‘Good Points, Well Made’

Score: 4/5

Yep, it all makes a lot of sense. I still haven’t deleted my Twitter account yet, but I might...

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‘Cried My Lamps Out’

Score: 5/5

A beautifully simple, beautifully illustrated children’s book to introduce the concept of death.

Doesn’t sound like a lot of fun. It’s really touching though, and does convey its points well.

The pages are sparse, the illustrations gorgeous, the text succinct. Beautiful.

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‘Way Too Much Fireflying’

Score: 4/5

Someone took the notion of an independent starship with a crew of half a dozen quirky individuals a bit far. Or Firefly has a lot to answer for. One of those.

‘Space cowboys’ never really made a lot of sense to me. I loved Firefly, it just didn’t really add up. For example, if you’re able to navigate from one star system to another I’d expect the available weaponry to be better than a six-shooter or a shotgun.

Well, this book is in the same kind of universe. It draws heavily on that Firefly ethos - a single ship, independent, trying to make money, big galactic events happening around them - but it felt a bit tired.

Maybe I’m just a bit jaded with the whole thing.

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‘Interesting Lack Of Bikes’

Score: 4/5

The setting is a post-apocalyptic England, about a century after the disaster. The few people left are generations after the initial survivors coped with the massive starvation. The only technology that remains is stuff people have managed to maintain.

Guns, for example, seem to be quite available. For a price, of course, but available anyway. Lots of the people in this book have guns.

But despite the long distances travelled, there are no bikes.

This seems very odd. I’ve no idea if I could maintain a gun for a hundred years, but I’m certain I’d have a much better chance maintaining a bicycle for that long. I think you’d run out of bullets years before my tyres became unpatchable.

I am probably the only person that notices or cares about this, I know...

So, putting that aside, there’s another thing worth mentioning here: this is book 1 in a series from different authors. I’m not sure this is a good thing.

We’ve had books - great, standalone books. And then there were sequels. Sometimes the sequels were good, sometimes they were bad, sometimes they were obvious cash-ins, but they were at least from the original author.

Then we had ‘sequels’ from other authors if the original author died. There are good and bad examples of this too.

Then we had books that were created to be part of a series. And there have been some very long series. But again these were by the same author.

This is the first time I’ve seen a series and setting created by a publisher, with the publisher deliberately seeking out different authors for different books in the series. (I’m sure there have been plenty and I just don’t know them.)

It just seems a step in the wrong direction to me. I’m wary of publishers taking that kind of control. It feels like design-by-committee, choosing stories via focus-groups instead of an author having a passion and feel for a particular theme. Or (perhaps more accurately) it feels more like the way films are made these days than books - the culmination of input from a wide range of people instead of just a lone author and editor.

With all that said, it’s not a bad book. Overall it’s pretty good, in fact. There’s foreshadowing. There’s mystery. There’s character - not much personal growth in the main characters, but there is at least some character there. Just no bikes.

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‘More London Ghost Stories’

Score: 5/5

Not much to say here. I do find these books very readable, a nice way to relax after reading some of the non-fiction I’m working my way through. And there are more books in the series, and we already have them because SWMBO’s read them already!

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‘Not Really My Thing’

Score: 2/5

This book just wasn’t really my cup of tea. I won’t rant about why (there would be spoilers and I’m very against them) but it’s about character and viewpoint, not the tone or feminism.

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‘Interesting Rather Than Obscure’

Score: 4/5

Another science fiction book that starts with the vague, obscure approach to explaining the environment, but unlike The Quantum Thief this one works for me. I don’t know why - maybe the pace of explanations is better, maybe it’s just clearer the whole way through, maybe it’s just me.

Whatever the reason, I kinda liked it. I’m not sure I’m ready for the second in the series yet though.

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‘Fascinating Insights Into Money’

Score: 5/5

I found this fascinating. It was written before cryptocurrency gained much traction, so there’s no mention of bitcoin here, but instead there are fascinating glimpses into how small groups or regions have ‘created’ their own money and use it instead of the regular government-issued currency to keep money flowing within that particular region.

The first example I heard of was the ‘Bristol Pound’ but according to the book there are lots of others. Lots. Sometimes the sheer number of such projects described becomes too much and they all start blending into one... Nonetheless the book proves the point that alternative currencies can be useful and successful.

It doesn’t really mention many recent experimental currencies which have been failures though. And now that we’ve had an explosion of cryptocurrencies I’m curious what the authors’ thoughts are on this new technology. (Since Bernard Lietaer joined Bancor as ‘Chief Monetary Architect’ I guess his views are mostly positive.)

From what I’ve learned about cryptocurrencies recently, I do believe we’re going to see more talk of other currencies (crypto or not) and fluid mechanisms to move between them. Should be interesting to watch.

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‘Oblique, Obscure And Obtuse’

Score: 3/5

Iain M. Banks science fiction books put you right in the middle of a huge world with little up-front explanation of what was going on, and the journey through the book gradually revealed the bits of the world mentioned at the beginning. They were wonderful.

I think that’s what this book tries to do, but for me it didn’t really pull it off. Instead of feeling I was embedded in a real, rich world, I just felt in at the deep end with obscure references to things I’d never heard of and wouldn’t see described until a hundred pages later.

I can’t quantify what was different between Banks’ writing and this book, but they feel different and I greatly prefer Banks’ approach.

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‘Sweary, Pithy, Very Funny’

Score: 5/5

Sometimes I get anxious. It’s hard looking at that from the outside, but that’s what TechnicallyRon does with this book. It’s full of little examinations of anxiety, often as conversations between him and his brain. It’s funny, pithy, and a useful way to communicate how anxiety feels to others.

And it has this wonderful bit:

When your brain is your worst enemy, you spend a lot of time wanting to be alone, being alone, and absolutely hating being alone.

What a great way of summing up some of the feeling!

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