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Saving Mozart, by Raphaël Jerusalmy, translated by Howard Curtis, Europa Editions, RRP£8.99, 120 pages
Saving Mozart purports to be the diary of one Otto J Steiner, a tubercular music critic dying in a Vienna sanatorium on the eve of the second world war.
Abandoned by his son, Steiner coughs and curses his way through his final days. He seems apathetic about the war’s progress and dismissive of his fellow patients. But when a friend invites him to help design the programme for a music festival attended by high-ranking German officers, he sees a chance to fight back.
This slender, confident debut novel is deliciously atmospheric and tense – one scene finds Steiner, disguised as a Nazi attendant, holding Hitler’s cap as the Führer converses with Stalin on a train platform in the Alps.
The narrative voice, sprinkled with dry aperçus, is nicely captured (“A Christian is a Jew who’s out of his mind”; “I never understood music so well as I have since I stopped listening to it”) if a little derivative of Dostoevsky’s withered misanthropes.
Review by David Evans
Doctor Who: 11 Doctors 11 Stories, by Neil Gaiman et al, Puffin, RRP£12.99, 516 pages
These 11 stories, originally published as individual ebooks during this Doctor Who 50th anniversary year, are by stars in the field of fiction for younger readers. Each author was assigned a different one of the Doctor’s incarnations, creating an anthology with the same all-ages appeal as the TV show.
There’s an interesting correlation between the success of a story and the popularity of the Doctor it features. The entries for the sixth, seventh and eighth Doctors – played by Colin Baker, Sylvester McCoy and Paul McGann respectively – lack oomph, perhaps because the character himself was less distinctive at the time.
Nevertheless, the writing is uniformly strong, from Eoin Colfer’s Peter Pan homage and Marcus Sedgwick’s Viking romp to Malorie Blackman’s unusual Dalek tale and Neil Gaiman’s sly property-boom send-up. Derek Landy is the one who best captures his Doctor’s voice; you can easily imagine David Tennant barking out his oddball banter.
Review by James Lovegrove
Invent-10n, by Rod Rees, Alchemy Press, RRP£10.99, 216 pages
It’s estimated that there is one CCTV camera for every 14 people in the UK. Britain is the most watched nation on the planet. Taking this as the starting point for his boisterous dystopian satire, Rod Rees posits a near-future where all your personal data – everything you say, write, even think – is used to control you.
Jenni-Fur, a raucous “nuBop” performer, doesn’t know quite how to channel her anti-authoritarian streak until she meets Ivan Nitko. This geeky, teenage émigré owns a seawater-powered energy source that offers hope to an overpopulated planet teetering towards eco-collapse.
Sebastian Davenport, a grey government apparatchik, is charged with intervening on the state’s behalf but a strange trust develops between him and Jenni-Fur, leaving both of them to question their political ideals.
Invent-10n is a jazzy, freewheeling tour de force. Beneath the surface, though, lies a bleak argument: compromise or die.
Review by JL