The Goodall Mutiny

By Gretchen Rix

Rating: 1 star

I did not enjoy this book at all. It’s about an officer and a bunch of her subordinates abandoned as half their spaceship is jettisoned by the captain. We’re introduced to Lieutenant Joan Chikage as she’s searching for escaped beetles, and it never starts making more sense after that. Chikage is neurotic, completely out of her depth, unable to command her crew and undermines her own authority all the time. Her internal monologue doesn’t exactly help the reader sympathise with her either.

There’s a huge amount left unexplained here, and stuff that just doesn’t make any sense. This should have been an intriguing mystery, but it’s left completely open at the end, with no sense of closure or any questions answered. There’s a sequel, which may answer some questions, but I just don’t care. It was just bloody-mindedness that kept me going through this book and I have no desire to read more about Chikage or her universe.

Book details

Publisher: Rix Cafe Texican
Year of publication: 2016


By Lauren Beukes

Rating: 1 star

This is a near-future cyberpunk-based dystopia set in South Africa where four people from disparate spheres of life are drawn together in a web of mystery and intrigue.

This was a free book that was in the con pack at Eastercon, and it’s not one that I would have picked for myself. It’s brutal, packs a punch and realistically disturbing. It postulates a society where having your phone locked as punishment means more than just not being able to make calls. The society is rigged so that public transport, money, access to your own home are done through your phone, and if the corporates and the government control that, they control your life. Our smartphones aren’t there yet, but connect the phones to something like London’s Oyster Card system, and you’re getting pretty close.

What I felt was going a little OTT was the ‘diffusers’ – tasers built into the phones by law that can be activated remotely by the police with hardly any checks and balances, and the releasing of a deadly virus as crowd control – only the authorities have the antidote so if you don’t want to die, you have to hand yourself in.

I didn’t find any of the characters particularly sympathetic, from the obnoxious journalist/blogger off his head on drugs to the rigidly idealistic anti-capitalist, which meant there was no real entry point that made me care about the story, apart from it being a sick world that I really wouldn’t want to live in.

Useful as a cautionary tale about the possible downsides to the heady mix of technology and corporate interests that makes up so much of modern life, but certainly not something I’ll read again.

Book details

ISBN: 9780007323890
Publisher: Angry Robot
Year of publication: 2008

The Last Theorem

By Arthur C. Clarke

Rating: 1 star

I’m a big fan of Arthur C. Clarke, but 3001 The Final Odyssey and now this have tested my loyalty. Both were written in the latter years of Sir Arthur’s life (The Last Theorem was the last book published before his death) and both had good ideas that were poorly executed.

The EM shockwave of Earth’s nuclear tests spread into space and eventually reach a race of mega-beings, called the Grand Galactics who immediately dispatch one of their client races to eliminate this upstart race. Meanwhile, young mathematician Ranjit Subramanian discovers a short, elegant proof to Fermat’s Last Theorem and becomes embroiled in a secret organisation.

I really wanted to like this book, there were many good ideas but the writing was very poor, the pacing was very uneven and the characterisation was thin. The galactic invasion plot and the Earth-based plots never really meshed properly and the end was a complete mess, with no tension having been built up, and the conclusion just happens out of nowhere, leaving me wondering if a chapter or two had been missed out.

A disappointing end to a long and fruitful career.

Book details

ISBN: 9780007290024
Publisher: Voyager
Year of publication: 2008

The Big X

By Hank Searls

Rating: 1 star

Mitch Westerly is a test pilot on the Big X project, testing the fastest aircraft ever built, but somewhere around mach 6 he feels the craft wobble under him, and over the course of the book his project manager pushes him relentlessly to try and repeat the effect that he doesn’t believe exists.

This was more soap opera than anything else, and annoyed me because of it. It also felt very of its time, the social mores of the 1950s feeling quite alien to what we’re used to today in terms of relationships. I didn’t find the characters hugely interesting and the soap opera relationship elements fell flat for me because of it. Probably not one to read again.

