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Zawiah Saki "Zoe" (United Kingdom)

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Xeno
Xeno
by D.F. Jones
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars An Entertaining Light Read But a Frustrating Conclusion SPOILER ALERT!, 28 Dec 2012
This review is from: Xeno (Hardcover)
XENO D.F. Jones

You know that bit in Roadrunner cartoons where Coyote runs off the cliff, looks down, gulps and then falls hundreds of feet? That's about the feeling I got when I finished this book.
Xeno is touted as a worthy successor to John Wyndham's Day of the Triffids. It's not. Nor is it a successor, worthy or otherwise, to HG Wells' the War of the Worlds. In fact it is a rather unsatisfying novel because the author, DF Jones falls way short of delivering what these two authors did so brilliantly. I feel I ought to say that even Wyndham and yes, even Wells have their shortcomings. Wells is particularly easy to find fault with. Basically, Wells was writing about Xenophobia - fear of aliens - at a time when the British Empire was going around the word in carpet slippers laying about itself with a very big stick. Wells' novel was, in fact "How would we like it if someone else did that to us?" Even so, Wells is only speaking from the point of view of a xenophobe with a guilty conscience. He is washing England's dirty linen in public. Perhaps you can already see where I'm going with this.
Xeno is in fact a rabidly xenophobic book. The writer wastes a lot of time criticizing the Russians for having the bad taste to not believe in God and then they get their just deserts by being unable to contain the alien menace. Perhaps the only interesting character, the only one with any depth, Tatiana the Russian scientist, is merely hauled out as a kind of Aunt Sally for communism and then speedily dispatched when she's fulfilled her function. She only has depth, might I add, because she has to defend her position and then, gradually come to the understanding that she's been backing the wrong horse. This is a rather poor attempt at character development driven more by personal views than character potential and plot and so on. Wells and Wyndham weren't immune from this kind of cheap shooting; they just did less of it and at least gave their characters a sporting chance.
The alien itself - Xeno - is the most developed and, dare I say it, the most rounded character in the book. Although it does not demonstrate anything other than a well developed survival instinct its life cycle is very well detailed and convincing. I think Xeno is very clearly the (unaccredited) model for the Xenomorph in Alien. Of course, in Alien the idea is further developed and the Xenomorph is more frightening on the big screen than Xeno which at first blush appears more like an unwholesomely large wasp than anything. DF Jones demonstrates how a new and unknown species could easily run rings round us if we did not understand it. But trying to understand it doesn't really do any good in the end. The teams of scientists and the military think they've got it sussed but they are overlooking something. I have to say that what they are overlooking was blindingly obvious to me but then maybe I've read too much of this kind of thing. The concept that some quasi-insectile alien species might lay eggs in human hosts is neither original nor underexploited. Nor is the rest hard to extrapolate to. Jones does a decent job of getting from A to B with this; he just doesn't do much about C.
Here's the reason why this book falls short of its predecessors. The War of the Worlds was in two volumes. Volume One was "The Coming of the Martians" and Volume Two was "The Earth Under the Martians." The famous epilogue where the Martians all died of earth diseases is, strictly, a device to reassure the reader like "and then I woke up and it was all a dream." It is a deus ex machina It might be the one thing unsophisticated readers remember but that's their hard luck. I suspect that if Wells had attempted to publish it without this tacked on ending it would not have been anything like as widely accepted. John Wyndham did not kill off the Triffids at the end of his novel and his second half is all about how the human race adapted to life alongside them. I suspect that little Englander Wyndham secretly longed for a catastrophic return to basics but that aside, Jones does not give any attention to what life with such a formidable parasite as Xeno would be like. He rounds it off like a short story with a horrific sting in its tail and leaves it at that. Having been taken on such a long and interesting journey I was rather miffed at being left to find my own way home.
So my problems with this novel are - one, he spends an awful long time on the first section, clearly revelling in all the time-tripping aeroplane mumbo jumbo; two, the characters are so lightly drawn that I didn't care about any of them and when he looked as though he was getting somewhere with one of them he proved himself unequal to the task; three, he just did not do the work of his predecessors in drawing it to a satisfying conclusion. He had two choices: he could have come up with a way of winning and wiped out Xeno once and for all; or he could have written a fairly lengthy second half where human beings conceded the new arrival's place in the scheme of things but adapted with ingenuity and chutzpah. This is what great science fiction is all about. Jones's one page throwaway ending has all the survivors wearing armoured suits and worshipping the Xenos as gods. I'm willing to accept that some people would behave that way but I'm pretty sure that others would not and the tension between different groups, along with some character development would have helped make a good novel out of a mediocre one.


