Still offline, so — quickie reviews.
Call C.S. Lewis’ friends to mind and the mental image, invariably, will be that of Lewis and the Inklings gathered around a table at the Eagle and Child, drinking and talking. But one of Lewis’ closest friends, the person whose death moved him to tears, was a woman – Dorothy Sayers, an English novelist and playwright who bonded with Lewis over their shared love of literature and their unexpected roles as Christian apologists. Dorothy and Jack examines their friendship, drawing on their extensive letter-writing to one another, with an eye for how the two challenged one another and helped the other to grow. Sayers was a particularly invaluable friend to Lewis, Dalfonzo suggests, because she was his first genuine female friendship after an early life spent in all-male environments: a motherless home, male-only boarding schools and the similarly exclusive arenas of the Western Front and Oxford. Sayers was someone who Lewis could respect, even given prejudices he might have had about her sex, and in addition to supporting one another as creative writers and defenders of the faith, as their friendship grew they could unburden themselves about their private challenges — Sayers’ marriage and Lewis’ difficult relationship with Mrs. Moore, particularly. Definitely worthwhile for a Lewis or Sayers fan.
In a completely different genre, I finished Len Deighton’s SS-GB. Deighton has written histories of the air war in World War 2, as well as novels set in the same period, including Bomber. SS-GB is alternate history, or rather is a detective novel turned political thriller set in a 1942 where Britain lost its independent fight against Nazi Germany and is an occupied territory. Europe is at ‘peace’, with the Nazis and Soviets pledging eternal friendship to one another, and the United States is thoroughly distracted by Imperial Japan. A senior inspector for Scotland Yard, Douglas Archer, is toeing the line between law and injustice, balancing his need to keep his German superiors happy with his own self-loathing at being a collaborator with the occupiers. A murder that attracts the attention of the S.S. and connects to rumors of the King being rescued from the Tower of London, and of an German attempt to create a super-bomb, makes Archer’s position all the more untenable: suddenly he has two bosses, one in the Wehrmacht and the other in the S.S., and both are actors in their respective organizations’ struggle for power within the Nazi scheme, a struggle that sometimes takes priority even over the need to consolidate Britain into the Greater German Reich. Deighton’s eye as an historian is helpful in creating a finely detailed version of Occupied Britain, complete with subtle market stresses induced by the occupation costs. I enjoyed the tale well enough, but found it mostly interesting for the setting. I couldn’t figure out what the exact point of departure was, though — why did Sealion happen in this timeline when it didn’t happen in ours?
Finally, a bit of rare good news on the Trek front: Star Trek Strange New Worlds is good. Ever since the 2009 movie, I’ve had to tolerate-at-best Trek’s television & movie offerings, but SNW actually looks and feels like Star Trek. The episodes are episodes, and begin with the “Space….the final frontier” recitation that is Trek’s signature. It’s a prequel series like Discovery, set aboard Captain Pike’s tenure on the Enterprise. He’s joined by characters both old and new, and from the episodes I’ve watched the focus is definitely more ensemble-oriented than being dominated by one personality. More importantly, though, Strange New Worlds is drawing on what made Trek so popular to begin with — its focus on human potential, on what we might achieve through courage and creativity. One of the things I’ve missed most about PrimeTrek, particularly TNG – DS9, is its incorporation of the arts: that made a splendid comeback in “The Children of the Comet”. I am actually excited about SNW, and that hasn’t been true about Trek-on-the-screen since…well, Star Trek (2009). I actually checked Amazon for SNW novels, and am pleased to see that one will be released in September. Although I still hate the death of the PrimeTrek lit verse, I won’t mind seeing what novels emerge from this new show.
Coming up….a foresensic thriller, Stoicism, Star Trek, and cosmology.