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My Top Ten Best Book Series

Here are the ten book series that I consider to be the best that I’ve read. I must stress, these are in no particular order, the numbers are there to count not to rank.
I count a series as being more than 3 books. My Top Ten Best Book Trilogies and Duologies will happen at another time.

1 TimeRiders (YA SCI-FI Time-Travel) by Alex Scarrow
This 9-book series (and short stories and extra content on the website as well as a 10th book promised for the near future…) follows 3 young people who are plucked from the brink of death by a time traveller and are recruited into a mysterious agency where they become guardians of time itself. Their job is to monitor reality and if the detect any changes made by other time travellers; they are to go to the source of the disturbance and correct the timeline.
What makes this series so good is that, despite starting off in an episodic style with each book dealing with a different time period, the series soon departs from that and quickly evolves into something else. This is inspired as it deliberately limits the tellable stories. Some authors may have been tempted to write dozens of adventures based in every time-period but lose any substance the series may have had. By limiting the number of books in the series, the content can be richer and the overarching story arc can have a greater impact in each book.
The small cast of characters makes it easier to get to know them. We get to know Sal through her diary entries, we follow Liam on his missions through time and we get to hear all about Maddy’s hang-ups a she tries to keep the group functioning. The mysterious Foster has quite the reveal and the two support units Bob and Becks are fantastic editions to the group.
This would make an excellent TV series with extra adventures possibly thrown in

2 The Stainless Steel Rat (SCI-FI Space Adventure/Spy) by Harry Harrison
This 11-book series (and a few short stories) follows master thief James “Slippery Jim” DeGriz AKA The Stainless Steel Rat in a future where mankind has populated the stars and Earth is a lost myth. In the original book Jim is captured by the Special Corps, a secret agency who use ‘good’ criminals to stop ‘evil’ criminals and despots. Each book sees Jim being sent off by the agency to stop the latest evil mastermind from doing bad stuff. It’s a bit like James Bond in space (but Jim doesn’t do killing if he can help it).
Not only is this series full of great adventure, it’s also highly satirical towards things like war, corporations, prejudice, corruption and so on.
This series has often been misunderstood under the humour category. This isn’t a series that’ll make you laugh out loud, but one that’ll give you food for thought on how the world is run and a smile knowing they’ve got it wrong. Some of the context may be a bit dated now, but much of it is still relevant.
There is a chronology to the books (Jim marries and has a family and his sons join him on his adventures in the later books) with the argument about if you should read the prequels first.
Unfortunately, not every book is of the same high standard, there are definitely some weaker ones in here, but overall, it’s a good time to be had.
This would make an excellent series of movies.

3 Galactic Milieu (SCI-FI Mental Powers/Family Saga) by Julian May
Two epic sagas in one. The Saga of the Exiles and the Galactic Milieu.
The Exiles follows a group of eight misfits and outcasts of the Galactic Milieu as they jump through a time portal to the Pliocene, a path many have taken before them, to live out their lives away from a civilisation they can’t deal with. Unfortunately, Pliocene Earth already has visitors, this time from another planet, and they are very much in charge. Written on a scale and scope A Song Of Ice And Fire attempts to mimic, these four books are filled with battles, politics, mental powers and conflict as the group splits up, some joining with the aliens, some fighting for freedom and some following an agenda of their own.
The Galactic Milieu has a very different tone from that of the Exiles in that it is mostly a family saga. On the brink of humanity’s evolution into having mental powers, the five alien races of the Galactic Milieu monitor the Earth, unaware of the attention, to see if humans are eligible to join them. Chronicling the events is Rogi Remillard, whose amazing family orchestrates humanity’s rise to the stars, and near total destruction. This is another four books that follow the various family trees leading to the pivotal characters of Marc and Jon Remillard and Dorothea Macdonald. The story is told along with extracts of Rogi’s memoirs as alternating chapters.
Despite being almost two completely different series, they are linked strongly by Marc Remillard so I count them as one.
When HBO have finished with Game of Thrones, they should use what they have learned and do this.

4 The Expanse (SCI-FI Space) by James S. A. Corey
Six books so far with more on the way. I’ve heard described as Game of Thrones but in space and good. In the near future, mankind has begun to colonise Mars, the Moon as well as the larger asteroids and moons of the Solar System. Earth is still the dominant power but with the growing strength of Mars and the OPA (Outer Planets Alliance) that power is contestable. In the middle of this is an ice hauler named James Holden who finds himself and his crew in the middle of a System-wide conflict for power and control. To make matters worse, there’s an alien menace with the power to wipe-out every living thing…or to save humanity.
These books show the sequence of events that sees humanity reach the stars and beyond with greed and politics never giving up for a minute.
There are now two excellent seasons of this on Sci-Fi with a third season on the way.

5 Discworld (Fantasy humour) by Terry Pratchett
With over 50 novels, short stories, maps, the science ofs, and other supplementals, Terry Pratchett’s masterpiece is based on a flat world that rests on the shoulders of four immense elephants who, in turn, stand upon the shell of a turtle as it swims through space. Within these books he tackles topics such as death, life, politics, war, crime, religion, faith, class, race, gender, and people – without whom none of the other topics would be all that relevant. The books are either stand-alones or part of sub-series be it the fan favourite Night Watch (the detective novels); the Witches of Lancre (the battle against the big bad novels); Moist Von Lipwig (the underdog novels); DEATH (featuring the Anthropomorphic Personification of death, his granddaughter Susan and his horse Binky); Tiffany Aching (the Young Adult series that follows a young witch as she starts her witching); and Rincewind (the guided tour of the lands of Discworld, usually as Rincewind runs past them being chased by something unpleasant).
With such a variety of characters, genres, topics and themes there should be at least one book in this series that anyone could enjoy.
I enjoy the lot of them.
Wyrd Sisters and Soul Music were each televised animated series. The Colour Of Magic, Hogfather and Going Postal were TV 2-part movies and Unseen Academicals is currently in the pipeline. I would love to see a detective series based on the Night Watch, possibly with the title: ‘Vimes’.

