Soul Music (Discworld, #16)

By Terry Pratchett

Rating: 4 stars

It’s obviously been a long time since I read this book since the last time I read it, I didn’t get the Blues Brothers jokes, and it’s been over a decade now since I first saw The Blues Brothers. I’m sure there are still many other musical jokes that I missed, but that doesn’t stop the book being funny and great fun to read.

This is the Discworld book that introduces Susan Sto Helit, who is forced to take over the family business when her grandfather (Death) goes AWOL just as a new form of music is sweeping the Sto Plains.

I find this book great fun and easy to read. The old favourites are there but haven’t yet become stale, and Susan hasn’t had a chance to become really irritating yet. The main characters are fun, the puns are fired scattergun but there’s also some depth to the plot that captivates you. Recommended.

Book details

ISBN: 9780552140294
Publisher: Corgi Books
Year of publication: 1994

A Century of Science Fiction

By Damon Knight

Rating: 3 stars

The oldest story in this collection is from about the 1860s and the newest from the 1960s so it does pretty much what it says on the tin. Each story has an introduction written by Knight and it contains stories by all the greats of the era, ranging from Mark Twain and H. G. Wells, through Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke to Marion Zimmer Bradley and Frank Herbert.

The stories neatly show how the genre has evolved over the decades, from the not-quite-supernatural stories of the middle of the 19th century to the hard science of the 20th. The stories have more than just historical value though, and remain enjoyable, fun and sometimes moving, even today. Poul Anderson’s Call Me Joe and Edgar Pangborn’s Angel Egg are probably my favourites in the collection, although the former shows its age when a character comments that native Jovians would probably never have invented radio because “think how thick the vacuum tubes would have to be” :).

Book details

ISBN: 9780848805548
Publisher: Amereon Ltd
Year of publication: 1962

Riverworld and other stories


Rating: 4 stars

Although I’ve read this collection before, it was many years ago and coming to it afresh, particular after I’ve read more of Farmer’s work, was a satisfying experience. Re-reading Riverworld after To Your Scattered Bodies Go, makes for a very good read, since I had more of an idea of what the Riverworld was and how the rules of the world worked and the story itself still holds up.

The other stories in the collection also mostly stand up. The Henry Miller Dawn Patrol is a hilarious story set in an old-people’s home while The Problem of Sore Bridge – Among Others is a pseudo-Holmesian story, although the protagonists are rather on the opposite side of the law. I couldn’t quite get into his William-Burroughs-does-Edgar-Rice-Burroughs Tarzan pastiche but most of the others hit their mark. A good collection.

Book details

ISBN: 9780425064870
Publisher: Berkley
Year of publication: 1979

Dark Alchemy: Magical Tales From Masters Of Modern Fantasy

By Jack Dann

Rating: 3 stars

This is a collection of fantasy short stories with contributions from Neil Gaiman, Garth Nix, Orson Scott Card and many more. I’m not normally much of a fantasy reader so it took me a while to work through the book but it certainly had its share of excellent stories. The last story in the collection, Orson Scott Card’s Stonefather was particularly enjoyable, even if it did have a farm boy going out to seek his fortune and discovering fabulous magical powers… Nancy Kress’s Stone Man and Tanith Lee’s Zinder also get an honourable mention.

An enjoyable enough collection to dip into.

Book details

ISBN: 9780747590569
Year of publication: 2007

S is for Space

By Ray Bradbury

Rating: 3 stars

This collection of short stories was a companion piece to R is for Rocket which I read last year and adored. I found this cheap on Ebay and was really looking forward to reading it. Unfortunately, I came away somewhat disappointed. This is almost the antithesis of Rocket in that where that book looked to the future joyously and used the rocket as a symbol of exploration and freedom, this book feels dystopian, and almost bitter and anti-scientific in a way. I wondered if it was because of when the stories were written, in the ’40s and ’50s and the influence of the War, but looking back at Rocket the stories there were from about the same time.

Technically these stories are great, perhaps not all Bradbury at his best but stories like Time in Thy Flight (about a school trip in a time machine), The Million-Year Picnic (a family escape Earth for Mars just before the atomic war breaks out) and The Smile (a boy is touched by art in a post-apocalyptic future) show Bradbury’s talent in full swing but are also all, in their own way, somewhat dystopian.

Overall, these are more cautionary tales and backward-looking fables than the exciting, forward-looking Rocket. I preferred the former the former, but depending on your temperament you may prefer this one.

Book details

ISBN: 9780553232486
Publisher: Bantam Books
Year of publication: 1966

Unnatural History (Pax Britannia, #1)

By Jonathan Green

Rating: 2 stars

In a few months Britain and her colonies will celebrate the 160th anniversary of the rule of Queen Victoria, but there are those plotting to bring down London and the Empire with it. It’s up to Ulysses Quicksilver, gentleman adventurer and Agent of the Throne, to trace the plot from its source at the break-in at the Natural History Museum to its horrifying conclusion.

This is a steampunk type book set in a 1990s where the British Empire never ended and Queen Victoria is still on the throne and first in the Pax Britannia series by an author more well-known for his adventure game books. The idea in this book was sound but the execution felt clumsy. The writing style felt like a new author still finding his feet, even though Green is by no means a novice. Quicksilver is likeable enough, but he seems to be walking through a land full of cliché, from the unflappable butler to the moustache-twirling villain and femme fatale. An all-round ‘meh’ then: could do better.

Book details

ISBN: 9781905437108
Publisher: Abaddon Books
Year of publication: 2007

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