Archive for Cairo

Hugo 2021 nominations

Posted in Books with tags , , , , , , , , , , on June 13, 2021 by xi'an

I received an email from Tor about their books shortlisted for the Hugo Awards this year, which made me check the nominated novels (as there was little chance I had read novellas, novelettes, or short stories in the other lists, except those by P. Djèlí Clark who did win the Nebula last week!):

Of which I have only read the [great] Network Effect from the Murderbot series, but with Muir’s, Clarke’s and Kowal’s opera on my reading list.

journal of the [second] plague year [deconf’d]

Posted in Books, Kids, Mountains, pictures, Travel, University life, Wines with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 15, 2021 by xi'an

Read the third volume of Parker’s Engineer Trilogy, The Escapement. Which I found very slow-paced, with loads of mechanistic vocabulary I did not know, and it took me a while to read the book! Still, some sections are definitely worth reading, like the one on Necessary Evil, seen as the tolerance zone between exactitude and error, from and engineer viewpoint… And the final chapters are truly terrific, very dark and pessimistic, keeping me awake till the wee hours. Even though all pieces of the machinery fit too well in the end! But I also reflected on the ambivalent role of the very few women in this third novel, dooming the entire country while remaining stuck in the lover-wife-mother triangle, with no engineering or military role…

“He didn’t for one moment doubt the accuracy of the tables, but how on earth did the book’s author know these things? It could only be that, at some time in the past, so long ago that nobody remembered them any more, there had been sieges of great cities; so frequent and so commonplace that scholarly investigators had been able to collate the data-troop numbers, casualty figures-and work out these ratios, qualified by variables, verified by controls (…) to be inferred from the statistical analyses in a manual of best city-killing practice. Extraordinary thought (…) suppose the book was the only residue left by the death of thousands of cities, each one of them as huge and arrogant in its day as the Perpetual Republic—the Eternal City of this, the Everlasting Kingdom of that, squashed down by time and oblivion into a set of mathematical constants for predicting the deaths of men in battle.”

I also read La Saga des Écrins, by François Labande, in the iconic Guérin series, about the Écrins range in the French Alps, where we spent a fortnight last summer, a rather classical if enjoyable story of the climbers making firsts on the peaks of this “wild” area of the Alps. (As an aside, François Labande started Mountain Wilderness France, whose goal is to keep mountains as a place of wilderness and to clean them from artificial infrastructures.) The cover includes a very nice drawing of La Meige by Jean-Marc Rochette. I also read another delightful short story by P. Djèlí Clark, The Angel of Khan el Khalili. Obviously set in the same fantasy steampunk Cairo of the early 1900’s.

Still turning the crank of the new past machine, I made bigoli, the Venetian equivalent of soba noodles, with both an anchovies sauce and a clam sauce as well (if not from the Laguna!), a rhubarb clafoutis (not yet from our garden), Lebanese humus (without the skin!). Noticed a sharp rise in the price of BrewDog beers, thanks to the new taxes courtesy of Brexit! But still ordered a box of their Nanny State for the summer…

Watched the movie Jo-Phil: The Dawning Rage (!), which makes a great job of setting characters and installing a seedy atmosphere of violence and corruption but completely fails at delivering a convincing story, still gripping enough to watch till the end. And binge-watched a Korean TV series called Signal related to the stunning Memories of Murder (and a collection of real crimes in South Korea from the 1980’s to the last decade). While far from perfect, with a tendency to repeat some scenes twice, the usual theatrics of such series, and the paradoxes of temporal travel (!), the show is nonetheless one of the best Korean dramas I watched… Had  a quick look at the very Netflixy Shadow and Bones. To discover that the trilogy was merged with Six of Crows. Which is strange as the time lines completely differ. But logical if considering that Six of Crows is better written and paced than the earlier trilogy, albeit not outstanding. This is a 12⁺ YA read after all..!

