Monthly Archives: September, 2011

Making a monster

I have never been a crafty person. I was into cross-stitching for a long time and still have the occasional burst; I like it because you just follow a pattern, and there’s no imagination required. I mainly have bursts of interest in winter these days as a friend gave me an ENORMOUS cross-stitch pattern of three frogs yeeears ago that’s still not finished… although every time I pick it up I discover old mistakes, which there is no way I am fixing.

ANYway, I decided recently to give knitting a go. A lot of my friends seem to have picked up the craze (Gina, aka Clutterpunk, in particular), not to mention those like Alisa who have been doing it apparently all their lives. How hard can it be?? … yeh, this is how my brain works. Drives my husband up the wall.

I started with a brown scarf, because I’ve been wanting one for ages:

When I first made it it wasn’t quite long enough, so I stole Gina’s idea and bought a brooch.

Then I decided to learn purl and ended up making another scarf in stockinette, which I later found out was a bad idea because it doesn’t stay flat… hello another brooch.

Anyway, then I went a little nuts and bought a couple of books of different patterns etc. I got Stitch&Bitch, since it seems to be the one everyone raves about… and I bought one for making knitted monsters. Because I love scarves, but even I can have a surfeit of scarves (although I do have plans for learning to cable). So I decided to start on a monster.

This is his body, made using the Magic Loop method on circular needles. His butt was done with double-pointed needles, and yes I managed to knit the wrong way out so it’s wrong-way-round. It’s all about Individuality.

 A foot. Learning how to do this foot caused me – and the long-suffering husband – a large amount of angst. Truly, the teacher in me absolutely LOATHES the learner in me, because I am Not A Good Student. Still, now that it’s done I’m quite smug about this little foot. Now to make another, and also two arms… how hard can it be?

Retribution Falls: a review

I received this book to review for ASif!

I read about the first 150 pages of this 373-page novel properly. I mostly read about the next 100 or so, then skimmed the final 100-odd in case something interesting happened. It didn’t.

The setting is a world where dirigibles are kept up thanks to some element or compound called aerium and electricity is available but by no means universally accepted. The story seems to be entirely set within an enormous mountain range with lots of convenient valleys and hidey-holes for freebooters such as the main characters, with little suggestion of what else what might make up the world (they do visit an icy waste, but it wasn’t clear to me how this worked with the rest of the geography).

The story opens with Frey, captain of an airship and small-time/some-time pirate, being threatened by another lowlife, along with one of his crew. Frey is something of an idealist, in a weird sort of way; all he wants is to be able to captain his ship and fly where he wants. He doesn’t have the heart of a pirate, but takes on shady deals to keep skin and bone together. Also, the travel seems to be good for meeting women. The rest of his crew, whom we meet in the first few pages, have backgrounds in varying shades of grey; they are none of them keen to share their stories, and although the Ketty Jay is far from perfect, it’s a pretty good place to get away from the past, literally and metaphorically. There’s a crazy flyboy, a mysterious navigator, a drunk surgeon, a mysterious upper-crust passenger… as the crew showed their colours, I began to feel like they and the situation as a whole was oddly familiar. Then I realised that it was. They are the crew of the Serenity, from the short-lived TV show Firefly. But not as interesting, not as unique in their characterisation. The captain, Frey, was the most annoying and flat of the lot. I began to suspect that this was not the sort of story I was really going to enjoy when Frey was reminiscing about how close he had come to marriage in the past, and congratulated himself on escaping those dreadful bonds while fooling the woman into thinking he was going along with it, and still sleeping with the woman. With no irony or other commentary in the story about this being a poor way to treat her. This was accompanied by such protestations as the idea that women “forced [men] to lie to them” (128) in talking of sex and marriage. If you are likely to find this, a seemingly throw-away commentary on the relationships between men and women, insulting, then this is not the book for you. It might be argued that this is a minor point, but Frey’s view on women as a whole – especially those he wants to sleep with – permeates the whole book, and besides it is insulting.

