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wabrit (Derbyshire)

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Doctor Who: The Twin Dilemma
Doctor Who: The Twin Dilemma
by Eric Saward
Edition: Audio CD
Price: 11.17

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Once a dog, always a dog, 26 Jan 2012
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is a review for the Audio Book of the target novelisation.

Poor old "Twin Dilemma" regularly tops (bottoms?) polls of the least favourite Doctor Who story, and the reasons are not too hard to find; a shaky plot, some awful special effects and some very below average performances. Added to this, many people found the treatment of the Doctor's character post regeneration (as the story starts) to be highly unsympathetic and perhaps misjudged in tone (at one point he almost succeeds in strangling Peri his assistant).

So for me the question was going to be whether this audio book managed to rescue (at least in part) the reputation of this story; perhaps freed from the shackles of those awful effects and performances, some gold could be made of base metal.

The answer alas is no; the story is fundamentally at heart just poor. What Eric Saward has done is faithfully reproduce the inanity of the source material and (due to the requirement to fill out to book length) added a fair amount of padding that does nothing to improve matters. Indeed, in the long introductory section (which deals with the Twins' domestic life before they are whisked away to do some difficult sums for a giant maggot) if anything the book manages the not inconsiderable feat of lowering the quality even further. Quite what we are to make of a subplot which involves the Twins' sexually frustrated father entertaining fantasies of murdering his children is beyond me; it seems a little edgy for a Doctor Who story, and what is worse goes absolutely nowhere - once the Twins are whisked away that's the last we hear of it. The nadir comes when we are told that the father is question is a mathematical genius because "he has calculated the square root of -3"; a feat surely not beyond a bright and enterprising 16 year old, but hardly the stuff of which legends are made.

Colin Baker does his best with the material and (a rather squirm-inducing attempt to do Peri's mid-atlantic accent aside) gives a good an account as could be expected, but the best actor in the world could do very little with pages of sub-hitch-hiker "humorous" digressions. It seems a little cruel that, having been the unfortunate victim of a very subpar TV story, he has to endure it all over again in a different media.


A Day in the Life of a Smiling Woman: The Collected Stories (Penguin Classic)
A Day in the Life of a Smiling Woman: The Collected Stories (Penguin Classic)
by Margaret Drabble
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 16.53

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A book from the life of a talented woman, 26 Dec 2011
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
For a writer with almost 20 novels to their name, it's perhaps surprising that Margaret Drabble's published short stories barely number that many over the course of a 50 year writing career. Never having read any of her fiction, I was intrigued to see whether this collection would inspire me to seek out more of her work (much of it sadly out of print currently).

I am glad to say it did; the stories in this collection are of a high calibre with several outstanding examples (The Dower House at Kellynch, Crossing the Alps and the title story). The author excels at probing the psychology of intelligent women, caught by circumstance or social forces, and I look forward to reading her full-length fiction.


The Quantum Universe: Everything that can happen does happen
The Quantum Universe: Everything that can happen does happen
by Brian Cox
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 20.00

67 of 71 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Beauty is truth, truth beauty, 4 Dec 2011
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Any review of this book probably needs to be prefaced with a declaration of the reviewer's academic credentials, so I have to declare up front 'A' level physics and a PhD in mathematics. I think this is relevant rather than a misguided attempt at trumpet blowing because one's familiarity with certain concepts inevitably colours judgement of a book that does to some part attempt to engage the reader with the nuts and bolts of a difficult subject rather than resort entirely to hand waving and analogy.

Factual matters first; this is a short (200 pages) book whose mission is to provide a reader not versed in mathematics or physics beyond GCSE level (or less) an insight into the behaviour of the universe at the level of the very small. There are difficult but rather beautiful concepts here, and the authors are attempting to convey the essence of those concepts in a way that requires some effort on the part of the reader; clearly a detailed mathematical approach is going to leave all but a small percentage of people lost, but in order to talk sensibly about the subject at all does at least require some acknowledgement of the underlying maths.