Book details

ISBN: 9780722176863
Publisher: Sphere Books
Year of publication: 1959

Rogue Star

By Frederik Pohl

Rating: 1 star

This book is set some distance in the future from Starchild, after the Plan of Man has collapsed. Humanity has entered the galactic community (although they’re still regarded as barely civilised) and many humans have joined with a group of sentient stars as parts of a group mind. Andreas Quamodian is a Monitor of the Companions of the Star – not part of the group mind, but working for it and doing what it cannot do. A call from Molly Zaldivar, the woman he loves but who has left him, brings him back to Earth to try and stop an ex-colleague from creating an artificially sentient star – one that could go rogue and try to destroy the whole solar system and beyond.

This was easily the weakest in the ‘Starchild’ trilogy with an incoherent plot, unlikeable characters and poor characterisation. Quamodian spends large chunks of the book running around being a lovestruck buffoon and throwing hissy fits whenever something gets in his way. I didn’t particularly enjoy this one.

Book details

ISBN: 9780234776315
Publisher: Dennis Dobson
Year of publication: 1969

For Want Of A Nail

By Melvyn Bragg

Rating: 1 star

I really didn’t enjoy this story of a boy growing up in Cumberland without the affection of his parents. I picked it up because I quite like Bragg’s radio work and wanted to see what his literary stuff was like, but on the basis of this, I won’t be reading anything else that he’s done.

The protagonist was anything but sympathetic and the sort of chap you just want to tell to snap out of it, for goodness sake. In ways it reminded me of Nausea, but although Bragg may consider that a compliment, I don’t, since I completely failed to enjoy that either.

There’s probably subtle layers of meaning and Messages to be had, but I really didn’t find it engaging enough to make it worthwhile searching for them.

Book details

ISBN: 9780340511824
Year of publication: 1965

Mr Jones’ Rules For The Modern Man

By Dylan Jones

Rating: 1 star

I hated this book. Absolutely hated it. Written by the editor of GQ magazine, it provides rules (not guidelines, rules) for how men should live. The author is the kind of self-satisfied git you want to “rag-doll up and down the road like an empty shell suit”. I also realised very early on in the book that the kind of men that this book is aimed at is the kind of men that I despise and who just really aren’t nice.

The reasons that I finished it are: 1) it was a present; 2) I’m not going to let a man like that defeat me; and 3) it’s sort of a car-crash book, you can’t stop reading because it’s so awful.

Avoid. Really, it’s not worth the precious hours of your life.

Book details

ISBN: 9780340920855
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton Ltd
Year of publication: 2006

Habitation One


Rating: 1 star

Habitation One is a giant tower, sheltering the last remnants of humanity after a nuclear apocalypse, for so long that they’ve forgotten who they are and where they’ve come from. But now a chain of events has been set in motion that will change their future forever.

I didn’t enjoy this book much at all. It’s a first novel and it shows in the awkwardness of the writing, not to mention the completely unsympathetic characters, the clumsiness with which the (quite graphic) violence is handled, including two attempted rapes, and the poor characterisation of the female characters. And then there was a pointless religiously-themed epilogue tagged on the end which bore no real relevance to the rest of the book at all. I’d suggest avoiding this.

Book details

ISBN: 9780006166849

Doctor Whom: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Parodication

By Adam Roberts

Rating: 1 star

Subtitled E. T. Shoots and Leaves, can you guess what this is cashing in on? I’m not a huge fan of parody and this combined DW/Lynn Truss parody didn’t do much for me. At least it was short.

Book details

ISBN: 9780575079687
Publisher: Gollancz
Year of publication: 2006

Light Speed and Beyond

By William E. Adams

Rating: 1 star

This is actually one of the worst books that I’ve ever read. I picked it up because it was free at EasterCon. That should have been my first warning. The whole book is also written in a courier-type italic font which really didn’t help.

It’s supposedly about the first post-lightspeed journey and what happens to the astronauts involved, but it’s incoherent, there’s no sense of tension at all (since I had no idea of what was happening) and it’s incredibly badly written. The only consolation is that it’s quite short (less than 100 pages). But it was only sheer effort that kept me going. It’s really not worth it at all.

Avoid like the plague.

Book details

ISBN: 9781403340290
Publisher: Authorhouse
Year of publication: 2002

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