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Symeon Charalabides (Galway, Galway Ireland)

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Transportation
Transportation
Offered by EliteDigital UK
Price: 21.95

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars New standards for the New Age, 17 Jun 2003
This review is from: Transportation (Audio CD)
"Transportation" is a unique set of 8 excellent compositions from the man most responsible for creating the sound of Ultravox. The composition and performance input from ex-Yes, ex-Asia Steve Howe has only strengthened an album of already immense personality and added novel variants to the sublime soundscapes therein.
Pretty strong characterizations there.
In fact, Billy Currie himself notes that the album is "in retrospect, a bit over the top!" Inasmuch as the notion has any credibility at all, this album is overcomposed, overperformed, overengineered and definitely overproduced. This is music, however, and it's never fair or desirable to adhere to limits when it comes to art. Politically-correct-wishers may whine about the abundant technology used, but it has been used wisely, in order to refine the sound, to direct it towards places it couldn't have reached otherwise, to make the music more whole.
There is not much subtlety in this record, nor does there seem to have ever been space for any. It harbours no attitude or prestige of any kind. Instead, it relies solely on the artistic quality of its content. "Transportation" is about big, open, extrovert music with so much depth it can take a lot of getting used to before it is readily or easily enjoyed. This is one of its most important traits and, in fact, an amazing feat for a single record to achieve.


Cat's Cradle (Essential Penguin)
Cat's Cradle (Essential Penguin)
by Kurt Vonnegut
Edition: Paperback

12 of 20 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Ideology through entertainment, 24 Feb 2003
"Cat's cradle" is a book that forces you to like it. It will eventually put a smile on your face through sheer persistence in its vision which is pervasive, cynical and at times very very humourous.
The story, which follows directly from "Ice Nine", revolves around a man's hunt for the missing pieces of the substance, after he accidentally discovers that they exist and how to go about locating them. During his trip, he comes across an immense array of characters, all of which have something profound to reveal, whether they realise it or not.
There is not a lot to say about the book's dogma, as it doesn't seem to have a central point. Rather, it is a collage of several ideas, expressed strongly, though often vaguely, by the assortment of memorable characters featured. The author displays a witty and sharp writing style with emphasis on dialogue and minimal waste of paper, although I found his prose somewhat lacking in terms of literature.
All in all, "Cat's cradle" is an honest, straightforward book with more good moments than bad, aimed at leaving the reader entertained, satisfied and, possibly, this bit wiser.


Cat's Cradle (Penguin science fiction)
Cat's Cradle (Penguin science fiction)
by Kurt Vonnegut
Edition: Paperback

2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Ideology through entertainment, 24 Feb 2003
"Cat's cradle" is a book that forces you to like it. It will eventually put a smile on your face through sheer persistence in its vision which is pervasive, cynical and at times very very humourous.
The story, which follows directly from "Ice Nine", revolves around a man's hunt for the missing pieces of the substance, after he accidentally discovers that they exist and how to go about locating them. During his trip, he comes across an immense array of characters, all of which have something profound to reveal, whether they realise it or not.
There is not a lot to say about the book's dogma, as it doesn't seem to have a central point. Rather, it is a collage of several ideas, expressed strongly, though often vaguely, by the assortment of memorable characters featured. The author displays a witty and sharp writing style with emphasis on dialogue and minimal waste of paper, although I found his prose somewhat lacking in terms of literature.
All in all, "Cat's cradle" is an honest, straightforward book with more good moments than bad, aimed at leaving the reader entertained, satisfied and, possibly, this bit wiser.


