Empress of the Sun by Ian McDonald

Everness Book III, Jo Fletcher, 2014, 397 p.

 Empress of the Sun cover

The airship Everness has jumped, more or less blind, through a Heisenberg Gate into a parallel world. Unfortunately it seems Everett Singh has made a mistake in his calculations as it is in immediate danger of crashing. “Yellow lights flashed. Horns blared. Balls* rang, klaxons shrieked.” The damage sustained means the airship and its Airish crew will be marooned for a while on a strange two-thirds gravity world peopled with lizard-like creatures. It is only when Everett recognises that the sun is descending straight downwards, not in an arc, that he realises the source of his miscalculation; they have jumped to a discworld, constructed from all the material orbiting its sun. Here the Chicxulub meteor never hit Earth and the dinosaurs have had millions of years to evolve and reconfigure the system. These inhabitants, who call themselves Jiju, are warlike, though, and periodically almost wipe themselves out. They are still knowledgeable and powerful enough to manipulate the sun: it moves through a hole in the middle of the disc, so that it illuminates either side of the world sequentially. Only Everett, in an explicit reference to Terry Pratchett, thinks of it as a discworld. To the Plenitude of Worlds it’s known the Wheelworld, but such are the dangers of the Jiju, contact has been avoided. Till now.

Everness’s crew is instrumental in allowing a Jiju, Kakakakaxa, to win her battle with her sister to be heir to their mother, the Empress of the Sun. In a fateful step Everett feels he has no option but to surrender his Infundibulum, which controls the Heisenberg Gates, to the Empress.

Meanwhile the deliciously vicious Charlotte Villiers is still scheming to procure Everett’s Infundibulum so that she will have dominance over the Plenitude of Worlds and elsewhere the Thryn Sentience-enhanced Everett M Singh from Book II tries to eliminate the traces of the Nahn he has brought to Earth 10 from E1, all the while pretending to be the original Everett, befriending Everett’s friend Ryun and forming an attachment to classmate Noomi. It is only in this third of the Everness series that McDonald begins to address the sexual politics and uncertainties of adolescence that have been latent in his scenario, but it’s done with sensitivity and as ever with YA fiction this does not interrupt the copious action to any great degree. There is too a cautionary note about how easy it is to be misled by superheroes. “… the real problems aren’t like that. You can’t solve them by hitting them. The real supervillains were ….. people in suits who met in rooms and decided things. ” We also get a sly nod to McDonald’s background with the phrase, “‘The Sunlords’ adversity may be the Airish opportunity.’”

What gives the Everness series a unique flavour is the Palari argot the Airish use, a light note amongst all the world-threatening plot happenings. I note both Everett and Everett M come to dislike the extremes they have been forced to by the exigencies of their situation, what those actions have turned them into, what they reveal about themselves, which is a timely metaphor for the journey into adulthood.

In not one, but two codas (which together suggest more books in this sequence may be forthcoming) we are shown what seems to be the source of Charlotte Villiers’s motivations and that Everett’s father Tejendra is alive and well somewhere in the Panoply of Worlds. I had thought the Everness books would end with this third instalment but if there were to be more to look forward to they wouldn’t come amiss.

Pedant’s corner:- * Balls rang (that must have been painful! Context suggests “Bells”,) “you certainly don’t want us enemies” (us as enemies,) wain (a Scots word for child) is usually spelled wean, “she had never struck ball like that before” (struck a ball.) “The two of them haunted the dead-ball line, directly behind Everett M in his net” (strictly speaking the dead-ball line is in front of the net,) “what the crew were running from” (the crew was running.) “They were only machine” (they were only machines,) “Mrs Abrahams the principle” (x 2, principal,) “But for you I would be me dead in the crechewood” (it would be me dead in the crechewood; or I would be dead in the crechewood,) Victorian terrace houses (the designation is usually terraced houses,) “was a endless droop” (an endless droop.) “Have you see anything of this Earth, …” (seen.)
Once again no doubt due to its main intended market there were USianisms:- hoods (as in cars; we say bonnets,) ass (though arse is used at least once,) diskworld.

Dumbarton 2-3 Raith Rovers

SPFL Tier 2, The Rock, 16/4/16.

It started well. It finished; well…..

Pity about the bit in between. And the injury to big Christian Nade is a blow as we’ve only looked a team this season after he joined us.

I watched this courtesy of BBC Alba of course and things were looking okay at half time. Tom Walsh had even hit a good cross!

What happened in the second half though? We totally fell out of it even before Nade’s injury. Jamie Ewings didn’t have much of a hope with any of the three goals; a poorish kick-out led to one of them but the defence should still not have let Raith through so easily. They seemed to just walk through for two of the three, the other coming from a not deep enough clearance by Fraser Wright.

Despite never having hit a decent cross before this game Tom Walsh ended this with two assists, and doesn’t Steven Saunders love a goal against Raith? Too little too late of course.