Who Moved My Cheese: An Amazing Way to Deal with Change in Your Work and in Your Life
Who Moved My Cheese: An Amazing Way to Deal with Change in Your Work and in Your Life
by Spencer Johnson
Edition: Paperback
Price: £4.79

79 of 90 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Are You a Man or a Mouse?, 15 April 2010
The department I was with began to change and panic spread. A course was set up called, 'Dealing With Change'. I attended and found that it really should have been called, "Accepting With Grace Whatever Management Imposes'. When I suggested that one way of dealing with unwanted change was to move on, the facilitator sneeringly reframed this as, 'running away from change'! He seemed incapable of thinking outside the box of tricks he had been provided with. Around that time, people began to wave the cheesy book around like Trotskyite students during the sixties waving 'The Thoughts of Chairman Mao'. When redundancy inevitably loomed, the cheesy bookwavers shrieked far louder than those of us who made a positive move to get out and embrace a change that we could create ourselves.

People who are 'mice' and who run around a 'maze' hoping to find 'cheese' will love this book. But the time comes to grow up; that's the change that this book does not acknowledge and embrace. Not all change is good, not all change is bad. Change is change, it is the nature of the world. Nothing stays the same. This is a 'feel good' book. Those 'mice' that have been fortunate enough to escape unwanted change can patronizingly offer it to the unlucky ones and feel that they have discharged their responsibility. Unlucky 'mice' can read it and feel better - like a child who is abused being given a sweet by the abuser. I suppose if you are starving you can always try eating this book.

There are practical things that can be done if you do not like the way things have turned out but they have to be specific to the change. There is no magic formula, no Holy Grail, no 'Popeye's Spinach' to help you when things go pear shaped. If you face redundancy you can do an audit of your skills, you can write a new CV or resume, you can try networking. Cheesy optimism is not going to help. The world is a tough place and some places are worse than others. If you are homeless and starving like most people in the world, this book will not help you. Of course this book is not aimed at homeless starving people but it is difficult to see who it is aimed at - unless it is supercilious managers and obsequious employees. Are you a man or a mouse?

Not all change is good. It is not your fault if things go wrong. All good things must come to an end. There is no end to common sense sayings that cost nothing. This book is a waste of money and any company that hands out copies of it is so patently mishandling its finances that anyone working for it should seriously consider bailing out while there is still time.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 30, 2014 10:45 PM BST


War of the Worlds [DVD] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
War of the Worlds [DVD] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Dvd ~ Anthony Piana
Offered by EliteDigital UK
Price: £23.95

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Mostly Harmless, 7 Oct 2008
For anyone who has never seen this or heard of it, you may be pleasantly surprised. It squeezes out a tiny budget and makes ingenious use of locations around the director's home town to create an illusion of being late nineteenth century England. The special effects are certainly not state of the art and the cast of unknowns struggles to sound convincing as Londoners and gentry from the Home Counties (some appear to have been dubbed) but they are clearly beginners who could have done with some professional help. They are to be applauded for this ensemble production. Some unkind people have said that this is the worst movie ever made but this is unfair. The cast struggled valiantly and there are moments that really work. They are mostly let down by a dreadfully lazy script that just recycles the hundred year old novel without a hint of invention or imagination. They are also ill served by inept direction that has people running and walking around with no sense of urgency.

Sometimes the movie parodies early, silent films and this is effective. The rather pompous delivery of the overblown lines lends a melodramatic effect to the sepia toned and matte painted scenes that open the movie. We can forgive the stylized effects sequences and the unfinished CGI rendering. The main problem is that it is twice as long as is reasonably tolerable for a sophisticated audience. I have not seen the Director's Cut which claims to have resolved these issues but it is rather late in the day as most of the flaws are obvious to anyone.

