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Content by Neil
Top Reviewer Ranking: 4,325,170
Helpful Votes: 17

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Neil (Helsinki)

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Casio Men's Quartz Watch with Black Dial Chronograph Display and Black Resin Strap
Casio Men's Quartz Watch with Black Dial Chronograph Display and Black Resin Strap
Offered by BubblePros Limited
Price: £7.92

5.0 out of 5 stars although easily remedied with a replacement, 24 Dec. 2015
This is THE affordable, practical watch for people who care 100% about reliability and function and 0% about aesthetics / watches-as-jewellery. Ironically however, it has as a result become a bit of a subversive style icon in its own right as wearing one (intentionally or unintentionally) makes quite a powerful statement about one's personal values. Real explorers, scientists and adventurers are far more likely to be wearing one of these than a Rolex. At the same time it has that 1970s retro aesthetic as a bonus.

I recently retrieved once of these watches that had been sitting in a storage facility for more than 10 years. It was still running and had gained only 2mins 45s, although the date was indicating 3 days ahead of the actual date because it had missed 3 leap years! That said, the strap disintegrated as soon as I put it on - this is the watch's one weakness, although easily remedied with a replacement.

The Algebraist
The Algebraist
by Iain M. Banks
Edition: Hardcover

17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Top class contemporary literature in the SF genre., 29 May 2005
This review is from: The Algebraist (Hardcover)
I've read all of Banks' SF work (with the exception of Feersum Endjinn, which I've never managed to get past the first few pages of) and for me this is one of his best, certainly my favourite since "Excession". I'm frankly puzzled by the reaction of many other reviewers who seem to have been disappointed by it - I was riveted for all of the 534 pages. The book is highly complex and thoughtful, yet wholly absorbing. The new non-culture galaxy is characterised by compartmentalisation in many dimensions. The connected are separated from the disconnected by the spatial distribution of the wormhole network, and the major galaxy-spanning cultures (Dweller and Mercatoria) are separated by both the nature of their habitats (gas giants & rocky planets) and their radically different perceptions of time. Yet finer dimensions of division coexist and intermesh in the form of the different races of the Mercatoria, its baroque administrative organisations and power structures, and the distinctions between members of a given species that have achieved space travel off their own backs and those that have been adopted by other races (e.g. rhumans and ahumans). And then there are the AIs... All of these elements coexist and ultimately have to interact at some level, in different ways and to different extents. Banks manages to introduce all of this, hold it togther and use it as the vehicle for a story that is gripping while also addressing serious themes such as solipsism, the 3-way interaction between morality, the nature of government and individual freedom, and prejudice based on fear of difference. On top of this, the book is consistently extremely funny and very well written in terms of its novel and evocative use of language. The mature work of a great SF literary craftsman at the height of his abilities. I just hope that a less than appreciative reception in some quarters doesn't put him off producing more of the same!
Incidentally, the galactic civilisation in the Algebraist cannot be an earlier or later point in the Culture universe, as some have suggested. It can't be later, as even if we accept that FTL travel without portals is conceivably discoverable in the universe of the Algebraist, it obviously hasn't been discovered at the time the story is set. It can't be earlier either, as we are told that the story is set about 2000 years in the future, and we know from "State of the Art" that the Culture, complete with FTL drives, coexisted with earth in the 20th century.

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