Book Review: The Colour Of Magic By Terry Pratchett

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When I was younger I really didn’t read. Books were a chore, tolerated in school and overlooked outside. They were just pages of words, incomprehensible, a puzzle without a picture, and aside from a few magazines (that related to my passions and hobbies), I could never find a way to pull any enjoyment from the words and stories they contained. My school friends, however, were different. For many, books played an important role in their lives and, at a time when you’re naively trying to press upon each other how cool and intellectual you are, I can clearly remember them going on about how Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody was the best song ever written, and Terry Pratchett’s Discworld saga was the best tale ever told.

But, still, I didn’t read it. Read more

Book Review: Dragon Teeth by Michael Crichton

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The book I turned to when I very nearly walked away from ‘Stranger From A Strange Land by Robert A Heinlein’, was ‘Dragon Teeth’ by Michael Crichton. I’d chosen it simply because the cover has the fossilised skull of a dinosaur emblazoned across it. Crichton was, after all, the mind that invented Jurassic Park, and even if I do think the film is far, far better than the book, I will always believe I like his writing as a result, whether truthful or not.

I didn’t get more than 50 words into ‘Dragon Teeth’, however, before I returned to Stranger From A Strange Land, not because Crichton had done anything wrong, but because I’d become so befriended by the previous characters I couldn’t walk away. Finally, though, having forced myself through Heinlein’s polysyllabic speech, I returned to Crichton’s apparent dinosaur story. Keenly awaiting the prehistoric adventures that, I thought, lay ahead. Read more

Book Review: Stranger In A Strange Land By Robert A. Heinlein

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Yes, it’s more Sci-Fi! But, I’m no longer in the world of Warhammer turning, instead, to the classic literature of Robert A. Heinlein. Based purely on the suggestion of Google, and their “you may like to read…” algorithm, I picked Stranger From A Strange Land, completely overlooking the fact Heinlein was also the author of Starship Troopers.

Even if I’d remembered Heinlein’s previous offering, it wouldn’t have put me off from beginning read. The issues I found in Starship Troopers are now so diluted by the cult love I hold towards its film adaptation, that I don’t really recall them anymore. But looking back to them now, I wish I’d looked them up, because, while Starship Troopers is flawed, Stranger From A strange Land takes its problems to a whole new level. Read more

Book Review: The Long Way To A Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers

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I think it is fair to say, that right now, I am essentially lost in a world of science fiction novels. That when it comes time to pick the next book to read I’m drifting firmly through the futuristic worlds of space. Whether it’s with the Games Workshop created, war-torn dystopia of the Necromunda Underhive, or their infamous Space Marines, I am not spending much time on planet Earth right now.

Don’t get me wrong, there are times when I just reach saturation of all things space and need to feel the pull of gravity, again as it were – hence the curve ball of indulging in The Angry Chef’s debunking of fad diets and pseudoscience in the middle of this alien adventure – but, with my satiety once again in need of satisfying, I was back blasting off into the stars – this time, however, I was leaving the grim darkness of the Warhammer future behind and instead, entering the galaxy as imagined by Becky Chambers.

I came across Chambers purely because Google’s, unimaginative algorithm, saw I’ve been reading a lot of sci-fi and suggested I read some more! Not something you really need to ask me twice about at the moment, especially when the suggested book is only £2.99! Read more

Book Review: Survival Instinct by Andy Chambers

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It’s happened! I’ve finally found a Necromunda novel I truly like. There aren’t many named characters in the world of Necromunda, it’s much more about gangs, fighting for survival and territory, under the association of their respective noble houses, but there are one or two outsiders. Characters who stand alone. Arguably the most famous, and certainly the most strikingly notorious, is Mad Donna Ulanti. So legendary is her renown that on the Tales from the Underhive page of The Black Library website, it’s Mad Donna taking the central role in the titular artwork. She was in a story, and I have been longing for it.

