1) The zombie/recency mash-up Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (written by Seth Grahame-Smith, published by Quirk Books) was a huge hit when it was published in 2009 and although it has spawned a sequels, notably Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dreadfully Ever After, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dawn of the Dreadfulls, Android Karenina and Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters – all titles also published by Quirk Books – it seems that the novelty can only run for so long (I imagine the sales figures for each subsequent reading make for more and more disappointing reading).
2) Alongside all the other books I’m currently reading I am also dipping in to, sporadically, an ebook version of Jules Verne‘s From the Earth to the Moon saved on my iPod. The plot is simple, gun makers of America decide that since there are no longer any wars in which to fight the science of gun making must be put to use in another way. A giant canon is conceived for the purpose of sending a projectile to the surface of the moon. This projectile is hollow and able to carry explorers.
Given the scientific understandings (or misunderstandings) of the times there are ideas and descriptions that are inconceivable now (low lying air available to breath on the moon, water available drink once there, soil to plant seeds in etc) but the driving force of the book are the characters and their desire to reach the moon, and the invention and imagination of Verne make is an entertaining read.
And to tie these two things together:
Verne was writing in the eighteen hundreds so all his work is now out of copyright and available for adaptation. I can’t help thinking that leaving the bones of From the Earth to the Moon as it is but then applying today’s science to the story would elicit a delightfully underwhelmed ‘ohh’ from a reader. The preparation and the build up of excitement should remain untouched and then once the canon is fired a couple of sentences finish the book off as the intrepid explorers are crushed to a soup-like consistance by the force of the explosion / the projective which contains the explorers melts to nothing upon reaching the atmosphere / the explorers reach the moon, open the door and are sucked in to the vacuum/instantly frozen to death.
Maybe more of an ebook thing?
WBN is fast approaching and I’ve now collected my 25 copies of Someone Like You from the wonderful Camden Lock Books at Old Street.
I chose Someone Like You because reading it as a child I loved the brevity and the complexity of the stories. Or possibly I loved the fact that each story raced towards a twist that was, on the whole, dark and fantastic and, well, twisted.
Flicking back through the book now it’s absurd how clear my memories of the stories are; without looking at a word I could tell you what happens in Taste, in Lamb to the Slaughter, in Man From the South. Dahl weaves his magic and without even realising you find that his stories lodge themselves unbidden in your mind.
WBN’s remit is the promotion and celebration of reading and literacy. If ever there was a book to encourage someone to read, this is it.
Friend 1: Morning. You’re looking rugged today.
Friend 2: (strokes facial hair) Thanks bub.
Friend 1: Hah. Kudos for the Wolverine reference.
Friend 2: Say what?
Friend 1: No? He says it in the comics a lot.
Friend 2: Oh . . . okay . . . So you got time for a coffee?
Friend 1: Sorry mate, no. I flew in to Starbucks on the way in. Had time to grab a banana too.
Friend 2: And kudos to you for Groucho Marx reference.
Friend 1: ??
Friend 2: ‘Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana’?
Friend 1: Um . . . no.
Friend 2: Oh.
A few years ago I had the idea of a story set on a bathysphere, sunk deep below the waves. The crew would have been small, four or five, and the cable would have snapped, plunging them down, down, down to the depths of the ocean. Back on board the research ship a reporter for the London Express would have been sending telegrams back to England about the disaster, rousing interest and sympathy in equal measure. The captain of the ship was named Rachman. His father was a tailor. The first mate, unnamed so far, was a coward, though it was only when Rachman was knocked unconscious in a mishap that this cowardliness became evident. In the great depths of the sea they would have been almost blind, but the phosphorescent glow of tiny sea creatures would have been visible in the black, like stars in space. Later they would rise to the surface somehow, and find themselves the other side of the world than when they started. I had been reading a lot of Alan Moore and Jules Vern at this point, and the sketch, and idea, are obviously influenced by this. Something to come back to in the future perhaps.
A sketch drawn one lunchtime:
The text reads: The history of the explorers of the oceans is long and varied. From China to the Persian Empire, from Aristotle’s tales of Alexander the Great sinking deep beneath the waves, to sponge divers in India and village girls diving for pearls in the Philippines. The sea holds many attractions and many terrors. In 1903 a new diving bell was built in the docks of Liverpool. Not really a diving bell at all, this steel ball was built to sink many thousands of feet in to the churning waters and then hang suspended, a tiny point of light in the engulfing inky darkness. A bathysphere.
Searching Google Maps for how to get somewhere near Kings Cross I stumbled upon the ‘Pirate Bookshop’. Despite the name this is in fact an unlicensed sex shop (or was, it’s now been closed down) and was owned by Ronnie O’Sullivan’s mother.
Books, pirates, sleeze and the mother of a celebrity. It’s a bizarrely wonderful amalgam of facts.