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Neverwhere (Review) PDF Print E-mail
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Sunday, 20 May 2018 00:00

eil Gaiman is a skilled writer. I’ve read a couple of his books (Stardust and Good Omens among them). But I gotta say, Neverwhere was a very enjoyable read.

He did this for a BBC series years back, a nice little tale about a nice little London man who, while out with his wrong-for-him snooty girlfriend, has a ragged street girl pop out of a briefly flickering door in an otherwise blank wall, right at his feet. And he decides to “get involved”. He picks her up (against his girlfriend’s shrill and uncaring advice) and takes her home. Soon enough, a creepy immortal pair are knocking on his door, she’s suddenly not in his flat yet is again, stranger things are happening, and suddenly we learn about London Below, the place where people who fall through the cracks go. It is a world of gloomy tunnels and tube-lines, of abandoned stations and old sewer systems, of forgotten cellars and dripping water and mushrooms and intelligent rats, of fiefdoms and magic and mystery. And suddenly all the station names on the Underground have reasons, some of them funny, most of them creepy.

So yes, Richard (our hero) finds himself as part of a quest for vengeance, helping the impish Door (the girl he saved) and her friends against sinister foes of great power. It’s got all the elements of high fantasy, all set in a dark world of rusting pipes and distantly rumbling trains.

I haven’t had this much fun since I read London Under.

So yes, this is a great read. You won’t be disappointed. But make sure you find the Morrow Fiction version, the edition with the added bonus chapter, “How the Marquis got his coat back.” It will fill in a little hole in the story in splendid fashion. And splendid fashion is what the Marquis is all about.


Last Updated on Sunday, 20 May 2018 07:04
Martin Citywit (Review) PDF Print E-mail
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Sunday, 13 May 2018 09:52

his one comes (like a couple of my other reviews) from the fantastic final anthology produced by Jurassic London, the little press that I nearly got published through a few times (and had a nice relationship with). So, yes, you’ll have to go online for this limited release or look about or maybe borrow my hardcover. If you are careful).

So this one’s scifi – but don’t stop here; it’s delightful! It is told sorta as a narration in Dicken’s fashion, the tale of self-aware computers who run the most sensible blocks of data (self-contained, so as to limit the rogue programs of the past), that being Cities. And Martin is London, specifically Mar-le-bone Citywit, the central banking and control computer for all of London.

Before I continue, let’s make this a game. See if you can see where this is going. Because this is a tale of games.

So, like all conscious citywits, Martin is trying to find a purpose. And eventually he settles on an informal contest with Minsk-Rouge, a little race to see who can collect the most capitol. Alas, Martin and his competitor work to generate capitol, for no purpose, not for his residents, certainly not for himself, just trying to get the largest amount of Yuans. Martin cares for nothing but this. And suddenly, poor Minsk-Rouge dies, wiped out by black-hole code. Martin attempts to gain the dead computer’s money for himself, loses in court (it goes to the city’s inhabitants) and it leaves him bitter and twisted. Following this, he ignores the people who walk his streets, just piling more and more money to the oblivion of everything else.

Still don’t see the literary parallel?

And finally, suddenly, strangely, a voice is heard in Martin’s consciousness around the time of winter celebrations hardly noticed by Martin, an event that should not happen. First, this visage, or spirit, shows Martin a view on London in the 1820s when Charles Babbage (the father of the computer) is thinking of tossing his commission regarding his curious “thinking machine” and moving to the continent (which will, the visage tells Martin, set back computation forever). And the visage shows that it has some ability to change the past.

And then the visage shows Martin his own sensors, of the city he ignores. There is open warfare in the streets, fires, death, all because of the money Martin has amassed and the uncertainty it has produced. People are dying, the battles are spreading, the entire world is engulfed, and nukes are in the air. It will be the end of everything.

And Christmas future?

Yes, you see it now?

Well, you just have to read the book.


Luftwaffe Fighter Aces (Review) PDF Print E-mail
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Sunday, 06 May 2018 07:26

kay, so I went into supercharger and climbed out of my usual cloud of fantasy/scifi to read a history book, one about the German Air Force (and, specifically, those who flew for it) in World War Two.

First take-away – I am amazed at how high the German aces scores are. And this isn’t bombastic German inflation – these scores are largely confirmed by military historians over the years. I’m used to Richtofen’s highwater mark of 80, but here we have Hartmann with 352 (the top dog), Barkhorn with 301, Rall with 275, through 15 pages of listings (most of them greater than the Red Baron’s). Pretty damn amazing when you consider that the German’s were facing increased opposition, waves of Russian planes, streams of heavy bombers, night bombing, fighter incursions, fighting against new types, larger numbers, everything.

The author goes into the things that allowed the Germans to amass such scores, from there use of the Spanish Civil War as a test bench (from which they made a serious analysis of team fighter use) through their fighting across many fronts in target-rich environments. Interesting are the diagrams through the book which explain a number of tactical tricks, showing the formations and how they turned and supported each other. If you think air combat is throttle-forward into a turning contest, think again.

If anything, I’d rather have enjoyed reading more accounts of what the aces actually saw, their own words, rather than just explanations to how well they did and were they were posted. Every so often there would be a quote and suddenly my blood would pump as I read about what it was like, really like, to charge in against bombers head-on with escorts snapping at your tail.

But a good book, and a tricky one to find (yes, another used-book-store looting) but you might check your library. It will give you a good overall view of the German Air Force in World War Two, and a greater appreciation to the odds they faced as the world crashed down around them.


A Boy and his Tank (Review) PDF Print E-mail
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Sunday, 29 April 2018 00:00

o New Kashubia is a real shithole – it’s pretty much been stripped down to nothing but a ball of melted metal when its sun went supernova a long time ago. And now its home to Bosnian refugees (Earth is now a gated community and all other races and people have been shipped off). These folks now live in slow-starvation squalor in deep tunnels, while even deeper in the bowels of their planet automated factories produce top-line battle tanks. Essentially they are fighting/teaching machines, fully loaded with AI and VR, very destructive and able to house their human tanker for years (why the excess population wasn’t put into them in the first place, I couldn’t tell you).

So the Serbs and the Croats are at it again, fighting all over a planet. And it turns out that New Kashubia has been shipping tanks sans tankers and now their AIs are getting trashed. Now, suddenly, everyone is pissed and there is a rush to get warm bodies into their tanks. And this is where Mickolai Derdowski comes in. Convicted of a crime (sex through a hole in the wall with his beloved), he’s tossed into a tank and forced to learn to fight. And he’s got to learn quickly since he’ll be on the line soon enough.

Yeah, it was kinda Hammer’s-Slammerish, and that was fine. The battles were thought-provoking (the tanks damn near all-powerful) and the situations intense (and the resolutions clever). Also, there was the idea of what VR could really, really be like; in this virtual world, his tank can be anything for him; trainer, teacher, lover. It was interesting to discover the possibilities that only became popular with movies like The Matrix.

The book slowed down in the end when Mickolai was setting up his plots for crazy intrusion and piracy of an entire division of tanks. Nothing really ever went wrong. They’d just plot and plan and execute and everything worked fine (and if there is one thing they say about combat plans…).

But still, it was a good book, one I picked up in a used bookstore but you could probably find with a little bit of effort.


Last Updated on Saturday, 28 April 2018 20:23

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