The Last Days of Thunder Child

The Last Days of Thunder Child
War of the Worlds - spin off adaptation novel.

Saturday, 31 March 2018

The City and the Stars by Arthur C. Clarke (My Goodreads Review)

The City and the Stars

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This story was set so far in our future that my mind boggled a little at the distance. The human race as retreated in upon itself and lives in a city called Diaspora. It is on Earth, but the planet is no longer home to vast continents and seas. The people who live in Diaspar are virtually immortal. They can live in the city of Diaspar for hundreds of years and then they return to the computer’s memory banks. Their memories are filtered and they return to new lives every thousand or so years. Many have been reincarnated with new carbon bodies on several occasions. The whole of Diaspora is a place of many delights. No one wants to leave because they are conditioned to want to stay in their city always. What lies beyond the city walls holds no interest to any of its citizens at all. The city has existed for hundreds of thousands of years. Before that, mankind had been part of a huge Galactic empire. Humans had travelled among the stars. That huge empire lasted for almost a million years. The people of Diaspar know of these things but the collapse of the empire is only known vaguely.

On rare occasions, a unique person is born to Diaspar. The biologically enhanced humans are given a twenty-year-old body and sent forth from a waiting room to two guardians who welcome them to their first day. Most have lived before, but now and then on very rare occasions, a unique is sent to Diaspar. A unique is a new person who has not been reincarnated. Uniques have a desire to explore. They want to go beyond the city walls and find out what lies outside. What happened to the humans who travelled to the stars? There are a wealth of wonders to discover outside Diaspar. Alvin is unique and has the strong urge to find out such things. But first, he must escape from the Utopia of Diaspar.

This is set millions of years in our future and is a fine sci-fi read. I enjoyed the beginning and the ending was superb. It flagged at times in the middle. But stay with the story. It is well worth it.



Sunday, 25 March 2018

Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky (My Goodreads Review)

Children of Time

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I read a lot of good books that I enjoy. I especially like science fiction. This particular story blew my mind away. It was thoroughly engrossing from start to finish. The reader is taken on a trip that spans thousands of years. The humans are the same characters because they are in and out of cryogenic sleeping chambers as their huge ark ship travels across space in search of somewhere to colonise. Mankind is on the brink of extinction.

A planet had been terra-formed for them many thousands of years prior but terrorists mess everything up and a Nano advancement evolution programme meant for apes does not go right. It infects arachnoids and ants. This brings about accelerated advancement and a spider civilization evolves rapidly. The humans want somewhere to live too. The whole story from beginning to end is a journey of biblical endeavour. It all leads to a fabulous climatic conclusion, but along the way, there are all sorts of dilemmas to overcome. Among the spider civilization and among the disparate activities of humans.

I implore any lover of sci-fi to read this. Don’t deny yourself this breathtaking saga.


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Monday, 19 March 2018

Blood and Ice by Leo Kessler (My Goodreads Review)

Blood and Ice

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Usual blood and guts story of German SS soldiers fighting against enormous odds during the second world war. I was a teenager when I read these Leo Kessler War stories. I think the group was SS Wotan or something like that. Kuno von Dodenburg is no longer with the group and Sergeant-Major Schulze is all the remnant of the elite SS group can turn to. Another inhuman mission awaits the do or die group of soldiers. The remnants of a once-renowned fighting force. The dreadful killing and destruction of WWII is coming to a bloody end. Only small groups of fanatics keep trying to attack. Among such are SS Wotan - the late Kuno Von Dodenburgs' men. This is pulp war fiction at its extreme, but if you like such things, then this is a ride of exhausting reading violence. Even for a hard nut who drinks strong coffee with no sugar and knows no word for... fluffy, nice and subtle.


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The Profession of Violence: The Rise and Fall of the Kray Twins by John George Pearson (My Goodreads Review)

The Profession of Violence: The Rise and Fall of the Kray Twins

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I enjoyed reading this. I know many of the places spoken of because I am from Bow and Poplar. I can't help feeling that the book iconised the twin gangsters. I'm not a supporter of that. I am not in awe of them. I have a greater respect for this Jack Nipper policeman who doggedly pursued the Kray twins. They are now historical figures but I don't think there is anything heroic of good about the Krays. They were certainly clever in some ways, but I think some of the things they did were insanely pathetic and dreadful. Also, some of their villainous friends remarked how they could have had many a legitimate business up and running. An entrepreneurial empire could have come about without the violence - perhaps? I get the feeling that those beneath and within the famous Kray twins gang had the connections and skill. While the twins made sure of stopping competition. This book made me think about all sort of alternatives once the twins gained their power and reputation. I keep telling myself, "If only they went properly legitimate. They could have been much bigger and legal." They would have been going for decades.