6 Tale Of The Ketty Jay (Steampunk Adventure) by Chris Wooding
This four-book series is best described as the honorary successor to the TV show Firefly. Set on a very different steampunk Earth, these adventures follow the crew of the airship Ketty Kay. Most of the crew are analogues of the crew of Serenity with similar chaos-ridden craziness embarked upon. With it confirmed that there will be no more books for this series, this makes it all the more precious (it takes up less space). No Reavers this time though…only Manes (zombies).
This would make a great TV series with the spin-off series following Samandra Bree and the Century Knights.

These last four series shouldn’t technically feature on this list as I’ve yet to actually complete them, but from what I’ve read so far, I’m pretty sure this is where they’ll end up.

7 Jan Darzek (SCI-FI Private Eye) by Lloyd Biggle Junior
I’ve only read the first two of this five-book series. However, they are my top two all-time favourite books so I’ll count this series even if I ever get hold of the other three books and find out they’re rubbish.
Essentially, Jan is a private eye on Earth when he’s recruited by an alien agency to solve stuff for them. Off he goes with his faithful secretary into a beautifully imagined galaxy filled with aliens of all shapes and matter transporters being the main mode of transport. Mysteries, intrigue, murder and a fish out of water story.
Yup, a TV series would work well here.

8 Star Wars Expanded Universe (SCI-FI Space Opera/Movie Tie-in) by various authors
I’ve currently read 133 of the hundreds of books in this series. As such I consider this world the true Star Wars (Disney Star Wars is a different thing entirely, it’s still good and enjoyable but a pale shadow of the original). Characters like Grand Admiral Thrawn, Mara Jade, Prince Xixor, Guri, species such as the Yuunzhan Vong and planets such as Korriban and Zonama Sekot are to be found here.
Not every book is good, but the variety of authors and themes makes this universe from a rich tapestry of ideas. There’s military action with the Republic Commando and X-Wing series, there’s shenanigans with the Han Solo and Lando Calrissian trilogies, further depth given in the movie novelizations and more Force usage than you can shake a stick at. Some have Jedi, some don’t, some have characters from the movies, and some don’t.
When they announced Episode VII, I was all ready to see the Dark Nest trilogy brought to life, or the tail-end of the Yuushan Vong war. Sighs.
I might read Disney Star Wars books at some point, but in no hurry to do so.

9 The Long Earth (SCI-FI Multiverse/Exploration) By Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter
Four out of five books read with book five at the bottom of my considerable TBR pile.
This wonderful collaboration between Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter explores a world where, with a flick of a switch, a person can hop to an alternate Earth, untouched by human hands and only subtly different from the previous Earth. And nausea. With another flick another Earth. And nausea. And so on. Coupled with Lobsang, the first entity born of AI, these books are a fascinating exploration of people, evolution, planetary formation and exploration. The fact that the stepper boxes require a potato to work also keeps this story from going sci-fi dry.
A TV series based on some on the concepts would probably work better than any attempt to do a more book-faithful show.

10 Gone (SCI-FI YA Super Powers/Survival) by Michael Grant
I’m one book shy of finishing this six-book series. It’s in my current reading pile.
Suddenly everyone over the age of 15 vanishes. Also there’s an impenetrable dome covering the area. Also some of the kids have super powers. This is a story of survival against threats of the normal variety (hunger, predatory animals, and bad kids with guns) and less normal variety (voracious worms, an evil kid with a whip for an arm, coughing up your lungs). Sam, Astrid and friends must do what they can to survive, and a birthday’s coming up…
The warning on the back of these books is not lying. It is violent and graphic. Lovely stuff. There’s a good range of super powers, from the more well-known popular ones to some less-known and new ones. In each book, the chapter headings are a countdown to when the inevitable thing does whatever it does making for an increasing level of intensity as the end approaches.
With the things that happen to children in this one, there’s no way it will feature on screen as it is. It would need a Hunger-Games-Make-Everyone-Older thing, and even then it wouldn’t be enough. Frankly, there’s stuff I’ve read here I don’t want to see.

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May 2017 Book Wrap-up

Another month of reading done, another 8 books finished. What were they this time and what did I think of them?

Why I read it: Id’ picked this book of short stories up in town and started reading it while waiting outside the dressing room in M&S. Of course, I had to go on and finish the story I was on, thought what the hell and made it my book of the month.
What is it about?: Eighteen stories surrounding colonial marines such as those featured in the film Aliens.
Thoughts: I was impressed by this collection. 18 stories about gun-ho macho warriors pounding umpteen dark corridors and blasting away countless critters while limbs are being torn off, chests being burst open and faces melted in acid could have got very samey by the end. But they didn’t. Most of the characters came across as genuine and each scenario had its own distinctive flavour.
Two things I greatly appreciated were the chronology of the stories, where they start off not knowing what the Xenomorphs are and then ending up with veterans or survivors of Xenomorph encounters. Helped the stories flow.
The other was that not every story featured Xenomorphs. WHAT??? you might say, especially considering the very Xenomorph cover to the book. As already mentioned, these stories are about the colonial marines, not the Xenomorphs. There are a few stories where the critters are not Xenomorphs at all. As much as I enjoy reading and watching those banana-headed killing machines, it was refreshing to be reminded that it’s a big universe out there and that the colonial marines were needed long before the Xenomorphs turned up.
It wouldn’t be fair to review a short story book without looking at the stories themselves so here goes:

Buy the book for this story

Storytastic

Story Name: Chance Encounter
What is it about? While exploring a low-gravity planet a group of marines fight off some leapers (Xenomorphs) and one marine takes a dangerous initiative.
Thoughts: Not a bad opening story of an exploration being interrupted by a Xenomorph attack. I did feel that the marines did get away a bit easily.
Score: Worth reading
Story Name: Reaper
What is it about? Marines are sent to find out why a crop-harversting facility has gone silent.
Thoughts: This reminded of the Doctor Who episode Planet of the Dead. I enjoyed the build up to this one and it’s open ending. No Xenomorphs though.
Score:
Story Name: Broken
What is it about? Bishop’s first awakening and thoughts.
Thoughts: Another story with no Xenomorphs, but it’s all about Bishop. Told from his perspective, this gives some great insights to this artifical person.
Score:
Story Name: Reclamation
What is it about? Hicks finds out what happened to his wife.
Thoughts: This one annoyed me a little. In this story Hicks (from Aliens) appears to meet the Xenomorphs before the events of the film. However, it’s not 100% clear what the creatures are. It didn’t really add much to Hick’s character and would have perhaps been a more fitting story if it were an unheard of marine.
Score: Worth reading – for Goodread’s sake
Story Name: Blowback
What is it about? The marines from Aliens are sent on a deadly mission.
Thoughts: Another bunch of colonial marines, another bunch of critters that are not Xenomorphs. However, this does have some interesting twists and ended up being quite enjoyable.
Score: Worth reading
Story Name: Exterminators
What is it about? Two marines sneak out for a drink. Turns out that was a bad idea.
Thoughts: This one reminded me of the film Pitch Black. No Xenomorphs in this one, but the critters are almost as good. The fact that the two marines later feature in the film Aliens does remove some of the tension, knowing they’ll live to die in that.
Score: Buy the book for this story
Story Name: No Good Deed
What is it about? Bounty hunters follow their prey to an installation on LV-426.
Thoughts: Set just as the Xenomorphs are taking over Hadley’s Hope, this story also gives a big nod to the human experimentation that the company in known to dabble in. Easily predicted the final sentence of the story.
Score: Worth reading
Story Name: Zero To Hero
What is it about? One marine, posted to the edge of nowhere faces a threat he wasn’t expecting.
Thoughts: Another human experimentation story, this one without the Xenomorphs, which are a known thing by now. Not sure about this one. Felt a little of a wasted opportunity, particularly after reading about the experimentation results in the previous story.
Score: Worth reading – for Goodread’s sake
Story Name: Dark Mother
What is it about? Burke’s thoughts after he shut the door on Ripley and the others and got caught by a xenomorph.
Thoughts: To me, this was the weakest story in the collection. We already knew Burke was a total…erm…Berk but his final thoughts before the installation goes boom didn’t really change anything.
This story also came across as badly edited with him stuck to the wall in the nest not being able to get out, to wandering about with a grenade in the very next paragraph.
Score: Boring – Nonsensical
Story Name: Episode 22
What is it about? M41A Pulse Rifle
Thoughts: This telling of the history of the M41A Pulse Rifle is done in the style of a magazine article interspersed with marine quotes. I just hope it was meant to be as humorous as I found it.
Score: Worth reading
Story Name: Deep Background
What is it about? In order to find some dirt on Weyland-Yutani, a reporter is sent to do coverage on a group of colonial marines.
Thoughts: Following the style of the previous story, this too has snippets of interviews with the marines as conducted by the reporter the story follows. The fact that this story does have Xenomorphs in it is almost irrelevant as the engrossing story and plots twists makes this one of the highlights of this collection.
Score: Storytastic
Story Name: Empty Nest
What is it about? A woman is rescued from a Xenomorph nest.
Thoughts: Having read Aliens: Earth Hive as well as most other books from the Aliens series, I’d anticipated the twist in this one pretty early on. Nothing we haven’t seen before.
Score: Worth reading – for Goodread’s sake
Story Name: Darkness Falls
What is it about? Ex-Marine and Xenomorph survivor is called to help resolve a local issue when contact with a mine is lost.
Thoughts: The fantastic concept of this iteration of the Xenomorphs more than makes up with having to put up with ‘Inexperienced Officer Douchbag’. A compelling story that needs to be put on screen.
Score: Buy the book for this story
Story Name: Hugs To Die For
What is it about? During a visit to a space research facility it is discovered that even keeping neutered facehuggers is a fatal mistake.
Thoughts: At least the idiot scientists thought it might be safer with just neutered facehuggers… Nope, still idiots. I enjoyed the development of the facehugger from being just a chestburster deliver system to a dangerous creature in its own right.
Score: Worth reading.
Story Name: Deep Black
What is it about? Months after the events of Alien3 a trio of marines are sent to Fury to investigate the unusual activity at the site by a rival organisation.
Thoughts: A few far-fetched things that annoyed me here. Xenomorphs are known now. Why send only three marines. Also, with WY so obsessed with the Xenomorphs, there wouldn’t be anything left behind. Posited some interesting thoughts, though.
Score: Worth reading.
Story Name: Distressed
What is it about? A squad of marines battle an alien technological terror in a spaceship.
