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So... what are you reading right now?


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Just started The Scarlet Letter, I've heard bad things. I'll let you know.

It's a very interesting look at guilt, sin, human nature, and hypocrisy. Is it an adventure story? No. However, the tension between the various characters is quite well done. It's one of those books that you appreciate later on after gaining more life experience.


@ChAiNz--you need to check out the Captain Underpants series. With titles like 'Captain Underpants and the Perilous Plot of Professor Poopypants', you can't lose. :xp:

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I went to the local bookstore today on one of those occasional book splurges. Picked up a pretty diverse collection of books, including The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand, a book on American President Andrew Jackson, called American Lion, Dexter Filkins' The Forever War, about the war in Iraq, and The Secret Agent by Joseph Conrad.


With so many of them, it's a trouble deciding which to pick up first!

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I finally finished Lawrence Miles' last novel, This Town Will Never Let Us Go, last week, and it's taken from then till now to let it settle in my mind. The first of the independent Faction Paradox range (aside from the encyclopedia-styled The Book of the War), the book is a pretty small-scale drama, centering, for much of the book, around thre different plot strands, which are then deftly tied together in the final eighth or so of the book.


It's set in 'the Town' - a dreary, fairly mediocre sort of place in an unspecified part of England - in the middle of a single night. The War in Heaven (between The Great Houses who definitely aren't the Time Lords, and the Enemy) continues over a confused world, which attempt to continue as normal amidst seemingly-random missile attacks.


The first thing about this book is that, despite a fair amount of activity, it feels grindingly slow - it's only about 280-odd pages, but those pages are huge. It's divided into 6 chapters (numbered 0-5), each of which consists of 59 sections (like minutes, see?).


The second thing to notice about the book is that it is utterly bleak. Certainly, the "villain" is 'defeated' at the 'end', but it's not so much a "dark" world, as a hopeless one.


'Gritty', 'grim', 'dark', 'mature'; the favoured epithets of the gaming industry could so easily be misapplied here. None of them really fit, particularly not after having been recycled into grey mundanity by overuse in sales hype.


You won't find trite agonising about emotions here, nor a poorly-disguised good-vs-evil with extra granny-beating thrown in. The conflict, in truth, is a moral mess; not good-vs-evil as much postmodern. And indeed, Miles can genuinely use postmodernism, rather than flirting with it via attempts at 'wackiness' as a lot of authors seem to end up doing.


Miles plays with concepts like the media, videotape, war, culture, ritual, magic, and reality throughout, and the general manipulation of each of these is quite effective, and, particularly if you haven't seen his prior work before, somewhat mind-boggling. That said, though, specific things ring false throughout.


His attempt to spread fear of videotapes just falls flat, I felt (sorry, never thought they looked much like insects, and never felt anything irrational about a load of them); similarly, and it's a small but carefully-placed annoyance, his commentary one on character's background Catholicism is trite, simplistic and I felt rather false, displaying a poverty of knowledge on the subject, and a rather patronising attitude.


The narrator's constant cajoling, questioning, pushing, lecturing, too, becomes thoroughly wearing after a while, most notably at those points where it seems to have little to say, and it gets to the point where finishing the book becomes the stuff of dogged determination, despite the intriguing story. It's almost as though the wearied depression of the world in the book is transmitted to the reader.


It's a pity, because (barring the aforementioned point about Catholicism), the characters are well-drawn, the commentary on media and the use of these ideas interesting, the critique of relativism insightful and the plot well tied-together.


Miles also gets bonus points for, in the first novel of the series, not going for big space battles with bug-eyed, five-hundred-foot slugs, and also for almost completely managing to exclude members of the Faction, House agents, or the Enemy. Oh, and for putting George Orwell on the Muppets on the first page.


Now I'm back to A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, which I abandoned temporarily for, frankly, more interesting and easier reading. Wittering about Clongowes (the Irish private school in its day) has shifted to wittering about Parnell (leader of the Irish Parliamentary Party, brought down by allegations of a long-term affair with another man's wife) and poverty, but I can see this book is never going to let up.


Other things I've added to my reading-pile which I hope to get to soon include The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole, the first gothic novel, originally attributed to 'Onuphrio Muralto' (trans. 'William Marshal') and published in 1764.


The Dunciad, Alexander Pope's satirical mock-epic berating the (perceived) increasing cultural banality in Britain of his time, and attacking in particular Colley Cibber, one-time Poet Laureate.


Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift - and if you haven't heard of this, you should be ashamed. :p


And finally, Warring States by Mags L. Halliday, which is another Faction Paradox novel - though one which is, mercifully, both looking to be much easier reading, and considerably shorter than This Town... by about a hundred pages.


Edit: It seems it's been longer than I thought since I'd posted in this thread, so I'll add a couple of the books I've eaten read in the intervening period to my list.


Interference by Lawrence Miles, is a two-volume (Shock Tactics and Hour of the Geek respectively) Doctor Who tie-in novel, of the "Eighth Doctor Adventures" range, published in August 1999.


This book is curiously more interesting at either end of reading it than it seemed in the middle. It drags in quite a few places, particularly in the first half of the first volume; the sections entitled 'What Happened On Earth' seeming unbearably drawn-out at times, really needing perhaps some cutting back in the middle from what often seems like rather unnecessary running around.


Things, luckily, pick up a bit in the second volume and overall I can say that I enjoyed it, if with reservations. It's not quite the 'amusing romp' that Alien Bodies was, although thinking about it, both do have a similar structure. Perhaps AB works better because it's condensed into three-hundred rather than six-hundred pages.


There are some wonderful concepts played around with in the book - the Remote, in particular, are a fantastic idea, I think, and their city is similarly beautifully conceived of. I also love the way in which Miles plays with several meanings for the word "interference" throughout the book. In all, a book I'd describe as being 'great' if not 'good'. If that makes sense.


Christmas On A Rational Planet - Miles' first novel, published in 1997 for the Virgin 'New Adventures' range and featuring the Seventh Doctor is... interesting. Set in Woodwicke, New York, in 1799, it's a rather surreal take on a question of religion, creativity, superstition and the 'irrational' against reason, rationality and science.


It's not nearly as polished as his later books, and certainly openly flawed. Miles seems to nail his humanism to the mast, and his historical perspectives somewhat too openly after he tried the puzzle-box approach to plotting. It's like a sudden juxtaposition of Chesterton and CS Lewis, almost. It's not quite... there. The ideas are fun, but it hasn't quite got the mixture right.


Overall, his answer to the questions he poses in this first novel are deeply unsatisfactory, too, while his point shifts and wavers from one moment to another; the book also seemingly takes forever to get going, and overall, this is an overplotted curé's egg: good in parts.

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