Second-Hand Bestsellers – Where Late The Sweet Birds Sang by Kate Wilhelm

You may remember that following my confession a few months ago about picking up bargain books at second-hand stalls I  made a bit of a challenge out of my vice.The criteria I set are:-

  • Each book must be bought secondhand for no more than £1
  • Each book must claim on its front cover that it is a bestseller, award winner
  • 12 books – one per month for a year

This is my Book #2. Do feel free to join me and share your second-hand bestsellers in the comments!

Where Late The Sweet Birds Sang by Kate Wilhelm- published 1977.

‘The Hugo Award Winning Novel’

Tagline – PLAY GOD: It’s the most dangerous game of all

Hugo Award Winner Locus Award Winner Click to go through to Amazon
Hugo Award Winner
Locus Award Winner
Click to go through to Amazon

Wow! This short book of just 250 pages is a brilliantly thought through vision of a post-apocalyptic rebuilding of the human species. A new society where a child is will never feel lonely or left out and is always one of a number of identical brothers or sisters. The idea of group telepathy was not new in 1977 and indeed was explored in John Wyndham’s The Midwich Cuckoos published in 1957.

The story starts shortly before the apocalypse and is set in the beautiful Shendoah valley. Famine and drought are causing international incidents, resources are being hoarded and countries are closing borders. Radiation in the atmosphere is high, pandemics are killing thousands daily and most countries are experiencing zero population growth. Those with foresight are realising that the masses cannot be saved and that human species is on the brink of extinction. The Sumner family is blessed with several brilliant thinkers, lots of wealth and plenty of fertile secluded land. The elders have planned ahead and stockpiled medical and computer equipment, generators, food, building materials, animals, seeds and tools and most importantly gathered together people with skills.

David has been studying in the field of cloning and when tests show that all the men have become infertile the full value of his research becomes clear. At first cloning of humans is vital for the survival of the species but in time sexual reproduction of the species is seen as inferior and those few clones who turn out to be fertile are removed from the society and used as breeding stock to carry the cloned fetuses.

Cloned and cloned again for the continuance of the particular skills of their forebear each new batch of identical sisters or brothers share an emotional and psychological bond bordering on telepathy that proves ultimately to make them not individual thinkers but one part of a functioning whole. In Wilhelm’s novel these groups of children are not sinister creatures with the ability to control the minds of normal humans as in The Midwich Cuckoos but groups of identically skilled beings. Specialism stifles diversity, the individual consciousness is lost as the group consciousness develops, and consequently free thinkers, unique skills and the ability to produce random ideas are eradicated from the new generations.

What makes us human? This becomes the central theme of the book as the decades pass and the new society realise that their continuing reproduction and therefore their very survival will depend on obtaining resources from the ruined cities. To leave their safe valley and go foraging hundreds of miles away in bombed out cities and radiation poisoned landscapes requires skills that these generations were not bred for. Their new utopia is in grave danger.

This book is not dark and violent as many dystopian novels are. It’s more subtle in its depiction of good and bad choices. At the end Mark, who is not a clone although both his parents were, says “You won’t understand this. No one’s alive but me who could understand it. I love you, Barry. You’re strange to me, alien, not human. All of you are… but I didn’t destroy them because I loved you.”

This novel is concisely written, not a word is wasted and yet Wilhelm’s descriptions of the desolate cities and the deep forests lack nothing. It is meticulously thought out and challenging. Presented in 3 main time frames she develops various protagonists as the new generations are introduced and the contrast between the individual and the collective deepens.

This book blew me away. I may not be a lover of sci-fi (though since the cloning of Dolly the sheep in the 1990s cloning has ceased to be fiction and has become a fact) but nevertheless I was immersed in this vision of the future. I can see why it won two awards and I recommend it whole-heartedly for anyone from YA up.

I wish it was longer – that’s my only complaint. I have to give it 5 bites

 

 

Tamara Thomas
I am the only girl and youngest of four children, I grew up in a home stuffed with books, and now some fifty years later, great piles of them still appear in every room I inhabit. I won’t waste my time reading books that leave me feeling sour, dirty or depressed; books are a source of light and inspiration in my world. Nevertheless, I love a book that makes me cry with loss or sadness such as Captain Corelli’s Mandolin or The Book Thief. Bliss is a winter’s afternoon on the sofa, snuggled in with my dogs, stove blazing and an absorbing book.

Everfair by Nisi Shawl

imageIn Everfair Nisi Shawl has taken the real and horrific events of King Loepold’s colonisation of the Congo and spun them through the prism of ‘what if’.

She came up with an alternate history with overtones of steampunk. In this history the native population gained access to steam technology including Dirigibles by way of the Fabian Society. Their allies have also purchased land from Leopold and set up the state of  Everfair; a safe haven for native populations of the Congo as well as escaped slaves returning from America and other places where African natives were being mistreated. Together they fight back against Leopold’s disgusting murderous excesses to protect the land of Everfair.

That concept, that cover – I was sold. Then when I found out I’d be able to review this for Black History Month I was over the moon- I couldn’t wait to read it and share a glowing review stressing that black authors could write in any damn genre they wanted and do it well.

They can of course, but sadly this wasn’t the book to prove that. I just couldn’t get into it and I ended up putting it down twice and picking up other books before finally putting it down and giving up on it before I was half way through.

It’s hard to put my finger on exactly what was wrong with it, if indeed the fault was in the book not in me. I think in the end it came down to two things, the structure of the book wasn’t great – it should maybe have started later in the story and flashbacked more to establish characters motives etc. The other thing was that there were quite a lot of characters and I got confused between them – particularly the white characters so I was then unsure about motives and whether a particular character would do a certain thing only to eventually figure out I wasn’t reading about who I thought I was reading about!

Even though I didn’t finish this I don’t want to rate it too low. I have a feeling that if I pick it up again in another 6 months and have another bash at it I might finally get it and love it.

So for now – 3 Bites.

NB I received a free copy of this book through NetGalley in return for an honest review. The BookEaters always write honest reviews

GemBookEater
I was reading before I started school and I have no plans to stop now! I usually have at least two books on the go at once, one non-fiction and one fiction. I like reading books based in reality that flick open the doors to the mysteries of the heart or of the spirit.

The Gradual by Christopher Priest

cover88297-mediumChristopher Priest is apparently one of the UK’s greatest writers – on the cover just there you can see that the Sunday Times considers him a ‘Novelist of Distinction’! I’d never heard of him before this book let alone read him. When I looked him up when I was about halfway through this I found he’d written over 15 books including one which was turned into the award winning film The Prestige. It just goes to show how easy it is to miss even best- selling authors!

Anyway this book is starts in a country called Glaund, a cold and controlled country locked in a permanent war. It follows the life of Alesandro Sussken, a composer whose older brother is sent off to fight, leaving his family bereft.

Alesandro is inspired by the Dream Archipelago, a string of islands that no one can map or explain.  He creates symphonies named for them, a somewhat subversive act as  all knowledge of the  islands is forbidden by the junta. Then he is invited on a cultural tour of them, an opportunity too good to miss but one that will not only change his perceptions of his country, but will lead to him losing years of his life too.

This book is written in first person, so Alesandro is telling us his story directly. It feels like he is telling it at a bit of a distance, not as if he’s overthe pain of his brother leaving and never coming back, more as if he’s perpetually distracting himself from it. Often this muffling of the main characters pain would make a book less exciting and harder for the reader to connect to, but in this case it reflects the dream-like quality of the mysterious islands.

This was an interesting read, it plays with time and travel in an unusual way, what made this really special though was the music, I’m no musician but like most people I recognise its expressive power. This book pays homage to that.

4 Bites

NB I received a free copy of this book through NetGalley in return for an honest review. The BookEaters always write honest reviews

GemBookEater
I was reading before I started school and I have no plans to stop now! I usually have at least two books on the go at once, one non-fiction and one fiction. I like reading books based in reality that flick open the doors to the mysteries of the heart or of the spirit.

Roofworld by Christopher Fowler

imageLondon in the 1980’s has a secret people never see. A refuge for the misfits and outcasts of society that towers above the dirty city. But Roofworld, with its complex laws and codes and decaying system of cables and wires is at war. And if evil wins it will take possession of the city below next.

Robert is looking for the author of a little known book to try and buy the film rights from her, sadly he is a little too late, she was murdered during a robbery the week before. But he does meet Rose, who tells him about her daughter who she thinks has been kidnapped and is being held in Roofworld. They get pulled into events up above – not always the perfect scenario for Robert as he  discovers he’s not good with heights!

This was Christopher Fowler’s first book – he’s gone on to become quite the prolific author having written more than 40 books including the ‘Bryant & May’ series. He specialises in unusual plots and peculiar happenings set in the real world so he’s a good bet for fans of Neil Gaiman and Ben Aaronovitch.