Thoughts: This was like watching a Michael Bay film. An interesting enough concept, but I felt as dazzled as the marines in the story.
Score: Boring – Nonsensical
Story Name: Dangerous Prey
What is it about? Colonial marines fight off a xenomorph attack, only this time, the story’s told from the point of view of the Xenomorphs.
Thoughts: Not a bad attempt to get behind the Xenomorphs’ ‘eyes’. The acknowledgements at the end of the story shows that this was researched quite well. The story suffered from the unsurprising lack of anything relatable. I enjoyed it for what is was, though.
Score: Worth reading
Story Name: Spite
What is it about? Another research facility, another bunch of aliens for the marines to fight. This time they’re fire spites (mini fire-breathing dragons).
Thoughts: It would have been nice to finish off with a Xenomorph story, but let’s be fair to this story as it is, which is difficult with it being the last of 18 similar storys and this just wasn’t different enough to stand out. To start with I even thought they were the same creatures from Blowback.
Score: Worth reading – for Goodread’s sake
Final Score: Buy it
I’ve also read Aliens: Earth Hive; Nightmare Asylum; The Female War; Genocide; The Labyrinth; Music Of The Spears; Cauldron
Why I read it: Read this to my eldest. First read this when I was about his age.
What is it about?: A precocious little girl is neglected by her family and bullied by her headmistress finds an usual manifestation of her frustrations.
Thoughts: Though this does read as a story, this is more of a series of anecdotes following Matilda’s discovery of books, her retributions to her awful father, the outrageous actions of the school’s headmistress, Miss Trunchball, and her relationship with her class teacher, Miss Honey. This book has dated a little bit but it’s still enjoyable. The high points are the punishments Matilda deals to her father and anything that the Trunchball does. Needless child cruelty is apparently very entertaining, if done in the overblown Roald Dahl way, I hasten to add…
Score: Buy it
I’ve also read: The BFG; Boy; Charlie And The Chocolate Factory; Charlie And The Great Glass Elevator; Danny Champion Of The World; Dirty Beasts; The Enormous Crocodile; Esio Trot; Fantastic Mr. Fox; George’s Marvellous Medicine; The Giraffe And The Pelly And Me; James And The Giant Peach; The Magic Finger; More Tales Of The Unexpected; Revolting Rhymes; Skin And Other Stories; Tales Of The Unexpected; The Twits; The Witches; The Wonderful Story Of Henry Sugar And Six More.
Why I read it: I had previous read the first three books of the series. Finally, after rereading them, I’ve read book four.
What is it about?: Spike Milligan’s memoirs of his involvement in the Second World War.
Thoughts: ‘You don’t have to be mad to fight here, but everyone else is so you’d fit right in’ would be an appropriate summation of these books. Words like: honour, glory, heroism, patriotism are for posters. After reading these books you’d know they should contain such words as: mud, hunger, mud, smoking, mud, boredom, mud, terror, mud, smoking.
Certainly, it seems like the exploits of Milligan and others like him kept people going through the hells they found themselves in. Filled with his unique brand of humour and daftly captioned pictures, these books give great insight into the thoughts, feeling and camaraderie of the average soldier. What makes this book different to the three before it is the life-changing event that befell Milligan when he narrowly missed getting blown up by a mortar. Tonally the book changed from a humorous account of the bloody uselessness of it all to the drastic need of a damaged man to write down memories that haunt him.
Score: Worth reading
I’ve also read: Adolf Hitler: My Part In His Downfall; Rommel? Gunner Who?; Monty: His Part In My Victory; The Bedside Milligan; Spike Milligan’s Transports Of Delight; William McGonnagle Meets George Gershwin, A Scottish Fantasy
Why I read it: Been going through our Goosebumps collection. My eldest happened to have this one out the library, so I pounced on it. It’s one I’ve read before but had very little memory of it.
What is it about?: While staying at their grandparents’ farm, two children realise something is very, very wrong.
Thoughts: I found this one very irritating. From the “there’s definitely something wrong here but we’re just going to ignore it” apathetic attitude of the characters, to the “suddenly it’s a scarecrow jumping out at me!…oh, no it’s just a mundane object in no way resembling a scarecrow” jumps scares that ended most chapters. By the time the plot actually gets moving, the story’s almost finished and the resolution could have been done at any time by anyone…so why didn’t they? As for the …or where they? ending, why haven’t they taken the mysterious all-powerful book of evil which must never be read off of Stanley the slow-witted farmhand who caused all the trouble in the first place? Why hasn’t he been fired, or arrested? Frankly, they all deserve whatever fate befalls them. I can see why I’d forgotten this one.
Score: Toilet Paper
I’ve also read: Goosebumps: The Abominable Snowman Of Pasadena; Attack Of The Mutant; Bad Hare Day; Beast From The East; Be Careful What You Wish For; Calling All Creeps; The Curse Of The Mummy’s Tomb; Deep Trouble; Egg Monsters From Mars; Go Eat Worms!; The Headless Ghost; How I Got My Shrunken Head; Let’s Get Invisible!; Monster Blood; Monster Blood II; One Day At Horrorland; Piano Lessons Can Be Murder; Return Of The Mummy; Say Cheese And Die!; Stay Out Of The Basement; Tales To Give You Goosebumps; Welcome To Camp Nightmare; Welcome To Dead House; The Werewolf Of Fever Swamp; You Can’t Scare Me!; Goosebumps Series 2000: The Cry Of The Cat
