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This page is currently unsure as to whether its about listing books I own or have read or about reviewing them. Currently it serves both roles unequally. Reviews are done in a blog style rather than a journalistic style. They relate my opinions and attitudes towards them rather than a decent critical review. I may do some along that line later if I have the time or inclination and anyone is interested.


I am very fond of second hand book shops. It always feels better somehow to have acquired a once read tome from one of these than to buy it from the high street. This is doubly so because I never seem able to part with any of my collection permenantly. Though lending in general is not a problem.

I should probably put in links to Amazon or Bol or Froogle so you can buy them. On the other hand if I did that how would the little book sellers survive? That said I could potentially get a trickle of money from links being clicked on. But is it worth it?

The library is also good. Libraries seem to be very much under appreciated in this day & age. The local ones have been mostly closed down, turned to flats and replaced with tiny mobile vans that only turn up for one day on alternate weeks. A sorry state of affairs indeed. At least the main libraries and a few branches remain to carry on the torch. And fortunately there are still a few people in this day and age that go to them and get books to read. I hope the younger generation carries on reading but sometimes I worry.


Free Plug

A mate of mine from my time at Tyco has set up Happy Blue Hippo ltd to flog children's books and the like with a particular emphasis on education and language learning. You can find his site here:

My Wish List

I have a partial wishlist at Amazon. If you're loking to get me a prezzie this might be a good place to start. The list is not exhaustive and some items may be in there just because I'm curious but they are priced beyond my curiousity threshold. i.e. if its cheap I'll buy any old tat as the price increases I grow more discerning. I mean much as I like Dark Angel I'm not sure I could seriously consider forking out more than 50p for the series continuation. Also the saved items in your basket only stick around for 90 days and believe it or not that isn't always long enough!

Book Groups

A local or internet book group would be a great idea. If I can find one that likes the same kind of literature I do. I believe there is one in Ealing but so far I haven't dared contact them to find out more. I also wonder if I have the time or inclination to read outside of my normal parameters however educational (or God forbid social) the experience might be.

The Reviews

Corpse Marker book cover

Corpse Marker - Chris Boucher

reviewed 7th-Oct-2005
This is a Doctor Who novel with a bit of Blake's 7 crossover, written by one of the better author / script-writers to have worked on both series. Whenever you see Boucher's name in the credits you know you're in luck. Being a Doctor Who novel I was rather embarassed to be caught reading it on the train. Series spin offs in general tend to lack substance and rely on the series both for sales and background. In the case of Doctor Who this is both a fair and unfair criticism. For a long time books and audiobooks were the only form in which the series continued and for the most part are considered 'canon'. Alas in both cases a few corkers got through the filters (I wouldn't consider this one of them), though that was true of the series too. The new series does seem to have thrown a lot out the window but its possible that was just to grab viewing figures for the comeback season (we can only hope). Anyway, back to this book in particular. The book itself is well written and quite well paced as might be expected from the likes of Boucher. The characterisation of Leela is particularly good portraying her more as a warrior than a savage and clever in her own way rather than knowledgeable. I'm less sure about the characterisation of the doctor himself. He comes across more happy go lucky and less well informed than I would expect. The style of the book is relatively simple, reminding me a little of the doctor who novellisations I used to read as a child (before the days of repeats and video recorders). This probably reflects the wide age group doctor who is targetted at. This particular story is a sequel to "The Robots of Death" and also part of the inspiration for the Kaldor City audio-books which I have been following (I intend to create a proper tribute page at some point). Hence my reason for purchasing it. The book is entertaining in its own right and develops some areas of the robot dependent society more thoroughly than in the original serial. I have to agree with other reviewers that the ending is slightly abrupt. As a scene setter for Kaldor City, however, it works quite well. I also explains a couple of things I had not understood, such as why Taren Capell (the villain who was killed off in the Robots of Death) is now apparently on the side of humanity rather than robots. Since I whole heartedly recommend that series I must recommend this to complete your Kaldor collection as well. On its own merits however its pretty average pulp fiction. A quick and easy read but only worth it if you are a serious Who or Boucher fan.