Snow Crash
Snow Crash
by Neal Stephenson
Edition: Paperback

7 of 30 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars "I'd like to take over an aircraft carrier tomorrow", 16 Feb 2003
This review is from: Snow Crash (Paperback)
The above may sound funny, but it's the only thing that made me smile in more than 430 pages' worth of type. You may be the kind of person that finds the name "Hiro Protagonist" funny. However, I'm not. So what? It's supposed to be a cy-fi book after all, not necessarily humourous? Unfortunately, it's not particularly good cyber-fiction either.
Let's not mince words here: if you write cyberpunk, you'll have to be compared to William Gibson. I didn't enjoy his books particularly, but I could sense the world he built them around was consistent and well-designed. With all the good will in the world, I could not say the same for "Snow crash": it revolves around the Metaverse, a virtual planet in effect, which seems to have been designed to carry a lot of the physical laws and limitations the wish to overcome has had us dream of virtual realities in the first place. How come, for example, Hiro can ride his virtual motorcycle in speeds up to 60,000 mph when this would give him only one second to avoid an obstacle 16.6 miles away (since the Metaverse has a circumference of 65,536 km he couldn't see further than that, and that's assuming perfect vision), when he knows they can stop him dead? The author's own statement of having taken Apple's "Human Interface Guidelines" under advicement would seem to suggest that he dismissed it entirely, since this is precisely the thing the book argues most strongly against.
Inconsistencies aside, the story is simple and effective. The historical parts are great and well-researched. Unfortunately, there's little else of any value in the book: the prose is disappointingly deadpan and occasionally maximized for volume. The characters are mere icons, shallow outlines who don't seem to feel or think much, merely act in their set ways. They are quite predictable to anybody who's been watching Hollywood movies on a regular basis: the hero is great with everything, extremely perceptive and the listless dialogues only work as cues for him to utter his next heroic punchline. Starring also are the obligatory 15-year-old girl who's got relationships all figured out, the trademark mindless ruthless evil guy (whose own hatred will be his unmaking), and the elegant mysterious stranger who pulls the occasional string during his unaccounted for involvement. Their actions and words are present-day down to their attitude, and the only futuristic elements are the rare words constructed for the novel's purposes.
However, what I found most disturbing about the way the book is written was the strenuous effort the author put in making absolutely certain the reader got every point made. Like including the definitions of "snow" and "crash" in the beginning of the book, then explaining that a computer malfunctioned (crashed) after a burst of static (snow). Which made it crash. Hence "snow crash". Ahm, I think I got it the first time... The same fashion follows the revelation that "babel" and "babble" sound alike, the description of typical burbclave punishment when the first example comes into the story, and the irritang insistence on the fact that powers of 2 flourish in digital constructs, which reaches its peak when we are informed that 4 is 2 to the power of 2! The author also uses one paragraph to explain what a "rump turd" is, one to explain how vehicle radiators work and one to explain why Japanese swordspanship demands that the sword stop dead in the air after the blow has been dealt. There is absolutely no reason for any of that..I read "Snow crash" based on a friend's recommendation, and wouldn't have gone past the first few chapters if it weren't for the easy-to-follow, straightforward and fast-moving storyline. It is strictly a bedtime story, though, with colourful images, funky words and no substance whatsoever.


Flow My Tears the Policeman Said
Flow My Tears the Policeman Said
by Philip K. Dick
Edition: Paperback

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Philip K. Dick in good form and impeccable style, 11 Feb 2003
"Flow my tears..." is a book that exhibits Dick's (heretofore PKD) usual thematic obsessions in an expert literary way, having been written during the last decade of his life, in between theological treatises and attempts to explain his personal epiphany. It actually reads like he is showing off that he can write good old SF to his publisher who's asked him to clean up his act before an audience that's not interested in religious revelations. The fourth part of the book, telling what happened to the heroes and institutions involved in the far future, is reminiscent of a B movie ending, and probably reflects the author's overindulgence in the commercial nature of this work.
The book is very reminiscent of Ubik, centered on a man's struggle to make sense of his reality that has suddenly changed (to a very unpleasant one), and it could have been written in one - extended - sitting, PKD driving his points home from page 1. It can certainly be read in one sitting, and its frantic pace will compel most people to do so.
As per usual, the environment only serves as a context for PKD to bring his social commentary home. This shouldn't detract, however, from the fact that the particular world, a heavily policed fascist state where universities and their students (presumably standing for free thought) are offenders by default, is one of his most successful predictions, as we can already see it happening. PKD seems to be aware of it as well, for he describes its functions and mechanisms in unusual detail.
That said, the novel is an exploration of human behaviours and emotions, how they interact and which bring which about. Grief and love being prime examples, and indulged in by a series of unlikely characters, the novel also touches on selfishness and selflesness, sexual promiscuity, cruelty and kindness and the deeper meaning of personal success, without neglecting, of course, the usage of copious amounts of hallucinogenic substances.
The novel features a wide and varied range of perplexing characters and accompanying behaviours, deeply explored and perfectly aligned with their environment. It is one of PKD's most sympathetic works towards his heroes, and clearly paves the way for his later book, "A scanner darkly", his peak of empathic prose, and possilby his best.
"Flow, my tears..." is a powerful treatise on how human behaviour shapes to fit its environment. So strong, in fact, that the author doesn't even bother, for the most part, with the 'details' of the world, hence the rating of 4 stars. This novel is for the serious bookreader (not limited to 'SF fan') who will see past the premises and into the substance of the meanderings of a truly brilliant mind.


Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said
Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said
by Philip K. Dick
Edition: Mass Market Paperback

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Philip K. Dick in good form and impeccable style, 11 Feb 2003
"Flow my tears..." is a book that exhibits Dick's (heretofore PKD) usual thematic obsessions in an expert literary way, having been written during the last decade of his life, in between theological treatises and attempts to explain his personal epiphany. It actually reads like he is showing off that he can write good old SF to his publisher who's asked him to clean up his act before an audience that's not interested in religious revelations. The fourth part of the book, telling what happened to the heroes and institutions involved in the far future, is reminiscent of a B movie ending, and probably reflects the author's overindulgence in the commercial nature of this work.
The book is very reminiscent of Ubik, centered on a man's struggle to make sense of his reality that has suddenly changed (to a very unpleasant one), and it could have been written in one - extended - sitting, PKD driving his points home from page 1. It can certainly be read in one sitting, and its frantic pace will compel most people to do so.
As per usual, the environment only serves as a context for PKD to bring his social commentary home. This shouldn't detract, however, from the fact that the particular world, a heavily policed fascist state where universities and their students (presumably standing for free thought) are offenders by default, is one of his most successful predictions, as we can already see it happening. PKD seems to be aware of it as well, for he describes its functions and mechanisms in unusual detail.
That said, the novel is an exploration of human behaviours and emotions, how they interact and which bring which about. Grief and love being prime examples, and indulged in by a series of unlikely characters, the novel also touches on selfishness and selflesness, sexual promiscuity, cruelty and kindness and the deeper meaning of personal success, without neglecting, of course, the usage of copious amounts of hallucinogenic substances.
The novel features a wide and varied range of perplexing characters and accompanying behaviours, deeply explored and perfectly aligned with their environment. It is one of PKD's most sympathetic works towards his heroes, and clearly paves the way for his later book, "A scanner darkly", his peak of empathic prose, and possilby his best.
"Flow, my tears..." is a powerful treatise on how human behaviour shapes to fit its environment. So strong, in fact, that the author doesn't even bother, for the most part, with the 'details' of the world, hence the rating of 4 stars. This novel is for the serious bookreader (not limited to 'SF fan') who will see past the premises and into the substance of the meanderings of a truly brilliant mind.


Flow My Tears, The Policeman Said (S.F. MASTERWORKS)
Flow My Tears, The Policeman Said (S.F. MASTERWORKS)
by Philip K. Dick
Edition: Paperback
Price: 5.59

