Fuck every cause that ends in murder and children crying. ― Iain Banks’
Ahh I see that you’re reading Iain Bank’s Raw Spirit: In Search of The Perfect Dram. Since you’re obviously a lover of truly great whiskies, may I pour you, neat of course, a dram of the Craigellachie 23 year old single malt? Good — there you are. I assume you know about his Culture series, which are sort of space opera but far better done than most such books are? If not, go read Gary’s review of The Hydrogen Sonata which will give you a good look at this series.
if you’re in the mood for some great fantasy instead, Robert has two books he thinks are worth your time, Cat has a space opera audiobook he really liked, the other Cat has a look at her recent readings; and, among other things, Denise looks at Folkmanis’ American Kestrel puppet.
With great sadness, I must note that Anthony Bourdain committed suicide a few days ago. He was a personal favourite of many staffers here. Joseph looks at his No Reservations: Iceland episode: ‘Whoever chose to create and release this DVD is a genius. By showing the misery of his job (albeit with funny commentary and cutting remarks), Bourdain reveals his human side. He becomes one of us with good days and bad.‘
Now I’ll take your leave, as I see you’re eager to read this edition and I’m off to see if the installation of the two meter tall brass Ganesh in the library is complete. It’s rumoured that it was acquired from an antiquities dealer in Mumbai who said it might date back to Raj years. Neat, eh?
Cat delves into an audiobook this edition, giving a listen to Alastair Reynolds’ The Prefect. ‘Reynolds is among the best writers of sf I’ve had the pleasure to encounter. … John Lee, who narrates, is perhaps my favorite male narrator.’ But does this combination make for an engaging listen? Tune into Cat’s review and see!
Our West Coast Cat does away with a bit of her book pileup this edition, posting nutshell reviews of several books that have come her way in a single article. An editor has made it known that she’s extremely impressed with Cat’s brilliant idea, and may just ‘borrow’ it in future. But for right now, read all about what Cat thought about books featuring Wolves, Wives, Knives, Curses, A Hospital, and a Henchgirl. A few of these look worthy of making it to summer reading lists, so dive in to her reviews!
Robert brings us two novels by Jane Lindskold, who has proven to be a very versatile fantasist. The first is Changer: ‘Urban fanstasy is a subgenre with as many sets of criteria as there are practitioners. Ranging from the Celto-Amerindian universe of Charles de Lint’s urban Canada and Neil Gaiman’s eclectic universe of the Dreaming, with even hybrids such as Mark Anthony’s Last Rune paying tribute to fairies and hobgoblins, Lindskold has stepped neatly in and taken as her purview the myths and legends of all places, all peoples, and set them down in the contemporary American Southwest.’
He follows up with the sequel, Legends Walking: ‘Jane Lindskold has followed up Changer with Legends Walking, which opens a few weeks after Changer closes. The same characters appear, many in expanded roles, new athanor characters participate, and the story takes on added complexity as several plot lines develop.’
Robert has a look at a French film that almost defies description: ‘I hardly know where to start with Christophe Gans’ Brotherhood of the Wolf (Le Pacte des Loups) – it’s sort of outside my normal range of subject matter, but the DVD case looked interesting enough, and the price was right, so I thought, “Why not? A historical-costume-mystery-revenge-monster flick – what could be better?”’
Robert has chocolate! (Big surprise.) This time it’s organic dark chocolate from Whole Foods Market: ‘As might be expected from a chain with Whole Foods’ reputation, all ingredients are organic, fair trade, and socially conscious. (Well, the ingredients themselves aren’t socially conscious, but you get my drift.)’
It’s no secret that we love Gaelic music around here. For this issue, Cat takes a listen to Skara Brae’s Skara Brae, an album that is widely considered the most important album of Gaelic music ever produced. ‘Skara Brae was the first group that put harmonies to Gaelic songs…. For lovers of songs in Irish this album is a must.’
Gary explores Drift, the second release by Seattle-based trio Duende Libre. ‘Though based in American and Latin (especially Cuban) jazz, Duende Libre’s music makes some significant departures, even more so on Drift than on their debut.’
Gary also enjoyed Anima, the debut album from Uruguayan-born singer Valeria Matzner. ‘It wasn’t until after she moved to Canada as an adult that she studied jazz, and it was there that she also eventually reconnected to her roots – in South America and in her own family as well. I’m very glad she did.’
And then, Gary says, there’s Waterdrawn by the Chicago-based duo The Horse’s Ha. They’re influenced by the singers and songs of the 1960s British folk revival, but with a twist: ‘Folk songs that sound like lovely pastorals on the surface – the delicate acoustic instruments plucked and bowed and the singers’ oddly matched voices – but which hide dark undercurrents.’
Shining Down, an album from a member of the North Carolina based Red Clay Ramblers, gets high praise by Judith: ‘Craver’s piano playing is marvelous, and to add to the quirkiness his vocals are plain, as if he were singing on a kids album. As on Wagoner’s Lad he plays most of the backing music himself.’
Jack has an oddity for us in ‘a quaint remnant from an earlier, less driven-by-commercial-interest society where quality of production was higher than it is today. This artifact, The Road Goes Ever On — A Song Cycle, comes from an earlier age, the Sixties, when readers were madly obsessed with Tolkien and his work. Here in this book composer Swann gives Tolkien characters Bilbo, Treebeard, Samwise Gamgee, and Tom Bombadil tunes for their ballads of the road. Tolkien approved of this and added a tune of his own, along with a glossary of Elvish terms and lore.’
Denise has decided to give puppets a try this issue, with a review of Folkmanis’ American Kestrel puppet. And she came away impressed. ‘Holy cow this puppet is beautiful.’ But how does it actually…puppet? Read her review to find out!
As warmer weather creeps in, thoughts turn memories of summers past, and to this year’s summer plans that will soon become cherished memories. Weezer ties together past and future nicely with their rendition of Toto’s ‘Africa’, a cover they dropped late last month.
Why cover such a classic favorite? Because a fan (@weezerafrica, to be precise) asked them to. Many, many times. And with Weezer being very responsive to social media requests, the decided to go for it. And I’m glad they did. Rivers Cuomo was made to cover this song, his smooth, beautiful voice doing the lyrics justice. Weezer performs this song in a slightly different key, but it works perfectly.
As the band has covered many performers, from Black Sabbath to Pink Floyd and even Toni Braxton, who knows what they’ll do next? Meanwhile, enjoy ’Africa’, and think of all the lovely summer memories you’ll get to make this year.