42 Word Reviews

Broken Angels

Broken Angels by Richard Morgan (Victor Gollancz, 2003); audiobook read by Todd McLaren (Tantor, 2015) Reprising antihero Takeshi Kovacs, Morgan expands upon his racially diverse though otherwise cynical SF future beyond cyberpunk. More world-building than story, Broken Angels suffers from awkwardly explicit sex scenes and—in audiobook form—from McLaren’s faux-jaded characterisation of Kovacs and jarring mispronunciations.    

Quentin Blake: In the Theatre of the Imagination

Quentin Blake: In the Theatre of the Imagination – An Artist at Work by Ghislaine Kenyon (Bloomsbury, 2016) Quentin Blake’s art is distinctive and greatly beloved. Kenyon’s analysis-cum-tribute focusses on how Blake’s personality—his Francophilia and appreciation of literature; his positive outlook and playful, empathic eye for other people’s experiences; his quiet attentiveness and generous spirit—manifests in his work.    

The Salmon of Doubt

The Salmon of Doubt by Douglas Adams (William Heinemann, 2002); audiobook read by Simon Jones (Phoenix, 2005) A patchy, posthumous collection of Adams writings (predominantly non-fiction) exemplifying his off-beat, self-indulgent style, his knack for pinning down human absurdities, and his incurable technophilia and recycling of ideas and anecdotes. Most tantalising for fans is the nascent unfinished Dirk Gently novel(la).  …

DCI Banks, Series 1

DCI Banks, Series 1 by Robert Murphy (ITV, 2010-2011) Banks himself is an odd mix of remorse, rage, and huffing (as in ‘I’m having a stroke’) apoplexy. Each investigation is pitched quite nicely, though, playing out across two 45-minute episodes – long enough to provide substance but not embarrassing itself with herrings.    

Twice Magic

Twice Magic by Cressida Cowell (Hodder, 2018); audiobook read by David Tennant (Hachette Audio, 2018) Although the world is fantabulous and 13-year-old protagonists Xar and Wish are full of zest, this second instalment of Cowell’s wizards and warriors series reads as if emoting the climax, not merely the early unfolding, of their great adventure. Fun but overdone.    

The Wee Free Men

The Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett (Doubleday, 2003); audiobook read by Stephen Briggs (Isis, 2003) Behind all the humour, Pratchett sneaks in the quite moving story of a nine-year-old girl coping with loss. Tiffany Aching is a protagonist to watch out for, while Granny Aching is one of the finest characters ever to appear only in memory.    

Fox Forever

Fox Forever by Mary E. Pearson (Henry Holt, 2013); audiobook read by Matthew Brown (Macmillan Audio, 2013) The end of a trilogy but effectively standalone, save for some initial disorientation and an extended denouement. Pearson sets a (self-absorbed, surprisingly effective) teen romance amidst the standard social SF. Her writing is straightforward but given extra emotional pull by Brown’s reading.  …

Ripper Hunter

Ripper Hunter: Abberline and the Whitechapel Murders by M.J. Trow (Pen and Sword, 2012); audiobook read by Terry Wale (Soundings, 2013) An ambitious attempt to biographize Inspector Frederick Abberline – a prominent figure in Jack the Ripper fiction but about whom, factually, very little is known. In telling the (quite interesting) history of Abberline’s times, Trow contextualises and thence mostly…