Tuesday, 10 July 2007

Wednesday, 4 July 2007

Lord Peter Views the Body - Dorothy L Sayers

I really, really wanted to like this book. It held out so much promise.

This is a collection of short-stories feature Lord Peter, a highly intelligent, wealthy and athletic crime-solving aristocrat living in London in the 1920s. I love murder mysteries and stories set in Britain between World War I and World War 2 and was hoping this would fill the void left now that I've read every single Agatha Christie novel.

Alas, it was not to be.

We get told rather than shown Lord Peter's powers of deduction. In most of the stories the reader has no opportunity to solve the mystery themselves and generally the stories are not strong enough to stand on their own (although one or two have a ghoulish appeal - particularly a jealous artist who disposes of his victims by casting them in metal and turning them into furniture). I felt irritated and annoyed by the lofty arrogance of the English upper-crust and very disappointed in the book - Dorothy Sayer's works, written in the 1920s and 1930s, are still being published today, indicating they have stood the test of time.

The only thing that gives me hope are a few lukewarm reviews of this book on the internet by readers who are fans of Dorothy Sayers, who say this is far from her best work.

So I will reserve judgment on Dorothy Sayers and try one of her longer novels. But I definitely would not recommend Lord Peter Views the Body as a first Sayers novel.

Sunday, 1 July 2007

The Days of Perky Pat - Philip K Dick

This is the fourth volume of the collected short stories of Philip K Dick, incorporating 18 stories written between 1954-1964.

Like all collections, there is some variety in the quality of the inclusions, but overall it is a very impressive body of work. Highlights include Minority Report, which inspired a film of the same name, but the short story in many ways has a far better plot line.

The title story, The Days of Perky Pat tells of a post-apocalyptic world where the adults are obsessed with playing a game centring on a Barbie-style doll (Perky Pat) and her material wants and acquisitions. In many ways it is a low-tech version of Second Life, created 40 years later.

It is sometimes hard to believe that Dick died in 1982. Many of his best works, written in the 1950s and 60s have been almost prophetic in nature, with aspects scarily familiar to those of us living in 2007.

Another great science fiction writer Robert Silverberg last year wrote an article reflecting on how the world is becoming more 'Phildidickian' every year, with the 21st century now producing a high-tech version of Perky Pat, a virtual girlfriend Vivienne interacting on a mobile phone near you.