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J. Evans (Brighton, UK)
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The Lost Europeans
The Lost Europeans
by Emanuel Litvinoff
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.99

5.0 out of 5 stars A rediscovered gem, 17 May 2016
This review is from: The Lost Europeans (Paperback)
What is it that makes Berlin such fertile literary ground? I’ve read a wide array of books set in and around the city, such as Winter by Len Deighton, Alone in Berlin by Hans Fallada, David Downing’s ‘Station’ series, Stasiland by Anna Funder and Berlin Blues by Sven Regener, and am always glad to find something new. In this case it’s not something new but something old – Emanuel Litvinoff’s 1958 novel, The Lost Europeans, dusted off and reissued in an attractively designed paperback.

‘Lost’ has two meanings here: the millions of victims of the Holocaust, and its displaced and disorientated survivors. The main characters are Martin Stone (born Silberstein) and Hugo Krantz, Berliners and German-Jews who escaped to Britain before the war and have now returned (one permanently, the other temporarily) to the city of their birth. As each man attempts to find himself again, we are given a fascinating insight into Berlin during a comparatively neglected period, after the war’s immediate aftermath and before the construction of the Wall.

In many respects the book reminds me of Lionel Davidson’s Making Good Again – another ‘lost classic’ written by a British author with a Jewish heritage. Both books explore the impact of the holocaust on post-war Germany, though Davidson’s is set in Munich rather than Berlin and was written a decade later. If you enjoyed one, you’ll enjoy the other. If you’ve read neither, get them both.


Penguin 75: Designers, Authors, Commentary (the good, the bad...)
Penguin 75: Designers, Authors, Commentary (the good, the bad...)
by Paul Buckley
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars 75 Years of Penguin?, 23 Oct. 2013
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Penguin 75? More like Penguin 10, since the book only covers the period 2000 to 2010. It's attractive and nicely produced, and provides some interesting insights into the design process, but I'm disappointed that there are no covers from the period 1935 to 1999 - a bizarre omission for a book that claims to be "a celebration of the 75th anniversary of Penguin Books". Another thing to be aware of is that it's produced by Penguin US, and so focuses on covers of the American editions.

Good if you're interested in modern book-cover design (especially novels). Bad if you were hoping from something similar to Penguin by Design: A Cover Story 1935-2005 but with a more in-depth look at the origins of each cover.


The Crack in Space
The Crack in Space
by Philip K. Dick
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars Easy but intelligent SF, 30 Sept. 2012
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This review is from: The Crack in Space (Paperback)
Compared to some of Dick's more surreal (later) works, this is a 'straight' science-fiction novel. The plot is interesting and it's an easy, quick read. But, of course, there's more going on here for the thoughtful reader who wants to scratch below the surface. I see the book as an allegory of the colonization of the Americas - the 'old' earth and 'new' earth featured here are direct analogies for the Old World and the New World. It explores several aspects of colonization and the motives of those involved: politics, race, money/corporate power, the pressures of overpopulation, individuals hoping for a fresh start, the spirit of exploration and scientific discovery, and so on. You might see the book differently, and that's fine. The point I'm making is that, despite its apparent simplicity, this is smart SF that can be enjoyed on two levels. It might not be counted as one of Dick's classics, but it's well worth reading, whether you're a fan or a newcomer.


Kraftwerk: Publikation
Kraftwerk: Publikation
by David Buckley
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £19.95

26 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Tour de Force (Soundtracks), 10 Sept. 2012
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This review is from: Kraftwerk: Publikation (Hardcover)
I waited a long time for this book to come out (publication was delayed for 12 months, presumably after Kraftwerk's MOMA retrospective was announced), but I feel that my patience has been heartily rewarded. This is a high-quality produckt. And I mean that in every sense: as well as being well written, it's nicely designed and has good production values (if you're into that kind of thing, which I am).

The subjects of this biography - in particular Herren Hütter und Schneider - are notoriously uncooperative and uncommunicative, but David Buckley has done a great job of piecing together their story by interviewing a wide range of former band members and well-known fans of the group. As a music journalist of considerable experience, and a resident of Munich for over 20 years, he writes with an authority that matches his evident warmth for the subject. The prose is rarely less than smooth and engaging, though I spotted a few typos and (as a book editor) there are a few passages that I would like to tinker with.

For me, this is a better book than Pascal Bussy's "Kraftwerk": Man, Machine and Music, and it is of course more up to date, so if you're only going to read one, pick Buckley's. That said, as a huge fan of the group, I'm happy to have read both. They inevitably cover much the same ground, but there are sufficient differences in tone and structure to make it worthwhile.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 25, 2012 10:19 AM BST


The Lie of the Land: An under-the-field guide to the British Isles
The Lie of the Land: An under-the-field guide to the British Isles
by Ian Vince
Edition: Hardcover

