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Bookseller "Erasputin" (Dulwich, London, UK)

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Blessed Are the Damned
Blessed Are the Damned

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely amazing show. It isn't a straight transcription of the ..., 10 Dec. 2014
Absolutely amazing show. It isn't a straight transcription of the Hellblazer comics, but I'll be honest, it doesn't matter. In the same way that I like the Iron Man movies despite their changing The Mandarin, or the various continuity violations in Star Trek Enterprise or the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I'm happy because it's a great piece of entertainment, well researched and sensitive in its use of esoteric materials and telling great stories. Really, really enjoying it so far!

Witches and Neighbours: The Social and Cultural Context of European Witchcraft
Witches and Neighbours: The Social and Cultural Context of European Witchcraft
Price: £27.54

2.0 out of 5 stars Five star book, two star Kindle import, 28 Dec. 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I found out about this book from a journal article Robin Briggs wrote, and his work is absolutely excellent. All of the four and five star reviews here about the book are absolutely true REGARDING THE CONTENT.

The problem is the quality of the Kindle Import. The font itself is extremely poor, possibly a scan of the original text. The specific issue is that the letters themselves are fuzzy and not fully displayed, which means that no matter how large you set the print to display it's a chore to read long passages (which is a problem seeing as I need this book for work and have to read it at a decent pace.)

Other issues with the quality of the typography include that their lazy importing means not one of the superscript numbers for the end notes have displayed properly, sometimes creating oversized line breaks where a number has appeared in the gap between lines, other times interrupting words (in the wrong place, making it even harder to track footnotes when you need to use them) and god forbid that the author should have the audacity to take his footnotes into double figures, which gives them a complete nervous breakdown.

Even that is nothing compared to the fairly regular phenomenon of the OCR process just inserting the wrong word (and I do mean wrong word, not a wacky Medieval or Early Modern spelling, there are sections where they've printed the word 'han' instead of 'said')meaning that you have to guess what the author meant half the time.

In short, the current version of the Kindle file for this one isn't worth the money. The publisher might well be able to update it and release a better one, but I'd advise anyone who wanted a copy of this superb book to buy the paperback version, or to download a sample just to see if the publisher has sorted out the problems yet.

An Introduction to the Study of the Tarot - Cornerstone Edition
An Introduction to the Study of the Tarot - Cornerstone Edition
Price: £2.23

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Great Book, Great ideas, terrible formatting, 25 May 2011
This is a great book by a great man, and a fantastic resource for anyone who wants to study Esoteric Tarot, but I'm sorry, this particular Kindle edition is very badly formatted, unforgivably so.

by China Mieville
Edition: Hardcover

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely Fantastic Book, But Not Perfect, 10 Jan. 2011
This review is from: Kraken (Hardcover)
In many ways this book is the best one I've read in the last twelve months (I can't say this year, since it's officially a few days into 2011) but since a lot of the reviews here have been pretty polarised I'll try and list the pros and cons. For my own opinion I'd say that the pros outweigh the cons, but you can decide for yourselves.

Pros: it's a fantastically engaging, funny and creative work of modern fantasy. It's intelligent without being 'intellectual,' which I always appreciate and it does have a really strong plot with engaging characters. If you like the work of Jim Butcher, Mike Carey and Kate Griffin, then you'll like this. Also, Neil Gaiman. It also has a lot of very interesting magical/cosmological theory in it, but worked in much more elegantly than the kind of graceless info dumps you get in something like Scarlett Thomas' End of Mr. Y (or the Club Dumas, which might as well have been interspersed with photocopied pages of a bookbinding textbook.)

Cons: you do have to engage your brain. It isn't pure escapism in the same way as the (excellent) books of Jim Butcher. If you aren't actively paying attention to some of the parts of this book, it will get away from you. Not only that, but there are a lot of strange words. I was lucky enough to be reading on my iPad, so I was able to use the dictionary function to look words up without leaving the text, but if I hadn't been able to do that it might well have gotten very irritating. The words themselves are there for a specific reason: we're in the head of a Marine Biologist, one who works as a curator in the Natural History Museum in London. The strange words in question are all technical terms from the world of Marine Biology and Oceanography, particularly squid and deep sea related ones. It works, if you know the lingo, to create a very dark, oppressive, and quite Lovecraftian atmosphere, but they're far from common and it is annoying to have to look up important words while reading. Also, if you're one of those people who get agitated if you don't feel that you 100% know where a book is going all the time, or you're bothered by metaphysics and some fairly esoteric concepts of reality (like the idea that there can be several, completely valid, versions of reality coexisting at the same time) then you won't like this book. The magic in Kracken isn't just a plot device, it's an all encompassing thing that runs through the setting and the plot. It's about the characters' whole world view. Like real practitioners of occult faiths in the real world (whether or not we believe magic actually works) the magic in Kracken is a lifestyle and philosophy for the characters who practise it, not just a gun to shoot demons with.

