How to dispose of your husband

Cover: Great North RoadTired of fighting for control of the TV remote? Fed up with having to entertain your partner every evening? Sick of being the one who has to organise social events?

Try this: Great North Road, 1086 pages of pure reading pleasure, by sci-fi stalwart Peter Hamilton.  I gave it to my husband (let’s call him ‘Derwood’) two weeks ago, and I haven’t had to talk to him since. He arrives home every night from work, takes off his cycle helmet, picks up his plate of weetbix and vanishes. Depending on the weather, he is reading either in the garden (hammock), in the lounge (sofa), the family room (armchair by open French doors), or the bedroom (with accompanying cats). The giant size of the book means it’s a bit of a challenge to sling it in his backpack and take to work, but I have a feeling his patients are lucky they’ve got his full attention there, otherwise he’d probably be balancing it on their heads while fixing their shoulders or backs.

Up until a couple of years ago, Derwood was a one-man reader, Stephen King or no-one. Then I managed to bully him into reading Perdido Street Station, and he was off. Since then, he’s gotten to know China pretty well, and has also been spending time with Justin Cronin, Neil Gaiman (American Gods), Simon Green, and even Charlie Higson (zombies, not spies). Simon and Charlie seem to be a bit light for him, though – if I really want some peace and quiet of an evening, it has to be the great dense volumes of space opera or world-building or urban fantasy (NOT the vampire-y bodice-ripping ones) that involve multiple characters and storylines, with elements of fantasy and/or philosophy, and with some mystery thrown in. So it’s a bit of a relief to have thought of Peter Hamilton. I read his Night’s Dawn Trilogy a few years back, and  loved it, but I have to confess that the big world-building sci-fi books are a bit beyond my scattered concentration abilities at the moment.

I reckon with the rest of Hamilton’s back catalogue still to go, I’m sorted for the next couple of months, but after that I’ll be on the lookout again. Any suggestions as to where I should go after this? I’m thinking maybe Alastair Reynolds, but am open to all other offers …

Orwell Day

book coverOn 21st January 1950, George Orwell died in London. In recognition of one of Britain’s greatest and most influential writers, Penguin Books, the Orwell Estate and The Orwell Prize are launching the inaugural ‘Orwell Day’ on 21st January with new editions of his most beloved books designed by David Pearson.

Orwell had a profound effect on modern thought and writing. Even if you haven’t read his books you will probably know their names and the catch phrases and titles: 1984, Animal Farm, “four legs good, two legs bad” and so on. I can’t remember which book I read first but I do remember enjoying his lesser known writing – Burmese Days and Shooting an Elephant (you can read it in this really interesting anthology).

A quick look at our catalogue reveals a good haul of Orwell’s works both fiction and non- fiction and in more than one language. We also have them as audio books. And of course even good old Cliff’s notes (and a new cheat sheet for me – Brodie’s notes). There is even a book of George Orwell sayings. So why not take a dip into unknown waters or revisit one of his classics.

Christchurch – this week in history (21 – 27 January)

22 January 1929
Death of Professor Bickerton in England. Since his sacking by the university – see 1902 – he had operated the extraordinary Pleasure Gardens at Wainoni, made fireworks, promoted patent medicines and then travelled to England to promote his “partial impact” astronomical theory.

24 January 1974
10th Commonwealth Games open at Queen Elizabeth II Park, one of the greatest sporting events in New Zealand’s history. Visitors include the Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh, the Prince of Wales and Princess Anne. Highlight of the opening ceremony was the New Zealand Army Band’s spectacular novelty marching routine. Seen on international live TV, the idea was soon copied by bandsmen throughout the Commonwealth.

25 January 1974
Cantabrian Richard Tayler wins 10,000 metres in games record time. This was the first live colour TV coverage of a major race. Tayler was honoured as 1974 “Sportsman of the Year’, but his sports career was cut tragically short by the onset of crippling arthritis.

27 January 1860
Writer Samuel Butler arrives at Lyttelton on “Roman Emperor”. He is best remembered for the novel Erewhon, published after his return to England several years later.

More January events in our Christchurch chronology.