Stikkordarkiv: fantasy

The summer of Discworld

The Colour of Magic

Finished 27 May.

Less engaging than Lords and Ladies. Rincewind is less interesting as a character than the witches, and though he did grow on me I feel his character needs some development and depth. Twoflower is charming and funny, but also hardly a well-developed character in this novel. I suppose we might learn more about them both eventually. The best parts were the intersection of magic and mythology with physics and logic.

Only elves and trolls had survived the coming of Man to the discworld; the elves because they were altogether too clever by half, and the trollen folk because they were at least as good as humans at being nasty, spiteful and greedy.

Page 116.

The Light Fantastic

Finished 20 June.

A bit better than The Colour of Magic, there is at least a coherent plot of sorts and both Rincewind and Twoflower are rounded out as characters.  But I also identified some of the things I think made me not get into Pratchett before, and I now know exactly what it is: It’s a feeling that he gets so caught up in being clever, in inventing concepts and puns, that he loses sight of the story. Which is his prerogative, of course, but I don’t have to like it. Take page 201 where Twoflower relates having seen people helping themselves to instruments from a shop in the chaos of a riot and Rincewind absentmindedly says «Luters, I expect.» Now I like a pun as well as the next girl, but the whole exchange is pretty pointless, it’s obviously just there for the sake of the pun, and having to stop and think about a pun at that point breaks the flow of the narrative.

And though Pratchett deserves praise for including non-traditional female characters (I am particularly taken with Bethan, I wonder if she will turn up in later books), he also falls into trite stereotypes now and again. Here, for example, he starts off splendidly and then falls rather flat:

Not for the first time she reflected that there were many drawbacks to being a swordswoman, not least of which was that men didn’t take you seriously until you’d actually killed them, by which time it didn’t really matter anyway. Then there was all the leather, which brought her out in a rash but seemed to be unbreakably traditional. And then there was the ale. It was all right for the likes of Hrun the Barbarian or Cimbar the Assasin to carouse all night in low bars, but Herrena drew the line at it unless they sold proper drinks in small glasses, preferably with a cherry in. As for the toilet facilities…

(Page 132.) Because women don’t drink beer and need advanced plumbing.

But now onto Equal Rites, which has witches.

Equal Rites

Finished 23 June.

Much better. But also quite annoying. I’m hoping the dichotomy between witches and wizards eases off a little in later books, or I might still end up writing off Pratchett as a bad job. Wizards go to university and read books and use symbols and study atoms and their magic is related to maths and physics, whereas witches use suggestion and herbs and their magic is «earthy» and life-affirming.

«If men were witches, they’d be wizards. It’s all down to–» she tapped her head «–headology. How your mind works. Men’s minds work different from ours, see. Their magic’s all numbers and angles and edges and what the stars are doing, as if that really mattered. It’s all power. It’s all–» Granny paused, and dredged up her favourite word to describe all she despised in wizardry, «–jommetry.»

(Page 84.) Sound familiar? I sure HOPE Pratchett is painting this as a parallell to history on earth and the whole «we are fundamentally different» thing is revealed to be so much tosh (and not only in the case of Esk who happens to have wizardry trust upon her by accident). Because so far it is giving me too many «misogony disguised as flattery»-vibes, I’m afraid.

But there is much to like, too. Esk is delightful, and I hope we’ll see more of her. Granny Weatherwax is just getting into her stride as a character and I’m looking forward to her further development. Cutangle turns out to not be so bad, perhaps, and Simon will hopefully also turn up again, and get a bit more flesh on him in later books.


Finished 9 July.

Yeah, so… Death as a side character in the other books has been sort of amusing. In Mort he takes a much larger part, and, well, perhaps it was a bit much. But still, Mort himself is sympathetic, we get a few more female characters with a backbone and the solution to the whole thing was neater than I expected it to be. Still not my favourite.


Finished 25 July

Hm. Well. No. It better pick up again in the next book, or I might give it all up. This was just a jumble of all the things that I have liked the least in the earlier books, at least that’s what it felt like. The only half-way interesting character was Conina, but I found her desire to be a hairdresser of all things a bit of a tired cliché. It had good bits, though.

Spelter touched a surface that was smoother than stone. It felt like ice would feel if ice was slightly warm, and looked like ivory. While it wasn’t exactly transparent, it gave the impression that it would like to be.

(Page 108.) Now, see, this is an example of Pratchett doing wordplay really well. It’s a wonderful description and actually relevant to the story, as opposed to things like the «luters» in The Light Fantastic.

Anyway, is this the end of Rincewind? I haven’t checked the storyline cheat sheet, but I shouldn’t think so, though it looks bleak. On the other hand, I wouldn’t miss him much, so I guess Pratchett failed at making me care what happens. But the next book has witches.

Wyrd Sisters

Finished 7 August.

More like it, though… Well, I don’t know. I like the «sisters» and I ought to have thoroughly enjoyed all the Shakespearian references in this one, but I was only mildly amused. And I’m beginning to tire of Pratchett’s «romances». Everyone seems to fall in love at first sight, never mind the personality, hey? And I don’t know that I really believe in the couples as couples. Having already read Lords and Ladies, I know the Margrat/Verence thing continues to be pretty much equally wishy-washy and unexplainable.

