Thu. May 23rd, 2024

At work in the library today I was tasked with the job of going through a list of our Large Print titles for what’s called stock rotation. Basically that means moving books and other items that our records show have not been borrowed very much in one library and sending them to other libraries that don’t have those items. This is a way of giving those items a second chance at life. Kind of nice, don’t you think? Poor little neglected bookie wookies. For some reason this particular library had a lot of Large Print Romance books, which tend to have some wonderfully lurid titles and covers to go with them: Unwrapped By Her Italian Boss, Risking Her Heart On the Trauma Doc, The King’s Bride By Arrangement, Tempted By the Tycoon’s Proposal, His Scandalous Christmas Princess, Claimed In the Italian’s Castle. The list goes on, but you get the gist. The titles are very specific about what they cover, with certain themes and sub-genres being popular, such as ‘the Italian’, ‘the Tycoon’ or ‘the Highlander’. The women in these books are either bonking swarthy hunks or wealthy hunks, or preferably both. There’s a market for these niche titles, which contain trigger words that lure their readers in, depending on what they want, in a sliding scale from sweet to soft porn. And of course it applies to most demographics. I wrote about a thing called Harem Lit recently, which is aimed at certain men, for example. So what are my trigger words when it comes to book titles? There’s a lot, but the ones that come to mind at the moment are Zen and Steampunk. If I see that in the title, or the blurb, I’m already half-way in. And I suppose the words Quantum and Radio must be in there too…

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On this same day and in this same library I was shelving books in the fiction area and saw one titled Quantum Radio by A.G. Riddle. People, it triggered me. The cover was an illustration of a man and woman running towards a portal of some kind. I read the blurb about a CERN quantum physicist called Tyson (nice shoutout to Neil Degrasse) making a breakthrough discovery in matter transferal (possibly) and multi-universe communication. That’s the sort of science fiction theme I love. It immediately conjured memories of reading Carl Sagan‘s Contact, and Gregory Benford‘s Cosm, and even my own Eye of the Timegate, which has a similar theme. So I borrowed it and read the first 100 pages tonight. It had been a while since I’d sunk my teeth into a good scifi novel. I’ve been reading a lot of short story collections or non fiction lately. The last one was The Sheep Look Up by John Brunner (great book), and that was last year.

But once I got into Quantum Radio I was disappointed. It was more a thriller with some science fiction trappings than what I would call a true science fiction novel. It was more Dan Brown than Gregory Benford. In other words, it was what I call a plotboiler. The book opens with Tyson announcing his discovery to a room full of colleagues, who are skeptical. Then, before you know it, he’s almost killed in an explosion set off by some dark enemy, and he’s on the run and we’re off into Plotland. I mean, it was an okay book, what I read of it. It ticks all the boxes you expect in a modern thriller: protagonist in peril, check; duplicitous love interest, check; mysterious world-changing plot device/mcguffin, check; mainstream meat and potatoes writing style, double check. But the author of a true science fiction novel would have reveled in the protagonist’s discovery. There would have been chapters devoted to the lead up to this discovery early on. We the readers would thrill to the science, the mystery of this discovery. But Riddle does not seem to be interested in this. To be fair, I did only read the first 100 pages of a 500 page novel, so I may have missed this. But ultimately, the thing that made me put it down was the thought that, by reading this inferior faux scifi book I just grabbed off a library shelf, I was betraying all those other classic science fiction novels I have in my own book collection that I haven’t even bloody read yet. So, to the books patiently sitting on my shelves waiting to be read, I’m sorry, guys. I let you down. I promise I’ll make it up to you!

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Today I happened to be working near a shop that does multi-media transfers, including camcorder, cine film, audio reels and good old VHS to DVD. It’s the sort of thing I would like to do as a job, and in fact I did apply there for a job once. So anyway, I took in a VHS I have to be transferred to DVD. It’s a thing I do sometimes. I find old VHS tapes that interest me, and that as far as I know don’t have a dvd release, and I buy them (usually very cheap), and I have them transferred (usually not very cheap). The last time I was here I got my copy of Justin Hayward Live at Capistrano transferred, and the time before that it was an old Beach Boys doco. This time it was a documentary about Girl Groups, the Story of a Sound. I love Sixties girl groups, especially the Shangri Las. Can’t wait to have a look at this.

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