Welcome to Delta Pavonis

Dom Mooney's Website

January 2009

New Beginnings

Well, here we are well into 2009 already, and me without any updates. The first excuse which I have is that the active FTP that Pipex foisted on us when they moved to M$ boxes for their servers doesn't communicate well through my parent's firewall, but that doesn't excuse the silence since. The main reason for that is the fact that most of my geek time has been spent building a new iMac up to replace the one that died. That's all done now, so normality starts to return.

Mummy and Nathan
Walking at Tatton Park

Christmas was lovely, as we spent a relaxing few days with my mum and dad. Nathan was really aware of the whole thing this year, and – to be frank – some of it nearly overwhelmed him. We ended up on a present break as he just wasn't interested by Christmas Day afternoon. Too much choice and noise.

Whilst there, I got to read some, play with the computer writing a short book review, watch and curse at clumsiness inherent in Russell T Davies' Doctor Who Christmas Special, eat too much and generally chill out. We had a great time. Jill and I also watched The Clone Wars and The Revenge of the Sith for a Sci-Fi fix.

We spent a great day with the in-laws and Jill's sister and fiancé, whom Nathan charmed as ever! All 4 of his grandparents now have names – Ma-Ma, Poppy, Nanna and Dad-Dad. Lovely stuff! Also went out with the dog and got some nice pictures.

Sunset in Winter
Sunset at Shakerley Mere

New Year
New Year was quiet, as we were home with Nathan, so we passed part of it with Jools Holland and some Champagne. Much better than last year when we were all very ill with the vomiting virus which was going around. Spent a lot of time from 31st building the new iMac and making myself feel somewhat unclean by installing a virtualised version of XP on it so I could run some PC-specific star-mapping software.

Been back a week, and it's already starting to feel longer. However, at least I feel like we're moving forward rather than on the back-foot.

Music - been listening to The Killers, Marillion, Matinee Club (aka The Modern) and the theme from Stardust on the iPod a lot recently, especially now it talks to my car speakers!

So, to conclude: We hope you all had a happy New Year, and that this year is prosperous and better than the last!

The Devil in a Forest

The Devil in a Forest is a short (208 page) fantasy novel by Gene Wolfe, of Shadow of the Torturer and Book of the New Sun fame. It's also one of my favourite books, even though I have only read it a few times.

The reason that the book has always resonated with me is its almost claustrophobic focus. Set in an unnamed forest, it is a story with only a few characters, most of whom are close-to, but not-quite, archetypes or ciphers. It has few locations; the village in the forest (with an inn, a forge, a chapel and a few craftsmen), the charcoal burner's settlements, an ancient stone monument, the witch's house, the river, the road, St Agnes' Shrine, and later on, the city. Several of the locations are bit parts, with much of the story taking place in the village itself as the inhabitants come to terms with the decisions that they have taken.

The protagonist is a weaver's apprentice called Mark. Aged fourteen, this could almost be a coming-of-age tale for him, but it is far darker than that. Mostly, Mark is buffeted between the various other characters in the tale, and has to make choices that will determine hist future. He is often confused, unsure and reactive, and all the more human for it.

The decisions taken by the village drive the story, upsetting the equilibrium of this small and limited world. The village elders – the Abbé, the craftsmen, but not the Innkeeper – decide to do something about Watt the Outlaw as his robbery and murder of travellers and pilgrims threaten the income of the village as people have stopped visiting St Agnes' Fountain. (Yes, the more astute of you will have spotted that the story references the Christmas Carol Good King Wenceleslas). But some of the villagers are sympathetic with Watt, and treachery and mixed alliances are the order of the day. Mixing with this is the ambiguous Mother Cloot and a party of soldiers hunting for Watt.

It's a simple story where you never feel certain about what will happen next. Wolfe isn't afraid of killing characters, so you never feel safe. The story is very much driven from the protagonist's perspective, limiting your knowledge to that of the character. Altogether, it's a lovely book.