As if inspired a tad too much by Firefly, Retribution Falls proceeds in an episodic fashion that was intensely irritating to read. There was connection and continuity between the various set-pieces, but each took place in a new location and the travelling there was generally treated with little interesting detail – there was simply An Arrival (thunk). Some of these individual set-pieces were well constructed, and gave some of the other members of the Ketty Jay depth and interest such that I began to care about them, Crake (the upper-crust passenger) in particular. He is a daemonist, meaning that somehow he manipulates daemons (which I think are like spirits) in order to do… things. It seems akin to enslaving them into objects so that those objects Do Things. He became interesting as he developed a rapport with various other crew members, and as his backstory was revealed. But he still wasn’t that intriguing.

Most of the set-pieces eventually contribute (some in roundabout ways) to the development of the conspiracy which ultimately drives the story. However, getting there took too long and I had already lost interest by the time the scope was revealed. It turns out to have ramifications for the entirety of the… area? (it’s ruled by an Archduke but I’m not sure whether it’s an archduchy or a country or what) – but so little time is spent establishing how big this area is, how many people care about its system of government, how many people are ruled by it, or anything else that might have been relevant that I just didn’t care.

Another aspect of the world-building which lets the novel as a whole down is the religion of the Awakeners. The portrayal of religion in fantasy is a particular bug-bear of mine. It annoys me when a religion is either badly explained or not mysterious enough, and it really annoys me when a religion is whitewashed as stupid and/or evil without adequate reason. There is some discussion here of how the Awakeners began, but no indication of why or how they have risen to a place of prominence. Various characters are shown to be contemptuous of it, but without properly discussing issues such as atheism or agnosticism that would make such rejection of organised religion make sense. Instead, it feels like another aspect of this world that was poorly thought through.

Overall, I was very disappointed in this novel, and do not intend to read the sequels that I am sure are planned.

Galactic Suburbia 42*

In which we discuss Orson Scott Card’s Hamlet, the agent who said no way to gay YA, Tansy’s Blake’s 7 dolls, the superhero who fights with her hair, and Alisa works through her issues with Doctor Who. You can get us on iTunes or download/stream us from Galactic Suburbia.

Subterranean Press address email complaints about “Hamlet’s Father” by Orson Scott Card (and the Rain Taxi review that started it)

The other big Internet Thing – agent says no gay in YA dystopia please & authors speak out 

New podcast – Live and Sassy 

Twelfth Planet Press opening for novel submissions

What Culture Have we Consumed?

Alex: Retribution Falls, Chris Wooding; Blake’s 7; Hyperion, Dan Simmons. 
Tansy: Torchwood (non spoilery), Justice League comics (the new 52), The Business of Death by Trent Jamieson 
Alisa: Podcasts: Locus Roundtable (Gail Carriger and Francesca Myman; Kathleen Goonan, Eileen Gunn and Gary K Wolfe); Eurocon 2011 Gender in SF&F Panel; The Outer Alliance Podcast Episode 11, Season 3 Doctor Who
[Book calling for papers on the topic of race and Doctor Who]

Please send feedback to us at, follow us on Twitter at @galacticsuburbs, check out Galactic Suburbia Podcast on Facebook and don’t forget to leave a review on iTunes if you love us!

* Alisa and Tansy recorded no. 41 without me, as a Spoilerific Book Club episode about The Hunger Games trilogy. It’s on iTunes or at the website if you’re interested. 


This is my second time reading this book, and happily it was as wonderful and intriguing this time as the first. Of course, I am older and at least a little more knowledgeable this time, so I think I’m actually getting more out of it.

Firstly let me admit to my own blindness the first time I read it: I don’t think I picked up on the resonances with The Canterbury Tales, which is just embarrassing… although at that stage I’m not sure I’d read any of that poem, so perhaps that excuses me slightly! But still, the pilgrims’ stories are each labelled as such, so you would think that I would have picked up on it. But no. There is also – and I guess this is really only obvious right at the very end, but it doesn’t spoil the story – a bizarrely amusing parallel to The Wizard of Oz.