It seems to have been thrown away for indulging petty projects against individuals that were not worth the effort. The members of the gang who built the firm seem to have seen their twin leaders spiral out of control. All for foolhardy and public killings. It goes to show. No matter how big you think you are; you can and probably will always fall. It was a good informative book, but a little too admiring of the twins in my humble opinion.


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Coming Up for Air by George Orwell (My Goodreads Review)

Coming Up for Air

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This book made me think of a time when I tried to search for a nostalgic memory to find the environment changed. However, I read this after reading Orwell's later works. So I've been a little spoilt beforehand. If I'm honest, I was disappointed with this book. Orwell's other works are so much more compelling. The narration of a man suddenly taking an unexpected day off of work to go in search of a memory was something I could identify with. The disappointment of how everything had changed was also another thing I could understand. However, some things I understand are not always enjoyed reading. I know what it's like to be waiting in the depressed atmosphere of a dentist's waiting room. I'm not too keen on reading excellent narrative to describe such a thing. That is what this book is all about. Describing something one might prefer not to remember.


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The Red Pony by John Steinbeck (My Goodreads Review)

The Red Pony

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I remember that we had to read this at school during our English Literature class. We did a few John Steinbeck stories. They often seem to be set in mid-west America and rural, during or just after the depression times. This is on a Californian ranch. I know that is west, but it still has that same American ranch setting. That is me, a foreigner looking in from outside. I remember the lad Jody. I also remember one of my old workmate having the same name as one of the Farm Hands - Billy Buck. John Steinbeck always seems to deliver a cold and hard reality of life's many bitter disappointments. These seem to be well placed in most of his novels. You are fed a joyful idea. A notion or goal to work towards, but the end product is never what one might anticipate. There is always a hidden cost. A good story - well worth reading.


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The Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean M. Auel (My Goodreads Review)

The Clan of the Cave Bear (Earth's Children, #1)

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I found this book a little on the tedious side. I got the idea of a human Cro-Magnon modern-day infant being rescued by Neanderthal people. It was interesting at first. Gradually I lost this interest as the story progressed. I stuck with the book but found it uninspiring. Ayla, the Cro-Magnon girl, is raised by Iza - a medicine woman of the Neanderthals and her brother Creb. Creb is a deformed Sharman of the group who has survived a vicious attack of a bear. He has lost the use of one arm and an eye. Together, this brother and sister pair raise Ayla who is very different from the rest of the Neanderthal people. The story goes off on a big SJW woman thing within this caveman society. There are notions of Neaderthal people having a strong and sophisticated sign language which Ayla has to learn from scratch. She does not have the ability to learn something straight away after being shown something once. Evidently, Neanderthals could do this according to the author. All the various tribal taboos that Ayla seems to break on her journey of growing up just did not seem like a big deal. I know there are other novels that follow this, but it was not for me. It is well written but I just disliked the story and the way it developed. Others might enjoy it better than me. I've spoken to people that have a better opinion of this book than I do.


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A Kestrel For A Knave by Barry Hines (My Goodreads Review)

A Kestrel For A Knave

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a very poignant story. It captures much of the way I remember England as a kid. Except for this Northern lad, Billy Casper seems to live in a much more run down area of the country. I was thrilled by his finding of a young female kestrel. I happen to enjoy Falcons. I see them day in and day out where I live. Some of the other things aside struck a note too. The sports teacher being like a big kid during the games lesson. Out on the field with the kids in his Man United football kit etc. It was hard to imagine who was the bigger kid of all the youngsters during the PE - games lesson. The young adolescent Billy develops a new outlook on life as he forms a bond with his female kestrel. The falcon is cherished above all things in the young lad's life. His new falconry pursuit helps him as he struggles with the day to day ways of the run-down North England mining town.


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Lord of the Flies by William Golding (My Goodreads Review)

Lord of the Flies

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Most people I know, seem to have read this book at school. I never did. Therefore I went out and bought it. 

A group of schoolboys are marooned on a Pacific island. They try to form a society with schoolboy enthusiasm. They are aware of their predicament and everything seems sensible and sound. Gradually they descend into tribalism and become wicked and feudal with each other. A very clever story that caused me to reflect on what we are or can become. A tad scary might be putting it lightly. Well worth reading.


