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Mr Daniel W Sutton

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Cryptonomicon
Cryptonomicon
by Neal Stephenson
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.49

5.0 out of 5 stars I wouldn't part with a page of this joyous meandering book., 12 July 2012
This review is from: Cryptonomicon (Paperback)
I loved this book. It's a joyous, clever and witty meander through cryptology and the interconnectedness of people. It's full of adventure and well-drawn characters. It's as rich and complex as life ever gets.

There are three separate but connected stories told in parallel. Bobby Shaftoe's exploits as a commando and Lawrence Waterhouse's tale of code-breaking and intelligence analysis during the Second World War, and a 21st Century cyber crime caper involving Waterhouse's grandson, Randy, which might or might turn on the resolution of the Wordl War II storyline. There are computers and submarines, buried treasure and sunken gold.

It's 21st century literary fiction at its best. I've heard Charles Stross say that 21st century literary fiction should read a little like science fiction. This is two near future science fiction books in one, wrapped up with a war story of derring-do. In Cryptonomicon, Neal Stephenson takes cutting edge technology from both the 1940's and the early 21st century and either throws it under the feet of his characters or hangs it like a great gleaming pile of gold in front of their out-reaching hands.

It's a rich, rambling story with big sweeping diversions. Part of the pleasure of the book is seeing the diversions are woven back into the story. I loved the characters. They felt as if the plot of the book was getting in the way of what they really wanted. They were driven to complete the story to get to what they wanted. The book is large enough to give pages to exploring even minor characters. What is discovered about these characters usually turns out to have great bearing on the plot. It's a book that takes a lot of space and uses it to create characters that live through their story.

I think the cleverest thing about Cryptonomicon is the way it treats the application of cutting edge technology in the Second World War. It's easy to see the future unfolding ahead of us now and to see the science fictional elements in our own daily lives but to show how the future looked like from the point of view of someone living 60 years ago is a neat trick.

The most sobering moment, which nearly had me in tears, is Avi explaining his moral right to the gold that lies at the heart of the stories.

What I loved most is the uncompromising pace of the story-telling. Stephenson does me the courtesy of taking as long as it takes to tell the story I want to hear.

At times the pace is a little slow. There is a lot to get through. It might have been a better book with 50 pages edited out but the richness and complexity of the stories told makes the long telling of it a positive pleasure.

Personally, I'd not part with a page.


The Quantum Thief (Jean le Flambeur Book 1)
The Quantum Thief (Jean le Flambeur Book 1)
Price: £2.38

3.0 out of 5 stars At times brilliant, at times baffling, 5 July 2012
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This is enjoyable science fantasy which is at times brilliant and at times baffling. Walking around the world is a delight. I enjoy a good anti-hero and I think there are a good few here. Both the thief and his bodyguard / minder / guard are pretty flawed. At times I found myself floundering in un-introduced new concepts. At times these would jar me out of an enjoyment of the prose. At times not understanding the concept, and having no way of finding out what the concept meant, meant that I felt a bit lost in the plot.

There are some interesting ideas about a panopticon society. The exploration of etiquette in a society where privacy only exists by consent was fascinating. However, at times science became interchangeable with magic or perhaps interchangeable with the need to move the plot on. Why does a quantum sword have the abilities it does? Because the hero needs those powers to defeat the antagonist.

It's a fine story with good characters and some interesting science fiction elements. I'm not sure it's a masterpiece but it might set up a really interesting set of three books.

I'm looking forward to the second instalment of the trilogy. I think I'm going to have to read all three to decide if I'm delighted by the brilliance of the Quantum Thief of baffled by the confusing neologisms and frustrated by the science magic.


Impro (Performance Books): Improvisation and the Theatre
Impro (Performance Books): Improvisation and the Theatre
by Keith Johnstone
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.49

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A pivot on which my understand of Impro turns, 22 July 2010
Strangely, this is one of the most best books that I've ever read but I didn't finish it.