Why I read it: Going through all my graphic novels again. Chronologically working through Star Wars
What is it about?: Having had their memories wiped, Jedi Master Quinlan Vos and his apprentice Aayla’Secura find themselves on opposing sides thanks to an Anzati dark Jedi.
Thoughts: Another masterpiece from what I consider to be the team-up in the industry: John Ostrander & Jan Duursema. A deeply compelling story with first-rate artwork. Quinlan Vos is totally bad-ass as always, he’s by far the most interesting Jedi character in the ‘verse. Despite being a Jedi, he’s not adverse to toeing
the line close to the dark side. Villie keeps the story getting too dark in the way that only Villie can. Aayla’Secura is also a rich and complex character, something that got her to feature in two of the prequels (only to have them totally ignore any of it). It was an interesting thought that not all species are suitable for being a Jedi. I loved the Anzati Jedi, there was a definate Dracula vibe going on there.
There were perhaps too many Jedi in this one, certainly some characters were sidelined a fair bit to the point that I wondered why they even include them in the first place.
Score: Booktastic
I’ve also read: Star Wars Republic: Outlander; Prelude To Rebellion; The Hunt For Aurra Sing; Twilight
Why I read it: It’s what my youngest chose for me to read to him at bedtime…so I did.
What is it about?: An orphan named Sophie is snatched from her bed by a giant. She soon learns how lucky she was to be snatched by this particular giant. Together, they undertake a plan to stop others from far worse fates.
Thoughts: I’ve read this one several times now and it’s still a challenge to read out aloud. Roald Dahl’s penchant for using made-up words is almost overplayed here. I certainly took inspiration from David Jason’s excellent voice-acting in the animated movie (I’ve not yet seen the live-action film).
As for the story, each chapter brings something new and fresh but in bite-sized portions so there’s no ‘info-dump’ to get bogged down in. If anything, there’s very little information about the giants and giant country given and what little there is, only compounds the mystery. However, in this case, answers aren’t necessarily needed as we are swept along as Sophie shows the BFG just what he has been brought into existence to do.
Score: Booktastic
I’ve also read: Boy; Charlie And The Chocolate Factory; Charlie And The Great Glass Elevator; Danny Champion Of The World; Dirty Beasts; The Enormous Crocodile; Esio Trot; Fantastic Mr. Fox; George’s Marvellous Medicine; The Giraffe And The Pelly And Me; The Magic Finger; Matilda; More Tales Of The Unexpected; Revolting Rhymes; Skin And Other Stories; Tales Of The Unexpected; The Twits; The Witches; The Wonderful Story Of Henry Sugar And Six More
Why I read it: I’ve been reading my Terry Pratchett books that are not Discworld. Been working my way through this fantastic series.
What is it about?: After mankind has settled into a routine in the Long Earth the disaster of Yellowstone Park has removed the original Earth from any control. Lobsang has decided to settle down, but the Earth he’s on is under threat of a different sort, one that could destroy the entire Long Earth.
Thoughts: This is the first book of the series that doesn’t go exploring. Although I did greatly enjoy those explorations, I think it was the right thing to avoid doing this time round. Instead we have a little back-story of Joshua’s heritage from the 1850’s and the first recorded Steppers. Initially, I found the change of pace a little jarring and a goodly amount of time is spent in that era. However, I grew to appreciate the tale and found it concluded at about the right moment.
I found the time scale of New Springfield difficult to follow at times, not knowing if a week, month or year had passed between chapters.
Finally I found that this book suffered a little by not building much upon the previous three books. Whether that’s do to the diminishing returns that are only natural from starting at such a large scale, or that it’s a more personal tale about the characters.
Despite that, I enjoyed this book considerably and am eagerly waiting for The Long Cosmos to get to the top of my TBR pile.
Score: Buy it
I’ve also read (this collaboration): The Long Earth; The Long War; The Long Mars
Why I read it: I’ve got a collection of Tom Sharpe books. So I’m rereading them.
What is it about?: Lord Pertefact despises his family and heirs and decides to bring in an academic to write the family’s sordid history just to annoy them. Circumstance and misunderstandings ensue creating results far different that expected.
Thoughts: This is a very funny book. A number of times had me laughing out loud. Tom Sharpe is not only a writer of really good farce, but quite the word-smith who can bring to life situations both mundane and outrageous with remarkable skill. He also pokes fun at the class system, opinionated people and how people interact with PORGS (Persons Of Restricted Growth).
By far the best scene is the one involving the bathtub and wheelchair, though the dwarf balls scene definitely gets a shout out.
A nod also goes to Paul Sample, who’s excellent cover illustration features various scenes in the story which make sense only when the relevant part is read. My favourite style of book cover.
A word of warning to those who are not familiar with Tom Sharpe: He’s not afraid to deal with most taboo subjects and will happily jump all over them. If you are easily offended you might want to skip this one.
He’s also hilarious, so if you read it on the bus, be prepared for stares when you burst out laughing.
Score: Buy it
I’ve also read: The Great Pursuit; Indecent Exposure; Porterhouse Blue; Riotous Assembly; Vintage Stuff; Wilt; The Wilt Alternative; Wilt On High

And that was May.

What do I have coming up in June?
I intend to –
Finish:
1. My library book – A Second Chance At Eden by Peter F. Hamilton (Still)
2. Anita Blake: Guilty Pleasures by Laura M. Hamilton (Still)
3. Star Wars: Knights Of The Old Republic: Vindication

Read completely:
4. My book of the month – The True Meaning Of Smekday by Adam Rex
5. Pyramids by Terry Pratchett
6-8. Star Wars Graphic Novels starting with Rite Of Passage.

Read a 50ish page bite out of:
Star Wars: The Old Republic: Encyclopaedia (Still)
Quantum Leap: Search And Rescue by Melissa Crandall (still)
X-Files: Antibodies
Mariel Of Redwall

As much as I can of:
My Neighbour Totoro (reading to my youngest)
How To Outsmart A Billion Robot Bees (reading to my eldest)
Dreams And Dust by George R. R. Martin (My A Song Of Ice A Fire Friday Lunchtime Read)
By The Light Of The Moon by Dean Koontz
Doctor Who: Dead Of Winter
Robin Hood According To Spike Milligan
The Stainless Steel Rat Saves The World
The Massacre Of Mankind by Stephen Baxter
The Map To Everywhere

If you check out my Currently Reading page, you’ll find out more about my reading style and even monitor my progress.

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Book Tags – My life in books

I’ve not done a book tag for a while so here’s one.
Q1: Find a book for each of your initials
A1: , , ,

Q2: Count your age along your bookshelf: What book is it?
A2: I’ve only got 29 books on my desk here, so going round a second time: . Not read it yet.

Q3: Pick a book set in your city/country
A3: . The street Sophie’s orphanage is located is based on the main street of Great Missenden not far from where I grew up.

Q4: Pick a book that represents a destination you’d love to travel to
A4: . Just because.

Q5: Pick a book that’s your favourite colour
A5: I don’t have a favourite colour but am a sucker for the darker flavours. This edition of has nice purple page ends which go well with the black cover.

Q6: Which book do you have the fondest memories of?
A6: I still have it, and it’s falling apart badly.

Q7: Which book did you have the most difficulty reading?
A7: It kept making me fall alseep. Literally. I’d wake up with my face welded to the pages.

Q8: Which book in your TBR pile will give you the biggest accomplishment when you finish it?
A8: . Then I will have read all the A Song Of Ice And Fire Books…that is until Winds of Winter and A Dream of Spring finally get finished.

And that’s the My life in books tag. If you want to have a go, I tag you.

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April 2017 Book Wrap-Up

Another month of reading done, another 14 books finished. What were they this time and what did I think of them?

Why I read it: I’ve decided to read all my graphic novels. Currently working my chronological way through Star Wars. Annoyingly, I don’t have Emissaries to Malastare so this is a small jump from Outlander. I have read this one before.
What is it about?: Jedi Master Quinlan Vos wakes up to find himself in a burning building. He has no idea where he is and has no memory of who he is. Aided by a devious Devaronian, he must retrace his steps to find an apprentice he can’t recall and complete an investigation he doesn’t know he’s on.
Thoughts: From the very first panel this book had me hooked. The story is told in two parts, the first where he wakes up on Nar Shaddar with no memory only to find that there have been bets made as to how long he survives. This is followed by the investigation where he retraces his steps.
Although the survival segment didn’t have all that much ‘action’ in it, the threat levels were masterfully maintained making for a thrilling read. The duplicitous nature of Villie certainly aided in this.
The story slowed a little with the investigation, but that was a good thing. Investigations are not supposed to be fast-paced. It allowed time for Quinlan Vos to develop his new character and find out what sort of Jedi he is.
It was great seeing a little bit of Ryloth and learning about the Twi’leks. Nar Shaddar could have been anywhere, but the sense that it’s a bad place was certainly reinforced.
I find Quinlan Vos one of the more interesting Jedi in the Star Wars universe, I even named my cat after him. It was interesting how they explored how a gifted Jedi reacts when they have the power, but not the morality and ethics that give him the responsibility for it. Without his memory, he doesn’t know what a Jedi does, or doesn’t do.
Villie is also one of my favourite ‘sidekicks’. His devilish visage instantly makes him hard to estimate and know where his loyalties lie (mainly to himself). Basically you can trust that he’s untrustworthy, until he is.
This book also introduces Aayla Secura, a character so popular she briefly got some screen time in episodes II and III as well as a larger roll in the Clone Wars series. Nice.
The artwork is superb as should be expected with Ostrander at the helm.
Score: Booktastic
Why I read it: For the last three book of the months, I’ve read this series as highly recommended by JessetheReader. I liked the sound of it and bought the trilogy.
What is it about?: Jacob and Emma must travel to the darker worlds of peculiardom to try to rescue their friends.
Thoughts: This book takes up the story at the cliffhanger Hollow City left off at and it does not let up for quite a while. When it eventually slowed down, I was grateful for the breather. Not that it lasted long before it all kicked off again. There were some interesting new characters who thankfully remained part of the story for longer than in the last book. This is the book with most of the answers, which blended well with the story. Again the photos were masterfully interwoven and gave the book its unique feel. My only issue was that most of the photos were ‘normal’ scenes and people so were marginally less interesting when flipping through the book to look at them. When put in context with the story, they did evolve into something more, however.
The finale was satisfying with many very cool moments leading up to it. The ending was perhaps a little too drawn out but did end well…with the possibility for further books not entirely being ruled out. I found this to be the strongest book in the trilogy.
Score: Booktastic
I’ve also read: Miss Peregrine’s Home For Pecuilar Children, Hollow City
Why I read it: The only Chris Wooding books I’d read were the four books of the Ketty Jay series so was interested to know what else he’d done. Spotted this in the library.
What is it about?: At a remote boarding school children and staff are coming down with an illness that seems to turn the skin into metal.
Thoughts: I’ve used SPOILERS here, highlight the blank areas to reveal SPOILERS.
The is essentially the kick-off to a zombie apocalypse. Based at a boarding school, the majority of victims are children. Usually, where children are placed in situations of threat, their safety is pretty much guaranteed. Even when something really, really terminally bad has happened, there’s often something that negates it all at the last second. This is not the case here. Kids die, en masse. For the majority of the book I had that expectant feeling that, somehow, a cure is found and all is made well again. As fewer and fewer pages remained, I was looking for that last-minute salvation. Nope. They’re dead.
I found the main characters okay, there was some attempt at the dreaded love-triangle which thankfully dissipated when it all went down. The little amount of back-story and inter-character antagonisms made them a little less two-dimensional than the other kids that were just there to die, but not by much. The nano-virus looks to be pretty much the Zomborgs from Infinity War’s the Sleepers Of Avarrach deck. Go check it out, it’s free to play on Steam. They made a decent monster.
My main, albeit personal, gripe was that this story just ended. I know not every story has to be wrapped up in a neat little bow and they all lived happily ever after but this ending is particularly open-ended. I even looked to see what the sequel’s called – and there’s no sequel. Okay, I expect it would have been a post-apocalyptic/Walking Dead/Survivors type tale, but c’mon, Zomborgs!
Score: Worth reading
I’ve also read: The Tale Of The Ketty Jay:-Retribution Falls, -The Black Lung Captain, -The Iron Jackal, -Ace Of Skulls
Why I read it: I’ve been reading this series to my youngest who’s been picking them up from the local library.
What is it about?: The evil lady Morgana’s up to it again, this time by tricking young Sam into accidentally freezing Camelot into a block of ice. Can Max, Olivia, Ferocious and Adolphus unfreeze Camelot before it’s too late?
Thoughts: I’d say this is on par for the first two books, this time with a bread-obsessed duck. A little bit of travel, some old friends and enemies, some new. Having Sam being the cause of the problem was a nice twist. My son is enjoying these and was delighted to discover that there is a fourth book in the series.
Score: Worth reading…to a child
I’ve also read: Frogspell, Cauldron Spells
Why I read it: Having grown up on my father’s collection of mid-20th century sci-fi paperbacks, I greatly appreciate these old stories and their fantastic to bizarre covers.
What is it about?: A colony of underwater-dwelling humans who have never seen land find their world is suddenly changing with the introduction of a strong, downward flowing current.
Thoughts: To be honest, I had no idea what I was getting myself into here. I’ve enjoyed Bob Shaw in the past which is why I picked this one up. I found this story full of surprises, particularly as it doesn’t do anything I expected it do. My best description of the book would be something along the lines of The Little Mermaid meets The Puppet Masters meets Pacific Rim. Except it’s not really any of them either.
Initially the story chapters alternate between Myrah in the water world and Hal, in his boat in a future degenerating Earth. Initially, I had not idea what was going on with Myrah’s alien world and wondered if this book was worth finishing. Hal’s story was okay but because it was more relatable, I was happy when I got to his chapters. I’m glad I persevered as, once things started making sense to me, this really picked up. By the end, I was hooked.
The only bad thing I have to say about this book is that this particular edition had some outrageous editing errors. There were a couple of typos, but the first major problem was where some lines were jumbled like 1, 2, 3, 5, 4, 5, 6. And on two other occasions a paragraph was repeated halfway through its first run, so you’d get 3 lines, then the same 3 lines again followed by the rest of the paragraph.
Score: Worth reading
I’ve also read: The Ceres Solution, Killer Planet, Night Walk, Who Goes Here?, A Wreath Of Stars
Why I read it: Going through the horror stories in the house. I’ve finished the James Herbert, Goosebumps is next. Rereading this one for the first time in about 10 years.
What is it about?: A family inherit a house from an unheard-of great uncle. Nothing could possibly go wrong here.
Thoughts: I must say, despite the change in target audience from James Herbert to R. L. Stine, this is still pretty creepy. As you may have guessed, this is indeed a ghost story and it follows a brother and sister as they try to adjust to life in a creepy old house. Their parents are quickly relegated to the role of most adults in stories featuring children and rarely feature in the story.