Another thing that bothers me is the whole sisterhood theme. I mean, there’s the «witches against wizards» thing still going on (though being less pronounced in this book as there are no wizards actually present), but there’s a lot of emphasis on how the female and male magic is different throughout the series. Yet Nanny Ogg, despite being a commanding matriarch with (seemingly) great affection for all her sons and grandchildren (or rather grandsons) seems to have no regard for women in her family. In this book it is mentioned that she has daughters, but only as a sort of insult from Granny Weatherwax (none of them turned out witches) and I think that’s the first we’ve heard of them, though numerous of the sons have been named and have figured as characters. And then we have the daughters-in-law:

Nanny Ogg never used her washhouse, since all her washing was done by the daughters-in-law, a tribe of grey-faced, subdued women whose names she never bothered to remember.

(Page 80). Hardly very sisterly of her, is it? I know, I know, there’s an argument that the solidarity is reserved for other witches, not «ordinary people», but then why are the sons (and at least one grandson) named and given identities? I think it’s just ordinary ingrained misogony from a white male author. Which is so common that it’s almost not a problem, you know? Even so, it’s hardly a selling point, either.

Well, I’m not giving up yet. The next two books are lined up, so we’ll see.

The Girl Who Drank the Moon – Kelly Barnhill

A buzz on Twitter a while back made me add The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill to one of my Adlibris orders, and it seemed like a good book to pick up while waiting for the next Pratchett from the library.

Warning: The following contains spoilers of sorts.

I can see why people would be enchanted by The Girl Who Drank the Moon, though for me it fell somewhat short of its potential (perhaps precisely because I had read about people being enchanted). I’m hard pressed to put my finger on exactly why, though, because when I try to sum up the cast of characters and the plot it seems to me that the book should be a perfect fit. The closest I have come to a reason is that I don’t feel I get to know any of the main characters as well as I’d like, or as well as I’d need to in order to really care about what happens to them. It is partly a consequence of the way the plot centers around forgetting (or rather repression of memories) and storytelling as a way to deceive rather than inform. The reader is partly kept in the dark along with the characters, which is unavoidable for the plot’s progression, but I think this is what detracts from the character building. For a large part of the novel the main characters are not wholly themselves, insofar as you need your memories to be yourself, and it certainly affected my perception of Luna, Xan, Antain and the rest. That said, towards the last hundred pages or so the fog is lifted, literally and figuratively, and I am much more invested in «what happens next». Unfortunately, of course, the novel then ends (and it’s not reading as though a sequel is intended).

Still, it’s a good book, in fact I’d say it’s a very good book. It just lacked that final 5 % tug-at-my-heartstrings-from-page-1, and that is so exceedingly rare that it really is unreasonable to ask for it.

Lords and Ladies – Terry Pratchett

It’s odd how it is, some books have to find you at the right time. Even ones that «everyone» likes. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve tried reading Terry Pratchett. I’ve read Good Omens, of course, because Neil Gaiman, and it’s brilliant, so after finishing that I definitely tried something Discworld. And prior to that I tried because Pratchett shows up in the sentence «If you like Douglas Adams you will enjoy…» And I do. Like Douglas Adams, that is. Pratchett not so much. Until now. It must be 25 years since I first tried and suddenly there I was looking at the emergency shelf we keep at the in-laws’ summer house thinking I need something fairly light-weight to read now (as Fatland’s Grensen really needed some concentration and I was getting bored with Anna’s Mr God – more on that later) and my eyes fell on Lords and Ladies and I thought «Why not?» and suddenly the nearly four hundred pages were read and I’d even laughed out loud a few times.

So, yes. I’m not going to say too much about the book itself, I’m not sure I could bring anything to the table that hasn’t been said already. My own experience, however, is, if not unique, then probably unusual, because I found myself drawn to rereading The Rivers of London series (or more specifically Foxglove Summer). Because of the murderous unicorn and the fair folk. And I see that it is almost 100 % certain that Aaronowitch has read Pratchett (something Goodreads can confirm by the way), but I also see that as for myself, though I did enjoy Pratchett this time, I prefer the Aaronowitch brand of fantasy, where the main plot is set firmly on planet earth, fantasy or no.

Let me also say, by the way, that Pratchett is nothing like Adams, except in so far as humour in sci-fi and fantasy is a sort of genre by itself.

But that being said, I now want to read more Pratchett. And the Discworld universe is… complicated. It’s been years since I first saw the (seemingly) excellent chart by Krzysztof K. Kietzman and since I started in the middle it was difficult to know where to go from there. So I asked Facebook. That is, I asked my Facebook connections, assuming I’d have at least one major fan on my friends list (I did). The advice varied, but Siri Pettersen ordered me to start from the beginning and you really don’t want to ignore orders from Siri Pettersen, so I have now reserved The Colour of Magic at the library. For good measure I reserved Equal Rites, too, as that’s the first book in the witches storyline, and having enjoyed reading about the witches already they seem a fairly safe bet. But if The Colour of Magic turns out to be readable and not a stumbling block I guess I will go with chronological order as published.

