His Dark Materials: the enduring, terrifying appeal of Philip Pullman’s world

La Belle Sauvage will return readers to Lyra’s universe tomorrow, 17 years after Pullman’s original trilogy ended. But His Dark Materials remains a radical read – and a true modern classic

Children’s authors are always being invited to speak in schools and, at every visit, I ask the question: “If your soul was in animal form, what would it be?” Without fail, every hand goes up.

Daemons capture the imagination in a way that few others do. Reading Philip Pullman’s Northern Lights as a 10-year-old, it made perfect sense to me that people should have a crucial part of themselves that inhabited a separate, animal being: two halves of the same whole. Like many children, I longed for my own daemon, but not in the way that I longed for my Hogwarts letter. Daemons were not magical diversions, but a way of bedding deeper into your reality. In place ...

Nature and Necessity by Tariq Goddard review – debauchery and class war in the country

There are hints of PG Wodehouse and EF Benson in a modern take on the country house novel that takes in broad humour and contemporary mores

For a genre rooted in the 19th century, the country house novel has proved amazingly durable. Tariq Goddard has set his latest book in a North Yorkshire house called The Heights, “once an Arts and Crafts cottage, now arguably the most attractive dwelling in the county”. It is quite a departure for a writer best known for his novels about men in wartime, such as his 2002 debut Homage to a Firing Squad, which was shortlisted for the Whitbread first novel prize.

Nature and Necessity opens in the 1970s and ends roughly around the present day. The lady of the house is Petula Montague, who married into money in the form of her second husband, Noah. She has two children from her previous marriage ...

Top 10 imaginary drugs in fiction

From the mind-bending potion in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland to Don DeLillo’s cure for the fear of death, these are some of the most potent hits in literature

Science-fiction writers are always looking for ways to bring about change, whether in society, in the nature of the physical world or in the human mind. And making up new drugs is a powerful way of inducing alteration on all these levels.

In my own work I’ve invented drugs such as Vurt, Metaphorazine, Lucidity, Wave, Haze and many more. My latest novel A Man of Shadows sees people enjoying a concoction called kia, shortened from chiaroscuro, a time-altering drug created from a flower that blossoms only at dusk.

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Top 10 imaginary drugs in fiction

From the mind-bending potion in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland to Don DeLillo’s cure for the fear of death, these are some of the most potent hits in literature

Science-fiction writers are always looking for ways to bring about change, whether in society, in the nature of the physical world or in the human mind. And making up new drugs is a powerful way of inducing alteration on all these levels.

In my own work I’ve invented drugs such as Vurt, Metaphorazine, Lucidity, Wave, Haze and many more. My latest novel A Man of Shadows sees people enjoying a concoction called kia, shortened from chiaroscuro, a time-altering drug created from a flower that blossoms only at dusk.

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Uncommon Type: Some Stories by Tom Hanks review – the Oscar-winner’s debut collection

The actor’s obsession with old-fashioned typewriters – and experiences of capturing history on screen – inspire this cinematic debut collection

Actors who become writers often say they were motivated by a feeling that they could do no worse than the words they are given to speak. As Tom Hanks has appeared in three movies based on the novels of Dan Brown, it is perhaps surprising that it has taken so long for the actor to be goaded into publishing his own prose.

He has started with stories, a standard beginners’ form, although at 400 pages-plus this debut set has a heft that rivals the collected volumes of some short story veterans.

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George Saunders’ victory disproves Booker lore that favourites never win

Audacious experimentalism of Lincoln in the Bardo shows US author is not only a writer’s writer but a reader’s writer too

Booker lore has it that the favourite never wins. The surprise this year was that George Saunders had done just that.

As the second US winner in a row, his victory may give further ammunition to the chorus of voices decrying American domination of the prize, but it’s a resoundingly good decision.

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George Saunders’ victory disproves Booker lore that favourites never win

Audacious experimentalism of Lincoln in the Bardo shows US author is not only a writer’s writer but a reader’s writer too

Booker lore has it that the favourite never wins. The surprise this year was that George Saunders had done just that.

As the second US winner in a row, his victory may give further ammunition to the chorus of voices decrying American domination of the prize, but it’s a resoundingly good decision.

Continue reading...