Winterhill 2: Ghost Requiem


Read 27/04/2017-28/04/2017

Rating: 4 stars

I’ve made a return to the Winterhill series. I picked up the first volume on a whim and enjoyed it. I decided I was going to whittle down my TBR before I invested in any more in the series, though, but then last month the author announced that any profits on sales of the book would be donated to the charity Hope for Hypothalamic Hamartomas. So I bought the next three.

Ghost Requiem is the second book in this pop culture sci-fi series about amnesiac archaeologist Professor Rebecca Winterhill. It opens with Winterhill and her travel mates Madagascar Talifero and Tareku Wamae resting up on a mini cruise on the planet Kalumpah. Continue reading

Winterhill: The Wreath of Dreams


Read 29/11/2016-30/11/2016

Rating: 4 stars

This is fast paced science fiction split into episodes like an unillustrated graphic novel, or a radio serial that hasn’t been broadcast. The Wreath of Dreams is the first in a series of books and introduces us to amnesiac archaeologist Professor Rebecca Winterhill. Across the six episodes she hooks up with two travelling companions, Madagascar Talifero and Tareku Wamae, and has various hair raising and blood curdling adventures.

It’s clear that Iain Martin has a plan for the characters. He builds their back stories gradually, drops them in and out of the narrative, and doesn’t tie things up too quickly. It made me think of episodes of Doctor Who. Each episode in the book is a complete story, but it leaves a door open for something else to develop down the line.

I enjoyed the cheekiness of the writing, the occasional nod to the reader that life can be corny at times, the occasional meta reference to life being like a sci-fi film. I liked the characters. Winterhill and Madagascar reminded me of Halo Jones and her friend Rodice in their no-nonsense reactions to the things life throws at them. They’re feisty in different ways.

If you’re after something with a bit of pace, a bit of suspense, a bit of intergalactic police procedural, and a bit of space adventure, this could be the series for you.

The Ballad of Halo Jones


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


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


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


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


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.



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


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!