By Brian W. Aldiss

Rating: 3 stars

Roy Complain escapes from the village that is his home with a renagade priest to discover the mystery of their world: the ship. This is a story of a generation ship gone horribly wrong. The story plays out slowly, too slowly, I felt. I got slightly frustrated at the slow pace of the early parts of the book, with things only really coming together enough to make sense in the last quarter or so. And the strange combination of a primitive society living in the remnants of a technological marvel never quite gelled for me. But there was lots to enjoy in the book: Aldiss is an excellent writer and the writing is very pleasant to read.

Book details

ISBN: 9781585676835
Publisher: Harry N. Abrams
Year of publication: 1958

The Broken Sword

By Poul Anderson

Rating: 3 stars

Although not a big fantasy fan, I very much enjoyed this tale of swords and sorcery with its nordic gods steeped in England. It’s the contemporary of The Lord of the Rings, published in the same year as Fellowship and it has a similar feel to it, down to the use of verse, although this feels ‘harder’ than LOTR, with more of an edge to it. Anderson is certainly a versatile writer, spanning the spectrum from heroic fantasy (this book) to hard science fiction (Tau Zero, which I read a couple of months ago). Recommended.

Book details

ISBN: 9780575074255
Publisher: Gollancz / Orion
Year of publication: 1954

Homage to Catalonia

By George Orwell

Rating: 3 stars

I enjoyed this memoir of Orwell’s time serving in the fight against fascism during the Spanish Civil War. This is a book I’ve been meaning to read for a while but it wasn’t until it turned up on the reading list for a course on the Spanish Civil War that I’m doing in December which gave me the kick to read it.

One problem that I, having no prior knowledge whatsoever of the War, found is that Orwell throws you right into it, with very little background. I found myself googling various acronyms that he splattered through without explanation. The book is a very good memoir of the war as he saw it, and the problems that he encountered, both military and political, but I wouldn’t recommend it for an overview of the Spanish Civil War.

Book details

ISBN: 9780156421171
Publisher: Harcourt, Inc.(Harvest Book)
Year of publication: 1938

The Ballad of Halo Jones

By Alan Moore

Rating: 4 stars

This is the collected edition of the Ballad of Halo Jones from the comic 2000AD. It contains 3 parts, although the series was supposed to stretch to 9, the rest were never made. The eponymous heroine leaves earth at the end of the first part to “experience everything”. The tone of the story is such that both men and women can find it equally interesting to read and it’s billed as a feminist space opera. Definitely worth reading, although the first part was the least interesting. Stick with it.

Book details

ISBN: 9781401205904
Publisher: DC Comics
Year of publication: 1991

The Dark Side of the Earth

By Alfred Bester

Rating: 2 stars

I’ve heard a lot of good things about Afred Bester, but this early collection of short stories didn’t really justify it. Only one of the collection (The Flowered Thundermug) was memorable. The rest were average to uninteresting, and there was an undertone of sexism running through the stories that I didn’t hugely like either. I’m still going to read The Demolished Man at some point though.

Book details

ISBN: 9780451024749
Publisher: Signet
Year of publication: 1964


By Kim Stanley Robinson

Rating: 2 stars

This is a book about memory, and what happens to it when humans start living four or five times their “natural” lifespan. Set in the solar system in the 22nd and 25th centuries, a giant monument is found on Pluto. Could it be the key to a forgotten rebellion on Mars?

Even early in his career, Robinson (who would later write the Mars Trilogy) seemed interested in Mars, hence a large chunk of this book being set there, and some aspects of the later series being foreshadowed here. The book raises interesting questions about what we can trust when memory fails us, but I found the conclusion open and unsatisfying.

Book details

ISBN: 9780312866099
Publisher: Orb Books
Year of publication: 1984

The Left Hand of Darkness (Hainish Cycle #4)

By Ursula K. Le Guin

Rating: 4 stars

Genly Ai is an envoy from the Ekumen of worlds to the frozen planet Gethen, bringing them news of life beyond their world and an offer to join the Ekumen. He is met with fear, distrust and betrayal. This is his story.

I really enjoyed this book, particularly the societies of Gethen: different to the rest of humanity due to being androgynous, apart from a couple of days of the month. LeGuin uses Ai as a means to look into this society and how humanity might be different because of it. It’s also a cracking story.

Highly recommended.

Book details

Publisher: Ace
Year of publication: 1969

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