Tuesday, 15 January 2008

Fire of the Dragon

The plot
A young husband reluctantly leave his pregnant wife to go to war. Five years later, he is holed up in a beseiged castle, and finds himself torn between staying faithful to his wife and a pie.

What I liked
Medieval war is not the usual setting for gentle comedy about a put-upon man; but this was handled very well. Huw ap Dafydd is a likeable character, with very human failings and fears.

The Welsh accents.

The gentle humour -- it relied on situations, rather than word play. The more Huw tried to improve his lot, the worse things got; and following his heart in pursuing the princess nearly got him punished.

A lot of the action went on in his head -- he tortured himself with thoughts about what his wife was up to at home.

What I learnt
Watching someone struggling in a situation they have landed in because of their failings is funny.

Website: BBC Radio Wales

Broadcast BBC Radio Wales on Sunday 13 January.

Saturday Play: A Passion Play

The plot
A middle-aged couple are blown apart by the younger widow of an old friend.

What I liked
The contrast of the head voice and the real voice -- this play reflected what the character was saying and what they were thinking. All you have to go on is a slight difference in quality of the two voices.

Kate's annoying 'riiiighht' -- this was pointed out later in the play.

What I learnt
It is, apparently, possible to get away with lines where a wife says to a husband: 'but she's the same age as our daughters Rowena and Sally' (or whatever).

Website: Saturday Play

Broadcast BBC Radio 4 on Saturday 12 January.

Making Money by Terry Pratchett

The plot
Moist von Lipwig has sorted out the Ankh Morpork Post Office and now he is bored. The Patrician insists that the bank needs taking in hand, and Moist is the man to do it. But Moist is not enthralled by this -- it sounds like the sort of job that could get a man killed.

But he is moved into place when the chairman, Mrs Topsy Lavish, leaves her 50 per cent share to her lap dog (who already has one share) and leaves the dog to Moist.

Moist is right about it being a dangerous job: The chief cashier is not happy; nor are the men of the mint, particularly when Moist suggests paper money; and nor are the hateful Lavish family, who own the other 49 per cent of the bank.

And what is Moist's girlfriend Adora Belle Dearheart, representing the Golem Trust, excavating in the Dwarfs' desert?

What I liked
It's Terry Pratchett, for a start.

I like Moist as a character -- he has a certain 3Dness to him. It's sweet seeing him trying to come to terms with loving the spikey, chain-smoking Adora Belle.

Cribbins is a superb villain. His false teeth make his speech... characteristic.

I liked the Glooper -- this is a water powered computer model of the city's money.

I'm always glad to see Igors -- interesting strand of racial tension there, as both Igors and Moist come for Uberwald.

What I learnt
Terry Pratchett usually starts out with a very mysterious opening -- that I promptly forget about because it doesn't make sense. If I remembered it, it would probably enhance my reading experience. Perhaps it should be printed on a bookmark given away free with every book.

I spotted that a big deal was made of Miss Lavish's ginger hair, and of Hubert's hair, too -- I felt very smug when Moist (as a clever character) asked about this.

Sunday, 6 January 2008

Before I Die by Jenny Downham

The plot
A sixteen-year-old girl dying of cancer makes a list of things she would like to do before she dies, and does them.

What I liked
It made me cry -- books never make me cry.

I loved the relationship between Tessa and her brother -- she is by turns irritated and overwhelmed with love for him.

I liked how selfish she was -- no saintly invalid. It was fascinating to see how she views the affect she has on her father, and while she accepts that she is driving him up the wall, continues to do what she wants to do.

I liked the contrasts between Tessa the little girl and Tessa the woman in her.

What I learnt
Because she is not going to live long, things that might seem self-destructive in a normal teenager don't have to be dealt with on a moral level. A quick web search turned up no-one with a bad word to say about her behaviour -- one person remarked that the sex and drugs content would keep it off school reading lists. It would create an interesting discussion point: Is it OK for Tess to do these things? Why? Why is it not OK for me to do these things.

A dying character can be selfish without being unlikeable -- or at least, the reader can understand why they are doing it, and I suppose forgive them.