I didn’t know, however, which story she would be in and so, was again placing my “reading order trust” purely in the “zip file modification date” system I now employed. Uploading Survival Instinct, the apparent next tale in my journey deeper into the Underhive. As the cover of the book loaded before me, a shiver ran down my spine. There stood Donna. A look of abhorrent disgust in her eyes, her infamous chainsword standing to attention and her trusty Plasma pistol pointing at me, beckoning me inside. Read more

Book Review: Salvation by C.S. Goto

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It was with tentative trepidation that, once again, I re-entered the Underhive; continuing my journey through the “Tales of the Underhive” omnibus of Necromunda novels. I had slipped down the slope of expectation with both Outlander by Matt Keefe and Junktion by Matthew Farrer and, therefore, taken some time away, to cleanse my mind of the disappointment it had felt, before stepping back in.

I think the reason I’ve been so disappointed, however, is entirely due to the image of Necromunda I hold in my head. A few days ago, I was discussing the age-old argument of “book versus film”, saying that I was worried about the upcoming release of Ready Player One onto the big screen. It is arguably the best book I’ve ever read, but worryingly, the film trailer is leaving me very cold. I’m fearful of what’s to come and I think I’m now having the same problem with these stories. I want the world I picture, not the world as interpreted by others, and it’s clouding my expectations and enjoyment as a result. Read more

Book Review: Junktion By Matthew Farrer

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Having re-entered the world of Necromunda through, apparently, the wrong door with Outlander by Matt Keefe and, with over half a dozen other stories still waiting in line, I thought I really should find some sort of correct order. Google turned up nothing, an email to the Black Library customer service was little help either but, I realised, the zip file the omnibus downloads as had differing modification dates for each title and, while based on no actual truth or logic, it was all I had to go on. So, with that as my guide, I turned to the oldest modified book: Junktion by Matthew Farrer and started reading.

Instantly, I was taken away from the expansive sand dunes that had plagued my enjoyment of Outlander and instead, placed into a shanty town of corrugated metal and rationed utilities which again, didn’t quite live up to the mental image of the tough underground world I so desperately wanted, but it was much, much closer than I’d previously found. Read more

Book Review: Outlander by Matt Keefe

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Spend a few minutes looking through the book reviews or reading about my creative history and you’ll quickly realise I’m a fan of the worlds created by Games Workshop. I may not roll dice, or spend hours holding a paintbrush anymore, but I still draw great enjoyment from delving into the sci-fi and fantasy imaginations of the Warhammer worlds through the books they publish.

When I was younger, and did actually play the games, the one I was into most was Necromunda. Skewed from the lore of Warhammer 40,000; it involved small gangs of street fighters struggling to survive in the harsh urban sprawls of a hive world. It appealed to me as the games were shorter and more narrative. Fights were between equal numbers and tactics were simple – it’s last man standing. Your gang developed as it gained experience, one fight helping narrate the next. Winning or losing didn’t really matter; Necromunda rewarded experience. Read more

Book Review: Enduring Love by Ian McEwan

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Enduring Love by Ian McEwan - Header

After I read Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne, a book which in theory is one of the most famous tales involving a balloon, only to discover it actually doesn’t, I turned to social media to find me a true lighter than air tale. A few people suggested Mike Kendrick’s biography Thursday’s Child (which I’d already read), but mainly, people just pointed me towards Enduring Love by Ian McEwan.

I don’t exactly know why, but in my mind I had this idea of Enduring Love being a very old fashioned tale, maybe it’s the word “enduring” and the slow, step back from life it invokes when you hear it, but there was something that just made me feel cold towards the book. Before I’d even turned a page I didn’t expect to enjoy it and that niggling though had actually kept it in my “to read” pile longer than it otherwise would have. Read more

Book Review: Unbearable Lightness by Portia De Rossi

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Unbearable Lightness by Portia de Rossi - Header

With my university psychology reading list having reverted back to its standard “textbook chapters and peer reviewed periodicals”, neither of which are really designed to be read over the morning porridge, I started to hunt for an alternative. How I came to discover Unbearable Lightness, Portia de Rossi’s memoir about her battle with anorexia and the contributing factors of a life under the Hollywood spotlight, I don’t know. I have an idea it was, once again, social media. But please don’t quote me.

I knew nothing about Portia de Rossi before I set about reading it. I couldn’t have described her appearance, told you her biography, or even her real name. It was purely her link to anorexia that drew me in; the same way it drew me in to Tina McGuff’s Seconds to Snap or Todd Tucker’s simplification of The Great Starvation Experiment. The fact she was famous was just context. Read more