How To Rule An Empire and Get Away With It — K. J. Parker

The follow-up to Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City: which is a really good book.   If you haven’t read that already then you really should before embarking upon this quest as this follows immediately on from that story.

And, seriously, once you’ve read and totally enjoyed Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City you’ll be very pleased to know that this is just as good as that was.   K.J. is as brilliantly absurd in his story telling in this as the previous book.

Yes, the siege is still going on and nothing much has changed but, instead of our story being told by a disgruntled military engineer, we’re now treated to a story told by a disgruntled playwright who does some acting on the side — who is obviously much better at telling stories and also pretending to be people who he isn’t: now what could be better than that, eh?

So if you haven’t tried K.J.’s writing yet, these two books are a great place to begin.   You’d have to be a proper grump not to enjoy them.

K. J. Parker’s Page Tom Holt’s Page

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Nasty: My Family And Other Glamorous Varmints — Simon Doonan

The book that spawned the TV sit com Beautiful People.   I don’t watch hardly any TV shows as 99% are utter crap: Beautiful People was well in the 1%.

So how did the book compare to the TV show?

Superbly.

I would definitely suggest to anyone thinking about reading this book to watch the TV show first, as i can’t see it being as good watching it afterwards.   The book has so much more of Simon’s life in it and there are so many more characters and escapades from his childhood that were left out of the TV show and if you read the book first you’ll probably end up getting grumpy that some of the characters and escapades in the book aren’t in the TV show.

That’s not to say the TV show is bad, it’s not, it’s superb, but in order to make a good sit-com out of this book there had to be a few characters left out and certain characters that were left in have been changed somewhat.

Anyways, enough of that, just go watch the TV show and have a good laugh knowing you’ve got a lot more to read about afterwards for desert.

My first Simon Doonan book, and it certainly won’t be my last.   He’s a really good writer.   Thanks for the giggles and laughs, Simon.

Simon’s Page

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Chitty Chitty Bang Bang — Ian Fleming

One of my favourite films, so favourite that i never bothered to read the book before.   I know, putting the cart before the horse is so unlike me.

Anyways, i’ve finally put things right and read the book, and guess what?   I totally enjoyed it.

Like the film, it’s aimed directly for young children, i’d say around 7 or 8 years old, but it’s also good for us Boomers who loved the film.

How do they compare?   Well the book only has some glimpses of the James Bond theme coming through, whereas the film, which was made well after Ian’s death, has all the Bond tropes shoehorned into it somewhere and is much more the James Bond for children thing.   Example would be that in the book Caractacus is married to Mimsie, but in the film they needed to work in the Bond girl trope somehow, so they killed off Mimsie and created Truly Scrumptious.   They also made the arch villain much more Bond like with the big castle, and all that, and gave him the Bond henchman in the Kiddy Catcher.

But the book is still good and well worth getting if you have young children to give them a good reading to before you make them sit and watch the film: i’m sure they’ll love it because Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is, without a doubt, the best James Bond film ever.

Enjoy.

Ian’s Page

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Galactic North — Alastair Reynolds

Galactic North, written by Alastair Reynolds.This is bizarre.   After three trilogy length novels — two spanning decades and one a few centuries — going into glorious detail and getting the reader really involved with the characters and their situations, we now have a story spanning tens of millennia that’s only a short: WTF?

It all feels extremely rushed, utterly lacking in depth and just seems like Alastair threw it together before breakfast to meet some publisher’s needs before he went on holiday.

Ho hum, we can’t really expect all of Alastair’s books to be excellent.   This one’s very disappointing.

Anyways, this is the last story in the whole series for now.   Just a bit of a wait until Inhibitor Phase is released on 26th August 2021.

It’s certainly been a blast reading the whole series in one go, it was just under 3 months ago when i began Great Wall of Mars.   And no inbetweenies due to boredom: this is one of those series that you just want to keep on reading without any other books getting involved.

Available in the collection, Galactic North.

Alastair’s Page

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Absolution Gap — Alastair Reynolds

If you’re not into reading a whole trilogy crammed into one book then i’d suggest staying away: this book is huge.   But if you’ve got this far you’ve just read two books of similar length so you’re used to it by now — dive right in.

My thoughts are that this book just doesn’t come up to the same level as the previous two.   I think it’s because everything in this universe that we’ve come to know is all getting torn apart into molecules by the Inhibitors and there’s not much left of life as we once knew it.   It’s all quite depressing really, as are some of the characters.   And while i like a writer who isn’t afraid to kill off a main character or several, i was a bit put out by one of them as i really wanted to hear more from them: i won’t say which one because it would spoil the whole book.