Hyperion book cover

Hyperion - Dan Simmons

reviewed 27th-Sept-2005
This one came from Neil. I'm not sure if it was a cast off or he wanted me to read it or what. Anyway, its taken me a few years to finally get around to reading it. My initial impression was what the hell is this about. The opening introduces a great number of concepts without them being given any kind of explanation. In particular, the World Web, the shrike, farcasting, the Time Tombs, and FORCE: Space. The latter two jar particularly (why is FORCE always in capital letters?), giving me the impression that the books is going to be some kind of "power rangers" style extraganza. i.e. a pile of crap.

Fortunately I am not the sort to easily put down a book after I've started it even if it doesn't look too promising. In this case I'm glad because just a little further in the style and plot start developing more cohesively. I particularly like the nod to Canturbury Tales with the stories of each pilgrim being told and each developing different threads of the overall plot. Getting towards the end of the book I was increasingly concerned that there was not enough space to tie up all the loose ends. It looks as if the author felt the same way. The result is that I now need to hunt down a copy of the sequel "Fall of Hyperion" to see how it ends and to find out what some of the loose ends were about. Even at the end of this first volume the connection between a number of elements is totally mysterious. In a TV show this could be the sign of a lack of a story arc or too many authors; leading to an ultimately uninspiring climax (X Files anyone?). In this case the potential is there for it to be much more depending upon how things develop in the next book. Given that it almost universally recieves five stars from Amazon reviewers prospects are good that the Author does have something in mind and he has deliberately kept us from it.

Overall the style is a combination of science fiction and fantasy with nods to other genres throughout. There is even a private-eye style piece in the form of the Detective's Tale - at its start at least. I think it probably deserves a good four stars overall. However, this rating is liable to be altered (up or down I dont know) when I read the second in the series.

Before I end this review I should briefly mention the plot. Something I keep forgetting to weave into my ramblings. I read a particularly concise & accurate description on Amazon but I wont repeat it here as it gives away much that I was unaware of when I started reading. Things which only unfold as the book progresses. Essentially the plot is that there is about to be a war with "the Ousters" and seven pilgrims have been selected by the "church of the Shrike" to visit "the Time Tombs", the ruling government (the Hegemony) seems to believe that this may somehow help alter the outcome in their favour. Perhaps from that you can see why I was initially uninspired. However it is worth reading. It probably wouldn't spoil things to give more away but I'll leave it as suffice to say that all is not as it seems (by a long shot).

Revelation Space book cover

Revelation Space - Alastair Reynolds

reviewed 11th-Sept-2005
This is the debut novel from British astromer Alastair Reynolds. Set in a future where there has been a diaspora from Earth but without inventing any faster than light McGuffin as is often done. Quite enjoyable and worth reading. A very interesting premise and full of nicely interwoven plots and background stories. A couple of unusual aspects to his style. In a couple of places characters become privy to an important revelation that is held back from the readers. A standard style in many genres but less common, revelations tend to be revealed to the reader at the same time as the characters discover them. Its not a criticism just different. I'm not sure that it worked for me. One genuine criticism is there seem to be a few places where continuity doesn't quite fit. Some characters occasionally behave out of character with their motivation changing. Occassionally they may forget about a piece of technology that could help them or remember one that wasnt there. Nothing sufficient to spoil the book overall which is very enjoyable and contains a few enlightening and entertaining notions. I will be interested in reading the follow up Redemption Ark.

Mortal Engines book cover 5 stars

Mortal Engines - Philip Reeve

read and reviewed 25th-Aug-2005
A very original and enjoyable children's book. Suffers from few cliches and the plot direction remains largely unpredictable throughout. Unusually for a children's book (is it that unusual these days) there are some quite dark moments (I believe the appropriate modern cliche word would be 'gritty'). No one character seems to be indispensible and it can be difficult at times to tell who is in the right. It is a very good thing that ambiguous books like these are being written for children now. Those of the pokemon generation that grow up willing and able to read will hopefully gain freer more discerning and more imaginative minds from reading books such as this. I can think of little higher praise.

