Archives » 2012 » February

Davy Jones

I was sad to hear that former Monkee Davy Jones has died, apparently from a heart attack.

Though Davy was nominally the Monkees lead singer, that duty frequently fell to fellow actor Micky Dolenz, leaving Davy to flail away somewhat unconvincingly with a pair of maraccas.

They were probably the first manufactured band, brought together to reproduce the Beatles films’ format on TV, but had some of the best pop songwriters of the day composing for them. This – I chose it because it actually features Davy on lead vocals – was written by Neil Diamond.

The Monkees: A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You

A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You was the only Monkees single I bought back in the day and I came to love the B-side The Girl I Knew Somewhere, written by group member Mike Nesmith. So much so I referenced its title in a line of A Son of the Rock.

David Thomas Jones, 30/12/1945 – 29/2/2012. So it goes.

War Memorial(s), West Wemyss, Fife

A couple of weekends ago we took a short trip up the Fife coast, stopping off at the seaside town of West Wemyss. The foreshore there is very rocky but has been subject to erosion prevention measures which mean huge blocks of stone make access precarious.

The car park is between the churchyard and the sea. The War Memorial is on the external corner of the churchyard by the access to the car park.
It doesn’t seem to have names for WW2.
Pity about the road sign.

War Memorial, West Wemyss, Fife

Just around the corner by the sea wall is this memorial.

Floating Mine Memorial

Its plaque tells the story.

Floating Mine Memorial Plaque

The Quantum Thief by Hannu Rajaniemi.

Gollancz, 2010. Reviewed for Interzone, issue 230, Sep-Oct, 2010.

Rajaniemi’s pacy debut novel is set in a far future where both Jupiter and Phobos have been turned into suns in the aftermath of a war between the godlike Sobornost, who control most of the inner solar system, and the Zoku, now exiled to Mars from their Saturnian home.

On Mars all off-world tech is proscribed. The city called the Oubliette is constantly on the move, built on platforms which change their relative position as it is carried across Hellas Basin on vast articulated legs. Rajaniemi does not fetishise this creation as many another author would. Far from being almost a character in its own right the city is merely an exotic backdrop for his story, not its focus.

In the Oubliette, interactions between people (and buildings) are mediated by technology known as exomemory which captures every thought, dream and action. A filtering system known as gevulot acts as a privacy screen but is opened for speech and donation of information packets called co-memories.

The city’s inhabitants all carry Watches which store the Time they use as money. When your Time runs out, death follows. Resurrection Men decant memories and implant them in a new body in which to serve the city as one of the Quiet till enough credit has been accrued to live normally again. On occasion criminals dubbed gogol pirates deliberately kill in order to steal the deceased’s memories and enslave the minds. This is anathema to anyone from the Oubliette (but philosophically it surely differs from being Quiet only in degree.) Tzadikkim, a vigilante-type group with enhanced powers, act as an informal police.

The narrative is shared between the first person account of Jean le Flambeur, the quantum thief of the title, and the third person viewpoints of an Oortian, Mieli, who kicks the novel off by springing Jean from an unusual prison round Saturn, and the somewhat too intuitive detective Isodore Beautrelet. Both Jean and Mieli have (rarely used) Sobornost enhancements. In addition, several Interludes fill in backstory and -ground.

The text can be dense at times. Rajaniemi deploys technological terminology with a flourish; qdots, ghostguns, qupting, Bose-Einstein Condensate ammunition, quantum entanglement rings, qubits, but these can be allowed to wash over any technophobic reader prepared to follow the flow.

By implication Rajaniemi emphasises the importance of memory, not only in the idea of exomemory or the uploading/decanting of personality but also as a component of individual identity. Jean le Flambeur has hidden his past from himself and has no recall of it until others restore it bit by bit via gevulot exchanges.

Rajaniemi’s Finnish origins are most revealed by some of the names he uses. Mieli’s spidership is called Perhonen – butterfly – and he slips in a Finnish expletive in the guise of an Oortian god. There are also borrowings from Japanese, Hebrew and Russian and a subtle Sherlock Holmes reference.

“The Quantum Thief” is bursting with ideas and there are sufficient action/battle scenes to slake any thirst for vicarious violence but sometimes it seems as if incidents are present in order to fill in background rather than being necessary to the plot. The motivations of some of the characters are obscure and despite the prominence of gevulot in the Oubliette, conversations and interactions seem to be more or less unaltered in comparison to our familiar world, though had Rajaniemi presented them otherwise they may have been unintelligible.

