Children's literature is immersive, of course.
I have to write a round-up of children’s fantasy fiction over the weekend, so I’ve been busy ploughing my way through seven or eight titles, in order to write about three or four. Fortunately, a couple of them are very good, including China Mieville’s Un Lun Dun. I won’t write about them here, or at least not until I’ve written about them for people who will actually pay me, but I mention it because, as anyone who reviews knows, whenever you have lots of stuff to get through for work, dozens of other books start to demand your attention instead.
I’ve got a large, and growing, bundle of sf, of course, as I almost always do. And sf novels now are always 300 pages plus; an increasing number of them – these are the ones the literary editors particularly want you to cover – are also the second or third in trilogies, the early parts of which you haven’t read, but which you said you had when you were getting commissioned.
None of that’s really a problem. You just have to get through it before you start writing the review, and for an insomniac who commutes by train, it’s easy enough. But other books are always presenting themselves during busy periods. I’ve been sent a couple of thrillers which I’d like to read, but almost certainly won’t be expected to write about. The collected Judge Dredd, volumes 1-6, came through the door yesterday. I went to check my copy of The Diamond Age, couldn’t find it and bought another one. Then I started reading it on the train, and want to finish it, even though I’ve read it about three times before. Not that that stops you. I’ve read Conan Doyle a dozen times at least, but I still found myself leafing through His Last Bow and The Casebook yesterday. Civitas have printed what looks like an interesting report called On Fraternity by Danny Kruger, a friend of mine who’s Cameron’s speechwriter, and which I should read soon.
All this is before I get to blogs, websites, newspapers and magazines. And, almost incidentally, all the stuff which I need to read for a living in the office. Yet, when I go away, I never have anything to read. I have decided to start early for the summer holidays and put aside a suitcase. Whenever a tempting book appears while I have a big review due (which will be every half an hour), I’ll pack it. That will be the beach reading sorted – and guaranteed to be varied, because the only common factor will be that it’s stuff I shouldn’t read just now, until I’ve finished all the stuff I need to read for work.
sf: Stand On Zanzibar, John Brunner
crime: The House of the Arrow, AEW Mason
music: Scriabin, Piano Concerto, Ashkenazy & the LPO
food: liver with ginger & spring onions