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The Last Hero (GOLLANCZ S.F.)
The Last Hero (GOLLANCZ S.F.)
by Terry Pratchett
Edition: Hardcover

29 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Collector's Item, 6 Jan. 2004
This book makes a fantastic addition to anyone's collection of Discworld stories. First of all, it's described as a fable; in other words, it's short. But it is illustrated by the accomplished Paul Kidby who does magnificent work in bringing the Discworld and its motley characters to life.
Cohen the Barbarian and his now geriatric Silver Hoarde are determined to leave the world remembered as the heroes that they once were. To this end, they commissioned a ballad from a young bard and are off to blow up the mountain of the gods. Sounds simple eh?
However, to avoid them bringing about the end of the world, Lord Vetinari commissions the eccentric genius inventor Lenonardo da Quirm to build a craft to reach the mountain of the gods double-fast. (Kidby's illustrations include pages from Leonardo's notebooks, in the style of DaVinvci). Powered by dragons, who have been fed a very careful diet(!!), Rincewind, Captain Carrot, Leonardo and a stowaway Librarian head off into the void.
Hilariously funny, as all Pratchett's books are, there is also an underlying note to this tale, concerning the aged and their desire to be remembered for their deeds and not their decrepitude. This sombre thread is in line with the recent development of the Discworld novels, especially "Nightwatch".
With the appearance of a new character "Evil Lord Harry Dread", as a very evil and conniving Dark Lord indeed and his crew of the stupidest henchmen imaginable, you know you're going to enjoy this.


Can Reindeer Fly?: The Science of Christmas
Can Reindeer Fly?: The Science of Christmas
by Roger Highfield
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.08

3 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Somewhat disappointing, 6 Jan. 2004
Being a scientist and also in a festive mood, I one day found myself purchasing this book. I was looking for something serious, yet light to read next to the fire over Christmas. However, I have to admit to being slightly disappointed by the manner in which all the questions are answered.
Many different scientific fields are pulled together in the writing of this book, including physics, chemistry, medicine, genetics, mathematics, and astronomy. The book opens with a description of the search for the Bethelehem star. Various suitable candidates are discussed, while bearing in mind what the Magi would have thought over 2,000 years ago.
Other chapters include the thermodynamics of cooking a turkey, the effect of all the festive fare on our bodies, why Santa could do with a diet, why snow falls, and how exactly does Santa manage to deliver all those presents?
However, I feel that in trying to describe such a large amount of diverse topics the author is merely reporting on different research, using the "roof" that is Christmas to hold it all together.


The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency
The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency
by Alexander McCall Smith
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.99

10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars African Simplicity, 6 Jan. 2004
This a great little book told in a clear and simple fashion that does not detract, but instead adds to the charms of the tale. The Ladies No.1 Detective Agency is run by Precious Ramotswe, a lady of large persuasion and even larger heart, who is greatly endowed with common sense and intuition. Using a windfall from her father's death, she sets up her detective agency and proceeds to solve cases with nothing more than common sense, a sensible secretary and lots of cups of bush tea.
The stories are told in a simple and engaging fashion, and their simplicity and effectiveness leaves you wondering why other writers try to say so much. Precious observes human character with great interest and sees life and especially men, as simple beings, who need a good woman to keep them in order.
Simple, uncluttered and utterly interesting, here's to the next case for the No 1 Ladies Detective Agency.


Angry White Pyjamas: An Oxford Poet Trains with the Tokyo Riot Police
Angry White Pyjamas: An Oxford Poet Trains with the Tokyo Riot Police
by Robert Twigger
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars insanity, japanese style, 3 Jan. 2004
The author is a Englishman in Japan, teaching English parttime to school girls, and sharing a flat with Chris and Fat Frank. They decide it is time to bring some initiative into their lives and decide to begin studying Yoshinkan Aikido at one of the most reputed dojos in Japan. While they train, they notice students on another course who are being pushed to their limit. These are the senshui, or students on an advanced year-long, full-time aikido course. Members of the Tokyo police riot team are sent on this course, though foreigners are also allowed to attend. The author decides to sign up and embarks on a hectic and tough year. No previous knowledge of aikido is assumed, even though many students on the course would be advanced. They are stripped back to white belt and to basic knowledge. The author describes the many different people on the course and the mixed batch of instrcutors that they had. His own personal conflict with one of the foreign instructors made life very difficult for him until he learned to get along.
While an intriguing concept, I feel that this book is somehow very lacking in emotion. The author must be applauded for putting in a years hard work at what is a very difficult art to master, but yet I was never excited along with him. It is a great read for any student of any martial art though, just for the insights in the mindsets of the different people attracted to martial arts.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 14, 2013 3:44 AM BST