As one of the core concepts that needs to be addressed in discussing quantum mechanics is that of complex numbers and Hilbert spaces, the authors have opted to represent this using the notion of one-handed clocks. This is where I can only guess as to whether someone who has never dealt with complex numbers will find this approach more or less confusing than the underlying maths; with my background I found that I was constantly translating the clock concept in my head to try and understand what the authors were actually getting at. Personally I would have preferred a more direct approach; e.g. define a complex number, explain how they are added and multiplied and then use that, but I can understand I'm probably in the minority here.

Overall I found the book very interesting; what I particularly admired was that the authors provided a real insight into why the seemingly bizarre concepts of quantum mechanics can not only explain behaviour at the micro level, but also how those concepts "smooth out" into the more familiar behaviour of objects at our scale (e.g. why we "don't fall through the floor" if the vast proportion of any atom is "empty space").

Full marks to the final chapter too, where the authors do a little bit of mathematics and mathematical reasoning to derive the maximum mass of a star than will not form a black hole. For those that can stick with it, this gives a genuine taste of what it feels like to embark upon a proper 'proof' of something.

I also find the concept of a book that really challenges a lay readership to deal with something unfamiliar and difficult to be very refreshing. Too much information (scientific, political, financial etc.) is presented with a lowest common denominator
approach, treating you as someone too stupid to deal with anything but the simplest concepts. This book, and The Road To Reality: A Complete Guide to the Laws of the Universe are honourable attempts at countering that.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 14, 2014 12:38 AM BST


Tim Frazer Again (BBC Audio)
Tim Frazer Again (BBC Audio)
by Francis Durbridge
Edition: Audio CD

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A very welcome addition, 26 Nov 2011
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
It seems to have been some time since the first of the Tim Frazer stories The World of Tim Frazer was published in audio book format, and I was beginning to worry that sales had not been encouraging enough to warrant further releases.

Fortunately we now have a new & excellent reading by Anthony Head of another of Francis Durbridge's timeless crime mysteries. Tim Frazer could be characterised as more of an artisan (an engineer by trade), middle-class sleuth than the author's more upper class Paul Temple character, and there's no sidekick (which, depending on your attitude to Steve, the wife of Paul Temple, is possibly a good thing). Nevertheless the stories are peppered with likely and unlikely suspects, all superbly characterised by Anthony Head.


Tim Frazer Gets the Message (BBC Audiobooks)
Tim Frazer Gets the Message (BBC Audiobooks)
by Francis Durbridge
Edition: Audio CD

5.0 out of 5 stars Another great entry in the Tim Frazer series, 26 Nov 2011
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Now that audio book reading duties for the Paul Temple stories seem to have been passed to Toby Stephens, those of us who find Anthony Head's readings of Francis Durbridge without equal can console ourselves with the Tim Frazer CDs, of which this is the third to be released (following The World of Tim Frazer and Tim Frazer Again).

This is another splendid reading of an old-fashioned but still compelling crime mystery; Anthony Read uses a subtle range of voice characterisations to bring the story across superbly, and the result is 2 hours of entertainment perfect for long car journeys.


No Title Available

4.0 out of 5 stars Good product, needs a better manual, 20 Nov 2011
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is a very useful product and is straightforward to use. However the manual it arrives with is confusing, which made the setup process harder than it needed to be.

Upon turning the device on for the first time, a voice asks what language you would like. Unfortunately no indication is given of how to reply. Since this is meant to be hands-free I tried saying "yes" to its first suggestion of English. It had reached Dutch before I accidentally touched the screen (since it is meant to be hands-free, there is virtually no display). So for the first 20 minutes I was trying to find out the Dutch for 'call'.

After some internet searching I found this document which was more useful [...]; it's a shame it isn't included with the product.

Once connected via Bluetooth to my (English-speaking and understanding) phone, all was well. I'm not sure the features justify the price, compared to similar products.