This is is a story set in the 28th century AD, when Earth is no more and humanity has spread to the near reaches of the stars in the Hegira. Multiple planets have been colonised, technology has advanced, there are sentient AIs… and there are still divisions, squabbles, and politics. Sad, but tragically believable. The plot itself revolves around seven pilgrims who have been chosen to visit the Time Tombs at a time of war between the Hegemony – to which most planets belong – and the Ousters, a renegade human faction. The Time Tombs are on Hyperion, they are protected by a terrifying something called the Shrike, and it all goes from there.

Fascinatingly enough, most of the book itself is not taken up with the pilgrimage. Instead, in the spirit of Chaucer, the pilgrims share their stories with each other in an effort to understand both why they have each been chosen and what might happen when they are arrive. Their stories are very different – a military officer, a diplomat, a private investigator, an academic, a Catholic priest, a spaceship captain, and a poet – but they all have common elements of pain and loss and tragedy. And a connection to Hyperion.

I love the different elements that Simmons combines in this book, through the device of the background stories being told through a deliberate and completely plot-appropritate info-dump. I love the mystery of Hyperion, I love the mix of characters, I am enthralled by the diversity of world tied to a somewhat pessimistic view of humanity itself. One of the things that I really love about the book is its exploration of religion and its place in this future. The first story is that told by Father Hoyt, the priest, and it deals very honestly with the issues that do and will face the Church in confronting technological change and everything else the future promises. I appreciate that he imagines a place for such faith, even in a dwindling and sometimes confused manner. And the academic, Sol, is Jewish, and his story ties in many elements and ideas of Judaism. I hope that a Jewish person reading it would have the same reaction to his portrayal as I did to Hoyt (although I am not Catholic). As well as these Old Earth religious hangovers, Simmons also imagines a plethora of brand-new religions based on all sorts of different things. Which is cool.

I am a bit sad that there is only one female pilgrim amongst the seven. Simmons does imagine an improvement in gender relations overall; the CEO of the Hegemony is female, there are female soldiers, etc. He also does not imagine an entirely Anglo future, either; I don’t know whether the pilgrims are ever described in terms of skin tone, although a few of them are described as ‘paling’ and other such giveaways. But many of the worlds have non-Anglo names and predominant cultures. I think his idea of the great Hegira is that humans will have colonised in like-cultural groups, as a number of SF writers have prophesied, and I guess I see the sense in that. But with the ‘farcasting’ technology of the Hegemony, people are able to move around even more easily amongst these planets than we currently do on Earth, so there is a great deal of intermingling.

The other really clever aspect to Hyperion is its connection to the poet John Keats. Hyperion was a Titan of Greek mythology, is a moon of Saturn, and an abandoned poem of Keats’ about the Titans. He tried again with “Fall of Hyperion,” which is also the name of this Hyperion’s sequel. There are nods to Keats in a number of the stories, and I’m sure I missed a few of them. I loved this idea of incorporating a 19th-century poet into a story set a millennium after his death.

I have a lot of books for review on my shelf at the moment, so I haven’t decided whether to read the sequel yet… heh. Who am I kidding.

Lord Avon. And some other people.

The Discovery of Blake’s 7 (complete with spoilers)

1.11: Bounty

I didn’t get to see all of this episode because the disc was a bit broked and kept skipping. I saw most of Blake and Cally going to convince an ex-president of a non-Federatation planet that he ought to return to his planet and stop it being subsumed by the Feds, and I saw that the Liberator was under possible attack… but I had no idea by whom until quite near the end. I had thought Zen the computer was acting very strangely and that we were about to find out more about the shifty AI! But no. Sigh. It was just ordinary run of the mill space pirates.