We really need something from Saturday now but a draw against St Mirren might not be good enough. We don’t want to be relying on Rangers and Raith even if Queen of the South do the needful.

I note that with Rangers and Hibs progressing to this year’s final East Fife’s record of being the only team outwith the top division to win the Scottish Cup has now been lost. And wouldn’t it be just the thing if Hibs finally win the thing again after totally horsing up the league? (Or Hibsing it as now seems to be the parlance.)

Mind you it’d be a laugh to see them navigating a European campaign from the second tier.

Then again maybe not.

War Grave, Dunfermline Abbey Church

Flight Cadet A A Hepburn, RAF, 23/8/1918, aged 18.

War Grave, Dunfermline Abbey Church

Reelin’ In the Years 120: Blake’s 7 Theme

For Gareth Thomas, the titular star of late 1970s and early 80s SF BBC TV series Blake’s 7; even if he did once profess not to like SF as a genre and claimed he’d never watched an episode.

Gareth Daniel Thomas: 12/2/1945 – 13/4/2016. So it goes.

Fife’s Art Deco Heritage 14: Cupar

There isn’t much deco in Cupar, Fife’s quondam County Town. I’ve already posted a picture of Luvian’s café/ice cream/wine shop. Last time I was in Cupar I thought the Bank of Scotland had some deco influence, especially on the lower fascia.

Bank of Scotland, Cupar

While we’re on Cupar; and completely differently in terms of achitecture I also noticed this triangular cartouche at the top of a very old building’s gable. 1623!

Carved cartouche, Cupar, Fife

Dunfermline’s Art Deco Heritage 7: Giacomo’s

Giacomo’s is a café/baker’s shop in Cross Wynd. As the street name suggests it is rather a narrow thoroughfare. That made it very difficult to get a photograph. In addition these were taken in the depths of winter as light was fading. It’s the rounded bay and the windows which are the most deco features but the glazing is not original.

From the lower part of Cross Wynd:-

Giacomo's, Dunfermline

From the upper part of Cross Wynd:-

Giacomo's, Dunfermline from North

Dumbarton 4-2 Queen of the South

SPFL Tier 2, The Rock, 12/4/16.

Football’s an odd game and this one was certainly an example. Hardly started when their keeper made an absolute hash of a kick-out, hitting it straight to Christian Nade who strode forward with the ball, shot while still well outside the penalty box and buried it.

A nice settler you’d think in such an important game but we promptly fell out of it allowing Queens too much space and time. But still Garry Fleming could have settled nerves further if he’d put away the chance that came to him but the keeper redeemed himself a little with a good save. Jamie Ewings performed the needful on a one-on-one but only delayed the inevitable. The atmosphere was strangely quiet, the crowd perhaps too nervous to make much noise – except when the stand-side linesman made a ludicrous decision to award a throw-in the wrong way after a ricochet.

Still, Queens’ pressure gradually built up then Ian Russell did what he has done against us ever since he left. Quite why he was given the space at the edge of the box to pick up a headed clearance is another thing entirely.

Then what should have been a body blow when they cut through us just before half-time to take the lead. I couldn’t see us getting anything from the game at that point.

But a few minutes into the second half the match had turned on its head. First Tom Walsh cut out a pass near their penalty area, beat the last defender and curled a beauty high past the keeper into the top corner. In our next foray upfield Christian Nade got his head to a Mark Docherty corner and scored. (It may have bounced off a defender’s back on the way in.)

That same stand-side linesman failed to make a decision at all after a Queens player had got a nick on a crossfield pass and a Queens player took it on himself to take the throw. The ref put his whistle to his lips as if to amend things but didn’t. What are these guys paid for?

It was all still a bit nervous with not much goalmouth action but with five minutes to go after another corner Greg Buchanan was attempting an overhead kick when he was bumped in mid-air and the ref gave the penalty. (It looked a bit six and half a dozen to me but I’ll take it.) Garry Fleming tucked the award away. 4-2. Breathless stuff.

That’s the first time this season we’ve scored more than three in a league game. Timely indeed.

A Horticulture

I’ve been away for a couple of days and from the internet so couldn’t post this before but it’s too apposite to miss.

The Minister and the Prostitute.

Sounds like a short story title, doesn’t it? (Maybe a fairy tale title if the last word in it had been something else.)

Yet aside from the natural amusement over the fact that yet another Tory has been swept up in a furore over his sex life the first thing the revelation that UK Culture Secretary John Whittingdale has had a relationship with a prostitute brought to my mind was Dorothy Parker‘s wonderful pun when asked to give a sentence with the word horticulture in it. “You can lead a horticulture, but you can’t make her think.”

Not that I like the derogatory connotations of the first syllable of the word in question as Parker used it but: did he lead her to culture, do you think?

PS. I also noted the use of the verb to withdraw by those who called for him to resile from his role in regulation of the press. Very Westminster, that.

The Jewel and her Lapidary by Fran Wilde

Tor.com, 2016, 90 p.