And this is certainly an unusual plot full or peculiar happenings! If I was rating this on plot alone it would definitely get 5 bites! If I was rating it  on writing alone it would probably get  bites too – even though he’s written so much this book was still peppered with lovely lines and fresh metaphors that made me feel like I was there.

The only thing this falls down on is the characters, they’re not awful, but they feel a bit lazy. Robert seems like a slightly less interesting version of Richard Mayhew – the protagonist of Neverwhere (written by Neil Gaiman in 1996 – though I’m not suggesting there was any plagiarism going on), Rose is cool but we never get beneath the surface and the police characters are very formulaic. The two dominant characters fighting it out on the roof tops could be fascinating but we don’t really get to learn much about them until too late.

I have to say that this would make a cracking movie though, or a graphic novel, but as a novel I can only give it 3.5 bites – readable, and fairly enjoyable but not earth-shattering. I’m interested to read some of his more recent works though now.

NB I received a free copy of this book through NetGalley in return for an honest review. The BookEaters always write honest reviews

GemBookEater
I was reading before I started school and I have no plans to stop now! I usually have at least two books on the go at once, one non-fiction and one fiction. I like reading books based in reality that flick open the doors to the mysteries of the heart or of the spirit.

Woman on the Edge of Time by Marge Piercy

cover87393-mediumWoman on the Edge of Time was first published 40-years ago, it became a classic, painting a picture of two possible futures and how even the most downtrodden could fight for the happier one. Connie Ramos, a Mexican American woman living in New York. Connie was once ambitious and determined, she started college, but then she had her dignity, her husband, and her child stolen. Finally they want to take her sanity – but does she still have it to steal?

Connie has recently been contacted by an envoy from the year 2137 who introduces her to a time where men and women are equal, the words he and she are obsolete having been replaced by the word per (short for person). All forms of sexuality are celebrated as are all racial genetics. It isn’t quite a perfect world, there are minor jealousies and tensions between lovers and a war still being fought on the outer boundaries, but to Connie it’s a revelation. Now she’s been unjustly committed to a mental institution, and they’re putting electrodes into her brain, when she tries to reach the future next it’s entirely different, a horrific place for women to live. Does Connie hold they key to which becomes our future and if so does she have the strength to turn it?

Today Ebury Publishing have released a 40th anniversary addition, a new generation get to meet Connie. I have to applaud them, they’re having a great month for feminist literature, just a couple of weeks ago they also released Shappi Khorshandi’s Nina is Not Ok and now this!

To my shame I missed this first time round, I don’t know how, I’ve read a lot of feminist literature but this passed me by. I’m so glad to have read it. I have to admit that when I first started it I was in a dark place and the first few pages with their bleak portrait of exploitation was more than I could take. I had to set it aside for a couple of weeks. If I’d known where it was going I wouldn’t have, just a few pages later it blossomed and it would have lifted me right out of the funk I was in.

I can’t express how much I loved this book – it’s definitely one I’ll re-read and one I want passionately for you to read too. This isn’t just a ‘feminist book’, it’s also a brilliantly written sci-fi classic. It’s interesting to read this with fresh eyes in 2016, still over a hundred years away from the two possible predicted futures, and see our progress towards them. When Marge Piercy wrote this the idea of wearing computers as watches or using gender neutral pronouns was pie-in-the-sky as was the thought of the majority of women having plastic surgery. Reading it now it seems like it could’ve been written just yesterday. We’ve still all got choices to make – which future will you fight for?

5 Bites

NB I received a free copy of this book through NetGalley in return for an honest review. The BookEaters always write honest reviews

GemBookEater
I was reading before I started school and I have no plans to stop now! I usually have at least two books on the go at once, one non-fiction and one fiction. I like reading books based in reality that flick open the doors to the mysteries of the heart or of the spirit.

The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

18619684The infinitely wise Neil Gaiman once said that “picking five favourite books is like picking the five body parts you’d most like not to lose.” My list of favourite books has been added to over time, novels which have influenced and shaped me have been added, whilst some I have re-read and found they no longer make the cut. However, this book will forever be in my top 5. Leave me on a desert island with only “The Time Traveler’s Wife,” and I won’t complain. Well I will- but more about the general situation rather than the choice of reading material.

Henry first meets Clare when he is 28 and she is 20. She is a stranger to him, but knows his name, has met him before. She tells him they knew each other when they were children and Henry gets the feeling that his future is rushing to meet him.

Clare first meets Henry when she is 6 and he is 36. In a meadow outside her family home, Clare stumbles across a man who tells Clare that he is a time traveller and that they are friends in the future. Understandably dubious, Clare refuses to believe him, until he disappears in front of her eyes.

What follows is a beautifully unusual love story. Henry is indeed a time traveller, a Chrono-Displaced Person. At moments of stress he disappears, landing in past or present, unable to take anything with him, not even clothes and with no control over where he is going. For Clare, Henry has always been in her life. For Henry, he still has all those moments to come.

My hardback copy of this book is one of my most treasured possessions. I’ve bought friends the paperback version over the years to avoid the pain of having to lend mine out. I’ve read it numerous times, but am writing this review because I listened to it recently on audible. It’s been a few years since I read it last, but it is still as special as it ever was. The writing is beautiful, from the descriptions of Clare waiting for Henry in the meadow, to small sentences of daily life. Every word seems to have been chosen with great care.

The whole thing would fall apart if the characters weren’t just right. Written from the first person, alternating between narration by Clare and Henry, we are part of their world. They are flawed enough to not be boring, but likeable enough that time in their heads is not a chore. It’s easy to care for them and to fear for them.

I have never been able to read this book without tears, and I hope I never do. It’s a testament to how good this book is. A fitting tribute to Clare and Henry.

5 bites

PS- Don’t bother with the film. It’s massively disappointing.

Kelly Turner
My love of reading began at an early age. I am indebted to my parents for putting “Naughty Amelia Jane” by Enid Blyton in the loft when I was five, forcing me to read something else. At the age of sixteen I picked up my first Discworld novel and never looked back. As well as devouring anything by Terry Pratchett I am also a fan of other fantasy writers such as Neil Gaiman and Ben Aaronovitch. In addition I like to read historical fiction, and enjoy a love story or two.

Book to Film (Part 3): Even More Sci-fi Titles That Made It to the Big Screen

It’s time for another look at Sci Fi stories that have made it to the big screen. For this edition of Book To Film,  a couple of classics that everyone should be aware of!  Click for my previous posts, part one  and part two

2,000 leagues under the sea

20000 leagues under the seaFuturistic submarines, monsters and amazing adventures filled the original story. It has become a recommended read for anyone getting in to the genre. It was turned in to a film in 1956 and was personally produced by Walt Disney and directed by Richard Fleischer. The big stars featured in the film include Kirk Douglas, James Mason and Paul Lukas.

It’s a fun classic despite it’s age. Do the special effects stand up after all this time? With a great story and such a fine cast, does it really matter?

Battlefield Earth

Battlefield earthIf you are already in to Sci Fi films in a big way or perhaps appreciate the older and slightly off kilter authors, then you may have come across ‘Battlefield Earth’. It is considered be one of the most massive flops of all time. The book it’s based on (book and film share the same name) was written by L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology. Therefore, knowing that John Travolta was the lead actor and major force behind the film should be no surprise!

The film was criticised for just about everything, the acting, the dialog, the way it was filmed and so on! It has now become a bit of a cult, in a ‘so bad that it’s really good’ kind of way.

Hitch Hikers Guide To The Galaxy

Hitchhikers_guide_to_the_galaxyDon’t panic! Those are the reassuring words that are printed on the front cover the Hitch Hikers Guide. A guide carried by Ford Prefect and given to Arthur Dent. The original set of books about the guide and the adventures of Ford and Arthur was written by the late Douglas Adams. It was first turned into a radio series which became a cult hit.

Later the BBC turned it in to a TV series. In my personal view, the best version for the screen so far. Far better than the 2005 version featuring Martin Freeman, Sam Rockwell and the late Alan Rickman. For me, the voice of the guide will always be Peter Jones, sorry Steven Fry!

The story has proved so popular it has made it on to vinyl LP’s, comic books and even stage plays. It is one of those classics that can be enjoyed over and over.

Logan’s Run

Logans_run_movieThe original idea for Logan’s Run came from the book of the same name  by William F. Nolan and George Clayton Johnson. A dystopian future where population growth is controlled and the city is where you were born, lived and died. Going outside was strictly forbidden.

The stars of the 1976 film include Michael York, Jenny Agutter and Richard Jordon. We must not forget Peter Ustinov and Farrah Fawcett also starred – quite a cast!

