Iron Council by China Miéville
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
This book and I never quite clicked. I feel like I aught to have liked it more, that the book should have deserved more stars than it got, that I’ve missed something that would have made me love the book (or even want to keep reading it sometimes). Probably that’s my fault for reading the book in quite small chunks on train journeys and before falling asleep at night. But it could quite easily be China’s fault for creating what seemed like a big hot mess of absolutely mind-blowing ideas.
Obviously, it’s fantastic (in the literal sense of the word): It’s China Miéville. So, even with large chunks of it set in New Crobuzon – a city we’ve already met in the previous books – we’re still bombarded with new ideas, new things, new places, new people, new creatures, new politics and new powers. And while I really did appreciate the incredible creative effort that had obviously gone in all this, I just never quite felt like I was connecting with the story or the characters…
View all my reviews
My first international parkrun – Clermont in Florida – and a pretty reasonable time considering the heat… I went out a bit too fast, but managed to settle in with a group and then put in a bit of a push and drop them all in the last few 100 metres.
Alvin Journeyman by Orson Scott Card
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
With book four the series starts to slow again and characters are made to retread old paths. Alvin returns home and attempts to train more Makers. While it starts to feel as if the first three books peaked with Prentice Alvin, then we’re now on the other side of that hill and Card is trying to restart the story somewhat. To an extent this is borne out just from the publishing schedule – books 1 through 3 were published a year apart, this one took a six year jump for him to get back to world of Alvin Maker.
It’s an enjoyable read though – if a little slow – and we do get some new characters and some older characters that step up from supporting cast to regular.
Heartfire by Orson Scott Card
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Two stories in one, that end up coming together. On the one hand Alvin has formed a little gang with Mike, Verily and Arthur Stuart. Wandering around trying to work out how Alvin is going to build his Crystal City – or even what the Crystal City really is. In the process, Alvin gets accused of being a witch and Verily suddenly decides to take on the whole principle of witch trials and fight them through the courts.
The other story is of Peggy, now Alvin’s wife, who is trying to get an audience with the exiled King in order to avert the coming war. Mixing her story up a little is the appearance of Calvin, Alvin’s brother, who is still jealous of Alvin’s powers. Add into this story a more detailed explanation of the magical powers of the black slaves and we now have three distinct magic systems – the knacks of the white people, the nature affinity of the native Americans and now the knots and dolls of the African slaves. Think useful functional magic for white folks, noble savage tree hugging for the red folks, and voodoo for the black folks and you won’t be far off. Obviously, not a hint of any implied racism here…
Peggy and Calvin’s story is arguably the more interesting here – although both stories feature way too much talking (therefore telling) rather than action and plot development (showing). As a whole it does feel bit too much like a filling story. An attempt to build a journey for Alvin rather than having him just rush off and build his city. And, Card does get a little bogged down in the side stories again. But, while they’re fun and well told, we’re still no closer to having a crystal city than we were all those books ago… Hopefully the final book – helpfully titled The Crystal City – will actually finish the story out.
View all my reviews
Finally. Back to the commuting now that the half-marathon training is out of the way. (Confession: it’s been out of the way for a while now, and I should have gotten back to this already). Strava chose to make 10 May 2016, the first ever Global Bike to Work day and encouraged people to cycle-commute to work and tag their rides appropriately.
It felt good to be back to it, although it did piss down all the way in…
… and then, of course, home again.
After hiking across Hadrian’s Wall it was good to return home and be able to run Wimbledon parkrun again. Not a bad time considering how little running I’ve done this last week or so and the allergies were kicking in a bit…
Basically, six half-marathons, back-to-back, mostly in pretty grim weather. East to West; Newcastle to Carlise; hail to sun…
Day 1 – Wallsend to Heddon on the Wall
From our Roomzzz apartments in Newcastle, a quick Metro ride out to Wallsend to start our hike. Then back through Newcastle, stopping at The Boathouse in Newburn for a late lunch, before the climb up to Heddon on the Wall and our B&B: The Heddon Lodge. The village pub was shut for refurbishment so a taxi over to the next village for dinner at the Lion and Lamb in Horsley.
Day 2 – Heddon on the Wall to Chollerford
Hail pretty much all day, Vallum Farm cafe for cake, the Errington Arms for lunch, and then on to Chollerford (well, more like Humshaugh) to stay at the Mingary Barn B&B. Dinner in The Crown Inn pub over the road.
Day 3 – Chollerford to Steel Rigg
No stops today as the Mingary Barn provided a nice packed lunch, so walked through the day. Past the Temple of Mithras, the Housesteads Roman Fort, and the iconic tree at Sycamore Gap ending up at the Twice Brewed Inn for sleep and dinner.
Day 4 – Steel Rigg to Banks
A small diversion to the Samson Inn for a pint, popped in to Birdoswald Roman fort for the loo, and finally finished – after a long downhill – at the Lanercost Priory to stay at the Lanercost B&B. Fabulous fine dining for a B&B.
Day 5 – Banks to Carlisle
We lose our first person today as they have to push on to Carlisle in order to catch a train. We stop at The Reading Room for some cake in Walton before finally getting in to Carlisle ourselves and settling in to to the Crown & Mitre hotel in Carlisle. An Italian meal at SannaS to restock the carbs before the final day.
Day 6 – Carlisle to Bowness-on-Solway
Down to the final four today and detours are aplenty due to the heavy flooding earlier in the year which has destroyed much of the river bank. Staying at the Wallsend Guest House – not in one of their wigwams – and dinner at the King’s Arms Inn.
Three years ago I started running and two years ago we found ourselves in Greenwich for the weekend and decided to run Southwark parkrun. As I’d talked Louise into it I opted to run with her, but unfortunately her poorly ankle meant she dropped out a little way into the second lap (these multiple lap courses do make it too tempting to drop out) and I had some catching up to do. I finished in 33:10 (and looking back, the splits on my own don’t seem that much more impressive than the ones with her). Consequently, this weekend rather than hitting Hilly Fields again I wanted to attempt the parkrun with the slowest PB so far and this was it…
The main target was to break 33:10, but really a good time would be nice. My quads were still aching a bit (a lot) from the run on Wednesday evening so I was pleasantly surprised when I found I’d got a season’s best and was only 33 seconds off my PB at Wimbledon and a massive 10 minutes off my previous course best!