Category Archives: Books

Updated

Since my last post (“Evolutionary Change“) when I was praising the Kindle, I’ve probably read more than I have in a long time!

I’ve read the sequel to “Life Free or Die” and  “Citadel” – called The Hot Gate (Troy Rising), I’ve read “Hellhole” by Kevin J Anderson & Brian Herbert, and “The Parasite” by Neal Asher,  and I’m currently working my way through “A Kingdom Besieged” by Raymond E Feist.

It’s fantastic that the Kindle has allowed me to rediscover my love of reading, although it may be entirely coincidental that right now there is a selection of great fiction that I want to read!

On the Big Screen side of things, I’m somewhat dissapointed to discover that the remake of one of my favourite films ever has been cancelled.

Unless you’ve been living in a proverbial Scifi/Fantasy Desert for the last year though, you’ll doubtless be aware of the forthcoming “Game of Thrones” from HBO.  I believe it’s being screened in the UK on the same day as it premiers in the US courtesy of Sky Atlantic, so I’m waiting for this one with a keen anticipation!

In other news, Tinker went for an unscheduled and unexpected swim the other day, having been chased in to a river by some other friendly and playful Greyhounds.  He was no worse the wear, but we certainly had some thinking to do working out how to get a very wet dog back home again in the car!

In the meantime, here’s a short video of Tinker stretching his legs!

 

I’ve also taken the plunge and started selling a few bits & bobs on eBay.  I’ve occasionally bought items, but never sold anything, so it’s a bit of a new experience for me.  Somewhat predictably I keep checking to see if there are any bids.

So come on, hurry up you “Watchers”, I can see you!  Don’t just watch, BID BID BID!  🙂

In case you’re interested, you can find my items for sale here.

Evolutionary Change

There’s a gadget out there; one that I’ve been sitting on the fence about.  Those that know me will understand how unusual this is, for me to NOT be investigating the latest gadget etc is extremely unusual!

I am referring to the Amazon Kindle.  

 

As a lover of books, I’ve not really been attracted to buying one, I’m not really sure why, and in hindsight I wish I’d bought one sooner. 

But, recently based on the recommendation of a friend, I took the plunge, and I’m extremely glad I did!

The screen is; simply put .. Stunning ..   It’s not an LCD or LED screen, there’s no use comparing it to an iPad or mobile phone, instead it uses an amazing e-Ink “Pearl” technology which uses a Pearlescent white/grey background capable of 4 different shades of black/grey.  From what I understand it only uses power when changing the display, thus accounting for an excellent battery life, and it’s extremely readable in direct sunlight.  Of course it suffers in the same way a conventional book does in low light situations.

I’ve been using mine for a couple of weeks now, and haven’t read so much in years!  I’ve been looking at different sources for the books (not just Amazon’s online shop) and I’m confident I can find sufficient reading material with the right appeal to keep me going for years.  It’s light, it’s effective, it’s easy to read, I’m sold.  My only real dilemma now is that I need to decide if I’m going to keep my existing library of books which take up lots of space on the shelf and gather dust, or whether I should start to replace them with the electronic versions.

Having said all that, I have two reservations about Kindle.

Firstly – and perhaps somewhat selfishly – I use Books as a ready source of gift ideas for people.  I maintain an Amazon Wishlist which usually has a selection of Books and DVD’s on it which I can refer people to when they ask the inevitable questions around Christmas and Birthdays, and I can’t see an easy way of someone buying me an e-Book, and certainly not wrapping it up to give as a gift in a few weeks.  Sure you could probably use a gift voucher or something, but it’d be nice if Amazon could come up with something to make this easier.

Secondly – There are two types of book.  The largest section of the market I can see being ‘compatible’ with Kindle, all of my Fiction collection and most of my reference books for work are monochrome (Covers notwithstanding), but I do have a small percentage of books that contain full colour glossy photos.  Cookery books for example, and as it stands Kindle just doesn’t lend itself to these books.

Imagine then my surprise and indeed glee after doing some Google searches to find the Kindle picture above to find that the company behind the existing display technology have produced a COLOUR version of the same tech, called e-Ink “Triton” which has extremely interesting possibilities.

It is my estimation that this is going to change the way we read and use books forever.  The ONLY thing that’s missing is a better way to manage and index the library of content on the device.  Just putting it in to an Alphabetic list doesn’t really do what’s needed.

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Recommended Reading

It’s been a little while since I found a book that really captivated me, and I’m pleased to report that it’s finally happened once again.

