So with video games off the menu until the end of Lent, I just finished reading Northern Lights, the first book in Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy. Yes, yes, I know I’m way behind the times, but better late than never, eh?

My verdict on the first book? Loved it. After years of editing other people’s manuscripts I can’t quite turn the internal critic off, but even with my scouring for loopholes and duff lines, I was gripped and I really enjoyed it. It’s nice to feel like sometimes a book is really popular because it’s very good. The book deals in lots of very standard Fantasy tropes, like the false, decadent king challenged by the valiant true heir, the airships and steampunky accoutrements of Science Romance, and the whole many-worlds portal-linked multiverse thing, which is so common as to often be almost assumed as existing in many SF worlds, but it executes all of these familiar elements really, really well. It confirms my growing feeling – influenced in part by my interviews with the author Steve Aylett and with Helen Corner of manuscript consultancy agency Cornerstones, in my book We Can’t All Be Astronauts (have you read it yet? Probably – but if not, hey, you can buy it here) – that originality is an overrated quality that readers (and people in general) aren’t that bothered by. Readers want a pacy, thumping good read that they can understand, with characters they care about and situations that excite them and make them think.

I’m currently doing some research and assembling with ideas for, gulp, another novel. I think it might be not rubbish this time. It definitely won’t be a tale of dysfunctional middle-class relationships. It will be the same colourful, weird nonsense I always do. I don’t know why people wouldn’t want to write about that kind of thing. Sure, I enjoy books that don’t have magic and fireballs and time travel and robots and airships and zombies and portals and spaceships and scrambler-riding dinosaurs, but not as much as books that do. SORRY, MAJORITY OF THE WESTERN LITERARY CANON

Speaking of books set squarely in our drab, everyday reality, there’s an interview with me over here about We Can’t All Be Astronauts and my being a writer. Oh, and, despite being a memoir Astronauts has a bit where I suplex a T-Rex through the Acropolis. I put it in after the final proofread, because, y’know – wouldn’t you want something that rad in your memoir? EXCEPT YOU DON’T HAVE ONE OH SNAP