Notes from a Small Island

By Bill Bryson

Rating: 5 stars

This was a fantastic book. Bill Bryson gives us a look at Britain from the perspective of an outsider, but one who really loves this country. His traipse around Britain before he returns to America for a couple of years is poignant and always very entertaining. Okay, so he has his rose-tinted glasses firmly on and at times presents a very Olde Worlde picture of the country, but it’s done with such love and affection that you don’t mind

Book details

ISBN: 9780771017049
Publisher: McClelland & Stewart
Year of publication: 1995

The Stars My Destination

By Alfred Bester

Rating: 4 stars

Gully Foyle spends 6 months trapped in the remains of a spaceship in deep space and manages to escape to get revenge on those who left him to die. This is a book that very successfully mixes another “what if” (what if the ability to teleport was inherent in every human?) with a very human story of revenge and self-discovery. Highly recommended.

Book details

ISBN: 9780679767800
Publisher: Vintage
Year of publication: 1955

The Fifth Head of Cerberus

By Gene Wolfe

Rating: 2 stars

This is a book about twin planets, on one of which the human colonists wiped out the native intelligent species. Or did they? Perhaps the natives wiped out the colonists and took their place as shapeshifters. Frankly, I still don’t know. There are three stories that make up this book and I didn’t really like or understand any of them. I don’t know if this is just me being a bit dense or what, but I didn’t enjoy this book at all.

Book details

ISBN: 9780312890209
Publisher: Orb Books
Year of publication: 1972

The Fellowship of the Talisman

By Clifford D. Simak

Rating: 3 stars

This was a much better fantasy than Simak’s earlier novel, Out of their Minds. The plot is quite slight with a quest and a heroic prince who gathers an eclectic band of followers, but the characters are all well-sketched and the journey is entertaining, although the end feels very rushed.

Book details

ISBN: 9780891905219
Publisher: Amereon Ltd
Year of publication: 1978

Momentum: The Struggle for Peace, Politics and the People

By Mo Mowlam

Rating: 4 stars

These are the political memoirs of Mo Mowlam, detailing her time in Northern Ireland (including the time before government when she was Shadow NI minister) and afterwards in the Cabinet Office. She’s a very good writer, with a personal style that still gets across everything that she wants to clearly. She pulls few punches and makes it clear that she was forced out of the Northern Ireland office while she still felt that she had a lot to contribute to the process. I was reading this just at the time that Sinn Fein announced that they were considering support for the PSNI and I thought how much she’s still missed. I hadn’t realised that people had wanted her to stand against Blair for leader of the party in 2001. That would have been very interesting. I wonder what Britain under its first woman PM would have been like?

Book details

ISBN: 9780340793954
Year of publication: 2002

A Dream of Wessex

By Christopher Priest

Rating: 3 stars

I have to admit that I approached this book with some trepidation, having not really liked The Separation, but I enjoyed this quite a lot. It’s about a group of scientists who explore the nature of reality by creating their own “projected” world and living in it, with alternate personalities for months at a time. A nice little piece about the nature of reality, and a good human story of conflict with one of the participants having to deal with an abusive ex-boyfriend. The end was confusing, but when you get layers of reality like this, it often is. It could probably do with a re-read.

Book details

ISBN: 9780330255431
Publisher: Pan Books
Year of publication: 1977

The Best of All Possible Worlds

By Spider Robinson

Rating: 3 stars

Larry Niven opened up his Known Space universe to others to write about a war between Man and the Kzin, a warlike catlike race. This book contains four of the best of these stories. The first two are by Niven himself to introduce the universe and the war but the second two, by Greg Bear and Jerry Pournelle respectively (both co-authored with S. M. Stirling) are arguably the better, not having to set up the exposition with Pournelle’s novella (taking up about half the book) being the best of the bunch. An interesting universe and maybe worth digging into further.

Book details

ISBN: 9780441054831
Publisher: Ace Books

The Gods Themselves

By Isaac Asimov

Rating: 4 stars

Another of Asimov’s classics that I hadn’t got around to reading until now. A chance encounter leads to a potentially limitless clean energy source, but is there a dark side that could destroy the world? This book gives Asimov a chance to show his chemistry background, and is science fiction at its purest: take one “what if” and run with it and see where it takes you. In this case, what if an element came into our universe from another where the laws of physics are ever-so-slightly different (a stronger Strong nuclear force). A very entertaining book and a great example of good science fiction.

Book details

ISBN: 9781857989342
Publisher: Millenium
Year of publication: 1972

My Year of Meats

By Ruth Ozeki

Rating: 4 stars

Book details

ISBN: 9780140280463

The Chronicles of Amber (The Chronicles of Amber, #1-5)

By Roger Zelazny

Rating: 3 stars

Amber is the only ‘real’ world, casting ‘shadows’ that its royal family can manipulate to travel through. Now the King has vanished and the royal family is tearing itself apart for succession to the throne, whilst being menaced by powerful foes. Can they survive, or will the forces of chaos destroy the universe?

This series of five books started off slowly. I almost gave up after the second book, but I’m glad that I persevered since it picked up the pace with book three and got going. Worth reading, but you have to stick with it.

Book details

ISBN: 9781857987263
Publisher: Gollancz
Year of publication: 1978

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