Citizen — Claudia Rankine

A rather different way of saying the things that need to be said, containing a mixed bag of poetry, prose, vignettes, etc., detailing what it’s like to be perpetually on the receiving end of racism, from micro-agressions to extremely overt racism.

Maybe, instead of forcing children to read Shakespeare and Dickens at school, we should be encouraging them to read books like this and encouraging them to engage in constructive dialogue with each other about the issues raised and the experiences of those on the receiving end of racism and other bigotry.   Racist is not something people are born, it’s something people are taught, and its very clearly up to schools and educators to start stepping up and making much more effort with the young minds in their care.

In the UK “Citizenship” and “Relationship” education is not on the curriculum until after 11 years of age: this is far, far too late.   How our societies are peopled — our citizens — and how we relate to those other citizens within our societies should be permanently on the curriculum from the very first day of school, not be left in the hands of young people’s peers, bad television, bad websites, and ignorant parents who read nothing but vile, tabloid drivel.   A child who has been nurtured badly up to the age of 11 is highly unlikely to respond to positive nuturing by over-worked, underpaid, stressed-out teachers after the age of 11.

Claudia’s Page

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Star Maker — William Olaf Stapledon

I managed to get 31% into this and then just had to give up trying.   I really couldn’t manage any more of it.

Imagine that William’s favourite book is Gulliver’s Travels and he decides to have a go at writing a sci-fi version of it having read Brave New World just before starting.   I think that pretty much sums up the first 31%.

The problem is that while Gulliver’s Travels and Brave New World are both very good books, both are very well written and keep the reader’s attention, Star Maker is tedious, dull and plodding: at least that’s how i found it to be.   I can imagine for its time it was very exciting, but sadly some books just don’t age well and i think this is one of them.

I don’t feel that it’s bad enough to warrant a place on “The Deleted” page, so it will get a reprieve and stay in my Amazon lists for now and i may give it another go at some future date when i’m feeling a lot better about life and stuff.

William’s Page

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Crome Yellow — Aldous Huxley

I was in my 20’s when i last read this, somewhere between 25 and 30 years ago, and i still think it’s a very good book.

There is, however, a problem with this book: Aldous was very clearly a product of Victorian England and his use of words really reflect this, especially in his early writing, and there are the very occasional racial words/comments used — which i counted twice.

It’s a very awkward place to find oneself, caught between two cultures.   By my standards the use of such language is completely unacceptable, yet, having read a few Victorian books and also post Victorian books, like this, written by those who were educated by Victorians, it is clear that the use of such language was, very much, the standard of the day.

Do we now throw the babies out with the bath water?   Admittedly, by contemporary standards, the bathwater we are dealing with is now considered untreated sewage, but in it’s day it was considered fit for drinking.   I certainly don’t feel that Aldous was, in anyway, being racist and derogatory, but simply using the words and cliches of his day.

As to the rest of the book it is very clearly a satire and critique of England in the early 1920’s and it’s very clear that Aldous was not supporting of many views expressed in this book, but laying bare the thinking and ideas of his day.   If you are interested you can read much more about this on it’s Wiki page.

The interesting thing for me is that just over 5 years ago i spent 3 years living at one of England’s great houses and its huge estate, including parklands, shrubberies, woods, Italian gardens, ponds, lakes, etc., and it certainly made reading about Crome a whole different experience.   Sadly, to be honest, the upper classes, and their sycophants, haven’t really changed much from the attitudes and behaviour satirised and parodied within Crome Yellow.

This book is also, very much, the forerunner to Brave New World, and i would suggest a must read for fans of that book.

Aldous’ Page

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The Lollipop Shoes — Joanne Harris

Book two of the Chocolat series.   I really enjoyed Chocolat. so this is another one of those sequels in the unenviable position of having a lot to live up to.   Did it?   Well, it didn’t do too bad a job.

I would say my only real criticism of it was that it went on for far too long.   Chocolat was a mere 359 pages whereas The Lollipop Shoes is 594 pages, and while reading it one gets the feeling that it could have been trimmed down a fair bit and the story would have benefited.

As i say, that’s my only real criticism.

I certainly enjoyed knowing that there are two further books in this tetralogy, as one can’t be certain how this is going to end.   Is Vianne going to be left high and dry with the further two books dedicated to her fighting back, or is Vianne going to triumph here and now and we’ll move on to some other tale in the next book?   We’re also not even sure who is going to be Vianne at the end of this book as it’s mostly about identity theft and Vianne becoming the target of an identity thieving witch: can chocolate witchery save the day again?

