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Mike Andrew Dawson (Leeds, UK)

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5 Centimeters per Second
5 Centimeters per Second
by Makoto Shinkai
Edition: Paperback
Price: £13.99

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Better than the film, 17 Sept. 2012
This is a rare beast. As an adaptation of the original film it is closest to a "novelization", but to describe it as such would be doing it a disservice. 5 Centimeters Per Second, was a Japanese Anime, which in film form is pretty much the most stunningly beautiful animation you're ever likely to see, but is lacks a coherent and cohesive narrative. At just over sixty mintues in length and peppered with a mawkish sound track, the film did not fulfill in the way it might have, but director Makoto Shinkai was able to adapt his film to a graphic novel and fill out the story, making it both more coherent and more emotionally satisfying than the film. Told in ten chapters rather than three sections, it details a childhood love affair in the first half; in the second half the girl and boy are separated and they begin to lose touch as their letters to each other grow more and more infrequent, however both are unable to move on and find love again, never willing to let anyone into their hearts completely and destroying any potential unions in the process.
It is a story about the indelible mark first love leaves on our lives, and the impossibility of finding that bliss again in world so complex and clouded by emotional history. At its weakest it's a little on-the-nose, with characters "explaining" their feelings rather than "expressing" them, but at its best it perfectly captures young love, its joyous highs and its dreadfully lonely lows. Well worth a read, particularly if you're a fan of the film.


Stars: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions)
Stars: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions)
by Andrew King
Edition: Paperback
Price: £4.99

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Difficult, 14 Aug. 2012
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Usually VSI are in the words of one reviewer "lucid but not patronising"; they strike a fine and very competent balance between being a beginners guide and something that someone with more experience can gain something from. As someone with a Theatre background I found the edition on "Tragedy" to be a wonderful refresher to the degree I took ten years ago, while the edition on "Galaxies" a fascinating introduction to subject about which I knew very little. This book unfortunately assumes too much prior knowledge in its reader and was rather difficult from the first chapter onwards. The use of equations was particularly off putting. A shame really as I would liked to have understood more than I did.


Underground: The Tokyo Gas Attack and the Japanese Psyche
Underground: The Tokyo Gas Attack and the Japanese Psyche
by Haruki Murakami
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.98

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Noble but Tedious, 3 Oct. 2011
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This was something of a struggle to read, Murakami is an excellent novelist and his talent with words is impressive so I was disappointed to find that the majority of the text is uninterrupted testimony from the victims of the Tokyo Gas Attack. While it was noble of Murakami to give a voice to these victims and family members of victims, it does become a tad repetitive, each chapter essentially being a variation of the same story. It's only towards the end when he speaks to medical practitioners and family members that the stories vary and the book becomes more interesting.
Murakami received criticism for Underground that he only really took the perspective of the victims and missed out the perpetrators altogether. In the second part he makes up for it by interviewing members of the Aum cult responsible for the Gas attack, but not the ones directly involved. It makes for a fascinating portrait of how people get caught up in new religions and become trapped while escaping one society by another (that's not too dissimilar to the one most of us inhabit. The testimonies vary significantly and as a result this makes a much more interesting read than Underground.


Beauty and Sadness (Penguin Modern Classics)
Beauty and Sadness (Penguin Modern Classics)
by Yasunari Kawabata
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Dripping in Emotion, 3 Oct. 2011
After my foray into the work of Murakami it was nice to try another Japanese novelist. This entertaining psycho thriller has some interesting ideas at its core. An incident between two characters years earlier sets a series of other characters into action, the central couple only share two scenes in the book which helps with sadness that drips over every page. Never has a title been so perfect for summarising the tone of a book. It's refreshingly short at 120 odd pages and would have made a great Mikio Naruse film!


