After a shaky couple of months following my family’s recent relocation – the stress! – I’m nose back to the grindstone, working on a book I’ve been threatening to write for a while now. More details when the first draft’s done.

As 2004 draws to a close, I thought I’d offer a few reading recommendations.

Lately I have been mostly enjoying Rude Kids, an autobiography by the Viz founding editor and creator Chris Donald. It’s very funny, oddly sad, and at times highly illuminating – worth a look whether or not you’re a fan of the galaxy’s sweariest comic.

Then there’s Michael Crichton’s newie, State of Fear, which I tore through. As a novel it is … well, let’s just say it functions at a level just about recognisable as fiction (Crichton does not excel at characterisation or prose). Where it scores is as a bracing counterblast to the doom and gloom we’re currently being bombarded with from all quarters. Particularly interesting is the book’s critique, reasoned and apparently justified, of the scaremongering carried out by environmental pressure groups in order to drum up donations and the “be afraid” tactics adopted by governments in order to keep people in line and provide an excuse to pass draconian laws. Crichton tries to be unbiased but it’s clear that he regards science – proper scientific analysis and procedure – as the way forward and the answer to all the world’s ills. Which is odd, coming from the author of such techno-nightmare-scenario books as Jurassic Park and The Terminal Man, but there you go.

Tom Wolfe’s I Am Charlotte Simmons seems pretty good so far (I’m 200 pages into it). Set on an Ivy League campus, it’s a proper, deeply detailed, old-fashioned Big Novel that still manages to be contemporary, touching as it does on the timeless issues of race and class.

Comics-wise, check out Joss Whedon’s Astonishing X-Men. He’s halfway through a twelve-issue run, and has created the best X-title of recent years, hell, possibly ever. Luscious art by John Cassaday doesn’t hurt. Meanwhile former New X-Men team Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely are at the peak of their game with the three-issue miniseries We3, about super-enhanced lab animals, would you believe. Like The Incredible Journey meets The Six Million Dollar Man. And there’s a new series of Mark Millar’s Ultimates to marvel at. Hooray!

Finally, back to books, and an oldie but goodie. I’m two thirds of the way through Vole Pogrom’s Solar System sequence, having reached Volume 6, The Sultanate of Saturn. Pogrom, in case you don’t know, is one of the forgotten masters of the Golden Age of SF. Staggeringly prolific, as authors often were in those days, he turned out four novels a year on average, plus reams of short stories, and the Solar System books are among his best. I’d never heard of the guy myself until recently, when I received near-simultaneous recommendations from Adam Roberts, Roger Levy and Chris Wooding. I’m eagerly Dysoning up everything of his that I can find.

Here’s wishing you all a very happy, safe and successful 2005!

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• Filed under News • 29/12/2004 •