Paranormality: Why We See What Isn’t There

By Richard Wiseman

Rating: 4 stars

In this book, Wiseman discusses the not only the ‘how’ but also the ‘why’ of the supernatural – explanations coming from Human psychology, as we examine the rational explanations behind fortune telling, out of body experiences, mind over matter, talking with the dead, ghosts, mind control and prophecy. I learned a lot from this book and Wiseman’s writing style is informal and engaging, making the book very readable. And the addition of QR Codes to link to further content on the Internet is a nice touch. Useful to arm myself against kooky relatives.

Book details

ISBN: 9780230752986
Publisher: Macmillan
Year of publication: 2010

Mission To The Stars

By A.E. van Vogt

Rating: 3 stars

In the Greater Magallenic Cloud, the people of the Fifty Suns have hidden themselves since their flight from Earth 15,000 years ago. Now a mighty battleship, the Star Cluster has come to find them and make them, by whatever means necessary, rejoin the Terran Empire.

This book follows themes that readers of van Vogt will be familiar with: that of the hidden group of supermen within a civilisation. While being no ‘Null-A’, the story is nonetheless interesting and kicks along at a decent pace. One thing that I liked about it was that no one group were the clear cut heroes and villains. While the protagonist was very much the hero, he had a foot in the camps of each of the groups and all of them were portrayed sympathetically and not so much as the story went on.

Book details

ISBN: 9780425019733
Publisher: Berkley
Year of publication: 1952

Farewell, My Lovely (Philip Marlowe, #2)

By Raymond Chandler

Rating: 4 stars

This is the first time I’ve read a Chandler novel and I came away quite impressed. The prose and plot seemed a little more polished than The Maltese Falcon, the last hardboiled PI noir novel I read and I think I enjoyed it more. It’s still a case of following the journey rather than picking up the clues as they’re sprinkled but I found Marlowe a more likeable protagonist than Sam Spade, even if it was a bit disconcerting that the first time he went into a room he would spend several paragraphs describing the soft furnishings :).

Marlowe starts a routine case and follows a really big guy into a rundown bar out of curiosity. From there, he gets involved with murder, jewel thieves, blackmail, murder, gambling and more murder.

Marlowe’s quick wit and dry (and often very dark) sense of humour appealed to me and I’d certainly like to read more of Chandler’s novels.

Book details

ISBN: 9780140007015
Publisher: Penguin
Year of publication: 1940

City At The End Of Time

By Greg Bear

Rating: 3 stars

In an unimaginably distant future the threads of reality are finally starting to fall apart into a Chaos where the laws of physics break down. But this isn’t the natural end of Everything, but a potentiality known as the Typhon that is preying on the old Universe in its attempt to create a new one. Life is eventually beaten back to The Kalpa, the last city in existence, which fights back against the Typhon with reality generators to keep the Chaos at bay. Meanwhile, in present day Seattle three young people, fate-shifters with the ability to move between realities following the best fate lines for themselves, are drawn together, all dreaming of a city at the end of time.

This is a very dense book with lots of characters and even more ideas. The main characters in the present day felt a bit like ciphers to me, getting neither much character development nor much insight into their powers and how they’ve used them in the past (apart from ‘bad shepherd’ Daniel who doesn’t dream of a city, but merely a blank emptiness). By contrast, the villainous Glaucous and the enigmatic Mr Bidewell are much more interesting and feel like they’re fleshed out more, even though they’re just supporting characters.

The structure of the book is odd too, with threads coming together into what feels like a climax about half way through the book, before continuing without that much tension or pace for another 250 pages. The conclusion in particular left me feeling a little “what, was that it?” with many questions either being left unanswered or answered in such an oblique way that they might as well not have bothered.

If I’m sounding somewhat negative here, I don’t intend to be, I did enjoy the book as a whole, but I am frustrated by it as well and think that Bear could have done better.

Book details

ISBN: 9780575081895
Year of publication: 2008

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