Archives » 2010 » September

God Of Clocks by Alan Campbell

Tor, 2009. 373p

God Of Clocks cover

The usual caveat applies to this review.

This is an unusual one. It is nominally a fantasy yet about two thirds of the way through we suddenly encounter time travel and temporal paradoxes, which was in retrospect quite elegantly foreshadowed, and it begins to resemble more a work of SF. That was the point that the book, for me, sparked to life. Up to then it had been a (I hesitate to say typical, as Campbell’s skill as a writer elevates it above the norm) fantasy and consequently I found it difficult to engage with. And the solution one of the characters adopts to the deleterious consequences of her previous choices on the timeline she has thereby created is well out of the ordinary, not to say drastic.

Far from it merely happening there is also a rationale – a mechanism, no less – given for the ability to travel in time. The God of Clocks for whom the book is named inhabits a building where clocks abound and rooms with portals to other times open and close on their unwinding.

Certain characters from the two previous Deepgate Codex books reappear – Dill, Rachel Hael, John Anchor and also the angel, Carnival. The vision which illuminated the first, Scar Night, though, of the city Deepgate suspended on huge chains over a chasm, has been missing in the latter books, which suffer as a consequence since the setting lies closer to the default mediaeval of the general run of fantasy. There is also too much murder and mayhem for my tastes but this is evidently what aficionados of the form appreciate.

In God Of Clocks there is a quest, of sorts. So far, so fantasy. Yet at its end the status quo ante is not restored – or only in (small) part. This too is more characteristic of SF than of the standard fantasy novel. Is it possible that Campbell secretly yearns to be a writer of SF? Whatever, he is certainly twisting the tropes of fantasy in new directions.

(The book blurb states he lives in south Lancashire. I think that, just perhaps, might be south Lanarkshire.)

Fife’€™s Art Deco Heritage 6 (ii): Largo Road, Leven (2)

More from Largo Road, Leven.

This one’s most likely re-roofed. It retains the balcony.

Flat roofed semis! Painted in pastel(ish) shades! (But the windows are replacements.)

This one also has nice entrance gateway.

And finally a detached house that is more modernist than deco; but very striking and very of its time.


Dunfermline War Memorials

Dunfermline’s First World War Memorial is just over the road from Dunfermline Abbey, or more accurately from the ruins of Dunfermline Palace. Being 1920s in origin there is a touch of Deco about it.

The Second World War memorial is in a smaller garden location adjacent to the Abbey grounds.

This is the Palace ruin. The WW1 memorial is behind to the left here.

Dunfermline was once Scotland’s capital, hence the lines from the poem/ballad Sir Patrick Spens,

“The king sits in Dunfermline toun,
Drinking the blude red wyne.”

Here’s my photo of the Abbey, which lies to the right and above the Palace. You can see its pointed turret in the Palace picture above.

The tower’s rim has King Robert The Bruce carved out in stone on its four sides.

Dumbarton 1-3 Brechin City

League goals against predictor:- 150

SFL Div 2, The Rock, 25/9/10

League goals for predictor:- 18.

What can you say?

All but two of the teams in the league played, only one win and one draw to show for it. Add in a humungous negative goal difference and the fact that we’re at the bottom of the division again.

We’re doomed.

Still Living The Dream

In an interview on Football Focus today – I had a quick look on the BBC website and the iPlayer but the clip doesn’t seem to be there – Steven Gerrard, talking about the World Cup, said that England had gone to South Africa as “genuine contenders.”

Oh really, Steve?

You just don’t get it, do you?

Friday On My Mind 25: Reflections Of My Life

According to the sleeve notes on a collection tape I looked at once, this song was the single most played track on US FM radio during the last quarter of the twentieth century.

Not a Beatles tune, not one from the Stones, not even an effort by a US band but instead the accolade goes to a bunch of boys from Glasgow.

I have featured Marmalade (as they became) before; to brighten up my post on the demise of the name Norman.

This is probably the best song they ever did.

Marmalade: Reflections Of My Life

Fife’s Art Deco Heritage 6 (i): Largo Road, Leven (1)

Largo Road is just on the eastern edge of Leven; on the A915, leading out towards Lundin Links (and later, Lower – and Upper – Largo, then St Andrews.)

