The Ballad of Halo Jones

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Read 11/06/2016-12/06/2016

Rating: 4 stars

Alan Moore and Ian Gibson’s sci-fi comic about a future everywoman trying to find her place in the world first appeared in 2000AD in the mid-80s. I was a teenager at the time and more interested in Tolkien, literary fiction and listening to pop music, so I’d given up sneakily reading my older brother’s copies of 2000AD. What an error of judgement, because I missed out on Halo Jones first time around. Continue reading

Never Let Me Go

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Read 05/04/2016-07/04/2016

Rating: 4 stars

Read for the Reader’s Room March Madness challenge

The first book I read by Kazuo Ishiguro was An Artist of the Floating World. My mum bought it for me from the book club man who used to visit the library where she worked. It transported me and led me to other books by Ishiguro, The Remains of the Day and When We Were Orphans. I haven’t read anything by him for years, so for the March Madness challenge I decided I’d nominate and read Never Let Me Go. I haven’t seen the film, but I knew vaguely what the story is about.

If Never Let Me Go can be classified as sci-fi, then it’s the kind of sci-fi that I like – something that could feasibly happen in a setting that I can imagine myself existing in. The setting of this novel seemed like a parallel universe to ours. I don’t know that it is sci-fi, though. The science fiction aspects aren’t to the fore in the plot. I think it’s more about the slowly creeping realisation that life isn’t quite what we would like it to be, or what we think it is, which is a universal experience. It’s also about trying to find meaning in life, and trying to delay the inevitable, to grasp a few more precious moments that might help you to understand what the point of it all was. Continue reading

The Martian

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Read 03/04/2016-05/04/2016

Rating: 2.5 stars

I wanted to read The Martian because I like science fiction, and the premise sounded interesting. I had high hopes for it.

I borrowed it from the library so that I could read it for the March Madness challenge. I’m glad I didn’t buy a copy.

In the end (or even from the beginning), I was disappointed in it. I found it too tech heavy, but not in an over complicated way. I found the level of detail patronising. The amount of explanation of each technical action didn’t add anything to the story. It also felt like it needed a damn good edit to move it from serialisation to novel. I didn’t engage with the characters because they were quite sketchy, not fully developed enough to care about. There were some funny moments, but mostly the humour was juvenile and wearing. Millions will disagree with me, but I don’t know what the fuss is about.
I don’t want to be a literary snob. I’m all for the democratisation of things, including making it easier for writers to get published without needing all those things in place that make it slightly easier to get published, as much as authors and publishers might deny they exist. I do wonder about the lack of editorial support for writers who self-publish. I’ve read a couple of things now where it’s really apparent to me that an editorial eye cast over a manuscript would have helped to polish a rough diamond into a gem. The Martian is an interesting case because, after blogging then publishing through the Kindle platform, the book gathered such a readership that it was taken up by a publishing house. Only a slight edit was applied. I think it needed more than a slight edit, personally. But millions of others clearly disagree with me, and it is good that a writer can get a break and have such a popular success.

As I read, because I wasn’t particularly engaged and found it both juvenile and patronising, I recorded my thoughts about it in a Mark Watney style, logging my reactions as I moved through the chapters. If you haven’t read it yet, or not seen the film, you might want to stop reading this post here. There might be spoilers.

Continue reading

Only Forward

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Read 01/01/2016-02/01/2016

Rating: 3 stars

I borrowed Only Forward from my husband for The Reader’s Room Winter Scavenger Hunt Challenge clue that involved us reading a book signed by the author. The blurb seemed promising and I was looking forward to it. Sadly, it was underwhelming. I know it was Michael Marshall Smith’s first novel, so I gave it an extra half star in my rating, but it was a 50-50 read for me. It seemed confused, there were moments Marshall Smith seemed to be losing interest in the story which outweighed the good ideas and the bursts of tension. Continue reading

Snow Crash

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Read 01/12/2015-03/12/2015

Rating: 3 stars

Read for The Reader’s Room Winter Scavenger Hunt Challenge, day 1 – an author who shares your birthday.

I really enjoyed Snow Crash. It was a high octane read. It was interesting to read it 23 years after publication, because it felt very relevant. I’m not a huge gamer, but I watch my husband playing various games that echo the Metaverse. A lot of the time it felt as though it should be a graphic novel, or had possibly been influenced by manga/anime, so it was also interesting to read in the afterword that Neal Stephenson had originally been collaborating on a graphic novel which turned into Snow Crash.

All of the characters were engaging, the theories about language, religion and evolution were plausible rather than half baked, and the action was entertaining. My only criticism is that it took half the book for me to feel immersed in the story. If it had been a mini series, I’d have given up before then.

WE

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Read 20/04/2015-23/04/2015

Rating: 3 stars

I really enjoyed this futuristic dystopian SciFi tale. Tempting to read all kinds of things into it, given the time of its publication and subsequent banning in Russia, but actually I think it’s just a reflection on how things can go wrong when you try to make everything equal by eliminating the complexities of human nature, and how conforming to the prevalent culture can sometimes feel safe, even when it’s not. Pertinent to all societies, not just overtly oppressive ones. Continue reading

Journey to the Centre of the Earth

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Read 05/10/2014-06/10/2014

Rating: 4 stars

I first read Journey to the Centre of the Earth when I was 8. My local supermarket sold pocket editions of classics at pocket money prices. I loved this one. It was incredibly exciting and nerve tingling. 35 years later, I decided to read it again following a discussion on Facebook about what some of our favourite childhood reads had been. My pocket money pocket edition is long gone, so I got a copy for my Kindle from Project Gutenberg. It is as good as I remembered. Fast paced and funny, if a little implausible at times (I can take ichthyosaurs and plesiosaurs living in a subterranean sea, not sure about the ability to acclimatise to differing air pressures as you travel towards the earth’s core on foot, though), it is deserving of its classic status. I appreciated the humour more as an adult, finding it funnier this time around than when I read it as a child.

I discovered that my childhood version and the one I downloaded are an abridged translation with the names of the main characters changed, so I’ve downloaded another version from Project Gutenberg, which is supposed to be more accurate. To read another day, though!

 

The Lathe of Heaven

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Read 11/03/2015-14/03/2015

Rating: 4 stars

I acquired this from a well-read friend who was having a clear out. I like having well-read friends who are more inclined to give their books away than I am. Of course, if I gave some books away, I wouldn’t have piles of books in front of book cases or stacked on top of books on book cases.

I hadn’t read anything by Ursula K Le Guin before. What an interesting book to start with. Continue reading