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j.braniff@btinternet.com (Northern Ireland)

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The Babel Effect
The Babel Effect
by Daniel Hecht
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.27

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A tale of post-millenial angst and the collapse of society, 16 Feb 2001
This review is from: The Babel Effect (Paperback)
The Babel Effect is realised at a just the right to prey on the long-term post millennium anxieties that stirred up by the hype surround the start of the new century. We of course were all quite relieved when the world did not disappear in a puff of smoke as the clock struck 12 on new year's eve 1999 but now we have time to think about what might just happen in the future and this is where The Babel effect takes up the story.At the start of the novel global violence is escalating at a frightening pace with attacks on schools, drive-by shootings, hate crimes on the increase, not to mention serial killers, mass murderers and homicidal juveniles.A culture of hate is accepted as the norm in populations right across the globe and the endgame can only be widespread civil conflict and genocide. It seems that the majority of the population see violence as the only way to solve their problems and any sense of humanity or compassion has been crushed under a compulsion for violence. This behaviour threatens the very fabric of global economies and seems practically unstoppable as it grows and spreads.Genius husband and wife team Ryan and Jessamine McCloud are founders of Genesis ­ a brilliant but unorthodox think-tank. They are commissioned by a billionaire corporate chief to study the causes of the rising tide of global violence and social unrest. After much study and correlation of data the couple conclude that the violence is caused by a kind of disease which has reached epidemic proportions. The christen this phenomena The Babel Effect and begin work to and reverse the trend of global aggression.But Ryan McCloudıs work and life is shattered when his wife is kidnapped and, in the face of rising opposition from sinister and powerful organisations, he grows increasingly desperate to find a way of halting the contagion of the Babel Effect before it is too late for his family and for mankind.The strength of this book is that it is frighteningly plausible and it forces you to think about the nature of humanity by looking at the terrible consequences when it is removed. The protagonists move in the shadowy upper echelons of the people who really are controlling what goes on in the world and the nature of greed and power seem to excuse any sin in their name. It is well written and gripping to the final page with gothic overtones that set a great atmosphere throughout the entire course of the novel. The plot is complex but it is worth staying with and you will carried along by the sheer power of the writing.All in all and enjoyable novel that will set you thinking about the nature of violence and how it can be controlled by outside forces. Also the novel is a stern warning against global domination and manipulation by unseen and unaccountable forces.


Under The Skin
Under The Skin
by Michel Faber
Edition: Paperback

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Weird, wonderful and very allegorical., 16 Feb 2001
This review is from: Under The Skin (Paperback)
It is very difficult to either describe or explain what Under The Skin is actually about without giving away the surprise factor which is almost central to the book.However, what I can say is that this is an extraordinary novel but not one for the sensitive or the faint-hearted.It is set mostly on the roads in the north of Scotland and as such it dips itıs toe into the genre of journey of exploration novel.The unusual thing is that the roads do not go anywhere, except back to the sinister Albach Farm which fronts an industry so frightening and abhorrent that is almost beyond description.Isserly, the female protagonist cruises the deserted and bleak Scottishroads looking for solitary male, and often desperate, hitchhikers to pick up.Isserly is not what she seems and as the horrors of her origination and the drastic surgery she has undergone becomes apparent you will quickly release she is not your average lady driver.Isserly is a metaphor of the modern female condition, twisted and deformed from her former natural and comfortable state into something that is deemed acceptable and attractive to men. Her pain at her enforced deformity is both physical and mental and yet she is powerless to do anything about it because for her very survival she depends upon a male-dominated organisation and the alternative is to horrible to contemplate.Her exaggerated female features, a first glance ostensibly andconventionally attractive, are just a cover for a deadly intent that she isincapable of expressing emotion about.The language in this book consistently rises to the poetic and Faberıspowers of description will, at times, leave you breathless.Be under no illusions, this is quite a brutal book but the stance and the core of the narrative will stop you in your tracks and pull the focus back just little to allow you to see with utter clarity the nature of the world we occupy.The world is turned upside down when the hunter suddenly becomes the hunted and it will make you question, and more importantly face-up, to the real-life brutality that goes on daily but hidden from view so as not to upset or offend.In this respect it is a deeply troubling book that tends to imprint itself on your mind as it touches on the most profound issues of the human condition.Under The Skin is a debut novel that utterly defies categorisation and it confirms Michel Faber as being at the forefront of British literature.His imagination knows no bounds but his self-control in terms of his writing and powers of description ground this novel in a hyper-reality which seems terrifyingly plausible.It is strongly satirical and can be read and interpreted on quite a number of levels as your mind tries to make sense of something that is generally beyond human comprehension.If you want to be shocked, and made to think then this is the book for you. Also, it is one of the best arguments ever written for converting tovegetarianism and the message it leaves you with is a very clear one ­ a taste of our own medicine can be very difficult to swallow.


Elizabeth: Apprenticeship
Elizabeth: Apprenticeship
by Dr David Starkey
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.69

38 of 39 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A well-researched account of the life of Elizabeth 1st, 16 Feb 2001
ElizabethBy David StarkeyThis book is definitely not just for the history buff as demonstrated by the fact that when published in hardback last year it topped the best-seller charts. The author David Starkey is an expert in his field and the passion that he feels for the topic shines from every page, elevating it out of the realms of a dull historical account to a very engaging human story. The authorıs name may seem familiar because last year he presented the acclaimed Channel Four series based on this book and again, through knowledge and enthusiasm, he brought the historical period to life.This book tell the story of Elizabeth the first and her unique position as the most powerful women in the land caught in a male dominated world. Starkey gives a gripping account of her troubled and lonely upbringing and the abuse she suffered at the hands of the adults around her, each one driven by their own agenda. Despite the hardships she encountered at the royal court, she grew up an extremely confident young woman, certain of her destiny to reign. In this book, Elizabeth manifests herself as a bundle of contradictions; on the one hand she is passionate and sexual while remaining a virgin; while famed as Englandıs most successful ruler, she actually did very little.The English court was a hotbed of deceit and suspicions and Elizabeth had to use her wits for her very survival as both a ruler and a woman. She became increasing protective of herself and, surrounded by betrayal at every turn, she felt as though she could trust no one. This book presents Elizabeth as a product of her harsh upbringing and yet it goes further to show the real personality behind the virgin queen.The book is a real page turner and the characters, although vaguely familiar from history lessons, suddenly spring to life from the pages and interact with one another in a very human way. Starkey shows us the factors such as jealously and ambition which shaped history and reveals the real motivations behind actions. It is really fascinating to get a glimpse behind the scenes and you get a sense of how the course of history is shaped by the personalities of those involved.The book covers Elizabethıs life from when she born, through all her personal triumphs and tragedies, to the strain she endured for refusing to be married and therefore her failure to produce an heir to the throne.The book contains some illuminating illustrations which help create a visual backdrop of the opulence of royal life and even from the portraits that have been reproduced Elizabethıs strength of character can be clearly seen.Surprisingly, this is an utterly compelling book and a real page turner which will take you on a white knuckle ride through history. It is studiously researched without ever once becoming dry and uninteresting making it is an old told tale vividly revived. The writing style is accessible but Starkyıs sharp eye for historical details pulls the whole story sharply into focus.On one level it is the history of a nation but on a more immediate level it is the story of a an extraordinary woman trying to make her way through desperately hard times and for the most part emerging victorious.end


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