|Baby, it's cold outside|
Although Christopher uses the story as a fable to illustrate just how wrong white behaviour was/is (obvious now, but not so evident to a sizeable proportion of the British population back when this book was written), he still falls into the trap of stereotyping black behaviour as lustful (particularly concerning white women), greedy, corrupt, incompetent, and riven by tribalism. Which is not to say that the remnants of British civilisation maintains a "noble savagery"; far from it. The reamaining survivors tend to a form of new feudalism (a state which Christopher has survivors of his many catastrophe novels revert to), with only a few looking to rebuild society rather than remake it into something which supports them at the expense of others.
Rick continues to feel the pressure (and the isolation) of leadership in this increasingly compelling series.
|Select options as appropriate|
Meanwhile, a (sporty/soppy/intellectual) ex-fiance now engaged to Bertie's (friend/enemy/rival in the Drones Darts Tourney) breaks off her engagement and committs herself to (improving/marrying/improving AND marrying) Bertie.
Meanwhile, Bertie's (good/bad) aunt wants Bertie to (steal something/take someone under his wing/steal something/steal something).
Meanwhile, Bertie makes an enemy of (an American Billionaire/a Northern industrialist/a would-be Fascist dictator/a psychologist/a magistrate) by (sloshing them/coshing them/stealing something from them/becoming affianced to their daughter/niece/fiancee).
Jeeves steps in.
The status quo is restored.
|Don't take for Granted|
|New readers start here|
The story moves at a hectic pace, and there are colourful characters aplenty mixed in with some great invention (Larry the Lark, the living fortune-telling machine is one to remember). More widely read people than me might be able to detect influences, but to me Aaronovitch is an original - light-hearted and black-hearted at one and the same time, full og plot and full of wit. Looking forward to the next one.
Unputdownability : I think I'll go to bed early and do some reading...
|That sinking feeling...|
TftC lacks the variety of, say ShockSupenStories - and although its stories tend to have a moral (albeit most of them are along the lines of "Do this, and someone will take revenge on you from beyond the grave") there is nothing which comes close to the social commentary stories , and none of the adaptations of other writers' works (like the Ray Bradbury's seen elsewhere).
You can forgive the lack of variety - Bill Gaines provided most of the plots for Al Fedstein to write the stories, for most of the EC line of seven bi-monthly titles. Do the maths - that fourteen short stories a month, every month. No wonder the plots could be a little samey (or even "inspired" by other media - note the number of times a Wax Museum provides the setting).
Still - you can imagine the chill these stories gave the unsophisticated juvenile reader, and some of the artwork is pretty ghastly (in the best possible sense). And you can equally imagine how parents siezed up the EC horror line as the cause of all their problems (in much the same way that, say "Civil War" bubblegum cards outrgaed British parents in the 1960s, and punk rock in the late 70s). Every generation needs something other than their own failings to take the blame for the inevitable youth disaffection. Poor old Bill Gaines - it was him and the Communists, and his comics were easier to spot.
Volume 1 now sells for around the £200 mark - not sure that I am completist enough to go that far. But I shall continue to pick up odd volumes of the EC archive whenever I see them at a decent price.
Unputdownability: Like a big box of chocolates, one or two taste great, but the the whole lot in one sitting 'll make you a little bit icky.
I really shouldn't - but Philip Reeve is such a great story teller. Within moments of opening one of his books, you are absorbed into his reality, which he fully furnishes and makes wholly believable. In "Larklight" we are in a Victorian world as seen through the eyes of a "Boys Own paper" hero with an annoyiong older sister, a deceased mother, and a semi-detached scientific father. Only difference is, they live in a Jules Verne/H.G. Wells outer space domicile, in a breathable aether that fills a universe full of planets easily reached by alchemical engines. But in this comfortable, British Space Empire of Kieller Dundee marmalade and Victorian engineering ingenuity lurks a great danger in the form of ten-legged spiders from Saturn. Oh. And pirates.
Thank goodness for the British Secret Service, and backbone, and stiff upper lips.
Even when writing for a younger audience than those that the "Mortal Engines" books are aimed at, Reeve never patronises. He never insults, and he never stoops to slipping in "adult" jokes, though there are nudging references for the more savvy of his junior readers.
Beautifully, and amusing, illustrated throughout by David Wyatt.
Unputdownability: like a Saturday morning serial, you can't wait for the next episode.