I’ve not been doing well with reading, recently. Mired in a Soviet monolith of an epic, I’ve been trying to sneak in a few nostalgic comfort-reads and the like, but even that hasn’t been entirely successful (the penultimate Discworld novel, in particular, is easy to read, yet also disheartening). So I turned once more to Simon Green’s Hawk and Fisher novels – I haven’t read this particular one before, but they’re the kind of thing you know is going to be unchallenging and mildly entertaining. I had a little while before I needed to sleep, this being a weekend, and so I thought I’d make a start on Wolf in the Fold.
Later, at an ungodly hour of the morning, I realised I’d accidentally read the entire novel in one sitting. True, it’s under 200 pages so it barely counts as a novel, but still – I haven’t done that in a while. Turns out, Wolf in the Fold is actually… well, kind of good.
This review is one of (presumably) the final parts of my complete Discworld re-read project.
And so, it has come to this.
When I first started this re-read project, people warned me: Raising Steam (one of a handful of Discworld books I had not yet read) is not very good. Throughout the project, I’ve been wondering: what does that mean? How bad is not good? Can it really be so much worse than, say, Unseen Academicals?
Yes. It can be, and it is.
I have always said: there’s no such thing as a bad Discworld novel. There are brilliant ones, good ones, and merely adequate ones. But none are ever outright bad.
I was wrong.
Note to self: don’t let three months go by before before reviewing a book!
Further note to self: wait, what? OK, I have excuses for April, but did we even HAVE a March this year!?
When I was a child, in secondary school, the words “Carnegie Medal” did not fill me or my friends with excitement. The venerable prize for children’s fiction was for us more like a warning sign on a book’s front cover – it generally indicated that the novel that bore it in its blurb was going to be respectable, improving, and age-appropriate. Which is to say: it would have content appropriate for children ten years younger than us, written in a dour, worthy style that appealed to the quintagenarian grey-cardigan-waring English teachers who awarded it. It was not the absolute kiss of death for a novel – Terry Pratchett somehow won it one year – but it signified that a book should be approached with caution. Worst of all, it made a novel eligible to be one of the despised set texts that we would be cruelly forced to, in the loosest possible application of the term, “study”.
Nonetheless, the honour role of the Carnegie (first awarded 1936) is bristling with “classics” of children’s fiction, whether tedious or enchanting. Arthur Ransome won the first for Pigeon Post, and subsequent winners have included Mary Norton’s The Borrowers (1952), Philippa Pearce’s Tom’s Midnight Garden (1958), Alan Garner’s The Owl Service (1967), Richard Adams’ Watership Down (1972), Gilian Cross’ Wolf (1990), Philip Pullman’s Northern Lights (1995), David Almond’s Skellig (1998), Terry Pratchett’s The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents (2001), Jennifer Donelly’s A Gathering Light (2003), Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book (2010), and Patrick Ness’ A Monster Calls (2013)… and 1977’s winner, The Turbulent Term of Tyke Tiler, written by Gene Kemp.
A friendly warning: this isn’t a brief post. It goes on for quite some time… sorry about that.
Fulke Greville, 1st Baron Brooke, lived from 1554 to his murder in 1628. He was therefore an approximate contemporary of Shakespeare (1564-1616), Marlowe (1564-1593), Jonson (1572-1637), Donne (1572-1631), Sidney (1554-1586), Spenser (1552-1599), Chapman (1559-1634), and half a dozen other giants of English poetry and letters.
Greville is, probably deservedly, rather less known than any of these. To be honest, until recently, I’d never heard of him. And yet, when some time ago I was making my way through an anthology of English verse, it was Greville who, amid this stellar era, caught my attention: not because of any obvious genius, but in a way because of the exact opposite – amid the easy rhymes and conventional attractiveness of the many flowers of late Elizabethan poetry, Greville sticks out like a thorn bush.
So, I’m back with Sluggy Freelance, for what will be, for the present, my penultimate review. If you’re unfamiliar with Sluggy – the sprawling gag-a-day/sitcom/adventure/drama/horror/thriller webcomic now in its 21st year – my previous review sketches out the basic concept of the comic, so there’s no point me repeating myself, and I’ll just press on…
Sluggy Freelance – a sprawling epic that has kept its devotees hooked since the 1990s. One of the most venerable webcomics, Pete Abrams’ Sluggy began more than twenty years ago, with newspaper-style, three-panel, gag-a-day (not very good) strips, and developed to become, without exaggeration, one of the most complex, varied, surprising and ingenious narratives I’ve ever encountered.
I was distracted from writing this review at the time I actually read the book, so this will be brief…
When I was young, some of my favourite books were by Enid Blyton. Oh sure, my favourite book was The Lord of the Rings. But aside from that, Enid Blyton was high on the list. I never read Noddy; I think I only ever read one Secret Seven. And most shockingly, I never read any Famous Five at all (though I did once have a very complicated sort of choose-your-own-adventure Famous Five kit with dice and special apparatus).
What I read, and what I adored, were her eight Adventure novels, starting with this, The Island of Adventure.