my recent reads..

Atomic Accidents: A History of Nuclear Meltdowns and Disasters; From the Ozark Mountains to Fukushima
Power Sources and Supplies: World Class Designs
Red Storm Rising
Locked On
Analog Circuits Cookbook
The Teeth Of The Tiger
Sharpe's Gold
Without Remorse
Practical Oscillator Handbook
Red Rabbit

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Armageddon's Children - Genesis of Shannara Book 1

Check any bookshop's fantasy section and you are sure to find a number of title by Terry Brooks (along with the other Terry). I've never read him before though, and picked up Armageddon's Children - Genesis of Shannara Book 1 out of interest back in November.
Here begins the tale of the world that will emerge from the Great Wars to become one of the greatest in modern fantasy. Here begins the Genesis of Shannara.."

I'd stress begins. I found myself drawn in as the story unfolds and characters are introduced from three or four distinct story lines, and awed by the imagination that Terry Brooks has pured into the backstory. A crescendo of plots and conflicts builds...

.. and then you get to the end of the book.

No doubt an amazing epic in the telling, if you are committed to reading the whole series. Personally, I decided to cut my losses (at least for the time being). Telling a story in multiple parts is fine by me, but with each "part" coming in at 400 hundred odd pages good story-telling dictates making each part a satisfying whole in its own right. I am sure there are many fans who will disagree and gleefully devour the whole series. To each his/her own...

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The White Stripes - Icky Thump

I heard the title track from The White Stripes' Icky Thump some time back. Think it might have been on BBC World Service's White Label. Finally picked up the album last weekend.

It's quirky playful, in a Sonic Youth kind of way, but perhaps with a more solid blues rock/bluegrass sensibility. It gets stuck in your head. Love it.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Tricky Business

Tricky Business by Dave Barry. The first book for a long time that had me snorting with laughter amongst groups of startled strangers.

As Dave Barry says..
This book is dedicated to the people of South Florida, for being so consistently weird

If I was to classify this book, I'd say its sort of like a Saturday Night Live version of CSI:Miami, directed by the Cohen Bros, and staring all the extras from Miami Vice (the original series). With a twist of Tarantino. Get it?

Sunday, December 09, 2007


Saturday, December 01, 2007

The Estranged

A Redwood, my love stands

Your knife cuts shallow
Skin deep, I stand

Sun-scorched clouds retreat
under your glare, I stand

I may die, may I fall
Stronger for you

The Eyre Affair - Lost in a Good Book

My sister introduced me to Thursday Next, the SpecOps literary crimes specialist (who even has her own website). The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde was a gift that I am sorry to say sat around for too long before being picked up. But once I did, I was hooked. Soon moved on to the second in the series - Lost in a Good Book. I only hope I got to them quick enough ... who knows how they could have changed in the meantime? NB: You will understand that once you have met Thursday Next.

See, Thursday is trying to stop the literary puritans, villains and other particularly unsavoury geezers from sneaking inside books and changing the plot to suit themselves. Or characters from one novel vacationing in another. Of even kidnapping of the lead roles.

OK, so maybe I can't explain it very well. Just take it from me that it is a mind-bending laugh. I can't help thinking Jasper Fforde has created a whole new literary genre .... but I am wondering what Thursday would think of that? Is that allowed?

This excerpt from when Thursday visits a novel may (or not) help you understand ...

"Hello!" she said in a friendly voice. "I haven't seen you around here before [...]"
"Don't we have to be careful as to what we say?" [Thursday Next] managed to utter, looking around nervously.
"Goodness me no!" exclaimed Marianne with a delightful giggle. "The chapter is over and, besides, this book is written in the third person. We are free to do what we please until tomorrow morning when we depart for Devon. The next two chapters are heavy with exposition - I hardly have anything to do, and I say even less! You look confused, poor thing! Have you been in a book before?"
"I went into Jane Eyre once."
Marianne frowned overdrammatically.
"Poor, dear, sweet Jane! I would so hate to be a first-person character! Always on your guard, always having people reading your thoughts! Here we do what we are told but think what we wish. It is a much happier circumstance, believe me!"

If you need something fresh and fun to read, bet on Thursday. Can't say I like the new covers though ... prefer the older comic-style.
See? Turn your back, and someone is off changing the books, which just isn't right.

Weapons of Choice

Talk about a page turner!

I've shied away from John Birmingham's Weapons of Choice (The Axis of Time Trilogy, Book 1) for ages. It's always staring at me on theshelf in the bookstore. Chunky like Neal Stephenson's Quicksilver. All about a 21st century US-lead naval group time-travelling back into the battle of Midway in 1942. Gimme a break. I've got better things to do with my time!

But curiosity got the better of me down at Kinokuniya last week and I picked up a copy. A plane flight and a few evenings later it is dog-eared and done, and I am looking for the next volume.

Birmingham does a decent job of setting the scientific basis to explain the time-travel bit. At least convinced me to the level of my understanding of string theory and quantum mechanics! Add some ego and a major cluster f#$k in a lab (easier to understand) and you are back in 1942. By then you are caught up in the story and the pages fly.

It might be easy to write this off as a macho, techno-military thriller in the Tom Clancy vein, but this book offers much more when you get thinking.

Without grinding your face in it, there's a great study and commentary on how morals and ethics have been through a rapid evolutionary process over the past century. Birmingham doesn't hold back when it comes to the reality of modern racial and gender attitudes facing off against WW2-era society. African-american, female naval Captain suddenly thrown into 1942? Don't expect the locals to just marvel at your ship and say thanks for the help.

What comes a little unexpected to the modern mind is the challenge that it is not all a one way street. Being comfortable with unleashing the mass death and destruction that 21st century weapons are capable of is not a natural state of being. Makes you think about what we've lost for all the gains of modern society.

There's a lot of thought that has gone into the alternate future/past that Birmingham has created. A great deal to ponder.

And/or you can just dive in for a rollicking good yarn.

Postscript: I was browsing movies in HMV the other day and stumbled across The Final Countdown. I'd completely forgotten about watching this 1980's movie (telling?) that has USS Nimitz time-warping back to just before Pearl Harbour. Similar idea that might have inspired Weapons of Choice, but Birmingham has taken the concept to new heights.

Quarter Share

Imagine a Stephenson-esque golden age of clippers, plying the trade routes through space on the solar wind in the far distant future. And the story of a young lad learning the ropes and working his way up through the ratings.

Nathan Lowell's Quarter Share is the first of a trilogy set in this world, and drips with a sense of mercantile adventure and bonds of companionship. This is another great book available as a podcast download from

I was sucked in by the details that Mr Lowell packs into the story of Ishmael Wang, Pip and the rest of the crew of the Lois McKendrick. Be it scrubbing the urns and tuning the grinder to produce the best possible coffee in the galley, or the intricacies of balancing Ish & Pip's trading portfolio.

Loved the book. It has a great feel-good factor, since in this first volume we go along with Ishmael's gradual rise-and-rise from greenhorn to well-loved and respected member of the crew.

Gotta download the next volume, Half Share, PDQ!

PS: Visit The Trader’s Diary for more information on the Golden Age