As I say, this is a fantastic piece of work. It's intelligent without being as out there as Hal Duncan's Vellum. If you like Modern Fantasy and you don't mind engaging your brain, get it. Fair warning though, you might have to look up a few of the words.

Vellum: The Book of All Hours
Vellum: The Book of All Hours
by Hal Duncan
Edition: Paperback

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars If..., 29 Jan. 2010
Okay, here are my two beans.

IF: you are interested in Greek and Sumerian mythology, HP Lovecraft and apocalyptic urban fantasy, this is the book for you.

BUT: be warned - the narrative is challenging. It chops between many different versions of the characters, in other times and alternate histories. It doesn't always hold your hand and explain the terminology it's using, and it's book one of a two book series, so don't expect it to rush to resolve all the threads just yet.

The experience of reading this book was just like the experience of being involved in Classical Studies and Ancient and Near Eastern Studies (in which I am fortunate enough to have a some qualifications): you take a couple of myths (often slightly contradictory), some historical sources, a few different translations of some ancient poem, and use them to get a holistic understanding. That's the way The Vellum works - you go from Thomas Messenger, a 'graved' demon fleeing a war between heaven and hell; to Tommy Messenger, a young soldier in the first world war; to Puck, a fairy from a fantasy world, trapped in the Vellum after being mutilated and beaten to death by Anti-Gnomish bigots. It follows the characters very faithfully, but you do have to remember that there are several versions of each character and not try to force everything into a linear format. With that said - the plot progresses. At first I had my doubts, but the book doesn't just look at it's navel. It does move things along, and the characters mature a good deal from their experiences.

In fact the best piece of advice I can offer is - relax. It isn't going to read like a book you're used to. If you're experienced in intertextual analysis, then it'll be a very familiar experience. If you're not, just relax and take everything in. Don't try to fit it into a framework. If you just take in the information and let the book do it's thing, it starts to make sense on it's own after a little while.

Also - it's a very good book. I've missed my stop on the tube several times because of it. Even if you decide it makes no sense at all, the individual strands are well enough written to keep you reading.

Broken Angels (GOLLANCZ S.F.)
Broken Angels (GOLLANCZ S.F.)
by Richard Morgan
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.19

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Too Much, 9 Jan. 2010
The title pretty much says it all. You can still see Morgan's influences showing strong, but instead of the noir charm of Altered Carbon we get a 'war is hell' novel that could have come straight from the pens of any mid-twentieth century writer.

The novel drips with blood, gore and the insane, childlike screams of 'hard' men and women broken and reduced to nothing by pain, the fear of death and sheer accidental carnage. The sex is groping and meaningless. The friendships are groping and desperate. No one escapes unscathed and everyone loses their dignity and self respect in the face of pain and war.

This is part of my problem with it - it's just too much. Too much pain, too much death and too much suffering. The relationships are too rocky and fraught. The tense, angry confrontations you'd expect from people with freyed nerves and even more freyed sanity just started too early for me to settle into the characters. Not that I didn't feel anything for the characters - Morgan's characters are so well drawn that I felt for them when they were hurt, killed or driven mad... but it was out of normal human sympathy. I didn't like any of them. Even Kovachs, a hero who really charmed me in the last book, left me with a bad taste in my mouth. I found myself wondering why I was reading a book where a bunch of people I don't like are essentially put in a box and slaughtered in horrible ways. Perhaps that's the worst thing about Broken Angels: the plot is good enough to make you read all the way to the end, even when you don't like any of the characters and find yourself feeling very uncomfortable with the carnage happening on the pages.

So there we have it - two stars from me. I admit that if you have a stronger stomach, or just a love of reading books that leave you feeling penetent and thinking 'oh dear,' this might be your cup of tea.

The Skinner (Spatterjay 1)
The Skinner (Spatterjay 1)
by Neal Asher
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.99

1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Good ideas, terrible quality writing, 20 Dec. 2009
This book has a lot of interesting ideas, and Mister Asher really does have a fantastic imagination, but the quality of prose and writing is terrible. He commits almost every one of the cardinal sins of writing - he tells instead of showing, his characters don't have remotely realistic voices and a lot of his language is passive enough to need it's own leash and bondage collar.

