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N. Webb "Nick" (Portsmouth England)
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Smiley's People
Smiley's People
by John Le Carré
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.83

10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars simply one of the best books ever written in the English Language, 14 Jan. 2010
This review is from: Smiley's People (Paperback)
In retrospect it seems odd that I'd never read this book before since I've always been a big fan of Le Carre & especially his earlier Smiley books - Call for the Dead, A murder of Quality & , of course, Tinker Tailor. I think I was slightly put off by the TV adaptation, which I found slightly disappointing compared to the TV version of Tinker Tailor (which is in my top 3 TV series of all time). Another reason may have been that when I read The Honourable Schoolboy (some 20 years ago) I found it rather hard work & again slightly disappointing after Tinker Tailor (the book), & assumed that Smiley's People would be more of the same.
All the recent publicity about Le Carre made me think I really ought to give it a go now & as a prelude I re-read The Honourable Schoolboy, which I enjoyed immensely 2nd time around. Then I opened Smiley's People & had one of the most pleasurable surprises of my literary life - it was absolutely rivetting ! The first 100 odd pages had me completely mesmerised & I just wanted the story to go on & on & never stop. This is writing of the highest order, dialogue, characters & plot all blending in a seamless & seemingly effortless yet tantalizing fashion. It is without doubt & comfortably the best of his works that I have read & goes easily in to my list of all time favourite books by any author.
It seems pointless trying to describe what the book is actually about since all you really need to know is that, as the title suggests, it involves George Smiley & some of his old Circus chums having their last hoorah. If you want to know more then just read the book.


The Nutmeg of Consolation
The Nutmeg of Consolation
by Patrick O'Brian
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An agreeable history lesson, 14 May 2008
The Nutmeg of Consolation is a welcome return to form by O'Brian after 'The Thirteen Gun salute' which I still consider to be the weakest instalment of the entire Aubrey/Maturin series. The latter part of this latest book especially, set in the infamous penal colony of Botany Bay, is surely an object lesson in writing historical fiction. The reader is delivered a sizeable & shockingly accurate history lesson almost unnoticed, such is the skill, power & emotional intensity of the narrative. Dr Maturin, one of the two principal characters, takes centre stage here. Appalled & saddened by the systematic abuse of both convicts & aboriginees, he allows his somewhat irascible nature to get the better of him with, at least for the reader, thrilling & satisfying results. He also comes to the aid of an old shipmate in as moving & poignant an episode as I've ever read. But, as usual, there are lighter moments to the story & the whole thing adds up to one of O'brian's very best of this series & one of my favourites.


HMS Surprise
HMS Surprise
by Patrick O'Brian
Edition: Paperback

14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars (un)Surprisingly good, 11 May 2008
This review is from: HMS Surprise (Paperback)
It seems strange now that when O'Brian's Napoleonic sea-faring tales were first published that they were initially compared to C S Forester's 'Hornblower' novels. Even the early books clearly had so much more to them that it now seems faintly absurd,like comparing a Ferrari with a Mondeo. The books obviously haven't changed over time, just peoples perceptions of them. I was lucky enought to find them quite early on &, for me, they seemed like a gift from the Gods & are still amongst my all-time favourite novels. HMS Surprise was the 3rd written & remains one of the very best, possibly only surpassed by The Reverse of the Medal & The Nutmeg of Consolation. The book starts in thrilling fashion with a desperate,audacious rescue (the action reminiscent of something from Dennis Wheatley's Roger Brook series) & finishes with a spectacular sea battle in the Indian Ocean. What falls in between is a heady cocktail of action & adventure, by sea & land, with a poignant episode in India & a near fatal duel & it's aftermath being amongst the more memorable. But this is so much more than just an action/adventure story because fundamental issues of life (& death) are constantly considered & dealt with, not always very wisely but by believable & fully human characters with all their attendant graces & follies. Some of the central characters are given intelligent, enquiring minds so many of the assumptions & practices of the day are questioned & challenged, sometimes literally as well as figuratively. There is also a good measure of ,mainly quiet, humour, with the occasional excrutiating pun. It all adds up to a very broad canvass & one that seems to appeal to a wide audience, even my mum eventually getting hooked on the series !
So, read this book & seek out the others, you'll surely be pleasantly 'Surprised'.