20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Philip K. Dick in good form and impeccable style, 21 Jan 2003
"Flow my tears..." is a book that exhibits Dick's (heretofore PKD) usual thematic obsessions in an expert literary way, having been written during the last decade of his life, in between theological treatises and attempts to explain his personal epiphany. It actually reads like he is showing off that he can write good old SF to his publisher who's asked him to clean up his act before an audience that's not interested in religious revelations. The fourth part of the book, telling what happened to the heroes and institutions involved in the far future, is reminiscent of a B movie ending, and probably reflects the author's overindulgence in the commercial nature of this work.
The book is very reminiscent of Ubik, centered on a man's struggle to make sense of his reality that has suddenly changed (to a very unpleasant one), and it could have been written in one - extended - sitting, PKD driving his points home from page 1. It can certainly be read in one sitting, and its frantic pace will compel most people to do so.
As per usual, the environment only serves as a context for PKD to bring his social commentary home. This shouldn't detract, however, from the fact that the particular world, a heavily policed fascist state where universities and their students (presumably standing for free thought) are offenders by default, is one of his most successful predictions, as we can already see it happening. PKD seems to be aware of it as well, for he describes its functions and mechanisms in unusual detail.
That said, the novel is an exploration of human behaviours and emotions, how they interact and which bring which about. Grief and love being prime examples, and indulged in by a series of unlikely characters, the novel also touches on selfishness and selflesness, sexual promiscuity, cruelty and kindness and the deeper meaning of personal success, without neglecting, of course, the usage of copious amounts of hallucinogenic substances.
The novel features a wide and varied range of perplexing characters and accompanying behaviours, deeply explored and perfectly aligned with their environment. It is one of PKD's most sympathetic works towards his heroes, and clearly paves the way for his later book, "A scanner darkly", his peak of empathic prose, and possilby his best.
"Flow, my tears..." is a powerful treatise on how human behaviour shapes to fit its environment. So strong, in fact, that the author doesn't even bother, for the most part, with the 'details' of the world, hence the rating of 4 stars. This novel is for the serious bookreader (not limited to 'SF fan') who will see past the premises and into the substance of the meanderings of a truly brilliant mind.


The Game-Players of Titan (Voyager Classics)
The Game-Players of Titan (Voyager Classics)
by Philip K. Dick
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.13

10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A typical Philip K. Dick story - and one of his best, 15 Jan 2003
I regard "The game-players of Titan" as one of Philip Dick's top... say 5 books. It is certainly hard to discriminate, especially with so many criteria on which to judge such an author's work, but this book contains everything, in good quantities and excellent quality.
Seasoned readers will feel immediately familiar with the story's opening with the hero 'going down' already. All the landmarks of the author's style are there: the suicidal hero, his equally problematic close circle, the vague overwhelming threat, the public figure who steps in, precogs, telekinetics, aliens, a novel social structure, various states of mind (drug-induced and otherwise) and the strange sense of satisfaction that comes at the end of the book when nothing seems to have been resolved proper.
It is quite a strange world in which Pete Garden lives: he wins and loses land titles on, and has his marital life directed by, a board game much like monopoly, but with the element of bluff added in. This game has been introduced or, rather, enforced by the Titanians although they apparently lost the war with the Earth. Moreover, they seem to be taking over again, but by much more subtle means this time. But does this make the game, which all Terran landowners are obliged to play, more or less important?
The plot twists, which mean you can never know for sure what has really happened or who is telling the truth, start very early in this novel and continue throughout. There is subtle humour/irony as well as outright hillarious scenes (Pete Garden fighting with his drug cabinet in order to get enough pills off it to commit suicide without it calling for help being a handy example), and one of the most ingenious solutions to a seemingly insurmountable problem, which is most notable about the book. The scenery is a rapidly degrading world, more suggested than described, which is usually what books win over films about.
Overall, and this is the part the non-Philip-Dick-fan will find less unfamiliar, it could be adequately described as a 'fast-paced thriller' (probably by some Hollywood nut) with various strange, sometimes unforeseen and a few bewildering elements interacting in a way as to have the reader constantly guessing, sometimes as often as about a new thing in each paragraph, in order to bring the plot to a conclusion of revelation in a rather anti-climactic way. If this last is contradictory, it's a credit to the literary and imaginative genius of the author that it is, also, precisely so.