 The Jewel and her Lapidary cover

As revealed in cod extracts from a later guide book quoted at the beginning of each section of this novella the Jewelled Valley was once ruled by a royal family of “Jewels” who devised a technique to bind the powers of precious stones to influence minds and so tamed the gems. Each Jewel had a similarly bound servant, a Lapidary, who could hear and speak the stones.

The action of the book is set in the end-time of the Jewelled Court. Lin is the youngest daughter of the King, her Lapidary, Sima, the daughter of the King’s servant. Driven mad by the gems, Sima’s father has betrayed the Court and destroyed most of the jewels. Lin is the only member of the royal family to survive, the only person who can protect the people of the valley from the invading army of the Western Mountains. Sima sticks to her vows not to betray her Jewel.

Wilde’s control of her material is accomplished enough but for me it doesn’t stand up to a moment’s scrutiny. Gemstones with mind-controlling powers? That can be muted by being placed in a setting? But it is a fantasy. And short enough to read in one sitting.

Pedant’s corner:- if a Lapidary broke their vows (several instances. Lapidary is singular; so “his or her vows”.)

Socialist Science Fiction

There’s an interseting post over at Ian Sales’s blog where he calls, somewhat mischievously, for nominations for a socialist SF award for which he has come up with the name Sputnik Award. He is looking for works published in 2015 in the first instance (though it strikes me there could be fun looking through the archives to allocate awards retrospectively for previous years.)

Ian did link to a list provided by China Miéville of fifty works of SF/Fantasy every socialist should read. Not all of them are socialist; e.g. Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged is incliuded on the grounds you should know your enemy.

Now I love a list, so here it is. As usual the works asterisked I have read (in the case of the Gormenghast trilogy two thirds of it and The Iron Heel perhaps as a young lad.)

Iain M. Banks—Use of Weapons* (1990)

Edward Bellamy—Looking Backward, 2000–1887 (1888)

Alexander Bogdanov—The Red Star: A Utopia (1908; trans. 1984)

Emma Bull & Steven Brust—Freedom & Necessity (1997)

Mikhail Bulgakov—The Master and Margarita* (1938; trans. 1967)

Katherine Burdekin (aka “Murray Constantine”)—Swastika Night* (1937)

Octavia Butler—Survivor (1978)

Julio Cortázar—“House Taken Over” (1963?)

Philip K. Dick—A Scanner Darkly* (1977)

Thomas Disch—The Priest (1994)

Gordon Eklund—All Times Possible(1974)

Max Ernst—Une Semaine de Bonté (1934)

Claude Farrère—Useless Hands (1920; trans. 1926)

Anatole France—The White Stone (1905; trans. 1910)

Jane Gaskell—Strange Evil (1957)

Mary Gentle—Rats and Gargoyles* (1990)

Charlotte Perkins Gilman—“The Yellow Wallpaper” (1892)

Lisa Goldstein—The Dream Years (1985)

Stefan Grabiński—The Dark Domain (1918–22; trans. and collected 1993)

George Griffith—The Angel of Revolution (1893)

Imil Habibi—The Secret Life of Saeed the Pessoptimist (1974; trans. 1982)

M. John Harrison—Viriconium Nights* (1984)

Ursula K. Le Guin—The Dispossessed: An Ambiguous Utopia* (1974)

Jack London—Iron Heel*? (1907)

Ken MacLeod—The Star Fraction* (1996)

Gregory Maguire—Wicked (1995)

J. Leslie Mitchell (Lewis Grassic Gibbon)—Gay Hunter* (1934, reissued 1989)

Michael Moorcock—Hawkmoon (1967–77, reprinted in one edition 1992)

William Morris—News From Nowhere (1888)

Toni Morrison—Beloved (1987)

Mervyn Peake—The Gormenghast Novels* (1946–59)

Marge Piercy—Woman on the Edge of Time* (1976)

Philip Pullman—Northern Lights* (1995)

Ayn Rand—Atlas Shrugged (1957)

Mack Reynolds—Lagrange Five (1979)

Keith Roberts—Pavane* (1968)

Kim Stanley Robinson—The Mars Trilogy* (1992–96)

Mary Shelley—Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus (1818)

Lucius Shepard—Life During Wartime* (1987)

Norman Spinrad—The Iron Dream* (1972)

Eugene Sue—The Wandering Jew (1845)

Michael Swanwick—The Iron Dragon’s Daughter (1993)

Jonathan Swift—Gulliver’s Travels (1726)

Alexei Tolstoy—Aelita (1922; trans. 1957)

Ian Watson—Slow Birds* (1985)

H.G. Wells—The Island of Dr Moreau* (1896)

E. L. White—“Lukundoo” (1927)

Oscar Wilde—The Happy Prince and Other Stories (1888)

Gene Wolfe—The Fifth Head of Cerberus* (1972)

Yevgeny Zamyatin—We* (1920; trans. 1924)

20 out of 50. I’ve some way to go. But a lot of these are vintage and possibly not very easy to come by.

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