Hedon — Jason Werbeloff

If dystopia is your thing then this is right up your alley.   It’s dirty, violent, extremely sexually graphic — and the ending.

Definitely not for children.

Also available in Uprising: 12 Dystopian Futures.

Jason’s Page

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Limbo — Aldous Huxley

Aldous’ first collection of short fiction, consisting of six short stories and a play.

All in all it’s quite a good read and one can see the young Aldous developing his writing.   Admittedly, he is incredibly pompous at times, but one does get the feeling in “Bookshop” that he realises this and that he understands that he needs to tone it down a lot if he wants to get his ideas and thoughts across to the masses.

Definitely a must read for all Aldous fans.

Farcical History of Richard Greenow

A rather interesting look at Dissociative Identity Disorder before and into WWI, where one personality is a conscientious objector while the other is firmly on the side of destroying the Hun with extreme predjudice.   Add to this that Richard’s other personality is female and when she takes over he has complete blackouts and things get a little out of control for him.

Yes folks, just because someone with DID is male does not mean that their other personalities are going to be male also.   It doesn’t work like that.   One’s other personalties are whoever they are and sometimes they will express with different genders to the host.

Superbly written in Aldous’ inimitable style.

Happily Ever After

Set in the years of WWI, Aldous introduces us to two young men, both at war, with completely contrasting views on life.   I think this is Aldous’ way of reminding himself — and all of us — to not get lost in dogmatic ideologies and, instead, to grasp and enjoy the joys of life while you’re young because you never know if today will be your last.

Eupompus Gave Splendour to Art by Numbers

One often gets the impression with Aldous that he liked to show off his classical education: “Oooh, hark at me, i know all these ancient Greek people and things.”

All the pompous whimsy aside, the only thing really being said here is Aldous didn’t much think that meditation was good for a person: “Let’s not count breaths, eh.”

Happy Families

A play.   Very much a thing of its time when it comes to race, displaying Aldous’ Victorian heritage to the full.

Cynthia

A little romance short with Aldous stirring in another good load of the “Oooh, hark at me, i know all these ancient Greek people and things.” that we had in “Eupompus Gave Splendour to Art by Numbers”.

The Bookshop

A short about an impulse purchase all dressed up in a rather lovely piece of descriptive writing.   I felt that the undertones of this was Aldous bemoaning the great unwashed and uncultured, while, at the end, he sees that he can’t escape their influence when surrounded on all sides by them: we’re all in this shit life together.   Our protagonist finally throws his impulse purchase into some bushes.

I find this story very much to have the seed of what Aldous later grew into his life’s work.   The symbolism of the bookshop with its classical music, fashions, art and books; representing education, privilege and wealth; surrounded on all sides by the working classes, poverty and need.   How can one enjoy such fruits when he’s reminded and intruded upon, at every moment, that so many don’t have these things.

The Death of Lully

Lully is an early christian martyr that is rescued on a passing ship.   A well written short but i’m not sure what the message really is.   As a devout non-christian, this kind of thing just turns my brain off.

Aldous’ Page

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The Clockwork Alice — DeAnna Knippling

I really enjoyed All the Retros at the New Cotton Club, so i was really happy to discover that Deanna’s also wrote some “Alice and Wonderland” stuff.

Instead of the fun clockwork story about Alice and all things Wonderland that i was expecting, i found a story heavily biased towards the real life of Alice Liddell and her relationship with Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carroll): this story is set several years after Charles’ death.

I’m not going to get into my views about Dodgson here, this is about DeAnna’s views, and she does a fairly good job of brushing over things (sweeping them under the carpet) and tidy things up in making a story out of Alice’s and Charles’ final years.   Although, to be honest, i think that DeAnna just makes things worse: i’m left with the opinion that this story could be a nice little dose of Streisand effect for a lot of its readers.

And for those of you feeling the effects of Streisand, you can begin at Wikipedia.

All that aside, it’s a fairly good read, and a must for all Alice and Wonderland fans: just expect it to be more about Alice reminiscing, through thoughts and dreams of Wonderland, than a pure Wonderland adventure.   Sadly, there’s a few typos that detract on occasion, and that are so obvious they should have been easily fixed before publishing.

Final words, other than those few annoying typos, DeAnna’s a very good writer.   The Queen of Stilled Hearts is in “The Pile” and i’m looking forward to giving that a read soon.

