All 2008 reviews - Shastrix Books

2008

All reviews

An Utterly Impartial History of Britain

An Utterly Impartial History of Britain

21st July 2008

This one was quite long, but then when it has to cover two thousand years I suppose it has to be. The only issue was that I felt there was a lot more space spent covering the twentieth century... surely not the most important in British history, but possibly the most documented.

Another common complaint I suspect would be the fundamental lie in the title: "British" history... Up until union the only focus of the book is on English history, with very little mention of the other parts which make up Britain: Wales and Scotland. I'm not saying it's a bad book, just that I would have appreciated more detail on these other areas, as every history book, and all my school history education focussed on England.

This read started off awkwardly, and it took me a while to get comfortable with the somewhat irreverent style of the writing. Particularly the use of sarcasm - sometimes brilliant, comparing the issues of the time with the way we're repeating them today - but sometimes it was hard to spot whether O'Farrell was being serious or not.

All in all it was an interesting and humorous read, but I'm not sure I've come away from it having learnt anything. Back to fiction next I think.

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Wintersmith

Wintersmith

9th July 2008

Another fantastic adventure from Mr Pratchett, following his theme of basing these so called 'youger-reader' books on popular mythology this one loosly follows the idea of Orpheus in the Underworld... but soon grows into the glorious style of Discworld genius.

It's a little slow to get started, and perhaps this is why one of the final chapters has been moved to the front as a sort of prologue - just to tease the reader and let them know there's something coming. The early chapters (and boy the chapters are long at the start) deal with updating us on Tiffany's life and situation since the last book, before we get into the meat of this one.

Once the opening has passed however we're back into the usual Pratchett flow of narritivium which is unputdownable, and I charged through this book in just three days-worth of train journeys, but then it is built for children so is probably shorter (and has a larger font) than the majority of the Discworlds.

After finishing this there's only one thing that concerns me: I've only got one more Discworld novel left before I've read them all.

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American Gods

American Gods

6th July 2008

It's taken me a long time to read this novel through, and I'm not sure whether that's a good thing or bad. It's not that it wasn't engrossing, as it was, just that it is perhaps a slightly different style to the trashy star trek novels or easy to read discworld books or the cheap thrillers I dip into now and then.

It's a novel that I wouldn't ask Ashley to read... I have several of these, and they tend to be ones with upsetting beginings. Tad Williams' "The War of the Flowers" is another example of this. Shadow begins as a jailed prisoner just about to be released, and things go downhill from there.

The plot's still not quite clear to me even now having finished - I think it might be another one of those books that has to be read a second time to actually understand what's going on. I'm not going to say it wasn't a good book, because it wasn't, but I'm not convinced it's the type of thing I'd buy again... but then I've already bought another of Gaiman's books from the £2 shop... so we'll see.

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The Pirate Loop

The Pirate Loop

19th June 2008

This book is in a very similar style to the other recent Doctor Who novels which I have read - clearly aimed at a younger audience, straying not far from simple language and simple themes. Unlike some however this one features a good amount of humour which will be appreciated by anyone who has ever met a child.

The set up is good, starting off with the old disappearing ship plot but evolving through unique plot devices to produce an amusing tale where the Doctor has to battle against time, childlike badgers and a group of humans who don't seem to appreciate his presence. There also features a lot of deaths in this one but as usual the Doctor manages to save the day in the end.

While the human characters are fairly two dimensional, the cast of aliens is much more admirable, with five standing out in particular. The pirate badgers who invade the starship are particularly cute in their depiction as naïve children who are eager to please - but from a more cynical viewpoint are easy for the Doctor to manipulate.

All in all probably one of the more interesting Doctor Who novels I have read, if only because the characters seemed so huggable.

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Day of the Vipers

Day of the Vipers

16th June 2008

A fascinating start to this trilogy exploring the backstory of DS9, documenting the time from when a young Dalin Dukat participates in formal first contact between Cardassia and Bajor to the beginning of the official occupation. While the DS9 seuels seem to have lost their way with overly confusing and forgettable storylines and the absurd delays in publication, James Swallow has done an excellent job of starting off this new series - and with a fixed length of three novels it's unlikely to wander too far.

The cast of characters is impressive, mixing together a range of well known character, guest characters from the TV series and an assortment of new and engagingBajorans and Cardassians. Unlike the DS9 continuations this novel assumes no prior knowledge from past novels and to my mind explains the 'Oralian Way' - the Cardassian religion - much better than I remember from any other novels.

The last novel I read by Swallow was a Doctor Who new series adventure, 'Peacemaker', with the Tenth Doctor and Martha Jones, but I didn' realise this until I read the 'About The Author' section - while the Doctor Who novel stuck to simple language and straight forward plotlines, this work was detailed and layered with a number of interweacing storyline, and despite being slightly longer than the recent Trek novels, was engaging right to the end.

My only disappointment is that the remaining two books in the trilogy won't be written by the same author. All-in-all, the best Star Trek novel I've read in a long time.

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Top books

  1. American Gods
  2. An Utterly Impartial History of Britain
  3. Wintersmith
  4. Day of the Vipers
  5. The Pirate Loop