The biggest flaw in this movie is marketing. This is quite clearly an amateur film and has the usual bad pacing and lack of climax of student shorts stretched to a tortuous three hours but can be enjoyed for the ingenious homespun improvisation and make-do and mend. What has really angered a lot of people is that the producers tried to imply that this was a big budget production with state of the art special effects that would give Steven Spielberg a run for his money. I would be tempted to give them an extra mark for cheek but I think that would be missing a serious point. In these days of chat rooms, message boards and viral marketing entrepreneurs owe their customers a duty of care. Yes, the cast should be applauded - they did their best. But the producers did their worst and should be ashamed.


Fatima the Spinner and the Tent
Fatima the Spinner and the Tent
by Idries Shah
Edition: Paperback
Price: £4.75

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars For Children and Adults of All Ages, 28 May 2008
The story in this book is practically an antidote to all the ills of the modern world and an enabler to all that is good about the indomitable human spirit.

Like Fatima, the girl in this story, children have so many setbacks, so many disappointments and so many obstacles; they are tricked and bullied and worse. This story shows how the very worst of experiences make us what we are constantly becoming; rich and complicated and profoundly beautiful human beings.

But this is no Pollyanna-esque fantasy offering false hope or justifying harshness and brutality. Of course these things are to be railed against and prevented or mitigated with all the powers we possess. But as in the story of Pandora, hope always remains at the bottom of everyone's box of troubles.

Parents will find in this so practical story, with its emphasis on skills and crafts and disciplines, an answer to the child's perennial question of "But why do I have to learn to do this?" So often nowadays there is an emphasis on giving children freedom of choice - the so called 'person-centred approach' - but stories like Fatima the Spinner and the Tent show the limitations of this freedom. While it would be foolish to return to the old school curriculum with its emphasis on dead languages and dry pedantry and discipline this story shows how certain practical skills, though seemingly soon outgrown, can lay a foundation for adaptability in later life.

This adaptability has proved to be of vital importance. Studies have shown that adaptable people are, like Fatima, more likely to survive disasters such as ship wrecks or kidnapping or loss of health or employment or homelessness or even acts of terrorism. People who specialise too early can freeze or panic in a crisis, lacking the necessary life skills that a more varied upbringing can bestow. This contrasts the 'Eastern' type of education with its extended family and traveling with the more 'Western' kind with the emphasis on division of labour and fixed curriculum and early specialisation. Both have their merits. However, both can learn from each other and books like this can help to fill in gaps in the Western method just because children are naturally adaptive and have good imaginations. Too much of our Western education can cramp their style but these books by Idries Shah can work through a child's imagination so that they do not have to go through the experiences that Fatima has. They will see the world, as it were, through 'Eastern eyes' and be more adaptable as a result.

This story is also an alternative to watered down 'New Age' panaceas; such as 'The Law of Attraction' that is doing the rounds right now. Instead of reducing spirituality to a catch-phrase it introduces the concept of providence in a gentle and non-didactic way. Although writing from a traditional Sufi point of view, Shah is careful not to load the story with anything like sanctimonious preaching, preferring that the reader's soul is enriched by the experience and that we all find our own way. That is what real spirituality is all about.


I Can Make You Thin (Book and CD)
I Can Make You Thin (Book and CD)
by Paul McKenna
Edition: Paperback

