Indra Station – Joseph R. Lallo

Another long awaited book in the ‘Big Sigma’ series has been read and finished.   I say ‘long awaited’ like it’s been years since i read book 4 when it’s only been a few months, but a few months feels like a few years because i love this series so much.

Did it match the expectations?   Now that’s the question with this book.

From the very beginning of Big Sigma the whole series has been a whole lot of fun, and i’ve always felt that Joseph was having a lot of fun writing it, and that’s what i’ve come to expect.   But this book is different.   It’s still a good, enjoyable and engaging read, but it’s just not the fun filled ‘Big Sigma’ that we’re used to, and i think it’s for a good reason.   Sometimes in a big story like this there has to come a moment or two of important decisions for one of our favourite likeable/loveable characters where things that have been simmering away for too long are now getting overcooked and need eating.   So Lex books the best, most expensive and exclusive restaurant on Operlo for dinner with Michella and the chaos and shenanigans begin: pushing the boundaries of what’s believable and what’s ridiculous but never quite crossing them, while at the same time giving us really wonderful characters to enjoy that are so good you kind of widen those boundaries just because.   And that’s what makes this such a great series of books: a writer that is not only willing to push your boundaries to make such exciting and enjoyable stories but is also able to give you such great characters that you’re willing to widen your boundaries as well.

And that ending!   Joseph got called a few choice words last night when i finished this book.   As Nick Patel would say… ‘Not many writers have the ‘fortitude’ to end a book like that.’

And that brings me back full circle.   It’s the ending that makes sense of this book, what it’s all been buiding up to and why it doesn’t have that usual Big Sigma vibe to it.

And it certainly leaves one wondering just where this story is going to go from here.   I, for one, can’t wait to find out and i’m certainly left looking forward eagerly to book 6?   Ooooh yeah!

And as soon as i finished this i engaged the ‘Infinite Improbability Drive’ in ‘The Pile’ and it chose ‘The Crescents’, which means that i now have to read the whole of ‘The Book of Deacon series’.   You see, even the ‘Infinite Improbability Drive’ really likes Joseph’s books — can’t get a better recommendation than that.

Joseph’s Page

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One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez

I’ve started to read this book 3 times before and never made it through the first 20 pages.   This time i got over 1/3 of the way through it, and that was more than enough to call it a day.   So read this review with that in mind.

This book is the literary equivalent of a crap TV soap opera.   The characters are mostly inbred and somewhat retarded.   There are too many characters, most of which either have the same name or very similar names.   And just when you thought there was more than enough of one name a whole bunch of illegitimate children would turn up and Gabriel would give them all the same name of the father.   It’s like grandson named after son named after father named after great uncle named after grandfather.   And this goes on and on until you aren’t quite sure who you’re reading about.   Adding to the too many characters with the same name, there are also too many characters with similar names.   Then you get time shifts, where suddenly you’re reading something that happened to a ‘name’ (because you can never be sure which character that name is) previously and then it’s back to present then off to the future and then it’s now again but you don’t get any structure to it, and it’s just utter chaos.

On top of all that chaos, they’re all related somehow because incest seems to be a perfectly normal thing amongst these backward, inbred people.   And every few pages a new child is thrown into the mix named after someone already in the story who is then adopted and raised by someone other than its parents.   And the incest and adoption is so confusing that you’re never quite sure who is related to who in what way, thus leading to more incest, adoption and confusion.

Oh, sure, i could have done due diligence and made a big effort to work out who exactly is who when a name appears, but i shouldn’t have to.   I don’t read books to make tedious and pointless work for myself.   I read books to enjoy the escape from tedium, for fun and recreation, to enjoy the experience of losing myself.

You can never lose yourself in this book if you want to understand what is going on because you’re always having to work at who is who and how they’re related to each other in what generation, etc., etc..

Then there’s the liberal use of Deus Ex Machina.   Create a problem, that of everyone losing their memories, and then solve it when someone turns up with a magical potion and everything’s suddenly ok again.   And what was the point of it all and where have we got with the actual story?

And that’s the question: what is the actual story here?   All i get is a never ending cacophony of incest, illegitimate children, adoption of each other’s illegitimate children, giving them names of already existing characters into the maelstrom of same and similar named characters that already exist, and stupid behaviour with ever more and more characters from other places being thrown in, even when completely unnecessary.

How this book is classed as a paragon of Spanish literature is beyond me.   I suppose it’s the same crowd that think Shakespeare and Dickens are paragons of English literature.   And guess what?   You won’t ever find any Shakespeare or Dickens on this website.

It’s not that i can’t handle lots of characters: i’ve read the Riftwar saga by Raymond E. Feist and similar great sagas of fantasy and sci-fi, and i’ve never been confused.   Why?   Because they give them all distinctive names.