DeAnna’s Page

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Star Trek: Picard: The Last Best Hope — Una McCormack

This needs to be read before Star Trek: Picard (the new TV series), or at any time after you begin watching it and wonder what happened to Picard that lead him to becoming an Admiral and then leaving Star Fleet.

This is a very well written story covering everything we need to know to more enjoy the series including how Picard met Raffi and their history; when and why Raffi started hitting the booze; Picard’s history with Elnor; the Romulan exodus, supernova and Picard’s part in it; the synth rebellion on Mars including Bruce Maddox and Agnes’ history; and many other things besides.

There are a few glaring omissions in this book: it becomes very clear that the Romulan sun did not go bang naturally, that there was something nefarious going on which was deliberately covered up by the Tal Shiar.   I can only imagine one reason for not exploring this further in this book and that is because it will be dealt with in further seasons of the TV show — or another Una book?   Whichever it is it certainly has the potential to stir up a huge bowl of gagh for our future Trekkie entertainment cravings.

So yeah, a must for all Trekkies.

Una’s Page

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For Want of a Nail — Mary Robinette Kowal

A wonderfully written short story about an AI whose handler, having dropped it, is having quite a few repair problems to deal with.   As the story unfolds we get to learn that the AI has far worse issues than just the repairs it needs.

If you like AI stories then this is a really good one.   And best of all it’s free, just click on the cover pic.

Mary’s Page

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Nova — Samuel R. Delany

Having previously read Babel-17 i was very much hoping this was just as good: so i did have very high expectations and it certainly had a lot to live up to.

So, yes, i did set out rather biased when i began to read this book, and while i have to say that it didn’t quite meet with my expectations with regards to Babel-17, it was still a very enjoyable read.

Samuel certainly has his own style, very arty, very high brow, and also very imaginative: Nova holds it’s place as one of the books which gave birth to the cyberpunk genre.   But where Babel-17 felt like a timeless read, Nova did feel a little dated to me, like it’s from the 1960’s or something.

But dated or not, it certainly has earned a deserving place in the “SF Masterworks” series.

Samuel’s Page

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Barkskins — Annie Proulx

This was recently made into a TV series and when i noticed it i remembered that it had been sitting in “The Pile” for quite some time an thought this would be a good time to give it a read and then, afterwards, think about watching the TV show if i feel it would bring anything to the story.

This was my third Annie Proulx book.   My first was Accordion Crimes, which i read years ago — having found the paperback loitering in a charity shop — and thoroughly enjoyed and is definitely on my bucket list to read again one day when the Kindle version goes on sale.   I’ve also read The Shipping News, which was also quite the experience: so i was quite looking forward to Barkskins.

First comments on this has to be its size.   If you’re not in for a very, very long book — its over 10,000 Kindle location points — then just stay away.   But, if you’re up to the challenge, it’s a very, very rewarding book.

It’s very much the usual Annie Proulx style, giving us a deep and long trip through North America’s history telling the stories of people at the bottom of the pile rather than those at the top like the history books always do.   It’s also a deep and long trip through the history of forest devastation the world over, and that’s what this book is really about: how Europeans, having destroyed all the great European forests then discovered the New World and its seemingly infinite forests of never ending trees, set about destroying those — and also the people who had lived in harmony with those forests for thousands of years — with extreme predjudice.   Along the way it also touches on New Zealand, as well as the great tropical forests, as the corporations who, having wrought the destruction and decimation of North America’s great forests, then realised that there was plenty of far more exotic and expensive woods to be had — not to mention all that farm land once the trees were cleared — by destroying the rest of the world’s forests.

It also touches on the folly of managed forests and sustainable forestry and how we fool ourselves into thinking that these are anything even approaching a real, natural forest.   The delusions of Homo sapiens convincing themselves that they know better than Nature as to how Nature should be.   We’re currently in a global pandemic thanks, completely, to Homo sapiens’ interference in the Natural order.   But we won’t learn and we certainly won’t stop until we’ve destroyed it all and ourselves with it.   Only at the end will we finally understand that corporate profits cannot ever sustain life.

