Waterstone's Liverpool One Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Club

Waterstones Liverpool One Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Club

"This is space. It's sometimes called the final frontier. (Except that of course you can't have a *final* frontier, because there'd be nothing for it to be a frontier *to*, but as frontiers go, it's pretty penultimate...)"
- Terry Pratchett, Moving Pictures

About Us

This is the official blog for the book club held in the book lounge of Waterstones Liverpool One.

The group meet at 6pm on the first Monday of the month to discuss their thoughts and opinions on the books selected. The books range from classic fantasy to brand new science fiction short story collections.

It's a fun and friendly atmosphere and all are welcome: from those who have never read any science fiction or fantasy before, to those who don't read anything else.

The group, and this blog, are administered by Glyn Morgan, the Bookseller responsible for the Science Fiction section of the store and an avid reader of SF who is currently studying for his PhD at the University of Liverpool.

If you would like to comment on any of the books we've read, this month or in the distant past, please feel free to contribute to the comments section of the relevant posts.

Visit this club's little sister: Coffee and Comics

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Memoirs of a Master Forger by William Heaney


William is a dissolute book-forger. A talented writer in his own right he would rather scribble poems anonymously for an asian friend (who is becoming increasingly successful as a result), and create forgeries of Jane Austen first editions to sell to gullible collectors. He's not all bad. The money from the forgeries goes straight to homeless hostel and William's crimes don't really hurt anyone. And there are reasons William hasn't amounted to more. He did something he was ashamed of when he was a student, he drinks far too much and he can't commit to any relationships. Oh and he sees demons. Shadowy figures at the shoulder of everyone around him (except the woman who runs the hostel, she remains untouched), waiting for a moment's weakness. Or is just that William can see the suffering of the world? And then an extraordinary woman, who may just be able to save him from the world's suffering, walks into his life. This is William's own story. But who can believe a master forger?

What Did We Think?

This book caused quite a bit of discussion about the nature of Fantasy. It won the British Fantasy Award in 2009 and so is clearly recognised as belonging within the confines of the genre, it's also published by Gollancz as clear a genre stamp as any. At the same time, it carries a cover quote from a professor of 19th Century Literature at Royal Holloway University (albeit science fiction author and critic Adam Roberts) and the content of the novel is carefully phrased in such a way that it could easily have been shelved with the "mainstream" fiction, what China MiƩville calls the genre of "litfic".

Nonetheless, it was a novel that was found to be artful, poetic, and striking. The character of William Heaney was seen as being a man who despite being massively flawed (and a raging alcoholic) was also immensely likeable and we were very happy for him at the end of the novel, although the criticism was voiced that elements of the ending were perhaps too neat for a novel with such realist tones, that it was perhaps "too pat".

The issues of trauma which were central to the book (both physical and emotional) were convincingly and thoughtfully dealt with. Whilst the war content was not to every reader's taste, in the book-within-the-book, the examination of Gulf Syndrome was a rare and sincere examination of a phenomenon that that has been largely ignored by much military fiction, let alone science fiction or fantasy.

We enjoyed the contrasts between Heaney the self-confessed fraudster and the characters we encounter everyday: beauracrats, celebrity chefs, politicians who are not literal fraudsters in the sense that Heaney is, yet who live their lives behind a veil of lies and deceit which is far more damaging and less easy to empathise with than Heaney's altruistically driven charismatic swindling.

Overall it was a book that everyone enjoyed although that didn't live up to everyone's expectations of a demonic romp through London. Rather than the trad-fantasy that they were expecting it was altogether something more delicate and unique. A touching, but also funny novel which left you thirsty for a glass of red wine....

(Sorry for the short nature of this summary, it's been a busy week. To make up for it checkout Graham Joyce's acceptance speech for the British Fantasy Award and William Heaney's blog where he makes some entertaining comments about his creative writing tutor...)

Votes were as follows: 6, 7, 7, 8, 8, 9

1 comment:

  1. like 'carefully phrased' the book itself was decent enough to read not what would go out the way to read or actually recommend to another person. can understand the discussion on definition, seem to recall a saying concerning this issue!!!. in this aspect it is up to the individual to ascertain the nature of the 'demons'. it is not until well into the story that the actuality of their existence is made evident, in which it then makes the reader assess their own beliefs in such as to which way the rest of the stroy is read, ustilizing the old soldiers misfortune to emphasis consequences of the apparent demon is a darker side of the tale which adds to the overall story rather than the is it evil or is it good, as williams demon is considered an angel by some. the refereal throughtout the story to his college days and the pentagon lays the foundation for thouse who have read previous similar stories, the devil rides out for instance has layed the foundation for such beliefs already in the human psyche to be believeable.

    personally would have marked this as a 6, only because it not really worth any more, as in other joyce stories a cutesy