There’s a long tradition among Western writers of lionising ancient ways of life, as if there’s something better about giving up all the trappings of modernity and wallowing about in the pain and dirt. The myth of the noble savage is responsible for such idiotic beliefs as the power of alternative medicine and the idea that anything that refutes the scientific process is necessarily true. Worst of all, it gave us Avatar – a movie that makes Smurfs 3D look like Citizen Kane.
Reign of the Nightmare Prince is just like Avatar – noble savages in tune with nature are attacked by evil technologists who want to take their resources – but differs in one respect; you care what happens. The story’s told from the point of view of one of the alien natives who’s returning from their version of Walkabout to find out monsters are killing off the rest of his people, and follows his attempts to muster a defence in the face of impossible odds.
Although it’s an entertaining and fun read, it’s not explained why the aboriginal population of an alien planet feels so human and a lot of the non-native attackers are almost as one-dimensional as Jake “I see you” Sully. Also, the end was so abrupt it felt like a sixth grader who’s suddenly reached the word limit on an English essay but don’t let that put you off.
Laura Laker suggests that Cambridge is a model cycling city “with considerate drivers, dedicated bicycle parking and bike-friendly city planning.” Here are five real reasons cycling is so popular in the town:
Cyclists can ignore red lights: It’s a rare cyclist that actually stops for a red light except when they’re in danger of being hit by a car.
Keeping your hands in your pockets: Handlebars? Direction control? Who needs ’em?.
Cycling on the pavement: Even with miles of cycle lanes, the footpath is perfect for traveling at high speed. Move it Grandma, I’ve got to get to my yoga class.
Cycling two or three abreast: Hey, hey, we’re the Monkees. Never mind other road users when you’re carrying on your conversation. Of course that nail polish looks stunning.
Chatting on a mobile phone: Unlike those evil motorists using a mobile on a push bike has no effect at all and, best of all, if you get hit it’s always their fault.
Pet Noir is a collection of short stories by Pati Nagle, all based around the adventures of a genetically modified tabby cat working as a detective on a space station, and it sounded like it could be different. Unfortunately not. Sure, the trappings of science fiction are there – animal uplift, a space station, cloning – but if you scratch the surface all that’s left is a set of fairly standard cop stories.
The cat in question feels no more than a human pretending to be a cat and the other animals turn out to be mere ciphers, the universe is barely sketched out and the much more interesting story of how human (and animal) society has coped with the massive changes brought about by space travel, new sentient species, and future technologies has been completely ignored.
This time, the future’s so bright, it feels like 1980.