Forever Peace: Forever War Book 2 (Sf Masterworks)
Forever Peace: Forever War Book 2 (Sf Masterworks)
by Joe Haldeman
Edition: Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars Poor first half, made up for by the second, 3 Oct. 2011
I struggled to get into this book. This is a completely unrelated story to Forever War and Forever Free and it just seems that Haldeman reworked the title for the benefit of sales as there was nothing in the story to indicate it was even set in the same world. This time, a hydroncollider threatens to destroy the universe and our hero (who is a different man but speaks with the same voice as Haldeman's former protagonist) has to stop a mad fringe Christian group called the Enders who want to bring about the doomsday event. The confusion in the narrative in the first half isn't helped by the switching from first person to third person which took me ages to work out. However the second half is more fun as characterful assassins enter the mix.


Galaxies: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions)
Galaxies: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions)
by John Gribbin
Edition: Paperback
Price: £4.99

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars My head hurts, 3 Oct. 2011
Fascinating book, about the history of both galaxies as we know today and how we learnt that the Milky Way is but a very small and unremarkable island in a very large ocean filled with Islands. I can't think of a book that's made my head hurt (in a good way) as much as this one. You get a sense of the scale and size of our universe in very clear terms but it is impossible to fathom how big it truly is. Quite surprised to learn that our galaxy will one day collide with another one, but don't worry we won't be around to see it.


Forever Free: Forever War Book 3
Forever Free: Forever War Book 3
by Joe Haldeman
Edition: Paperback

3.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing Sequel, 3 Oct. 2011
ery different from the previous instalment, it is arguably a needless development of the story which was nicely wrapped up at the end of The Forever War. The pace is much slower but I was engrossed and wanted to know where the story was going as the survivors of the Forever War take it upon themselves to break free of their new existence (even though there's nothing particularly wrong with it, it strikes more that the characters are just bored waiting around for the rest of their lives.). The biggest problem is the climax which is shocking but also highly preposterous and not seeded anywhere in the story earlier. Haldeman likes to take his characters to the precipice but flinches when it comes to throwing them off.


The Forever War: Forever War Book 1 (S.F. MASTERWORKS)
The Forever War: Forever War Book 1 (S.F. MASTERWORKS)
by Joe Haldeman
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

5.0 out of 5 stars One of the greatest Science Fiction novels ever written, 3 Oct. 2011
"One of the greatest Science Fiction novels ever written" this didn't let me down, at first it reminded of Starship Troopers but as the story progresses Haldeman sucks you into his subversive universe (written in the 1970s it is a clear Vietnam commentary and results in the entire military being populated by homosexuals which must have been something back then). Haldeman builds up an impressively realistic science fiction environment and not only takes into account the effects of relativity but actually builds them into the story so that every time our protagonist Mandella completes a tour of duty Earth has moved on centuries and everything has changed. You can never go home again, much like the Vietnam vets. Makes me want to read more SciFi.


Heidegger: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions)
Heidegger: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions)
by Michael Inwood
Edition: Paperback
Price: £4.99

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A different system, 3 Oct. 2011
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A pretty sympathetic portrait of a one-time Nazi, a philosopher who is often chastised as a hack, Heidegger's thoughts at first feel fairly self-evident but the deeper we go the more it appears that Heidegger is the one philosopher who's not writing foot-notes for Plato. He has his own systems and it seems to see the beauty in everything, as a 20th Century Man it's still too early to tell if he'll be remembered for his dabbling in National-socialism or for constructing an entirely unique world view. Incidentally Terrence Malick is big fan has actually translated some of Heidegger's work from German to English).


The Moral Premise: Harnessing Virtue and Vice for Box Office Success
The Moral Premise: Harnessing Virtue and Vice for Box Office Success
by Stan Williams
Edition: Paperback
Price: £14.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A dreadful rehash of everything you've ever read on the subject, 3 Oct. 2011
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For what it's worth, this book would work quite nicely as an addition to any household fire place, or as an aid for straightening wonkey tables/chairs. Truly dreadful book, I would like to know what Dr. Williams has a PHD in. This is apparently a book about harnessing the so-called "moral premise" for box office success but it's really just a poor-man's script writers guide, obnooxious, self-congratulatory non-sense avoid at all costs don't be hooked as I was by the praise it receives on the inlay, as you read on you soon realise that half the quotes come from his L.A. friends in the movie-business and he probably is just another out of work screen-writer deluding himself that he's stumbled onto something profound when really the ancient Greeks sorted all this out way back when.
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