The Mirror Empire by Kameron Hurley

The Worldbreaker Saga Book I. Angry Robot, 2014, 541 p.

 The Mirror Empire cover

In a series of planets with twin hour-glass suns and strange satellites named Para, Sina and Tira from which certain inhabitants can draw power when they are in the ascendant, an invasion from a parallel world is taking place. Transit between the worlds (which have differently coloured skies) is by means of something resembling a mirror but isn’t possible if the companion person is alive on the other side. The most powerful satellite, Oma, has not been ascendant for 2000 years but its influence is being felt more strongly.

Now, this parallel worlds and weird suns scenario could have been an intriguing SF setting but the author lost this reader’s sympathies when it turned out early on that the shedding of blood could also open gates between the worlds. Cue gratuitous bloodshed on a wide scale. I would submit this is laziness on the author’s part. Couldn’t we have had something a bit more inventive, a bit less sanguineous?

Add to this the fact that the characters have very little agency beyond advancing the plot, which itself takes a long time to get going, and you end up with a less than satisfying read. Oh, there is some jiggery-pokery about different gendering and women tend to be in power; but when they behave as powerful men would in our world is there any point?

Plus I really don’t see the point of Fantasy when its characters wield strange powers, even when they do have to endure for a while before growing into them. How does that illuminate the human condition?

It may be that I am committing the error of wishing to read the book that I might have desired Hurley to have written rather than the one she actually has, but when a book revels in so much gratuitous slaughter more or less for its own sake it’s time to call it off. I won’t be taking The Worldbreaker Saga any further.

Pedant’s corner:- Admittedly mine was an advance reading copy – I have my sources – but it was so full of typos, verb/noun disagreements, misspellings, missing words, repeated words, malapropisms (or near malapropisms which are perhaps better described as dyslexisms – scarified for sacrificed anyone?) awry punctuation and errors in lay-out etc that I gave up counting them after page 63. It may be she was under pressure to hand this in quickly but to my mind Hurley’s manuscript hasn’t been looked over critically enough before submission. And did no-one at Angry Robot seek to check it? Such things make the whole more difficult to read you know. I’m left harbouring a sense of disappointment with all concerned. And there was the use of drug as a past tense of drag which may be a niche USian habit but reads absolutely horribly.

Friday on my Mind 115: Rhubarb Tart Song

The B-side of The Ferret Song (see last week) had a tune based on the middle part of one of John Philip Sousa’s marches, The Washington Post, and had a lyric which became typical of the Monty Python style since the song references a slew of philosophers and artists and also includes nods to popular culture as well as Shakespeare – all wrapped around an idea of the utmost silliness.

I really like the cleverness of the rhymes with the word tart, though.

John Cleese with the 1948 show choir: Rhubarb Tart Song

An Asteroid with a Moon!

Apparently on Monday an asteroid passed very close to the Earth-Moon system, just over three times the Earth-Moon distance away. NASA’s Deep Space Network antenna array tracked it by radar.

There’s a video of this on the JPL site. The moon is clearly visible. Astounding stuff.

I found this via Astronomy Picture of the Day.

Glasgow’s Art Deco Heritage 9: Argyle Street

Two buildings I spotted on our December trip to Glasgow.

This one is on the corner of Argyle and Virginia Streets:-

This is the Argyle Street elevation:-

And this one is in Argyle Street. Stitched to get it all in:-

There are good “streamlining ” lines near the roof line:-

The scrolling is good, as is the fan shaping. And note the stepped roof line:-

The repeated scrolling and streamlining enhances the symmetry:-

Not Friday On My Mind 26: Rain and Tears – RIP Demis Roussos

So Demis Roussos has gone. He was only 66. Strange that in the 70s he seemed quite old.

He first came to my attention in the 60s as lead singer of Aphrodite’s Child, another of whose members was Vangelis.

I posted their song It’s Five O’Clock here. It was out of songs and groups like this that Prog Rock developed.

I’ll skip over Roussos’s 70s solo number 1 For Ever and Ever and instead feature a live version of Aphrodite’s Child’s only UK hit, a number 29 no less, Rain and Tears.

Aphrodite’s Child: Rain and Tears

Artemios “Demis” Ventouris-Roussos: 15/6/1946 – 25/1/2015. So it goes.

Glasgow’s Art Deco Heritage 8: Renfrew Street

West end of Art Deco style building in Renfrew Street, Glasgow:-

Centred view showing good detailing between the window layers. The Inscription above the door reads “Incorporated Dental Hospital.”