Nordlys: Reisen til Jotundalen – Malin Falch

Det har vært Malin Falch og Nordlys i alle kanaler (særlig her i Trøndelag) de siste par ukene, men jeg tror det var Siri Pettersen som på Facebook først gjorde meg oppmerksom på denne nye norske tegneserien for en måned eller to siden. Jeg hev meg på forhåndsbestilling, og fikk derfor signert eksemplar i posten 21. februar. Her om dagen fikk jeg forøvrig også et anmeldereksemplar fra Egmont, bare så det er nevnt. Det eksemplaret ender nok hos skolebiblioteket.

Handlingsreferat fra vaskeseddelen: «Sonja får en natt besøk av en fremmed gutt, som likevel virker merkelig kjent. Han er fra den andre verdenen, og han tar henne med dit. De reiser på nordlyset og kommer til et Norge som ikke er likt noe vi ser til daglig, men som likevel finnes i alle oss som har latt fantasien løpe løpsk.»

Dette med en portal til en paralell verden er ikke akkurat et ukjent grep i fantasy-genren, men det er delvis fordi det jo er en så effektiv måte å knytte fantasien opp mot «virkeligheten» på.

Jeg liker at Sonjas «virkelighet» er litt ubestemmelig og tidløs (innefor det siste hundreåret, i alle fall) i starten av boka. Sonja bor tydeligvis på en storgård ved Røros, og historien starter på konfirmasjonsdagen hennes, en dag som markeres på tradisjonelt vis. Bare to illustrasjoner på side 32 og 33, av familie og venner som fotograferer konfirmantene (delvis med smarttelefoner) og av biler utenfor gården plasserer historien i samtiden. Så snart Sonja og Espen (et navn som umulig kan være tilfeldig valgt…) kommer til Jotundalens parallelle univers forsvinner all knytning til samtiden og vi befinner oss i et Norge som er hentet fra Asbjørnsen og Moe og vikingesagaene.

I de få anmeldelsene som er kommet på Goodreads nevnes både Peter Pan, Narnia, Alvefolket og Min bror bjørnen, og med unntak av sistnevnte (som jeg ikke har sett) må jeg si meg enig i at Nordlys plasserer seg fint inn i rekken av kvalitetsfantasy for alle aldersgrupper. Selv vil jeg legge til både Disneys Frost og Tone Almhjells Maretorn (som jeg har lest på engelsk) som opplagte mulige inspirasjonskilder. Det er ikke dermed meningen å si at Nordlys er noe slags plagiat eller kopi av andre verk, for universet Falch har skapt oppleves som noen helt eget.

Falchs illustrasjoner er det umulig å kritisere (i alle fall for en vanlig dødelig som meg). Som Beate sier det på Goodreads: «NB! Ha godt lys når du leser, da får du mest glede av de!»

I det hele tatt er det eneste negative jeg har å si om Reisen til Jotundalen at bok to helst bør komme så snart som mulig. Det er en nesten uungåelig konsekvens av å drive med universbygging i tegneserier at bind en ender som en slags prolog og det først er i bind to den egentlige handlingen starter, og sånn er det her også. Det skjer liksom ikke så mye, men potensialet for actionfylte eventyr er absolutt på plass. Så: Hvor kan jeg forhåndsbestille bok to?

Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief – Rick Riordan

I’m a little late to the party as far as Percy Jackson goes. I’ve been meaning to give him a chance, but then there is the problem of so many books, so little time. However, a few weeks ago we were at the local dump (literally) to get rid of our was-actually-due-for-the-dump-when-we-got-it-second-hand-eigth-years-ago recliner, and when we’re there we always have a look at «Gratisbutikken», which is basically a freecycle shop, where people leave useable stuff and other people then can take it away for free. Well, someone had been in recently and left a shitload of children’s/YA books in English, mostly fantasy, amongst them three complete Rick Riordan series, including Percy Jackson. I first started picking up just the books I wanted to read myself, but then I remembered that we have a school library which is always in need of donations of popular books, so I thought «What the h, we’ll just grab the lot.» Which is how we left the place with 12 kilos of looks-like-they’ve-hardly-been-opened books. See exhibit A:

A post shared by Ragnhild Lervik (@lattermild) on

Anyway, most of them are now with the school librarian, but I held back The Lightning Thief, the whole Cat Warriors series (on request from the ten-year-old), the non-fantasy YA and the more adult fantasy books, all of which at least one of us would like to read before passing them forward.

So, Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief. I would assume the premise is familiar to most readers, but Percy Jackson is a troubled 12-year-old. He’s had to change schools at least once a year, and is now at a fancy (the name Yancy rhymes with fancy, I refuse to believe that is a coincidence) boarding school for delinquent youths, where he’s made friends with a boy called Grover and is on friendly terms with the latin teacher, Mr Brunner. On a school outing the maths teacher – who seems to really hate Percy – turns out to be some kind of monster who tries to kill him, but Percy instead kills her with the help of a sword his latin teacher throws him. Afterwards, though, everyone claims there was never any such teacher, so Percy wonders if he imagined the whole thing. Even after he overhears Grover and Mr Brunner talking about him, were Grover, definitely, proves he is not quite what he seems, Percy still doesn’t really accept that something supernatural has occurred. Once the summer holiday has started, though, things escalate and Percy discovers that he is a half-god (his absent father being Poseidon, one of the greek gods of Olympus) and that Zeus believes Percy has stolen his main lightning bolt and is, to put it mildly, not happy about it. Percy, Grover and a girl called Annabeth (who is the daughter of Athena and a mortal man) set out on a quest to retrieve the lightning bolt and prevent a war amongst the gods. So… not exactly a walk in the park.

