Books (#SFWApro)

Vacation posts will resume (probably) tomorrow, but for now, more reviews!
THE WRITER’S GUIDE TO EVERYDAY LIFE IN RENAISSANCE ENGLAND FROM 1485 to 1649 by Kathy Lynn Emerson is one of a series of historical guides done by Writer’s Digest books. Much like the English Costume book I read some months back, a lot of this is just lists—fashions, important cities, various coins, foods and drinks (though the list of treasonous plots is memorable for showing how many there were). There are, however, more detailed articles on women in business, the duties of various government officials, lodging options for travelers and the growth of English. Not without a few odd gaps (tobacco was so popular during Elizabeth’s reign, I’m puzzled why there’s no discussion of its use), but overall quite good.
ELIDOR remains my favorite Alan Garner novel, partly because it was my first encounter with (as they now call ‘em) intrusion fantasy, but also because it’s just plain good. Four children get sucked into a Middle Earth-like realm where the dark forces won, rescue four magic talismans from Mordor (so to speak) and take them home for safekeeping. However the darkness has followed them, manifesting as everything from TV static to shadows with nothing to cast them. Nicely done.
WEIRD HEROES Vol. 1 was the first in a 1970s series of neo-pulp anthologies, conceived by editor Byron Preiss as carrying the spirit of the pulps into the modern age—which is to say, no killing (Preiss specifically says in the intro he wanted to offer an alternative to modern shoot-’em-up vigilantes like the Executioner). The best story is Archie Goodwin’s Stalker, a Vietnam veteran fighting a cabal of Oklahoma oil men (Goodwin says the Oklahoma angle was to distinguish the “Darkstar League” from SPECTRE and Hydra); the worst is easily Philip Jose Farmer’s Greatheart Silver, a parody at about fifth-grade level of humor (like sinister Asian mastermind Few Man Chu). “Rose in the Sunshine State” isn’t really pulp at all, though the tale of a worried Jewish retiree in Florida is quite good. Overall a good start, though the series only lasted eight volumes (and only a couple of characters from later books saw any afterlife).
JUST MY TYPE: A Book About Fonts by Simon Garfield starts by pointing out how Steven Jobs changed the computer world by including a choice of fonts with the early Macs (as opposed to the uniform block letters of early computing). Garfield then goes on to look at various famous fonts (Helvetica, Futura, Gill Sans and the Jonathan Sans that became synonymous with the London underground a century ago) and the ongoing disputes that roil the typophilic world. These include angry protests over Comic Sans’s overuse to typographers who critique movie realism based on whether the typefaces are right for the time to the Nazi insistence that Gothic blackletter was the only authentically true German typeface. Garfield also discusses why some typefaces become legends and some crap out, arguing that along with intrinsic quality a lot of it is sheer repetition (so the universal use of Helvetica has conditioned us to see it as the True Font). Very interesting

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3 responses to “Books (#SFWApro)

  1. Pingback: First, book reviews! (#SFWpro) | Fraser Sherman's Blog

  2. Pingback: And now, book reviews! (#SFWApro) | Fraser Sherman's Blog

  3. Pingback: Doc Savage’s Other Apocalyptic Life: The Mad Goblin by Philip José Farmer (#SFWApro) | Fraser Sherman's Blog

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