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Showing posts from May, 2015

The Echo by James Smythe

Space exploration – it's an idea that inspires great flights of fancy and equal measures of terror, the void through which we spin is the macro equivalent to the empty centre of each of us and is thus such a draw for the soul of mankind. Or something. Which is why, I suspect, in Smythe's second anomaly novel, Earth is firing yet another set of astronauts into the dark despite having lost a first bunch in the first book, The Explorer, and yet more further back in the other tragedy referenced, the Indian moon mission disaster. This time it's twin brothers Tomas and Mira, first rate intellects and relentless perfectionists, who have created a perfect spaceship (HUBRIS KLAXON) with which to explore and study the anomaly, a completely black area of space that appears to be heading this way. Readers of the first novel will recognise the same anomaly which did for Cormac Easton and chums. In fact, the erstwhile explorer makes an appearance as does the good ship Ishiguro as our ow…

Last Night On Earth by Kevin Maher

Before I begin, very many thanks should go to Kevin Maher and the social media team at Little Brown for a) sending me a free copy of this novel for no better reason than I was serendipitous and knowledgeable, and b) doing so graciously despite me chasing them across the social mediaverse and demanding that necks be stepped upon because the first copy didn't make it to my house*. They were, as far as reader-friendly authors and publishers go, exemplars of patience and kindness.

So, on with the story, and I should warn readers now that there may be plot and device spoilers to follow. In an attempt to be fair, honest and open** I must say that, at first I didn't enjoy this novel. Tellingly, strikingly, it begins with the birth of Shauna and Jay's oxygen-starved baby Bonnie, and for a man eating a cheese and tomato sandwich (on home-made saffron-, turmeric- and paprika-infused wholemeal bread with just a hint of nutmeg, and loaded with habañero Tabasco sauce), who has seen the …

The City And The City by China Miéville

I like an author who doesn't explain too much. I like monsters you don't see, mysteries that go unexplained, realities that exist without question and especially without answer. I also like detective fiction, particularly noir. And I have an incredibly soft spot for science fiction and fantasy. Step up, China Miéville. A British writer of scope and talent, winner of the 2010 Arthur C Clarke and Hugo Awards for this very novel, Miéville is a member of the 'New Weird', a writer that, although he loves to explore genres (indeed I have heard he wants to write a novel in every literary genre) is not easily pigeon-holed, unless of course you go and make up a label, just for him. So of course I was going to like him, when I got around to reading him. It was highly likely that my recent dabbling with Gene Wolfe opened the intertextual door to this novel, although I can't be sure. Nonetheless, I went and got me a digital copy as soon as I could after realising the kernel of…

Big Reads circa 2007

Rooting about behind old electronic equipment I discovered a stash of cuttings clipped from The Western Mail between 2006 and 2007, back when I was Waterstones' representative and, hopefully (but not likely) authoritative reviewer, and still using my 'maiden' name. Gawd, the stuff I used to get away with! Still, daft as I was, grouping Richard Flanagan, Nicholson Baker and Winkie by Clifford Chase together, I can honestly say I was trying my damnedest to get people to read books that I sincerely enjoyed, for whatever the reason. And I have a year's worth of the buggers too. It's nice to know that at some point in your life, your opinion mattered... Obviously not enough to get paid for it. But such a beautiful young face.





The Book Of The New Sun Tetralogy by Gene Wolfe

You know those books, the ones that gnaw at you, when you browse in book shops and online, when you skim past them on the book case or in drop-down menu lists, they catch the corner of your eye, tugging at your hand, wolf-whistling from the shelves, and you know you should probably read them, but then you've got so many books on that pile already - those books? For me, Gene Wolfe has occupied this dusty corner of my literary life ever since my mother began bringing home the Piers Anthony Xanth books, the Discworld novels, Robin Hobb and David Eddings fantasy series, from the library in which she worked, when I was but a tender lad of years between ten and fifteen. I was always aware of him, and as a bookseller, knowing that his place as the principal author in the Fantasy Masterworks series afforded him a singular notoriety, I resolutely ignored him, thanks in part to an injurious recommendation by someone I was determined to never end up like. And frankly, having not worked in th…

The Book Of The New Sun, Volume 2: Sword and Citadel, by Gene Wolfe