Dangerous Visions

By Harlan Ellison

Rating: 5 stars

This is regarded as being one of the most important SF anthologies of all time. It was written in 1967 and Ellison’s vision was a collection of stories that were dangerous, that could never have been published in the other outlets of the era, and that would expand the boundaries of the genre. He succeeded incredibly with a huge collection (33 stories) and an author list that reads like a who’s who of 1960s SF authors, including Philip K. Dick, Philip Jose Farmer, Roger Zelazny, Samuel R. Delany and many, many more.

Over the years some of the stories have lost their edge, what made them dangerous to start with (although Sturgeon’s If All Men Were Brothers, Would You Let One of The Marry Your Sister or Delany’s Aye, and Gomorrah… still bite today) but it’s still an excellent collection with many outstanding stories. I’m glad that I’ve read it, not just for itself but as a piece of SF history.

Book details

ISBN: 9780743452618
Publisher: iBooks
Year of publication: 1967

Going Postal (Discworld, #33)

By Terry Pratchett

Rating: 5 stars

Possibly my favourite New Pratchett book, the ridiculously-named Moist von Lipwig is a con-artist who is forced to go (mostly) straight as he takes over the Ankh-Morpork Post Office.

The last few chapters were particularly interesting, re-reading them in the credit crunch era, with the idea of companies too big to fail being discussed and descriptions of ‘Finance’ as the fantasy of money.

Oh yeah, and it was funny too.

Book details

ISBN: 9780552149433
Publisher: Corgi
Year of publication: 2004

For Want Of A Nail

By Melvyn Bragg

Rating: 1 star

I really didn’t enjoy this story of a boy growing up in Cumberland without the affection of his parents. I picked it up because I quite like Bragg’s radio work and wanted to see what his literary stuff was like, but on the basis of this, I won’t be reading anything else that he’s done.

The protagonist was anything but sympathetic and the sort of chap you just want to tell to snap out of it, for goodness sake. In ways it reminded me of Nausea, but although Bragg may consider that a compliment, I don’t, since I completely failed to enjoy that either.

There’s probably subtle layers of meaning and Messages to be had, but I really didn’t find it engaging enough to make it worthwhile searching for them.

Book details

ISBN: 9780340511824
Year of publication: 1965

Matter (Culture, #8)

By Iain M. Banks

Rating: 4 stars

This latest Culture novel took a while to draw me in, but it did so eventually, and pretty completely. I always enjoy Culture novels and while this one didn’t have as much of the actual Culture as I would have liked, there was enough to keep me satisfied (certainly more than Inversions).

On a world that is strange even by the standards of the Culture and its contemporaries, a prince sees something he shouldn’t, and has to flee for his live out into the galaxy to find the one or two people who can help him, one of whom is his sister, who has since become much more than she was when she left their homeworld.

Everyone knows that utopias aren’t interesting in themselves, it’s on the fringes that the stories are to be told, and Banks does it masterfully, both telling the story and showing off the cool technology that is the hallmark of good space opera. Banks’ characters are pretty well-drawn and mostly sympathetic, although it takes a while to warm to them.

A slow burner with a rather abrupt but pretty satisfying ending (although one of the strands did seem to peter out a bit as if it had served its purpose and could just be discarded). Oh and this is the first book that I’ve seen to come with DVD-style “extras”, including an interview with the author and an excerpt from Consider Phlebas.

Book details

ISBN: 9781841494180
Publisher: Orbit
Year of publication: 2008

The Inimitable Jeeves (Jeeves, #2)

By P.G. Wodehouse

Rating: 5 stars

I’ve only been a convert to Wodehouse for a few months but between the few books that I’ve read and the Fry and Laurie TV show, I’m a fervent one. This fairly slim volume contains several more adventures of the slightly daft upper-class gent and his razor-sharp manservant, including several that I recognised from the TV series, which I’m consuming with great relish.

Easy to read, and great fun, I’d highly recommend Wodehouse to anyone who hasn’t yet encountered him.

Book details

ISBN: 9780140284126
Publisher: Penguin Books
Year of publication: 1923

The Book of the Thousand Nights and One Night, Volume II

By Anonymous

Rating: 3 stars

This second volume of the collection of Arabian mythology was a bit of a mixed bag. Some of the stories were familiar (such as the tales of Sindbad the Sailor) but most weren’t. I was rather surprised by the amount and variety of sex involved, I guess I’m used to the Disney-fied versions. Towards the end of the volume I started to find the stories getting somewhat repetitive and a bit dull so I’m not sure that I wouldn’t have cut off Shahrazad’s head (the person telling the stories) before the thousand and first night

Book details

ISBN: 9780415045407
Publisher: Routledge
Year of publication: 800

A Mad World, My Masters: Tales from a Traveller’s Life

By John Cody Fidler-Simpson

Rating: 3 stars

This volume by the long-term BBC correspondent is mostly anecdotes from his working life, with each chapter covering a theme, such as travel, villains etc. Simpson comes across as someone who enjoys the finer things in life, but is happy to forego all of them if it gets him a story. I’m not entirely sure if I’d like the man himself, but there’s no denying that he’s a good raconteur, with many stories to tell from his long and interesting career.

Book details

ISBN: 9780330355674
Publisher: Pan Books (UK)
Year of publication: 2000

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