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The Sculptress by Minette Walters (My Goodreads Review)

The SculptressThe Sculptress by Minette Walters
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Minette Walters never fails to impress me. Every time I read one of her novels, I always think I've got the culprit of the crime worked out. And then I'm taken by surprise at the end. I was engrossed in this novel from beginning to end. With the exception of The Shape of Snakes, this is a top-notch read of Minette Walters' novels. If you have never read any Minette Walters, I would strongly recommend this or The Shape of Snakes to kick off such reading of a fine author. A splendid read.


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Sunday, 18 March 2018

Bravo Two Zero by Andy McNab (My Goodreads Review)

Bravo Two Zero

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This one is not for the faint-hearted. A true story of a British SAS army team dropped behind enemy lines during the first Iraqi war (Desert Storm) The team get compromised and a ferocious gun battle ensues. The small SAS unit actually turns aggressive and attack the enemy convoys that try to apprehend them. I was truly shocked a the tenacious attitude of the special operations unit. Rather than evade they seemed to attack head-on. The shock seems to work the first time around as the enemy is caught by surprise. The did not expect the audacious head-on attack by a small band of saboteurs. Eventually, some members of the SAS unit are captured and some killed. Another escapes. For the SAS men captured alive; their Hell is about to begin. A very compulsive read. I would recommend it.


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Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck (My Goodreads Review)

Of Mice and Men

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I remember reading this a long time ago. Therefore, much is conjured from memory. I can't even remember the name of the characters. I can remember it was a short story set during the American depression time. Two friends are drifting about a rural area of farming America. One man is of average height and build. He is articulate enough to get employment. The other is a giant of a man but simple. Intellectually challenged might be a polite way of putting it. The smaller articulate man tries to help and protect his Frankenstein monster friend. He also gets this simple giant employment. They have a dream. The big simple man keeps talking about a time when they will own their own smallholding. He often recites this. It is something the articulate and protective man has taught his simple friend. I remember the articulate man's trust becomes a burden of enormous consequence. I can't say what, because the story would be spoilt. However, the ending was dynamically superb. A total impact. Well worth reading and I would highly recommend this novella.


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Saturday, 17 March 2018

Ringworld by Larry Niven (My Goodreads Review)

Ringworld

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Overall a very entertaining story. It redeemed itself in my eyes as the story progressed. At first, I found it a little taxing. I was expecting this ringworld visit as the title suggested. The gathering of our four explorers was a little corny. At least that is what I felt at the beginning. I also found the characters difficult to like too. This circumstance did get better when our motley crew got to the Ringworld. The notion of a small star having a thin line of ribbon circling it. This thin line was at a distance. Close up, the width of the line is a million miles. If the Earth was opened out as a flat map it could easily fit into the width of the line of the ringworld we (The reader) visit. The inner length of this entire Ringworld has a surface area equivalent to three million Earth surface area displacements. As one might well imagine, this place is gigantic and our motley crew of four will barely scratch a tiny thread of the surface and find a wealth of intriguing things. This is when the story really comes alive. If you like sci-fi, I think you might like this. The only reason I don't give it an extra star is that I genuinely felt the start was hammy.


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Friday, 9 March 2018

The Last Colony by John Scalzi (My Goodreads Review)

The Last Colony (Old Man's War #3)

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As I read the first few pages of the story, I began to think I would not like it. I stuck with it and I'm so pleased that I did. It just suddenly took off as the reader goes to colonise another planet with our wonderful characters. The humans are under instruction from the Colonial Union, but they are colonising in secret because there is a conglomeration of other races known as the Conclave. They have forbidden any form of colonisation unless the species are in the Conclave's conglomeration - a union of species. Humans don't seem too keen on this.

The story makes for a wonderful bag of political intrigue, super enhanced space troopers, and battle action. The dialogue and the characters are first class. One situation after another keeps the reader gripped as the explosive situation develops from one circumstance to another. This was book three in a series. I only realised this after I had read the book, but it stands well on its own. I will read others in the series after this.

The Last Days of Thunder Child


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The Island of Dr Moreau by H.G. Wells (My Goodreads Review)

The Island of Dr. Moreau

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Another science fiction story set in Victorian times. A man stranded at sea is forced to disembark on the island of Dr Moreau. The island host and dissatisfied guest are caught in a dilemma. The guest must stay until another boat nears the island. Such vessels visit around once a year. As sci-fi goes this was an enjoyable story and I would recommend it. The Doctor does diabolical experiments with animals. He tries to cross genetically enhance animals with human cells etc. Obviously, we do not go into too much depth about the scientific methods involved. We just know the island is running alive with Dr Moreau's discarded experiments of animal/human hybrid creatures.

