Saturday, May 28, 2022

Rosewater, by Tade Thompson

Kaaro can find things. He can read people's minds and switch into a sort of psychic internet thing - so long as he's not lathered himself in anti-fungal cream. He's one of a number of "sensitives" working for the Nigerian government, trying to puzzle out - among other things - why America has gone silent, and what the aliens in London might want...

This is a gripping, intelligent thriller, full of big, mad ideas and images. The world Thompson has created is rich enough for multiple stories - this is the first of a trilogy, and in the closing pages we discover someone close to Kaaro does not think of herself as a supporting character but is the heroine of her own tale.

Bayo Gbadamosi's reading of the audiobook is especially good, giving voice to an array of different characters. It's suspenseful, it's weird and visceral, and has that brilliant science-fiction thing of being at once utterly extraordinary and also tangibly real. 

Rosewater won the Clarke Award in 2019. Other books on the shortlist were Semiosis by Sue Burke, Frankenstein in Baghdad by Ahmed Saadawi, and The Loosening Skin by Aliya Whiteley.

Friday, May 27, 2022

Doctor Who Magazine #578

Ncuti Gatwa on the cover of Doctor Who Magazine #578
There's a lot by me in the new issue of Doctor Who Magazine. I've written the main cover feature, "Who is Ncuti Gatwa", a profile of the actor announced earlier this month as the new Doctor.

Had it not been for this exciting announcement, the cover would probably have gone to Peter Cushing, star of the 1960s Dalek movies that are being re-released this summer. There is lots about the films this issue, including two things by me. 

In "Sets and the City", Rhys Williams and Gav Rymill recreate the sets from the 1965 film Dr Who and the Daleks, with commentary by me and Rhys. This month's "Sufficient Data" infographic by me and Ben Morris charts actors from the first Dalek movie who were also in TV Doctor Who.

Peter Cushing on the cover of Doctor Who Magazine #315
(By nice coincidence, almost exactly 20 years ago, my first ever work for DWM was a feature on that first Dalek movie and big-screen Doctor Who generally. That was a cover feature, too.)

Plus, in "Hebe Monsters", I speak to Ruth Madeley about playing Hebe Harrison, new companion to the Sixth Doctor in his latest audio adventures.

Given all this, they've also put a photo of niceish me on page 3, taken by the Dr.

Photograph of writer Simon Guerrier, 2022

Sunday, May 01, 2022

Amongst Our Weapons, by Ben Aaronovitch

I loved this latest entry in the Rivers of London series, with Detective Constable Peter Grant on the trail of a vengeful angel linked to the Spanish Inquisition (hence the title). The case involves a trip to Manchester and Glossop, and lots of good twists and turns, with Ben - as ever - keeping the magic stuff grounded in the real. Police work is, it seems, based on knowing the nearest location of "refs" (ie coffee and snacks).

What I especially like is how this standalone adventure still moves the series on, with Peter's imminent fatherhood creating ripples for the whole series, and then a quiet word from another character at the end promising more radical shake-ups to come. I also really like the sense of Peter trying to make connections between different magical communities, breaking down the idea so common to fantasy of wizarding as an elite.

The Waterstones edition includes a bonus story, "Miroslav's Fabulous Hand", narrated by Peter's mentor Nightingale and set just before and then during the Second World War. It's thrilling in itself - like an old-school James Bond adventure - but also exciting to see some of Nightingale's early life in more detail. This sort of thing could support a whole novel of its own. (See also what I said about the recent novella, What Abigail Did That Summer.)

By coincidence, I finished this while the Dr is on holiday in Thessaloniki, which is where I was in 2011 when I read the first Rivers of London book. By coincidence, the Dr now works at one of the places featured in this new book. By coincidence, as I was making my way to the Nigel Kneale centenary event last week, I got to the reference on page 218 to "the original Quatermass".