Saturday, 23 July 2011

The Scotsman Abroad | Starburst For A Darkening Island

When it comes to staying current with all the Next Big Things publishers put out every month, it's often hard enough just to keep your head above the waterline. All the huge new releases, whether they be debuts from literary stars on the rise or the much-anticipated subsequent volumes of one or another of the hundred series I seem to have ended up reading - quite despite my most noble intentions - it can be tough, sometimes, just to doggie-paddle through the now.

Tough enough that there seems precious little time left to spend looking back, as I'd like to, and tough enough that there's nary a moment left to piddle away looking forward, into the sweet wondrous dream of what's yet to come.

All of which is to say, forgive my ignorance: I'm sure there are an incredible number of books coming out through the rest of 2011 that have either slipped my mind or I straight-up haven't heard of. But of those forthcoming releases that I am anticipating, from here in my fortress of witless ignorance, uppermost amongst them - that is alongside the first volumes of IQ84 by Haruki Murakami - has to be The Islanders by Christopher Priest... who I imagine most folks are familiar with in large part because Priest wrote the book a certain other Christopher (Nolan) based The Prestige on.

But Christopher (Priest) has been publishing books since 1970. That's for more than forty years! And last month - perhaps you'll recall from this installment of The BoSS - I was pleased to receive a review copy of Gollancz' revised edition of his second novel, Fugue For A Darkening Island -- the first of his works to be nominated for the raft of awards he would later take home.

Unsurprisingly, it was awesome. What's doubly awesome is that my review of Fugue For A Darkening Island is now available for you all to read, should you like your appetites for The Islanders whetting some. Trebly awesome, then, that this is the review with which I'm making my debut in the pages of Starburst Magazine.

Starburst, for those of you who don't know - for shame on all your houses! - was a popular print magazine launched in 1978. 2009 marked its 365th monthly issue which was also, alas, its last to hit newsstands.

At least, that's what they want you to think! In fact, two years on, Starburst is back -- and not so much changed, despite being free and online now, rather than a paid publication for magazine racks and the like.

For myself, I was yay high when I bought my first issue of Starburst, and I kept right on subscribing through to the bittersweet end. Starburst Magazine wasn't my first or my last, exactly, but it was among my utmost, so it gives me tremendous pleasure to see it risen like the proverbial phoenix and so completely re-energised by its new form...

...and now - hold onto your horses - with extra added me! :)

I know, I know... they've no idea what they've let themselves in for, have they?

Anyway, go read the review of Fugue For a Darkening Island while I explode in a confetti fashioned from shreds of cheer and sheer glee.


  1. Congratulations, writing for something you read for so long must be quite the inconsiderable achievement.

    Recently I went on a binge of Priest books - read four in quick succession - and I now own most of his backcatalogue, sitting there waiting to be read. Fugue always stood out because, if nothing else, it has a fantastic name.

  2. This is a nice coincidence. I'm currently reading Priest's Inverted World, which I believe was the novel that followed up Fugue for a Darkening Island.

    It's definitely the best book I've read in a while, and I'm wondering what the twist ending will be (I'm told it's one for the ages).

  3. Congratulations on writing for Starburst! It must be pretty cool to be writing for a mag you once read on a steady basis.

    After your high praise of Priest, I have to admit a bit of embarrassment that I'm not at all familiar with him or his work. However, I'd like to remedy that. Is there a particular novel you'd recommend for as a good starting point?

  4. Thanks for the kind words, everyone. I am, indeed, shall we say really really really pleased, to find my name in the pages of a magazine that meant as much as this one did to me. It's a real honour.

    As to your question, Ryan, as The Dude abides, Inverted World is a great place to start in on reading Christopher Priest. Then there's The Prestige, which is tremendous whether or not you've seen the movie; it was my first Priest, so. On the other hand, Fugue, the one I just reviewed, is a nice short novel, and a perfect way to test the waters, I should think... see whether or not Priest is for you as an author. Because he does have a fairly distinctive voice.

    But hell, any old occasion is a good one if it means you start reading Christopher Priest, Ryan. He's hands-down one of the best we have.

  5. Thanks for the advice.

    Just from a quick internet browse, a good amount of his books sound like they'd match up really well with my tastes. I'll have to see what I can track down around here, I haven't seen his name on shelves very often, though it may be a case that book shops around here don't shelve him in the fantasy section.

  6. Now you mention it, mate. that's entirely possible. He's more in common with an Ian McEwan or a David Mitchell, say, than he does Joe Abercrombie.

    Another reason you mightn't have spotted his books in the bookstores: he hasn't published one in nine years!

    But seek and ye shall find, I'm sure. Have fun! :)