Have started Stephen King's Dark Tower series, since it's one surely-unfinishable fantasy epic that has eventually come to an end. Read some of it back in the Eighties, but decided to start from the beginning again with The Gunslinger.
It turns out King has revised and expanded it. I think for the worse: King makes things up as he goes along rather than do detailed plots in advance, and he's taken the opportunity to add flashbacks to the past and hints of the future; which I think would spoil some of the mystery for the newcomer. The who-the-hell-is-this-guy Pale-Rider Man-with-no-name schtick was a big part of the appeal of the original: you really want to find out who he is and what's going on. I think King's inexperience with SF has him revealing too much of the world too early: would be better leaving some of the mysteries to be unveiled a bit later.
Even so, it's still a pretty effective read, still terse by King standards. Still have to see if it's enough to justify seven volumes though...
What I'm Watching
Saw the remade The Day the Earth Stood Still at the cinema. Liked it a lot, even though it's definitely one of those films that just Does Not Need a Remake.
For one thing, it's something that's as rare as velociraptor feathers: an intelligent, big-budget Hollywood science fiction movie. It got me hooked at the start when an object is detected in Jupiter orbit headed for Manhattan at "three times ten to the seven metres per second". 'Pshaw' I thought. 'Not much point scrambling against something at one-tenth of lightspeed,' only to have one of the characters repeat the sentiment, saying 'this is just theatre' at the response.
Gort is also brought up to date, retaining his iconic appearance, but reimagined as a Von Neumann swarm, without even clunking exposition explaining it, just visuals of him devouring his way across America.
So even though it's predictable I liked the science of the organic spacesuit/womb. Plotwise it follows the original pretty closely. There's a schmaltzy parent-child storyline attached, but it's not too annoying.
Overall, not original enough to be a run-out-and-see-this-now movie, but a well-made movie with a good balance between suspense and thoughtfulness. Worth seeing. No Klaatu barada nikto though.
Cancelled Greece, going straight to Istanbul instead as I said last time. Not too disappointed as I had misgivings from the start. I have a contact who lives in Athens, and my minor problems seem pretty trivial by comparison.
Problems for Cameron Pic: kittens in hoods.
Max Hastings on challenges for Cameron
But what then? Even the most optimistic Tories do not anticipate a large majority. Cameron's government will be obliged to act with shocking ruthlessness, to address the weakness of the public finances. When Thatcher did this in 1981, her government's ratings slumped. She won the 1983 election only because of the Falklands war and the unelectability of a "loony-left" Labour party.I think he might be being a bit optimistic. Ruling parties usually suffer mid-term blues in the polls: Thatcher used to be down 20 points then come back to win. Will one poll showing Brown only 5 points down, he could well be in power till 2015.
Neither of these circumstances is likely to be repeated in the next decade, if the Tories scrape into power. A centrist Labour party will remain a credible alternative government. No responsible course by a Cameron administration will be electorally popular. The Tories will soon start losing byelections, struggling to govern amid constant parliamentary difficulties. Where will be the joy for Cameron and his party in achieving power, if they find themselves thereafter almost impotent, clinging by their fingernails to the clifftop?
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