Archive for 1984

THE DEPARTURE By Neal Asher – Reviewed

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 1, 2013 by stanleyriiks

A few hundred years in the future, the world is run by the Committee: an evil, faceless bureaucracy that punishes disagreeable thought, and polices the world with robotic killers, and the Inspectorate (a military police force who crack down on the populace without mercy). Earth is running out of food, resources are depleted after the world is raped and abused. Billions must die so that the Committee can continue to rule those that are left, those deemed societally valuable. Those not valuable to society or the Committee (zero-assets or ZAs) will be killed, slaughtered by a massive set of lasers orbiting the planet.

The small Mars colony is abandoned by a resource hungry Earth, the Committee set about planning the murder of those not valuable enough to continue living when one of them finds out about the Committee’s plans. A rebellion is about to take place on Mars.

Alan Saul wakes up on his way to an incinerator (where the Committee sends its enemies), and sets about causing as much pain as he can to the Committee and those responsible to turning him into the man he is today. The man who remembers nothing of his past over than it was wiped from his memory by pain.

This is Asher’s modern take on 1984.

I’m a bit of a fan of Asher, and I do mean a bit. I really enjoyed the adventure and exploration of The Skinner, but found the second book in the Spatterjay series, The Voyage of the Sable Keech to be repetitive and disappointing, so I was looking forward to trying a new series from the author. This one looked a little more action-packed, so I thought I’d give this a go. To a certain extent it is action-packed, but Asher’s writing style doesn’t lend itself to speed and pace, there is a lot of description, and everything is explained fully so the world we explore is finely detailed and exciting. But there’s a distinct lack of speed, the action is realised with Asher’s trademark adventure style (like paddling along a river in a row boat [albeit a river filled with flesh-eating monsters and surrounded on all sides from immortal pirates]), not the pace and drive of an Andy Remic novel (a rollercoaster thrill-ride that’ll take your breath away).

Having said that the book builds nicely towards the climax, even if the action sequences aren’t as action-packed or as fast-paced as you might expect. The world is a genuinely entertaining dystopia, and Asher’s characters are compelling, Saul in particular is someone who is massively memorable.

This is part of the Owner series, and do not misunderstand, this is in no way a stand-alone novel. It ends on a massive cliff-hanger halfway through the story, and you have to continue with Zero Point, the second book in the series which I will be reading shortly.

Asher has created an amazing world and some great characters, but the promise of an action-lead novel doesn’t quite materialise. This is more of the same, adventure and excitement, not a full, in-your-face action-a-thon.  Still enjoyable, and I’ll be reading Zero Point to make sure I find out how the stories continues, as it just gets really interesting at the end of this book.

The Hunger Games – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 8, 2012 by stanleyriiks

Normally when a big budget adaptation of a best-selling novel comes out I would read the book first and then watch the film and not enjoy it as much as I did the book. I think that if the book is the original then you should read that before seeing the film based on it. The original is always better in my opinion, although the Harry Potter films were almost as good as the books. Almost.

So we come to another successful franchise based on a YA novel.

I don’t watch trailers of films I know I will watch, and so came to this film completely open minded.

To say that I was disappointed is an overstatement. Underwhelmed is more like.

Having a good knowledge of The Running Man (the film and the story it was based on), Lord of the Flies (the storyline rather than either the book or the film), Nineteen Eighty-Four (the book) and Predator (the film), it seemed there was nothing, absolutely nothing new for me here.

The film starts in a kind of post-apocalyptic rural community where, each year, a boy and a girl from each of the twelve community that make up this world (Panem), is chosen by lottery to enter the Hunger Games, a televised survival-of-the-fittest contest to the death where there can only be one winner. Katniss Everdeen volunteers when her younger sister is chosen, and goes through the training and popularity process (sponsors can help while you are in the jungle fighting for your life, but only if they like you). Then we have the games, which is basically a cross between The Running Man and Lord of the Flies (Battle Royale has also been touted as heavily influencing the story, but that’s basically Lord of the Flies with bullets and on a brutal scale), with some Predator (the jungle setting) thrown in for good measure, with fighting, gangs, hunting, traps and cheating. It gets quite exciting, and the characters are pretty good, Jennifer Lawrence does a solid job as our lead. The story manages to include quite a lot of back story and explanation without getting bogged back, but there is nothing original. We’ve seen all of this before, and apart from putting it all together in a nicely presented package nothing is new.

The Hunger Games would not have been a success if not for the best-selling book series. If the film had a lower budget and wasn’t connected to the books at all no one would have noticed its release. When the next film comes out I won’t be queuing to see it, but I might download a copy and check it out. More than likely I’ll pick up the first book in the series to see if that’s any better. Slightly disappointed.

STEVE JOBS By Walter Isaacson – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 24, 2012 by stanleyriiks

Fans of Steve Jobs are likely to find much of this book uncompromising and possibly offensive, in its no-holds-barred look at the visionary behind Apple.

Despite Jobs’ obvious skills it appears he founded Apple on the back of the other Steve’s (Wosniak) invention of the Apple computer. Sure, Jobs had a hand in the design, and his powerful personality brought the commercial success of this and many later products, but he wasn’t the brain behind it, more the brain behind the brain.

Indeed as you read further Jobs becomes the powerhouse, the businessman and CEO of Pixar and again of Apple and his unrelenting determination to drive his staff to produce the best possible products is what makes Apple great.

The book follows Jobs rise and fall at Apple, his ten years in the wasteland of NEXT and the beginnings of Pixar. It doesn’t give much insight into how he developed his businesses, and it’s quite harsh on Jobs’ uncompromising nature. A nature that, when he was brought back to Apple and eventually took over, helped to create the world’s largest company (by market cap, positions have changed once again since the book was published).

Jobs comes off as a man of contradictions, a Buddhist interested in products, a foul-smelling, mean and uncompromising brat. A man who either loved or hated you, thought you were a genius or an idiot, and had little patience. A salesman, a visionary with the ability to see what people want before they know what it is they want. A control freak determined to perfect every single detail.

But his fierce determination to control everything is what lost him the company he built, it’s also what brought us products like the iPod, iPhone and iPad. Jobs’ successful return to Apple is where the book excel, although I would have liked even more detail. I remember the advertising campaigns from the 1984 one through to those of the dancing silhouette for the iPod and the new iPad adverts, I remember Adobe refusing to write software for the Macs and the original iMac which revolutionised PC design.

Jobs might not have been a particularly nice man, and from the book it doesn’t seem he mellowed much, despite his bouts of cancer and near death experiences, but he was an intelligent man who creates masterpieces of simplicity and genius design that makes Apple one of the most profitable, and now largest, computer manufacturers in the world. Jobs will be pleased that his legacy in Apple is a strong company, but where will they go without their glorious leader? Only time will time. Sadly for Steve, and for us, his time ended too soon.