The Man in the High Castle (Penguin Modern Classics)
The Man in the High Castle (Penguin Modern Classics)
by Philip K. Dick
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.29

4 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Philip K. Dick at his best, 6 Jan 2003
The alternate universe in which the Axis has won World War II just doesn't feel right to its inhabitants. Could it be the prevailing Nazi morales, the new social classification, or is it something altogether deeper?
Several very different characters (presumably demonstrating a wide enough variety of this world's social structure) will interact with each other and undergo radical changes, all in their personal efforts to make sense of their existence.
This 1962 novel gained Philip Dick a Hugo award, which he subsequently used to stop a fight in his garden. Thematically, it includes many of the author's obsessive subjects, like alternate realities, socio-financial positioning, relationships, depression, future Vs. the past (all this is put rather bluntly as to not give too much away), though, admittedly, the characters' use of addictive substances is minimal.
Uncharacteristically, though, the setting is brought on, explained in great detail, and never ceases to be a factor to everything that happens (or fails to) in the story. This is a far cry from most of Philip Dick's books, where the "working environment" is only used to explain the particular characters' behaviours and choices, and then focuses on them. In "The man in the High Castle", the world is described in great detail from beginning to end, and the particular events that led to the Allies' defeat are so plausible and well explained as to give anybody a sudden 'close call' panic attack.
In addittion to the above, the novel's wide range of characters are all very deeply carved by the author's obvious empathic demeanour. This is (I think) the first of Dick's novels featuring a different person's perspective per chapter, and it seems to serve the purpose well, though he never really adopted it as a personal style (the same writing style is demonstrated on "The simulacra", a story with more characters, thicker plot, but somewhat shallower).
I tend to believe it was the actual explanation to the different WWII outcome that the Hugo award was rewarded for in this case, though I find the character development therein the most notable. This is definitely not a typical Philip K. Dick book, but rather his best authoring traits put together. The obvious labour involved in its writing (the historical and cultural research as well as trying to make out and tie together the I-Ching hints that indicated how the story should proceed) eventually paid out by the creation of a true landmark of an uncertain era and one of the first science fiction works to command literary acclaim.


The Game-Players of Titan
The Game-Players of Titan
by Philip K. Dick
Edition: Paperback

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A typical Philip K. Dick story - and one of his best, 19 Dec 2002
In contrast to the previous review, I'd like to state right away that I regard "The game-players of Titan" as one of Philip Dick's top... say 5 books. It is certainly hard to discriminate, especially with so many criteria on which to judge such an author's work, but this book contains everything, in good quantities and excellent quality.
Seasoned readers will feel immediately familiar with the story's opening with the hero 'going down' already. All the landmarks of the author's style are there: the suicidal hero, his equally problematic close circle, the vague overwhelming threat, the public figure who steps in, precogs, telekinetics, aliens, a novel social structure, various states of mind (drug-induced and otherwise) and the strange sense of satisfaction that comes at the end of the book when nothing seems to have been resolved proper.
It is quite a strange world in which Pete Garden lives: he wins and loses land titles on, and has his marital life directed by, a board game much like monopoly, but with the element of bluff added in. This game has been introduced or, rather, enforced by the Titanians although they apparently lost the war with the Earth. Moreover, they seem to be taking over again, but by much more subtle means this time. But does this make the game, which all Terran landowners are obliged to play, more or less important?
The plot twists, which mean you can never know for sure what has really happened or who is telling the truth, start very early in this novel and continue throughout. There is subtle humour/irony as well as outright hillarious scenes (Pete Garden fighting with his drug cabinet in order to get enough pills off it to commit suicide without it calling for help being a handy example), and one of the most ingenious solutions to a seemingly insurmountable problem, which is most notable about the book. The scenery is a rapidly degrading world, more suggested than described, which is usually what books win over films about.
Overall, and this is the part the non-Philip-Dick-fan will find less unfamiliar, it could be adequately described as a 'fast-paced thriller' (probably by some Hollywood nut) with various strange, sometimes unforeseen and a few bewildering elements interacting in a way as to have the reader constantly guessing, sometimes as often as about a new thing in each paragraph, in order to bring the plot to a conclusion of revelation in a rather anti-climactic way. If this last is contradictory, it's a credit to the literary and imaginative genius of the author that it is, also, precisely so.


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