In a similar way to Kirkcaldy’s Lady Nairn Avenue it has a fine row of 1930s houses, mostly semi-detacheds but in this case with some villas. Some of them have been reroofed but a few flat roofs remain. All these have replacement windows.

The pillars on the balconies here show the deco origins though the windows are now a fright.

This one still has trianguloid windows but they have been replaced (as have all the others) to the detriment of the overall appearance, I would say. The porch extension on the right hand semi is a bit odd looking too.

Here’s a detached villa with a deco-ish arch – still with eyes poked out, though.

Another detached villa, trianguloid windows above the door but the fenestration just isn’t right with plastic framed double glazing, and the roof overhang is odd. The garage can’t be original either, surely.

This has a very 30s chimney and a suspiciously new looking roof.

Plus a nice rounded corner. Untypically for Scotland, it’s finished in brick.

The Champions League

Isn’t.

A league that is.

Plus it caters for non-champions.

What’s to like?

It’s not even an oxymoron.

Not Friday On My Mind 3: Hello, How Are You?

This was the Easybeats last hit in the UK – a slow ballad in contrast to the guitar based Friday On My Mind and the jaunty The Music Goes Round My Head.

The Easybeats: Hello, How Are You?

Joseph Knight by James Robertson

Fourth Estate, 2004. 372p

Joseph Knight cover

Based on a legal case brought in the eighteenth century, celebrated at the time but soon forgotten, this novel pushes a fair number of Scottish buttons, with settings from Drumossie Moor, 1746, (Culloden) to the Perthshire of 1802, taking in Dundee, Edinburgh and the Scottish Enlightenment – complete with cameo appearances from Boswell and Johnson – before ending up in Wemyss, Fife, in 1803. It also ranges all the way to the Jamaican sugar plantations and back.

Though we don’t hear from or see him (except for two words of dialogue or in the pages of a notebook) until nearly halfway through, and then only incidentally till the last section, the character of Joseph Knight hangs over the book – almost like a ghost.

The tale is carried to fruition by Archibald Jamieson, who is engaged by Sir John Wedderburn, sometime Jacobite rebel and refugee from Culloden, later sugar planter and bogus doctor in Jamaica, long returned to Scotland a wealthy man and now owner of Ballindean Estate, to ascertain the whereabouts, or remaining earthly existence, of Joseph Knight, once Sir John’s personal possession (brought to Scotland as a marker of success) but who petitioned the Scottish courts in the 1770s to attain his freedom. Jamieson learns of the Jamaican episodes via a journal given to him by Sir John’s daughter but written by her long deceased uncle during his sojourn on the island. Despite at first finding no trace of him and assuming him dead, Jamieson nevertheless becomes fascinated by Knight.

The book is structured in four sections, two much shorter book-ending the longer middle pair: Wedderburn, where Sir John ruminates over his life from the windows of Ballindean with its fine views over the policies down to the River Tay; Darkness, mostly concerned with the life Wedderburn and his brothers led in Jamaica; Enlightenment, wherein the court case on which the book depends is led up to and described; and Knight, a somewhat melancholic coda.

The narrative is multi-stranded with various viewpoint characters in each section, all of whom are portrayed in their roundnesses. If anyone needs a demonstration of how to carry this off Joseph Knight is the perfect example.

There is a peculiarity. Robertson has his characters use the word “neger” to describe black slaves (and freemen.) Perhaps that is indeed how the n-word was pronounced in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries but it still seemed a trifle odd, as if he was somehow afraid to outrage modern day readers.

Dealing as it does with those novelistic biggies life and death, plus freedom, servitude and the peculiar institution of slavery – but not so much with sex – it’s not surprising that Joseph Knight garnered such praise; not to mention the Saltire Scottish Book of the Year Award. It does, however, lose focus a little in the two long sections. In particular the scenes involving Boswell were not entirely necessary.

The characterisation is superb, however; all the people portrayed, even minor characters, seem idiosyncratic living, breathing beings and Robertson’s ability to inhabit the minds of his centuries-gone agonists sympathetically is striking. The only exception to this is Knight himself, who remains a shadowy figure.

But even this is appropriate. It is his absence from the main lives depicted here, the void he left, that they circle around.

This is a fine book: perhaps not so good as Robertson’s first, The Fanatic, but certainly surpassing his later the testament of Gideon Mack.

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