I am enjoying Blake and Cally working together. Her telepathy is of course an enormous boon, and presumably is one of the reasons she is so often used on missions requiring scouting etc – not that she can ‘hear’ guards or anything, but she can warn Blake when they are near. As well as that, though, she is resourceful and good at fighting. Of the other characters, Vila is a coward and Gan has the limiter chip and Avon is still not entirely trustworthy and Jenna has to fly the ship, so she’s a good choice for all of those reasons too. And there’s no flirtation. In this episode, I enjoyed their interaction with the ex-president, too, especially his infatuation with mid-20th-century Earth stuff. It’s a neat little device used to show how weird things we take for granted today might seem in the future; Blake’s reaction to an automobile was priceless.

Overall this is a fairly by-the-numbers episode I think. It shows how tricksy and sly the Federation can be in getting other planets under its sway, it shows how resourceful the crew is… but that’s about it.


1.12: Deliverance 

It had to happen at some stage, I suppose. Avon being mistaken for a god, that is.

I think I’m beginning to figure out the general format for this show, and it often involves two parallel plots. With a crew of seven – even if one of them is constrained to the ship (I presume!) by virtue of being its computer, there are a limited number of plots that genuinely utilises every single one of them in a one-track story. So, two plots. In this case, after watching a spaceship ditch on a planet, the crew rescues one survivor and transports him back to the Liberator… while losing Jenna at the same time. So Blake and Cally stay on the ship, looking after the survivor and then being held hostage by him as he forces them to redirect the Liberator onto the course he had previously been following.

Meanwhile, on the planet, Vila, Gan and Avon are searching for Jenna, who has been kidnapped by a bunch of savages; the boys are saved by a mysterious woman in a cave who, naturally enough, greets Avon as a god. They manage to rescue Jenna and help out the mysterious woman, who is somehow part of a group of people who had been waiting for someone with just Avon’s talents to help them launch their own spaceship, packed with frozen embryos and seeds, towards a planet some 500-odd years away. Totally makes sense in context.

Once again it’s Avon who gets to be the most complex and interesting in this episode. For a start, his determination to save Jenna is a bit surprising – he has seemed mostly callous towards all of them previously – and is an indication that perhaps finally he is starting to feel some companionship towards the others. Mostly, though, it’s in how he treats his apparently divinity. Of course he makes light of it at times, and of course at other times there’s a glint in his eye that suggests he could get used to that sort of thing. But he does not, actually, take advantage of it at all. Instead he does exactly what the woman asks, fulfilling the prophecy and her dreams. It shows him to be a remarkably… moral, I guess, and peculiarly honest man. And there’s a wonderful exchange with Blake towards the end, where Blake asks him in an amused tone what he thought of being regarded as a god, and Avon asks back – somewhat archly, somewhat sarcastically – “Don’t you know?” or words to that effect. Blake looks at him, and acknowledges his point, and admits that he doesn’t much like it either.


So there’s one episode left in this series, and of course it’s on the next disc, so I hope Bigpond hurries up and sends it to me. I’m wildly excited to find out whether this is the sort of series that goes in for cliffhangers.

Julius Caesar on stage

I went to see Bell Shakespeare’s version of Julius Caesar last night as part of my 2010 Christmas present from my mother (Much Ado About Nothing was the first half, in which I laughed harder than I ever have before in a theatre). Often Bell makes a point of shifting a play into an obviously different era – Much Ado had a 1950s Italian-American vibe going on. But Julius just had the players in suits, and other than that was quite timeless.

It was a marvellous production and I am sure there are any number of brilliant reviews already out there. There a couple of things I wanted to note. One is that Cassius was played as a woman, which worked surprisingly well in that very few of the lines actually took on any other significance – unlike when Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are women, which I’ve seen, and gives their interaction with Hamlet maaaany more layers indeed. The woman who took the role was very good, although she did make her quite sharp and shrewd – interesting to consider whether I would have got this impression about a man (I haven’t seen this performed in years). Should also mention that Brutus was exceptionally good – and older than I have seen him played before, as was Caesar himself, which I really appreciated. Also Portia, Brutus’ wife, was agonisingly wonderful.