Regular visitors will be aware of my enjoyment of Military Scifi books by the likes of David Weber, Jack Campbell, and Mike Shepherd.  I’ve recently been able to add a new author to the list! – John Ringo.

I found it courtesy of an Amazon recommendation, but it sounded like something I might enjoy, so I first tried reading Live Free Or Die (Troy Rising) followed by it’s sequel Citadel

 

 

Ringo seems to have an interesting perspective on Scifi in that he takes a modern human society and throws it straight in to the proverbial deep end of Alien First Contact, usually with fairly negative consequences.  The Troy Rising series was my first exposure, and I loved the Economic aspects, the scale of manufacturing and production effort and changes as the Human race struggles to get to grips with the new Alien technology and integrate it, all the while attempting to play catch-up and defend Earth against multiple alien species who are orders of magnitude more advanced.

I’ve since gone back to read A Hymn Before Battle (Posleen War) which seems to follow the same basic premise,but instead thrusts an ill prepared human race straight in to an off-world conflict.

So far I’m loving every minute of it, and will be reading many more of Ringo’s works in the coming weeks.

Have you read any good books recently?

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Entertaining and Thought Provoking…

Quite an interesting clip of Clifford Stoll in action.

I can thoroughly recommend his book “The Cuckoo’s Egg” for any Computer Security types out there.

A Windy Universe!

I’ve been doing some research today, as I wanted to (re) confirm the reading order for the Dune Prequels written by Brian Herbert and Kevin J Anderson, and I’ve made the happy discovery that they aren’t finished with the Dune novels just yet!

It looks like in early September, a further novel called The Winds of Dune will be released.

Picking up where Dune Messiah left off, the official website says ..

“Paul has walked off into the sand, blind, and is presumed dead. Jessica and Gurney are on Caladan; Alia is trying to hold the Imperial government together with Duncan; Mohiam dead at the hands of Stilgar; Irulan imprisoned. Paul’s former friend, Bronso of Ix, now seems to be leading opposition to the House of Atreides. Herbert and Anderson’s newest book in this landmark series will concentrate on these characters as well the growing battle between Jessica, and her daughter, Alia.”

It certainly sounds good!  I hope BH and KJA can continue to develop stories.   I just pray that KJA’s influence doesn’t cause the book to have hundreds of chapters, each of which may be less than 5 pages!

What’s Next

A bit of a mixed bag in this post.  Still with a heavy Literary focus I’m afraid, and for those not quite so geeky or interested in Scifi/Fantasy as I am, there’s probably not a great deal here for you to find interesting.

I’m still not reading as much as I once did, instead listening on the Train to to Audiobooks quite a bit, partly because the fantastic iPhone/iPod makes it so easy.  This has also grown in to the Car because of the MP3 CD Player in the current Car, so one CD can quite easily last for 4-5 long trips to Manchester and Back again!

Audible is a great source of material for UK listeners, and you can download the MP3 and burn it to CD yourself.  There’s a reasonable collection of Scifi and Fantasy titles in their library.

There are one or two other sources, I heartily wish that Graphic Audio would hurry up and get their International MP3 Download service sorted out for us International listeners, but hey, Can’t have it all I suppose.

Amazon does also sell one or two MP3-CD’s and Audio Books, so it’s not the end of the world.

Of course there’s always Big Finish too with their ever increasing collection of Doctor Who stories.

In the odd moments when I do pick up a book, I’ve recently enjoyed the Biography of Theo Paphitis called “Enter the Dragon“.  Theo is one of the famous Dragon’s Den entrepreneurs.  I’m also currently enjoying the latest in Jack Campbell’s “The Lost Fleet” series.  The recent one is called Relentless (Lost Fleet).

I’ve also been sad to hear of the recent passing of David Eddings, author of Magician’s Gambit (Belgariad)Enchanter’s End Game (Belgariad)Castle Of Wizardry (Belgariad)The Sapphire Rose (The Elenium)The Diamond Throne (The Elenium)The Ruby Knight (The Elenium) and many more Fantasy works.    Rest in Peace David!

David Eddings

(7 July 1931- 2 June 2009)

Book: Hell’s Gate by David Weber & Linda Evans

Normally I’m quite a fan of David Weber;  I loved his Honor Harrington series, and the new series that started with off Armageddon Reef was a blast, but Hell’s Gate (Multiverse I) spectacularly failed to engage me.

The style of writing is as you’d expect, but even at 50+ pages in, the reader is still being subjected to intense character build up rather than any engaging action.  Only one plot “event” seems to have happened so far, with the rest just being build build build.