It irritates me when science fiction writers like this get published, instead of being sent away to learn the technical skills of good writing, because it's the sort of thing that reviewers (and bullying English teachers) use as an excuse to sneer at the genre. In the same way as you can find some incredible language in Crime Writing (Raymond Chandler and Dashiel Hammett being two favourites,) there are plenty of good writers in science fiction (China Mieville's steampunk/fantasy creations being only one example.) At a time when it's getting harder and harder for writers to get people interested in their manuscripts it really annoys and disheartens me to see this book in print. It reads like a first draft - promising, but needs work. I think it's really sad that it never got any.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 29, 2014 2:48 PM GMT

Tarot: Mirror of the Soul: Handbook for the Aleister Crowley Tarot
Tarot: Mirror of the Soul: Handbook for the Aleister Crowley Tarot
by Gerd Ziegler
Edition: Paperback

14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars This is the Thoth Tarot as a Counselling Tool, 13 Jan. 2009
It's really important to understand that this book is one of a large movement centred around using the Tarot from a counselling/Jungian point of view, rather than as a magical/divination tool. The card definitions in the books are unrelentingly positive and based entirely on the querant's psychological state and perceptions.

Don't get me wrong -- it's good as a book of counselling tools, and it doesn't pretend at any point to be anything different to what it is. Most of the spreads are presented as techniques for guiding the patient through the session and the card definitions all have suggestions for what the counsellor and patient can do together as activities to develop on what they have seen in the cards.

If you want to use the Thoth Tarot for magical or proper divinatory purposes this book really won't be much use. Some of the definitions develop interestingly on the uniquely Crowleyan perspective presented by the deck, but in general it really blunts the card definitions down, limits them by applying them only to the inner psychological state and drowns them under bland syrupy homilies to stop people topping themselves when they draw The Tower.

Dragon NaturallySpeaking 9 (Preferred Edition)
Dragon NaturallySpeaking 9 (Preferred Edition)
Offered by Worldquality
Price: £49.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars This is a Tool, not the Computer from Star Trek, 1 July 2008
I'm semiprofessional writer, and just under a year ago I started developing fairly serious repetitive strain injury. That was when I got into Dragon.

It's a tool, not a gadget. Learning to speak to it takes some work, I myself only really got the hang of it after six months and some of the features still don't work for me (for example I'm still unable to navigate menus reliably). The software doesn't always recognize what you say correctly, although the fact that I have a British regional accent might not help, and there seem to be some inconsistencies in the way it applies punctuation...

With that said, as a tool it does what it says on the box and I wouldn't say that it's a waste of money. You'll have to speak slowly and clearly and put on your best telephone voice; your days of typing in front of the television are over, and I recommend that you set the correction window to display as many options as humanly possible -- but it works, this software really will replace your hands if you are unable to type.

On the USB microphone versus 3.5 millimeter jack debate: I would definitely come down on the side of the noise cancellation USB microphone, I would also suggest that you get the best sound card you possibly can.

So in conclusion -- come to this software expecting to learn to use a new tool. If you put in the same amount of effort that you used to learn to type in the first place you'll probably come out pleasantly surprised. You won't be able to speak into it colloquially, mumble or use it in crowded trains; you'll have to modulate your voice to a pitch and rhythm that can understand, but with that in mind the software does work and I expect that in another few editions it's going to be truly world beating.

And yes, this review was dictated using Dragon Naturally Speaking Nine.

The Ragwitch
The Ragwitch
by Garth Nix
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Extruded Fantasy Product, 11 Aug. 2006
This review is from: The Ragwitch (Paperback)
I've recently found out that this was an early novel of Nix's, which means that I can forgive a lot of the sins I'm about to recount... not that it's going to stop me listing them.

I read this book myself, as well as giving it to my cousin's boys, aged 13 and 14. I found the main character wet and unlikeable. My nephews found him really patronising. He gets a little better as he goes through the book but I felt there was a bit too much sobbing for comfort. It might be a realistic response, but if my lads are anything to go by it's not the sort of thing that playstation generation kids (even quite intellient ones who preffer books to tv) want to read. If memory serves me, I don't think it's the sort of thing I would have wanted to read either. It's been a long time though.

One of the things that I like about Nix is that he gets into the action quickly, but I have to admit this one could have used a couple of extra chapters to let us settle into things. It felt arbitrary and rushed.

The setting was another thing that really galled me. I'm used to getting rich settings with a little depth but the Ragwitch's setting just made me think of a low budget 80s fantasy film, which could have been endearing, but the 12 foot rag doll and explanation for how she got that way just really spoiled it for me. Also the Celticness irritated me. Charles DeLint can't do it and neither can anyone else. Gratuitous Celticness is SAD. Making your world sound fantastical by turning it into a Welsh A-Z went out with the dinousaurs.

The later parts of the book were quite good, but my ire returned in force when I read the last half a page. I hate the old "I will smooth your memories clean of these terrible events" chesnut never fails to make me spit broken glass. The lads didn't comment on that one. I'm not sure they read that far.

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