This is a wry, incisive observation of how social animals interact and how you, as an improvisor, can capture and portray the essence of this. It is not only a guide to performance but also a manifesto for a way of life. I am so keen on this book that I leant it to other members of my impro group.

This is where impro starts. If you want to understand the idiom of improvisational performance I think you have to start here. This is the book, that for me, defines the craft. If you are prepared to approach it with an open mind it will change the way your mind works.

The chapters on status and spontaneity have changed the way I perform and prepare for my performances. The chapter on status I found to be a particularly acute manual on how to convey real human interaction on the stage. When my own improvisation work was turning stale I turned to the section on spontaneity.

As well as improving my performance the book also offers guidance on how to observe and conduct your life. The work on status has opened my eyes to the way people interact with each other. The subtle signals that we send to each other now ring loudly in my ears. My children will thank Keith Johnston for the section on spontaneity for the rest of their life. Like a Zen student you are invited learn the skills, learn the theory underpinning the skills and absorb the world view that explains why the skills create successful action in the world.

It is a touchstone of the craft.

Why didn't I finish it? The fault is mine. The last section on Masks tried to take me to a place that I wasn't prepared to go to. The last section is truly metaphysical, and deeply psychological and too far for a dilettante like me. I didn't finish the book, not because it is bad, or hard but because I am too soft and not good enough to be taken as far as Johnstone offers to take me.


Seeds Of Earth: Book One of Humanity's Fire
Seeds Of Earth: Book One of Humanity's Fire
by Michael Cobley
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.58

8 of 15 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Like watching a bad stripper., 22 July 2010
I didn't finish this book. To put this in context, I have finished all but ten of the books that I have ever started.

Why didn't I finish this book? I found I didn't care about the characters. They were individuals, there was faction amongst each of the different races, the drips of Scots that peppered the characters speech; all of these things were good but I found that I just wasn't gripped. It was like watching a bad stripper, all the parts are lovely but they just don't do it for you.

Oh, and the big faux pas. The initial premise is that the colony ship disappears before the Earth is overrun by mysterious aliens. Sometime later the survivors are contacted by Earth and all their alien friends and allies, enemies and opponents. Several hundred years without contact, thinking you are the last survivors of your race, alone in the universe but for one hive-mind xenophobic aggresor and some tree-hugging warrior monks, and no one is amazed, surprised, awed, relieved or stunned when every man and his dog and his alien uncle Tom Cobley and all turn up. No one even mentions the fact that suddenly we're not alone any more. Maybe the Uvovo told them, but if they did nobody told us, and if the Uvovo told them, why didn't they seek out some contact? Oh, and what happened to the all conquering hive-mind?

A lack of gripping characters and a fundamental plot error meant that by about two thirds of the way through I just didn't care enough to want to finish the book. I have the 100 Best Science Fiction Books, life is too short to read this in preference to any one of them.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 11, 2012 6:00 PM GMT


The Deptford Trilogy: Fifth Business, The Manticore, World of Wonders
The Deptford Trilogy: Fifth Business, The Manticore, World of Wonders
by Robertson Davies
Edition: Paperback
Price: £16.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beuatifully weighted storytelling, 21 July 2010
This is beautifully weighted storytelling. A good tale well told, with complex, living characters, which advocates its main points forcefully but not intrusively.

Ostensibly a murder mystery told from three points of view the Deptford stories use those confessionals to illuminate many complex characters. The story unfolds at an unforced pace. Indeed, one of the beautiful things about the books is that the characters telling the story are interested in telling you their own story in their own way at their own pace and for their own reasons. In the first book, Ramsey diverts himself and the reader from the life and death of Boy Staunton to discuss his own work on obscure saints, glossing over his own wartime record. In the last Magnus drip feeds his own story in such away as to wring the maximum effect from it's telling from some of the other characters. The characters live because they tell their own stories for their own reasons. To enjoy this book you'll just have to let them get on with it.

The book is an encouragement to being your own person in your own way and to the strength and happiness that can be gained from knowing yourself. The Jungian approach to archetypes was fascinating and exposure to it has improved my own storytelling.


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