Kettle Pot Black

I have always been slightly uneasy about my geek tendencies, but there is no denying them. I worked briefly for a computer gaming magazine in my early student years, I have a respectable selection of polygon dice, the shelves boast both Geoffrey Chaucer and William Gibson, and I have seen Star Wars more time than I care to admit. I even saw Revenge of the Sith twice in theatres which is geek dedication, I will have you know. But I won't stand for just any dross just because it has a spaceship, clever future technologies or a ray-gun. No, I like my genre indulgences to be smart, interesting and ambitious (.. or have Ewan McGregor wielding a light sabre).

We watched Franklyn tonight. A strange little genre film starring Ryan Phillippe and Eva Green - the sort of film B-list actors do between mortgage-paying big studio films and which often end up their best showcases (Gangster No. 1 is still Paul Bettany's best film, for instance). I liked Franklyn, I really did. It felt like a British cross between Dark City and Donnie Darko with beautiful photography and stunning art direction to boot. I am not sure it would appeal to people with little interest in "geek stuff" but if you like your slightly surreal alternate realities and high concepts, this film might just appeal. As David said to me earlier: "If I had watched this two days ago, it would have been my favourite film of 2009".

Speaking of "high concepts" I was mildly amused to see Adam Roberts' review of the new Jasper Fforde opus in The Guardian.

A kind of pleasant implausibility has always been at the heart of Fforde's appeal. (..) Shades of Grey, while not laugh-out-loud funny, is agreeably and pleasantly eccentric, cleanly written and nicely characterised. (..) The first 250 pages are narratively underpowered and rather diffuse. Fforde's young protagonist, Edward Russet, putters around his world, and the reader slowly builds up a picture of how things work. The second half is more gripping, and a climactic expedition (..) becomes page-turningly exciting. (..) I finished it with the sense that there's less to it than meets the eye. The narrowness of the high concept is, finally, too much a sort of meagreness, and too little a scalpel edge.

Compare this with my own recent review of Roberts' own Yellow Blue Tibia (in which I sadly omit to mention the strained comedic tone to the first 250 pages and the painstakingly eccentric characters which litter the entire novel):

I read Adam Roberts’ Yellow Blue Tibia this holiday season and I wanted to love it. Its premise sounds like something I would like – Soviet Union, science fiction writers and the possibility of multiple realities – but I ended up being disappointed. Roberts’ writing is sloppy (as is the editing), the tone is uneven and the book does not live up to its premise until fifty pages from the end when you get the feeling Roberts is finally writing the book he wants to write. I was very unimpressive with a running gag about a man with Asperger’s Syndrome which was wholly unnecessary to the plot and jarred badly. Still, the last fifty pages or so redeemed the book from being merely a bad read. It was an uneven and occasionally interesting read.

Maybe Roberts should have called his book Kettle Pot Black instead.