Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Three books read

Rosemary Sutcliff, Song for a Dark Queen

Read because Kate was devouring my Sutcliff collection, and I hadn't read this one. Written in 1978, it's a lesser Sutcliff, without the fine writing seen in The Silver Branch or The Lantern Bearers.

I'm not sure that I believe that the Iceni were matrilineal, or that there were contingents in Boudicca's army from tribes as far away as the Brigantes, but this is a work of fiction, so Sutcliff is entitled to suggest that this was the case, as long as she doesn't completely violate what little is known for certain. Arguably she does this when she has the sack of Verulamium take place at almost the same time as that of Londinium, and carried out by a separate section of Boudicca's army. But I think she does this to speed the novel along, and also because her conception of the campaign has the Romans wintering in Chichester in the hope of getting reinforcements from Gaul. In any case, any errors in this are as nothing compared to, say, Eagle of the Ninth, where much of the plot depends on serious misunderstandings of the way the Roman army worked.

As the reviewer for Amazon.co.uk, one David Langford, opines, Sutcliff does not spare her juvenile readers some of the horrors of the Boudiccan revolt, though she does find a circumlocution for 'rape', and the fate of the women of Colchester (hung up with their breasts cut off) is merely hinted at.

Lorna Hardwick, Reception Studies

Read to give some theoretical support to my own writings on the reception of classics in modern sf. It's a useful little volume, though I wish Lorna would use more commas. There were a number of times where I had to read sentences more than once to understand what she was actually saying.

Dan Simmons, Ilium

Finally got around to this, which I read for obvious reasons. As with most sf, it's far too long (and even at the end of 600-plus pages he story remains half-complete, with only two of the novel's three strands have been linked). But overall it works. At first the future Earth and future Mars stories seemed a distraction from the account of the Trojan War, but soon they gain momentum, and actually become more enjoyable. Many questions (how does this all link in with Homer? What are the gods?) remain for the sequel, Olympos.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I loved Ilium; I thought the characters from the Trojan War were great, and I can't wait to read the sequel. It really will be weird to find out how he deals with the Europans...