John LeCarre’s TINKER, TAILOR, SOLDIER, SPY brings the retired George Smiley back to center-stage for the first time since A Murder of Quality as a group of agents recruit him to investigate a defector’s claim there’s an Ultimate Mole in the highest levels of the Circus (as LeCarre now identifies Smiley’s brancy of British intelligence). A book that manages to be absorbing (this is more compulsively readable than I usually find LeCarre) despite having lots of talk and very little action; I suspect one reason it’s LeCarre’s most adapted work is that it’s neither as dark nor as heavily Cold War as Spy Who Came in From the Cold so it doesn’t age as badly. This also introduces Karla, a mastermind of Soviet intelligence who met and outwitted Smiley years earlier, and remains the running foe for two more books.
Someone in marketing screwed up the cover for Robert Bloch’s PLEASANT DREAMS as the back cover completely misidentifies the contents. Fortunately, what’s actually inside is excellent, including a creepy haunted house (“The Hungry House”), a pair of accursed spectacles (“The Cheaters”), the gory little “The Mandarin’s Canaries” and “I Kiss Your Shadow” (which now looks like a tale of a female stalker, but back when it came out would have seemed like a twisted take on how women catch and “tame” men into husbands). The weakest stories are “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” (standard story of a mentally handicapped man tricked into committing murder) and “Sweet Sixteen” (relies too much on then-current fears of juvenile delinquencey to work now, even though the same fears recur generation after generation).
THE SHOCKWAVE RIDER by John Brunner is a 1975 novel set in a dystopian future (heavily inspired by Alvin Toffler’s Nonfiction Future Shock) where relationships are all transitory and “plug-in” and surveillance is omnipresent (both enabled by what amounts to a form of Internet), a situation an escapee from a Think Tank of Doom hopes to change (like Zelazny’s My Name is Legion he’s a chameleon who can escape detection even in a world of massive data-gathering and omnipresent surveillance). Although the lead is interest, this is unfortunately one of those Novels of Ideas where people are forever debating their Brilliant Theories about How To Fix The World rather than acting (and the issues are dated, even though the underlying theme of overwhelming change has hardly gone away)
FRANK R. PAUL: Father of Science Fiction Art by Stephen D. Korshak is a collection of cover paintings by the Golden Age artist, along with a short and interesting biography. While I haven’t always been a huge fan of Paul, this collection of massive spaceships, weird monsters and alien landscapes makes me appreciate him a lot more. Thanks to my friends MLR and freemonkeys for giving me this.
PEACE was Gene Wolfe’s first novel, a magical realist piece in which a retiree slips into his flashback booth while taking time trips to visit his dead doctors and wondering why his house seems to be growing. Unfortunately, the more fantastic aspects don’t leaven the endless mundane reminiscences of his childhood and his family enough to hold me (Neil Gaiman’s afterword insists that the closer we read this, the more amazing it gets, but it’s just the sort of book I’m more inclined to skim). More a case of mismatching writer and reader than an actual bad book, I think.


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6 responses to “Books

  1. Pingback: The Spy Who Came In From the Cold, John LeCarré (Victor Golloncz, 1963 {Penguin Audio, Narrator: Michael Jayston) | The Archaeologist's Guide to the Galaxy.. by Thomas Evans

  2. Pingback: And Books | Fraser Sherman's Blog

  3. Pingback: Movies and TV (#SFWApro) | Fraser Sherman's Blog

  4. Pingback: Not much reading/watching done this week (#SFWApro) | Fraser Sherman's Blog

  5. Pingback: One of those weeks where most of my reading is “Meh” (#SFWApro) | Fraser Sherman's Blog

  6. Pingback: John Le Carré, sex, the south and cats: books read | Fraser Sherman's Blog

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