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Angus Dunn (Scotland)

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The Rapture of the Nerds
The Rapture of the Nerds
by Cory Doctorow
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.39

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Tedium of the Nerds, 24 May 2013
I have been aware for some time that Stross and Doctorow were colllaborating on a book, and I've been looking forward to it with excitement. Now the wait is over, and so is the excitement.
What do two fine writers get up to together? They play with themselves. They spray a self-congratulatory jism of ideas onto the page - and I hope they feel ashamed of themselves.
How is it that two eminently competent writers can create such a formless, self-indulgent book? In place of a plot, there is a dreary sequence of 'this happens, then that happens.' Deus ex machina is a cheat and an embarrassment when it appears in a book. Stross and Doctorow have adopted a special technique: throw endless ideas in the reader's face to conceal the fact that the Deus ex machina is the only force that moves this 'story' from one page to the next. Cleverness is not the same as intelligence, and this is a very clever book which is profoundly stupid. Ideas are not tied together - they just happen to be in the same narrative. When they try for satire (I presume that's what they are attempting), they simply sneer at the easiest target. ( A heavy-handed sneer - is this possible? They manage it.) Why should these accomplished writers bother making an appealling, interesting character (not even one!) when they can dazzle the reader with a blizzard of ideas?
Dip into this book anywhere and you'll get the flavour of it. It's fun. It's bright. It's clever. And that's all that it is. Page after page of cleverness and pizazz without meaning.
And it's tedious, tedious, tedious.
Full disclosure: I did not finish this book. Perhaps it has a redeeming feature somewhere in the second half of the book. I have better things to do than look for it.

The Kansas Sessions
The Kansas Sessions
Price: £9.53

4.0 out of 5 stars Lovely singer, great songs., 2 Aug 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: The Kansas Sessions (Audio CD)
I've seen Kirsty McGee twice, in a tiny venue near Huntly, Scotland. She and Matt do a great show, the singing is superb and the music is impeccably performed. But best of all are her idiosyncratic songs. She is an intriguing and gifted songwriter, and this is a great introduction to her talents.

The Long Earth
The Long Earth
by Terry Pratchett
Edition: Hardcover

33 of 40 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars The Long Dreary Earth, 2 Aug 2012
This review is from: The Long Earth (Hardcover)
The Long Dreary Earth.
This is a brief note for the benefit of those who are delighted by Terry Pratchett's books and also those who respect Stephen Baxter's writing: forget this book. Pretend it never existed. It is a disappointment in every way.
What is wrong with it? It is Dull, Dull, Dull. The storytelling is pedestrian and the characters are little more than place-fillers camouflaged with a few warmed-over and recycled personality traits. The 'plot' is rudimentary and unoriginal. There is not an original idea anywhere within these covers. Worst of all, it is old-fashioned, and it has all those features of SF from the doldrum years when SF had lost its drive and cyberpunk had not yet opened up new ground. From other writers you might suspect it was made to cash-in, to make some money out of undiscerning fans. But it is not even a pot boiler: it is that pot that gets left beside the stove for just a little too long. Shall I heat it up, to kill any mould/bacteria? Is it worth it? Am I that hungry?
I love books, I love reading. I was hungry enough and now I feel queasy.
I can't go on listing its bad points. I love SF and it is utterly sad to see such an empty, inane piece of work coming from such writers.
Sadly, it will sell. It will sell much better then it deserves, because fans will be unable to believe that there can possibly be a book of 344 pages by such writers without any redeeming feature. Hell, I'd probably buy it myself, even fore-warned, just because I wouldn't believe it could possibly be so poor.
If you MUST have a look, borrow it from the library or wait until some unscrupulous person sells it to a second-hand bookshop. My copy is going in the bin: I refuse to spread such mediocrity.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 7, 2013 2:06 PM GMT

The Survival of Thomas Ford
The Survival of Thomas Ford
Price: £1.99

25 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gripped by the goolies., 28 Feb 2012
A gripping read: about halfway down the second page, it grabbed me, then it just didn't let go. The characters are large and unpredictable, the story barely stops to take a breath and there's scarcely a spare word in the whole book. Tight. And full of energy.
Jimmy in particular is a wonderful character: disturbing and fascinating at the same time. And terrifying.
If John Logan can write like this, (and plainly he can) I'm astonished that he hasn't got a book deal. I hope we see more books from him.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 21, 2013 10:18 AM BST

