What I Read in October (No, Really)

Yes, you read that right. October. This post is indeed two and a bit months late, and I really can’t come up with any decent explanation. I can’t even complain that I was busy finishing a novel, because that one was put to bed at the beginning of November. What I have noticed, however, is that when you get to the end of something like that, a whole host of smaller jobs that have been waiting in the wings suddenly emerge to mob you. And that’s pretty much what happened, along with that Christmas thing that seems to turn up every  year for some reason.

I could, I suppose, bin the whole thing and start afresh with a completely different post, but that kind of thing offends me, especially since I wrote about half of it back in December and the picture of the book stack is particularly pleasing this time, I think. I could also, I suppose, incorporate all the books I read in November and December and make it a bumper three-month edition.

Actually, it turns out that I can do this, because I read no books at all in November or December of last year. Or rather, I did, but the two I read – or, to be precise, got hopelessly stuck on – were (1) a truly terrible history of Factory Records which turned out to be (a) unexpectedly boring (how is that even possible?) and (b) bizarrely inaccurate (how does an expanded reprint of something STILL manage to refer to someone called Ian Drury? I mean, seriously?) and which I finally abandoned in disgust, and (2) a much-lauded but to my mind hopelessly ponderous classic fantasy novel which I didn’t actually finish until January (watch this space next month for more details).

By the way, before I get going, I’m REALLY excited about my new book, and (so it seems) is my editor. You will be hearing a lot from me about this between now and April. THE FRACTAL MONKS ARE COMING.

Anyway, back to what I read in October last year, assuming I can remember back that far…


Duckworth Lewis by Frank Duckworth and Tony Lewis This was recommended to me by my Twitter relation Matt Pinnock (no relation really, or not as far as I know), so I feel slightly bad in saying that I was a little disappointed. There’s a really interesting story hidden in there somewhere about how a couple of proper hardcore professional geeks came up with a formula for fairer targets in rain-interrupted limited-over cricket matches, and then somehow managed to sell it to a cricket establishment who clearly didn’t understand a single word they were saying. But there are a number of problems with it. To start with, as a mathematician (retd) myself, I found their explanation of the formula lacking (presumably it’s all about curve-fitting, but unless I missed it, there wasn’t anything about what process led them to the particular curve family they chose), so God knows what anyone else made of it. There was also a slightly peevish tone to the writing which irritated me. Still, it’s an odd little curio of a book and worth a look if the intersection of maths and cricket interests you as much as it does me.

Slow Horses by Mick Herron I’d heard so many people raving about the Slough House series that I decided it was about time I dived in myself, and what a treat this was. Imagine le Carré, only even more downbeat and sleazy. Absolutely lovely stuff and I’ve already bought the next in the series. I believe it’s coming to Apple+ next year, with Gary Oldman in the lead. Might be worth shelling out for a subscription just for that.

The Spy Who Loved Me by Ian Fleming Oh God. We’re up to Bond #10 now, and this is a bit of an odd one. I think Fleming must have been getting a bit bored by now as he’s made a real attempt to break the formula this time. The gimmick is that the story is told from the point of view of the Bond Girl, and in fact our double 0’d chum doesn’t actually make an appearance until nearly two-thirds of the way through. What this means in effect is that we are subjected to a whole swathe of rather tedious backstory before we get to any action, and when the action actually happens, it all comes to a rather unsatisfying premature climax. Oh well, not far to go now. Four more and we’re done.

Battle Beyond the Dolestars by Chris McCrudden Farrago Book pimping alert! OK, this one comes from my publishers, but even if it didn’t, I’d still be recommending it. This is the sequel to 2018’s Battlestar Suburbia and I think it’s even better. I get the feeling that McCrudden is settling into his characters in this one and it’s a very entertaining read indeed. Very funny and more than a little camp, this series is carving out a curious niche for itself, and I’m keen to read more.

Weightless Fireworks by Scott Pack Collection of haiku that I supported via Unbound. Absolutely gorgeous artifact of a book and perfect for dipping into, a page every day or so. So obviously because I’m a heathen idiot, I read the whole thing in a couple of sittings. I’d normally recommend that everyone should buy a copy, but as it’s a limited edition and sold out, I’ll just thumb my nose and say, yah boo sucks, you can’t. And no, you can’t have mine either.

Fractals: A Very Short Introduction by Kenneth Falconer Research and therefore tax deductible. Useful refresher course for any authors who might be writing about fractals for some reason. I hadn’t come across these books before, but there seem to be THOUSANDS of them on every subject under the sun. I think I may read the lot.

Of Mouse and Man by Jim’ll Paint It Another Unbound book that I pledged to, although a world away from Weightless Fireworks. First book by internet phenomenon Jim’ll Paint It, and it’s very funny indeed and astonishingly skilled, too. How anyone can come up with images like these using just MS Paint is beyond me, but I’m very glad that he does.

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