It’s a fine film and acted well but sadly someone has decided a remake is required. I can’t understand why anyone feels it needs one!

Ender’s Game

Ender's_GameI really enjoyed the original book by Orson Scott Card, and also its sequel, Speaker For The Dead. It was a good story that I have re-read a few times now.

When the 2013 film version came out, I was excited and looked forward to seeing how it would look on the big screen. Sadly I was disappointed. Like many others, I felt the plot was lacking far too many aspects of the original story. I’ve no problem with the acting and special effects, just let down by the adaptation.

Bob Toovey
I started reading Sci Fi at around age 8, I’ve never looked back since. I was highly influenced by my father’s reading choices at the beginning. I soon branched out to many different authors and Sci Fi genre’s. Early influences include Asimov, Clark, Simak, PKD and other ‘golden age’ authors. On occasion, I like a good spy book and currently finding early religious history a fascinating subject – despite being an atheist.

Book To Film: A Brief Look At Philip K. Dick

Philip K. DickIn the last week or so, the UK broadcaster Channel 4 has announced a new TV series based on the works of Philip K. Dick…

Channel 4 and Sony Pictures Television have today announced they are partnering on a hugely ambitious original drama series based on the short stories written by award-winning Sci-Fi novelist Philip K. Dick.

The ten-part anthology series, Electric Dreams: The World of Philip K. Dick, will be written and executive produced by Emmy-nominated Ronald D. Moore (Battlestar Galactica, Outlander) and Michael Dinner (Justified, Masters of Sex), with Oscar nominated Bryan Cranston (Trumbo, Breaking Bad) both executive producing and appearing in the series.

Each episode will be a sharp, thrilling standalone drama adapted and contemporised for global audiences by a creative team of British and American writers. The series will both illustrate Philip K. Dick’s prophetic vision and celebrate the enduring appeal of the prized Sci-Fi novelist’s work.

Bryan Cranston has starred in many big films, such as Godzilla, but he is better know for his leading role in ‘Breaking Bad’.

If you are a big fan of Battlestar Galactica then you should know that Ronald D. More was the main force behind it.  He was also a major contributor to various Star Trek TV series and films.

Seems like the new TV show has some great credentials!

It’s not the first time that Philip K. Dick’s work has been developed in to films. Most of the time, it’s his short stories have been used as a basis for a script.

Let’s take a look at some of his work that has made it to the big screen…

The Man In The High Castle

This 1962 book was made in to a successful TV series in 2015.  It was developed for Amazon Prime and another series is due this year.

We Can Remember It For You Wholesale

This short story from 1966 was developed for film in 1990 and was released as ‘Total Recall’. It featured Arnold Schwarzenegger in the lead role and was in my opinion a fairly fun film. However, another version was made in 2012 which was much more serious and more liberal with the original story.

The Minority Report

After Blade Runner, this is possibly the biggest film based on a Philip K. Dick’s story. The original book was published in 1956 and made in to a film in 2006 starring Tom Cruise and Colin Farrell.

Blade Runner

You really can’t talk about Philip K. Dick and not mention Blade Runner. It has become a cult film, inspired and influenced Sci Fi films ever since the film was released in 1982. It’s based on the book, ‘Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep’ that was first published in 1968.

A Scanner Darkly

This is the most quirky of all the adaptations of Philip K. Dicks works. Based on the 1977 book, the film was used the technique of interpolated rotoscoping. You can read more about it here. Basically, animators draw over each frame to create an animated look. This in my opinion is the closest anyone has got to the story and the ‘look and feel’ that was originally intended by the author

Bob Toovey
I started reading Sci Fi at around age 8, I’ve never looked back since. I was highly influenced by my father’s reading choices at the beginning. I soon branched out to many different authors and Sci Fi genre’s. Early influences include Asimov, Clark, Simak, PKD and other ‘golden age’ authors. On occasion, I like a good spy book and currently finding early religious history a fascinating subject – despite being an atheist.

Helium by Tim Earnshaw

2888525Gary has been drifting for a while, since his wife left him he’s been floating around the house he grew up in. The only thing keeping him rooted to the world is his shop. Once his love of music had been channeled in his band – ‘Gary Wilder and the Hi-Tones ‘, now he sells instruments to people that don’t remember his heyday.

Then he has a bad hair day, and strange things start happening. First he gets a date with the receptionist at his father’s nursing home, then Kent Treacy, acid casualty guitarist from the days when the Hi-Tones mutated into The High, turns up wanting to get the band back together for a reunion tour.

As the gravity of Gary’s situation deepens, or to be more accurate weakens, he sends a videotape to NASA. But will they believe their eyes?

This slim, lighthearted novel reads like a cross between Nick Hornby and an episode of the X Files. Although Gary is a bit of a loser these days, he’s someone who is still likeable enough that you want to follow him on his ridiculous journey. All the characters are more than a bit damaged actually, but believably so. That’s important because the plot is utterly unbelievable, without well-drawn characters reacting authentically this would have been too absurd to cope with.

But British authour Tim Earnshaw knows how to write, the setting descriptions are spot on – you really feel like you are right next to Gary, not just seeing what he sees but feeling the sun on the back of your neck too. So much so I was surprised at finding out the author is British!

There’s nothing life-changing in this book, but it’s a great little hollday or weekend read. Very entertaining! Pick it up and lighten up for a while!

4 Bites

GemBookEater
I was reading before I started school and I have no plans to stop now! I usually have at least two books on the go at once, one non-fiction and one fiction. I like reading books based in reality that flick open the doors to the mysteries of the heart or of the spirit.

Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel

I read this book courtesy of the publishers allowing me to read an advance copy through Netgalley (thanks! And as always, opinions are entirely my own!) and actually I’ve been dying to share my thoughts since closing the book on the last page. It has been pretty tough to keep schtum until the release date but it’s almost here (Tuesday) and I can break my silence and shout my opinions to the heavens… well, to you guys!

Sleeping GiantsAll the information I had on this book was the blurb and the really pretty cover. I love these patterns on the front cover and they really help to bring to life some of the imagery in the book.

The synopsis was equally beguiling.
A girl named Rose is riding her new bike near her home in Deadwood, South Dakota, when she falls through the earth. She wakes up at the bottom of a square-shaped hole, its walls glowing with intricate carvings. But the firemen who come to save her peer down upon something even stranger: a little girl in the palm of a giant metal hand.

Seventeen years later, the mystery of the bizarre artifact remains unsolved—the object’s origins, architects, and purpose unknown. Carbon dating defies belief; military reports are redacted; theories are floated, then rejected.

But some can never stop searching for answers.

Rose Franklin is now a highly trained physicist leading a top-secret team to crack the hand’s code. And along with her colleagues, she is being interviewed by a nameless interrogator whose power and purview are as enigmatic as the relic they seek. What’s clear is that Rose and her compatriots are on the edge of unraveling history’s most perplexing discovery—and finally figuring out what it portends for humanity. But once the pieces of the puzzle are in place, will the result be an instrument of lasting peace or a weapon of mass destruction?”

Now how’s that for an intriguing premise?!
The story is told through a series of interview transcripts, diary entries, official reports and new articles and, at first, I thought the lack of traditional prose might hinder my enjoyment of the book. I was expecting to find it too objective, too far removed from the characters and too much like a non-fiction book to really get into the character development and plot. I was wrong.
Only a few pages in I was hooked- the format may be unusual but it absolutely works. I was able to get engrossed in the story and relate to the characters- in fact, the mysterious interviewer ended up being one of my favourite characters- who on earth are they and how did they end up being able to pull the strings on such a project? Are they secretly Blofeld or Scaramanga… but not so evil? There’s a location introduced into the book that really backs up my potential Bond villain theory but alas, I suspect I may be barking up the wrong tree!

The rest of the characters are a bit of mix of back grounds but each are introduced in a realistic way and have a lot to add to the story. It’s a bit difficult to say too much about their development as I don’t want to ruin the book for you but each has a particular arc to journey along and they are interwoven into the central plot well.

The plot rockets along at a fair old pace. The format can take much of the credit for this as we skip out a fair amount of the intervening piffle and focus on the main events of the search for the meaning of the giant hand. It’s a really intriguing concept- the idea that there is a machine that is not demonstrably of this earth re-awoken once humanity reaches a particular point in it’s development. Will it be used for good or as a weapon? Can it be used? What does it mean for Earth’s place in the universe?
Sleeping Giants manages to be deeply philosophical and a riotous ride all at the same time, and I found it to be enormously absorbing and interesting.

That’s not to say it was perfect, there were a couple of bum notes. There was a bit of a sub-plot that involved an ‘outside character’ having a wealth of knowledge that seemed a bit unrealistic- yes, I know that this is essentially a book about a giant potentially alien hand but it was unrealistic within the story.
The ending also seemed a little rushed and although the story line was logical and the actions of one particular character was logical, I felt it deserved more time to be developed fully.