It’s not that i have a problem with non English names: i’ve read lots of fantasy, sci-fi and also translated books by lots of non English writers, never been a problem.   Why?   Because they give them all distinctive names.

I can only think that this was done on purpose to make some literary point, but this literary point is completely lost on me.   Why create utter chaos within your character structure, add too many characters even when completely unnecessary to the story, give the characters same or similar names to add more confusion, throw never ending incest and inbreeding into the mix and then get them to adopt each other’s children and then don’t tell the children who their parents are so you can look forward to more incest?   The point certainly isn’t made in the first 1/3rd of the book and if a writer can’t be bothered to hook me into a story in that time then the book goes in the delete bin.

The other issue with all this character chaos is that you never can bond with any of the characters.

I like a book that gives me some central characters who i can bond with, root for and believe in.   Characters that i can identify, who stand out and make sense of the story for me.   I like a book that simply loses me in the story.   When i read a book the only part of me that has to do anything is my thumb, turning the pages on my Kindle: i don’t want to be having to stop and think about what’s happening, the story should flow and make sense of itself without my having to make a load of effort to make it make sense.   And i don’t like soap operas and those kind of pathetic characters, repeating the same stupid mistakes over and over again and never learning anything.   If i want a soap opera i could watch television.   I don’t watch television!   I read books!

My final pronouncement on this book is that it is a work for voyeurs with a niche fetish of viewing incest who enjoy crappy TV soap operas who are happy with Deus Ex Machina being deployed to solve every problem that served no literary purpose other than to deploy the Deus Ex Machina in the first place.

Utterly ridiculous!

Gabriel’s Page

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Woken Furies — Richard Morgan

And so, after the fantastic, ‘Altered Carbon’, followed up by the enthralling, but not quite as good, ‘Broken Angels’, i had decided not to expect anything from this book other than a couple more incredible sex scenes like the first two books had.

And i was still left utterly disappointed.

The sex scenes in this book are like Richard just couldn’t be bothered.   The incredible, imaginative stuff of the first two books had gone and in its place was just crude basic crap with the word ‘cunt’ used far too often like Richard was a 4 year old who just learned a naughty word and is trying to impress all his friends with it.   Really, that’s what it was like.   It’s like someone else wrote half of this book.

It’s not like the great ideas and a good story that were in the first two books weren’t there any more, they were, and that aspect of it was just as good and just as enthralling.   It’s just the telling of it and the writing of it felt totally different.

I felt a bit of this in book two, compared to book one, and this third book continues the downward trajectory.

Did the editor get changed?   Because whoever edited this book needs sacking.   You really have to stop and pause while you work through conversations trying to decide if someone’s thinking or speaking or whatever because the punctuation is completely missing.

Too many faults in a really good story.   What could have been an amazing book is left to be bearable to read once and i can’t ever see myself reading this trilogy ever again.

Richard’s Page

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Broken Angels — Richard Morgan

After the fantastic, ‘Altered Carbon’, it was straight into this, the second book in the trilogy.   And after ‘Altered Carbon’ i had exceptionally high hopes for this book, which, admittedly, one should maybe not do, but one can but hope.   Did it meet the expectations?

Not quite.

But i certainly wasn’t disappointed.   Like ‘Altered Carbon’, it kept me turning the pages, but whereas ‘Altered Carbon’ is set on Earth, ‘Broken Angels’ is set on a planet far, far away.   And it’s that one single difference that, for me at least, lets this book down a tiny, tiny bit.   I just didn’t feel involved any more, because it’s so far out from the world as i know it that it doesn’t capture me like a book set on Earth does.

Normally one doesn’t notice these things.   Usually a sci-fi trilogy is set solely on other planets in a different time with lots of the same characters re-appearing, and it all just flows nicely and feels complete within itself.   But this jump from a story based mostly on Earth, with towns and places that we can all relate to, to being based completely on another planet, far, far away, with only one common character, is like reading something that’s not a trilogy any more.

Having said that though, it’s still a good book.   But it’s just not the flowing trilogy that i had hoped for and expected from the first book.   As the saying goes… ‘Expectation is the mother of all fuck ups’.

Yeah, maybe i shouldn’t have expected that, and to be fair, this book does point out that if you don’t have any expectations and then you will be ready to deal with anything.

Anyways, now i’m not expecting anything with the third book, ‘Woken Furies’, but more of Takeshi Kovacs running amok while killing lots of people, causing lots of mayhem and thinking lots of philosophical points to justify doing so along the way.   And he’s already doing that in the first 10 pages.

Although, maybe i lied.   I do expect a couple more rampant sex scenes written into this and i’ll be quite disappointed if they’re not there.   Both the first two books have had 2 very descriptive and very inventive sex scenes, so this book had better do as well.