It’s a bit of a page turner, it must be said. I did actually go to bed with about 80 pages to go, but it was a wrench. Percy is, as far as we get to know him, a likeable kid who’s been dealt a bit of a rough hand. The threesome that is Percy, Grover and Annabeth have a pretty good dynamic. And their sassing off to the olympian gods is good fun, as is the juxtaposition of the greek mythology and modern America.

I’ll probably be reserving the rest of the series at the library (since I’ve already given the others to the school). Just when I finished reading yesterday I’d have started book two immediately, had I had it available. Now that 24 hours have passed, however, the urgency has passed, and I’ve been eying my tbr pile and finding other things that I want to read more immediately.

So why is that, then? Well. Much as Percy Jackson was entertaining, I feel like I’ve read other books with the same ideas done better. The quote on the back from the Sunday Times says it’s «Buffy meets Artemis Fowl», which I feel is short-selling poor Percy quite badly (I did NOT like Arthemis Fowl when I read it way back), even if I can approve of the Buffy-comparison. However, with the «12 year old hero and his two friends» setup, I can’t help but draw parallels to Harry Potter. It doesn’t help that Percy has black hair, Grover is kind of dorky and clumsy and Annabeth is the intellectual one, being Athena’s daughter, and a host of other details, like this quote:

Remarkable, really, the lengths to which humans will go to fit things into their version of reality.

From page 155. Which is not only familiar in its basic premise (which I’m sure Rowling was not the first to describe, confirmation bias is what you’d call it in a scientific context, for example), but in the offhand way it’s said as a sort of afterthought.

And, let’s face it, anything that reminds me of Harry Potter without being Harry Potter is fighting an uphill struggle.

Another book that came to mind while reading Percy Jackson was Neil Gaiman’s American Gods. And again there can be no contest. Much as I love Neverwhere for being set in London, American Gods is my favourite Gaiman novel, and much of it comes from the clever way it combines mythology and modern (American) popular culture. Of course, American Gods is written for an older audience, but there you are.

So, yes, Percy Jackson and the Lightening Thief is definitely readable, and I might very well read the rest of the series, but it’s also quite possible that that is one of those things I’ll never get around to.

Sommerlektyre: Tilbakeblikk

Det går trått med bloggingen for tiden, men det betyr jo ikke at jeg ikke leser. For å komme til noe som ligner «ajour» gjenoppliver jeg derfor en gammel klassiker: Oppsummeringsposten.

hulderHulder av Tonje Tornes tok det meg lang tid å komme gjennom. Jeg leste litt nå og da og så ble jeg distrahert av andre bøker og plukket den først opp igjen ukesvis senere. Av det kan man vel slutte at det er grenser for hvor fenget jeg ble. Jeg liker konseptet, bruken av gammel norsk overtro er spennende og huldra er et fascinerende vesen, men jeg vet ikke… Jeg føler først og fremst at de menneskelige hovedpersonene ble litt flate. Og så må jeg innrømme at det irriterer meg litt at det er Tore som er pubertal og «tenker på sex» og at Trine synes det er ekkelt, det blir så… Klisjeaktig. Tenåringsgutter tenker bare på en ting, liksom? Vel, meg bekjent er ikke jentene nødvendigvis bedre (og de blir vel oftere modne kjappere, selv om det også til dels er en klisje). Det er selvsagt et poeng å få fram hvor problematisk det kan være å dele tanker, men jeg synes det kunne vært gjort mer elegant. Snart kommer bok to, Forbannet. Skal jeg lese den? Tja, jo, det blir vel til det. Helt håpløs synes jeg altså ikke Hulder var.

vinternovellerVinternoveller av Ingvild Risøy er på kortlista til Bokbloggerprisen 2014 i åpen klasse. Noveller, altså. Jeg og novelleformen er jo ikke fryktelig gode venner, men denne boka synes jeg likevel var riktig så bra. Hovedproblemet med historiene var at jeg gjerne skulle hatt en hel bok om hver av dem (et av mine vanlige problemer med noveller), men de føles forsåvidt komplette, det er ikke det. Og jeg grein (blant annet på bussen), så at historiene berører kan jeg skrive under på.

De som ikke finnes av Simon Stranger leste jeg helt tilbake i februar, men siden den også er blant de nominerte får jeg vel ta den med i oppsummeringen likevel. Stranger skal ha all ære for å skrive politiske ungdomsbøker, for jeg er ikke i tvil om at vi trenger å høre disse historiene. Kontrasten mellom den Samuel Emilie møter i Barsakh (som jeg leste først) og i De som ikke finnes er stor, men også totalt forståelig ut fra hva han har opplevd i mellomtiden. Jeg blir ikke helt solgt, uten at jeg klarer å sette fingeren på hvorfor, men også De som ikke finnes er en verdig nominert. I det hele tatt har jeg problemer med å bestemme meg for hvem jeg heier mest på i åpen klasse.

white_tigerThe White Tiger av Aravind Adiga var sommerlesing i boksirkelen. En orginal fortelling fra et land jeg gjerne skulle lest mer om. Engasjerende fortalt som en serie dikterte brev fra hovedpersonen Balram til den kinesiske statsministeren (om «brevene» noensinne sendes vites ikke), med et ganske unikt fortellersynspunkt. Adiga kommer jeg til å lese mer av.