The Dice Man
The Dice Man
by Luke Rhinehart
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

3 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Cult definitely, 30 Dec. 2003
This review is from: The Dice Man (Paperback)
One night after a late poker game, Dr Luke Rheinhart espies a die hidden under the queen of spades. It seems to him as if it has been left there deliberately for him. He decides to entrust his next actions to the die, and rolls it. It dictates that he go downstairs and rape his friends wife. Instead of backing out, he proceeds, although she doesn't seem too convinced that it is a rape.
Luke decides to entrust all future decisions to the dice and becomes the world's first diceman. He changes his pyscho-therapy to dice therapy encouraging his patients to behave as the dice tells them. We read on as the authors world begins to disintegrate around him, leading to incarceration, the breakup of his marriage, a mass breakout at a mental hospital, and eventually murder.
What's interesting about this book is that a person would willingly offer the dice repulsive and unattractive options and be prepared to commit to carrying them out. Hence the murder. The author doesn't offer the dice nice options; rape and murder are options also, and this is the truly scary part.
I was surprised to find that this book had been originally published in the early seventies as I had only recently heard about it. But on reflection, the style of writing does seem to belong to that era. The book is overly-long and could have benefited immensely from finishing about halfway as the ending is somewhat farcical. But it did me me laugh out loud at some stages, and not many books can make you do that.
It's definitely thought provoking, no doubt about that, but whether it's for you or not, I can't say. I still haven't really decided myself.


The Summer That Never Was: An Inspector Banks Novel (The Inspector Banks Series)
The Summer That Never Was: An Inspector Banks Novel (The Inspector Banks Series)
by Peter Robinson
Edition: Paperback

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars quite good, 10 Dec. 2003
I was given this book as a present as the giver figured it would be right up my alley, and they weren't far wrong. It was my first time reading a Peter Robinson novel, and I was starting at the wrong end of the series.
Inspector Alan Banks is enjoying some relaxing and well deserved rest in Greece when he reads about the unearthing of a skeleton near his hometown. The bones are determined to belong to an old childhood friend of his who disappeared one Sunday morning in the 1960's.
At the same time, his ex-girlfriend is investigating the disappearance of a teenage boy, son a famous model and ballad singer who later committed suicide. Both Banks and his ex follow the trails left behind and both realise the tragedy of two young boys never getting the chance to live life to the full. For Banks, the investigation brings him closer to his father, and reminds him of a time when the best cop was one who lived closer to the edge of the law. Age-old secrets are unearthed during the investigation that people would prefer remain hidden.
A great read, and definitely an author to keep an eye on for future offerings.


The Hunted [DVD]
The Hunted [DVD]
Dvd ~ Tommy Lee Jones
Offered by FUNTIME MEDIA
Price: £3.45

11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Aimless, 10 Dec. 2003
This review is from: The Hunted [DVD] (DVD)
Benicio Del Toro stars here as Aaron Hallum, a trained Army killer seemingly severly distresed by his experiences in Kosovo. Four hunters have been killed in woodlands and Tommy Lee Jones' character, LT Bonham, a tracker extraordinaire, is called in to assist in the hunt. As the plot develops, we find out that Hallum had been trained by Bonham in the art of survival and knifecraft, and had come to regard him as a sort of father figure and mentor.
Most of the action takes place outdoors in beautiful scenery, be it in woodlands, snowfalls or on the edge of a river. The script is kind of hackneyed, and the roles are derivative, but Jones gives a good performance none the less. Del Toro is not in Oscar mode here, but does turn in a performance as a confused and dazed man.
The film lost coherence a bit when Del Toro is shown in a scenen forging his own knife, but the knife-fighting scenes have a gritty real feel to them. Overall it's not bad. It's just not great either.


