strange_complex: (Doctor Caecilius hands)
As far as I can remember, my total experience with Doctor Who novels before this one consists of:
  • One Target novelisation read when a child, I think involving Cybermen overseeing human slaves working in a quarry. I can't remember which Doctor was in it, but if anyone has the slightest idea what I'm on about, do let me know. Unhelpfully, I shall add that the slave-masters may not even have been Cybermen (but I'm pretty sure they weren't Daleks).
  • State of Change, a Virgin Missing Adventure in which the Sixth Doctor and Peri visit ancient Rome and find that all is not as it should be, read in my early 20s when a friend who was both a prominent member of OUWho and a fellow Classicist lent it to me.
With that rather minimal background, I suspect that launching into Lungbarrow was probably the Who novel equivalent of picking up A Brief History of Time after having read the Ladybird book of Space and maybe a GCSE Physics text-book. Certainly, there were a lot of allusions to Who continuity drawn from other novels which were completely lost on me - particularly regarding the companion character, Chris Cwej, and somebody called Roz whom he occasionally referred to. It also doesn't help that the events of the novel move backwards and forwards through time quite a lot without it always being clear that this is happening, while there are long dream-sequences towards the beginning and end of the story in which it becomes rather difficult to keep track of who is seeing and experiencing what, and who is an active participant in the events being described rather than merely a passive observer.

For all that, I'm glad I read it. It seems to be the novel that is referred to most often in fannish debate forums, so at least I know what all the fuss regarding looms is about now. It was also generally an enjoyable read. I liked the portrayal of early Gallifreyan history and the sense of atmosphere about the Lungbarrow house - although I did think that maybe there were slightly too many scenes of people wandering about trapped in its oppressive corridors and wrangling with one another over ancient feuds. I wouldn't say it was great literature, and I noticed a higher proportion of typos and spelling errors (e.g. 'populous' for 'populace') than I would expect in a professionally-produced publication, but it was imaginative and absorbing all the same.

Brief thoughts on the concept of canonicity, with Lungbarrow spoilers )

If you'd like to read Lungbarrow yourself, it is available in full on the BBC's Doctor Who ebooks page. But I can't help but suspect that if you did, you'd have found that out already. ;-)

strange_complex: (Chrestomanci slacking in style)
Following up from reading Saki's Reginald collection online during dull lunch-breaks last year, I've now completed his Beasts and Super-Beasts in the same manner. This time, instead of the collection being structured around a character (Reginald), it's loosely themed around the unpredictable antics of animals (the beasts) and the ways in which they either thwart or advance the devious machinations of human beings (the super-beasts).

All the things I loved about the Reginald collection are absolutely matched, and frequently surpassed, here - wicked social commentary, brilliant pacing, hilarious twists and above all a masterful grip on the rich comic potential of the English language. In fact, I'd probably recommend this collection above the Reginald one to someone who was new to Saki. Other than that, though, not much to say - it's simply a perfect example of Saki's genius, and there's no way I can do justice to that by trying to deconstruct it.

Meanwhile, I've now discovered that a number of Doctor Who ebooks are available online for free at the official BBC website - so I think we all know what I'm going to be reading during my lunch-breaks next!

strange_complex: (Chrestomanci slacking in style)
Thanks to this site, I have taken to reading short stories by Saki while eating my lunch-time sandwiches. I've enjoyed the odd Saki story in the past (my favourite probably being The Stalled Ox), but the Square Eye site offers the opportunity to read them systematically, collection by collection, so I have now read the entirety of Reginald - his first collection, published in 1904.

Reginald is cynically effete, and enjoys shocking the staider members of Edwardian society. He's the natural successor to Dorian Gray, though also beginning to nod a little in the direction of Bertie Wooster. I think my favourite story was 'Reginald's Choir Treat', in which Reginald is persuaded by a well-meaning vicar's daughter to take a group of choir-boys on their annual outing. Having set them to bathe in a local stream and sat upon their clothes, he proceeds to organise the naked boys, plus a handy nearby goat, into a Bacchanalian procession which he then sends singing and piping back into the village. "Reginald said he had seen something like it in pictures; the villagers had seen nothing like it in their lives, and remarked as much freely."

They're all good, though. Many are in fact more snippets from Reginald's conversations than stories as such. His interlocutors serve simply as audience and foil – sometimes they get as much of an identity as 'the Duchess', but often they are simply 'the Other' – while the real focus is Reginald's declamations upon society. They're also all very short, making them ideal lunch-time reading, as there is always a natural break ready for whenever you have finished your sarnie. I suspect reading too many in one sitting would start to cause ennui – as can also be the case with Wilde or Wodehouse. But the odd lunch-time visit is much to be encouraged, and I shall certainly be working my way through more of them.

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