Ranger Apprentice: 1 – The Ruins of Gorlan by John Flanagan is the first in a middle grade series that seems to be coming out at the rate of three a year and accelerating. Dudelet (who’s on Michelle Paver’s sixth Wolf Brother novel but taking a break to feed a serious Wimpy Kid habit) took one look and shook his head.
“I like books like this,” he said, pointing out the mix of comics and text in Wimpy Kid, “without too many words in.”
I point out the half completed Michelle Paver and Roman Mysteries by his pillow. He deals with the inconsistency with his usual, eerily adolescent shrug.
Anyway, I read it and moderately enjoyed it. It’s the kind of book I’d classify as ‘efficient’ – craftsmanlike, linear, uncomplicated and resorting to the most fearsome stereotypes, especially in the coy little hints of romance. For the uncomplicated eleven year old boy in your life, perhaps. Or perhaps not.
China Mieville’s The City & The City is not a children’s book, though a patient sixteen year old with a thing for noirish urban fantasy might find a lot to like. It’s a slow burning detective novel set in a vaguely Mittel-European city. Or cities. There are actually two of them occupying the same geographical space but acting as if they were as separate as East and West Berlin. Or Jewish and Arabic quarters in Jerusalem. Or the hopelessly intermeshed interracial interstices of London or any other European space. It’s indebted to Calvino, the Inspector Zen mysteries, Borges and (most of all) John Le Carré by turns and repays the initial patience it requires (though the character of Cowie still seems like a certain female police Sergeant met in a previous Miéville novel). Recommended.
Hideous Gnosis is a collection of essays derived from the academic seminar of the same name. You’ll find more information at the Black Metal Theory blog. It takes on, in occasionally impenetrably abstruse terms but also in terms of photos, oral documentary and much else, issues of gender, race, right wing ideologies (and their rejection), nature worship, differences between the Scandinavian and North American strands and many other interesting aspects in contemporary and early 90s black metal. Beginners should probably start with Pitchfork writer Brandon Stosuy’s Slate article on Heavy Metal For Hipsters then watch the the venerable Fenriz’s Black Metal 101 (below). Hideous Gnosis itself is on Google Books under an open access licence and pdfs are freely available.