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since 28/03/2003


Humpty Dumpty in Oakland - Philip K. Dick 22/11/2015

Not Such A Great Fall

Humpty Dumpty in Oakland - Philip K. Dick Dick is known primarily as a science fiction writer, most famously for the novel that spawned the film ''Blade Runner''. I read that novel - ''Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep'' - when I was about ten or eleven, a good ten years or so before the film came out and – to be fair – a good five years or so before I was fully capable of understanding the philosophical and ethical issues embedded in it. Not before, however, I was capable of asking the kind of questions that would get me the kind of answers that form my standpoint on those issues. This is only relevant because I then completely forgot about the author. When I saw a PKD novel on the shelves, knowing embarrassingly little more about the man, I expected something in a similar vein. I got something entirely different and, if I'm honest, I'm not entirely sure what I make of it. Oakland, California. The late 1950s. Jim Fergesson is an old man. He's a self-made man, insofar as he's made anything. He's got a garage and a wife that loves him, a self-educating, Greek, home-loving woman much younger than he is – who has her own views on how the world should be run. Fergesson worries that he will die under one of his cars. He has a heart condition. And he worries that he'll die on the shop floor. He is old. He has a right to retire. So he does. He sells up. This nets him a reasonable sum of money which a regular customer suggests might benefit from a certain investment opportunity. Al Miller is a used car salesman of ...

One Hundred Days of Happiness - Fauzo Brizzi 15/11/2015

A Gentle Hundred Days: small things matter most

One Hundred Days of Happiness - Fauzo Brizzi Sometimes Serendipity coerces Fate into making sure you read a particular book. I picked One Hundred Days… of the shelf on the back of the blurb from an author of a book I haven't actually read. I confused the title of their book with one I adored. Make of that what you will, I'm going to call it a happy accident, because this is a book many of us really need to read. For me, with a brother seriously ill in hospital and concerns about my own well-being, it was not the best time to read it, but to be fair I'd have wept anyway. Lucio Battistini is a very happily married man. He just didn't know exactly how happy until he messed it up by having an affair. With impeccable timing, he managed to do this immediately before discovering he has only 3 months to live. As wake-up calls go, this is the big one and he rises to the challenge of making the last 100 days of his life as happy as possible. He sets about trying to get his wife to forgive him, but also about making sure that the memories he creates for his children during those days are the kind of memories they'll want to cherish. He has co-conspirators in this exercise. Two of his oldest friends – with him they were The Three Musketeers, pranksters extraordinaire – and, perhaps surprisingly, his father-in-law. Don't believe all of the blurb. The book is neither "outrageous" nor "hilarious", but it is gentle and life-affirming. It's unlikely to make you roar with laughter, but it will make you smile with delight, right up ...

Maskerade - Terry Pratchett 11/11/2015

It's All About the Music

Men at Arms - Terry Pratchett 24/10/2015

Guns don't kill people...

What do you think of the plastic bag tax ? 18/10/2015

Bring or Buy

What do you think of the plastic bag tax ? Shock horror – we are going to have to pay for carrier bags. Look this isn't a "tax", it's payment for a commodity. We will not be taxed for using a plastic bag, you don't have to sneak your pre-owned bags out under cover of darkness. If we want a new one, we have to pay for it. Only – the shop concerned won't get the money for it. Well, to be fair, we'll have already paid them for it, because while they've been giving them away, they must have factored the price of them into the price of everything else. Plus they're getting the advertising exposure, so maybe the cost of bags comes out of the marketing budget? Who knows. Frankly who cares? Well, me, a bit. The bit about the whole thing that I don't agree with is this diverting the money to charity. Forgive me. I'm not in bah humbug mode, but this is a particularly bureaucratic and inefficient way of getting money from my pocket to a good cause, especially to a good cause that I might not consider the top priority for my hard-earned 5p pieces. If I do, then the chances are that there is already a standing order, direct debit, frequent cheque hitting their bank balance anyway. I don't even get too hot about giving to "other" good causes, I'll chuck my quid in the dress-down-Friday-bucket whoever's being supported that week. But all of this money from bags stuff – someone is going to have to account for this. The shops are going to have to account for it at their end. The charities are going to have to account for it at ...

Soul Music - Terry Pratchett 17/10/2015

One Out Of Three Ain't Bad...