Septimus Heap Book 1: Magyk av Angie Sage var trivelig og lettlest underholdning på hytta, med en interessant plot twist som jeg ikke så komme (selv om jeg føler at jeg BURDE sett den komme). Nå leser jeg den høyt for 8-åringen, så jeg får prøve å komme tilbake til den med hennes vurdering etterhvert.

kaldhol. det skulle vere sol, vi skulle reise til Lo dz. omslDet skulle vere sol, vi skulle reise til Lódz av Marit Kaldhol er den tredje romanen på kortlista til Bokbloggerprisen 2014, de to andre har jeg skrevet om før: Unnskyld og Finne ly. Jeg kan jo si så mye som at jeg helt klart heier på både Basso og Kaldhol framfor Høyer. Kaldhol skriver i du-form, som jeg jo normalt misliker sterkt, men jeg synes hun får det til å funke, og bare det er jo et stort pluss i margen. Ellers synes jeg det var et hederlig forsøk på å skildre et heller problematisk søskenforhold, men som med Finne ly er jeg liksom ikke helt sikker på om jeg synes den var veldig bra eller bare litt… meh. Og med noen uker forløpt siden jeg leste dem kan jeg vel si at ingen av dem sitter i i noen merkverdig grad. Jeg klarer å trekke opp av minnet hva de handlet om, men lite av stemningen eller noe engasjement for hovedpersonene. Så, atte? Er dette de beste romanene som kom ut på norsk i fjor? Jeg kan vel ikke klage over utvalget, siden jeg knapt leste noen, og ingen jeg fant verdig en nominasjon. Ikke ser det ut til at jeg kommer til å gjøre noen betydelig innsats i år heller, jeg stiller sterkere i åpen klasse.



Dead Until Dark – Charlaine Harris

dead_until_darkSomeone had left the three first Sookie Stackhouse novels on the shelf at my doctor’s office, and since the other available reading material consisted of old parenting or womens’ magazines, I thought I’d check it out. I read far enough to decide to take it home, but then found I had rather more interesting things to read when I got there, so it was left on the «in progress» pile for a few months. But then I had this funk, and starting something I want to like when I’m in a funk is not a good idea, as even things that ought to please me tend not to, so I decided to try something I wasn’t expecting to like and see if that could snap me out of it. And do you know, I think it might have worked.

At least I read the book right through, I even found myself wondering what would happen next and actually wanting to pick up the book. A far-fetched yarn was obviously just what I needed. A well-written one, mind you. Dead Until Dark certainly is competent handiwork. Not great art, perhaps, but no annoying linguistical flaws and a storyline that works.

As for Sookie. Well, I sort of like her, though I found some of her reasoning annoyingly rather than charmingly naive, but Dead Until Dark did not really convince me I should go on to read more in the series. The whole vampire thing creeps me out in entirely the wrong way. Not the deliciously creepy «Oooooh, I’m scared» sort of way, but in the «Ugh, gross» and «this vampire is entirely too sparkly and the sex scenes seem gratuitous, I am too old for this shit» sort of way. And I find the whole concept of society as a whole accepting vampires because of the entirely fake «it’s a virus» story completely unbelievable. So, no. I probably won’t read any more Stackhouse novels (and I certainly won’t be watching True Blood any time soon).

But I am grateful to Harris for helping me out of the reading funk. At least I’m reading fiction again. My copy has now been registered at Bookcrossing, and I’ll drop it off somewhere to please or annoy another reader.

Den onde arven – Thomas Enger

arven_engerNår Den onde arven av Thomas Enger dukket opp på langlista til bokbloggerprisen ble jeg selvsagt nysgjerrig. Siden det jo uansett var en sjanse for at den ville komme på kortlisten og derfor «skulle» samleses reserverte jeg den på biblioteket, og startet på den ganske kjapt. Jeg hadde høye forventninger. Boka var tross alt på den samme langlista som høyt elskede Odinsbarn og ubeskrivelig vakre Fugl.

Desverre var jeg ikke kommet veldig langt før jeg begynte å bite meg merke i, og irritere meg over, små, skal vi si logiske feil? Og nå er jeg jo engang slik skrudd sammen at når jeg først begynner å legge merke til sånt klarer jeg ikke å la være å fortsette. Jeg begynte å markere med stickies, og, vel, det ble en del før jeg var ferdig.

Og her bør du slutte å lese om du ikke vil ha spoilers, for dem blir det nok noen av…

Jeg skal ikke sitere alt, men skal jeg rettferdiggjøre min noe surmagede «makkverk»-kommentar på facebook må jeg vel bruke noen eksempler. Det første jeg reagerte på var dette:

Det første jeg tenker på, er hvor lite sliten jeg er. Jeg blir alltid så fort andpusten når jeg gjør noe fysisk. Nå føles det tvert imot som om jeg kunne ha lagt på sprang med det samme.

(Side 35.) Tilforlatelig nok sånn for seg selv, men jeg synes det skurrer, siden jeg nettopp har lest følgende på side 13:

Det er derfor jeg må sykle til skolen hver dag også. Åtte kilometer. Hver vei.