Mark Antony was appropriately young, and had a very clever transition in terms of costume: the first time he is on stage, his trousers are rolled up and he was shirtless. A bit later he was in a hoody… a while later he was in ‘office-casual’, shirt with cotton sweater; then by the end in quite a sharp suit, with his hair tied back (it had been out for the rest of the play; it wasn’t until this bit that it was obvious he had an UNDERCUT. Hello 1995!) So that was cleverly done.

The actress who played Calpurnia, Caesar’s wife, also played Octavian. Make of that what you will.

The thing that left me breathless with appreciation happened right at the end. The stage was enclosed on three side with office chairs, and the only prop on stage was a single pillar, a la the Forum, with some scaffolding around it. More of the scaffolding gets built throughout the play, by the actors themselves, in some beautifully choreographed movements. Right at the end the scaffold is built up quite high and rods attached to the top… and the final action, basically, is to hide the single pillar with drapes showing three pillars instead. O, the symbolism! I swoon in delight.

Snow and neurosurgery… and Avon

Yes yes, more Blake’s 7. I’m really enjoying it, okay?? Spoilers ahoy!

1.9 Project Avalon

The gender equity continues to impress me. Servelan appears again, observing Travis in his latest attempt at trapping Blake – more on that in a moment – and we’re reminded that she is Supreme Commander of the area. A key part of Travis’ plan involves an anti-Federation organiser named Avalon: also a woman. And is there any comment on these women being involved in the military or politics? Hell no. And Jenna and Cally, on the Liberator, continue to take a variety of roles – Jenna in particular playing a key part as pilot. And there has yet to be any suggestion of flirtation or sexual innuendo towards those women from the four men. I keep expecting to see Blake and Jenna ‘naturally’ pair off, but so far – nadda.

That said, Servelan and Travis are so an item. She is just so arch around him, even (perhaps especially) when bossing him around and wearing crazy outfits. I bet there’s just reams of fanfic on that. (Also on Blake and Travis I bet, but I don’t want to go there.)

Anyway. The plot here revolves around Blake wanting to make contact with Avalon. Travis of course gets there first – thanks to a traitor – where ‘there’ is a planet that makes Hoth look like a tropical getaway. He captures Avalon, scans a brain, tests a nasty plague… and then Blake breaks in and gets away with Avalon really quite easily. Bizarre? And just a little sus, yes. Turns out this Avalon is a kill-bot. Happily our heroes figure it out before any of them are killed and they turn the tables quite neatly on Travis, making him look quite the fool and getting away with Avalon in the end.

Another episode with Travis and Blake pitting their wits against one another, with Travis getting to be snarky at his capsicum-headed mutoids and wear his black leather pants and Blake getting all angsty at his crew having to break orbit and not beam them out right now. This seems to be getting towards a standard format.


1.10 Breakdown

Aaand as soon as I talk about a standard format, the show breaks from it. This episode reminded me a lot of the Firefly episode “Ariel,” because the crew has to risk themselves to get to a hospital. There, it was River, and the need to read her brain to figure out what was going on; here, it’s Gan, whose limiter is going on the blink and causing him to spin into uncontrollable, violent rages. Blake et al decide to head for an allegedly neutral space station in order to find a surgeon, although it turns out to be harder to get there than it ought to be: Zen flat out refuses to take them there directly, and refuses to actually explain why. Turns out there’s a gravity-something that means the crew have to be heroic, together, because Zen turns himself off for the duration. All very sweet. And that’s just half the episode…

This episode tripped a lot of my suspicions about Zen as a computer, and I’m wild to find out where the writers are actually going to go with it. The fact that it still hasn’t really been discussed just who developed the Liberator, and therefore who Zen originally interacted with, makes me very suspicious indeed. I really, really hope that this gets explained, because I have all sorts of suspicions about Zen being genuinely intelligent, either artificially or as an alien or… something else.