Phone Booth [2003] [DVD]
Phone Booth [2003] [DVD]
Dvd ~ Colin Farrell
Offered by best_value_entertainment
Price: £2.72

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Phone Booth, 18 Nov. 2003
This review is from: Phone Booth [2003] [DVD] (DVD)
This film clocks in at around 80 minutes, making it a rare commodity these days, a short film. Yet, despite the brevity, I wished it was over nearly as soon as I started to watch.
Colin Farrell stars as Stu, a New York PR guy, who wheels and deals while walking through the streets of NY, followed all the time by his unpaid assistant. He gives concert tickets to cops in return for celebrity gossip, and when he steps into a phone booth to call his girlfriend, played by Katy Holmes, we realise that he isn’t such a nice guy.
However, this time his call is monitored by a distant sniper, Kiefer Sutherland, who holds him hostage in the phone booth, playing mind games with him, and accusing him of being a nasty human being who lies and hurts people.
It’s fun to watch Stu squirm and debate internally what to do, but in reality, I found this part of the film tiresome and really irritating. There are so many times in the film I asked myself “Why doesn’t he do this here instead of just sitting around?”
This film strikes me as a play that never made it onto stage and instead got adapted into a movie. Forrest Whittaker gives a good performance as a NY police captain who eventually makes sense of what is going on, and Farrell himself is good too in one of his first starring roles. What lets the film down is the story plausibility and moralising attitude of Sutherland’s character.


Hart's War
Hart's War
by John Katzenbach
Edition: Paperback

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Intriguing thriller, 17 Nov. 2003
This review is from: Hart's War (Paperback)
During WWII allied airmen shot down were detained in prison camps. It is Stalag Luft 13 that me meet Tommy Hart, a law student, and navigator who was the only surviving menber of his bomber crew. Time passes slowly in the camp, and activites are drawn out in order to fill all the free time. Black marke trading is always going on, mainly orchestrated by the main dealer in the camp, "Trader Vic".
One day a new prisoner is brought into the camp. His name is Lincoln Smith, he was a fighter pilot and he is also black. The only black in the camp. Trader Vic, a southener, begins to taunt Smith, leading to blows between the two men. One night, Vic is found murdered in the toilets, and Smith is immediately prime suspect. To give the appearance of American justice to the German authorities, a martial court is initiated, with Smith as the accused, and Hart is appointed his defense lawyer.
To Hart, the case doesn't seem as cut and dried as it does to others, and with the help of friends and a german guard, he begins to uncover the truth, and realises that there are more dangers to be faced inside the camp from the men on his own side than from the germans. These men are willing to let an innocent man die in order to further their own ends.
The fact that Katzenbach's own father spent time inside a prison camp adds to the realism felt throughout this book, and the sense of injustice that Lincoln Smith must have felt as a black airman rings true even today. It's a well told story, with good suspense and adventure. It's definitely one to read.


Bitten: Number 1 in series (Otherworld)
Bitten: Number 1 in series (Otherworld)
by Kelley Armstrong
Edition: Paperback

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Strong debut, 8 Oct. 2003
Meet Elena Michaels. A journalist living in Toronto with her boyfriend Philip. Elena has a secret though, she is a werewolf, and not just that, she is the only female werewolf in the world. This makes her rather special, as you might imagaine. Elena had been part of the Pack, a group of werewolves, led by the intelligent Jeremy, but she had trouble accepting just being a werewolf, and so left and moved to Toronto. Sneaking out in the middle of the night to Change and go for a run as a huge wolf presents some difficulties, but she's managing.
However, the Pack calls her. There's trouble in New York, and they need her on board. This will mean returning to her past, and dealing with issues she'd rather ignore. One of these issues is handsome and sexy as hell Clay, the once love of her life, and the reason she is a werewolf. But mutts, or lone werewolves threaten the security of the pack, and so they have to work together.
This is a great debut novel, with an intriguing premise. Elena struggles to come to terms with what she is and what she feels, and Kelley Armstrong paints a great picture of a feral hierarchy, where violence and nudity are commonplace. It's a bit violent in places, but hey, these are werewolves after all, even if they are extremely intelligent men (and one woman) for the most part.
The most original fantasy novel I've read in a while. I'm definitely getting the next one, so don't let an opportunity to read this pass you by.


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