På noe som høres ut som en rimelig gammel sykkel. Åtte kilometer hver vei, hver dag. Det er det faktisk nesten umulig å ikke bli i rimelig god form av. Ok. Det er en filleting. Jeg vet.

Det er fler filleting. Julie begynner å lure på om hun kan ha gått rett forbi faren i skogen, først tolker jeg det som «rett forbi liket av ham», men så tenker hun at han kanskje har overlevd alle disse årene og bare venter på at noen skal finne ham (side 41). Hun er altså 16. Å tro at noen har gått seg bort og så overlevd ute i skogen i 15 år uten å finne veien ut igjen i mer enn et par ønsketekningssekunder er vel optimistisk selv fra at langt yngre barn. Vi snakker om en engelsk skog. De fleste engelske skoger er det godt gjort å gå seg bort i i mer enn 15 minutter (ok, det finnes unntak). Senere finner Julie  en artikkel på nett om at bestefaren hadde en teori om «genetisk magi» og det første hun henger seg opp i er at bestefaren hadde en «teori» og at en professor synes teorien er interessant, ikke at teorien omhandlet «magi» (side 115). I utkanten av Holloway (en ikke veldig stor by) ligger «En katedral jeg ikke vet navnet på» (side 122). La meg gjette: Holloway Cathedral? Hvorfor skrive katedral og ikke kirke, en kirke hadde det vært troverdig at hun ikke visste navnet på. Det er ikke som om bygningen har noen som helst betydning for historien. Eller faren til Margaret som har «hundrevis» av helt nye mobiler liggende (side 158). Jeg lurer på hva slags firma han jobber i? Og faren til Julie har lest om sin egen forsvinning i avisene (side 285), men siden familien visste at han skulle dra og hvorfor han dro, kan jeg ikke helt skjønne hvorfor han skulle bli meldt savnet?

Filleting. Alle sammen.

En verre logisk brist går på forholdet mellom tvillingene i familien. McDermott sier at Jim Moores teori var at tvillingene utviklet seg slik at de var i hver sin ende av «den verdimessige skalaen», altså at den ene var «god» og den andre «ond», og at forholdet mellom dem var konstant. Derav trekker Julie en slutning som også blir gjentatt flere ganger i boka:

Men hvis forholdet mellom det gode og det onde hele tiden var konstant – og hvis Carl var den onde av brødrene – da skulle vel dét bety at bestefar ble et bedre menneske etterpå, da? [Etter Carls død.] At han ble snillere? Eller?

(Side 177.) Eller? Eller det stikk motsatte? Hvis forholdet mellom det gode og det onde faktisk var konstant, burde ikke den enes død føre til at den andre ble «helt normal», eller i alle fall like deler ond og god? For all del, for plottets del funker det fint at den som er igjen blir mer ekstrem, men begrunn det da skikkelig, ikke med et liksom konstant forhold.

Så var det denne oppbevaringsboksen på sentralbanestasjonen, da. Julie finner en nøkkel blant bestefarens ting som åpner boksen der det er en CD med video av faren. Fett nok. Sett bort fra at alle oppbevaringsbokser forsvant fra engelske stasjoner under «the troubles», altså mens IRA drev på på det verste. Veldig mange steder er de blitt gjenintrodusert, men som regel er det betjent oppbevaring og ingen steder kan du lenger (om du noensinne kunne) låse en boks og så tro at den fortsatt er låst og innholdet tilgjengelig uker eller måneder senere. Enten så må du betale mer for å få den opp, satsen er per 24 timer, eller så har det gått så lang tid at innholdet har blitt fjernet og låsen skiftet.

Joda, jeg er klar over at dette er fantasy, men selv fantasy må henge logisk sammen innenfor sitt eget lille (eller store) univers. Og jeg lar meg irritere.

Det andre jeg lot meg irritere over var språket. Enger faller også i anglisismefella med jevne mellomrom, og i dette tilfellet forsterkes inntrykket av at orginalen er på engelsk og en slett oversetterjobb ved at han har valgt å legge handlingen til England. Uten noen som helst grunn, så vidt jeg kan se, annet enn å gjøre det enkelt for et britisk forlag å plukke opp boka. Handlingen kunne like gjerne foregått i Norge. Som det er går Julie på Wetherby High School og jeg stusser både når hun hevder at «Øynene mine fyller seg opp» (side 215) (mine øyne fyller seg jevnlig med tårer, men de fyller seg ikke opp) og når vergen hennes forteller at hun arver 215 millioner kroner (side 144). Ville det ikke være mer naturlig å arve pund?

Dessuten driver Enger med særdeles mangelfull folkeopplysning når han lar Hacksley si om nordlys:

Nordlys forekommer for det meste langt nord, særlig i Norge nord for polarsirkelen, men en svært sjelden gang hender det at vi ser nordlyset nedover i Europa også.

(Side 259.) Kan vi i det minste droppe «i Norge»? Jeg vet at den norske olympiske komité gjerne vil innbille verden at det bare er i Norge vi har nordlys, men vi trenger vel ikke jatte med dem? Og vi ser nordlys langt sør for polarsirkelen jevnlig, det er heller ikke et helt uvanlig fenomen i Skottland. I Sør-England, derimot, er det rimelig uvanlig, men det hadde vært langt mer naturlig om Hacksley snakket om Skottland enn Norge, når Enger nå altså har valgt å legge handlingen til de britiske øyer.