Science: Good, Bad and Bogus
Science: Good, Bad and Bogus
by Martin Gardner
Edition: Paperback
Price: £20.48

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars ... but mostly a bit dull., 21 Dec 2011
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I started this book with great expectations - Gardner had quite a mind and great ideas. But the format becomes dreary quite quickly. It's not really (most of it) about science at all, but about pseudoscience and combatting it.
This is the format for most of it:
Gardner reviews some pseudoscientific book, pointing out its flaws - which he is admirably suited to do. The letter in response, from the book's author, is printed. Gardner replies to it. Author replies. etc until the author gives up and goes away. Gardner stands triumphant over the corpse of another fierce bad . . . sheep.
I dare say it was very worthy of Gardner to battle the sheep for us, but I hadn't realised the book would rehearse over and again the petty victories of a blustering old man. (And I never realised that I'd ever feel that way about Gardner.)

John Dies at the End
John Dies at the End
by David Wong
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.39

2 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars But not soon enough, 21 Dec 2011
This review is from: John Dies at the End (Paperback)
I tried and tried, but the meaningless grime and grossness just became dreary after a while.
I just didn't care any more. It read as if each episode had been thrown together and published on the instant, so that there's a salmagundie of first thoughts, fragments of ideas and a bucket of giblets thrown onto it to make do for a sense of ambience.
(BTW Never enter a caravan with the author if you intend to burn it with gasoline: you'll both die. He hasn't a clue.)

Writing With Power
Writing With Power
by Peter Elbow
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.08

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Powerful book about writing, 7 May 2009
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This review is from: Writing With Power (Paperback)
Excellent book. It takes you through many different forms of writing and makes you feel it's not just possible, but easy and enjoyable. Many 'how to' books do that, of course - but this guy knows his onions and by the time you've read the book, you too can tell a shallot from a scallion.
My favourite chapter - Poetry as no Big Deal.

Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within
Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within
by Natalie Goldberg
Edition: Paperback
Price: £11.19

21 of 28 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Empty inspiration, 30 Sep 2008
I am a published writer. Years ago, when I was still struggling with words, I was recommended this book by a bookseller, who thought it was wonderful. I asked him what he himself wrote, and he looked uneasy and said, 'Nothing, yet.'
All too many readers of this book go away inspired and charged up - and then they never produce anything worthwhile. It's much more of a new-age self-help feel-good-about-yourself book.
For writers? Forget it. Try Ursula leGuin or Stephen King, both of whom REALLY understand writing from their bones.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 16, 2012 9:12 AM GMT

The Dispossessed (Perennial Classics)
The Dispossessed (Perennial Classics)
by Ursula K. Le Guin
Edition: Paperback

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A science fiction touchstone, 27 April 2008
This is probably the best of leGuin's books but certainly the grandest in conception. Thirty years since I first read it, fifteen years since I last read it, the scenes and characters and ideas still float up into consciousness from time to time. It became a part of me, in the way that good books do.
This is the clearest of her books on her version of anarchism as a political system and it has the grandest ideas.
But don't let me give the impression that it is a 'worthy' book and you OUGHT to read it. I read the book for its story, and was not diappointed. All the rest is a bonus.
One of those books that gives the rest of the field something to measure up to.

Types of Everlasting Rest
Types of Everlasting Rest
by Clio Gray
Edition: Paperback

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Open Letter to Clio Gray, 3 Dec 2007
Dear Ms Gray,
I have a wee complaint to make.
I bought your book on Saturday, in Ullapool, understanding it to be an analysis of the different forms that long term repose might take. (As per your title: Types of Everlasting Rest) Imagine my surprise to find that, instead of slipping off into the academic and rather dreamy state of contemplation that I had expected, I found myself in a mysterious proto-European twilight world surrounded by a forest of marvellous stories! I had to be quick on my feet, you bet!
While the outcome in my case was a happy one, I dread to think what might have happened to an inexperienced reader wandering into such a disconcertingly rich and wonderful collection. Would they ever find their way out? While I applaud your skill and imagination, I am not at all sure that you have properly considered where responsibility might lie in such circumstances.
Concerned, of Strathpeffer

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