At the end, the only real judgement one can pass on this book is: am i going to read Peaches for Monsieur le Curé?   Not straight away.   As i said, this went on for a bit too long and i have a few other books i’ve been looking forward to reading, but Peaches for Monsieur le Curé is queued up on my Kindle ready to be read at some time in the not too distant future.

Joanne’s Page

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The Strange Case of the New Golden Gate — Robin Sloan

I really enjoyed Annabel Scheme and also everything else that Robin has written, so i went into this with very high expectations: sadly, i don’t think it reached them.

While it’s not a bad book and is quite an ok read, it just all felt a bit rushed.

Yes, i know, it was written as a serial article for a newspaper and maybe Robin was hobbled with some level of word count, or maybe Robin was in a rush to get on with other things: i’ve no idea.   What i do have an idea about is that this book just isn’t as good as the original Annabel Scheme book.

But, hey ho, it’s enough to keep us Robin Sloan fans happy for a while and you can at least read it for free in it’s original form at the newspaper’s website.

In the meantime, we keep our fingers crossed for a full length novel coming from Robin soon.

Robin’s Page

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Good Neighbours — DeAnna Knippling

I really enjoyed this.   A nice captivating little short to fill an hour or so.

In East Smithville the fog is always coming and with it, the Fairies who whisk people away, not to be seen again for years.   This is the story of one such person returning — for a while at least.

I admit to being thoroughly disappointed that it ended, i really wanted it to keep going: away with the Fairies.

Well worth a read of your time and it would be really good if DeAnna came back to East Smithville some time and wrote a few more short stories about people returning.

DeAnna’s Page

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A Perfect Moment — DeAnna Knippling

I revceived this as an ARC from DeAnna to read, comment and review.

As a short story, anthology stocking-filler it does what it’s supposed to.   I was quite happy to read it and wasn’t put off at all but, it doesn’t do much more than that.

As with a lot of these shorts for anthologies, there’s usually a really good idea at their core but the word count to play it out just isn’t available, and i do feel that this is one of those.   There’s a greedy reader part of me that wants this spun out novel length into a temporal food-fight similar to Recursion by Blake Crouch.

DeAnna’s Page

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The Memory Hacker — JT Lawrence

This is just way too overdone for me with too many holes in it.

By far, the worse of the 4 stories in 2054.

Nuff said, move along, nothing to see here.

Janita’s Page

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Deep Ocean Blues — Yudhanjaya Wijeratne

An interesting little novella based in a deep ocean thorium mine with a human, an AI and a bunch of OctoPods as workers: OctoPods are cyborg octopuses in case you were wondering.

It mostly explores the same theme as Blade Runner, as in, what is it to be me.

I am left thinking that there’s at least a full length novel in this deep underwater world and the onshore world that supports it and squabbles over the rights.   There’s certainly a lot of interesting space for a novel or three to explore and fill.

At the time of posting this review this is only available in 2054.

Yudhanjaya’s Page

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Alice — Julia Crane

Another tale from the anthology Once Upon A Curse.

I’ve quite enjoyed the previous tales from this anthology, and was quite looking forward to one that was “Alice and Wonderland” inspired.   Oh my, how utterly disappointed i was.

To begin, you’ll realise when you get to the apparent end of this tale that this is simply the beginning of one of Julia’s books and you’re supposed to be so impressed with this that you go running off to Amazon to buy it.   Julia, and/or the editor of the anthology, should — in the very least — have had the decency to warn the reader of this fact at the beginning of the tale.

It wouldn’t be so bad if this were any good and one was left wanting to go and buy the full story, but it’s an utterly childish love story and one soon finds oneself just wishing it over and done with.   So yes, there’s a part of me that’s very pleased that this is just an excerpt and i was therefore relieved of having to wade through the whole tedious story.

Furthermore, it doesn’t have anything to do with “Alice and Wonderland” other than the protagonist is called Alice and her adoptive mother is referred to as the Red Queen.   It’s an insult to your readers to take a half finished story you had lying around and rename the characters and try and pass it off as a “Alice and Wonderland” tale.

I’m putting this in “The Deleted” even though i can’t delete this as it’s part of an anthology that so far i’ve been enjoying.   But seriously, all “Alice and Wonderland” fans, just avoid this tale if you come across it.

Julia’s Page

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