Right, that part of the review is out of the way. I would like to add that this is an H.G. Wells science fiction tale and most of us know H.G. is one of the masters of sci-fi. Keep in mind, this tale is up against grand stories like War of the Worlds, The Time Machine and The Invisible Man. On that basis, I think The Island of Dr Moreau lurks in the shadows. The other three, I mentioned; are more extraordinary stories. Suffice to say, if H.G. Wells had only ever written this novel, it would have been good at the time but by now, it would be unheard of. If he had written just one of any of the other three, then any of the three would still be around today. Therefore, I think the Island of Dr Moreau is preserved because of H.G. Wells other achievements. A good sci-fi story but a league division or two below the three I keep banging on about.




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Monday, 5 March 2018

1984 by George Orwell (My Goodreads Review)

1984

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This author flicks all the switches for me with this excellent story. I read so many of his books. Orwell, I think was a searcher. By the time he wrote 1984 and Animal Farm, I think he had given up his quest. I wonder if his view changed when he was in Spain during the civil war.

1984 was the cherry on the cake of all his endeavours. It is such a clever book. It is demoralising too. Yet it is compelling. I don't think I have ever come across someone that is so depressing yet gripping. You want to turn the page. You have to stick with it. I think, perhaps, because we are shown someone searching for an alternative. A believer. We are always presented with a believer searching for something and gradually the dream starts to die. Orwell died in 1950. I was born in 1961. Yet when I read Orwell, I really feel as though he is inside me. Talking directly to me as an author. He can do this through his fictional characters, but there is still Orwell in the background getting his degenerating and defeated view across. I don't always like what he is telling me, but I can't walk away from him. I don't want to believe him because I want people to be more worthy then what he tells me. I think we are, but he still haunts. In this way, people like George Orwell are so necessary. Their thoughts and views will be with us as he talks to our species from the forever, where he has long gone.


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Saturday, 3 March 2018

Tarka the Otter by Henry Williamson (My Goodreads Review)

Tarka the Otter

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A beautiful tale of an otter's life in the rural woods and meadows of England. The daily joys of life and the imminent dangers too. It is many years ago that I read this. Back in the 1980s. It was old then. I think it is set in the 1920s or 1930s. Yet it is still poignant to this day. Today, I believe that otters are a protected species. Back when the book was written, there were otter hunters with trained dogs to pursue the animal. Otters were regarded as pests to be exterminated in the book's time setting.


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Friday, 2 March 2018

The Grand Replicated Spanish Galleon - El Galeón

The Grand Replicated Spanish Galleon - El Galeón

Serendipity

Carole and I got up one morning, expecting our ship, the Ventura, to dock in Ibiza. The day did not look too bad and we were rather excited. Carole and I had never been to the Spanish Island before. We went up onto the top deck towards the big canteen for breakfast. I could not help noticing how windy it was in the open. We were glad to enter the sliding doors of the self-service restaurant. As we sat down to eat, the Captain came over the speaker and said they were having trouble entering the harbour to dock. The wind was 32 knots and they needed it to be below 28 knots.
As time went on, the pilots attempted on three occasions but had to abandon the idea of Ventura docking at Ibiza. It was no good. The wind would not drop to within the safety limits. Eventually, the Captain came on the speaker again and said we were heading back to the Spanish mainland and towards Cartagena. We were a little disappointed. Cartagena was our next port of call and we were obviously going to get there a day beforehand.
To our delight, Cartagena would prove to be a big bonus for us. The port was a lovely place and there was a special replica Spanish galleon in the arena. It is a museum ship that sails the world on a sort of moving celebration of the old Spanish exploration days. The ship is just referred to as, El Galeón. Of course, we had no idea that the ship would be in port. We caught the show by luck.

El Galeón in Cartagena

Cartagena at Night.

