Literary reviews by Tim Love.
Warning: Rather than reviews, these are often notes in preparation for reviews that were never finished, or pleas for help with understanding pieces. See Litref Reviews - a rationale for details.

Saturday, 17 February 2018

"Three moments of an explosion" by China Mieville (Picador, 2015)

Stories from Granta, Conjunctions, The White Review, etc. I can see why he reminds some people of Borges - there are thought experiments as well as stories. The Financial Times wrote "In tale after tale ... you'll find a conceit so unusual, so disturbing, so arresting, that it takes your breath away." I know what they mean. Reading "Watching God" I thought "Wow, this guy can write". And why shouldn't old oil-rigs stride out of the oceans? Why shouldn't they reproduce? "The Design" is sufficiently macabre and well-written to appeal to many readers. Sometimes, as is traditional in SF/horror, he changes just one feature of history/reality. He may or may not rationalize this difference. Else when he may change a few aspects. The verbal intensity changes between pieces too. It can be dense -

  • These shallow acres where where wait below sight are the waters of the sentence. The dead vessels obtrude from the surf and discolour it in their new broken shipwreck shapes. Each is a word, assiduously placed, set to self-ruin precisely (p.98)
  • There were ten techniques to run. Attention grasp. Walling. Facial hold and slap. a brilliant document. Yoo and Bybee, prophets without honour, martyrs and Crowleys of the State Department. Lists make magic, the rhythm of itemised words; you do not list ten techniques, numbered and chantable, in austere prose appropriate for some early-millennium rebooted Book of Thoth, and not know that you have written an incantation (p.113)
  • A junket is a machine. Distributor ships in hungry journos. We get put up schmancy (ooh!); we get victuals way out of our usual range (aah!); we get to touch stardust (eeh!). The better to make us grateful. We're supposed to shake hands, press record, get the quotes, dutifully receive a nuggest of bullshit 'inside' information or two (p.358)

Hardly any sex though. Not even much love. And sometimes the endings disappoint. I didn't understand "The 9th Technique". I didn't like any of the film scripts, or "The Junket".

Other reviews

  • Ursula K Le Guin (The writing, never less than excellent, takes many tones throughout the 28 stories, some showy, some not. ... Subjects of real weight are handled with unobtrusive ease but never glibly nor diminished by facetiousness. There are even a few characters one can, surreptitiously, suffer with. None, however, to rejoice with. ... Brilliance often lies in concision. As I read “The Rope Is the World”, I kept imagining the 500-page science-fiction novel that it could so easily have been ... my favourite of all these tales is “The Rules”)
  • Sarah Lyall (Some of my favorite stories in the book are straight-up horror tales reminiscent of H. P. Lovecraft or Edgar Allan Poe ... I did not love all the stories. Some were so abstruse, so erudite, that I had a hard time keeping up. There are things to admire in every story, even the ones you can’t quite grasp.)
  • Christina Scholz (The formats range from classic short stories to fictional movie trailers, from reports and observations, to rules and manifestos, and finally flash fiction. ... in my opinion, Miéville produces his best work when the narrator is a character in the story, as in one of my favourites from this collection, "The Dowager of Bees." ... Genre mash-up is a recurring motif. ... The centrepiece of Three Moments of an Explosion, however, the masterpiece of ultimate horror ... is the story "Säcken." ... a brilliant collection of short stories, often breathtaking and mind-bending, and at all times thrilling and horrific.)
  • David Barnett (this collection demonstrates his versatility and powerful imagination to stunning effect.)

1 comment:

  1. Dear Tim

    I haven't read much China Mieville but I agree with you that he's a fascinating writer. On Saturday we suffered an earthquake (near Swansea) and on Sunday I had a letter published in the Sunday Times so we had quite an eventful weekend.

    Best wishes from Simon R Gladdish