The third Inspector Rebus Tooth and Nail by Ian Rankin. Rebus comes to London, struggles with Cockney rhyming slang, is mugged by skateboarders in a housing estate, is repeatedly insulted for being Scottish, while tracking down a transvestite serial killer.
Pretty good. Still don't see why this series is sometimes called grittily realistic. This one ends with a car chase to Trafalgar Square in a commandeered Jaguar with a judge in the rear seat, after which the serial killer, who was the police pathologist, is chased through the National Gallery slashing portraits. This very rarely happens, even in London.
Rebus has definitely changed here: he's confused by literary references. The puzzle is much more cleverly set up in this one though with lots of satisfactory red herrings.
Interview with Ian Rankin. I suspect he's got a bit of a case of Arthur Sullivan Syndrome: he likes to think of himself as a Serious Artist who does some lighter stuff to make a living; but it's only the lighter stuff that's great.
What I'm Reading 2
How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy by Orson Scott Card. Surprisingly good. Useful, short and focussed. Warns against plot formulas, but has lots of useful advice for avoiding traps. Also has some good insights into the publishing business. A few extracts.
One the rise of the divisions of genre:
Hilton felt no qualms about writing a lost-land novel, Lost Horizon; it troubled no-one that it didn't belong in the same category as, say, his novel Good-bye, Mr, Chips. And so many readers responded that the name of the lost land, Shangri-la, passed into the common language.On formulas:
Today, though, an author who wrote a fantasy like Lost Horizon would immediately be placed into the fantasy category, and if he then wrote a Good-bye, Mr, Chips, American publishers would be at a loss as to where to place it. How could you call it fantasy? Yet if you publish it out of the fantasy category, the readers who liked the author's earlier books won't ever find it, and the readers who do browse the "Fiction" category won't ever have heard of this author and will probably pass the novel by. As a result there will be an enormous pressure on the author to write "more books like that Shangri-la book".
(Indeed, he will be pressed to write a whole series, which will then be promoted as "The Shangri-la Trilogy" until a fourth book is published, then as "The Shangri-la Saga" until the author is dead...)
Independent thinker comes up with great idea; bureaucrats screw everything up; independent thinker straightens it all out and puts bureaucrats in their place. (This story appeals to scientists and their fans because it is a reversal of the pattern in the real world, in which scientists generally prosper according to their ability to attract grant money from bureaucrats, a relationship that forces scientists, who see themselves as an intellectual elite, into subservience.)And I wish Charles Stross had pinned this on the wall while writing Halting State:
That's why one of the most annoying things about Analog fiction -- annoying to me at least -- is the way that most stories there show little knowledge of fundamental human systems. Writers who wouldn't dream of embarrassing themselves with a faulty calculation of atmospheric density don't even notice when their characters-- whether scientists, government leaders, or gas station attendants; men or women; young or old-- all talk and act and relate to other people like smart-mouth schoolboys.Some of the specific publishing advice seems a bit dated. But otherwise this book is worth a look, though it may be a bit elementary.
What I'm Watching
Saw "Iron Man" at the cinema. Pretty much what you'd expect: decent to average action movie with adequate effects.
I liked the crude hammered-out-in-a-cave suit: shame they couldn't do a bit more with that. The high-tech version seemed a bit too cgi-y: seemed a bit weightless. Wasn't quite geometrically impossible which always bugs me, but still didn't seem to fit together properly.
Plot is marred by being even more predictable than usual: you almost always know what's going to happen next. Also I find Gwyneth Paltrow to be a kind of black hole of eroticism, absorbing any trace of sexiness in the vicinity into oblivion.
Action was good enough and the plot didn't waste too much time on angsty bullshit.
If you feel like going to the movies, this film is a reasonable thing to see.
Neuroeconomics. Why things cost 19.95. Not a psychological barrier, but gets you thinking about smaller increments of money.
Audio ad: Disclaimer Guy (via Metachat).
YouTube: Evil Floating Head:
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