‘A So-So Sequel’
Score: 3/5

Vernor Vinge
£7.99

I found this book hard to get into. I remembered enough about the previous book that I understood the Blight, the Slow Zone and the Tines, but I must have forgotten just enough to make things difficult to follow.

It’s still imaginative stuff, it just didn’t really work for me this time.

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‘More Heavenly Nostrils Loveliness’
Score: 5/5

Dana Simpson
£6.46

I loved the first of these books, and I loved this one too. It still feels like it has the warmth charm and wit of Calvin and Hobbes, when I haven’t seen anything else come close.

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‘Fraction Of A Story’
Score: 2/5
Laurence Donaghy
£7.99

What do you expect when you buy a book? And what do you expect when it’s part of a trilogy?

I’m old enough for Star Wars to be what comes to mind when I think of a trilogy: three individual stories, each one good, each one complete, with one overall setting and story-arc tying them together.

This book is not like that.

There’s a lot to love about it. It’s a fantasy book set in my native Belfast, it’s fun, and it has the fantastic vernacular of Belfast people down pat. (OK, really that just means there’s a lot of swearing in the book.)

I enjoyed it, right up until I felt cheated.

It’s not that I felt cheated by the ending, it’s that the ending is in a different book. To go back to Star Wars, it’s like the book ends just as Luke and the Rebels take off from Yavin IV to go battle the Death Star. The big scene, the climactic ending of that first story, is still to come. This book just doesn’t feel like a complete story. It feels like a clumsily-edited attempt at a cliffhanger so you’ll buy the next instalment.

Is it broken up this way by accident? Is it because someone felt a single book would be too long for readers these days if it was complete? Or is it just to treat readers as a resource to be harvested – to make readers pay more and more just to finish the story?

I really hope the story wasn’t butchered this way just to make money.

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‘Touching, Funny, But Predictable’
Score: 3/5

Jamie Thomson
£5.99

Imagine taking a master of dark powers and destroyer of armies, and make him a teenager in England. That pretty much sums up the premise of the book, but there’s naturally a bit more to it all. Although it was sometimes funny, sometimes touching, I did find it a bit predictable.

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‘Well Drawn And Fascinating’
Score: 5/5

Wiliam Gibson
£11.05

No matter what I write here I’m not going to do justice to this book.

Sometimes I find William Gibson’s work a little impenetrable but when it’s good it’s really good and I thoroughly enjoyed it here. It covers interesting situations, well drawn characters and a premise that I haven’t really seen covered elsewhere. All of that makes it’' quite fascinating and highly recommended.

(And yes, it was quite a change from the previous book ‘Phoebe And Her Unicorn’!)

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‘Charm, Wit And Character’
Score: 5/5

Dana Simpson
£6.99

I miss Calvin & Hobbes. Those old cartoon strips didn’t just have good characters in funny situations, they were drawn with wit, charm, and depth.

I hadn’t really seen anything recent that could be placed up on the same altar as Calvin & Hobbes, right up until I read about Phoebe. These strips too have a depth to them, a sense of how the characters react to each other beyond just the words and expressions in the panels. And the strips are funny too!

Yeah. It’s a comic book for kids. When others dismiss it just because of that, point them to what another boy from Belfast said about children’s books.

I loved this book, and the follow-up. More like this please!

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‘OK, But Just OK’
Score: 3/5

Tricia Sullivan
£7.99

This was just alright. I can’t quite put my finger on why this didn’t quite succeed for me. The protagonist was realistic enough, the premise fine. Dunno. It just didn’t really come together for me. Maybe I just don’t care for MMA that much?

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‘Unsettling And Sometimes Opaque’
Score: 4/5

Emily St. John Mandel
£3.85

It’s odd to read a book like this where there’s no central character. Books like ‘World War Z’ have a lot of characters but very few characters make more than one appearance and even they are quite rare. Here though there’s a disparate ensemble of recurring characters and it feels a bit odd to me.

That said, the book is quite beautiful. It’s intriguing, even if it’s occasionally opaque.

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‘Laundry, Now With Vampires’
Score: 4/5

Charles Stross
£5.10

Another romp with Bob in The Laundry. I like the way each of the books has its own distinctive feel. The author says each of the previous Laundry books was built around a different spy author, but don’t let that put you off. This one isn’t built around a particular author, but instead uses the ‘urban fantasy’ genre in a similar way.

All of which is probably more than you want to know. Essentially, this is another Laundry romp that’s distinctive enough to stand on its own and not be a clone.

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‘Clear Insight Into Today’
Score: 5/5

This book is all about intellectual property in this day and age, and how it could play out in the future.

One particular discussion is about how this affects artists, particularly those who aren’t the top-tier megastars. How can regular artists make money in the digital age? Well, there are a number of ways and this book is well worth reading for this section alone.

I also particularly liked the discussions about DRM. ‘Doctorow’s First Law’ sums it all up quite well:

Any Time Someone Puts a Lock on Something That Belongs to You and Won’t Give You the Key, That Lock Isn’t There for Your Benefit.

There are a lot of similar thought-provoking gems throughout the book. Well worth reading.

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