Reviews, films, and festivals

Let me just self-aggrandize for a moment and tell you about two new reviews, the first being in the September issue of SFX (the one with Star Trek on the cover).

It calls Empire of Light 'gripping, imaginative and morally complex', and also describes it as 'page-turning sf with a distinctive identity and brutal, stylish action sequences, all of which adds up to a compulsive read'. Sci Fi Now magazine, meanwhile, has this to say about the new paperback of Nova War (full review here): 'An immediately enthralling and intelligent read, which captures the reader’s attention through graphic description of numerous exotic species and locations alongside early dramatic developments. Nova War is (...) a shining piece of sci-fi writing'.

Which is a nice thing to find in WH Smiths while you're waiting for a train to Edinburgh, where myself and Emma spent the day yesterday checking out the Festival. We wound up seeing a stand-up comedian called Alex Horne performing a show called 'Odds', partly because he was the first name I saw on the Fringe festival website (one of the advantages of having a name that starts with 'A'), and because someone else recommended him entirely separately. Which just seemed like fate, somehow. The last time I went through to the Festival and paid to see a performance was a long time ago - and I mean a long time ago: a play written by Grant Morrison, of all people.

As for Horne - I'd recommend him. His show isn't really stand-up comedy in the fall-over-laughing sense, although it is tremendously entertaining and remarkably thoughtful. I'm also pretty sure no one else could do a Powerpoint presentation and make it funny. But he managed to tie together gambling, quantum mechanics, and golf into a single hour-long show, which I found very impressive. There are some clips of him on Youtube, but they don't really do his act justice, unfortunately (his website looks a bit more promising).

Apart from that, I'd say the highlight of the day was the ex-Cirque du Soleil performer balancing his entire body, sideways, on one hand, on top of a twenty-foot pole held in place by four slightly tipsy locals pulling on ropes, just off Princes Street.

Films: we recently watched a Taiwanese film called 'Au Revoir, Taipei' (there's a lengthy review at that link), which was a huge hit in Taiwan. It's a romantic comedy about a kid who gets dumped by his girlfriend after she's flown off to Paris, then borrows money from the wrong kind of people in order to fly over and get her back. It's not quite as great as some of the reviews have made out - some of it, I think, is lost in translation - but that's not the only reason to see it. It's practically an hour-and-a-half long advert for Taipei itself, which is no bad thing. We both recognized a lot of locations used in the movie, including quite a few set in the Shida district, where we lived for two years. It's worth seeing.

I am slowly getting in gear for The Thousand Emperors, working on the outline and brainstorming the plot and characters. It's a tenuous sequel to Final Days, which I just handed in to my publisher a few weeks ago. By 'tenuous', I mean you won't have to read Final Days to know what's going on. And after I've finished that, it's on to another Shoal Universe book, which I'm now calling A River Across The Sky.

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