peteg's blog

John Brunner: The Astronauts Must Not Land.

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Kindle. More thin Brunner, with a very thin conceit stretched very thin over some druggy imaginings of alien physiologies. He made bank on his word count here with a lot of repetition at the macro level; the first-person sentences seem finer than usual, which is a bit of a waste. The spirit is (once again) Arthur C. Clarke's Childhood's End alloyed with some South American exoticism / essentialism. It ends in a damp squib. As idealisation is what I do (poorly), I don't think there's a lot to philosophise about: it's entirely instrumental.

John Brunner: The Wrong End of Time.

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Kindle. Another thin Brunner. It's basically a reworking of 2001 where instead of going to Jupiter or Saturn the characters go from one invented U.S. city to the Canadian border. There's the usual sociological preoccupations, and he's quite happy to take the U.S.S.R.'s side of the argument back in the day. It's difficult to see how he made bank with this sort of derivative crap. I similarly can't believe that anyone would spill so many words on it.

John Brunner: The World Swappers.

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Kindle. And yet still more thin Brunner. This one was briskly written with some motivations too opaque at times to grasp. Matter transmission! called the transfax of course. Oh my. A secret society (read Second Foundation) tries to broker peace with an immature alien society. As is often the case the scifi dressing is completely auxiliary; his main interest is on the sociology, and these days he'd probably be writing historical fiction.

John Brunner: The Day of the Star Cities (aka Age of Miracles).

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Kindle. And yet more thin Brunner, proving that I am now impervious to learning. This time around some aliens install transit lounges on Earth and blow up all the nukes. With that as a premise it logically follows that Max Max is beyond Thunderdome, the mice-men are cowed but the rat-men are dreaming of the stars, and the Russkies invade. Yes that's right, the nukes were keeping the peace. The opening police procedural is a bit misleading; this is not a noir. As usual in this space the meek have superpowers, or in this case, a valuable lack of cognition. The centres themselves are psychedelic trippy trip machines, just like Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Do speak up if you’ve seen any of this before.

Juan Cárdenas: Ornamental.

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Kindle. A pointer from Nathan Scott McNamara in the New York Times. A first-person Colombian drug chemist refines a substance from a flower that makes the ladies go wow; shades of State of Wonder? Realising that baldly stating this premise is not going to carry a book, we also get psychedelic prose, love triangles, and some very weak commentary on what I take to be Continental philosophy. Overall, an exercise in style mining overly familiar tropes and not for me.

Suspicion

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A jag via Roger Ebert's review of Rosemary's Baby. Hitchcock, Cary Grant, Joan Fontaine. Thin gruel I feel: a playboy marries an upright/uptight/unworldly sprog of a General. He continues to be a playboy, as much as he can in black-and-white 1941. I often couldn't tell if the penny was dropping for Fontaine or she was foxing Grant. In the end it didn't matter much at all.

Bosley Crowther at the time.

First Cow

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On the Oregon Trail with director Kelly Reichardt and leads John Magaro and Orion Lee, the latter of whom we meet naked in the style of The Terminator. These guys form a complementary entrepreneurial pairing in this bucolic setting, and attempt to build their fortune on donuts. The cow gets her time in the frame but has less agency than I'd hoped: all blame attaches to the cat. It's slow and sometimes finds its mark; there's a touch of Dead Man in the foreshadowing, the aimlessness, the musical interludes, the canoe on the river. Also Ewen Bremner and Toby Jones.

A. O. Scott watched it so you don't have to.

John Brunner: Entry to Elsewhen.

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Kindle. More even shorter Brunner; I still haven't learnt. The drugs and conceits run thin here. I did enjoy the concluding No Other Gods But Me a bit, as a riff on Scientology perhaps, up to the butchered ending which was unusually poorly written. The first Host Age is a topical pandemic thing with a busted epistemology (we'll know how to travel in time but we'll forget most of medicine), and the second Lungfish is millennial discontent at being ejected from all they know. Not the worst of his I've read recently.

John Brunner: To Conquer Chaos.

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Kindle. More thin Brunner. You'd think I'd learn. Near as I can tell this is a mild yet wordy variant of Planet of the Apes: an artificial biological sapient goes insane and the humans regress technologically. There's little to redeem it as it goes nowhere for far too long. Brunner calls time on this fiasco before resolving many loose ends; for instance the girl does not get the boy, and the green stuff remains purely a plot device.

John Brunner: The Repairmen of Cyclops.

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Kindle. The last of what he must've hoped would be a much longer series. This is Soylent green refracted through the horror of involuntary parting out of bodies. There's a touch of USA-style coca-colonisation and the United Nation's smurfs. I just wish his characters weren't right all the time.

