FAUBORGE 36 (2008) is a good French drama in which the performers and crew of a 1930s French music hall struggle to keep it afloat despite such standard backstage-musical material as political dissension, romance, poverty, family dramas and so on. Familiar stuff, but well done. “It is our duty to keep out the rats who want to eat our fine French cheese!”
THE WORM IN THE BUD: The World of Victorian Sexuality by Ronald B.Pearsall is something of a curate’s egg—while Pearsall’s account of Victorian prostitutes, dirty jokes and adulterous affairs has lots of interesting information, it’s dry as dust, and badly marred by his tendency to look down his nose at Those Prudish Victorians (the idea Victorians found piano legs erotic has been well debunked). As might be expected from a 1969 book, his view of rape is unpleasant reading at times, such as when he discusses how 12 and 13 year old rape victims were more sinning than sinned against; the section on homosexuality isn’t as offensive, but heavily filled by now dated material (apparently 1960s readers needed a basic tutorial for how gay sex works). Better for reference than for reading.
BRAK: When The Idols Walked was Jakes’ last Brak novel (there were a few short stories collected in Fortunes of Brak, which I don’t have) as the barbarian is sidelined from his trip to Khurdisan yet again by getting shanghaid into a galley slave, escaping by a magical battle, then finding refuge in a city where a scheming sorceress is unleashing strangling ghosts and the title animated statues to conquer (unusually, she’s a freelance villain rather than another agent of the dark lord Yob-Haggoth). A well-plotted (though the magic of one sorcerer gets rather confusingly credited to the villain), entertaining read, though showing Jakes’ usual limitations on character and world-building—I realized reading this I have no idea what Brak’s homeland is like.
SHARPE’S HONOR: Richard Sharpe and the Vitoria Campaign, February to June, 1813 has the French master spy Ducos attempting to kill two birds with one stone—avenging himself on Sharpe and bringing Spain back into alliance with France—by tricking Sharpe into a duel and framing him for murder. While Ducos lacks the slimy malevolence of Obadiah Hakeswill, he does quite well as the new arch-enemy; a good installment.
THE LONG TWILIGHT by Keith Laumer has two immortal aliens prepare for their final showdown amidst the backdrop of the Ultimate Storm (“All the air is rushing in—but it has nowhere to go out!”) and a rogue power plant refusing to turn itself off (all of which hits so many buttons, I’m surprised it’s not a SyFy movie already). A very good one.
And some TV—I finally finished watching GLEE just in time for the new season to start; while I’m not as sold on it as some of my friends (among other things, the switches from snarky cynicism to uplifting messages often don’t work), the story of a Glee club struggling to keep its doors open and win the regional contest makes for pretty entertaining viewing and some neat musical numbers.
CARNIVALE was a 2003 HBO series about a young boy with mysterious healing powers who joins a traveling carnival which has its own mysteries (a paralyzed psychic and the never-seen manager) while a small-town preacher discovers his own strange powers and begins to dream of greater glories … This is one I’ve been curious about for a while; I hope the second season lives up to the first.