Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Iain M. Banks: Matter

The latest Culture novel from the Scottish genius of modern literature. Sadly this one didn't do it for me. While Banks creativity and imagination are still there the plot just didn't take off until the closing chapter of the book by which time there was no space left to do anything more than a pretty shoddy wrapping up of loose ends. Dissapointing.

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

The Day the Bubble Burst: A Social History of The Wall Street Crash of 1929 by Gordon Thomas and Max Morgan-Witts

Absolutely Brilliant. I bought this 29 year old book for 50c in a jumble sale thinking the account of the 1929 financial disaster might resonate with events of today but to be honest the parallels with today are irrelevant. This is a book about people: big people, little people, heroes and crooks all caught up the frenzies of greed, hope and despair that were Wallstreet in 1929. Thomas and Morgan-Witts meticulously researched book tells their stories and it is an absolutely compelling read. Highly reccommended.

Saturday, 22 November 2008

The Bottom Billion by Paul Collier

This is probably the most optimistic book I have every read and maybe one of the most important. If you have ever despaired of any hope rescuing the citizens of the world poorest countries from the cycles of poverty, corruption and violence into which they seem forever condemned then you should read this book. Paul Collier, an academic at Oxford provides in this short readable text, an analysis of the reasons why some countries are trapped into poverty. More importantly he suggests solutions. Most importantly of all his analysis and his solutions are not based on emotion or political rhetoric they are based on solid academic research. Yes there are traces of academic snobbery and perhaps even hubris in Paul's book but the fact remains that it is a hugely important and authoritative work. Read it.

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Newton's Wake by Ken MacLeod

Hit and Miss. This technological singularity novel does a great job of describing a somewhat chaotic, anarchic post singularity universe. The survivors who have not given themselves over to post human state (the "rapture") live in a world littered with the technological debris of repeated singularities some malevolent, some benign. A case in point is a vast wormhole network ("The Skein") which is controlled by a feudal Scottish Clan who are the main protagonists of the story. While the universe McLeod constructs is rich and intriguing the story itself is a let down. It is quite confusing at times and even after I had figured out what was going on I felt that the confusion arose from lack of clarity rather than any great depth of storyline. Ultimately it is quite unsatisfying. If McLeod writes another novel in this rich universe he has created I will be tempted to try it but he will will have to do a better job of storytelling to satisfy this reader.

Saturday, 25 October 2008

The Inferior by Peadar O Guilin: Instant Book Review

Stopmouth and his tribe live at at the edge of existence in a kill or be killed world where every species preys on every other and cannibalism is vital element of the food chain. What then are those strange shimmering globes that float over this barbarian world? Brilliant stuff. It is targeted at young adults so there are no naughty words and you can detect a hint of moralising but the story is easily meaty enough (pun) for mature readers. Peadar's protrayal of the motivations and behaviour of those living in this ativistic world is superb and he gives us a rollicking adventure story to boot. First of a series. Strongly reccommended.

Sunday, 19 October 2008

Centurion: By Simon Scarrow, Instant Book Review

Sword and Toga historical fiction set in Eastern Roman Empire. Fairly lightweight but entertaining. I will probably read more from the series.

Older Instant Book Reviews

  • Conn Iggulden, Lords of the Bow: Second book in Iggulden's "Conqueror" saga about Ghengis Khan. This is probably a great read but I struggled to get over how utterly dislikeable Ghengisk and his Mongol horde are.
  • Gary Gibson: Stealing Light: Start of clever space opera series by a new to the scene Scottish SF writer. The central theme of the novel revolves around a simple premise that has profound implications. Good Stuff.
  • J V Jones, The Bakers Boy: Volume 1 of series. Plot is pretty standard fasntasy fare involving lowly kitchen boy's lonely journey to become (no doubt) saviour of the universe. Nevertheless entertaining escapism.
  • Kevin J. Anderson: The ashes of the Worlds: Book 7 in the extraordinarily good Seven Suns Saga. Sadly weak but at least it ties up all loose ends albeit sometimes unconvincingly. Made essential by the quality of the first six books.
  • George R. R. Martin Dream Songs (bk 1): A Retrospective from the creator of Ice and Fire. Stories range from so so to excellent. Authors commentary though is first rate.
  • Demon of the Air by Simon Levack: Detective Story set in Montezuma's Mexico. So so.
  • Figure of Hate: Bernard Knight. Medieval Detective Story. Entertaining.
  • Blood River by Tim Butcher: True Story of Journalists Journey down the Congo. Gripping but depressing.
  • Metal Swarm by Kevin Anderson: Latest in series. Great.
  • The Dreaming Void by Peter Hamilton: New Sequence from creator of Night's Daw. SLow to get started but picks up towards the end.