Yes, after all is written and read, this is a book that screams at humanity to get its shit together before its too late, and maybe there’s also a suggestion that it’s already too late.   Homo sapiens, by destroying the very life blood of Earth, the forests, has inevitably destroyed any chance of Homo sapiens’ survival upon Earth.   As the book makes abundantly clear, we can never put back and recreate what we destroyed, it will take thousands of years for Earth’s great forests to re-establish themselves but they’ll never be as they were, and even then, that’s only if Homo sapiens fucks off and leaves them alone.   So we’re left with a catch 22 situation, if Homo sapiens remains on the planet in the numbers that we are, then the great forests can never begin to re-establish themselves, if they don’t re-establish themselves then there’s no future on this planet for Homo sapiens.   Either way, Homo sapiens is doomed and the forests will eventually re-establish themselves — Nature will always win at the end of time.

All in all, a fantastic book, and a must read for all those who still think its somehow possible to save the environment for Homo sapiens to survive.

Before i go though, i did start this by mentioning the TV series and reading this first to see if i’ll be wanting to watch that.   The answer is a firm NO.   I am more than content with the image that this book has left in my mind and i do not wish to muddy and mess with that by watching some hack job of a TV show that cannot even begin to approach the depths this books goes into.

So yeah, don’t watch the TV show and think you know what this is about, take the long path through forests long ago destroyed and read this incredible book instead, you’ll be glad you did.

Annie’s Page

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The Vegetarian — Han Kang

The Vegetarian, written by Han Kang.To put it bluntly, this is vile.

It’s not long into this book before we are treated to graphic descriptions of a disgusting excuse for a human being raping his wife and then later, just sits and watches while his father in law beats her extremely in front of the whole family, including the young children, and then her father has her siblings restrain her in a chair while he violently smashes the dead rotting filth these people consider food into her face forcing it into her mouth.

The attitudes in this book, not only to vegetarians, vegans and their respective diets, but also to how a human being can be treated by their own family, are, quite frankly, appallingly backward and extremely vile and sickening.

I didn’t even get to a quarter of the way into this book and i was utterly sickened by it.   How anyone can think that this is what people wish to read for entertainment is quite beyond my comprehension — they, and those that are entertained by this vile filth, should be ashamed of themselves.

Is this what people are really like in South Korea?   I have no idea, but this really doesn’t do South Korean’s any favours whatsoever.

How this won a Man Booker prize i have no idea.   That people actually carried on reading this after the rapes and the extreme domestic abuse is quite beyond me.   Some people obviously have no empathy, because if you have any empathy at all, you would be sickened to the core and throw this book away, not give it an award.

This should also have a warning label very clearly portrayed on the cover — THIS BOOK CONTAINS GRAPHIC ACCOUNTS OF RAPE AND EXTREME DOMESTIC ABUSE.

The only award this book deserves: Deleted.

Kang’s Page

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Queenie Malone’s Paradise Hotel — Ruth Hogan

Having totally enjoyed Ruth’s first two books i had fairly high expectations of this, and i wasn’t disappointed.

Once more Ruth dives into sensitive topics and tells a great story with not only compassion but also a wonderful touch of humour in all the right places.

Written from the point of view of Tilly and Tilda.   Tilly, the little girl who finds out her dad just died after he went away to work and Tilda, the grown woman whose mum just died and left Tilda her diaries of what really happened to her dad all those years ago — and a simple note saying “Forgive me”.   Back and forth we go, a chapter at a time, between Tilly back then and Tilda now, and it works amazingly well as, piece by piece, Tilly’s story gets told and Tilda’s truth gets revealed.

And what a wonderful place the Paradise Hotel must have been for a child to live, if only for a while.   A delightful den of loveable, eccentric crackpots: “Everyone there had been cracked in the kiln in one way or another.”

Ruth is a wonderful writer who never fails to conjure up the most wonderful cast of characters to tell the stories about the damaged souls that life creates.   I do hope for many more books from Ruth.

Ruth’s Page

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Code Breakers: Beta — Colin F. Barnes

Basically, it’s more of the same as Prequel and Alpha, which is all quite good and keeps one rivetted and moving along at a very good pace but, and here’s the thing, i just can’t handle diving into Gamma at the moment, it’s all become a bit too much.

Yeah, for now at least, i’ve totally overloaded all of my data banks and overheated my CPU’s with all this hacking, AI’s, post apocalypse chaos, everyone wanting to kill each other and take over the world, etc., etc..

So i’m off for some quiter paced reading for a while and maybe i’ll get back to reading Gamma and finishing the series sometime in the future, maybe not.

Colin’s Page

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