20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It Only Works., 4 May 2008
People are different, of course. Some people just don't need books like this. They just do all the right things. Other people at the opposite end of the spectrum will spend their lives looking for the magic elixir to make them thin. This book is aimed at those in the middle who are prepared to take the trouble to try something that if conscientiously applied will make them healthier.
Some people writing negative reviews have apparently cut to the chase and cherry picked the four sound bites that the system is based on. I'm not going to repeat them. Of course, they are common sense. But then why do people not apply it if it is common sense? Well, "Give up smoking" is common sense yet it's more easily said than done. But if your doctor said "Give up smoking or you'll die in a few months," you'd be more focused.
That is what this book is about FOCUS. Unfocused people will not be able to use it. They will just say "I already know this!" or "It's common sense!" The book shows you HOW to focus and apply common sense.
Of course there are always going to be people who don't listen to their doctors and fairly obviously, these people won't listen to Paul McKenna either. Paul McKenna is a professional hypnotherapist and he is worthy of some respect. You might like to argue that he does not deserve as much respect as your doctor but that is only making excuses. It may be - like your doctor's advice - common sense backed up by expertise. That's all that science is, after all. It's not something told to you by a man in a pub or your granny - or something you thought you heard before. It comes with background knowledge and that is what you pay for.
Of course, Paul McKenna is not saying "Just eat what you like and as much as you like and you'll get thin." That would be crazy. He is encouraging you to trust your body's messages. If you genuinely feel hungry you should eat. If you just have 'the munchies' you should stop smoking pot! Food cravings can be caused by things other than hunger - depression for one. He is encouraging you to distinguish between cravings and hunger. If you are depressed you may need additional help. This book is not "Paul McKenna will stop you being depressed."
He encourages other things such as a more positive approach. A lot of people misunderstand a positive attitude to be a Pollyanna style lack of realism. One of the many points this book hammers home is that thinking "I will lose weight," or "I don't want to be fat," is simply obsessing about weight and fatness. That will just make you want to eat even more! You need to focus on being healthy and that is something positive - it is a GAIN. Saying "I want to lose weight" is giving a weight problem the wrong emphasis.
Our nation really does need to be thinner and healthier. This has nothing to do with size zero or unhealthy thinness. Some people do not like the title but "I Can Make You Thin" is a kind of short hand. A better title would be "I Can Make You Healthy and Slim," but that would not be as snappy and to the point. He is not aiming his books at people with anorexia or bullemia. This book and CD is aimed at those of us who just need a little encouragement and guidance. It's pretty good value for money, after all and it does what it says on the cover and will work for most people. Going on the average reviews on Amazon it looks like it is more effective than most self help books out there.
To those of you trying to decide whether to buy this, please remember that some people have an agenda. They are more interested in getting their own message across whether it be "Fat Is Beautiful!" or "We're All Doomed!" The real common sense here is to ignore the often offensive people who say something like "If You Don't Listen To Me You Are DUMB!" The real common sense is listening to people who say "This worked for me. Maybe it will work for you." That - when it comes down to it - is all that I am saying. Of course it isn't rocket science but it is as scientific as you or I need it to be, providing we're patient and willing to give it a chance.

Zoe


Evil Beneath Loch Ness [2001] [DVD]
Evil Beneath Loch Ness [2001] [DVD]
Dvd ~ Patrick Bergin
Offered by A ENTERTAINMENT
Price: £2.23

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Messie, 10 Jun 2007
American yuppies meet Nessie and help the locals to blow it up. A comment on American Foreign Policy perhaps? No. Don't look for subtlety here. This is a mess. The actors looked ashamed saying their lines - and so they should. It is a cliché ridden and cheap Jaws rip-off. Don't these bozos realise that a Jaws type movie without good acting and good special effects has no right to be on the screen? It's almost a shot for shot remake of Jaws but filmed in somebody's bath tub and padded out by the most obvious stock footage of Loch Ness you could download - for free. A dinosaur bath toy waved at the camera stands in for Nessie.
Someone ought to have explained that 'Loch' is not pronounced 'Lock'. The 'ch' is a glottal. But what am I saying? The 'Scottish' accents are so thin I expected the policeman to say "Don' come back, y'all" and spit tobacco for emphasis.
I suspect that most of it was filmed in California. The divers looked far too warm for Scotland.
Morally, the film is repugnant. A new species is discovered and immediately rendered extinct. Or is it? The last cliché in this tour de farce of clichés is the suggestion that there might be others down there and anyway, they have some 'roe'. Er, 'roe' is fish eggs. Reptiles just lay eggs if anything. And in any case, a prehistoric water saurian is more likely to have live young than lay eggs. But then again, the director laid one great big egg so I suppose, anything is possible. It's even possible you might enjoy this film. I would keep it to your own sad self if you do though.


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