Christmas Books #2
John Brosnan, The Sky Lords (1988)
I loved sci-fi films as a teenager, and my favourite book on the genre was Australian critic and novelist John Brosnan's The Primal Screen: A History of Science Fiction Film. Brosnan wrote as both fan and critic, and (as far as I remember) his book was a highly entertaining mix of history and opinion, with plenty of excellent screen shots to get the nerd-juices pumping. Being that kind of kid, I grabbed everything I could of Brosnan's from the library, read it, then moved on to some other obsession.
Brosnan died earlier this year, and I confess to feeling a small shock at the news. I hadn't thought of him for years, but it is always strange when somebody we have spent time with as a reader dies. It got me thinking about Brosnan's novels - sub-Pratchett comic fantasy for the most part, although more inventive than most - and in particular his best book, The Sky Lords. Now, I was about fifteen when I read this book, and hardly the most discerning reader, but I remember it being a top notch sci-fi thriller. Whether I'd feel the same about it now is another thing, but it remains a fond reading memory. As far as the story is concerned, it's about a planet ruled by beings who cruise around in enormous airships. That's pretty much all you need to know to realise it's by-the-numbers sci-fi, yet Brosnan makes it work with a pacy narrative and an interesting heroine, the amazonian Jan. That said, I won't be hurrying out to find a copy: some books read in adolescence are better left there. Still, it is funny what sticks in your mind. Of all the books I read in those years, The Sky Lords, along with Dune, is probably the one I best remember.