Vive La Revolution

By Mark Steel

Rating: 4 stars

I don’t know a huge amount about the French revolution, so this book was just the thing. If you’ve ever heard/seen of the Mark Steel Lectures, then you’ll know exactly what style to expect, and what slant he’s going to put on things. His thesis is that that revolution has been unfairly maligned by mainstream history and this is an attempt to redress the balance.

I enjoy Steel’s writing, his voice comes out clearly, his anecdotes and analogies fit well and his narrative is clear. If I had a criticism, it would be that he ended the book too quickly, spending much more time on the start of the revolution than its end. Other than that, it’s a great book.

Book details

ISBN: 9780743208062
Publisher: Scribner Book Company
Year of publication: 2003

A Circus of Hells (Flandry)

By Poul Anderson

Rating: 2 stars

This is a story about two empires in microcosm, seen through the eyes of Lieutenant Dominic Flandry as the empire of Man wanes and that of Merseia waxes. Flandry is on a routine survey mission (with a bit of “unofficial” work on the side for a local crime boss) when he is captured by a Merseian vessel.

The book had an odd feel to it. None of the characters were hugely sympathetic and the dry tone of the writing didn’t help make me warm to any of them. I was slightly disappointed by this, since I’ve really enjoyed Anderson’s other work.

Book details

ISBN: 9780451042507
Publisher: Roc
Year of publication: 1970

Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman

By Haruki Murakami

Rating: 2 stars

I didn’t hugely enjoy this collection of short stories, to be honest. I found the style difficult going, although either it changed as it went on, or I adapted to it, since I found some of the later stories better than the earlier ones. Some of the stories were mainstream, some verged into fantasy but either way, most of them just ambled along, zigzagged for a bit and then just stopped, having had no point, or even a story. Either that, or I’m just not getting them. I also found them a bit “gofffff” for me in places. Whining about the woes of life; I just wanted to scream at some of the protagonists to just get on with it. And what’s with Murakami’s aversion to names? Many of the stories seem to go out of their way to avoid naming anyone.

Bron recommended the last story (“A Shinagawa Monkey”) in particular and that one was actually quite good. But not good enough to make up for a disappointing collection.

Book details

ISBN: 9781400044610
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf
Year of publication: 2006

Not the Only Planet: Science Fiction Travel Stories

By Damien Broderick

Rating: 3 stars

The short stories in this collection are linked by the theme of travel, something not unexpected from the publishers, Lonely Planet. There were a couple of stories that felt familiar, one, Let’s Go to Golgotha!, that I had definitely read before (but is definitely worth reading), and some very good ones. In particular I’d pick out Gene Wolfe’s Seven American Nights for its wonderful descriptions and language and Robert Silverberg’s Trips for its wanderlust, ideas and general coolness. Definitely a collection to that’s worth reading even if, like me, you’re a confirmed stay-at-home type.

Book details

ISBN: 9780864425829
Publisher: Lonely Planet Australia
Year of publication: 1998

Television Mythologies: Stars, Shows and Signs

By Masterman Len

Rating: 2 stars

I found this book of essays on television going cheap in a University Library book sale and picked it up out of curiosity. I found that a lot of it seemed to be pompous academic waffling, finding the symbolism in One Man and his Dog and so forth. It was written in the early ’80s and is very much of its time, with several essays talking about the then-contemporary miners’ strike.

A couple of the essays still have resonance today, such as the description of how the BBC and ITV treated the disturbance at Orgreave. The BBC often comes in for criticism — inevitable as it was the biggest target of its time, a slow-moving behemoth. Still, I’d be curious to read an updated version, since TV has changed so much in the 20+ years since this book was first published.

Book details

ISBN: 9780415037006
Publisher: Routledge
Year of publication: 1987

2010: Odyssey Two (Space Odyssey, #2)

By Arthur C. Clarke

Rating: 5 stars

I loved this book. Much like its predecessor it shared a sense of wonder at the universe around us. You could just imagine Clarke at his typewriting being amazing and awed at everything around him, and it fills every sentence in his work.

A decade after Dave Bowman’s last message, a joint US-Soviet expedition is sent to retrieve the Discovery. This is the story of what happens to them when they get there.

The writing is wonderful, the characters, although still sketches, are more rounded than 2001 and Hal’s last message still sends a shiver down my spine…

Book details

ISBN: 9780586056998
Publisher: Voyager
Year of publication: 1982

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