One of the more fun stories from The Shadow Conspiracy II was Chris Dolley‘s Wodehousian pastiche, What Ho! Automaton – which detailed the rescue of steam-powered valet Reeves by the hapless buffoon Reginald Worcester and their bonding while foiling the plans of evil aunts. Collected here, along with a new novel length story (Something Rummy this way Comes), the parody is accurate and entertaining. And while the story is never going to change worlds, it’s still a jolly good romp.
Reeves and Worcester share the same universe as the rest of the Shadow Conspiracy collections, but abandon any of the more ominous aspects in favour of a lighter style that is more like Wodehouse fan fiction than scifi. The original short (for which the book is named) deals with our heroes’ meeting and adventures while trying to figure out what’s amiss with his cousin’s new fiancée.
The meat of the book, Something Rummy this way Comes, is a romp through the balls, debutantes, and vaguries of late-Victorian British Society. Reggie’s aunts (who are more viscious than veloceraptors) have had enough of his caddish ways and demand he tours the ball circuit to find a wife. Unfortunately all the available debutantes are disappearing and it’s up to Reggie (aided by the super steam brain of Reeves) to find out where to. On the way he meets spirited Emeline who, like her namesake, will chain herself to a railing in a heartbeat and tries to find the ape or eunuch he is sure is to blame.
This is such a fun book that it’s impossible to find anything wrong with it. Yes, it is a little rough around the edges, but the voicing is pitched perfectly – to the point where I can only imagine Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry as the main characters (take note movie adaptors – start saving now). Some nice comic touches reflect the differences between this and the world of Jeeves and Wooster (Queen Victoria’s been saved by replacing her legs with steam-driven ones) and the whole tale hangs together nicely.
Even better, it costs less than £2. Perfect for reading at your gentlemans’ club.
Johnny Goodhero is tired. He’s been surviving for months since the cliché virus struck. His only friends a baseball bat and a 9mm pistol. One last plan, to get across a Zombie infested battlefield without being eaten, to the temporary safety of a nuclear bunker.
Johnny tries not to gag as he covers himself in rent zombie guts. The squishy noises sound like the the horrific noises that come from your parents’ bedroom at three in the morning when all you want is a glass of chocolate milk. A terrible set of bling begins to form, liver earrings, colon necklaces, a visceral survival suit.
He crawls. So slowly, the Somme of moaning and scratching all fogged around. An invisible orchestra takes up a beat, industrial timekeeping keeping pace with the undead hearts of his costume. He reaches forward to a key lying forgotten on the ground. Salvation named Chubb. Touching one side, it’s so close, an undead arm reaches for the other. Crescendos. Slow motions. A flesh-stripped face comes into view. Johnny raises his piece. Recognition and hunger leap at clean food. Trigger pressed. An explosion.
“Wake up. It’s already twelve and we have things to do!”
I really shouldn’t read the Walking Dead last thing at night.
Between 1984 and 1986, the BBC partnered with Acorn, Philips, and Logica to create a modern version of William I’s Domesday Book. Stored on a pair of optical laserdiscs, the modern Domesday project contained a multimedia snapshot of life in the UK during the mid-eighties.
I remember watching a children’s quiz show back then and wishing we could be taught in such a cool way, but all the Irish Department of Education had to offer were fifty year old film projectors and velcro figures on felt boards.
The BBC has now released the completed work online, and it looks like Cambridge hasn’t really changed all that much in thirty years.
Whether Better Book Titles took the idea from yourmonkeycalled or came up with it independently, it’s my favourite Tumblr of the moment.
A couple of weeks ago I overheard a WH Smith employee telling a customer that he’d looked up the author of a book and it was William Golding. The customer was looking for Lord of the Flies. That’s right, he had to look up the title of Nobel Prize winning, thrice adapted, on the GCSE, Junior Cert 1954 classic allegory Lord of the Flies.
Needless to say, I posted this on Twitter and FaceBook and got accused of elitism and snobbery. I’m not saying that someone working in a bookshop needs to know the author of every book under the sun, but a basic grounding in the classics couldn’t hurt.
Good job the ConDem coalition is shutting down public libraries, eh?
On the right is the original 76m Lovell Telescope, built in 1957, and has been responsible for keeping the UK at the forefront of space science.
On the left is the smaller (but closer) 25m Mk II telescope which forms part of the e-MERLIN network – a half dozen radio telescopes (including Cambridge’s own Mullard Telescope) connected via fibre optic cable that is sensitive enough to read a number plate on the moon.
Science is cool and so is the Jodrell Bank Visitor Centre; go while it’s still around.