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Catching up...

Two books to do brief reviews of today and the theme is very definitely mountainous. If you don't care for mountainous, chilly - even arctic - conditions then look away now. Nothing to see here.

First up, Mountain: Exploring Britain's High Places by Griff Rhys Jones.




This is the book based on the author's BBC TV series of the same name which was aired in 2007. (Was is it really that long ago? Heavens...) I watched it at the time and then watched the repeats earlier this year which the Beeb put out in the afternoons. Very enjoyable and right up my street. Comedian, Griff Rhys Jones, is a very amiable, self-deprecating presenter of TV documentaries and, given the evidence of this book, not at all a bad writer. His mission was to climb some of the highest mountains in Britain and given he was not at all a climber this was quite a task. About a third of the book concentrates on areas in Scotland, naturally, because that's where most of our major mountains are. That suited me fine as it's a country I love... plus the photos of the scenery were utterly stunning. Possibly there were a few too many of the author himself but there you go... it's his book. I found it less interesting when he moved on to England and Wales although even then his commentary was never less than readable and often very funny. Anyone living overseas interested in the UK could do a lot worse than order the dvds - if they're available in other formats - of this series as it really is scenically stunning and very watchable.

Next, The Mountains of Majipoor by Robert Silverberg. (Never let it be said that I'm not an equal opportunities mountain reader as this is science fiction. Yes, I really am nerdy enough to search out mountains in my fictional reading as well as non-fiction...)



Having fallen out of favour for shooting a rare animal on land owned by an influential member of the ruling classes, Prince Harpirias, a minor noble, is banished to the city of Ni-Moya close to the frozen wastes in the north of the planet of Majipoor. He vegitates there until a message comes through that he's to lead an expedition north into the mountains to rescue a team of archaeologists who've been kidnapped for trespassing on land owned by an unknown tribe. This is the last thing Harpirias wants to do but he is eventually persuaded. He travels north with a motley band of soldiers and the guide, a shape-shifter, who is to be his interpreter. The kidnappers turn out to have a town nestled in a frozen valley, surrounded by massive mountains. They are also quite barbaric and Harpirias will have his work cut out to rescue the unfortunate prisoners.

I kind of wanted more from this book given it was written in 1995. To me that's late enough for a plot that's more complex than just 'explorer chappy goes north to meet with primitive culture, has sex with king's daughter and comes home'. Ok, the setting of the mountainous, frozen wasteland was nicely described which is why it got a three from me on Goodreads rather than a two. Plus, I realise this is book four in a loosely connected series ('Majipoor: Lord Valentine') and I've only read book one... which I actually thought was rather good. But still... I was disappointed and grieved a bit for what the book 'could' have been. The 'barbaric' villagers were terribly formulaic, Harpirias himself was really quite unpleasant, and the only female character was there for the sex... I mean 'really'? I must add that this is just my opinion, 'Your mileage may vary' as they say but I did an awful lot of eye-rolling as I read it. Possibly if it had been written in the 1950s or 60s I might have given it a bit more leeway but I simply didn't think it was good enough for 1995.

Comments

I think the only Silverberg book that I've been able to finish is Nightfall, and that was probably more Asimov. I do have Nightwings on my to-read list, but, I have to admit, I'm not sanguine as to how much I'll end up liking it. But I've noticed that there are very few writers from that time who I do really enjoy. Writing styles have most certainly changed.
I've read a couple that were ok... Lord Valentine's Castle and At Winter's End. And another, Downward to the Earth, I actually thought was pretty good. But they all suffer from a lack of women. It's an early male sci-fi writer thing... women were just there to be pretty and for sex. I just would have thought that by 1995 and RS being 60 by then, he would have grown up a bit and women would be in his books more. But no. Its like he's stuck in a time-warp. It's a shame because the ideas and writing are fine.
Yes. The Late 20th Century male sci-fi/fantasy writer was usually about 14 emotionally, no matter how old he was in actual years lived. Maybe I am being unjust to the writers, perhaps they were writing the male equivalent of Harlequin Romance novels written for women. The market dictates the format.

As for mountains, I love them. My parents took my sister and me as children to East Tennessee every year to see relatives, and my father yearned his whole life to go back there. But it's not the same place now. Coal mining companies don't bother so much anymore with sending people down into tunnels in the ground to risk being crushed to death by rock falls, or poisoned or blown up by gas seepage, or given black lung disease by inhaling coal dust. Now they simply dynamite the top of the mountain flat, and dig the coal out of the exposed seams. Then they fill in the hollows between the mountains with the debris, and erect buildings on the unstable new land they've created. It's ever so much more efficient and profitable... and they'll rot in Hell for it, I hope.
14 is about right. And so many books by men seem to have been written so they can go on some male sexual fantasy trip. *Rolls eyes* I rather think that that's the case here, tbh.

We drove down through East Tennessee on our last trip to the USA. We'd been exploring a bit of the Great Smokies and were heading to Memphis to meet a friend for the weekend. I can understand why your father yearned to go back there. Yeah, I'm kind of glad tin mining died out in Cornwall when it did or companies would have got around to blasting Cornwall to bits too, eventually.
That's probably why I gravitated to Andre Norton starting in the sixties until well into the nineties. Several of her books have females as the main character. And even when they don't, they were never thrown in just as window dressing. Unfortunately, that would change a bit when her books were basically written by someone else.
It took me a while to realise that Andre Norton was a woman. For years I thought she was a male author. LOL! Haven't read much by her tbh... must see if I have anything.