The denouement brings all the threads together satisfyingly while the final Interlude sheds additional light on the proceedings and sets up possible scenarios for sequels – for which there will likely be an avid audience.


I’ve decided that the “Pages” part of my sidebar is beginning to look untidy. As a consequence I am going to remove my published reviews from there and instead republish them in the main body of the blog under the sub-category “Reviews Published in Interzone.”

Among other things this would enable comments on them (if anyone wished to make any.)

The first will appear here tomorrow.

Games People Play Revisited

I’ve just been listening to an iPlayer rerun of last Saturday’s Sounds of the Sixties where they gave a run out to Joe South’s Games People Play which I featured on Friday on my Mind a couple of weeks ago. Brian Matthew’s intro to it said Joe sang all the vocal parts and played all the instruments himself – as well as writing it.

Talented guy.

What Becomes by A L Kennedy

Vintage, 2009, 218p

 What Becomes cover

The back cover blurb of What Becomes makes explicit reference to the old Jimmy Ruffin (among many other performers) hit What Becomes of the Brokenhearted and this collection of short stories does mainly examine fractured or doomed relationships within or outwith marriage. The emblematic story title here would be Whole Family With Young Children Devastated though in the story concerned it actually refers to a notice about a lost pet displayed on local lamp-posts. Two stories are exceptions. Another concerns the careful reconstruction of a new life and relationship after the woman’€™s husband has died, while As God Made Us is about the camaraderie of a group of ex-soldier amputees and the prejudice they still face.

Kennedy’€™s style in her short stories is oblique. Very little is stated outright either by her narrators or by the characters but it is all exquisitely, carefully written. The overall sense is of people clinging on, desperate to make connections.

There was one peculiar phrase where a character was described as, “€œconstructing these laborious smiles which I think were designed to imply he was a dandy youngster and blade about town,”€ – of which I can only make sense by assuming that similes was the intended word. But if it’s not in fact a typo it’€™s brilliant.

Reelin’ In The Years 33: Toast and Marmalade for Tea

A late psychedelic classic?

This is another of those 1970s songs that feels 1960s. It’s a bizarre title for a single to have.

There is a wiki page about Tin Tin here.

Tin Tin: Toast and Marmalade for Tea

A Physicist Named Bright? Maybe Not.

“There was a young lady called Bright,
Who could travel much faster than light,
She set off one day,
In a relative way,
And arrived on the previous night.”

And so it seems the results suggesting faster than light neutrinos were actually due to a faulty connection.

I wonder how much coverage this news will get compared to the original “findings”?

East Fife 1-2 Dumbarton

SFL Div 2, New Bayview Stadium, 21/2/12.

Onwards and upwards; but I wouldn’t have given much for our chances at half-time. Apart from a great save by the keeper from a Brian Prunty lob just after they had scored we didn’t trouble their goal much. There was one great cross from James Creaney which no-one got on the end of (probably because up to then his crosses had been crap.)

E. Fife hit us on the break time after time and seemed to get past our back line too easily. The goal came from one such: a quick ball forward to a player who looked yards offside when he got the ball but couldn’t have been because the lino didn’t give it. (She gave other marginal ones though so no complaints.) Bobby Linn finished it well. Stephen Grindlay had a few small pass-back bombscares but saved us just before the half with a fine save with his legs in a one-on-one (after a defensive mistake let a nippy E. Fife forward in.)

Second half our defence never really looked in difficulty. One of our attacks had the ball played in to Prunty who elected to pass rather than shoot first time (the familiar failing) and Mark Gilhaney then took a touch so the chance was lost.

The goal came more or less out of nowhere the ball breaking to Gilhaney on the edge of the box who, for a wonder, hit it first time. A deflection took it past the keeper.

Two substitions saw Ally Graham replace the ever-willing worker Pat Walker and Mark Lamont come on for Ryan Finnie. It was difficult to tell but we may have reverted to 4-2-2 at this point. Lamont – unrecognisable from the poor player who came on late at Forfar last week – proceeded to rampage down our left side, giving the Fife defence loads of problems. It was his cross that an unmarked Ally Graham headed in to give us the win.

We could have had another a few minutes later when Prunty brilliantly took the ball down but then blazed it over and seemed to hurt himself in the process.

Another three points without us being particularly impressive. What is the Second Division coming to?

Latest Interzone Review

I have received via Interzone The Game Is Altered by Mez Packer for review.

Ms Packer is a writer whose work I have not sampled before.

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