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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.

Credit Crunch: A Survivor’s Guide – Smaller Portions, Bigger Savings

Posted in Life..., Personal Finance, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 12, 2010 by stanleyriiks

Have you ever seen a Weight-Watchers microwave meal? Have you tipped it out and tried to spread it out on a plate? I’m not having a go at Weight-Watcher here (Please don’t sue me!), most supermarket ready meals actually have similar portion sizes. When I tip one out onto a plate I’m struck by the smallness of them. When I cook (ok, when my girlf cooks) I don’t want to see the plate for food. To me a decent portion size is when I struggle to squeeze in dessert, and I can always squeeze in dessert!

But the supermarkets (and Weight-Watchers) are doing you a favour! If you can get used to those three-quarter sized portions you can save yourself a nice lot of money. Don’t actually buy the ready-meals, as we said before the bigger the bag of frozen chips, or the larger the packet of chicken, the better value it is, in general. But if you can squeeze down your portion size just slightly (you don’t want to starve yourself, and you don’t want to be so hungry that you need snacks!), you can save pounds every day.

It’s not about will power, it’s about what you are used to. At the moment I’m used to three lots of dessert, but previously I was used to one. So I’ll work my way back to the good old days when I didn’t spend more than twenty pounds a month on snacks.

Having mentioned snacks I have to say, as delightful as they taste, snacks are bad for the pocket. They are not good value. Often you can get two packets of crisps or a couple of mars bars for the same price as a meal.

Eat meals (slightly smaller portions), and may be dessert (I couldn’t go without dessert, life just wouldn’t be worth living!). Continue to decrease your portion size until you hit a good level, three-quarters, two-thirds; you know how much food you need. Don’t try to go too far, we’re trimming here, not cutting.

Which leads me nicely to my next tip: cut your hair shorter. Again, just a trim, although for the boys a buzz-cut is a great look! I have one myself. Saves on shampoo and conditioner as you don’t need to use so much.

Smaller portions actually works best with items that you don’t notice how much you use. But think about it, do you really need a handful of shampoo to wash your stubbly head? Do you really need to use that much bubble bath, or that much shower gel? Cutting back just a little on these regularly used (I certainly hope they are!) items, can save you pounds over the course of a month. Next time you do the washing put in a little less powder or gel, next time you do the washing-up use a little less washing-up liquid. There are many ways where you can save by using smaller portions and if won’t even matter to the quality of what you are doing.

Don’t fill your mouth with mouthwash. Buy an electric toothbrush (there are loads for less than £20.00), and just use a pea-sized squeeze of toothpaste instead of filling the entire manual brush. Your new electric toothbrush will pay for itself in a couple of years!

Remember: smaller portions equal bigger savings!