There is a sequel (I assume from the epilogue!) and I will be rushing it to the top of my tbr list!

4 bites today, it’s a lovely treat!

Rachel Brazil
Although well-known amongst my family for my habit of falling asleep with a book on my face, I’ve not let the constant face bruises deter me from indulging in my favourite pastime. There is no famine, only feast, in my house with every flavour of book available for consumption.

I’m happy to sample almost anything from the smorgasbord of literature available but can always be tempted with a juicy murder mystery or sweet little romance.

Dark Intelligence By Neal Asher

dark-intelligenceScience fiction is a known and well appreciated genre of fictional literature. However, did you know it has it’s own sub-genre’s? There’s quite a few including Apocalyptic, Cyberpunk and Military. My own favourite sub-genre is ‘hard science fiction’. Normally, it’s a story that is driven more by ideas than characterization. Quite often, current and cutting edge science is used and extrapolated to form a backdrop, plot points and motivations. The more accurate the science, the better the story.

The reason I tell you this is to give you some idea where ‘Dark Intelligence’ sits in the order of things. It’s a very recent book by Neal Asher (2015) and is based in his imagined universe of the Polity. The Polity is the name of the governing authority in the galaxy, made up mostly of Artificial Intelligences.

It certainly fits the sub-genre of ‘hard science fiction’. It features plenty of AI’s, spaceships and weapons that can do the most amazing amounts of damage to people, places and planets.

The hero of the story is Thorvald Spear, a soldier who died in a war that finish a century before the books setting. He is resurrected, his mind restored from a ruby memplant – a special memory chip that records minds – which is transferred to his new body.

He sets out on a quest to find Penny Royal, the name of the artificial intelligence that was responsible for his own and many other deaths.
During his journey he meets crime-lord Isobel Satomi. He needs her help to find the rogue AI but she is undergoing a transformation. A process that was started by the same AI, Penny Royal. They both head out on a journey to seek vengeance but both end up doubting who they really are and what they really want.

It already sounds like an interesting plot but mix in the alien Prador who have little regard for any life and the AI based Polity which governs the galaxy spanning society – you end up with a story that has depth, good pace and a book you don’t want to put down.

I found the book exciting, full of great ideas and a plot that was stitched together really well. Characters was rounded where necessary and things moved ahead at a good pace. Everything good, until the end…

The story is based in the universe of the Polity. There are books that come before this that help build that universe. A shared history and backstory that the end of ‘Dark Intelligence’ refers to. It’s a little confusing reading about what the Gabbleducks are up to and not really knowing what they are for sure!

I am pleased to say that I have re-discovered Neal Asher and will be rereading ‘The Line of Polity’, a book I bought some time ago. Now that I have finished  ‘Dark Intelligence’ and really enjoyed it, it’s probably not a surprise that I have some of his other books in my Amazon shopping basket!

‘Dark Intelligence’ is available on Amazon now and the sequel
is due in May. Do keep an eye out!

I give this book 4 bites, would have been 5 except I got a little lost with the ending.

Bob Toovey
I started reading Sci Fi at around age 8, I’ve never looked back since. I was highly influenced by my father’s reading choices at the beginning. I soon branched out to many different authors and Sci Fi genre’s. Early influences include Asimov, Clark, Simak, PKD and other ‘golden age’ authors. On occasion, I like a good spy book and currently finding early religious history a fascinating subject – despite being an atheist.

Exploring Science Fiction: There’s More To It Than just Space Opera’s!

genres of SciFi
Source: Wikipedia
Modern cinema gives us a fairly limited view of science fiction. For example, Star Wars is a ‘space opera’ and the Maze Runner is either a ‘Young Adult’ SF tale or a vision of a dystopian future – or both, depending on your point of view. However, I think that SciFi as a sub genre of literature is much wider than you have been led to believe. There’s much more to it!

During my research, I actually came across at least 50 different Science Fiction classifications. While many are self contained and go no further, there are many that have multiple sub genres of their own. Who actually decides where a story fits is unknown, I guess the authors have a majority say in the matter and the publishers would have their own views. However they are decided, lets take a look at some of the sub genres and explore them a little.

Space Opera

There are many examples of Space Opera, the aforementioned Star Wars is one, as is the Hidden Empire series by Kevin J Anderson. They span planets, governments and a feature a cast of many – which all makes for an exciting read. Perhaps one of the most famous examples and is the Lensmen series by Edward Elmer Smith Ph.D, an author better known as E.E. “Doc” Smith. The initial set of books, 6 in total, have been extended by author William B. Ellern. There’s been Manga comic books that loosely feature the original stories and there was talk of a possible film version.

Military Science Fiction

As you may expect, military SciFi takes a look at future and alternative versions of war. A good example would be Robert A. Heinlein’s ‘Starship Troopers‘ but one of the best contributors to this genre is Joe Haldeman and his ‘The Forever War‘ series.

Dystopian Futures

This genre has been explored a lot recently in Young Adult fiction. You may of seen the hit movies ‘Maze Runner‘ and ‘The Hunger Games‘ but both are based on published books. For the older reader, the original ‘Planet Of The Apes‘ books by Pierre Boulle may be a more interesting read!

Alien Invasion

This genre is filled with so many great examples! If you not heard or read any of the following books then you really need to read more – Childhood’s End, Invasion Of The Body Snatchers and The War of the Worlds. I would also consider ‘Enders Game’ and ‘Starship Troopers‘ to be part of this genre. Not uncommon for overlaps…

Alternative History

As you may of guessed, alternative history explores the idea, what would happen if something in the past did or did not happen. The best example of this genre is Philip K. Dicks ‘Man In The High Castle‘ – the Germans beat the Americans in World War 2. A close second is ‘The Years Of Rice And Salt‘ by Kim Stanley Robinson – what the world would have been like if the Black Death killed 99% of Europe’s population instead of a third.

Cyberpunk

This is going to be a little difficult to explain and explore because this is one of those genre’s that goes deep. It has many sub genre’s of it’s own, each exploring the same idea but in a different way. Here’s a quote from Wikipedia that best explains it…

“Classic cyberpunk characters were marginalized, alienated loners who lived on the edge of society in generally dystopic futures where daily life was impacted by rapid technological change, an ubiquitous datasphere of computerized information, and invasive modification of the human body”

Cyberpunk itself is possibly best represented by author William Gibson. While not the originator of the genre, certainly someone who has explored it very well with his stories – ‘Neuromancer‘, ‘Count Zero‘ and ‘Mona Lisa Over Drive‘ to name a few.

As I said, Cyberpunk goes deeper with; Steampunk, Decopunk, Dieselpunk, Biopunk, Post Cyberpunk and more. For a full exploration of them all, take a look at this Wikipedia article.

Feghoot

Yes, SciFi does have whimsical side and this is best seen in Feghoot. They started as stories collected together under the title of, ‘Through Time and Space with Ferdinand Feghoot’. They are short stories, no more that a few paragraphs that ends with a pun. To quote Wikipedia,

“The usual formulae the stories followed were for the title character to solve a problem bedeviling some manner of being or extricate himself from a dangerous situation. The events could take place all over the galaxy and in various historical or future periods on Earth and elsewhere. In his adventures, Feghoot worked for the Society for the Aesthetic Re-Arrangement of History and traveled via a device that had no name but was typographically represented as the “)(“. The pieces were usually vignettes only a few paragraphs long, and always ended with a deliberately terrible pun that was often based on a well-known title or catch-phrase.”

The genre’s representing culture and more

One of the things I love about SciFi is the ability to explore thoughts and ideas by authors with differing backgrounds and culture. There are commonalities, stories that look straight in to the future or tales that are allegories of contemporary culture – but the authors background, culture or sexuality can colour or twist how the story is told. Some of these genre’s include; Black science fiction, Christian science fiction and Feminist science fiction.

Science Fiction at it’s best reveals where we are now, the joy and heartache of the human condition and our many and varied futures.   It’s time you expanded your horizons and explore everything it as to offer!

Bob Toovey
I started reading Sci Fi at around age 8, I’ve never looked back since. I was highly influenced by my father’s reading choices at the beginning. I soon branched out to many different authors and Sci Fi genre’s. Early influences include Asimov, Clark, Simak, PKD and other ‘golden age’ authors. On occasion, I like a good spy book and currently finding early religious history a fascinating subject – despite being an atheist.