East side of building:-

Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel

Fourth Estate, 2012, 411 p.

Bring up the Bodies cover

From its opening words, “His children are falling from the sky,” to its final ones – a warning that there are no endings, only beginnings – this second in Mantel’s Tudor trilogy is a consciously literary endeavour. (The “children” are in fact falcons named after Thomas Cromwell’s offspring.) Not that it is in any way difficult. The narration is still in the third person but the use of “he” to refer to Thomas Cromwell does not induce as much confusion as in Wolf Hall – perhaps because the reader is more accustomed to it but also since Mantel uses “he, Cromwell,” more often than in the previous book. There are occasional flourishes of poetic language to leaven proceedings and emphasise the literariness of the endeavour.

The action covers the events surrounding Anne Boleyn’s trial and execution. The phrase “Bring up the bodies” is uttered to call her supposed lovers (all of whom have been in Cromwell’s sights since they mocked his patron Cardinal Wolsey during a masqued ball at court) in to their trial. Mantel does a fine job in portraying all this history (whose outlines are well known but for which few documents remain.) Her hero, Cromwell, is instrumental in securing confessions but the text still leaves open the possibility that Anne was innocent of the charges laid.

Anne’s crime, if any, would not have been adultery (though for her lovers it would have been.) Rather, her offence was “imagining the King’s death.” This tickled me since Mantel was herself recently criticised for imagining a Prime Minister’s death – some idiot Tory MP said Mantel ought to be prosecuted for it – even though the PM concerned had already died, and crime writers imagine people’s deaths all the time.

In the book, apropos of Thomas Wyatt (the poet) Cromwell muses, “You must believe everything and nothing of what you read.” Mantel is believable. Reading Bring Up the Bodies, a much better and more rounded book than Wolf Hall, may be the best substitute for being at Henry VIII’s court. (Better even; since there is no risk to life involved in the experience.)

And only one contender for Pedant’s Corner: when he had rode. Plus not a single typo anywhere. Remarkable for these times.

Friday on my Mind 114: The Ferret Song

Monty Python didn’t come out of nowhere. There was a ferment among English comedic talent following in the wake of Beyond the Fringe in the early to mid-60s, with individuals coming together in various combinations, splitting apart and recoalescing in TV shows like At Last the 1948 Show and Do Not Adjust Your Set as well as the immortal radio comedy I’m Sorry I’ll Read That Againtwo of whose songs have appeared in this category previously – before the main players settled down into their most famous incarnations as Monty Python’s Flying Circus and The Goodies.

I first remember hearing this classic (I can’t bring myself to categorise it as music however) on I’m Sorry I’ll Read That Again but it had been performed earlier in At Last the 1948 Show and it also counts towards those singles from my elder brother’s record collection – see this category numbers 53-56.

John Cleese with the 1948 show choir: The Ferret Song from the 1948 Show

Scotland’s Art Deco Heritage 36: Glasgow Film Theatre

Glasgow Film Theatre, also known as the GFT, is housed in one of those monolithic Art Deco buildings. Like the Rothesay Pavilion it’s unusual in not being rendered in white.

The entrance on Blythswood Street has great verticality:-

View from Renfrew Street:-

Blythswood Street elevation. Great tiling and columning, nice curve at top:-

Renfrew Street aspect. Good tiled doorways here and rectangular window housings. Note tiled pillar detailing in the rectangular box bit just below the roofline. Pity about the bins on the pavement!!

Renfrew Street roofline detailing. Again note tiled decorative pillar and curved element.

The building on Blythswood Street next to the GFT also has deco features with a great vertical element above the door. The top windows are good too:-

Glasgow’s Art Deco Heritage 7: Café Society (plus a bar)

Four years ago I featured the University Café in Byres Road in this category. In December 2014 I spotted two more examples of the deco style in Glasgow cafés.

This is the frontage of the Central Café in Saltmarket. Absolutely typical thirties lettering:-

And this is the King’s Café in Elmbank Street. Again typical lettering but note here the two lines to the left of the K of King’s and the underlining of ing’s and afé. This underlining motif is repeated in red on the glass of the lower window. The blue and gold lettering further up – not shown to best advantage here due to the street furniture – not to mention the curved lines, is also delightful:-

Right next door to King’s Café on the corner of Elmbank and Sauchiehall Streets (and directly opposite the Beresford Hotel) is the Variety Bar. Not perhaps true deco lettering but close enough:-

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