 

a journal of the [second] plague year

Posted in Books, Kids, pictures, Travel, University life with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 10, 2021 by xi'an

Read the picaresque El Buscòn (in French, translated by Nicolas Restif de La Bretonne), dating from 1602-1604, but the classic French translation from a century later is quite enjoyable and the story often hilarious. (I read this book after reading in 2019 the BD (comics) by Alain Ayroles and Juanjo Guarnido called les Indes Fourbes, that was inspired from El Buscòn and pretended to produce its sequel, located in South America). Also read the second volume of Olen Steinhauer, The Confession, just as impressive a dig into the minutiae of a Balkanic socialist dictature as the first one. And into the complex mind of another militia inspector in the homicide squad. (Just wondering if there were truly paper cups in the post-war Eastern block!)

Made my first fresh pastas with the traditional pasta machine my daughter got me as a Xmas present! I need improvements but, despite the mess this creates (flour everywhere!), it is a real treat to eat fresh pastas. The next goal is to check if soba noodles can be made with the machine….

Watched some parts of a rather terrible Korean series, Demon Catchers (or The Uncanny Counter). With absolutely no redeeming feature, although a very popular show… And the beginning episodes of another SF Korean series, Alice,  playing with time travel themes until it hit the usual paradoxes. (At least the physics fomulae on the white boards sounded correct, even though the grossly romanticised home office of a physics professor made no sense.)

Gave up on Augusto Cruz’ London after Midnight. Which revolves around the search for a surviving copy of the 1927 horror movie London after midnight, made by Tod Browning, and seemingly cursed. The plot is terrible and the style awful, an unpalatable endless infodump… Read P. Djeli Clark’s delightful short story A Dead Djinn in Cairo, which is a prequel to Haunting of tramcar 105 about a supernatural Cairo in the early 1900’s.

haunting of tramcar 105 [book review]

Posted in Statistics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on April 20, 2019 by xi'an

A mix of steampunk and urban magic in a enlightened 1912 Cairo sounded like a good prolegomena and I bought P. Djèli Clark’s The haunting of tram car 015 on this basis. As it happens, this is actually a novella of 123 pages building on the same universe as a previous work of the author, A dead djinn in Cairo, which however is even shorter and only available as a Kindle book… I really enjoyed the short read and its description of an alternate Cairo that is competing with Paris and London, thanks to the advantage brought by the supernatural powers of djinns. (And apparently also gaining the independence Egypt could not secure under the British protectorate.) The English suffragettes have also their counterparts in Egypt and the country is about to decide about women right to vote. The story itself is nice if not stratospheric, with mostly well-drawn characters and good dialogues. (The core of the plot relies on smuggling sweets from Armenia, though, a rather weak link.) As in an earlier order, the book itself was not properly printed, with a vertical white band of erased characters on most odd pages, presumably another illustration of the shortcomings of the  print-on-demand principle. (Which means that I sent the book back to Amazon rather than leaving it in the common room.)

The Cairo Affair [book review]

Posted in Statistics with tags , , , , , , , , , , on January 28, 2017 by xi'an

After reading the Tourist trilogy, I decided to embark upon another spy novel by Steinhauer and took this book to India as another “emergency” book. Meaning as a way to escape delays and waits during our travel. While this is not a major change from the above trilogy, which I really liked, The Cairo Affair reads well and thus fits its purpose. Some of the appeal of the book is its immersion in very recent geopolitical events in Libya (far from over by now) and Egypt. (I presume there are a lot of other spy novels taking advantage of these major shifts, so this is not a major incentive for the book!) Another appeal is the connection with places I visited as a (real) tourist, from Budapest, to Croatia, to Cairo, even though I got a much more fragmented picture of the latter in the few days I spent there. While the underlying plot ends up being very thin (spoiler?!), I also liked the extreme ambiguity of the main character, whose motivations are never really revealed, possibly unknown even to herself. This major aspect of the novel makes for shortcomings on the realism plane. Worth a plane ride, definitely.

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