The Subtle Knife

Novel Ideas returns with the first episode of year three, or Season 3, if you prefer. This week we are discussing Philip Pullman’s The Subtle Knife, sequel to The Golden Compass, second book in the “His Dark Materials” trilogy. In this episode we talk about trust, power, corruption, and moral ambiguity. We also touch on trilogy naming conventions, Sir Charles’s creepy vibe, trope subversion, and references to other things we have read and/or podcasted.

This week’s music bump is “Under the Knife” by Kansas because “Mack the Knife” seemed too obvious.

The Subtle Knife – EVIDENTLY

Recommendations:

This book contains excellent world building and interesting characters, as well as adding to the universe of the story rather than rehashing what was popular the first time around. Read it. But first read The Golden Compass.

Gabs: 9/10 I love this damn book.

Ben: 9/10 All of those things.

Doomsday Book

Novel Ideas returns with Doomsday Book by Connie Willis, a novel by one of the most well regarded authors you’ve probably never heard of. Connie Willis is a Grand Master of science fiction and one of the most decorated science fiction authors in the history of the genre. This book is her classic tale of time travel and plague. But mostly plague. In this episode we discuss the many fantastic characters, our lack of desire to live in the middle ages, and morality as it relates to cultural context. We also lament the death of every character (more or less), the death of a beloved family pet, and worry about happened to that poor cow. There will also be history nerdgasms and quite a bit of broadcast professionalism on display.

The music bump is “Messe de Notre Dame” by Guillaume de Machaut, a contemporary of the novel’s 14th century time line who also happens to share the name of an often referenced character who never actually shows up in the book.

40 – Doomsday Book – Everybody Dies

Brave New World

This week’s episode features Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, the science fiction classic about a scientific utopia. Or possibly dystopia. This book is weaker on characters than many of the books we’ve read, but it is full of issues, many of them more relevant than ever in today’s world. We touch on feminism, racism, sexuality, eugenics, consumerism, and religion. And, of course, zippers. Zippers are amazing. Because they are THE FUTURE. There are also some bad puns, the usual level of silliness, and a small amount of modest self-promotion. We think you will find it quite pneumatic.

The music bump is “Brave New World” by Styx, chosen not just for the obvious title tie-in, but at least a small amount of lyrical relevance. Hang out for an extra twenty seconds at the end of the podcast and see if you agree.

28 – Brave New World – Quite Pneumatic

It may not be obvious because of the size of the picture, but the header this week is from an edition of the book that had an egg with a zipper on the cover. The reason we chose this image should be quite obvious by the time you’re about twenty minutes into this episode.

Foundation

Welcome back to Novel Ideas! This week’s episode features Foundation by Isaac Asimov. This is one of the gigglier episodes we’ve recorded thus far and we hope that you’ll enjoy it as much as we do. Have your research materials, by which I mean Wikipedia, handy because this one is reference heavy. In fact, we almost have enough references to start our own encyclopedia. We cover science, religion, science as religion, the nature of fandom, the lack of women in classic science fiction, and every historical reference we know. Prepare to enter our sphere of influence as we nonviolently project our power across the internet.

The music bump is “Space Fanfare” by Joe Spaniola, performed by the Air Force Band of the Rockies. Because this story is in space and stuff. Also, this piece features one or two recognizable themes because we needed more references.

16 – Foundation – Decline and Fall of the Female Character

The Scarlet Letter

This week in Novel Ideas, we discuss a classic of guilt and shame. Were I to deliver this explanation in the style of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, the next two thousand words would describe the feel the paper, the alignment of the typesetting, the quality of the ink, and the deeply emotional cover. And then maybe I’d say something about the content, but it would be a bad idea to get your hopes up on that account. Unlike Hawthorne, we like content, so we discuss the characters, the prose, the wisdom of exposing yourself as a witch to your Puritan neighbors, demon-elf children, the difficulties in adapting this story for film, and, of course, feminism.

The music bump is Domenico Scarlatti’s Sonata in G minor, K. 108. It was chosen because if ol’ Dom was your pen pal, he would send you Scarlatti Letters.

15 – The Scarlet Letter – Let Us Fling Mud At Them

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

We’re a tad late this week, but don’t panic, the podcast has finally arrived. This week we discussed The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. It’s full of silliness and absurdity, so in other words, it’s right up our alley. Join us as we examine the meaning of life, the universe, and everything, the zany cast of characters, the lack of plot and why that’s okay, and somehow manage not to display our terrible versions of British accents.

No music bump, but the opening clip is from the 2005 big budget movie production and the ending clip is from the 1981 BBC production. One involves the bigness of space and the other the thoughts of a freshly created sperm whale. We’ll let you figure out which is which.

13 – The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Don’t Panic

Childhood’s End

Giant spaceships appear in the sky and hover over major cities across the globe! Soon they start wiping out cities and hunting down the beleaguered survivors… or am I getting Childhood’s End confused with “Independence Day?” Turns out that these aliens want to bring unprecedented peace and virtual utopia to the people of Earth. But at what cost? This week, we get away from dystopia and examine utopia. Is it realistic? Is the cost too high? We discuss these issues, along with our usual hot buttoned topical pals, feminism and religion. And for good measure, we throw in a discussion of race because nothing makes people feel more comfortable than a discussion about racial issues. Our new recording studio (aka our “new” recording “studio”) is refreshingly free of sirens, barking dogs, and leafblower engines, but does neighbor a bird who badly wants to be a guest on the podcast.

The music this week is “The Darkest Day” from David Arnold’s soundtrack for “Independence Day,” because that joke really needed to come full circle.

08 – Childhood’s End – Most Depressing Utopia Ever

A Handmaid’s Tale

Welcome back, book lovers! This week’s episode features A Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, a dystopian future where women are second class citizens. The conversation is a little longer and darker than average as we take turns atop the feminist soapbox. We also attempt to offend the whole world by discussing religion and motherhood. Our high standards of broadcast quality are maintained as a landscaper starts his leafblower and leaves it sitting outside the window. Prepare to be slightly depressed and more than slightly outraged as we explore yet another dystopian future.

The music this week is Rockapella’s arrangement of “Amazing Grace,” because: 1) Rockapella is awesome, 2) Amazing Grace appears in the book, and 3) we find it difficult to take even twenty seconds of Elvis Presley’s “Heartbreak Hotel.”

A quick administrative note: If you are reading along at home, there is now a schedule link at the top of the page so you can follow us more easily.

07 – A Handmaid’s Tale – Feminism Gets Boned

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