In a review its probably a good idea to mention the plot a bit. Basically its set in a post holocost future where cities and towns are all mobile for reasons relating to the holocast world some time in the past that are skimmed over. Towns chase each other and gobble them up in a system known as "municipal darwinism" which has a great ring to it but is never quite explained. I bought this book on a whim (impulse buy at Tesco of all places) because I dimly recall it being mentioned in a review on radio 4 at the same time Phillip Pullman's trilogy was in the limelight. I dimly recall it being mentioned that this is also a trilogy but each book is set in a different time. The first one introduces municipal darwinism as a great success for the problems of its time and this one deals with its time coming to an end. Checking my facts it turns out it is a trilogy but this is the first in the series. The two sequels being "Prospector's Gold" and "Infernal Devices". I look forward to reading (and reviewing) them in the future (people buying prezzies check my wish list at Amazon - but remember second hand is just as good if not better).

Comparison between authors is generally unfair but I would say that in comparison to Phillip Pullman's trilogy this is considerably darker in tone (Philip Pullman's novels themselves are relatively dark) and perhaps faster paced. It is crying out for a sequel or prequel set in the same world or in its timeline anyway. In the case of Pullman's "his dark materials" trilogy the books had to be read together to complete the story. In contrast I can imagine Philip Reeve successfully creating individual episodes in his new world without requiring any grounding in previous or successive novels.

Other Children's books I would recommend:

Silverfin book cover

Silverfin - Charlie Higson

reviewed 25th-Aug-2005 (read a month or two before)
Jame Bond Junior. Bond gets his own set of children's adventures starting with this one from one of the blokes off the fast show. I acquired this from a friend. When I tried to give it back after I'd finished reading it he said give it to a charity shop or something. I guess that expresses a high opinion of it (on the other hand it could just be that he has no space at home). Personally I quite enjoyed it. It didn't seem any less implausible than any other Bond film (excluding the dreadful Die Another Day). On the other hand I didn't see any reason why it had to be a Bond book at all other than as a cynical device to shift copies. It could have easily stood on its own without having to use the Bond name. Its quite well written but a little cliched. Probably still worth reading and it will be worth watching the author's talent develop over the series. For myself though I consider it the sort of thing you borrow from the library rather than buy to keep.

The Drought book cover

The Drought - J.G.Ballard

reviewed 11th-Sept-2005 (read several weeks previously)
A few people have been going on at me for a while that Ballard is a really good author. So I thought I'd give him a go. I picked this up in the Oxfam Book Shop in Ealing and it may well end up going back there. I was not terrible impressed by this book. Maybe it was one of his earlier works or maybe he just had an off day. We follow the main character somewhat aimlessly through "the Drought". The concept of the world drought in itself is somewhat implausible. Pollution causes a protective film to form over the sea which prevents evaporation and hence stops cloud formation and rain. Even non-SF fans may figure that if it doesn't rain the water has still got to go somewhere therefore sea levels would rise and there would be flooding. Instead the waters seem to retreat and create sand dunes and salt flats. At one point people are collecting sea-water to desalinate by herding puddles left by the retreating tide through channels in the salt. I cant see how this would work. Surely the water would either sink through it. I'll allow that it could be super-saturated so that it couldn't desolve it but either way you'd have a salt sludge. I doubt very much youd catch any fish in these pools too. I'll Ignore the SF aspect for a moment, for clearly the story is about the mans journey rather than the SF plot. Unlike many of the books us SF afficiandos read, the journey itself seems aimless. The man has no purpose in his life and seems to acheive nothing other than surviving to the end of the book. Maybe that was the point but it seemed something of a worthless journey to me. You can learn something, get somewhere or just enjoy the journey. Ultimately our protagonist does neither and nor does the reader. I cant help wondering if it was a case of Ballard having fallen victim to the publishers desires to produce more and more books to sell and hence sacrificing quality for quantity. I'm told I'd have better luck if I read "Cocaine Nights" however thats not SF and we couldn't have me reading outside my genre now could we? Also drug culture does not particularly appeal to me but who knows maybe I'll read it sometime and give Ballard another chance.

I tried to give this one away to my Ballard-ophile friend but unfortunately he bought too many books the day we last met up. Possibly I conveyed too much of my opinion on it to make the sale. So until we meet again or I pass the Oxfam shop its still on my shelf. The cover here is not the same one I have but looking at the blurb I think it should say "completely incredible" and "a total nightmare" rather than what it actually says.