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ta9760@hotmail.com (South of England)

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Use Of Weapons (The Culture)
Use Of Weapons (The Culture)
by Iain M. Banks
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.83

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The best Culture novel, 16 Dec. 2001
Like most of Banks' work, Use of Weapons is a pageturner of the highest quality, but what makes this book standout is the ending. Its much more horrific and chilling than most of his other science fiction. I came to it at half past one in the morning and nearly dropped the book down the loo in surprise! Its nice to read a science fiction book that doesn't suffer from a slightly contrived end point to the story. It also has a nice sprinkling of Banks' slightly off centre sense of humour, although unfortunately less detail about slightly eccentric artificial intelligences.


The Dispossessed: an Ambiguous Utopia (Hainish Cycle)
The Dispossessed: an Ambiguous Utopia (Hainish Cycle)
by Ursula K. Le Guin
Edition: Mass Market Paperback

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars about the way we think of utopia, 12 Dec. 2001
As indicated by the subtitle of the text, Le Guin's work seems to be more about the concept of utopia and how we should imagine it after the horrors produced by previous, dare I say it, modernist ways of conceptualising 'ideal' as equal to normal or homogenuous or perfect. As Shevek says at the beginning of the book, he prefers to recognise the necessity of a more difficult and imperfect path. It is no accident that he is a physicist - it allows Le Guin to write around nonlinear space and time in much the same way as Marge Piercy in Woman on the Edge of Time, although the feminism in this text is much less explicit. Perhaps the most interesting aspect is that the imperfect utopian world, although stagnant in terms of new ideas, relies on a lack of material abundance to produce the brilliance of the outsider Shevek. The last few chapters are simply superb, and the novel as a whole benefits from excellent characterisation and a continually strong narrative.


Star Maker (S.F. MASTERWORKS)
Star Maker (S.F. MASTERWORKS)
by Olaf Stapledon
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

30 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars hard to treat with scepticism, 11 Dec. 2001
I have to say that when i first started reading this book, i wasn't that impressed by the first couple of chapters. With its slightly antiquated style and perhaps slightly overlong monologues it felt like reading something like Edward Bellamy's 'looking backward'...This was especially the case as I had just read a Phillip K. Dick novel. However, the sheer imaginative scope of this text is phenomenal, an examination of important philosophical themes such as the ability to comprehend the possible purpose of God (the 'Star Maker') masquerading as a mythological history of the universe. When people refer to any novel as influential, what they seem to mean is that the text captures in its form and function the drift of ideas and concepts at any one time and space. In its treatment of God and the potential (in)significance of humanity, Stapledon's novel certainly is that. Should probably one day be studied at school, where children will marvel at a time when writers were more ambitiuous.


A Scanner Darkly (S.F. MASTERWORKS)
A Scanner Darkly (S.F. MASTERWORKS)
by Philip K. Dick
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Rather haunting..., 3 Nov. 2001
I'm new to science fiction and I have to say that this novel doesn't seem particularly representative of the genre. However, it is rather tragically brilliant, probably partially due to its clearly personel nature. Dick has a very compelling writing style in the sense of being able to create a mood where the reader is constantly waiting for something major to happen, which he then almost sneaks past you. In the case of Arctor/Fred's substance induced mental meltdown, Dick creates an interesting (vaguely) likeable character and then makes us watch him fall apart. I think the funny stoned conversations are great, but they actually make the end of the book all the sadder. Dick doesn't flinch from not giving us a happy ending. Arctor is not the same again. He doesn't get the girl. He is effectively a prisoner in the place of his recuperation. However, the text is not moralising in any way.
I particularly liked the sections where Fred reviews the records of Arctor's behaviour from the holoscanners, and talks about himself as if Arctor is an entirely different person. The scramble suits are aptly named - the lack of external identity when wearing them seems to unhinge an already vulnerable mind. The near future in Dick's book is a pretty nasty, cynical sort of place. Pretty much like the present then really.


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