Salvage by Robert Edric is another dystopian near future novel by a mainstream novelist. In a future Britain beset by flooding and chilled by the absence of the Gulf Stream, a government inspector arrives in a Northern town to audit a new development project.
The future Britain is impressively well-realised, with lots of detail and a compellingly bleak atmosphere. Mainstream writers often skimp on world-building, but the author's experience with historical fiction seems to have helped him at that. It helps that he doesn't go over the top with apocalyptic imagery, it has something of the grim realism of Octavia Butler's "Parable" books.
The characters are believable though not sympathetic. There isn't that much plot except as scaffolding for mood and symbolism.
Overall, a compelling downbeat vision of a plausible future, worth reading.
What I'm Reading
The Case for Books by Robert Darnton is a collection of essays about books. The author is an academic who has researched the history of books, but also worked in publishing, which gives him an interesting set of insights. Some of the essays are about the future of eBooks, especially Amazon's digitization project, some go into the history of books.
The book is a couple of years out of date, from before the Kindle broke into the mainstream, so the future stuff already feels a little out of date. The historical essays are more interesting, especially when he goes into the details of how a particular bookseller distributed Voltaire.
Overall, somewhat interesting, but a bit too scattershot and a bit too dated.
What I'm Reading
Finally got around to reading The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas, the 2010 bestselling novel that got a lot of attention, and was made into a mini-series. At a barbecue in the Australian suburbs, a parent slaps someone else's kid, and the book follows the chain of consequences from multiple points of view, giving a kaleidoscopic insight into the network of families affected.
The book actually does live up to the hype. Tsiolkas has a John Updike-like knack for getting convincingly into the inner lives of his characters. The society is depicted convincingly, and while he touches on many Issues, Tsiolkas never gets preachy or heavy handed. Definitely worth reading.
What I'm Watching
Saw Sweet and Lowdown. on DVD. Woody Allen directed fake-documentary about a jazz guitarist in the Thirties. A gentle tragi-comedy, not that many laughs but some good performances, especially Samantha Morton as the guitarist's mute girlfriend.
What I'm Watching 2
Saw the BBC documentary The Secret History of Our Streets - Deptford High Street. Devastating account of how post-war developers helped destroy part of South London in a doomed attempt to move people into tower blocks.
Well worth seeing.
Did feel a bit unfair to the lone survivor of the planners, who's presented as a bit of scapegoat. He could only have been a junior at the time, and was far from the only person to fail to realise tower blocks would be a disaster.
Video. Crab eats banana. Mario attacks. Red Letter Media drones out long list of spoiler-filled Prometheus questions.
Pics. Retro concept art.
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