So the second half of the episode is the crew getting to the space station, taking the surgeon over to their ship, and waiting for him to deal with Gan – except that he’s a Federation stooge, so said surgeon notifies the pursuit ships of their location. Oh noes! The surgeon is played by Julian Glover, who I know I’ve seen in other British things.* Anyway, perhaps more interestingly than that  – at least for this Avon-phile – is the fact that Avon declares during the gravity emergency that he is outta there ASAP. He heads over to the station… and it’s at that point that my rented DVD started skipping. I never did manage to see all of this episode, and have no idea what the station captain said to Avon to make him go back to the Liberator. Which is just slightly annoying. But the upshot is Avon is still on the ship, Gan’s limiter is fixed, and the seven thumb their noses at the Federation yet again. Hooray!

*Turns out he’s Triopas in Troy, the voice of Aragog in HP & the Chamber of Secrets, and OH! Walter Donovan in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade!! and General Veers in The Empire Strikes Back!!

Destiny, blue women, and nuts

Continuing my dive into Blake’s 7… spoilers aplenty!


The team breaks the not-quite-format-yet by going to the rescue of a ship that appears to have been stuck in the same orbit for a long time. Turns out they’ve stumbled onto a classic locked-door murder mystery: the crew all asleep thanks to some gas through the filters, and one dead. They’re a group of non-Fed humans trying to take a crystal back to their planet which will save the colonists from starvation. Of course, said crystal is worth a very large amount of money, and one of the crew has made a deal to sell it and pocket the proceeds, to everyone’s loss. There are a number of red herrings, as you would expect from this sort of story, and I’ll admit that I didn’t expect it to be the innocuous-seeming blonde woman. It was quite a nice twist, actually.

Still loving Avon. I remember being impressed by Battlestar Galactica and its depiction of genuine fights between men and women, where the men were fighting another person, not a woman. Here, Avon totally decks Sara because she is a genuine danger to him and his. I really do appreciate that egalitarian spirit.


Mystical blue women (who turn out not to be blue) start this episode off, which immediately put me in mind of Farscape, although these women seem even weirder than Zhaan. And their place of worship is particularly bizarre, with what looks like people stuck in the ground reaching up. Creepy. (Also, Zhaan would have done something about getting a tshirt bra under that outfit.)

helLO Travis! There’s something peculiarly attractive about that eye-patch. (Maybe it’s the leather pants….) But your pilots look like they have black capsicums on their heads, which is a bit weird. They’re also mutoids, requiring blood serum for some reason, which is neither here nor there at the moment but I’ll bet it has some impact on the story arc (yup. Stranded on the planet with no serum). Mutoids were mentioned, I think, in the earlier Travis episode, but we finally get some explanation here: they’re people who have been modified in such a way that their memories are completely removed, as well as whatever else happens to them. Travis appears to get a perverse pleasure from telling his pilot who she had been, although she doesn’t respond at all.

Travis and Blake face off in their first full-on space battle in this episode, and it gets manipulated by the creepy mystic women for their own purposes; time distortion and stasis and everything (with oh such awesome 70s colour freakiness to demonstrate what’s happening). Their  calm in the face of the “primitive violence” of Travis is magnificent – especially given the history they reveal, of their long-lasting violent global upheaval. Ah pacifism. And yet they propose a duel apparently to resolve their differences! How quaint… and how nasty, involving Jenna and the mutoid from Travis’ ship, making it all the nastier! Travis enjoys this fight way too much… as does Giroc, the old creepy woman. She’s a bit too sadistic for my tastes. The effect of having the ships’ crews watching everything that’s happening is quite clever, too, although I don’t think they got enough airtime to make it worthwhile.

