I've finished The DaVinci Code, and have moved on to The Third Policeman by Brian O'Nolan, writing under the pseudonym Flann O'Brien. This came up during our discussion of The Invisibles, so I was happy to have free time during the holidays to get some uninterrupted reading done. I'm about a third of the way in, and it's a strange one.
Thanks, Baron. The movie apparently departs from the book considerably.
In the book nuclear war has resulted in a permanent super-storm a short way up in the atmosphere, so that flight has become impossible and debris often drops out of the sky. The creatures the characters see as they cross the US include giant bats, a giant spider, and a giant gila monster.
I've just finished Before Armageddon, a collection of Victorian and Edwardian SF stories edited by Michael Moorcock.
Aside from Moorcock's introduction, the contents are
G.T. Chesney The Battle of Dorking
Jules Verne Dr Trifulgas
George Griffith The Raid of the Le Vengeur
William Le Quex The Great War In England In 1897 (extract)
W.J. Wintle Life In Our New Century
E. Nesbit The Three Drugs
The most significant of the stories is probably Chesney's The Battle of Dorking, which describes a successful invasion of England, was intended as a warning, and reportedly made an impact. The Le Quex extract describes an unsuccessful invasion of England (by the Russians and French; Britain is aided by the Germans). It has a description of the shelling of London that I found fairly striking, but otherwise it's all descriptions of hard-fought engagements that the Empire troops ultimately win. The Griffith story has to do with a submarine warfare, with France again cast as a hostile power.
The Wintle piece is from 1901 and discusses what life in the new century will be like. It gets some things right and some things wrong: but the author is fundamentally right in his expectation that the century will see radical technological advances. The other two tales are "strange story" stories, and not unmissable.
Dang, LB, that sounds like a mighty interesting book!
You mean the second one? You could probably find some of the stories online. Other collections along the same lines that I know about, but haven't read, are the sequel collection, England Invaded, also edited by Moorcock; Beyond the Gaslight: Science in Popular Fiction 1895-1905 ed. Hilary and Dik Evans (with the original illustrations); and The Rivals of H.G. Wells, which I've coveted for thirty years (also with illustrations, I think). There are paperback editions of the Moorcock collections. The Evans one is a thin coffee-table hardback. Rivals is a thick hardback collection.
I also have out from a university library Victorian Science Fiction in the UK: the Discourses of Knowledge and of Power by Darko Suvin, which includes a bibliography of SF works published in the UK from 1848-1900.
I misquoted the title of the Griffith story. It's The Raid of Le Vengeur.
I've recently finished Jizzle, a collection of short stories by John Wyndham. Most of the stories are twisty fantasies. There is a strong streak of humour to the collection. A number of the stories have female protagonists, and most address male/female relationships in some way.
I've just finished Simon Black At Sea, by Ivan Southall. This is the last book from an Australian juvenile adventure series of the 50s/early 60s, set in the near future. This volume, the first I've read, concerns the test voyage of a new type of seacraft. I enjoyed it, but it is a juvenile novel.
I've re-read The Mystery of Dr. Fu-Manchu, for a Jeff-like reason - I mean to read a later book in the series, and didn't remember this one particularly well. It doesn't really work for me as a thriller. There's one bit where Fu-Manchu kills the policemen raiding his hideout by luring them into a tunnel filled with a deadly fungus, but most of the book doesn't show that level of imagination. (The opening sequence is modelled after "The Speckled Band", and a later sequence steals from a Father Brown story, so I suppose the fungus bit could be pinched too.) The book is packed with racist statements, and overtly presents Fu-Manchu as the incarnation of the Yellow Peril. I have this in the "Classic Thrillers" paperback edition with an amusing introduction by D.J. Enright.
This time around it struck me that the book has a similar feel for me to Agatha Christie's The Big Four, which I thought poor. Like the Christie book, it's really a series of related short stories. In both books there's a lot of talk about how powerful and dangerous the criminal conspiracies are, but on-stage they mostly pursue fairly mundane ends in ramshackle or Rube Goldberg ways. I'm sure Nayland Smith was modelled after Holmes - it's there in the rhythm of the names - but he doesn't really display the same brilliant powers of deduction. Fundamentally, the heroes triumph because early in the book Fu-Manchu's beautiful slave assistant falls in love with Smith's "Watson", and she keeps helping them out. In one bit Smith concentrates by tugging his ear and clacking his teeth together. Try it: see if it works for you.
I've also recently read John Gardner's Grendel, which is about nihilism, and a number of children's books.
Dr Frankenstein is still alive at age 240. He has set up shop in New Orleans. The original creation is also still alive. He goes to New Orleans to confront the Doctor. There are at least three books in this series. It was created as a series for USA network. Martin Scorsese also had a hand in it. Koontz left the series. Only the pilot was produced.