Monday 21 June 2021


(Going to attempt some semi-regular capsule reviews: let's see how it goes!)


Made by Sea and Wood, in Darkness: Alexandros Plasatis, 2021

A novel in stories that shifts and darts between voices and viewpoints, all centred at the Café Papaya on the Grecian coast, where Egyptian fisherman fight and argue with testosterone-crazed locals. In fact, unrestrained masculine foolishness is a recurring theme in the vivid tumbling parade of tall stories, misunderstandings, brief lusts and sweaty evenings. Unusual and worthwhile.

Detransition, Baby: Torrey Peters, 2021

Witty and clever and ultimately depressing, but also suffering from the bane of too many first novels in that it desperately needs pruning. Minutely detailed abusive relationships make up rather more of the book needs be, given their actual relevance to the plot (in which a trans woman is contacted by her detransitioned ex, now living as a man, because he has got someone pregnant and has an elaborate and ludicrous scheme whereby the two of them, plus the pregnant woman, will somehow form a family for the baby).

Warm Worlds and Otherwise: James Tiptree Jr, 1975

I have thoroughly enjoyed several other collections of Tiptree's (real name Alice Sheldon) genre-revivifying science-fiction, but I don't remember it being this datedly '70s to such an extent. Maybe one of those writers I shouldn't have revisited.

The Brainstorm: Jenny Turner, 2007

A weird one. A perfectly serviceable and enjoyable satire on working at a British newspaper in the 1990s, but with the title-giving conceit (a "brainstorm" that means the main character comes to at their desk at the opening of the book with no idea who they are or what they're meant to be doing) so half-arsed that it makes no internal sense and seems to be forgotten about for great stretches of the book. I would never suggest that the heaped praise from various British newspapers quoted on the front and back covers was a case of calling in the favours.

The Monkey and Other Stories: Miklós Bánffy (translated by Thomas Sneddon), 2021

The second of two Bánffy (1873-1950) short fiction collections published in a matter of months (after Len Rix's Enchanted Night selection), though luckily there are only around 50 pages of overlap. Widely varied in tone and setting, Bánffy's humanism and unusual worldview show through, as does his clear-eyed love for the Transylvanian countryside and history his life was steeped in.