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good, but could be better, 25 May 2011
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This is a non-technical guide to the geology of Britain: how it was formed, how it shapes the landscape and (to a lesser extent) how it affects recent human history. It's an interesting topic, and Vince writes with warmth and enthusiasm. However, I feel that his publisher has let him down. First, this book cries out for some photographs. Yes there's a website, but I don't want to scurry off to my computer every five minutes. Second, while some passages and chapters are very well written (the one on the Silurian rocks of Shropshire springs to mind), other parts are confused, repetitive and, well, a bit dull. The potential is there, but it needed better copy-editing to tease it out. Finally, the book makes excessive use of footnotes. This may seem like a minor point, but they are distracting and spoil the narrative flow. Annoyingly, most are totally redundant - some contain irrelevant information, others are explained in the main body anyway, and several are repeated almost verbatim in different parts of the book. I read the hardback edition; if these problems have been addressed in the paperback edition, this is a four- or five-star book.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 6, 2011 4:58 PM BST


Angles
Angles
Offered by DVD Overstocks
Price: £5.56

3 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Understand the concept before judging the music, 27 Mar. 2011
This review is from: Angles (Audio CD)
It's not a well-known fact, but for years the Strokes boys have been stung by their failure to make the closing credits of TV programs like Party of Five and Dawson's Creek. This is their brilliant riposte - an album of perfectly judged middle-of-the-road mediocrity. Their self-denial in the pursuit of this vision is breathtaking: the refusal to include any standout moments, the disdain for creativity, energy, vibrancy and originality.

What's that you established Strokes fans say? "I waited five years for this 35-minutes of dross?" Maybe so. But think about the boys. Think how happy they'll be when one of these tracks is covered on Glee.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 27, 2011 7:02 PM BST


Turned Out Nice: How the British Isles will Change as the World Heats Up
Turned Out Nice: How the British Isles will Change as the World Heats Up
by Marek Kohn
Edition: Paperback
Price: £14.99

7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Global Warming on a Local Scale, 25 Jun. 2010
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I've read several excellent books on climate change and ecological themes, most notably Six Degrees: Our Future on a Hotter Planet and The World without Us. Marek Kohn's fine work ranks right up there with the best of them.

Despite the rather sensationalist cover, Kohn's text offers a balanced and thoroughly researched view. He looks at each landscape in the context of its past, examining how it has reached its present form and the stresses to which it is subject, before looking at how these factors are likely to change in the context of a warmer climate. Inevitably, I was drawn to the chapters dealing with the landscapes most familiar to me (as a Sussex lad, I particularly enjoyed the chapter on Cuckmere Haven), and other readers may find the same. But that's not to say that the other chapters weren't interesting, and the quality of the writing ensures that the book as a whole is an engaging and enjoyable read.

Some of Kohn's more speculative predictions might, in the long term, prove to be rather fanciful - somewhat akin to 'your home in the year 2000' pieces from old episodes of Tomorrow's World. However, that's a minor niggle, and predictions about future technologies are not a primary component of the book. The real focus in the natural world, with each landscape representing a different type of ecosystem. And this, for me, is the book's great strength. Its structure allows us to see how climate change will alter things on a local scale, bringing a sense of immediacy to a subject that can often seem too vast to comprehend in a meaningful way.


The Night of Wenceslas
The Night of Wenceslas
by Lionel Davidson
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.00

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Premium novel, budget product, 18 Feb. 2010
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This review is from: The Night of Wenceslas (Paperback)
This is a thoroughly enjoyable book that starts slowly and gathers pace, subtly drawing the reader into the story - before you realize it, you're hooked. Originally published in 1960, some readers might find the prose, and the hero's way of thinking, grating. Personally, I enjoyed the invocation of an earlier age, and the high quality of the writing is indisputable (far better than most modern thrillers). I'm a fan of Eric Ambler, Graham Greene's 'Entertainments', John Buchan, and Len Deighton, and Lionel Davidson loses nothing in comparison to these illustrious names. This is the first novel of his that I've read, but I'll certainly seek out more.

My one disappointment is that the production values of this Faber Finds edition are distinctly 'budget'. The cover is particularly lightweight - thin, gloss-laminated, and already sporting a prodigious curl. It's also riddled with typos, which I suspect come from the way that the text has been digitized from an earlier edition. Don't let this put you off reading the book; just be aware that it is a 'print on demand' product, and that this means the production values do not live up to the premium price tag.


Uncommon Danger (Penguin Modern Classics)
Uncommon Danger (Penguin Modern Classics)
by Eric Ambler
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.98

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb, 15 Feb. 2010
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This was my first experience of Eric Ambler, and I will certainly be reading the other four titles of his in Penguin's Modern Classics range. The writing is fresh and fluent, the plot gripping, and the setting and characters evocative of the era. Taken as a whole, the book seemed less dated than Graham Greene's earlier 'Entertainments', which were written around the same time (and of which I am also a fan).

For me, 'Uncommon Danger' ranks right up with 'The Thirty-Nine Steps' and 'The Riddle of the Sands' as one of the classics of British thriller/espionage writing.


Liver: A Fictional Organ with a Surface Anatomy of Four Lobes
Liver: A Fictional Organ with a Surface Anatomy of Four Lobes
by Will Self
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £18.99

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Classic Self, 3 Nov. 2008
An excellent collection (one novella, three short stories) from Self. Felt to me like a return to some of his earlier work - which is no bad thing. Great cover too. Highly recommended whether you're an established fan or a newcomer.


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