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William C. Powell (High Wycombe)
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Black Metal Aviator Sunglasses, Black Lenses, With Drawstring Pouch, Mens, Womens, Unisex Full UV 400
Black Metal Aviator Sunglasses, Black Lenses, With Drawstring Pouch, Mens, Womens, Unisex Full UV 400
Offered by Premier Life Store
Price: £2.32

4.0 out of 5 stars good value. bought for son to wear on stage, 23 April 2015
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good value. bought for son to wear on stage. he likes them. job done.


Memory of Water
Memory of Water
Price: £4.99

4.0 out of 5 stars A memory that will linger long, 16 Jan. 2015
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This review is from: Memory of Water (Kindle Edition)
What a find! Amazon's correlation algorithms triumph and find a book that is a cut above the typical YA dystopia.

It's also going to be a difficult one to review without spoilers - there are several classic books I'd love to compare it with - favourably - and I can't, because that would give the game away.

In an interim post, I referred to the book as a trap closing. I read the book knowing almost from the start that some key characters were not going to make it to the end. The hints are strong, they are there for the reader to pick up, and if you miss those, you'll miss a lot of the tension.

The novel is set in a future time, post ecological failure, and a lot of technology has been lost, and its incomprehensible remnants are to be found in landfill sites. Here the two protagonists find hints that some of the world might not be so bleak, beyond the borders of a thinly-disguised Chinese hydraulic empire. If you're not familiar with the term - see wikipedia .

Being set in a true hydraulic empire, there is very little chance of internal rebellion succeeding - the very stuff of life is controlled by the elite - only a sufficient alternative supply can power a rebellion. Water crime is punished by death. The novel shows how these two combine to create intolerable pressure on ordinary people to become complicit in acts that they would ordinarily find abhorrent - it is a strength that the characters in the novel are flawed and anguished, rather than entirely virtuous or entirely evil.

Thus the novel builds its tension not through action, but by balancing the need to escape to discover if the lost lands have recovered, and the need for slow, careful preparation, limited also by the slow pace at which information about the lost lands can be uncovered. Against this backdrop, the military steadily increase their oppression of the populace, driving collaboration and betrayal through the need for water. You can see the trap closing, yet you can also see why the protagonists are forced to remain within the jaws 'just a little longer, then we'll flee'.

The slowness of the novel might be a sticking point for some - it took a while for it to become apparent where the novel was going. The novel is quite short, too. It feels like you're almost at the halfway mark before the journey-pattern becomes defined.

Technology thoughts. Perhaps a bit too pat, the way the CDs and the technology to play them get unearthed. The pods - used for sending messages - it took a while for me to understand the rules for pods (how the were used, what they could and could not do).

I've left the best till last. The language and the poetry thereof really lift this out of the commonplace. You can pick your own favourites, but I love the way writers like Bradbury, Zelazny and Simak can build concoctions of mood and image with their word mastery. Emmi Itäranta could hold her head up in such company.

It's not perfect, but it's dam' good and as my thoughts turn to candidates for the SFWA Norton (the "YA Nebula"), this is one I'll push.


Keep Calm and Respawn T-shirt, Grey, X-Large
Keep Calm and Respawn T-shirt, Grey, X-Large
Offered by Retro GT
Price: £15.95

5.0 out of 5 stars 16 year old game-player likes it., 8 May 2014
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Recommended!
I couldn't think of what to buy my 16 year old for a birthday present, so I asked myself, 'what does he like doing?' Gaming!


Beechfield Unisex Vintage Flat Cap / Headwear (L/XL) (Black)
Beechfield Unisex Vintage Flat Cap / Headwear (L/XL) (Black)
Offered by 247Clix UK
Price: £5.44

5.0 out of 5 stars Just what we wanted, 8 May 2014
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This review is from: Vintage Flat Cap (Apparel)
My 18year old son on acting course found this flat cap to suit his role as narroator in the play Our Town,. He likes it so much he will use it as part of his day-time wardrobe after his production has finished. Its a great cap.


The Great Escaper: The Life and Death of Roger Bushell - Love, Betrayal, Big X and The Great Escape
The Great Escaper: The Life and Death of Roger Bushell - Love, Betrayal, Big X and The Great Escape
by Simon Pearson
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.49

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Long overdue, 14 April 2014
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I've been waiting for someone to write this book for forty-plus years, and Pearson's book does not disappoint.

Inevitably it covers much of the same ground as the three books that - to my mind - introduced Roger Bushell to my/Pearson's generation. Pearson openly acknowledges his debt to those books - The Great Escape (Paul Brickhill), 'Wings' Day (Sidney Smith) and Escape From Germany (Aidan Crawley). But in these books - great as they are - Bushell appears in his final form, a lion already caged, with little information of what formed this great, but arguably flawed leader of men.

Pearson's great achievement is that he shows the making of the man, through the words of those who knew him. Pearson admits that luck played a part - doors opened for him to meet a few survivors of the Great Escape, and at a time when the family was making Bushell's papers available.

It is a scholarly work, with 15-20% devoted to a thorough bibliography and cross-reference to his sources. At the same time, it is a thoroughly readable story, too, capturing the moods of the man through the letters he wrote, and revealing much that was not known (or could not be published) at the time of those earlier books. In that vein, I'd particularly commend the research into Bushell's time in Prague, sheltered by Czech Resistance, as being pivotal in bringing new insight into the man, and the events that moulded Bushell into his final form - the Bushell of the Great Escape.

If you ever read PoW tales, then you'll have got a glimpse of Bushell and wanted to know more. For more than sixty years Bushell's life story was begging to be told, and now it has been.

