Beyond Black, Hilary Mantel

I started out liking this book a lot, and then I liked it progressively less and less.  Fie to Philip Pullman who thinks it is so wonderful – this is just the sort of book you would think he would like.  Bah.  I agree with GeraniumCat that it’s a really interesting and genuine depiction of the dead, but I didn’t like the book taken altogether.  I got tired and depressed reading it, which I don’t think is the effect books are meant to have.  Plus, although Tarot cards didn’t feature prominently, I often didn’t like the interpretations of the cards that the author gave.  Fortunately I read Beyond Black in between volumes of Fables, and those cheered me up enormously.

The Shadow in the North, Philip Pullman

I just finished the second book in my “Take Against Matt Smith Unreasonably Before David Tennant Even Goes Anywhere Project”, and I shall watch the film version this evening, taking against Matt Smith with all my might.  And if I haven’t taken against him sufficiently, I’ll just, I’ll just look up videos on YouTube and make complaining comments in my head about how his HAIR is stupid and he’s completely COMMON like a little LONDON GUTTER RAT and he keeps on making PRETENTIOUS HANDS.

(I just went and watched a video of him on YouTube and okay, yes, his hair’s stupid, but it’s not nice to make nasty comments about people’s accents, particularly when they’re accents I quite like really; and when the video was over, I noticed that my face was smiling.  So it is marginally possible that I do not absolutely despise Matt Smith, and although of course I’m not admitting the possibility that he will be any good at all in replacing David Tennant (I mean, of course), it’s possible that – I’ve strayed a bit here.  Forget it.  Nothing else about Matt Smith.  I’m sure he’ll be delightful.  Sheesh.)

To return to the point, The Shadow in the North just has absolutely nothing to do with Doctor Who.  It’s the second book about Sally Lockhart, who is now doing plucky heroine financial consulting and sometimes detective work in London, and avoiding agreeing to marry the man she loves, photographer Fred Garland, who is now partners with Jim in doing detective work all over the place.  When he’s not photographing things.  And they all sort of separately get involved in the same distressing plot, which has something to do with mediums and (unfortunately) more to do with industry and shipping companies.

I would have liked this book better if it had been more to do with mediums and less with industry.  Industrial mysteries make me sleepy.  When they take place in Victorian London, they make me sleepy and commit the additional offense of having nothing to do with Oscar Wilde whatsoever, a really unacceptable state of affairs in my life.  Mediums in Victorian London remind me of how Oscar Wilde had his psychic, and how hilarious it was when Hester Travers-Smith started getting messages from Oscar Wilde after he was dead.  Be that as it may, the spiritualism ends up being mainly irrelevant to the plot – which is a bit of a spoiler, I guess, but you might as well know it now, so that when it first comes up, you can start by feeling cheated at Philip Pullman’s having used that as a hook when it wasn’t going to be the point anyway.  Instead of finding out later.  Bah.

Also, this one was more depressing than the last one.

SPOILERS.  By the time I got to the end I felt like that bit from Peter Pan where the Lost Boys have asked Wendy to tell them the story of Hamlet, and she’s all, “Well – Prince Hamlet died.  And the King died – and the Queen died – and Ophelia died – and Polonius and Laertes died, and – well, the rest of them lived happily ever after!”

Okay, that’s an exaggeration.  Sort of.  I don’t know how it’s even possible for people who don’t read the end and do get emotionally invested in books to deal with these depressing events as they occur.  Mind you, in my case, I was careful not to let myself get seriously invested with anyone – apart from, I confess, Jim a bit, as I want him to survive so he can play the Doctor in 2010, even though I’d rather David Tennant stayed on.  Anyway, as I say, I didn’t want to become invested in anyone because I know about Philip Pullman AND HIS WAYS.  Which, clever me, it turns out, since EVERYBODY BLOODY DIES.

This post so far would seem to imply I became more emotionally invested than I am claiming I did.  Only two characters die.  And one of them’s a dog.  But I didn’t want either of them to die, because you know what?  Being a single mother is damn hard!  As I shall discover in the third book, whose exact title I forget, but it’s something to do with a tiger.

(P.S. I don’t like Philip Pullman as much as I like C.S. Lewis.  Even though Philip Pullman is a feminist and C.S. Lewis is a sexist ass.  I still think C.S. Lewis was a better writer.  What nice clear prose that man wrote in!)

The Ruby in the Smoke, Philip Pullman

The Eleventh Doctor isn’t Paterson Joseph.  I really, really wanted it to be, but no, it isn’t him.  They said so today.  It’s some little child twenty-six years old (my generation, for heaven’s sake!) that nobody’s ever heard of.  Except that apparently he was in the BBC film version of Philip Pullman’s The Ruby in the Smoke.  With Billie Piper, Billie Piper!  Hurrah for Billie Piper!  So I decided to read the books and then watch the films when they come in at the library.

The Ruby in the Smoke is about a girl called Sally Lockhart whose father has just died, and there is some mystery surrounding his death and finances, and a number of other things, that she ends up having to work out.  She meets some nice people that help her, and some nasty people that don’t.  This is all in 19th-century London.  Every time someone says something about 19th-century London, I always hope they will sometime bring up Oscar Wilde, but so far they have not.

I enjoyed this – everyone’s so cheerful and they all rush round trying to get everything sorted out.  Sally can be a bit of a pansy sometimes, but when she bothers trying to be cool, she manages it handily.  I admire a girl who can handle photography and finances – though I was surprised nobody thought to worry about whether their printed photographs would give away their location to the dastardly villains who were after them.  One time I made an index for a book about photographs from this time period, which was interesting, and reading this book reminded me that I don’t remember one single thing about it.

Anyway I’ll have to see the film.  I like Billie Piper.  Maybe it will help me to feel slightly, slightly better about this new kid playing the Doctor.