jumpstones, because jumping from stone to stone was what Magwitch and Bugrat used them for.
            “What are they?” he asked of the stars that flickered uncertainly beyond the edges of the surrounding roofs when they night sky cleared and the smog went to bed. And Magwitch would tell him her dreams of windows in the sky, and the blackness around them where little boys and girls could play safely with no walls to hold them in, and never have to worry about anybody looking out.
            “What are these for?” he would wonder, while he stretched out to try and touch the cold, unfriendly glass of the windows around them, and Magwitch would pull on his arm until her greater weight slowly dragged him away, back into the safety of the brambles and the deep, comfortable shadows.

            “You must never touch them,” she warned him. “never, ever, ever.” “Why?” he would ask, and “Why?” and “Why?” but Magwitch would not answer.