I’ve been re-reading Neuromancer whilst putting my daughter to bed. Fear not, she gets stuff like The Tales of Beedle the Bard instead. Of the two, N is far and away the better book (wiki tells me that the novel appeared on Time magazine’s list of 100 best English-language novels written since 1923; the authors utter ignorance of computing technology doesn’t detract from it as a novel, though oddly wiki doesn’t find room to mention how inaccurate his vision of cyberspace has proved). It’s the ultimate look-n-feel book; you just let yourself get carried away with the flow, and ignore the general nonsense. I loved reading it again; the vision of the AI’s aching for completion is an enduring image. An afterword mentions that one of the three inspirations for the book was Alfred Bester’s Tiger, Tiger which is certainly superior to N in terms of literary quality, wit, verve and invention. Read that first.

Beedle demonstrates that JKR can’t write fairy stories; every one of them jars. The Uses of Enchantment helps explain why (apart from the fact that JKR just isn’t a good writer, even if she did have the great luck to stumble upon a good story and tell it mostly well). TUOE is a great book, though there seems to be some doubt about who wrote it, even if you don’t buy all the Freudian analysis. Is especially good for leftie middle-class parents worried about burning the witch. It turns out to be correct; she had to die.

Comments

  1. #1 Alexander Ač
    2009/01/18

    Hi William,

    this is off-topic, but might be of interest:
    http://www.reuters.com/article/environmentNews/idUSTRE50H1XD20090118?feedType=RSS&feedName=environmentNews

    report on study about european brightening? ;-)

    [I guess this fits within the general less-particulate-pollution idea -W]

  2. #2 Jeb, FCD
    2009/01/18

    the authors utter ignorance of computing technology doesn’t detract from it as a novel

    Grammar issues aside, WTF?!?

    The concept of cyberspace is still evolving, as well as neural links to a computer. It’s not as if he explicitly set the story in 2009.

  3. #3 fergus
    2009/01/19

    What about trying Olaf Stapledon’s ‘Sirius’ for your daughter? It’s not great science, but it is a fantastic, and rather sad, story.
    On animals, I gave a copy of Garry Kilworth’s ‘Midnight’s Run’ to an eleven year-old who pronounced it the best story he’d ever read (even four years later); it’s about wolves. One of my faves.
    Of course, there’s always ‘The Sheep Look Up’ (!)

  4. #4 P. Lewis
    2009/01/19

    Of course, there’s always ‘The Sheep Look Up’ (!)

    Not in Wales they don’t. They look behind, nervously.

    (I can say that as I’m from the correct side of the border.)

  5. #5 netlog
    2009/01/19

    thanks you .1″111

  6. #6 Robert Grumbine
    2009/01/19

    I always liked John Brunner’s _Shockwave Rider_ better than Neuromancer, in terms of the computer future. Written another decade farther from what it was discussing, it holds up better both for tech and for writing. But I think Brunner’s best is _Stand on Zanzibar_. Not bedtime reading for your daughter, unless she’s the age and temperment my stepdaughter was when we first met.

    Bester, I like a lot better in any mode than Gibson.

  7. #7 jules
    2009/01/21

    What do you mean “great luck to stumble on a good story”? Where do you suppose she found it? I’d of thought a scientist would have more respec’ for imagination. Last week I stumbled upon a climate science paper that I thought was really well written. That certainly doesn’t happen very often.

    jules

    [I thought she found it when she merged a traditional public-school story with some wizarding -W]

  8. #8 trrll
    2009/01/24

    JKR is one of those frustratingly unbalanced writers, with great talent in some areas, and almost none in others. Overall, the strengths outweigh the weaknesses–I believe that the Harry Potter books are on their way to being an enduring classic of children’s literature. I enjoyed them thoroughly, but it was constantly frustrating to think how much better the series might have been if she had actually had some facility with language. But her plotting and character are topnotch, and I think her decision to choose a whimsical (and whimsy is another thing she does quite well) fantasy world as background for a rather frightening coming-of-age story is quite brilliant. To have carried this through and developed it so well as to hold readers’ interest over 7 books has to have been more than luck.

    The question now is whether she will ever be able to come up with another story so well suited to her odd mix of talents.

  9. #9 P. Lewis
    2009/01/24

    Harriet Potter: The Half-Blood Sister

    … the new term begins.

    Another heptamerous series from the pen of…