The Forgotten Women Of Science Fiction

The early days of Science Fiction was dominated by men. If I was to ask you to name a writer, I would be fairly confident you would say Jules Verne or H. G. Wells. Perhaps even Clarke, Asimov or Heinlein. If I was to ask you to name a female Science Fiction writer, you most likely reply Mary Shelly. Famous UK author Brian Aldiss claims that her work, Frankenstein, represents “the first seminal work to which the label SF can be logically attached”.

The first who enter and explore are always the best well know. So it’s not a surprise that Wells, Verne and Shelly are common names. As Science Fiction entered it’s Golden Age (generally agreed to be between 1938 to 1946), names that we know today entered the field. Such luminaries as Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clark and Philip K. Dick. This era was dominated by men but women writers were present, only they were often hiding behind pen names or sadly have been forgotten.

Their presence and contributions were never really celebrated as well as their male counter parts. It’s not until we get to the New Wave period where they start to get recognition. Women like Leigh Douglass Brackett (December 7, 1915 – March 18, 1978).

leigh_brackettLeigh was an American writer who wrote romances that spanned the universe. Her major contribution, other than her own body of work, was her script for George Lucas’s second instalment of Star Wars. According to her Wikipedia entry

The exact role which Brackett played in writing the script for Empire is the subject of some dispute. What is agreed on by all is that George Lucas asked Brackett to write the screenplay based on his story outline. It is also known that Brackett wrote a finished first draft which was delivered to Lucas shortly before Brackett’s death from cancer on March 18, 1978. Two drafts of a new screenplay were written by Lucas and, following the delivery of the screenplay for Raiders of the Lost Ark, turned over to Lawrence Kasdan for a new approach. Both Brackett and Kasdan (though not Lucas) were given credit for the final script.

While she does get a credit for her work, I’m sure no one today, outside of Star Wars fandom, would know of her.

James Tiptree, Jr/Alice Bradley Sheldon - source: Wikipedia - used under 'fair use'
James Tiptree, Jr/Alice Bradley Sheldon – source: Wikipedia – used under ‘fair use’

Then there’s Alice Bradley Sheldon (August 24, 1915 – May 19, 1987). Most of Alice’s work was published under the name of James Tiptree Jr, it was so she could get her works published in a male dominated world. Another name she used, from 1974 to 1977 was Raccoona Sheldon. In fact, it was not publicly known until 1977 that James Tiptree, Jr. was female.Quite a lot of her books explore the feminist side, using both humans and aliens alike to explore her ideas. She is so highly regarded that there is an award in her name – the James Tiptree, Jr. Award is given in her honour each year for a work of science fiction or fantasy that expands or explores our understanding of gender.

Though New Wave writing did spawn female writers who went on to become famous, like  Octavia E. Butler (1947-2006), there were some who started in the Golden Age, like James Tiptree.

Catherine_Lucille_MooreC. L. Moore (Catherine Lucille1911-1987) is a US writer whose work is still admired and read today. She had found fame with her own published stories before her marriage (1940) to another Sci Fi writer Henry Kutner (1915-1958). In fact, they had been collaborating since 1937. She stopped writing Sci Fi after her husbands death, she continue for a while writing for TV – Maverick and 77 Sunset Strip. Her Sci Fi work was know for it’s lyrical fluency and the power to evoke a Sense of Wonder.

320full-andre-nortonAnother women started out with an ambiguous name is Andre Norton (1912-2005). She came to fame with Sci Fi stories aimed at Children. The work that really marked her entrance in to the genre was her 1947 novel – The People of the Crater. Over her publishing career, her work matured and became darker. She was very well respected and won many awards and was inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 1997.

These days, Science Fiction is loved and enjoyed by men and women alike. Only recently has it lost much of it’s ‘geeky’ image and the idea that only males enjoy it. The thing we have to remember is that women were there at the beginning, during the Golden Age and through the New Wave period. We must not forget they made a huge contribution to what we now enjoy.

Bob Toovey
I started reading Sci Fi at around age 8, I’ve never looked back since. I was highly influenced by my father’s reading choices at the beginning. I soon branched out to many different authors and Sci Fi genre’s. Early influences include Asimov, Clark, Simak, PKD and other ‘golden age’ authors. On occasion, I like a good spy book and currently finding early religious history a fascinating subject – despite being an atheist.

Swallow The Sky – A Space Opera by Chris Mead

imageCarson is a mailman delivering mail from planet to planet 8,000 years after human’s were forced to colonise the universe.

His stop off at Kaimana offers him the chance to explore for more antiques, a sideline that is a much a passion as the chance to make profit. But things start going badly wrong when he wakes up with a dead woman in his bed. It soon becomes clear he is being set up by a wealthy megalomaniac who wants him to steal an ancient cassette tape in return for his freedom. But when he finds the cassette contains the secret location of Earth’s lost treasures, Carson is determined to capture the bounty himself.

This book is pure escapism. Imagine Indiana Jones set in space and you’ll start to get the picture! Actually one thing you won’t have to do much of whilst reading this is imagine – the author built all of these worlds so expertly that you’ll feel like you are right there with Carson on every planet and space ship he’s on.

If I was to be really critical of this I could lament the fact that it has no deep moral meaning or mention that the characters aren’t deeply tortured individuals wringing out every last drop of emotion they have. But to be honest this is a good-time, holiday read sort of novel and it doesn’t need to be high literature. The characters are believable and the good guys have moral centres and are likeable so that’s good snout for me.

A great read, and thoroughly recommended!

4 bites

 

GemBookEater
I was reading before I started school and I have no plans to stop now! I usually have at least two books on the go at once, one non-fiction and one fiction. I like reading books based in reality that flick open the doors to the mysteries of the heart or of the spirit.

The Night Clock by Paul Meloy

imagePhil Trevena is an outreach worker trying to help people with mental health issues. But suddenly his patients are dying and if he is not to be blamed for this, he needs to find out why.

Whilst his picking up some clothes for one of his hospitalised patients the man phones him and tells him  he needs to find Daniel, that Daniel will be able to explain what is happening. But when he reaches the hospital to drop off the clothes, his patient is dead – he died half an hour before making that phone call to Phil …

Paul Meloy’s debut novel reimagines our world, introducing a parallel plane which threatens to overwhelm our own if not kept ticking by the Night Clock. Daniel turns out to be a time traveling hypnopomp (can’t help you, I have no idea what a hypnopomp is either and I’ve read the book!) and he and Phil have to team up with the Firmament Surgeons (good guys) to stop the Autoscopes (bad guys) invading our plane.

I read this through the kindness of the publishers Solaris who gifted me a review copy through NetGalley and I requested it because it promised to shatter “our preconceptions about creativity and mental illness”.  Sadly I’m not sure it really does this.  It basically suggests that those that suffer hallucinations are actually travelling to other planes, not an original idea if we’re completely honest …! It’s also one that is a little unsophisticated.

The story itself is good, I did enjoy it. But if I’m completely honest I had very little idea what was actually going on most of the time! There were too many characters and their voices weren’t distinct enough. Their connection to the story was confusing for quite a long time too.

But the main character is interesting, and there are some gritty issues involved so it’s not a book that shies away from a challenge.

3 bites

 

 

GemBookEater
I was reading before I started school and I have no plans to stop now! I usually have at least two books on the go at once, one non-fiction and one fiction. I like reading books based in reality that flick open the doors to the mysteries of the heart or of the spirit.

Book To Film (part 2): 5 More Sci-Fi Titles That Made It To The Big Screen

I previously discussed various books that had made it from print to the big screen. Books by authors such as Arthur C. Clarke, Harry Harrison and Philip K. Dick. Since then, other books have been used as inspiration for films, and in one case a TV series.

Planet of the Apes and their sequels

Planet-of-the-Apes-posterThe original books were written by Frenchman Pierre Boulle. In 1968, the first book , “Planet of the Apes”, was filmed starring Charlton Heston. It was a major success and promoted more films and a short lived TV series.

You may be interested to note that the film “Bridge Over The River Kwai” was based on a book by Boulle.

I enjoyed the films, good story, good characters and well filmed. How well do the latest reboots fair? Pretty good! Even though there’s heavy use of CGI, the stories are good and sort of close to the originals.

I, Robot

i_robot_posterMany stories were taken as inspiration for the film, all from the the book of short stories with the same name. Isaac Asimov is very well know for his robot stories, perhaps better known for them than his foundation series.

The film stars Will Smith and contains quite a bit of action. However, it doesn’t loose it’s theme of ‘what makes us human’. This I feel is a good thing as it not something that shines through strongly in Asimov’s tales.

On the whole, a good film that uses Asimov’s stories as a basis for the plot.

Man In The High Castle

man-inthe-high-castlePhilip K. Dick’s novel has been the inspiration for a TV series now being broadcast in the USA. You can watch it on Amazon Prime. I’ve not got round to reading the book, though it’s on my reading to-do list.