It was night time when the Ventura arrived at Cartagena and berthed. We were allowed to disembark and go for a walk because the town centre is very close to the dock. The high street was pretty with a very Christmas feel. All the shops were open and the Spanish were doing last moment shopping. It was a splendid sight and we enjoyed walking about the many shops. My imagination was already gripped because prior to crossing the road into the shopping centre, we had come across the Spanish Galleon in the dock.
I filmed my night time walk about the moored historical ship on the mobile phone. We had all the next day to explore. As I walked about the shopping centre at night, I was wondering and hoping that the grand Spanish Galleon would be open to the public. There was a bridge ramp for the vessel. Obviously, it was closed at night, but I felt sure it would open in the morning. I do enjoy looking at ships. Especially historical ones. I had seen a replica Portuguese ship of Christopher Columbus times and now this Spanish Galleon would be the cherry on the cake for me. I would learn that the ship is called El Galeón San Pelayo. The design was based upon a ship that was sent on a mission within a fleet back in 1565. Florida was part of Colonial Spain’s possession and the French had formed a settlement there in violation of international treaties. The Spanish sent a fleet in response that was led by Captain Pedro Menendez
These ships of the day would return to Spain and come back to the Americas on many occasions. Maybe they were among the Spanish Armada some twenty odd years later. If not, ships of similar design were. I was awestruck by the galleon because it seemed so small. Our huge cruiser was moored a short distance away. It made El Galeon look like a rowing boat. However, once the observer got close to the historical vessel, I don’t think many would fail to be impressed by the craftsmanship and work that went into the ship. We had passed through a 100-knot wind and storm upon the Ventura. I had developed some idea as to the power of the sea. My mind boggled at the thought of the sailors from such times being aboard El Galeon in a storm. I even thought of this modern day replica. It sailed the world and the devoted historical staff that manned the museum ship would also have been through such weather. How did any of them cope? Especially if one had to climb the rigging in such dyer weather conditions.

From the Stern.

The Strange Looking Yacht was Huge.

We went to bed that night knowing the next morning would allow more time to explore Cartagena. I knew there was a huge Roman Amphitheatre with a museum upon entry. However, that was one thing we decided not to visit. I wanted to see El Galeon during the daylight and walk her deck and forecastle. I made a note to take my camera.
The next morning came. We skipped breakfast and went on to the dock. There was another strange sight across the water. A huge yacht. Or at least I think it was a yacht. It was not much smaller than our cruise liner, Ventura. It must have had multiple decks with three enormous thick masts. I had never seen a vessel like it. It was painted a battleship grey colour. I also noticed that it had a British red ensign at the stern. A merchant's vessel. I found it perplexing and do not know what the yacht/ship was for. I asked during the evening dinner, but everyone else was puzzled by the grand yacht-shaped ship too.
It was still too early for El Galeon to open so we went for a walk about the streets. The winter day was incredible for us. It was warm yet it was the 16th December. A wonderful clear blue sky made it seem as though it was still summer. When we returned to the dockside, there was a lot of activity around the Spanish Galleon. It was open.
It was just five euros to go aboard. I also bought the booklet about the project of making the replica El Galeon. The ship had generated a great deal of interest from us British visitors from the Ventura. Also, the local Spanish people were visiting too. The ship had been around the globe, visiting far-off destinations. It had obviously attracted many people. The whole ship had a feel of stepping back in the past. As much as I admired the workmanship of the vessel, I also appreciated how difficult it would be to sail the tempest seas. The craft looked so small in respect of severe storms. Yet men braved such elements and reached the Americas. I was like a child in a sweet shop. I tried to photograph as many different angles as possible.
Even the Captain’s quarters looked cramped. There were side rooms before these quarters where other officers slept. This was at the stern of the ship. I liked the balcony area outside the Captain’s cabin. It offered something of relaxation in calm weather. It was also a railed walkway that went around slightly to the port and starboard sides. Down in the hold was where the rank and file of the crew quartered. It must have been very cramped for them. I think one would need to be made of a certain fibre to have sailed in such bygone days. Definitely not for the faint-hearted. At a lower level near the hull, there was a small screen which showed the visitor how the replica was made. The whole process was shown in stages. It was narrated in Spanish but was simple to follow the development via the visual presentation.
I stayed on board for some time. As for the Roman amphitheatre, I later regretted not paying a visit here. I heard from others, during evening dinner, that it was also a sight to behold. Still, I felt lucky from the maritime point of view. We had seen the Portuguese 700th anniversary with an old replica sailing ship of the Columbus era. Then in Cartagena, we were lucky enough to see this wonderful El Galeon. It all made for a great cruise holiday.

The Stern with Balcony from Captain's Cabin.

Aboard El Galeón

El Galeón The Open Deck.

El Galeón - Wandering Around the Ship.

El Galeón - Going to the Lower Decks.

El Galeón - Cannons.

Captain's Cabin.

All Officer's Cabins Looked This Way.

© 2017 colin powell