Go read it.


Little Brother
Little Brother
by Cory Doctorow
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.19

4.0 out of 5 stars Little Brother, 14 April 2014
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This review is from: Little Brother (Paperback)
The message is right on - the tension between security and comfort is as much a part of the war on terror as it is a part of the whole internet experience, or paying for goods, or just getting through your own front door. There comes a point where increasing security - to preserve your freedom - you actually relinquish your freedom, and you become worse than the threat you feared.

Little Brother takes the reader through that dilemma, in a well thought out way. Sadly the technology is complex, as are some of the concepts of security (both physical and cyber) and we end up with a few too many infodumps along the way.

The tension builds nicely through the book, but you do wonder how the protagonist is going to triumph over the villains, even with his greater understanding of cyberspace - and that's a good thing. A good novel should never look like a cakewalk for the protag. Unfortunately the poor protag falls into the villains' clutches a second time, and it really does look to be all over, until the cavalry ride over the hill. Then it's celebration and fireworks, yet somehow the villains escape justice, setting up for a sequel. It all happens a bit too quickly, and feels rushed, else I'd have happily given 5 stars. After all, I don't mind pat endings - they're what this genre is all about - it's just that I was disappointed that the ending was so patently "and they all lived happily ever after - until the next crisis". I did see the protag grow and change through the book, but in real life, there so often a price to pay, and the protag didn't pay it. The cost was entirely borne by the minor characters.


vN (Angry Robot)
vN (Angry Robot)
by Madeline Ashby
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Robot eats her own grandmother - shock!, 14 April 2014
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This review is from: vN (Angry Robot) (Paperback)
Amy is a robot. Amy eats grandmother. Nice touch.

Amy goes on the run. Amy gets attacked. Amy fights back. Amy gets captured. Amy gets rescued. Loop.

That's somewhat unfair of me, but at one level, that's mostly what happens. She regenerates after injury, which happens a lot. She acquires traits of other robots she eats. She ought to be invincible, and sometimes, when it suits the plot, she is. Other times, she's inexplicably weak, gets captured. Whenever she's about to be eaten, Javier rescues her, even if he appears to have abandoned her / been captured himself. No explanation, just rabbits popping out of hats.

At another level, there's the concept of the self-replicating robot, the failsafe (aka Asimov's 3 laws), the dual vN-human culture, some interesting world building.

In the end, I never built up much sympathy for Amy. For all her power, she is tossed about by events, and reacts rather than initiates. The last 40 pages were a high speed dash for the finish.


Neverwhere
Neverwhere
by Neil Gaiman
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.29

4.0 out of 5 stars Tubeworld?, 14 April 2014
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This review is from: Neverwhere (Paperback)
Why Tubeworld? Because this book reminded me of Discworld, but set in an alternate London, mostly underground. From the blurb - which banged on about the jokey names of the characters - I was expecting a humorous romp around a strange but not-too-threatening fantasy London-with-a-twist, a-la-Pratchett, in mood akin to Hitchhiker's Guide. Or possibly a personal voyage of discovery, like Alice in Wonderland, or Candide.

Instead, I got a thoroughly enjoyable but largely standard adventure, with a dash of romance and those jokey-named characters that might not make sense without having lived there, or at least having access to a Tube map and Google.

What makes it succeed are the characters, though there is some variability there. The main protagonist is not cut from hero cloth, suffering from annoying unheroic ailments, such as spinelessness, vertigo, and occasional bouts of tears - but what can you expect from an office-worker who is out of his depth even in his own world? He does improve, and over the course of the book does manage to do enough things right not to be a total waste of space. And he does start the book by rescuing the heroine.

The real delights, though, are the villains Croup and Vandemar - delightfully, unremittingly, invincibly evil, and with a twinkle in their (or at least Croup's) eye. They're not just villains, though, they're performers, with a steady patter for their audience that may just be their victim, or each other, but comes teasingly close to breaking the fourth wall. They're evil, and unstoppable, and - Discworld reference - reminiscent of Vimes' almost-nemesis Carcer, but with class. Indeed, they'd not be out of place in a Quentin Tarantino movie. Croup and Vandemar know that wearing a suit well is the hallmark of the top-rank assassin.

Ruthlessly, Gaiman kills off one of the early characters, which makes the second killing-off from the hero-party more credible when that happens, and he whittles down the party further, as we grow closer to the finale. So as hidden villains declare themselves, and layers of deception are peeled back, it really does come down to just the two protagonists in chains facing off against the two assassins and their awesomely powerful and somewhat unhinged master.

But the ending is satisfying; balance is restored and the protagonist grows through the experience. Phew!

This is my second Neil Gaiman novel, not up to The Ocean at the End of the Lane by any means, but it does demonstrate humour and versatility, and I shall continue to explore his works.


Burning Girls: A Tor.Com Original
Burning Girls: A Tor.Com Original
Price: £0.78

5.0 out of 5 stars worthy contender for the 2014 Nebula novella category, 14 April 2014
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There's paranormal and there's a Jewish perspective on the paranormal. This was the latter, and I loved that aspect of it. It's a people story, with elements of Jewish culture (but not overwhelmingly so) and the struggle for a better life free from oppression.


Wakulla Springs: A Tor.Com Original
Wakulla Springs: A Tor.Com Original
Price: £1.89

5.0 out of 5 stars strong favourite for the 2014 Nebula novella category, 14 April 2014
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A delightful generation-spanning tale set in and around a Florida Hotel, seen through the eyes of 'the help'. Only science fiction/fantasy in the loosest sense, until "the last reel".


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