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Reviews Written by
J. Hamston "Mr Book" (South London, UK)
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Reamde
Reamde
by Neal Stephenson
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £18.99

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Are there 2 Neal Stephensons out there...?, 4 Nov. 2011
This review is from: Reamde (Hardcover)
Fascinating to read a few of the earlier reviews, as they confirm what I've been thinking whilst reading Reamde. Reviewers seem strongly divided on Neal Stephenson's earlier works - there's the SnowCrash camp and the Baroque Cycle camp, and fans of one rarely like the other... This book is very much of the SnowCrash variety, though with the emphasis very much on the action thriller elements rather than the speculative fiction angle. There's an expansive and enjoyably implausible thriller plot, but very little food for thought. For me Stephenson's strengths (apart from cracking action scenes) have always been in brilliant, eye-opening ideas (all those inter-connections in Cryptonomicon and the Baroque Cycle, the whole plot of Anathem) and vivid, detailed descriptions of alien places and/or times (his description of 17thC London in the Baroque Cycle for example), whilst he has a tin-ear, frankly, for dialogue, and his characterisation is defined by what people do rather than who people are - I'm afraid, with the lack of brain-food and 1000 pages to churn through, these flaws stand out more this time.

Never less than readable though (more cliff hangers than a Welsh caravan site), and I'd watch a movie of this too. But back to the sci-fi/speculative historical fiction next time please, Neal!
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 14, 2011 4:43 PM GMT


The Wire: Complete HBO Season 4 [DVD]
The Wire: Complete HBO Season 4 [DVD]
Dvd ~ Dominic West
Offered by The Happy Zombie
Price: £12.25

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It's all good, 10 April 2009
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
How many shows hit their peak in series 4??

Having watched the first three series I was getting complacent - nothing would ever top Series 1, but I was happy if The Wire kept up the pace. Truth be told I was even a bit worried, after all the changes at the end of Series 3, favourite characters taking a bow etc.

Well, no need to worry. This, remarkably, is superior to everything so far. The shift in focus to the school system pays dividends, the new young characters hit the spot to a man - you'll be rooting for each of them, guaranteed - and the analysis of how actions and decisions ricochet up and down the chain of command, from school to police to politicians and back down to the kids, has never been more complete or convincing.

What's most impressive about The Wire, I think, is the (semingly)effortlessly diffuse focus - there really is no central character, no single viewpoint. McNulty barely registers this time around, and it really doesn't matter - every characterisation is immaculate, and the writing just piles the story along.

I've still got one episode to go, and it's got me feeling tense as hell - wired, if you like. You need to see this.


Tiger Woods PGA Tour 08 (Wii)
Tiger Woods PGA Tour 08 (Wii)
Offered by scaddingk
Price: £3.96

4.0 out of 5 stars Golf - a waste of a good walk - now without the walking!, 12 Oct. 2008
This is my first Tiger Woods game on any format. I've had it a couple of weeks (opted for the 08 version after reading some of the reviews of the new one), and total addiction has gradually seeped in. I'm not a golf fan, so I can't rate it as a simulator, but as sheer, relaxing entertainment it's the best thing I've found yet for the Wii. The urge to play 'just one more round' is virtually irresistible.

Faults: The menu system is unintuitive, and if you don't know your golf you're left to figure out a lot for yourself. Further, the control system seems quite unresponsive the first few times you play it - until you realise that it's meant to be simulating a beginner golfer who can't control the strength of their swing etc.. It gets better, honest!

Strengths: The range of courses and types of game, the character creation options, the graceful learning curve, the skills system (where you choose to invest in different types of skill - power, spin, accuracy etc) and see the pay-off almost immediately.

All in all, a great game for anyone who doesn't mind their life disappearing down a hole for a few months.


The Pesthouse
The Pesthouse
by Jim Crace
Edition: Hardcover

7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Bit of a Damp Squib, 2 May 2007
This review is from: The Pesthouse (Hardcover)
I bought The Pesthouse having thoroughly enjoyed Quarantine and Being Dead by the same author - but unfortunately I found this a big disappointment.

Everything about it ought to be interesting - the post-apocalyptic setting, the mysterious set-up of the devastated town, the concept of emigration being explored through the reversal of the classic American journey to the West - all perfect subjects for Crace's usual haunting poetry-prose. But everything about it falls flat. The language is deadening where he is usually haunting, and the story goes nowhere while the characters traverse hundreds of miles.

Above all, while I understand the idea to leave the apocalypse enigmatic - we never know what has destroyed America, allowing us to impose whatever crisis of the moment we choose - the fact that the world the characters are leaving doesn't seem so bad (there's still food, and rudimentary technology, and recognisable seasons) makes their reasoning for undergoing all the hardships of the journey quite opaque, and undermines what ought to be a surprising/ironic conclusion.

Furthermore, if the story is meant to allude to the current phenomenon of global mass migration, it's rather insulting to all those who are trying to escape genuinely dire situations - famine, war, climate catastrophe etc - and whose travails seem far harsher than those of Crace's protagonists.

I really wanted to like this - it's not bad, just dull, worthy of a sci-fi hack rather than the visionary author that Crace is capable of being.


On Chesil Beach
On Chesil Beach
by Ian McEwan
Edition: Hardcover

6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Little Wonder, 27 April 2007
This review is from: On Chesil Beach (Hardcover)
I'm a big McEwan fan - Atonement and Enduring Love are among my favourite books of the past ten years or so - and this, though scarcely more than a novella, is right up there with them, far more effective than the over-structured and somewhat artificial Saturday.

The characters are immensely sympathetic, and in the usual McEwan style their behaviour and personalities are gradually revealed to us through snapshots of their history and the slow unfolding story of their wedding night - making the reader an almost omniscient observer of the ensuing tragedy on Chesil Beach.

Some reviews and posts have complained that the epilogue, bringing the story up to the present day, is rushed and told only from one side - in my opinion this is very much the point - some things, once done, can never be undone, and some paths which diverge in a moment's thoughtlessness must run down separate courses for the remainder of a lifetime.

I defy anyone with a heart not to feel upset by the end. This book has power and poignancy way beyond its size.


Global Catastrophes: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions)
Global Catastrophes: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions)
by Bill McGuire
Edition: Paperback

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Don't Have Nightmares..., 4 July 2006
I've always been a bit of a fan of these Very Short Introductions - as someone who likes to be a know-it-all but has an increasingly short attention span they're perfect. Well this is one of the best I've read - highly informative, readable, packed with facts. A different version of the end of the world is contemplated on almost every page - and by placing the human race in its true timescale, as a negligible speck on the history of the planet, this is guaranteed to make you feel very small indeed. McGuire makes it clear that with most of the catastrophes he discusses, from the obvious global warming to the alarming super-volcanoes, it's a question of when, not if. And he dispenses with the hubristic notion that there's much we can do about it except prepare for the aftermath.

Frankly, makes me want to become an astronaut.


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