The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery

October 23, 2009 Comments off

This modern work of philosophy is a must-read for anyone who reads. No, really, it’s that good. It is the world seen through the eyes of a child re-told by an author with a child-like view of the world.

The Little Prince has a great deal of charm, with the occasional sting, just so you know. From the stupidity of bureaucracy through to self-destructive behaviour, expressions of love and the vanity of greed and power, this book provides a welcome, gentle poke at society in all its strange forms.

The author urges us to be more like the Prince, and you can tell this is something he wants for himself too. de Saint-Exupery died in 1944, probably shot down over the Mediterranean (he loved the solitude of flying), fortunately for us, his work lives on.


Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson

October 23, 2009 1 comment

This book could be considered the fourth book in the Baroque Cycle, although it was actually written first. One character features across all four books, but telling you who would count as a spoiler, so I won’t.

Cryptonomicon takes place partly in World War Two, partly in the 1990s. Two stories, each gripping in their own way, gradually connect on the Philippines in a search for Japanese war gold, looted from Asia and hidden away for decades.

As you might expect from the title, a lot of the World War Two action focuses on the codebreaking efforts of the allies, as they race to decode German and Japanese transmissions while also hiding from the enemy their successes.

As with Neal’s other books in this cycle the research has been meticulous and every location is describes briefly, but with incredible authenticity. From the Philippines of the 1990s to Sweden in World War Two, each location becomes almost a character in its own right. I love Neal’s writing so this book was a real treat for me. Highly recommended, along with the three Baroque Cycle books.

The New Penguin Atlas of Medieval History by Colin McEveedy

October 22, 2009 Comments off

I agree; not the most inspiring book title in the world. However this one is on my list of recommendations with good reason.

Well told, and well laid out, this book follows a format of a one-page map opposite a one-page explanation of what was going on at the time. The maps show shifting borders and empires and nations rise and fall, and new migrations give rise to new nationalities.

This is no dry list of kings and battles. The social and political systems get their airing, and the maps also show trade routes and resources, population centres, and the boundaries of religion.

In describing the book I feel like I am doing it a disservice. If you’ve ever wondered where things came from, why certain things are so, or why some countries have a mixed religion and others just one, many of the answers lie in this book. So much useful and engaging information packed into one compact package.

Plague Year by Jeff Carlson

October 22, 2009 Comments off

I liked this book a lot. An intelligent novel about a nanotechnology-driven disaster needed to be written, after the neo-Luddite nonsense that was Prey.

Short version; medical nanobots run amok and render every part of Earth below 6,000 metres uninhabitable. Traumatised survivors squat on a mountaintop in the Sierra Ranges. When food runs low, they begin eating one another.

That is just the introduction, mind you. The actual tale of Plague Year begins right after this. It’s a good one.

Bones of the Hills by Conn Iggulden

October 16, 2009 Comments off

The Genghis Khan trilogy wraps up with this book. That was a shame from my perspective as I was hoping for more books. Personal bias there, as I find the Mongols of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries quite fascinating.

The saga of the Mongols in their conflict with one of the pre-eminent military powers of the day, the arrogant Khwarizm takes centre stage in this book. All is not well at home for Genghis and his close family members are either under threat, or a threat to Genghis. Conn Iggulden ends a great series with a neat twist.

Charley’s War by Pat Mills

October 15, 2009 Comments off

I am a sometime participant into the practice of having my childhood repackaged and sold back to me at today’s prices. Charley’s War is one such. Originally published between 1978 and 1986, this comic series really blew me away, and I only originally read the last 3 years’ worth.

Titan Books has begun a collection starting from the first episode and working through the story. I certainly hope they go all the way through. Adding to the value of the product are commentaries on the series by Pat Mills, and each volume has an article about the period of history, or from someone giving another view into how the series came to light.

Charley’s War remains a wonderful anomaly. An anti-war war story about The Great War appearing in a boys’ comic about how great war is. It’s a gritty, unrelenting examination of a truly horrendous period of history. Better yet, it’s well told, full of characters to love and pity and hate, and brought to life with incredible artwork from Joe Colquhoun.

The books are being released at the rate of one per year, in October. The sixth is coming soon. Mark your calendars!

When I’m not Reading, I’m Writing

October 12, 2009 2 comments

I like to write too, but curiously I find that I cannot read and write over the same period of time. If I’m lost in a good book, I don’t have the mindspace to write, and when I’m going through the process of creating a story, picking up a book will only interrupt that.

There’s a backlog of books to cover, since blog writing doesn’t count as story writing (sorry!)

In a piece of news, my short story Salvage Rights came runner-up in a competition run through Irregular Magazine and was printed in Issue 2. Check it out!

Categories: science fiction, writing