Perhaps that’s a symptom of the fact that this is a “new” novel, or the first in an intended series (called “Multiverse”) rather than one being set in an established environment.  There is a sequel called Hell Hath No Fury (Multiverse II).

Now as is becoming my habit, I part wrote this review during the time I was reading the book, so It will be interesting to see how my impressions change as I continue to read.  Sadly so far the book has failed to pull me in, and I’m finding it something of a chore to continue reading.

// EDIT // – So much so in fact that I ended up abandoning the title before I got even 1/4 of the way through.  It just wasn’t getting any better.

I wonder how it’s worked in co-authored novels like this one.  How much input did the two respective authors have, and was it in Storyline and Character development?  Actual writing?  Brainstorming?

All in all, I’d say this one was a useless 0/5 stars_0

Another Book Review

Okay, so I’ve not a huge amount to say other than to bore you all silly with the books I’ve been reading!

Having finished The Dreaming Void (Void Trilogy) by Peter F Hamilton, I ploughed straight in to it’s sequel, The Temporal Void.

I have to say I’m thoroughly enjoying Peter F Hamilton’s work.  Pandora’s Star (Commonwealth Saga) and Judas Unchained (Commonwealth Saga) were both pretty heavyweight Scifi of the finest kind, but the latest two manage to encompass a distinct Fantasy section within them with the key but discretely separate second thread plot device featuring Edeard the Waterwalker.    I would love to see PFH write an exclusively Fantasy based work, as I think it’d work very well indeed.

A nice big picture of the cover art here, as I think the covers for PFH’s works are fantastic!

And on a related note I’ve discovered something quite interesting on Amazon.   The company called photoshock are selling some intriguing works of art that rather pique my fancy!

Here’s an example; called ANDROMEDA: Battle Of Samsusa XL Gallery Framed Canvas Art Ready To Hang NEW sci fi, they seem to take high quality prints from TV and Film and turn them in to what looks to be extremely nice wall mountable (or even mounted) works.

I’ve added a couple that I rather like to my Amazon Wishlist!  Shame that it just missed my Birthday eh?

Book Review: The Dreaming Void

It’s been a while since I wrote a book review;  So what have I been reading I hear you ask?  (Well ok not really, but I can dream, can’t I?)

I eventually abandoned Hell’s Gate (Multiverse) but instead have read two other titles.

The Real Deal: My Story from Brick Lane to the Dragons’ Den by James Caan, and The Dreaming Void (Void Trilogy) by Peter F Hamilton.

The James Caan book was quite interesting, if a departure from my normal reading faire.  I do tend to like biographies like this from time to time.   Perhaps not as interesting as Richard Branson’s, but it gave a very interesting insight in to how focussed and single minded Caan is, and that is evidently the root of his success.  A certain amount of self adulation for his Philanthropic activities creeps in towards the end, but it’s still an interesting insight in to what makes the man tick.

The Dreaming Void is set in the same universe as Pandora’s Star (Commonwealth Saga) and Judas Unchained (Commonwealth Saga).  I think I’d have benefited from re-reading the other titles first, as The Dreaming Void seems to rely on the reader being cognizant of the events in those titles.  Some of it is fairly easy to remember, but others less so, maybe that’s just me however!

Book: Kris Longknife: Intrepid

This is the Sixth Book in the Kris Longknife series that I’ve read, and overall I found this one somewhat harder to follow than the others.

The characters seem less well defined in this installment, perhaps that’s because the Author is settled in to his stride with these individuals now, and doesn’t feel the need to describe them as well as in previous installments, but the ultimate effect is that you need to read this volume more or less directly after one or more of it’s predecessors in order to keep up with the action which starts pretty much straight away.

Shepherd doesn’t seem to have quite the same flair for Military style Scifi as Elizabeth Moon or David Webber, but he does a passable job describing the combat, strategy and tactics.  On occasion the writing would have benefited from a more descriptive style, at least enough to give your imagination something to fire on.  He does also degenerate in to acronyms all too easily, and only occasionally remembers to explain himself a few pages or paragraphs further on.

It takes until the last quarter of the book for Shepherd to develop the overall point of the novel in the series, (which I won’t give away here), but this kind of distances this volume from it’s predecessors.  I rather suspect that he wrapped up most of his planned threads in the fifth volume of this series, and this is very much a bridge in to some new ideas which will give the overall storyline great boost in to the next novel in the series.

Overall an average attempt by Mr Shepherd, so I give Kris Longknife: Intrepid (Kris Longknife) a rating of stars3

For reference, the prequels were: