Monday, 11 January 2010

Hot Toddy 2010: Week Ending 11/01/10

That's right, readers: your eyes do not deceive you. Hot Toddy is back for an unprecedented second edition... bigger, better and more bad-ass than the first.

Except for --- well. To be perfectly honest, Britain's buying public haven't been any more discerning with their recession-era pennies this week than they were before. To see speculative fiction dominating the various up-to-the-hour Top 25s provided by Amazon is a fine thing, truly, and yet I can't help but bemoan that the vast majority of what's popular amongst the genres we hold so hear is derivative at best and downright rubbish at the other end of the spectrum.

What a bittersweet redemption this is.

In Fiction

(1) To absolutely no-one's surprise, Breaking Dawn, the last of the foul Twilight franchise, holds on to the top spot in fiction for another week. At this point, Stephanie Meyer is like that spoiled rich kid who kicks over the sandcastle you've spent your day at the beach constructing.

(4) Placing twice in the Top 25 this week, this movie tie-in edition of Cormac McCarthy's exquisite post-apocalyptic nightmare The Road just misses out on a medal.

(5) No doubt aided in its conquest of Amazon's list of bestselling books by Stephen King's declaration that it's his favourite book of last year, The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters has climbed high this week. The Speculative Scotsman for one bought his recommendation hook, line and sinker.

(7) Now you're just spoiling everyone's fun, Stephanie Meyer! Nearing its ninth month on the charts, The Host holds onto the 7th spot like a nasty case of lice.

(8) Down just one is the boxed set of Charlaine Harris' Sookie Stackhouse novels. Pleasant, if only by comparison.

(9) And the latest True Blood book makes it a twofer. I will never suffer through Dead and Gone by Charlaine Harris, reader; nor should you.

(10) I'm currently defending against the impulse to buy The Almost Moon by Alice Sebold for its brilliant first line alone, but at the moment The Lovely Bones, her first proper novel, has the limelight all to itself. As per the review published on The Speculative Scotsman earlier in the week, the silver screen adaptation by Peter Jackson isn't half bad either.

(12) The Time Traveller's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger slides a little from its position last time on Hot Toddy, although this novel's incredible three-year stretch in the Top 100 tends to suggest it won't ever be far away. One of these days, I might well watch the film version of this. It could happen.

(13) The seventh installment of Outlander franchise makes it to a respectable 13th place in its first week of release. On a related note, my mum enjoys a little fantasy from time to time, too - that is, so long as its surrounded by a good, old-fashioned romance - but she's become increasingly disillusioned with Diana Gabaldon of late. "Beating a dead horse" is how I think she put it.

(18) Recurring problem Charlaine Harris takes this spot with A Touch of Dead, which Amazon informs me is a collection of short stories set in the True Blood universe. Let me save you the trouble: Sookie probably has some sex. Daring, don't you think?

(19) Doctor Who: The Writer's Tale by Benjamin Cook and Russell T. Davies is an enormous behind-the-scenes compendium on the popular British series.

(20) What do you know, it's another of my mum's favourite authors! Raymond E. Feist just makes it into the Top 25 with his new release, At the Gates of Darkness, the second in his strikingly titled Demonwar Saga.

(23) The Road, by Cormac McCarthy. Now available in a new old edition! Snark aside, I hardly need reiterate how incredible this novel is - whatever the book jacket looks like.

(24) The last piece of speculative fiction to make the big list is Markus Zusak's alternate-history Nazi novel The Book Thief, which just so happens to be narrated by Death himself. Brilliant.

Missing in action this week: Unseen Academicals by Terry Pratchett, Under the Dome by Stephen King, The Angel's Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger.

In Film

(4) Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Price is back, but two places lower than it was a week ago. I can only imagine what strange mechanism the Amazon monkeys have employed in listing its cast that Helena-Bonham Carter is the name that appears next to this film. The mind boggles.

(5) Still showing strongly on DVD is Neil Bloemkamp's disturbing Apartheid with aliens fable, District 9. The scene-stealing baby prawn remains as cute as can be.

(10) Further to my assertion last time on Hot Toddy that Doctor Who and I don't get on; Doctor Who and I still don't get on. The Complete Specials holds steady at number 10, likely just to spite me.

(15) The Ultimate Bourne Collection on Blu-ray features Matt Damon fighting while director Paul Greengrass shakes a steadicam in his face. Excellent, pulse-pounding entertainment nonetheless, and certainly the better for its HD treatment.

(16) Creepy pro-paedophilia propaganda Twilight is still bleeding all over Hot Toddy like an open sore. Who else can't wait till the sequel shows up on DVD?

Missing in action this week: Star Trek, X-Men Origins: Wolverine.

In Video Games

(3) There's really very little movement in the Top 25 this week, with pre-orders for Mass Effect 2 on the Xbox 360 still holding strong. I don't suppose it's a surprise; despite a promising first-quarter release calendar, this week hasn't seen the release of any particularly inspiring video games.

(12) Multiplatform record-breaker Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 takes the 12th and 13th spot across both HD systems. I hooked up an ethernet cable to my 360 and bought a gold Live subscription just for this game. I tend to suspect I'm not alone in that, either.

(14) Star Trek Online edges up the charts as its Feb 2nd release date approaches. Quickly, separate the saucer section!

(18) To nearly everyone's surprise, Borderlands seems to have some serious staying power. Perhaps Gearbox have the recently released DLC packs to thank for their latest effort's continuing sales dominance.

(20) I'm disappointed to see Uncharted 2: Among Thieves slipping so quickly down the list. If its charismatic, no expense spared single-player adventure isn't enough to justify a few more weeks in the Top 25, surely the brilliant co-operative and competitive play modes Naughty Dog added in should.

(22) Last, and perhaps least, Assassin's Creed 2, which I've spent a little more time with since the last installment of Hot Toddy. For all its strengths, this too-lengthy trot around Italy during the renaissance wore out its welcome only shortly after it had begun to grow on me.
Missing in action this week: Left 4 Dead 2.

In Review

So goes another week in speculative fiction. It's sad to see The Angel's Game and J. J. Abrams' accomplished Star Trek reboot losing out to Twilight in Fiction and Film, but if we ever hope to defeat the evil Stephanie Meyer has wrought, we must remember their valiant efforts rather than their inevitable defeat. If there were ever a cause worth fighting for...

Keep your eyes peeled for another Hot Toddy next week, but if the various Top 25s are remain as depressing thereafter, The Speculative Scotsman might not survive long enough to slog through another round.


  1. Nice blog you've got going here. Strong start for January 2010. Best of luck and here's to letting the good days ride in the front seat and stuffing the bad days in the trunk. :D

  2. @PeterWilliam Now that's a toast I'll certainly drink to!

    Thanks for stopping by, Peter - he of what could well be the best blog title ever, I might add - and more to the point, glad to hear you're liking what you've read thus far. Appreciate the linkage greatly.

    A nice dark ale should be just perfect for the occasion, I think...