Ghostbusters II

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With Jacob and his kids. Bill Murray reels off some great face gags and lines. It's been a while since they've made a movie this silly and fun.

John Brunner: The Avengers of Carrig.

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Kindle. Goodreads told me that this was part of a series, somewhat related to the last one I read. It's mostly fantasy, a dragons-and-damsels sort of thing, and thin Brunner at its worst. A few twists (and not the paltry revelatory style) may have made it worth reading.

John Brunner: Polymath (aka Castaways' World).

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Kindle. More thin Brunner. Goodreads reckons this is more chop than the last one, and they're right. Here we're served a North Korea/South Korea setup (making me wonder if there's a plateau and a river there) that underpins a pioneering/disaster recovery superman plot. Brunner (as always) is more interested in social commentary than the scifi; the resource limitations he imposes are more for the sake of the story than plausible. For instance a star going supernova is surely not a matter of hours.

John Brunner: The Rites of Ohe.

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Kindle. More thin Brunner, and more mediocre. At best this is some thin criticism of staid cultures (Britain) and the futility of finding solutions in ancient, "god-obsessed", death-culture India (Buddhism). While there may be something in that the superficiality here grates. In other ways the converse of Asimov's Second Foundation, a failure to launch in spite of promise, is championed. The repetition does not improve things, and clearly Brunner was struggling to make bank.

Stan Parish: Love and Theft.

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Kindle. Sold by Adam Sternbergh's review in the New York Times. I don't usually read thrillers, and having finished I'd say this is solidly in the Oceans territory, including a femme crossover, where all women are beautiful and available and willing, and all men are handsome-ish and carry an MMA undertow. The writing is fine for these purposes, though he could have left out the common exotic (the finance son predictably, inevitably hooks up with the party DJ daughter) and the Spanish dialogue that adds little. We spend perhaps 80% of the story waiting for a production. The ultimate twists are disappointingly transparent. Locations are chosen seemingly at random. It did pass the time. Michael Mann to direct the movie, or maybe he already mostly did.

/noise/beach/2020-2021 | Link

On Jacob and Barb's advice I aimed for Diggers Beach and missed; I slavishly followed the directions of Google Maps which took me instead to Charlesworth Bay Beach. It's a beaut spot. The water was roughly 20C and the air perhaps 23C, sunny and warm with a light swell. The rocks are mostly obvious but there were some non obvious shin scrapers. I dried out on the sand after, then did a bit of work in the back of the troopy.

The Tenant

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A Polanski jag from Rosemary's Baby. It's a series of vignettes about poor neighbourly behavior in Paris, with some cheap and impenetrable psychological and occult twists. Polanski directs and leads, but to nowhere. Can't say I really got into it. Digging further into IMDB, I hadn't realised that Polanski had been directing for so long before this.

Roger Ebert was very unimpressed at the time. Vincent Canby. There does seem to be an excess of dubbing.

John Brunner: The Infinitive of Go.

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Kindle. With thin Brunner there's always the risk that the conceit or the drugs will wear out before he's made bank on the word count. This one is a discursive and partially successful take on the multiverse, larded with some crass social commentary. The spirit is Arthur C. Clarke's Childhood's End despoiled by 1970s disillusionment. It's a bit disjointed, with too many words spilt on more-or-less the same things.

/noise/beach/2020-2021 | Link

Swum at Chinaman's Beach on the edge of Jervis Bay around 10.30am, after walking up to Greenfields Beach which wasn't as appetising. It wasn't warm but also wasn't too bad; I'd believe it was 19C in and a bit more out. Some young couples had a go on some paddle boards. Afterwards I had lunch at the public BBQ at Hymans Beach, right after the bloke cleaned them.

Amir Ahmadi Arian: Then the Fish Swallowed Him.

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Kindle. Incarceration literature. A pointer from Farah Abdessamad at the Asian Review of Books. It's well written but adds nothing to a genre already strip mined by the inimitable likes of 1984; George Orwell's contribution was to show not just what can happen in a state with a totalitarian bent but why, and what its objectives might be. This one has the fist shaking and mental disintegration but no analysis. When the inevitable "confession" scene comes around I was dearly hoping that he'd pull a Gone Girl and reveal our narrator to be unreliable. Unfortunately it's played straight throughout.

I realise now that I have never got a good steer from the Asian Review of Books. Dina Nayeri at the New York Times clearly doesn't read a newspaper regularly, where the "acute observations" made here are made daily. Also it was pumped by "mentor" Carol Joyce Oates.