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Andy Phillips (Leicestershire, UK)

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1945
1945
by Robert Conroy
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.69

5.0 out of 5 stars Well researched and exciting, 18 Jun 2010
This review is from: 1945 (Paperback)
This is an alternative history novel set in a universe where a military coup in Japan stops its surrender after atomic weapons are used in 1945. This part of the story, and many of the characters, are based in reality, but many of the characters (and obviously the events) are fictional. The story manages to stay true to the events and attitudes of the times while maintaining an exciting story centred around a small number of main characters. The tale is told almost entirely from the American perspective as the troops face up to a battle for the Japanese mainland that they expect to be very bloody and costly.

A good action/alternative history story with a decent length that manages to wrap things up nicely in a single volume.


With the Old Breed: The World War Two Pacific Classic (Pacific TV Tie in)
With the Old Breed: The World War Two Pacific Classic (Pacific TV Tie in)
by Eugene B Sledge
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars Well written, no nonsense account, 18 Jun 2010
This book is the autobiographical story of a US Marine through his experiences in two of the bloodiest campaigns of the Pacific theatre in World War II. Slege provides enough background information on himself, the men he served with and the Marine Corps to set the scene, but concentrates on the battles for Peleliu and Okinawa.

The account is a straightforward chronological account of the author's experiences, told in just the right detail to explain the military situation, but avoiding the trap of listing every unit's movements and casualty figures like many military history books do. Most of the action takes place in a very local scale, reflecting the limited perspective of an average enlisted man on the front line. The footnotes used are a great way to provide detail without interupting the flow of the narrative.

The most interesting aspect, however, is the description of the more mundance aspects of the marines' existence outside of combat. All sorts of things are covered including weather conditions, ammunition supply issues, food availability, what it's like to fight among countless dead bodies. The frank way in which Sledge tells of the attitudes of the marines at the time and some of the things that became normal to them is something that many books shy away from, and it makes the book so much more authentic.

A great account told from a unique perspective in a well written manner.


Rise & Walk
Rise & Walk
by Gregory Solis
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.65

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Fairly badly written zombie antics, 15 May 2010
This review is from: Rise & Walk (Paperback)
This is the latest in a long line of zombie books that I have read that have ultimately been a bit disappointing. It isn't anything new and isn't professionally written. It's not terrible, but there are quite a few grammatical and typographical errors. I could overlook this, but the story isn't particularly original and some of the writing just isn't very good.

In this story the zombie outbreak begins when a group of college students on a field trip are exposed to a mysterious substance in a meteorite. They die and soon start to eat their classmates. They then begin to attack the local campsite where a paintball competition is being held. From that point on the story mainly revolves around two pretty bland and interchangeable male characters and two pretty bland and interchangeable female characters as they fight off the living dead with whatever tools they have to have. Luckily some of those tools are an assortment of firearms, knives and a sword (!) that the men happen to have with them.

Below average.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 25, 2011 11:09 PM GMT


The Nuclear Survival Handbook: Living Through and After a Nuclear Attack
The Nuclear Survival Handbook: Living Through and After a Nuclear Attack
by Barry Popkess
Edition: Paperback

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A great starting point, but slightly outdated and optimistic, 8 May 2010
In a way the title of this book is misleading as it gives great advice beyond that required to survive a nuclear attack. It also deals with chemical warfare, industrial and nuclear accidents, and gives general survival techniques and advice that would apply to many situations.

The book is written by a former member of the British armed forces who has gathered a lot of information over many years, and is most applicable to the public in the UK. It was first published in 1980 and hence is a bit dated in some respects but still contains some useful information.

The more useful information includes the discussion of chemical warfare and the agents likely to be used, details of biological hazards, advice for the treatment of wounds, and (interestingly) a discussion of how one should behave following a nuclear attack or similar event (in terms of morals and sociel responsibility). The less useful sections include the sections on how to forage for food (it's probably a pretty optimistic and the descriptions of plants are almost useless without pictures) and how to deal with vermin. However, the book contains loads of references to other more specialised information sources, so the reader can always look elsewhere if necessary.

An interesting book for historical reasons, and a good starting point to survival of a nuclear or chemical attack/accident. It does expect the reader to prepare a lot in advance, which is more applicable to cold war attacks than the more likely terrorism that faces us nowadays, but it is well written and worth a look.


The Children of Men
The Children of Men
by Baroness P. D. James
Edition: Paperback

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Nightmare vision of humanity without a future, 8 May 2010
This review is from: The Children of Men (Paperback)
There have been a lot of good reviews of this book written already, so I'll keep it short.

The story is set in a world where no children have been born for over 20 years, and it appears that the entire human race is sterile. Theo is an Oxford professor who is forced into the centre of the action when a group of political activists want to use him to help overthrow his cousin, the Warden of England (essentially the dictator ruling Great Britain). A lot of interesting topics are touched upon, including the treatment of the youngest generation to ever walk the Earth and the rise of a dictator and the public's general apathy towards it so long as they can live comortably, which leads to the use of immigrants to do the jobs that nobody wants to do, the use of the Isle of Man as a huge prison and the encouragement of ritual suicide of the elderly.

There are two things to point out:
1) The book doesn't have a lot in common with the film, other than the general premise. It's not really better or worse, but it's different and worth reading even if you think you've seen in all before.
2) This sort of thing has been done elsewhere, in 'Greybeard' by Brian Aldiss. Both books are good, and I wouldn't really recommend one over the other.

