Been a bit lax in posts lately, partly because I had little to write about but mainly because I’ve been a bit lazy blog wise, deferring and deferring doing some posts.

I’ve also been wondering if I’m turning into a grumpy old man. I’ve bought a lot of books lately and have been disappointed and pissed off with most of them.

I’ve bought a fair amount of nonfiction recently, which is quite rare as I generally think twice and then think for a third time before buying nonfiction books, in the main because they are more expensive than fiction, and I feel have a reduced re read factor (fiction authors must be bitches; having a higher cover price the nonfiction crew would be getting higher royalties). And I’ve found Penguin books in particular to be horrendously expensive. Doubly so in that they also produce a lot of public domain material where no royalties are paid and yet those books are still expensive.

I picked up How To Destroy The Universe and dipped in and out of it and it is pure mince. For a start the author (Paul Parsons) accepts Man Made Global Warming – particularly ironic as another chapter is How To Predict the Weather where he concludes we can’t because the system is so complex; but one tiny trace gas from us can overrule this complex system and cause global warming – the chapters bear little resemblance to the chapter headings and are short, both in length and content.

I was very intrigued by Empire State by Adam Christopher, and picked it up a few times in some shops before buying it from WH Smith. Unfortunately I couldn’t get past Chapter Two as in the first chapter the point of view kept appearing to flip back and forward between Rex and Jerome which made it feel confusing. Chapter Three also started on Rex and I’m thinking ‘where’s this Red Bradley that’s talked about on the blurb on the back?’ Does this author know nothing? Chapter three and the main character hasn’t been introduced yet? How did he get this published?

Year’s Best SF 16 was snaffled from Waterstone’s and I was looking forward to some good short stories. It was priced at £6.99 and was an American import. Unfortunately I was disappointed as it seems the art of short story writing has been lost. Meandering pish is the phrase that springs to mind most. Very few stories hooked me from the beginning, developed the story or idea and finished with a punch. David Langford’s story started off well and developed quite nicely but there was no payoff, and the ending was a bit of a let down (Sorry Dave). Terry Bisson’s story felt like it finished halfway through. Alastair Reynold’s story didn’t develop and I dropped it several pages in from boredom. There were a few I couldn’t get into right from the off. This is the best SF there is? The book is barely a year old and has a wide variety of authors, but as I said, the art of the short story seems to have been lost.

I also saw the remake of Conan The Barbarian (there are too many elements from the Arnie film for it not to be a remake) and was as disappointed as I thought I would be. Visually it was quite good, but as everyone says looks aren’t everything. The script was bad, the acting was bad and the fight scenes were too long. In the end it was the little things such as pronunciation that got to me. Hyrkania was repeatedly referred to as high re kania by the ‘pureblood.’ Archeron was pronounced asheron. I don’t know about anyone else but when I read Howard and that work came up it was pronounced in my head arkeron, as in arachnid. And I swear that after the slaves were freed the theme tune to the Old Grey Whistle Test was played. Conan was unrecognisable as a character from the Howard stories and the locations bore no resemblance to the world Howard created. Particularly irritating was the ‘I love you son’ bit from Hellboy and similar mushy stuff of the same ilk. Yeah, that’s how barbarians behave in the face of death, get all soppy.

There have been some good things. I bought City of Ruin by Mark Charan Newton and it was a joy to read. I don’t normally go in much for fantasy fiction or variants thereof (Bob Howard pretty much predates the genre and so doesn’t count) but the writing style and world building made it as enjoyable a read as I’ve had in a while. Plus I’ve got a couple of old Neal Asher books which have elbowed their way up my reading list, including Africa Zero, which a few weeks ago was impossible to find on the internet. A revised biography of R E Howard was ordered as soon as I knew it had been announced and with any luck will be with me by the end of the month.