De fleste voksne som har anmeldt boka har bemerket at plottet kanskje ikke er det mest orginale. Det kan jeg være enig i, men plottet fungerer i og for seg greit. Jeg ble aldri voldsomt engasjert, og hadde jeg ikke villet skrive denne anmeldelsen hadde jeg sluttet å lese etter litt over hundre sider, men det er jo vanskelig å bli engasjert i historien når man sitter og ergrer seg over tekniske ting. Julie er en kul heltinne, men selv henne blir vi fint lite kjent med, og de fleste av de andre personene i boka forblir rimelig endimensjonale. Sjangermessig er det greit, ingen forventer dyptpløyende personlighetsutvikling i en spenningsroman, men det er ikke dermed sagt at det ikke hadde gått an å bruke noen ord mer på enkelte personer, Glenn for eksempel som vi i grunn bare vet at stammer og har sykkel før han og Julie plutselig er et par i epilogen.

Jeg setter også pris på om noen kan forklare meg ravnene. Hvorfor var det 13 av dem? Jeg forsto jo at en falt fra for hvert dødsfall, men hvorfor 13 til å begynne med? Og hadde de noen annen betydning, eller var det bare «uh, ravner er litt skumle og kule, la oss slenge med noen sånne»?

Alt i alt, altså: En rimelig middelmådig spenningsroman som skjemmes av både logiske og språklige brister. Jeg kan vel sies å være fornøyd med at den ikke kom lenger enn til langlisten.

Andre har vært mer begeistret. Vel, det skulle forsåvidt ikke så mye til, men mange har virkelig vært skikkelig begeistret, så kanskje du bør lese noen andre anmeldelser av boka:

Og å dømme fra anmeldelsene på Foreningen Les sine sider treffer den målgruppa. I dag ble de nominerte til Uprisen annonsert, og jammen er ikke Den onde arven på lista. Det er altså ingen grunn til å ta mine (sikkert surmagede) ord for det, men jeg mener ungdommen fortjener bedre.

Moon over Soho – Ben Aaronovitch

Moon_Over_SohoHaving read Rivers of London, not going straight on to Moon over Soho was an impossibility, so I did, disregarding all other plans for January reading (the two books appearing between this one and Rivers of London were actually read in 2013).

At the novel’s start, PC Peter Grant is back to his regular training programme at The Folly, and Lesley is at her parents’ house, recuperating. Peter goes to visit, driving from London:

At the end of the road lay Brightlingsea, lining the coast – so Lesley had always told me – like a collection of rubbish stranded at the high-water mark.

I keep loving the way Aaronovitch uses language and the impossibly charming hate-love relationship with London and Britain he displays. Not to mention the cultural references:

At this very moment astronomers are detecting planets around distant stars by measuring how much their orbits wibble, and the clever people at CERN are smashing particles together in the hope that Doctor Who will turn up and tell them to stop.

Aaronovitch is also conversant in corporate newspeak:

‘Are you SIO on this, ma’am?’ I asked. The Senior Investigating Officer on a serious crime was usually at the very least a detective inspector, not a sergeant. ‘Of course not,’ said Stephanopoulos. ‘We have a DCI on loan from Havering CID, but he’s adopted a loose collaborative management approach in which experienced officers undertake a lead role in areas where they have the greatest expertise.’ In other words, he’d locked himself in his office and let Stephanopoulos get on with it. ‘It’s always gratifying to see senior officers adopting a forward-looking posture in their vertical relationships,’ I said, and was rewarded by something that was almost a smile.

He is also not afraid to call out institutionalized and internalized racism:

Outside the big cities, my very appearance can sometimes be enough to render certain people speechless. So it was with Harold Postmartin, D.Phil, FRS, Curator of Special Collections at the Bodleian Library, who had clearly been expecting Nightingale to introduce someone ‘different’ as the new apprentice. I could see him trying to parse the phrase but he’s coloured in a way that wouldn’t cause offence, and failing. I put him out of his misery by shaking his hand; my rule of thumb is that if they don’t physically flinch from touching you, then eventually they’ll make the adjustment.

Ok. Enough of the quoting (I think). I’m just trying to show why the books are such a joy to read. The plot is good, too, but it’s hard to say too much without major spoilers, and so  I’ll refrain. If you’re not interested in reading the book, a synopsis would be no use to you, and if you are you don’t want the plot spoiled.

The one negative thing I have to say is that the novel could have used a continuity check, preferably one that aligned with Rivers of London. There are some odd incongruities, most so vague that it’s hard to put your finger on what feels wrong, and some cases of things being explained in the wrong order, so to say. A fact being presented in such a way that you feel you must have missed a connection piece of narrative, only for that connecting piece to show up a little later. It may even be deliberate, but it dosn’t work. Not for me, anyway.

However, on the whole the books are so good that it’s easy to forgive the few flaws. Now on to Whispers Underground!