Soul Music - Terry Pratchett Last Time he went missing people stopped dying…but this time was different. Death (you know the chap, tall, thin-looking, a bit skeletal even, wears a dark cloak, carries a scythe) is depressed again. What, he wants to know, is it really all about. The problem is, that when Death wants to know, he has a weird notion that humans (of all species!) might be able to help him understand, so off he goes into the real world for a while. When I say 'real', I do of course mean 'Disc' – which for the purposes of this particular series of Pratchett novels is the 'real' world. Or at least one of them. Death might be an anthropomorphic personification of a mere idea. But that doesn't mean he's not real. Those keeping up will know that last time he went AWOL ( Reaper Man ) all sorts of things started to, as you might say, pile up. But that was then. Now is different, because now there is a Susan. Susan Sto Helit to be precise. Susan is a very self-assured young lady. This is, of course, what you'd expect of one of the gels of the Quirm College for Young Ladies… but Susan's is of a different calibre altogether. That might be because in a sense, in the only sense that matters, Death is her grandfather. So naturally, she has a few talents all of her own. One of them is not actually believing in anthropomorphic personifications… but they aren't gods, they don't need belief in order to exist…as Susan will find out when she meets a Tooth Fairy and is confronted with what they actually do. ...

The Stopping Place - Helen Slavin 12/10/2015

Don't Stop

Still Water Saints - Alex Espinoza 05/10/2015

Still Water Not Quite Deep Enough

Spilled Blood - Brian Freeman 04/10/2015

Death in a Ghost Town

Wallace of the Secret Service - Alexander Wilson 04/10/2015

Prototype Bond Returns

Wallace of the Secret Service - Alexander Wilson This is the third in the re-issued series authored by the former soldier, spy and Professor of English Literature, without whom it is said, there'd have been no Bond, no Smiley, no Bourne. I suspect that's not strictly true, but it makes a good tag-line. And certainly Wallace was one of the early contenders. Unlike Bond, he is happily married. Maybe that was a necessity of appealing to a mainstream publisher back in the twenties and thirties. He's also head of the department rather than a loose cannon of an agent. Also unlike Bond, and perhaps a bit more like Sherlock Holmes, he is less likely to turn up announcing his bona fides as to show up in any one of a myriad of disguises good enough to foil even his closest colleagues – although not quite sufficient to throw Mahatma Gandhi off his trail. Not at the first attempt anyway. As we've started with departures, lets continue in that vein. This book also differs from the previous two in that whereas they were fully-fledged novels, what we have here is a collection of short stories. There's a lead-in thread by way of an introduction from a third party who's allegedly been asked to collect the stories together, but as that offers up no more than a prologue of an introduction for anyone who didn't start with The Mystery of Tunnel 51, it actually adds nothing to the collection. In these days of "more enlightened understanding" or "political correctness" (depending upon your standing), it can be difficult to read stories about ...

Whispering Shadows - Jan-Philipp Sendker 03/10/2015

For The Love of A Son

Buy Me The Sky - Xinran 02/10/2015

Keep The Incense Burning Poor Little Rich Kid

The Taxi Queue - Janet Davey 01/10/2015

Ordinary Lives

The Shepherd's Crown - Terry Pratchett 30/09/2015

We Won't Get Fooled Again

The Shepherd's Crown - Terry Pratchett Having committed to re-read the whole collection in honour of the author there is an argument for saying I should have held off this one, saved it until the end… especially as it had leaked that one of the ends in the book is that of my favourite character… but… …well, come on! It's a Pratchett. It's a Discworld Pratchett! It wouldn't be right to wait. Besides, if I read it now, there's another argument which says I shall have to read it again when I get to it…? Anyone who is likely to be remotely interested in this review will know what I'm talking about. Terry Pratchett, much-loved humourous & thought-provoking author of decades' worth of joy, died earlier this year. Because his work and his intellect touched my life in a way that no others have matched, I chose to mark his passing. Hence the re-read. I decided not to read in chronological order of writing, but to first follow the Discworld series from start to finish. This is the finish. I hope. I genuinely hope that his executors don't license anyone else to pick up where he left off. He left off, not with the Watch, nor the Patrician, not with Dragons or Progress (as such) or Politics. He left off, in a way, where he started, with pure mythology. He left off with the Witches, with Granny W passing on – but being allowed to stay for a while – with a cat named You – with Nanny Ogg and Magrat Garlick and Miss Tick (a joke I only just got! Ho hum). And Letice Earwig – witchery's equivalent of Mrs Bucket. Above all, ...

Mill Hotel & Riverside Restaurant, Sudbury 29/09/2015

Quaint Hotel - but the welcome wasn't

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