I haven’t seen the first few episodes as they appear to be US only at this point but by all accounts it’s highly recommended.

The Martian

the-martian-movie-posterThis is another book on my reading to-do list! The 2011 book by Andy Weir has made it the big screen. The film was directed by Ridley Scott and stars Matt Damon. One of the things that made the book popular and reason the film garnered critical acclaim, is the accuracy of the science seen and mentioned.

Therefore, both a recommend read and watch!

Colossus: The Forbin Project

Colossus_the_forbin_project_movie_posterThe book was written by English author Dennis Feltham Jones (D.F. Jones) in 1966. It’s a story, based in the time of the coldwar, where two super computers decide that man should no longer be in charge.

I have watched the 1970 adaptation a few times now and despite it’s age and how technology has moved on – it’s still worth watching. I suppose you could say the film is a forewarning of how intelligent computers and surveillance technology could eventually go. Though I don’t really think the author or director Joseph Sargent really had that in mind at the time!

Bob Toovey
I started reading Sci Fi at around age 8, I’ve never looked back since. I was highly influenced by my father’s reading choices at the beginning. I soon branched out to many different authors and Sci Fi genre’s. Early influences include Asimov, Clark, Simak, PKD and other ‘golden age’ authors. On occasion, I like a good spy book and currently finding early religious history a fascinating subject – despite being an atheist.

The Tube Riders by Chris Ward

 

Click the picture to buy from Amazon
Click the picture to buy from Amazon

It is 2075 and Britain is now Mega Britain. Cut off from the rest of Europe and under the sole control of a man known only as the Governor. He rarely appears but rumours of his extraordinary powers keep the populace in check.

But teenagers must still blow off their frustrations so in the abandoned London Underground station of St. Cannerwells, a group of misfits calling themselves the Tube Riders meet regularly. They are a group of orphans, but together they are a family of sorts – Marta is their leader, a girl haunted by her brother’s disappearance. Paul lives only to protect his little brother Owen. Simon is trying to hold on to his relationship with Jess, daughter of a government official. Guarding them all is Switch, a young man with a flickering eye and a faster knife, who cares only about preserving their legend as they play their dangerous game with trains.

Everything changes the day they are attacked by a rival gang. While escaping, they witness an event that could bring war down on Mega Britain. Suddenly they are fleeing for their lives, pursued not only by their rivals, but by the brutal Department of Civil Affairs, government killing machines known as Huntsmen, and finally by the inhuman Governor himself.

Chris Ward has a good idea for a novel here and he executes it well to an extent. There is plenty of action with characters facing danger at every turn and surviving as much by luck as by skill. The characters are drawn well enough for us to care about them and their reactions are believable.

The only place this goes wrong is that the author tells the story from too many different points of view. His omniescent narration swoops down into pretty much every speaking role! Luckily he does this well enough for it not to be confusing but it does at times mean he’s doing too much telling and not enough showing. This would definitely have been better and even more compelling if he had limited the viewpoint to maybe three of the main characters or maximum five, not twelve.

A good read though – 3.5 bites.

GemBookEater
I was reading before I started school and I have no plans to stop now! I usually have at least two books on the go at once, one non-fiction and one fiction. I like reading books based in reality that flick open the doors to the mysteries of the heart or of the spirit.

Nimisha’s Ship by Anne McCaffrey

I was watching Interstellar the other day and two things came to mind. Firstly, everybody should watch this film; it’s brilliant and dramatic and intense and amazing. Secondly, Nimisha’s Ship by Anne McCaffrey. That’s very random, I hear you cry but bear with me because there is a very good link.

NimIn Interstellar, the central premise is that a wormhole has opened up near Saturn and habitable planets are being scouted as a solution to Earth’s growing environmental crisis. In Nimisha’s Ship, the main character is ensnared by a wormhole and later discovers habitable worlds…. So a bit the same! At least enough that after having watched Interstellar I had the urge to reread Nimisha’s Ship!

Nimisha Boynton-Rondymense is one of the First Families of Vega- an elite social class with wealth and respect. Her father allows her to assist him in the design of his space ships at the Rondymense Ship Yard which supplies, amongst others, the Vega military. After his untimely death, she takes over the running of the yard, and his quest for the perfect space-going yacht. When she is satisfied with her design she takes it on a test run… straight into the maw of a wormhole and through to the other side of the galaxy. Bummer.

All is not lost though as her superior vessel makes it through relatively undamaged and there are three habitable planets within a convenient distance of the wormhole exit. Nimisha sets off to explore and discovers company- survivors of a previous wormhole victim. Hooray!

Back on Vega, however, Nimisha’s half brother is using her disappearance as a way of regaining control of the lucrative ship yard and will stop at nothing to achieve his nefarious goal… including harming Nimisha’s eleven year old daughter. Bummer.

This is the second Anne McCaffrey I have reviewed for TBT and the reason is simple- I read A LOT of her books growing up, and I read them repeatedly. It’s been interesting however rereading them after time has passed and having a new perspective on them. When I was younger, I adored Nimisha’s Ship. I thought it was exciting, adventurous and very much wanted to experience the same things Nimisha and her friends were. I was gutted that McCaffrey hadn’t written a sequel but was always hopeful that she would.

Rereading it now, I still very much enjoyed it but viewed it with a more critical eye- it’s an enjoyable book. It’s adventurous, it has interesting characters and I still wish there was a sequel. I’m aware now though that, with McCaffrey’s demise in 2011, this is a hopeless wish, as, frankly, the less said about McCaffrey’s chosen successor, her son Todd, the better.
Nimisha’s Ship has its faults- there is no real antagonist throughout the book, and Nimisha herself is charmed with many good qualities but not any flaws that would make her a more realistic character. She overcomes obstacles with an ease that makes any tension in the book dissipate rapidly. Her daughter’s character suffers from this too- everybody loves her, and she’s good at everything etc.
McCaffrey though is a master world-builder, and the world she has created in Nimisha’s ship is no exception. The background details, the hints at unusual cultures, the far reaching scope all help to overcome the flaws and make Nimisha’s Ship a very good read.

A book for entertainment purposes, not too taxing but transports you to another world. 3.5 bites.

Rachel Brazil
Although well-known amongst my family for my habit of falling asleep with a book on my face, I’ve not let the constant face bruises deter me from indulging in my favourite pastime. There is no famine, only feast, in my house with every flavour of book available for consumption.

I’m happy to sample almost anything from the smorgasbord of literature available but can always be tempted with a juicy murder mystery or sweet little romance.

The Realignment Case by R J Dearden

RAC RJDDaniel Athley is having a pretty rubbish day. He’s ridiculously hung over, he’s millimetres away from losing his job after having punched the boss’s son in the face, he’s probably broken his knuckles from aforementioned punch and now he’s stuck in a car with a crazy driver on his way to a job interview where he knows precisely zilch about the employer or the job role. Although he arrives at the interview without suffering a vehicular mishap, his day does not get better. He is freezing (because who would think to wear a proper coat in Geneva in the winter), he almost loses his wedding ring which would cause his incredibly neurotic wife to lose her proverbial and he spends the majority of his interview with the enigmatic Winter off his face drunk on Armagnac. How he manages to make it back home in one piece and win the job offer is frankly a mystery, and the first clue that this book will not be straightforward.
It turns out that Winter is a Counsellor (as in lawyer) who works for Le Département de la Dernière Justice and Athley is to be his clerk. The department has control of a machine named KASSI which can alter or ‘realign’ time. Governed by 25 Principles, the machine can only be used for a ‘Great Personage’, someone who could have contributed greatly to the good of the human race but who had their work cut short by death (accident or murder). So think biologist, peace maker, physicists etc. KASSI can realign time and change something which would mean the circumstances of the death do not occur and the ‘Great Personage’ can finish their work and change the course of human history for the better.
The machine however must be tightly controlled… can’t just be changing things willy-nilly. As one character says “Once you start pulling at a thread, you could risk unravelling the whole fabric” and this is where Winter and Athley come in. In order for a person to have their death realigned, the worth and the risks of this must first be examined, weighed up and judged. Is this person worth the risk of the dangerous and unpredictable KASSI procedure? What will they contribute to the good of mankind? This weighing up process is done in a court room, with lawyers, and jury and judge. Winter is responsible for defending the status quo- basically it’s his job to prevent KASSI from ever being used.
Athley is thrown in at the deep end and what follows is a clever and fast paced courtroom drama. There are twists and turns a plenty and the richly drawn characters will seemingly stop at nothing to achieve their goals.
The Realignment Case can be found in the sci-fi sections of bookshops and on websites, the cover clearly marks it out to be a sci-fi book, the description on Dearden’s Facebook page references the time altering sci-fi premise and yet it’s not really a sci-fi book. It’s a courtroom drama, it’s a thriller, and it’s a crime book. Yes, it is indisputable science fiction but I wouldn’t class it as a sci-fi book. But maybe that’s just me.
This is a clever book, occasionally too clever and the science aspects teeter on the edge of being too dense for a book written for entertainment. The diverse characters are generally well written, although frankly, some of them are despicable creatures. The female characters are less well done but this doesn’t take away from the overall enjoyment of the book.
It’s an intriguing premise and Dearden manages to successfully sustain the intrigue throughout the book whilst negotiating a fast pace and complex plot.
Awarding this 4 bites today… very tasty!

