Ideas and Opinions

By Albert Einstein

Rating: 3 stars

This is a collection of writings and lectures by Albert Einstein, organised in sections, discussing ideas, politics, pacifism, the Jewish people, science and more. I got through all of it until I reached the final part: contributions to science. Although Einstein’s writing could be dense (particularly his pre-war stuff), it was generally understandable. The science writing was beyond me. I struggled through a lot of it, but stopped when I realised that I had read entire pages that didn’t make any sense.

His writing on other topics makes for interesting reading though, and it’s particularly interesting to see his attitudes change post-war (and his writing becomes much easier to read at that point as well), but the science contributions defeated me.

Book details

ISBN: 9780285647251
Publisher: Souvenir Press
Year of publication: 1954

Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam

By Omar Khayyám

Rating: 2 stars

I’ve never really been a poetry person, and I found this short book of 75 quatrains very difficult. I still don’t think I understood a lot of it, but the general theme seemed to be about growing old and the wisdom of age. And getting pished (a fine word, used in the book itself 😉 ).

The rhyming scheme was also rather odd: the first two lines rhymed, the third didn’t and the fourth rhymed with the first two. I found it fairly difficult to follow at times, but at others, it was fine. There were also a couple of places where it was obvious that Fitzgerald was playing with language but my own weakness there held me back from understanding properly (particularly using the differences between ‘whence’ and ‘hence’ and ‘whither’ and ‘hither’).

To be honest, I really don’t think I got an awful lot out of this book.

Book details

ISBN: 9781434696656
Publisher: BiblioBazaar
Year of publication: 1859

Dreams of an Unseen Planet

By Teresa Plowright

Rating: 3 stars

On a distant planet, the birth rate is effectively zero and the colonists are getting worried about their viability. One woman, Miera, dreams of red: is the planet outside trying to contact her telepathically?

The first third or so of this book annoyed me as the protogonist was so passive. Things happened to her but she never initiated anything. It wasn’t until about a third the way through that something happened to give her a kick up the backside and she started acting. It was about then that I started to enjoy the book. The book definitely has a feminine touch, something I might call touchy-feely, which isn’t something that I read that often, but I quite enjoyed.

Book details

ISBN: 9780877958635
Publisher: Arbor House (NYC)
Year of publication: 1986

Badger On The Barge And Other Stories

By Janni Howker

Rating: 2 stars

This is a collection of short stories for children, all with the theme of relationships between old and young people. To be honest, I didn’t find any of them bar the last one particularly engaging, but I get the impression that I might have got more out of it if I had read it when I was younger.

Book details

ISBN: 9780435123130
Year of publication: 1985


By Stanislaw Lem

Rating: 2 stars

I’m really not sure what to make of this book. The first half is suspenseful and creepy, and you’re not sure what’s going on. Then it suddenly switches to quite a dry, almost academic tone, as it starts describing the history of the planet Solaris. And the ending was completely open, with no sense of closure at all. It’s probably worth reading, but I think you have to be in a certain frame of mind for it.

Book details

Publisher: Harcourt
Year of publication: 1961

Time And Stars

By Poul Anderson

Rating: 4 stars

This was an excellent collection of short stories, including the Hugo-award winning No Truce with Kings, about a future feudalistic America at war with itself and dealing with an emergence of “telepathic powers” amongst some people.

The other highlight of the book was Epilogue which in some ways foreshadows Tau Zero in that a malfunctioning spaceship is knocked far into the future, but in this case returns to Earth to find it occupied by a machine civilisation.

This collection shows that Anderson is a great writer, and I look forward to reading more of his work.

Book details

ISBN: 9780586021095
Publisher: Panther
Year of publication: 1964

The Voices Of Time

By J.G. Ballard

Rating: 2 stars

This is a collection of short stories and is just Ballard’s second book. To be honest, I didn’t particularly enjoy it. I found the writing difficult to follow in places, and the stories just didn’t particularly grab me. I was amused by the quote on the front though: “The freshest new talent in science fiction since Brian Aldiss”. It’s been an awfully long time since either Ballard or Aldiss were considered fresh and new :-).

Book details

Publisher: Berkley
Year of publication: 1962

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