Studies in Terror: Landmarks of Horror Cinema
Studies in Terror: Landmarks of Horror Cinema
by Jonathan Rigby
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 19.99

11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply Superb, 30 Oct 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Jonathan Rigby is the safest pair of hands in the Horror Film book business these days; a witty and erudite writer who never fails to provide a new approach to a hoary old classic, or (in the case of this book) to dig out some long-forgotten treasures of the genre and write so beguilingly about why they should be revered (or at least respected).

This excellent new book does not disappoint; it follows pretty closely the format of his previous books English Gothic: A Century of Horror Cinema and American Gothic: Sixty Years of Horror Cinema, but this time the criteria for selection is more to do with the author's personal favourites than any particular decade or country. Each film is given a couple of pages of consideration, but it's the quality not the quantity of the words that count here - always there is some fresh angle or fact, always carefully argued and illuminating as all good criticism should be.

Amongst the rediscovered treasures are a host of 1960s Italian gothics, the under-appreciated EXORCIST III, a fine H.P. Lovecraft adaptation THE DUNWICH HORROR and some interesting recent efforts (OUTCAST, LEFT BANK, etc.). I've seen a lot of films in this genre, but this book has given me a list of titles to seek out.


A Brief History of Mathematics (BBC Audio)
A Brief History of Mathematics (BBC Audio)
by Marcus Du Sautoy
Edition: Audio CD

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars More than the sum of its parts, 10 Sep 2011
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Marcus de Sautoy's recent TV series "The Code", whilst being a welcome chance to see a maths-based programme on the telly, illustrated the pitfalls of that medium when it comes to the presentation of science; over-reliance on meaningless visual tropes (speeded-up film, blurred shots, an inability to keep the camera still and to simply watch), international jaunts for the presenter to little effect, lack of confidence in its audience to deal with concepts, etc.

Radio on the other hand seems thankfully inured to such temptations, and is far better suited to the presentation of interesting and challenging material (as witness Melvyn Bragg's wonderful "In Our Time" series). Hence this CD of the complete series of short (15 minute) programmes on mathematicians who manage to combine important contributions to the field with a fascinating personal backstory doesn't spoon-feed or insult the intelligence of the listener, and illustrates how good a presenter Mr de Sautoy when he doesn't have to deal with the compromises of making a TV programme. Highly recommended to mathematicians and non-mathematicians alike.


The Winslow Boy (Classic Radio Theatre)
The Winslow Boy (Classic Radio Theatre)
by Terence Rattigan
Edition: Audio CD
Price: 12.33

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fine production of an enduring drama, 5 Sep 2011
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Terence Rattigan is a playwright who appears to be undergoing a critical re-evaluation after a long period during which he was very much out of fashion (begun perhaps with the coming of plays such as Look Back in Anger which were reactions against the drawing room dramas which proliferated on the British stage in the 1950s). The Winslow Boy is one of his most enduring plays, a family drama in which the expulsion of the youngest son from school following his alleged stealing of a postal order has familial, financial and even political repercussions.

This is a good adaptation of the original play, although purchasers should be aware it is not a recent one (it was originally broadcast in the early 1970s). It is presented here on 2xCDs by AudioGo, who (as usual, alas) provide the barest of accompanying information in the CD booklet. Some more details about the original production and the history of Rattigan and the play would have been most helpful to set the listening experience in context.


The Russia House (BBC Audio)
The Russia House (BBC Audio)
by John Le Carre
Edition: Audio CD

4.0 out of 5 stars Tom Baker shines in Le Carre Adaptation, 9 Aug 2011
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
There's no doubt that this radio adaptation is made by the casting of Tom Baker in the central role of the book publisher turned amateur spy; the story itself is not as compelling as the Smiley novels, and the supporting characters are not well delineated, but whenever Tom Baker is in a scene the thing crackles and fizzles with energy. For that reason alone, this is definitely worth a purchase.


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