All in all though, to sum it up, a very good read if you like lots of death, mayhem, corporate villains, with some highly descriptive sex scenes thrown in.   Oh, and i almost forgot… there’s even some Martians as well — yeah, like real Martians.

Richard’s Page

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Altered Carbon – Richard Morgan

Wow! How does one review something like this book?

To start with… It’s hard, brutal, nasty and cruel. It’s got rape, torture, snuff, hardcore literary pornography and other unpleasant stuff, even some bestiality thrown in for good measure. So if any of that kind of stuff bothers you, seriously, don’t open this book. Instead, you can go and watch, what i presume will be, a tamed down version on Netflix. I say ‘presume’ because i most certainly am not going to be watching it after reading this book as i don’t want Netflix ruining it for me, plus, i’ve got plenty of really good books to read instead. After reading this book, i’m very content with the impression the book leaves, any video hack job of this book will only diminish that contentment.

The story is in the first person narrative of our protagonist, Takeshi Kovacs, who was a highly trained military asset known as an ‘Envoy’. ‘Envoy’ being quite the twisted, euphemistic description of what his military role used to be. And as an Envoy, Kovacs was trained to have no feelings towards anyone or anything. He’s essentially just a pure, flat affect machine designed to get a job done that normal military assets can’t be used for, for one reason or another. But now he no longer works for those who trained him and instead uses his training as a free lance criminal with devasting effect.

So, with that in mind, you are taken on a journey from the point of view of a weaponised, mal-adjusted, amoral, machine like mind, and at times it can become quite the uncomfortable ride.

On top of all this, the book is set in the future where human minds can be decanted into software and ‘re-sleeved’ into new bodies, either real, synthetic, semi-synthetic or virtual and as such some of the characters have been alive for over 300 years. These older characters are known as ‘meths’, short for ‘Methuselahs’ named after the longest living character in the bible. It is one of these meths that has employed Kovacs, under duress, to find out who killed him in his last ‘sleeve’. And so we go on a high octane, magical carpet ride on steroids as Kovacs takes on the worst of the future of humanity in his search to find answers.

It’s not an easy read either. As you are seeing things from the point of view of this highly trained military killing machine you have to pay the attention to the details as he is, and you do find yourself having to re-read a few pages here and there. But it’s certainly worth that extra effort in what it pays back.

All in all, to sum it up, ‘A fantastic book, but most definitely not for the faint of heart.’

I can’t wait to get into book 2 of this series, ‘Broken Angels’

Richard’s Page

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Luku Makes a Didgeridoo – Kyle Maplesden

A nice view into how a traditional didgeridoo is made and crafted, explained in language that i would probably reckon about 7 years upward.   But as a Kindle has it’s own look up dictionary it’s always a good thing to push a few new words — like “pigment” — onto young minds.

Illustrated throughout with some lovely pictures which unfortunately don’t get full justice on the black and white Kindle screen.

Nice first book, Kyle.

Kyle’s Page

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The Bone Clocks – David Mitchell

One more David Mitchell book has been read, this one, maybe even his greatest.

When i began reading David’s books it was simply because of the furore generated by the film, ‘Cloud Atlas’.   With all the expense, $102 million budget, it seemed worth it to me to give the book a read before watching the film.   After all, no one paid $102 million to see this film be made without having read the book first.

So i read the book, and was so impressed by David’s writing that i went back to the beginning and read all of his books in order.

What i loved about some of his early books, like ‘Cloud Atlas’, were his subtle interconnections between seemingly unrelated short stories to create a whole story throughout.   But as one moves along his list of books in their published order, one gets the feeling that he’s doing this with the books themselves.   Each book does have subtle interconnections to his other books, and one is left wondering, after finishing his 6th book, is there a bigger story underlying all of his books that is yet to be revealed?   Maybe, maybe not, it certainly wouldn’t detract any if there wasn’t but one can’t wait for his future books to see.

Back to ‘The Bone Clocks’… our story begins in Gravesend, Kent, with our protagonist, a teenager, Holly Sykes, who hears voices in her head and sees imaginary people.   The story then flies off into the supernatural world of other beings and whizzes around the world with all kinds of odd and strange things going on, some natural, some supernatural, but all of which keep leading us back to Holly.   It’s certainly quite a journey that Holly goes on and it’s one worth tagging along with her through this book.

And while we’re happily whizzing around the world, our writer also throws his usual little critiques at our contemporary world and life randomly into the mix, and David does have an exceptional talent in this area which always adds a little food for thought and makes reading his books a joy, IMHO.

Longlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2014, but didn’t get shortlisted — shame on them! But it does show just how good a writer David is when he’s had three of his six books longlisted, and two of those shortlisted.   That’s quite a tally, and not to mention the other awards his books have received along the way.

