Sunday, 8 November 2020

leaf skeleton

Moving some bricks that had been standin outside for a while, we found this old leaf that had decayed away, leaving just its skeleton behind:

Friday, 6 November 2020

cloud shadow

 A glorious sunset tonight:

sunset, looking west, 16:25 GMT

Towards the lower left edge of the coud, there’s a diagonal dark band: it’s a shadow of part of the cloud cast by the setting sun on the cloud!  Here it is in an expanded view:

Saturday, 24 October 2020

autumn colour

 The garden is looking gorgeous at the moment

Friday, 9 October 2020

book review: Lent

Jo Walton.
Tor. 2019

Girolamo Savonarola was a Dominican friar who preached in Florence, and was burned for heresy in 1498. Nearly the first half of this novel is the story of the six years leading up to this event, with the only fantasy overtones being that Girolamo can see and cast out demons. The novel makes him a sympathetic character, rather than the somewhat puritanical zealot of history. But on his execution, the novel takes a highly unexpected turn. For this Girolamo Savonarola is not human.

For me, the story got much more interesting once the fantasy aspects are foregrounded. As I said, that’s nearly half the way through. Up until then, it can be read (apart from the demons) as a relatively straightforward dramatisation of an historical figure. This is well done, but not my usual fare; however, I like Walton’s work, so I persisted. And it was worth the wait.

The rest of the book, which I can’t describe without massive spoilers, has the same historical feel, although the context has changed dramatically. It gives a wonderful view of life in Italy at this time, through a fantastical lens, and keeps you guessing until the end. I thought the ending was very slightly rushed, but everything fit together perfectly.

Thursday, 8 October 2020

book review: Dogs of War

Adrian Tchaikovsky.
Dogs of War.
Head of Zeus. 2017

In the near future, genetic engineering has led to bioforms, animals with increased intelligence, size, and strength, bred for war. They have embedded obedience chips, so they can’t go rogue. But what happens when they are obedient to a war criminal? Who is to blame for their actions? Will a terrified public demand they be destroyed? How can they fight for their freedom without terrifying the public even further?

This is an excellent view inside the minds of uplifted beasts, told from the point of view of Rex, a dog-form, in charge of a group that includes a bear that is rather more intelligent that she should be, a giant lizard who prefers lying in the sun to shooting enemies, and the hive-mind Bees. There are lots of plot twists just when you think you know how things will play out, and a view of humanity whose only salvation may lie in the hands, or paws, of its own creations.