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Adventuremice set sail!

There’s great excitement in the Mouse Islands, because today is the day that Otter Chaos is finally published. The   first of my new Adventuremice series with Sarah McIntyre is in UK and Irish bookshops NOW, and it’s looking lovely, packed as it is with Sarah’s beautiful watercolour illustrations. It started out as a series of nautical mouse paintings she did during the pandemic lockdowns, and you can find out more about it at our snazzy new website, , which features videos, quizzes, drawing guides, and a handy classroom pack of free, easily downloadable resources for teachers . You can even read the first chapter of Otter Chaos  there for free there, to find out whether it’s Your Sort Of Thing. Several young reviewers have already decided that it is their sort of thing: here’s a very in-depth appreciation by six-year-old Jesse for Books Up North , while the discerning Peapod over at Bellis Does Books awards it an impressive ‘four hundred and eleventy hundred out
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Emirates Festival of Literature 2023

Earlier this month, Sarah McIntyre and I were lucky enough to be guests at the Emirates Festival of Literature in Dubai - our third visit. There’s nothing much I can add to Sarah’s account: she’s a good journalist as well as a great illustrator, so for details of what we did and all the lovely people we met, head on over to her blog. But here are a few photos I took during our stay. One of the things I was talking about at the festival was my Railhead trilogy. I think I’d just finished the first book the first time I visited Dubai, and this extraordinary city had a big influence on the next two books. I’d sort of forgotten that, but returning was weirdly like stepping back into the world of Railhead . I really liked the architecture of the new Mohammed bin Rashid Library (the open-book-shaped building in the sunset view above). The library was a festival venue this year, and pecked with visitors when I was there to help Sarah with her Comics Workshop. But we had a nose round earlier

Death Race 2000

  I try to keep reasonably up to date with my film reviews on here, but I’m afraid this one comes a bit late - Death Race 2000 was released in 1975. I remember kids at school talking about it when it came out (though I hope they hadn’t seen it, since it’s X-Certificate stuff and these were nine-year-olds) - so when it showed up on Amazon Prime I thought it was high time I found out what all the playground fuss had been about. Death Race… came from Roger Corman’s stable of exploitation movies, and was shamelessly designed to cash in on the pre-publicity for Rollerball , another, rather more expensive, lethal-future-sport film. Based on a short story by I. B. Melchior, it plays like a sex-and-gore fuelled episode of  Wacky Races , but I suspect modern viewers are more likely to compare it to The Hunger Games . Like The Hunger Games , it takes place in a future fascist USA where the authorities control the populace bread-and-circuses style by staging gladiatorial contests. In Death Race

The Peripheral

I watched the Amazon Prime series The Peripheral just before Christmas, but only just found time to write about it, and already it seems have dropped off people’s radar. New shows, books, and films seem to be talked about for around a week now, if they’re lucky, before attention shifts to the next new thing. The way the internet has accelerated the speed of cultural discourse is presumably something William Gibson saw coming: from his cyberpunk novels of the mid-1980s to more recent works like Pattern Recognition, he’s always displayed a keen eye for cultural/technological trends. (Although the great opening line of Neuromancer - ‘The sky above the port was the colour of television, tuned to a dead channel,’ must be a bit lost on readers brought up in an age of digital tellies.) The Peripheral is based on a Gibson novel, of course, and it’s interesting to see what has survived the adaptation process and what has been ditched. Brother and sister Flynne and Burton Fisher (Chloë Grace

White Noise

We watched this on New Year’s Day, and it turned out to be a good start to the film-watching year - or maybe a bad one, as it will be a hard act to follow: I doubt I’ll see a better film in 2023. Based on the Don DeLillo novel, it’s a strange, protean thing, shifting from campus satire to disaster movie to neo(n)-noir revenge drama before ending in a mass supermarket dance routine like something out of True Stories . To writer/director Noah Baumbach’s credit, it’s both very funny and very serious - the White Noise of the title is the fear of mortality, I think, which haunts Adam Driver’s hapless and slightly seedy college professor Jack Gladney (the leading expert in ‘Hitler Studies’.) ‘What if death is nothing but a sound?’ he muses at one point. ‘You hear it for ever. Sound all around.’ The comedy - like most comedy, maybe - springs from the absurdity of trying to live everyday life in death’s enormous shadow. But a lot of Gladney’s everyday life would be absurd anyway. At home his


Foundation is one of those famous science fiction classics I’ve never got round to reading. I did try, back in my Star Wars addled early teens, but I gave up after a chapter or two. Having watched the Apple TV adaptation, I picked up a copy to see how it compared, and I can see why I was put off. Published in the ‘50s, but made from short stories written for the pulp magazines of the ‘40s, Foundation is an odd beast. In a vast galactic empire of the far future, a scientist named Hari Seldon predicts imminent collapse, and sets up a foundation intended to preserve human knowledge through the coming dark age and help build a new society. The book hops through the centuries, giving us little vignettes to show how his descendants are getting on. There is very little description of people or places. It’s curiously male-dominated even by the standards of ‘40s sci-fi - often in those old pulp stories the hero’s missus or the Professor’s Beautiful Daughter get a look in, but in Foundation  

Tolkien Blues

I’ve been watching The Rings of Power on Amazon, and I’m afraid it’s done nothing to shake my firm belief that Tolkien is unfilmable. The stuff of Middle-earth can be put on screen - the battles, the cities, the monsters - but the budget required to do so means the resulting film or show has to be a mass-market, all-action fantasy, in which all the quieter, odder, and more profound aspects of Tolkien’s work are sidelined or left out entirely. But at least the Lord of the Rings films were made by people who knew and loved the books. The Rings of Power has clearly been designed and art-directed by people who know their stuff - the layers of detail in the sets and costumes of the Númenor sequences alone are quite extraordinary. But the storylines which have been invented to try and breathe some Lord of the Rings -ish life into the rather dry history of the ‘Second Age’ as told in the book’s appendices seldom rise above the level of bog-standard sword and sorcery. You might as well be