Avon once again gets the best lines. Travis and Blake up trees for the night: “unless they’re planning on throwing nuts at one another I don’t see much of a fight developing before it gets light.” Also, he admits that he does care about Blake, cutting Villa and Gan down with devastating po-faced wit, pointing that it shouldn’t be necessary to go irrational to prove you care – nor, in fact, why it should be necessary to prove it at all. Oh Avon, I really look forward to more of your story.

Galactic Suburbia 40!!

In which we hug the Hugos, plug the Stella, lament the loss of the Weird Tales team, and contemplate (briefly) our podcasterly mid-life crisis. Alex delves into the wonderful world of classic cyberpunk, and Tansy demands to know why on earth Alisa is  still watching Doctor Who if she doesn’t actually like it? We can be heard via iTunes or Galactic Suburbia.News

Weird Tales sold

Strange Horizons Fundraising Drive

The Stella

Galactic Chat: Kelley Armstrong and Ben Peek

Tansy’s win !

What Culture Have we Consumed?
Alisa: Doctor Who Season 2, Outer Alliance Podcast
Alex: Trouble and her Friends, Melissa Scott; Only Ever Always, Penni Russon; Synners, Pat Cadigan; Blake’s 7.
Tansy: SF Squeecast #3, Panel2Panel (, Among Others by Jo Walton, Alcestis by Katherine Beukner, Stormlord’s Exile by Glenda Larke, KINDLED

Pet Subject: Hugoriffic!
Were you there for the Hugo Twitter party? Or did you have to resort to sitting in the live audience?
The stats
The results
Hugos commentary round up.

Please send feedback to us at, follow us on Twitter at @galacticsuburbs, check out Galactic Suburbia Podcast on Facebook and don’t forget to leave a review on iTunes if you love us!

Change for the Machine

I’d kinda forgotten how much I love good cyberpunk until I read this and Trouble and her Friends. Turns out I really really like it.

Interestingly, in many ways this feels like a prequel to much of the cyberpunk I’ve read. The main contention is the invention of putting sockets into people’s heads to allow them to experience and manipulate the datelines (read: internet) more directly… the result of which, or something similar, is what Gibson and Scott and their friends are basically examining. So from a ‘getting started’ perspective I found this book really awesome, and in lots of other ways too.

Cadigan takes the ‘cast of thousands’ approach, using multiple perspectives (although always in third person) to show lots of different dimensions and angles to the story. There were times at which this was a bit confusing, but on reflection I wonder if this wasn’t done intentionally. There were quite a few chapters which shifted perspective where the new character could have been one of several, and it’s only revealed whose story we’re reading after a page or so. This contributed to the fairly frenetic feel that the entire book indulges in, which is largely appropriate given the madness that ensues in the second half of the story. It’s also very nice because the variety of characters and their individual stories give wonderful perspective and insight into different aspects of the story. Which I liked.

The world Cadigan has created is simultaneously a bit dated – it was published in 1991 – but, once some of the terms are translated, also quite recognisable. She talks of datalines and how people get their news; that’s basically souped-up data retrieval services and massively hyped up RSS readers that do the work for you. And then they use the sockets initially to rev up rock music videos, which is just such an hysterically funny idea that the sheer bizarreness just carried me away giggling and happily belief-suspended. Also, there’s a lot of drug use. Which is perhaps neither here nor there, but also certainly adds to the manicness.

The plot revolves around the introduction of sockets and what that might mean for society, with a whole lot of corporate hijinkery and espionage and hackery as well. There’s a father/daughter relationship that pops up every now and then – not something you see every day in this sort of futuristic novel – as well as, somewhat surprisingly when you see the characters, a love story that’s not very romantic in one way, but actually really is sweet in a fierce I’ll-deck-you sort of way. Plus a load of bizarre and whacked friendships and enmities that go a long way towards populating this world with dysfunctional but quite entertaining characters.

This was my first Cadigan novel. I’ll be coming back for more. (In fact I have Tea from an Empty Cup sitting on my shelf….)