By Neil Gaiman

Rating: 4 stars

Coraline Jones is bored and feels ignored by her parents and then finds a door that leads her to an alternative home with an Other Mother and Other Father. She quickly learns the lesson that things that seem too good to be true usually are…

I’ve just re-read this for the first time in years, after seeing the film adaptation. Goodness but it’s dark, something that I’d quite forgotten! It’s quick to read, I finished it in a couple of hours but it’s quite a satisfying read.

Book details

ISBN: 9780061139376
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Year of publication: 2002

The Tower And The Cloud: Higher Education In The Age Of Cloud Computing

By Richard N. Katz

Rating: 2 stars

This book is a collection of academic essays describing the changing relationship between IT and higher education in a highly networked world (the world of the “cloud”).

I find academic writing difficult, it’s often dry and difficult to read. Why use one word when you can use half a dozen? There was probably good material in there, but I don’t think I got much out of it.

If you’re interested anyway, it’s available as a free e-book under a CC (by-nc-nd 3.0) licence from

Book details

ISBN: 9780967285399
Publisher: EDUCAUSE
Year of publication: 2008

England Made Me

By Graham Greene

Rating: 2 stars

Anthony Farrant is a loner who jumps from country to country getting and being fired from jobs. His twin sister Kate gets him a job as a bodyguard to her lover, a rich Swedish industrialist which goes okay until Farrant discovers something about his new boss that offends his sense of decency.

I really didn’t get this novel. None of the characters were particularly likeable, it wandered a lot and didn’t hold my attention particularly well. I think this may be because it was particularly character-focussed rather than plot-focussed, and I don’t cope well without a decent plot to hook on to (a problem I had with the Melvyn Bragg book I read recently as well). This perhaps says more about me than about the book, but still, I’m not sure if Greene is really someone I’ll watch out for in future.

Book details

ISBN: 9780140185515
Publisher: Penguin Classics
Year of publication: 1935

Neuromancer (Sprawl, #1)

By William Gibson

Rating: 4 stars

The archetypical cyberpunk novel, it is still fresh and very readable. Case is an ex-hacker, his ability to connect to the Matrix burned out by a toxin injected by his former employers after he double-crossed them. Out of the blue, he’s given the opportunity to get back into the game, but who is his new employer and what is his ultimate aim?

I really enjoyed this book although I think I’d need to read it again to get most out of it (I feel that about a lot of books – often the first reading is a race just to find out what happens, whereas you can appreciate the journey more second time round). Technically, I have read it before, but it was so long ago that I had no memory of it at all, so it doesn’t really count for helping appreciate the book.

The concept of computer cracking as described by Neuromancer is pretty vague and while this doesn’t spoil the book it slightly frustrates me because it makes it seem much more glamorous than it actually is.

Book details

ISBN: 9780441569595
Publisher: Ace Books
Year of publication: 1984

The Deep Range

By Arthur C. Clarke

Rating: 2 stars

After a tragedy in space, Walter Franklin finds salvation in the depths of the ocean, becoming a warden of the whales, shepherding them as they grow until they are taken to the slaughter to provide food and other resources for the world.

This wasn’t one of Clarke’s better efforts, I’m afraid. I found the pace somewhat stilted and the style unengaging (although Clarke was a keen diver himself, he doesn’t seem to have got his sense of wonder into this one). The book feels incredibly optimistic about the future of the human race, something that I normally like, but it didn’t feel real here. There was no path from the humanity of his era to the one of the book making it seem somewhat artificial.

Another thing that doesn’t usually bother me in Golden/Silver Age SF but was very obtrusive in this was the treatment of the single female character. She wasn’t just ignored the way that women usually are in these things, but it felt like she was being patronised, which really rather annoyed me.

I wouldn’t bother with this one.

Book details

ISBN: 9780575077119
Publisher: Gollancz (Orion)
Year of publication: 1957

Odd John

By Olaf Stapledon

Rating: 4 stars

This book concerns the brief flourishing of a utopian society founded by a small group of Übermensch, the chief of whom is John Wainwright, the ‘odd John’ of the title. The book is framed as a biography of John by a devoted friend.

Stapledon spends the first half using the adolescent John to examine modern society and, as in other of his works, finds us wanting. He then describes John’s efforts to find others like him and the group founding a small colony in the south Pacific, before its inevitable conflict with the normal species and its destruction.

A thoroughly enjoyable story with hints that his later work Star Maker might have been a narrative inspired by John and his colleagues.

Book details

ISBN: 9780824014377
Publisher: Garland Publishing
Year of publication: 1935

Powered by WordPress