Hot Sleep (Worthing, #2)

By Orson Scott Card

Rating: 4 stars

Jason Worthing is one of the greatest starship pilots in the fleet. He is also a telepath, something forbidden under imperial law. When a rebellion against the empire goes wrong, the rebels are forced to become colonists to the furthest colony ever established by mankind – and the colony is to be led by Worthing!

I really enjoyed this book. Although Worthing is nominally the title character, we rarely see anything from his point of view. We see things from the point of view of those around him and see what he does being reflected in them. The book also suddenly turns upside down with a twist half way through that I certainly wasn’t expecting which changes the tone completely.

Very readable and a great adventure. I may not agree with Card’s philosophy and politics but he still writes a cracking yarn.

Book details

ISBN: 9780441343454
Publisher: Ace
Year of publication: 1979

Do You Think You’re Clever?: The Oxbridge Questions

By John Farndon

Rating: 2 stars

This is a compilation of questions from Oxbridge entrance examinations, from various departments and the author’s own answers to them. He specifically doesn’t suggest that his answers are canonical but are for discussion only and some of them may make for interesting pub debate but I ultimately found the book unsatisfying. It wasn’t that I disagreed with some of the answers, which is to be expected, but it ultimately felt a bit vague and unfocussed.

Book details

ISBN: 9781848310834
Publisher: Icon Books Ltd
Year of publication: 2009

Unnatural Causes (Adam Dalgliesh #3)

By P.D. James

Rating: 3 stars

This is an oddly meta-fictional whodunnit, with the victim being a writer of detective fiction, whose corpse is seen in the first chapter floating on a boat off the Sussex coast in exactly the same manner (and words) as a character later says she mentioned to the victim as a good opening chapter for a detective novel…

I enjoyed this novel where Superintendent Adam Dalgliesh takes a holiday to visit his aunt in a small coastal village in Sussex, and being unable to get away from his day job. It described small-town mentality rather well, and showed how different British life was, even fifty years ago, not to mention the lack of empathy shown to the disabled, with one character constantly being referred to (both in the narrative and within the story) as a cripple, for being in a wheelchair.

As usual, I completely failed to figure out whodunnit, but I don’t feel so bad this time, since a major clue was hidden until the very end.

Book details

ISBN: 9780571204106
Publisher: Penguin Books in association with Faber & Faber
Year of publication: 1967

To Perpetual Peace: A Philosophical Sketch

By Immanuel Kant

Rating: 3 stars

In this short pamphlet, Kant lays out his thoughts on how to achieve permanent peace between nation states. Although I found some of it hard going, particularly the first supplement, some of it is very forward-looking, placing Kant very ahead of his time. He says, for example, that standing armies should be wound down and eventually abolished and that there should be no foreign debt between nations – ideas that are radical even today! Very interesting and thought-provoking stuff.

Book details

ISBN: 9780872206915
Publisher: Hackett Publishing Company, Inc.
Year of publication: 1795

Halting State (Halting State, #1)

By Charles Stross

Rating: 4 stars

It’s the very near future and Sergeant Sue Smith has been called in to deal with a bank robbery. Except there’s a problem: neither the bank nor the items stolen from it actually exist, but are constructs in a multiplayer online roleplaying game. Soon, though, real dead bodies start popping up and it appears that nothing is as it seems.

I really enjoyed most of this book, although it does have some oddities, primarily to do with its structure. The book is told entirely in the second person (so it’s always you who are doing the action) with three protagonists, taking it chapter about. It takes a while to figure it out, but it works oddly well. It probably helps that there’s a bit of a roleplaying tone to the book which is appropriate to a book about roleplaying…

I loved the near-future Scottish (mostly Edinburgh with a trip to Glasgow) post-independence setting with some really funky technology. Apart from the quantum processor and the augmented-reality glasses, there’s nothing here that isn’t a direct line from where we are at the moment, from the police life-recorders that record everything they see to location-based services on your phone to help you find the closest wine-bar!

The only real problem I had with the book was the slightly rushed and clunky feel to the ending. I had enjoyed the build-up, with a high-level uber-geek being brought in by the auditors to help figure out how the cryptographic hashes that represented the items in the game had been stolen but it ended up in a very different, much wider-scale, place and although I think it worked, there was a little too much infodumping towards the end, to help the reader keep up with what was going on.

Book details

ISBN: 9781841496658
Publisher: Orbit
Year of publication: 2007

Brief Lives (The Sandman, #7)

By Neil Gaiman

Rating: 4 stars

Possibly the most linear of all the Sandman stories, this volume has Dream and his sister Delirium searching for their lost brother. It also has themes on life and how no matter how long or short your life is, it’s all the same (Death says this at one point, “you got the same as everyone else: a lifetime”). A wonderful story about life, death and change, it feels melancholy all the way through (but that might just be future knowledge creeping in).

Book details

ISBN: 9781852865771
Year of publication: 1994

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