Larklight (Larklight, #1)

By Philip Reeve

Rating: 4 stars

This is a fairly slight young adult steampunk novel, set sometime in the mid 19th century, about two youngsters who live in a ramshackle old house called Larklight, and what happens when a Mr Webster comes to visit. The thing is, Larklight is in orbit somewhere beyond the moon and this is a world where Isaac Newton’s theories led to engines that could sail the solar system.

This is a living solar system where every planet and most moons are inhabited by aliens and are inhabitable by humans with no need for clunky spacesuits and there is an ecology in space. It’s a very readable throwback to the 19th/early 20th century vision of what the solar system was like, with the origin of the solar system, space pirates and giant spiders thrown in for good measure.

Written in a pseudo-Victorian style, as told by young Art Mumby, with extracts from his sister’s diary, to whom these adventures happen, it’s a very enjoyable, if fairly short, read, with some lovely illustrations by David Wyatt.

Book details

ISBN: 9781599900209
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens
Year of publication: 2006

Matter’s End

By Gregory Benford

Rating: 3 stars

This is a collection of Benford’s short fiction right from when he started writing in the mid-1960s to when the book was published in the mid-1990s. There’s no unifying theme behind the collection, but I did find a sort of thread linking them. Benford seems to be no positive lover of humanity. These stories tell of very hard-boiled, often nasty, people doing whatever needs to be done in a hard-boiled, often nasty, world. I found many of the stories quite depressing in their tone and pessimism, but there were a few exceptions, such as Leviathan, about a community living inside a giant engineered space-faring life-form and the consensual reality story Sleepstory.

Benford is a good writer, whose day job of astrophysicist gives the science in his stories a good grounding in reality, but whose tone can often be too depressing for my tastes.

Book details

ISBN: 9780575062986
Year of publication: 1991

The Evil That Men Do / The Purloined Planet

By John Brunner

Rating: 3 stars

Note: my copy only included ‘The Evil That Men Do

An amateur hypnotist discovers more than he expected when he shows off his skill at a party and a young woman’s mind lies in the balance.

This feels something like a medical detective story, where the protagonist has to figure out what’s wrong with the patient before something terrible happens. It’s got that somewhat naively eager view of the power of hypnosis from the early to mid part of the last century which dates it somewhat but it’s a fairly entertaining read, as long as its read in the same way as you’d watch something like Diagnosis: Murder.

Book details

Publisher: Belmont
Year of publication: 1969

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