Rivers of London – Ben Aaronovitch

Rivers_of_LondonRivers of London has been on my list for a while, not least because the husband has read and enjoyed all four of the PC Peter Grant books that have been published so far, and thus they have been available to me for a while. Towards the end of last week I found myself unenthused with the books I’d been planning to read during Bout of books, and someone, somewhere mentioned Aaronovitch, and it occurred to me that as we are going to London in just a few weeks, this might just be the perfect time to read them.

In one way it certainly was, Aaronvitch has his story firmly grounded in place and reading this without imminent plans of visiting the city would be frustrating, to say the least.

In Rivers of London PC Peter Grant is coming to the end of his probationary period and is hoping to be assigned to real detective work. His friend, and crush, Lesley May is at the same point in her career. The wikipedia entry sums up their superior officers’ view of the two neatly: Lesley is «expected to go far», Peter is «expected to do paperwork». That is, until they are on watch to guard a murder scene from the general public, and while Lesley pops off to buy coffee and Peter meets a ghost who claims to have witnessed the murder. When their assignments are handed out, Peter finds himself assigned to a generally studiously ignored branch of the Met, the section that deals with magic and the supernatural. His superior officer, Detective Chief Inspector Thomas Nightingale has been the sole employee of this section, and Peter finds himself sworn in as the first apprentice wizard in fifty years, and lodged in The Folly, the section’s headquarters, which is clearly dimensioned for a rather larger contingent.

There follows a tale of riotous rebellion and magic, where Peter finds himself trying to solve two very different «cases». One is the murder that starts the book off and those that follow in a grisly, yet inventive, serial killing spree, the other is a conflict between Mother and Father Thames, the river gods, and their children (the tributaries) and entourage.

Aaronvitch draws on history, mythology and folklore, picking both famous and obscure pieces and sewing them neatly together to form a coherent whole which spellbinds the reader (well, this reader, anyway). There are explicit, if ironic, echoes of Dr Who (which Aaronvitch has written for) and Harry Potter, but I was also reminded of Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere and of Jasper Fforde’s novels, the latter especially in the way Aaronvitch’s minor characters all beg for a google search. Take Isis, also known as Anna Maria de Burgh Coppinger, wife of Father Thames’ son Oxley: Google her, and you find that there is probably at least another novel there, just in her life story. I love this stuff. And then you have the famous dudes:

Beyond the booth, flanked by two neoclassical pillars, was a marble statue of a man dressed in an academic gown and breeches. He cradled a mighty tome in one arm and a sextant in the other. His square face held an expression of implacable curiosity, and I knew his name even before I saw the plinth, which read: Nature and nature’s laws lay hid in night; God said ‘Let Newton be’ and all was light. Nightingale was waiting for me by the statue. ‘Welcome to the Folly,’ he said, ‘the official home of English magic since 1775.’ ‘And your patron saint is Sir Isaac Newton?’ I asked. Nightingale grinned. ‘He was our founder, and the first man to systemise the practice of magic.’ ‘I was taught that he invented modern science,’ I said. ‘He did both,’ said Nightingale. ‘That’s the nature of genius.’

The inclusion of Newton is another thing I like about Aaronvitch’s universe, though magic is magic Peter takes the scientific approach, and the answers he comes up with seem to confirm his instincts; even magic depends on physical laws.

I like Peter Grant. He’s a good guy, and may even have the makings of a good cop, even if he is too easily distracted. I like Lesley May, too, and I especially like how Peter and Lesley are portrayed as friends. Even if there is an element of «this might progress to more than friends at some point», you still get the feeling that they are friends first and foremost and that they will remain so whether progression happens or not.

Then there’s the language, and the linguistic relation to time and place:

Neither of us could face the horrors of the kitchenette that morning, so we found shelter in the station canteen. Despite the fact that the catering staff were a mixture of compact Polish women and skinny Somali men, a strange kind of institutional inertia meant that the food was classic English greasy spoon, the coffee was bad and the tea was hot, sweet and came in mugs.

There’s plenty for a hopeless anglophile to «squee» about, there is wit and dry humour and there is, occasionally, something akin to slapstick. There are blink-and-you-miss-them cultural references by the score.

Would it kill us to have an official branch of government that handled the supernatural?’ ‘A Ministry of Magic?’ I asked. ‘Ha-bloody-ha,’ said Tyburn.

Where the novel falls short is in emotional engagement. Yes, I like Peter, and I certainly root for him, and I am gripped to the point of considering sneaking off to a quiet corner at work to polish off the last 50 or so pages when the bus ride yesterday morning proved too short for the task. However, the perfect book is the book that puts me in the emotional quandry of wanting to get to the end to see what happens but also wanting the book to last forever. Rivers of London fullfills the first, but not the second. I will allow that there is a chance that I will feel differently at the end of book four, when the prospect of having to wait for another installment starts looming large. I’ll get back to you on that. I’ve already started on book two.

Aaronovitch has a blog: Temporarily Significant, and there is also a website for the series: The Folly.


Så vidt jeg kan se har ingen norske forlag (eller svenske, for den saks skyld) grepet fatt i Ben Aaronvitchs bøker. Det er synd, for selv om en forkjærlighet for London og Britisk humor, historie og mytologi sannsynligvis er et pluss for lesere av disse bøkene er det jo ikke slik at sånne preferanser nødvendigvis følges av engelskkunnskaper gode nok til å lese firehundresiders romaner i orginal. Oppfordringen er klar: Oversett disse!