But, this is war, this is the threatened annihilation of the human race, so we can’t expect it to be all upbeat and fun — can we?

So yeah, straight into Galactic North now and then it’s a bit of a wait for Inhibitor Phase to be published on 26th August 2021.

Alastair’s Page

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Redemption Ark — Alastair Reynolds

Oooh wow, now that was a really good read, extremely lengthy but really good.

This time we’re back in the Yellowstone system but our old friends (or enemies, depending on how you view them), the Conjoiners are back, along with a few blasts from the distant past: don’t worry, you’ll soon catch up with who’s who again.

When Ilia activated the cache weapons in the last book the Conjoiners, whose weapons they actually happen to be, received an alert that they’ve been activated and it’s not too long before they decide that they’re going to get them back.   But there’s rifts amongst the Conjoiners, who aren’t as conjoined as they might seem, and some want the weapons for a different reason.

And so it’s off to Resurgam, via Chasm City, in souped up lighthuggers that bend the laws of physics, in a crazy game of star-ship-chase-me as the different factions want to get there first and get the cache weapons — both gleefully trying to throw a spanner in the other’s works along the way.

And what a great time is going to be had when we get to Resurgam, what with the Inhibitors now unleashed by Sylveste’s previous shenanigans, running amok and making to destroy the whole solar system, and also Ilia having absolutely no desire to give up her weapons to anyone.

There’s also lots of other great story telling things and characters going on besides — like a whole planet to evacuate before the inhibitors burn it to death.   You won’t be bored.

Super good and now it’s straight into Absolution Gap.

Alastair’s Page

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Nightingale — Alastair Reynolds

Nightingale, written by Alastair Reynolds.What begins as a war-criminal hunt slowly turns more and more strange and out of control for our intrepid party of hunters.

I really enjoyed this super good novella.   It was nice of Alastair to throw a delicious little shorty between Revelation Space and Redemption Ark: both the size of trilogies in their own right.

And the ending is brilliant.

Available in the collection, Galactic North.

Next up in the series is Redemption Ark

Alastair’s Page

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Revelation Space — Alastair Reynolds

This is one rather large book but, thankfully, it’s one rather good book as well that keeps those pages turn, turn, turning.

I think my only complaint is that when Volyova uses the Nostalgia for Infinity as a murder weapon by accelerating it and braking it in order to smash one of her crew to death, there’s no explanation as to what happened to everything else in this massive ship that wasn’t nailed down properly.   Like, what happened to all the ship-slime, rats, shuttle craft, the weapons cache and many other things besides: were all of the these things nailed down to protect them against such repeated high G acceleration and forward braking phases?   There were many ways of carrying out this killing that didn’t require any further explanation, but to use the method that Volyova did and then for Alastair to just fail to explain what happened to everything else in the ship does annoy me somewhat.

Because the ship isn’t designed to brake in the forward motion.   It’s designed to accelerate to one G continuously up to the half way point of the journey, then it will flip 180 degrees and use the same one G thrust to slow itself down.   Why would the engines suddenly be capable of huge 10 G burns in both directions just to kill one person?   I really think it’s needs a proper explaining.

But yeah, i know, that’s how picky i have to be to find any real criticism of this immense book.   It is the only fault i could find, and to be fair, most people would probably read this and not even think about it.

I do hope that doesn’t put anyone off (not that i think for one moment that it would ), because other than that one bizarre murder it’s super good, great writing, great characters, everything as we’ve come to expect so far in this series.

And i look forward to some more: next up is Nightingale.

Alastair’s Page

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Grafenwalder’s Bestiary — Alastair Reynolds

Grafenwalder's Bestiary, written by Alastair Reynolds.This one has call backs to A Spy in Europa, Diamond Dogs, and Chasm City, so if you missed reading any of those then you really need to go and read them first.

And it’s such a good short, like, really good.   The ending is brilliant.

Available in the collection, Galactic North.

And now, finally, at long last, we get onto the title work, Revelation Space.   Yes peoples, it’s finally the big books’ time to be read, so it may be a while between future reviews.

Alastair’s Page

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Turquoise Days — Alastair Reynolds

Turquoise Days, written by Alastair Reynolds.In this book we go off to the planet Turquoise, so named because it’s an ocean planet covered in turquoise oceans.

Within the oceans are the Pattern Jugglers that got a mention in Diamond Dogs, and in this book we get a much deeper introduction to them.

So yeah, a really enjoyable novella adding yet another alien layer onto the growing alien layers of the Revelation Space universe.

Available in the duology, Diamond Dogs, Turquoise Days.

And the next book in the series is Grafenwalder’s Bestiary.

Alastair’s Page

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