Archive for insightful

THE TECHNICIAN By Neal Asher – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 14, 2015 by stanleyriiks

This is the book that got me reading Asher’s books. Jon Sullivan’s cover of the titular beast is incredible, and his other covers for Asher’s other books are pretty damn good too. Can you pick a book by its cover?

Although this book is set in Asher’s familiar Polity world it is a stand-alone novel and can be read independently. But, if you have read some of his other novels this will inform the backstory of some familiar characters.

Masada is home to the hooders, a set of deadly creatures, the Theocracy (a strictly religious group who have enslaved some of the populous), the gaggleducks, and the Technician, a near mythical creature who not only attacks humans but turns their bodies into works of art.

When the Technician allows one of its victims to live, Jeremiah Tombs, a member of the Theocracy, it changes him in ways that even the advanced technology of the Polity cannot determine.

Twenty years later the Theocracy is no more, Tombs escapes his Polity captors and goes in search of the truth, a band of rebels called the Tidy Squad are out to kill him, and the Technicians is still out hunting…

Apart from that there are war drones, a dragon and his ancestors, a modified human studying the Technician, and alien races that have destroyed themselves to muddy the waters further.

There’s a lot going on here, as there is with most of Asher’s novels. His intricate plots draw you gradually deeper into his worlds. The characters are barely memorable, but it is the story, the plot and the incredibly well crafted world that really drive this novel.

Asher writes proper SF, intelligent, insightful, and passionate. The world he has created in this novel and the other Polity books (and the Scatteray series) are incredibly complex and detailed and yet don’t overwhelm the intense and sometimes complicated plots. The story drives along swiftly, there are multiple layers, and everything comes together in a riveting but mildly disappointing climax. Can any ending really live up to the rest of the novel?

Asher is the master of intelligent SF. The Technician is a great novel to start your Polity education: jump straight in, the water is thrilling.

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THE PSYCHOPATH TEST By Jon Ronson – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 21, 2013 by stanleyriiks

Never judge a book by its cover, so goes the saying. Well, as far as I’m concerned that’s arse. The first book I picked up and bought as an adult (at the tender age of fourteen, but I consider that as adult as I’ve ever got) was a Conan book with a lovely cover. It wasn’t a Frazetta but it was that style, and it was awesome. The fact the cover didn’t have hardly anything to do with the contents of the book didn’t put me off at all. I continue to purchase books because they have great covers. I can barely put back on the shelf a book with artwork by Jon Sullivan.

What I would suggest though, is don’t pick a book because of a title. That’s how Jon Ronson got me. The Psychopath Test sounds like a quality book. There’s likely to be madness in it, and may be some murder. And there is, just not the sort I thought there would be.

Perhaps I need to explain a little further. I don’t read blurbs, those paragraphs on the back of the book that tell you what’s going to happen. Why would I? It’s like a film trailer, it shows you the best bits, it tells you what’s going to happen. If I’ve seen the best bits why watch the rest? If I know what’s going to happen what’s the point in reading the story? So I had no idea that this book was even non-fiction.

I also don’t read quotes, not before I start reading anyway. This book has quotes all over it. I can’t help but think they were reading a different book to me.

I didn’t realise this was written by the same bloke who wrote The Men Who Stare At Goats, that’s a film I’ve been meaning to watch because it has a great title. Ronson, it seems, is pretty good with titles.

So, what’s this book about? It’s about an investigative journalist (Ronson) searching out the meaning of mental health, or rather, psychopathy. He meets people in mental hospitals, he tells the stories of child bipolar disorder, he meets the man who created the psychopath test, a scientologist who believe psychiatrists are con-men, ex-dictators, and ex-CEOs. From the quotes all over this book you might expect it to be funny. I didn’t expect it to be funny until I read the quotes, and up until then (almost at the end), I had found some vaguely amusing parts, but nothing that made me do more than almost crack a smile. This isn’t Ben Elton or Stephen Fry.

So, what is this book?

It’s a look at the crazy world of the madness industry. It’s quite interest, mildly amusing in parts, quite frustrating in others. Repetitive, not particularly insightful, but quite short. Never judge a book by its title, a lesson learned.

THE JUNIOR OFFICER’S READING CLUB By Patrick Hennessey – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 23, 2011 by stanleyriiks

A young man, fresh from university with a degree in English heads to Sandhurst to become an officer. He is trained by the best the British Army has to offer, and sent off to the Balkans as a warm up, then to Afghanistan and Iran where things get very hot indeed.

Insightful, poignant and entertaining, this is the British version of Jarhead. It manages to encapsulate the excitement and fear of warfare, as well as the struggles of being under-funded and under-resourced, and the moments of waiting, the moments of boredom during missions, and how the soldiers deal with it. There are also some interest insights into the world of a soldier and his relationship with the outside (non-military) world, and the adjustments trained killers have to make in “normal society”.

Intriguing and intelligent, Hennessey can write, and his first book is a must for any military fan.