A good book, slightly let down by the ending (it does reach a conclusion, more or less, but I didn't like it) and a few minor loose ends.


Fugue for a Darkening Island
Fugue for a Darkening Island
by Christopher Priest
Edition: Paperback

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Civil war in the UK, 8 May 2010
I have been trying to find this book literally for years, but have only recently managed to do so without spending a fortune. While it had its good points, it didn't really live up to my expectations. However, this book features on a lot of lists of apocalyptic fiction, which was the reason for me buying it, and I think my disappointment was mainly due to the fact that I don't really think it belongs in that genre. I only enjoyed it enough to score 3 stars, but I think it really deserves 4, hence my rating.

The story centres around a man struggling to survive a civil war raging between three sides throughout the UK. The conflict essentially arises from a tide of African immigrants arriving in the UK as they attempt to flee a nuclear war occurring within Africa itself. It is told in a non-chronological order with three main strands - one set in the far past when he met his wife, one in the recent past at the outbreak of the conflict, and a third in the present, during the war. The tale jumps between these periods, with small passages that reveal the story gradually. It's not a brilliant book but it did keep me reading and is certainly worth picking up if you can find it.


Wastelands: Stories of the Apocalypse
Wastelands: Stories of the Apocalypse
by Gene Wolfe
Edition: Paperback

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Some great stories, some not so great, 30 Mar 2010
This is a collection of 22 short studies (and some recommendations for further reading) that all share the post-apocalyptic genre. There are some great stories in here, but also a few that either don't really belong here or that I personally didn't really enjoy. A lot of the authors will be familiar to fans of apocalyptic fiction as they have often written well known full length stories of a similar nature.

Almost all of these stories are set many years, or even generations, after some sort of disaster. The disasters are quite varied in nature, and not even specified or important in some cases, and the stories are mostly quite imaginitive in terms of the premises on which they are based. However, a lot of them simply weren't that interesting to me or didn't really go anywhere. If you're a fan of the genre then you will probably find something you like here, but I recommend that you try 'Beyond Armageddon' first if you haven't already. It's a similar compilation edited by Walter Miller.


Zombies: A Record of the Year of Infection
Zombies: A Record of the Year of Infection
by Don Roff
Edition: Paperback
Price: £14.49

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars One for zombie fans, but an interesting addition to the genre, 27 Mar 2010
This isn't a traditional novel, and it's not really a graphic novel either. It's written in the style of a journal of a survivor of a fairly typical zombie uprising, with plenty of illustrations thrown in. It won't take you long to read, but the drawings are pretty good, and extend the enjoyment quite successfully. You might even pick it up and re-read the book every so often.

The story won't come as any surprises to a zombie fiction enthusiast. There's the usual initial pandemic which leaves most of the population stumbling around in the streets looking for people to eat. The hero is secure to start with, but something goes wrong so he has to escape, has a few close shaves, meets some other survivors and a few people get their brains devoured along the way. It's a 'serious' approach to a story, but there are some dark humour and tongue-in-cheek moments. There aren't many ways that a story like this can end, and even fewer are happy endings, but I liked this one as it wasn't totally obvious.

A great book for fans of the genre, but if you want a truly great zombie story, check out some of the others on my lists.


Non-Stop (S.F. MASTERWORKS)
Non-Stop (S.F. MASTERWORKS)
by Brian Aldiss
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.29

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great approach to the 'generation starship', 27 Mar 2010
As other reviewers have pointed out, a good portion of the story is given away in the blurb on the back of the book, or is obvious, but this still makes a good read. The story centres on Roy Complain (I'm not sure if the name has some meaning that I failed to grasp) and a small band of men from his settlement who set out to explore their surroundings. They come from a fairly primitive tribe who live in a jungle that clearly has man-made aspects. There are various rumours and half-forgotten myths about the origins of the tribe and Roy has always felt like there was something vital that he doesn't know.

During their travels the men come across various other inhabitants of the jungles, and eventually learn what they are and where they came from. This is done through a series of events that gradually reveal what's going on, but I personally found the last third or so of the story a bit of an unwelcome departure from the style of the beginning of the story. The ending in particular was, to be honest, a bit of a disappointment. There could have been any number of reasons for the tribe's circumstances, but the one chosen was a bit of an anti-climax in my opinion.

A good story, and worthy of inclusion in the SF Masterworks series, but not as good as some others in the collection.


Colony
Colony
by Rob Grant
Edition: Paperback

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good idea with some laughs, 27 Mar 2010
This review is from: Colony (Paperback)
I read this book after reading a serious sci-fi approach to the 'generation starship' concept, where a crew takes a space voyage so long that it must be completed over several generations. I sort of wish I hadn't bothered, but this book did keep me entertained long enough to finish it.

This is an average attempt at comedy sci-fi, centred a fairly average guy who ends up essentially by chance on a starship that has left Earth to form a colony on a distant planet. A fair chunk of the story is the lead up to his voyage, setting the scene for the ship's departure. Things get a bit more interesting once he's on board and meets the original crew, but none of it is hilarious. I won't spoil the story of how things progress from there, but if you read the blurb on the back of the book you'll get a fair idea (it annoys me when half the story if given away like that).

The main character is fairly funny, along with some of the supporting cast, but the storyline as a whole was a bit of a let-down and some of the minor characters were just plain annoying. Not a bad book, but not brilliant either, but possibly worth a look if you like Douglas Adams and Rob Grant's other work.


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