The Reverse of the Medal
The Reverse of the Medal
by Patrick O'Brian
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Aubrey's low point is O'Brian's high point, 11 May 2008
This is simply, for me, one of the best novels ever written, of any genre, & finds O'Brian at the very peak of his considerable powers. Ostensibly it is 'just' another instalment of the Aubrey/Maturin sea-faring tales & works very well on that level. However, apart from the opening sequences, the story unfolds mainly ashore & represents Captain Aubrey's most difficult challenge to date. As he has shown in previous episodes, he is never more at sea than when he is on land. Basically he is 'stitched up' by unsuspected enemies & consequently becomes embroiled in the politically biased judicial system of the time, with predictable results. If like me, you have followed Aubrey through all his previous adventures, all his various ups & downs then, like me, you will find this a very bittersweet experience as he reaches his nadir. I'll not attempt to deny that I blubbered unashamedly as the story reached it's poignant climax. It is not all doom & gloom however, the book has it's lighter moments &,as can be seen by the number of sequels, it is far from the end of the line for Aubrey. Historical novels,indeed any novels, really do not come any better than this. Enjoy !


The Demon Princes: Volume 2 - The Face, The Book of Dreams
The Demon Princes: Volume 2 - The Face, The Book of Dreams
by Jack Vance
Edition: Paperback
Price: £14.15

5.0 out of 5 stars Simply the best, 8 May 2008
In some ways I envy those of you that have yet to read the two stories contained in this 2nd Demon Princes' Volume. A rare pleasure most surely awaits you. I have read & re-read these stories countless times but can still remember vividly my sense of wonder & incredulity as I reached the extraordinary conclusion of The Face for the first time. I will not spoil it by saying more as you are best advised to read the book with as little foreknowledge as possible. If you've already read the first volume of Demon Prince stories then you'll know roughly what to expect here but you might be pleasantly surprised by a maturing of Vance's writing style. There is still the usual mixture of exotic peoples & locations but his hero has become a little more 3-dimensional, a little less obsessive, & there is a lighter, more humourous feel throughout, despite the usual helpings of violent confrontation in many of the episodes. The school re-union scene in The Book of Dreams is the undoubted centrepiece of the story & takes the idea of grim amusement to new levels. Enjoy !


The Demon Princes, vol. 1
The Demon Princes, vol. 1
by Jack Vance
Edition: Paperback
Price: £15.40

7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A nice Appetizer for Volume 2, 26 April 2006
I would agree with many others that ,taken as a whole, the Demon Prince series of books is Vance's best body of work & hardly a day goes by without me mentally thanking him for producing it. I consider the books to be old friends & revisit them regularly without ever tiring of their virtues. If you want to nitpick then fine,there are minor flaws, but if you want whimsical, thought-provoking stories packed with great ideas & told with considerable literary skill & no little wit then look no further. This volume of the 1st three stories is excellent value, although the stories themselves are of variable quality. Star King is the 1st but not the best of the stories. I gather that it grew from 2 or 3 short stories & it shows, but at least it gets the show on the road & has some great individual episodes. The best of the 3 is the 2nd, The Killing Machine, not as grisly a tale as the title might suggest & with possibly Vance's cleverest idea 'Interchange', a galactic centre for holding & ransoming kidnap victims - brilliant ! It also contains possibly the best description of single hand-to-hand combat that I have ever read, up there with stuff in Van Lustbader's 'Ninja'. The 3rd book starts very well, electrifying in places, with it's evocation of 'old Earth' & some tantalising & strange episodes. However, it does seem to run out of ideas towards the end, almost unheard of where Vance is concerned, & it's easy to see why he took a 10 year break before continuing the series. He clearly benefited from the break as you will see in Vol 2, which contains 2 of my all-time favourite stories of any genre. If you enjoy Vol 1 then you'll love Vol 2 & I would suggest reading that one with as little foreknowledge as possible.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 28, 2011 5:42 PM BST


Funeral
Funeral
Price: £9.99

14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars what goes around comes around, 27 April 2005
This review is from: Funeral (Audio CD)
Don't really follow the current music scene so hadn't heard about this band until reading a review in a Sunday paper & deciding to take a chance & order this album unheard. Got Lucky !
In truth if, like me, you've been around a while & have broad musical tastes then there's nothing really new on this album but that doesn't stop it being very good indeed. It has a real coherence & seems to have been put together with some thought which instantly differentiates it from the usual collection of unconnected songs on many modern so called albums. My particular favourite is track 4 (neighbourhood 3) which initially has echoes of Sparks/Heaven 17 then New Order & later on a cello sound that reminds me irresistibly of the theme music to tv's 'Angel' series.All in all,a very satisfying blend. Some of the later tracks are particularly reminiscent of the Delgados, no bad thing in my book. However, it's probably unkind & possibly irrevelent to make comparisons because this is a great piece of work that stands up on it's own & I look forward to more in the future from this obviously talented ensemble.


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