Rachel Brazil
Although well-known amongst my family for my habit of falling asleep with a book on my face, I’ve not let the constant face bruises deter me from indulging in my favourite pastime. There is no famine, only feast, in my house with every flavour of book available for consumption.

I’m happy to sample almost anything from the smorgasbord of literature available but can always be tempted with a juicy murder mystery or sweet little romance.

Old Mars – An Anthology. Edited by George R.R. Martin & Gardner Dozois

old-mars-titan-booksMars has always captivated our imaginations. The thought that the red planet might harbour life, good or bad,  has fuelled the speculative thoughts of writers, artists and story tellers. When Italian astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli thought he had discovered channel like markings on the surface of Mars in 1877, it kept the mythology alive and the story telling going for nearly a century.

We are familiar with the most famous stories, for instance H.G. Wells War Of The Worlds. However, there were many other writers in the early years of the 20th century who speculated what life might have been like on the red planet. Books such as Edgar Rice Burroughs’ influential A Princess of Mars (1912), C. S. Lewis Out of the Silent Planet (1938) and even Robert A. Heinlein’s Red Planet (1949).

As we discover more and more about the red planet, what we read and watch becomes more realistic and truthful. Along the way we lost the Martians, their cities and their culture. Gone are the stories of Princesses and explorers. The latest book-to-film release is Andy Weir’s The Martian (book 2011, film 2015). A realistic portrayal of surviving alone on Mars – with no enigmatic Martians providing help.

If you miss the old stories from that classic period of Science Fiction then please do not be disheartened. If you loved the tales from the likes of Ray Bradbury then help is at hand.

Old Mars from Titan Books contains modern stories by modern authors. However, the Martians live. They were there. They can be seen, there are buildings and remains of their culture. A whole lot more to be discovered and explored. It’s a great big anthology for anyone still waiting for the likes of Burroughs, Bradbury and Heinlein to sit comfortably in front of their typewriters again and to continue their craft where they left off.

There are many great stories in this collection but what makes it great are the editors, George R.R. Martin (Game Of Thrones and so much more) and Gardner Dozois (highly respected editor and author). A great combination and certainly no two people better to make the selections for this anthology.

The introduction by Martin really does capture how many feel about Mars. I found myself longing for those old stories as much as he did. I was a lot more interested in tales of outer space by the age of 10 than anything else – much to my teachers dismay.

The stories themselves capture the spirit of the early years of Sci Fi. I really enjoyed Martian Blood by Allen M. Steele and in particular The Ugly Duckling by Matthew Hughes. They all somehow bring something new while maintaining that early fascination of an ancient alien culture living next door. One story in particular that is exciting and which really keeps to the way the old stories were inspired then you must read The Wreck Of The Mars Adventure by David D. Levine.

I’ve not quite finished reading it yet but I know that I am going to enjoy the rest. There are 15 stories in total contained inside 548 pages. Getting to that last page will be a pleasure and time well spent.

5 bites!

Bob Toovey
I started reading Sci Fi at around age 8, I’ve never looked back since. I was highly influenced by my father’s reading choices at the beginning. I soon branched out to many different authors and Sci Fi genre’s. Early influences include Asimov, Clark, Simak, PKD and other ‘golden age’ authors. On occasion, I like a good spy book and currently finding early religious history a fascinating subject – despite being an atheist.

The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness

Click to buy from Amazon or support your local independent book shop by popping in to buy it from them.
Click to buy from Amazon or support your local independent book shop by popping in to buy it from them.
Being the only boy left in a town of men is a lonely existence, even when you can hear everything everyone else thinks. Still it doesn’t mean Todd wants the dog he’s just been given, particularly when he can hear his thoughts too. Who wants to hear the constant requests to be fed or to go for a poo that stream from a dogs consciousness? A knife really would have been better.
Men hadn’t always been able to hear each other’s noise. It was a side effect from the germ warfare the Spackle had loosed on them just before Todd was born. The same virus that had killed all the females. Every single one.

Todd will soon be a man, and he is hearing snatches of things in the men’s noise that make him uneasy. Suddenly his foster dads force him to run away from home, pressing a knife into his hands, insisting that he is in great danger and making him take the dog, Manchee, with him.

This is billed as a Young Adult novel and I think it would be readable for kids of about 11 and over. However it is one I would definitely recommend for adults too.

Put simply this is a masterpiece. Patrick Ness is as talented a writer as Philip Pullman and as imaginative as J K Rowling. He has created an utterly believable world and populated it with a variety of realistic characters. Then he’s shoved in more danger and intrigue than a body can easily cope with. He’s a brave writer too and doesn’t shy away from the moral of the story or from doing what needs to be done.

I listened to the audiobook version of it and I found the reader and the effects of the noise fantastic. So good that I listened to the whole 13 hours + of it within 4 days! My daughter had read the book and when she heard a snatch of the audiobook she didn’t like it as she had a strong impression of Todd’s voice from the book. So it seems that whether you read it or listen to it you will identify with it very strongly. It’s due to be released as a movie later this year and I hope the film will create equally strong reactions!

It’s the first of a trilogy and I am absolutely going to listen to the other two – no matter how many times that Patrick Ness fella breaks my heart during it! I thoroughly recommend you do too!

5 Bites.

 

GemBookEater
I was reading before I started school and I have no plans to stop now! I usually have at least two books on the go at once, one non-fiction and one fiction. I like reading books based in reality that flick open the doors to the mysteries of the heart or of the spirit.

Book To Film: 5 Sci-Fi Titles That Made It To The Big Screen

When Sci-fi books are adapted to the big screen, you get good films and bad films. Are they better when they follow the original story or is it acceptable that they are ‘based on’ or ‘inspired by’ and becomes something slightly different?

At the end of the day, only you can decide if the director has succeeded or not.

2001: a space odyssey

2001 A space odysseyThough the book and the script were written at the same time, there are minor differences such as Saturn was the destination and not Jupiter. Though the book was published after the films release, I think it still qualifies for this list. Arthur C. Clark wrote the book but inspiration was derived from a few of his stories, Namely, “The Sentinel”, “Breaking Strain”, “Out of the Cradle, Endlessly Orbiting…”, “Who’s There?”, “Into the Comet”, and “Before Eden”. Important elements were also taken from “Encounter at Dawn” and (to a somewhat lesser extent) “Rescue Party”.

In 1976, Marvel Comics produced a comic version of the film, the famous Jack Kirby wrote and pencilled it.

When Kubrick decided to make “the proverbial ‘really good’ science-fiction movie”, little did he know if would become one of the most the iconic films ever.

2010: odyssey two

2010 odyssey twoThe story that started in 2001 continues and this time, Peter Hyams takes the reigns as director. A screen play was written based on Arthur C. Clarks novel of 1982 and the film was released at the end of 1984. What may seem strange, Marvel Comics produced a comic version of the film, and not of the book.

This time round, Kubrick had nothing to do with the film but Peter Hyams sought the permission of the original director and the author. Obviously they have him their blessings.

The film was received well but many thought it lacked the style, poetry and the mystery of the original film. A chunk of the book missing from the script, which I’m sure didn’t help.

Soylent Green

makeroom! makeroom!Harry Harrison’s tale from 1966, originally called ‘Make Room! Make Room!’, was brought to the big screen in 1973. Directed by Richard Fleischer, it starred big names like Charlton Heston, Leigh Taylor-Young and Edward G. Robinson.

Harrison was not that pleased with the film, he is quoted as saying, “Am I pleased with the film? I would say fifty percent”. Indeed, something was lost in the translation from book to film.

Total Recall

total-recallSo far their have been at least two version of Philips K. Dicks short story, ‘We Can Remember It For You Wholesale’.

The first version, called ‘Total Recall’, was directed by Paul Verhoeven and was released in 1990, it starred Arnold Schwarzenegger, Rachel Ticotin, and Sharon Stone. It was warmly received and did very well at the box office. However, looking back it, it really hasn’t aged that well.

The second version was released in 2012 and directed by Len Wisemen. It starred Colin Farrell, Kate Beckinsale, Jessica Biel, Bryan Cranston, John Cho, and Bill Nighy. Imaginatively, it was also called ‘Total Recal’.

