Saturday, October 01, 2005

Deighton, Len. SS-GB. London: Grafton, 1987. 402pp.

One of the classics of the alternate history genre, one that I've obviously only just now gotten around to reading. Sometimes the old classics don't hold up so well and sometimes they do. How did Deighton fare? Pretty good actually, for a mainstream author dabbling in sf. This is basically a spy/detective novel set in a London newly occupied by the Nazis. Our protagonist, the homicide cop, is trying to solve a murder that suddenly everyone seems interested in, getting him involved with both the SS and the resistence at the same time. It drags a bit in the middle, but over all a solid alternate history that really shows that the author spent a lot of time working out the implications of a Nazi-occupied Britain.

Wheen, Francis. How mumbo-jumbo conquered the world: A short history of modern delusions. New York: Public Affairs, 2005. 327pp.

Brilliant. Fantastic. Hysterical. Outrageous. One of the best books I've read in a long time.

Ever marvel how prominent people in the world (politicians, academics, artists) seem to get away with the most outrageous pronouncements, the stupidest ideas, the most counter-intuitive plans? So do I. And so does Francis Wheen, but at least he does something about it. He skewers all these not-so-worthies in this book, an extended essay on how the famous try to pull the wool over our eyes. Non-denominational, idiots of all political and social stripes get the treatment.

Long, Jeff. Year Zero.New York: Pocket Star, 2003. 498pp.

An ultimtely unsatisfying cross between King's The Stand and The Da Vinci Code. It starts with some antiquarian thiefs accidentally releasing an ancient plague from a stolen 1st century they believe to have some of Jesus's remains. As the plague rages throught the world, a few of the final survivors try and find the cure in an isolated desert location in the US. They do this by using various other relics and bone finds to clone first century humans to try and find one that has antibodies or other immune system features that can combat the apocalyptic plague. Well, one of the clones seems to think he's Jesus himself...An interesting idea, one well hyped on the back of the book but really a red herring. The Jesus storyline, one with lots of potential for excitment and blasphemy, is really shoved to the side as an afterthougt as the pure plague storyline dominates. A few good characters seeking life, love and redemption almost save the novel, but not quite.