Lord Kelvin’s Machine (Narbondo, #3)

By James P. Blaylock

Rating: 2 stars

The tagline for this book — “do unto others before they do unto you… with a time machine!” — should really have given me some warning as to the quality, but I was too excited by the title to notice. Langdon St. Ives is a scientist to wants to get hold of the titular machine before the dastardly Ignacio Narbondo to save his wife.

Written in a faux-Victorian style, and set in the 19th century, this book completely failed to interest me. It was okay, but the style wasn’t authentic enough to feel like what it was trying to be and the writing wasn’t strong enough to carry off the story. And the (American) author completely fails to understand cricket.

When there’s so many better books in the world, I wouldn’t bother wasting my time reading this one.

Book details

ISBN: 9780441499724
Publisher: Ace
Year of publication: 1992

Freedom from Fear

By Aung San Suu Kyi

Rating: 3 stars

This is a collection of essays by and about the Burmese pro-democracy activist. It’s split into three sections, the first being essays that she wrote before becoming politically active. This contains a biography of her father, the man regarded as the father of the modern Burma; a history of the country written for a younger audience; a comparison of colonialism in Burma and India; and a review of Burmese literature and nationalism. This section shows that she’s an intelligent and intelligible writer with a wide range, but it’s the second section where she comes into her own. This is a collection of speeches and essays after her political activism began. Apart from one very dry and difficult piece about economics, peace and development, they’re all very clearly written and her passion and drive come through clearly. The final section is a series of appreciations of Aung San Suu Kyi written by other people.

The most heartbreaking thing about this book is that it was published in the mid 90s, and more than a decade later nothing has changed. Aung San Suu Kyi is still under house arrest, the military are still in control and it doesn’t look like they’re going to give up any time soon. Reading her words, her optimism and hope shine through: she really believed that the military would talk to her and accept the mandate of the people where her party won over 80% of the seats contested.

This book shows that Aung San Suu Kyi is an intelligent, strong and incredibly capable woman. She’s been called Burma’s Gandhi and I hope that she lives to see her dream of Burma’s transition to a democratic state.

Book details

ISBN: 9780140253177
Publisher: Penguin Books
Year of publication: 1991

Jigs & Reels

By Joanne Harris

Rating: 3 stars

This is a collection of short stories, some SF and some non-genre. The ratio of hits to misses is really high and I enjoyed the collection as a whole. The stories went from whimsical and gentle to dark to sad. A great collection to dip into.

Book details

ISBN: 9780060590147
Publisher: Harper Perennial
Year of publication: 2004

Five Children and It (Five Children #1)

By E. Nesbit

Rating: 2 stars

The eponymous five children find a sand-fairy in a gravel pit that promises to give them wishes that last until sunset. Hilarity ensues as the wishes, predictably, go horribly wrong.

I dunno, this book didn’t do an awful lot for me. The children were too prim and “good”, the narrator’s voice was annoying and the episodic nature of the book (each chapter is about one wish) just didn’t work. I enjoyed it when I was younger but the adult me can’t ignore all the little things that bug me.

It did, though, make me slightly nostalgic for the days when kids could carry penknives as a matter of course and not be thought of as criminals waiting to happen.

Book details

ISBN: 9780140367355
Publisher: Puffin
Year of publication: 1902

The Demolished Man

By Alfred Bester

Rating: 4 stars

Millionaire industrialist Ben Reich sets out to commit murder, in a world guarded by the telepaths of the Esper Guild. Can he get away with it and avoid the terrible penalty of Demolition?

This was an amazing book. The characters are well drawn, as is the thumbnail sketch of the society of this future world. The Esper Guild is clearly a prototype for Babylon 5’s PsiCorp (something that JMS acknowledged when he named everyone’s favourite Psi Cop), although it is less conniving and more working for the good of humanity, with a strict code of ethics.

Ben Reich is a fascinating character, well built up in layers and feels very human, but always running from the Man With No Face. You almost want him to get away with it… although you also feel for his nemesis, the telepathic police prefect Lincoln Powell, whose warm humour and intelligence make him a very likeable character.

The story is strong, the writing is excellent and it’s a page turner in the best sense. Highly recommended.

Book details

ISBN: 9781857988222
Publisher: Millenium
Year of publication: 1953

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