Friday, 18 June 2010

The Small back room by Nigel Balchin

This slim volume is an unexpected treasure. It tells the story of a scientist working in a military research institute in  Britain during the second world wa,  except the novel is not about science at all it is about office politics and human relationships and extraordinary heroism from unlikely people and the British stiff upper lip. The the climax of the story in which the scientist protagonist risks his life to defuse a dangerous booby trap bomb forms an extraordinary contrast to the  manoeuvring of petty  bureaucrats who care more about their own position  than about making a genuine contribution to the war effort.


Sunday, 13 June 2010

The Curse of Chalion by Lois McMaster Bujold

Superb single volume fantasy from an author I have never read before. The main protagonist Cazaril is a minor lord who has been reduced to beggardom after being callously betrayed by those greater nobles in whose service he has risked his life.

Instead of the magic usually found in fantasy novels Bujold has employed a very well crafted system of religion. The world of Chalion knows five gods: Father, Mother, Son and Daughter, one for each season and the Bastard god of all things out of season. The practise of religion and its impact on folks every day lives is very well described and entirely believable in the medieval fantasy setting of the novel.  The twist is that the gods are very real and respond to the characters prayers although the ways and means of the gods interacting with the living world are complex and difficult to understand. Cazaril himself becomes a tool of those gods as they seek to rescue the kingdom of Chalion from a curse that has befallen its royal family.

Very enjoyable read

The Temporal Void by Peter Hamilton

The second book in Peter Hamilton's Void Trilogy and the story is shaping up nicely. The void at the heart of  our galaxy was created by ancient intelligences and inside the void all things are possible including psychokinesis and even the manipulation of time itself. Unfortunately the energies required to power this wonderland comes from the gradually consumption of of the world outside the void and the current citizens of the galaxy seem powerless to stop it. Throw in a complex cast of characters including many survivors or Hamilton's previous Starflyer saga and you have a rich and engrossing story. I found the first book a little slow to get started but by now I am fully hooked. The fantasy sections detailing the life of a character who lives inside the void are an interesting counterpoint to the modernistic sci-fi of the rest of the story. Recommended.