I still haven’t got around to reading more of David’s books.   I keep putting it off until my memory of the first 6 fades away then i’ll re-read them and totally binge on all the new ones as well, and see what this back story tells in them.

David’s Page

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The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet – David Mitchell

And onto David Mitchell’s fifth book…

It’s certainly a change from his other books, being based in Japan at the end of the 18 Century at the Dutch East India Company’s island/trading post, Dejima.

When the Shoguns closed Japan to westerners they left Dejima as the only doorway into Japan for Europe’s trade, and it was the Dutch who ran Dejima.

The book centres around actual historical events, but names and dates are changed to allow David to weave his tale.   And the tale takes us inside ancient Japanese nefarious occult beliefs and practices as we follow our protagonist and his love for a Japanese midwife who becomes entrapped within the cultists’ lair, all the while having to deal with the political machinations within the interplay between Dejima, Nagasaki and the Shogun in Edo.

Once more, a great piece of story telling from this incredible writer, and a also an incredibly interesting look inside the life and work of Dejima itself at a very interesting time in Japanese history.   Well worth a read after you’ve read David’s first four books, but do expect something rather different.

And i’m now embroiled in David’s 6th book, ‘The Bone Clocks’, which is more in style with his first four books and i’m enjoying immensely.   I’ll let you know what i think soon.

David’s Page

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Black Swan Green – David Mitchell

One more book by David Mitchell that i just finished.

This book is definitely different to his first three books in that it’s semi auto-biographical.   David is a stammerer and uses this book as his kind of coming out statement by creating a protagonist, 13 year old Jason Taylor, who is also a stammerer.

Jason lives in the, ‘nothing much happening at all’, village of Black Swan Green in Worcestershire (wherever Worcestershire is), and the book is written in 13 chapters each representing one month from January 1982 to January 1983.

One of the things that stands out most about this book is the utter lack of political-correctness, words and views.   Back in the early 80’s, and before, we had no concept of political-correctness whatsoever.   Children with defects and disabilities were hounded, abused and bullied — i know, i was a child with a serious disability in the 60’s and 70’s, or, as we were officially termed… ‘invalids’.   It’s quite incredible to think back to how society used to view people with disabilities… simply dismissed, officially, as ‘invalid’ people.

There was simply no concept whatsoever in the general population of disability discrimination being seen as anything wrong — it was completely socially acceptable.   I was 17 in 1982 and the way things were back then were very different to today.   We had never heard of dyslexia, for example, and children who couldn’t read or write well were just branded as retarded, stupid idiots, segragated into remedial classes and generally shunned.   For David Mitchell growing up with a speech defect back then i can imagine that life would not have been easy at all for a 13 year boy — which is what this book tells the story of.

But i have to say, this is an excellent look at life back in the early 80’s in general.   The views of the school children that David writes about really take the reader back in time so vividly, especially for those of us who were teenagers back in the late 70’s early 80’s.

So i definitely recommend this book to anyone who was a teenager back in the late 70’s early 80’s, especially if they had any kind of disability.   Having been a child with a disability back then i found this book very cathartic.   And i would also recommend it to all teenagers today, especially those who think that people’s disabilities and differences are invites to be bullied and abused and to be thought of as being lesser people.   I would even go so far as to say that this book would be an excellent book for GCSE English, it would certainly make children think about a few things that they should be thinking about — it would be far more socially constructive for the next generation to be reading books like this than reading ever more shakespeare and dickens which haven’t done anything to improve our society at all.

Anyway, well worth a read.   And i’ve now just began reading David’s next book, ‘The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet’.   I’ll let you know what i think once i’ve finished it, as always.

David’s Page

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Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell

All i can say is if you’ve watched the film and haven’t read the book then you’re missing out on something special.   Go read the book, the film is utter shite.

For those who don’t know, the book is a set of six short stories that all interconnect with each other, but here’s the thing, is that you get half way through the first short when you are dumped into the second.   Half way through that you are dumped into the third. And so on until you read all the way through the sixth one and come back down to the second half of the fifth, fourth, and so on until you finish the second half of the first story and reach the end.   Amazing climax!!!!   Literary orgasm!!!   Superb read!!!!

I really like this six shorts in one with ties between thing.   It’s definitely a thing, albeit rather rare.   It’s certainly something that i want more of.

‘What Lot’s Wife Saw’ is also a 6 part book.   Instead of short stories it’s about 6 letters all being intertwined into one story.   Admittedly a lot different to Cloud Atlas, but still the six come together to make the whole.

So anyways, if anyone reading this knows of any other books that are a collection of 6 intertwined naratives that make the whole (i won’t complain if its 5 or 7 so don’t be too picky ), please let me know as i’m really enjoying this genre of writing.

David’s Page

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