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The Finishing School

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3 stars.
Muriel Spark is one of my favourite authors, mainly for her quirky style and often cruelly funny observations of human behaviour.

The Finishing School is a book of jealousy. The headmaster, Rowland Mahler, of this tiny is trying unsuccessfully to write a book. Chris, one of his pupils, at 17, is writing a book with ease. Rowland's jealousy consumes him and prevents him from writing, while Chris, recognising this jealousy, finds he can't write without it.

Black Swan Green

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Black Swan Green by David Mitchell – 2 out of 5.

An Audio Book for me this one & very much picked out of the library at random, just to see what it was like. I'd heard good things about “Cloud Atlas” (by the same author, which isn't the David Mitchell from Mitchell & Webb by the way). This Novel sees our hero, Jason, as his life moves from childhood into teenager & the struggles involved. It's set back in the early '80s & has some nice nostalgic references sprinkled liberally through the book.

Moby Dick

Moby Dick by Herman Melville – 2 out of 5.

I listened to this one on audio book from the Library, trying to get in some classics. For anyone who doesn't know (where have you been) it's basically the tale of a bunch of guys, lead by the vengeful Captain Ahab, trying to kill a big white whale. This was read by Bill Bailey (no not that one) & has some nice “mood music” at key points throughout.

Published way back in 1851 the language is old fashioned & the setting exemplifies this.


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Iain (M) Banks is my second favourite author behind out illustrious Robert Rankin, he is the only other writer who's work I think I've read in (more or less) it's entirety (there may be a book or two still waiting on the shelf).

Banks can be a funny author, often leaning towards the “big build up” & this book certainly has that, to the point that the the first 50 pages or so come over as a pretty random intro to the characters. Perhaps at this point (for those who don't know) I should point out the duel nature of Iain's writing. He does SF as Iain “M” Banks & fiction as Iain Banks.


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Retromancer by Robert Rankin – 4 out of 5.

Retromancer is a direct sequel to The Brightonomicon. It sees Hugo Rune & his acolyte Rizla (played by Jim Pooley) up against arch nemesis Otto Black in a struggle for the future (& the past) of the human race. We are set mainly in the first person & looking at things through Rizla's bleary eyes. One morning breakfast consists of Bratwurst rather than bangers & things have clearly gone wrong somewhere along the way, the Germans won the war & this is just the thin edge of the Cambozola.

Cat's Cradle

Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut - 3 out of 5

I like to keep some slim books around to fill in the gaps between the more weighty tomes, Cats cradle – at 179 pages – is just such a book. I also find books with short chapters to be quick & easy to read from a structural point of view.

Leatherhead Library - 11th Febuary 2010


Robert will be speaking at the Leatherhead Library on the 11th February 2010, 1930 - 2100Hrs.

Tickets can be booked via e-mail and will cost £4.00 per head.



SFX Weekender - 5th - 6th February 2010


Robert is one of many guest among a glittering line-up, though undoubtably the best, for what will (hopefully) be an excellent weekend.....

*NEW* Robert has been announced as the master of ceremonies for the SFX awards :)

There are a good number of club members making it along so lots of opportunity for toot and ale:)

Going Postal

I've been enjoying getting back into some of Terry Pratchett's books after a hiatus of several years.

This means that I've missed quite a few, and I've not necessarily reading them in order, so there are gaps that I've obviously missed. In this book the obvious one is the Grand Trunk or "Clacks" - signalling towers that run the length of Diskworld transmitting messages like a slightly more manual internet. I'm not sure when they first turned up, but I do recall them being well established in The Truth.


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4 stars

Salt is a fascinating novel focusing on the conflicting political systems of two groups of colonist on the planet Salt. As its name suggests, this world is not what the colonists were expecting, there is little water, the sunlight is eventually lethal, the air is poisonous and the planet crust is almost entirely salt. One group of colonists have a completely anarchic society which actually works. They set up the settlement of Als while the other main settlement of Senaar is completely organised under the totalitarian rule of Barlei.

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