Read recently: an assortment of short critiques


I intend to post this kind of post from time to time, when it is more convinient to post a quick critical list rather than a long analytical port about one book. That will be probably more true when talking about novellas.

-- Margaret Atwood. The Heart Goes Last (Positron 4, Byliner). Atwood is always good and the overall story of the Positron serial novel is very strong and quite engaging. A couple decades from now, Stan and Charmaine have signed their lives over to Consilience, a company that runs the eponymous town and the Positron Prison. The couple spend one month together in town in a house provided by the company and every other month in Positron, working in its various factories. Of course, all is not what it seams in Positron. The fact that it is a serial creates an anticipation that garanties that I will buy all the "episodes", because Atwood is doing a very good job driving the story; she is a master at this, after all. The story is also quite funny. This said, this fourth installment is the weakest so far, especially considering the intensity of the third installement, Erase Me, the best one so far. I want to care more for the two main characters, but at this point, I pity them more than anything. I want to learn more about the bad guys and the rebels but the couple are the only POV characters. The next installment takes place in Las Vegas, which will hopefully give us a better view of these future United States.

-- Élisabeth Vonarburg. La Musique du soleil (Alire). Cette anthologie suit la vogue d'auteurs qui revisitent des écrits plus anciens, publiés ou non, et qui en publient des versions dites "définitives". Vonarburg étant une grande auteure et une grande styliste, le fait que ces nouvelles ont été retravaillées les rend encore meilleures. J'en avais lu quelques unes dans leurs versions originales et je peux confirmées qu'elles sont toutes en effet plus précises, plus efficaces, plus béton. Pour moi, ce sont les introductions de la main de Vonarburg, mêlant biographie, anecdotes amusantes et observations sur son travail d'écrivaine, qui m'ont plu le plus.  Je suggérerais cette collection aux néophites de Vonarburg autant qu'à ses fans.

-- Neil Gaiman. Nothing O'Clock (Doctor Who Digital, Puffin). It's no surprise that Gaiman is excellent here, even if this novella is nothing more than a publicity piece for the 50th Anniversary celebration of the show, as were the other 10 novellas written by reknown British children's authors that were released, one per month, in 2013. Gaiman is the best known of the lot in Doctor Who circles, having penned the extraordinary episode The Doctor's Wife and the also good Nightmare in Silver. In Nothing O'Clock, the Tenth Doctor and Amy Pond arrive in Leadsworth to find that Earth has been legally bought by the Kin, a long-ago enemy of the Time Lords that escaped when the Doctor ended the Time War. The voices are spot on, the story is tight. A very good quick read.

-- Eoin Cofler. A Big Hand for the Doctor (Doctor Who Digital, Puffin). The First Doctor has lost his left had and is getting a replacement, adventure ensues. I have a soft spot for the First Doctor, the old curmudgeon, and his always somewhat off-key adventures. Cofler gets it right, even makes Susan three-dimensional. The foes are interesting and the dialogue is funny. I even read it in black and white.

-- Michael Scott. The Nameless City (Doctor Who Digital, Puffin). The Second Doctor encounters the Necronomicon (cliché) and fights an enemy of old (cliché). The Archons haunted the universe before the Time Lords cast them away (cliché. I cannot express how dissapointing this was. I know that the Second Doctor is a difficult one to write for, being so completely ridiculous as he is, but this short story (not even a novella) is simply weak. Polly dissapears after 20 pages or so, never to be seen again (not even in the epilogue), from which point the focus shifts between the Doctor and Ian. As is usual, Ian is written in a completely unbelievable way for a late 18th-century Scottsman, and becomes a pile of clichés that would not survive the scrutiny of even an incompetant historian. The rhythm is awkward and the style is sloppy. This is quite sad, considering that the setting and some of the descriptions are very catchy. Sadly, I cannot recommend it, even to the completist.

-- Marcus Segdwick. The Spear of Destiny (Doctor Who Digital, Puffin). In 1973, the Third Doctor, my favorite, and Jo Grant track down a PNT (Physical Temporal Nexus) that turns out to be both Gugnir, Odin's magical spear, and Hitler's infamous Spear of Destiny. They go back to the 6th century with the Time Lords' permission and adventure ensues. This short is a little slow to start, but picks up speed once they make their way to the past. The conceit is cliché, evidently, as is the main foe, but Segdwick's style and humour well make up for it.

Iminent storytelling and incipient shinies


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