The film really didn’t do well at the box office. Many thought it lacked substance though a few did think it was exciting and carried many aspects of the original story.

The problem with both films is that the scripts were ‘loosely’ based on PKD’s short from 1966. To turn a short story in to a film that lasts some where around one and half to two hours, there’s going to be padding and changes.

War of The Worlds

war-of-the-worldsThis book is considered a classic piece of science fiction. It was written by English author H. G. Wells between 1895 and 1897. It first appeared in book form in 1898. The story is told is from the point of view of unnamed man in Surrey and that of his younger brother in London, as Earth is invaded by Martians.

Two films have been made, the first is probably the best one and most watchable. The second, in my own personal view, is rather disappointing.

The first film was released in 1953, produced by George Pal and directed by Byron Haskin. For the time, the effects seem pretty good. Plenty of girls screaming and men running around with guns. It’s a film I can re-watch any time

The second, directed by Steven Spielberg was released in 2005. It starred Tom Cruise, Dakota Fanning and Tim Robbins. The effects are good and the main points of the story are there. For me, it’s lacking something, the film just seems too low key…

It’s a shame that neither film takes place in the original setting of suburban England. The Tom Cruise version seems to wander in it’s re-telling of the story. George Pal seems more keen on action and adventure but has far too many women screaming at everything.

Bob Toovey
I started reading Sci Fi at around age 8, I’ve never looked back since. I was highly influenced by my father’s reading choices at the beginning. I soon branched out to many different authors and Sci Fi genre’s. Early influences include Asimov, Clark, Simak, PKD and other ‘golden age’ authors. On occasion, I like a good spy book and currently finding early religious history a fascinating subject – despite being an atheist.

Link By D.A. Karr

Link by D A Karr
Click here to buy this eBook from Amazon.
As a huge Sci Fi fan, I was looking forward to reading ‘Link’ by D.A. Karr. It promised time travel, war and human interest. To quote, “’Link’ sits in its own class. It actually parallels The Hunt for Red October”, but with a mystery-thriller twist And of course, the technological development with it in the sci-fi genre”. Is this an actual comparison to the writing style of Tom Clancy or perhaps his imagination?

Lets start off with the story. There is a single plot, it’s linear that does have some development. The action is good, the ideas are there but it’s the execution that lets the story down. I’ll get to that in a mo…

A military team working for the National Space Time Enforcement Agency have to hunt down a renegade who is in control of a large cyborg army.

Captain Becker is in charge of the time travelling spaceship Phoenix and the military team is led by John Garrick, team members include Ferber, Gillie (the only female in the story) and Wexler. I wish I could say more about them but their characters and histories are not developed enough.

There are many things that are wrong with the ‘Link’. I really don’t want to hurt the authors feelings but whoever did the final editing failed at their job. I am no grammar expert but there are mistakes that should not be there, the writing comes across as clunky and to me it’s more like a second draft.

Here’s an example of what I see as clunky…

Garrick reared up with his android blood running through his android veins, “Sure. It’s time I took Menser one on one. I’ll finish the job this time. When do we leave?”

and for grammar…

Cyborg’s shut down and dropped where they stood, lifeless, minus their power source.

Hate to say it but androids don’t have blood. There are certain terms and concepts that should be used in a particular way. Cyborgs have blood as they are part human part machine. Androids are all machine, basically walking talking computers with human form. If you ignore these terms and concepts then you confuse the reader, makes the plot line more difficult to follow and you’re not following convention.

Halfway through the book, which is quite short by the way, I realised who it’s really for. It’s not for the likes of me who read mostly Sci Fi but more for young teens who are new to the genre or just getting in to it.

At the end, while reading the blurb, I understood why I had a problem with it. The ‘Link’ had started out as a screenplay and subsequently turned into a book. Somehow the process hadn’t gone well.

With a little extra work, from an editor who knows the field, the ‘Link’ could be turned into a really good adventure for a teen audience. Plenty of things to expand on and could turn into a series fun books.

Recommendations: for adults – 1/5, for teens 3/5

Bob Toovey
I started reading Sci Fi at around age 8, I’ve never looked back since. I was highly influenced by my father’s reading choices at the beginning. I soon branched out to many different authors and Sci Fi genre’s. Early influences include Asimov, Clark, Simak, PKD and other ‘golden age’ authors. On occasion, I like a good spy book and currently finding early religious history a fascinating subject – despite being an atheist.

The Time Machine by H G Wells

This classic work should be easy to find in your local independent book shop.
This classic work should be easy to find in your local independent book shop.
One evening, our narrator attends a dinner party hosted by an acquaintance with a scientific obsession. He wishes to prove that time is a dimension and that it can be travelled through. The evening is full of spirited scientific discussion and culminates with the host showing his guests a model of a time machine he has constructed. When he turns the lever the “Time Machine” disappears. It has travelled in time the host announces.

The next week our narrator returns for another dinner party. But to his guests consternation, the host is not there, but he has left a note inviting his guests to start eating and promising his imminent return. Is he travelling through time? 

True to his note he soon returns, but he is dirty and disheveled and insisting on eating and bathing before telling them the story of his unbelievable journey through time.  

This tiny 1895 novella had a huge impact. With it, H.G. Wells invented the time traveling genre! And hugely strengthened the dystopian genre which at that time only had a handful of novels to recommend it. 

He used it not only to inspire the imaginations of his readers but also to provoke their intellects. Not so much to get them all working on building time machines of their own but more to make them think about the society they were living in and what might become of it.  His tale is a clear warning that inequality and the abuse of the poor would end with them rising up over a physically weak aristocracy. A warning that still hasn’t been heeded!

Regardless of its social message it is still a fantastic story. It cracks along at a heck of a pace and the scene setting is utterly believable. The characters though are a little thin, but not so much that it hampers the readers enjoyment.

4 bites

GemBookEater
I was reading before I started school and I have no plans to stop now! I usually have at least two books on the go at once, one non-fiction and one fiction. I like reading books based in reality that flick open the doors to the mysteries of the heart or of the spirit.

Acts of Violence by Ross Harrison

Click through to Amazon- Kindle only
Click through to Amazon- Kindle only
Jack Mason, the protagonist of Acts of Violence by Ross Harrison, doesn’t really like violence. He especially hates violence towards women. And he absolutely hates the perpetrators of violence towards women. Which is why he finds himself punching the son of the town’s mob boss in the face and rescuing the barmaid he was harassing. This act of violence has unexpected consequences, the first of which is that Jack and the bar maid end up going back to his apartment for some sexy fun times, the second of which is the bar maid being dead by morning, and Jack being hauled off to the police station as the prime suspect.
He maintains his innocence in the face of mounting evidence against him until the third unexpected consequence makes itself known in the guise of the mob bosses hench-men staging a prison break (well, a police station break). It would appear that the bar maid had an item of great value to Webster, the mob boss, which he believes Jack now has. Jack has no clue what Webster is on about which leads to his second act of violence…

Something I haven’t mentioned in the above summary is that Jack Mason lives on another planet in the far future and the reason I haven’t mentioned it is that this book doesn’t really feel like sci-fi. It has the futuristic technology, the off world location, the mention of alien life but I still wouldn’t really call it a sci-fi book. It’s a bit Jack Reacher, a bit Blade Runner, a bit 1940s thriller-noir. I liked that, the sci-fi touches added colour to the world that Harrison had built without smacking me over the head with the ‘this is the future’ sign that sci-fi books sometimes have. Harrison has the confidence to write a good pacy human story that just happens to be set in the future on another planet.

Acts of Violence is a dark, violent book- not really surprising given the title- and I wasn’t sure that I would like it. Harrison’s style of writing however detaches the reader slightly from the violence and it doesn’t feel as visceral as it could do. I liked this fact although I suspect the less squeamish may prefer a more descriptive approach.
Mason’s journey through the book is exciting, I wanted to know what would happen next, where his investigation would take him. He is a deeply flawed character and full of contradictions, it feels weird to be rooting for him, particularly given his hints on what happened to his girlfriend and yet you can’t shake the feeling that he’ll come good in the end.

In comparison, many of the minor characters felt flatter, not as well drawn, and whereas this didn’t detract from the book much, it would have been nice to have see a more multifaceted Lawrence, for example.
Generally this was an enjoyable read.
3 bites

 

NB: Review copy received from the author in return for this honest review

Rachel Brazil
Although well-known amongst my family for my habit of falling asleep with a book on my face, I’ve not let the constant face bruises deter me from indulging in my favourite pastime. There is no famine, only feast, in my house with every flavour of book available for consumption.

I’m happy to sample almost anything from the smorgasbord of literature available but can always be tempted with a juicy murder mystery or sweet little romance.