The standard ghost story tropes are there, the jump-scares at the end of almost each chapter that often turn out to be something benign, the apparitions that are dismissed by the parents and the family pet that no one listens to but really should be listened to. However, they’re done well enough to keep the story flowing as the children find themselves getting deeper into the unknown.
The final twist was seen a mile away (yes this was a reread, but I’d pretty much forgotten all of it), but not on the scale expected and it was nice to have a little explanation as to why – not that it really made any difference to anything.
These books often end with a ..or were they? final shot. These are often the very last line or mini scene of the book to make the resolution less reassuring. In this case, it was a little ambiguous and even if it was, it wasn’t going to affect the characters in the story.
Score: Worth reading
I’ve also read: Stay Out of the Basement, Monster Blood, Say Cheese and Die!, The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb, Let’s Get Invisible!, Welcome to Camp Nightmare, Piano Lessons Can Be Murder, The Werewolf of Fever Swamp, You Can’t Scare Me!, One Day at HorrorLand, Monster Blood II, Deep Trouble, The Scarecrow Walks at Midnight, Go Eat Worms!, Return of the Mummy, Attack of the Mutant, The Headless Ghost, The Abominable Snowman of Pasadena, How I Got My Shrunken Head, Bad Hare Day, Egg Monsters from Mars, The Beast from the East, Calling All Creeps!, Tales To Give Yourself Goosebumps, Cry Of The Cat
Why I read it: Progressing through our Goosebumps collection. I tried to do them chronologically. Looks like I’ve already mucked that up. Rereading this one for the first time in about 10 years.
What is it about?: A special camera is found that seems to take pictures of the near future. Only the pictures never show anything good.
Thoughts: I remembered this one a bit more than Welcome to Dead House but not by very much.
The tension was felt less is this story as it was more of a series of misadventures than a culminating thing to overcome. The mysterious Spidey helped to keep things off kilter a little but not by a lot.
The interaction between the four friends felt authentic and they made a good team.
I liked this edition that shows the photos taken on the front cover, which are out of context until the relevant bits read in the book. Having just read the Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children trilogy by Ransom Riggs I felt they should have been inserted into the book in the same way the photos are used in the trilogy.
The …or were they? scene certainly looks to set up the follow-up (which I’ve not read but presumably follows how the group copes with the bullies now with the camera).
Score: Worth reading
I’ve also read: Welcome To Dead House, Stay Out of the Basement, Monster Blood, The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb, Let’s Get Invisible!, Welcome to Camp Nightmare, Piano Lessons Can Be Murder, The Werewolf of Fever Swamp, You Can’t Scare Me!, One Day at HorrorLand, Monster Blood II, Deep Trouble, The Scarecrow Walks at Midnight, Go Eat Worms!, Return of the Mummy, Attack of the Mutant, The Headless Ghost, The Abominable Snowman of Pasadena, How I Got My Shrunken Head, Bad Hare Day, Egg Monsters from Mars, The Beast from the East, Calling All Creeps!, Tales To Give You Goosebumps, Cry Of The Cat
Why I read it: Aiming for five Goosebumps books this month, so over halfway now. Again, this is a reread and is the first Goosebumps book I ever read.
What is it about?: Having lost his job, plant-scientist dad spends a lot of time doing something in the basement. Then he starts behaving odd.
Thoughts: Unlike the majority of the Goosebumps stories, this one’s more sci-fi than paranormal/supernatural. I certainly found this story more impactful than many of the other Goosebumps, I’m not sure if it’s because it’s grounded in a more realistic setting or because of the body-horror elements in it.
The story follows a brother and sister as they are practically orphaned with their mum going off to be with her sister during an unspecified medical procedure and their dad who’s locked himself in the basement playing mad scientist. The experiments get out of control and it’s up to the kids to save…their parents’ marriage, I guess.
There are a couple of issues I have with this one. Firstly, if the children are that concerned for or about their father they could have phoned a number of organisations from the CDC to Social Services (the level of neglect they receive is almost total). My other is the …or were they? ending. I’ve had over ten years to dwell on that ending, and it still irritates me. My conclusion about it is that the flower isn’t, but thinks it is.
Score: Worth reading, just don’t dwell on it for decades.
I’ve also read: Welcome To Dead House, Monster Blood, Say Cheese and Die!, The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb, Let’s Get Invisible!, Welcome to Camp Nightmare, Piano Lessons Can Be Murder, The Werewolf of Fever Swamp, You Can’t Scare Me!, One Day at HorrorLand, Monster Blood II, Deep Trouble, The Scarecrow Walks at Midnight, Go Eat Worms!, Return of the Mummy, Attack of the Mutant, The Headless Ghost, The Abominable Snowman of Pasadena, How I Got My Shrunken Head, Bad Hare Day, Egg Monsters from Mars, The Beast from the East, Calling All Creeps!, Tales To Give You Goosebumps, Cry Of The Cat
Why I read it: Reading the Goosebumps series that we have in the house. Aiming for 5 books, this is the fourth. Another reread.
What is it about?: Evil silly putty.
Thoughts: Yup, forgotten this one. Vaguely remembered the shop. The story follows a young lad as he’s abandoned with a crazy deaf great-aunt he can’t remember as his parents go house-hunting…is that even a thing?
Anyway, he quickly befriends a local girl and naturally go to the local creepy-ass shop to buy some dodgy silly putty called Monster Blood that the owner’s not into selling…never mind.
As it happens these two middle-school children can’t wait to play with this stuff which is apparently so amazing even the great-aunt needs to see it…I’m obviously not recalling the virtues of the silly putty from my childhood.
It’s not long before the stuff starts acting all weird, growing, being eaten by the dog, growing, changing properties, growing…did I mention the growing?
Of course, it can’t be a Goosebumps book if there isn’t the local bully, this time they’re twins and are more juvenile criminals than big, mean kids.
The final act and revelation is totally out of the left field. One could argue that there were a few hints along the way but…I certainly didn’t see it coming and I’ve read this before. I had a bit of trouble with the dimensions at the end too. Either the room they were in was incredibly immense, or the timing had been slowed down, it took a long time for the giant ball of gloop to complete its charge bearing in mind that it had already moved fast enough to catch the fleeing bullies and shoot up the steps into the house.
The …or were they? ‘twist’ of it having disappeared made no sense as it was inert by this point. However there are 3 sequels…one of which I’ve read and also have no recollection of – no wait, that’s the one with the guinea pig…
Score: Worth reading – for completeness sake
I’ve also read: Stay Out of the Basement, Welcome To Dead House, Say Cheese and Die!, The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb, Let’s Get Invisible!, Welcome to Camp Nightmare, Piano Lessons Can Be Murder, The Werewolf of Fever Swamp, You Can’t Scare Me!, One Day at HorrorLand, Monster Blood II, Deep Trouble, The Scarecrow Walks at Midnight, Go Eat Worms!, Return of the Mummy, Attack of the Mutant, The Headless Ghost, The Abominable Snowman of Pasadena, How I Got My Shrunken Head, Bad Hare Day, Egg Monsters from Mars, The Beast from the East, Calling All Creeps!, Tales To Give You Goosebumps, Cry Of The Cat
Why I read it: Chronologically this is the fifth Goosebumps book in the house. Also the first one I’ve not read before.
What is it about?: Emotional clumsy girl gets given three wishes. They suck.
Thoughts: The Goosebumps bully gets the limelight from the first to last page of this story. The protagonists are not allowed to only be scared of the spookies in these stories, they have to be miserable too.
The story follows Samantha, an over-tall 12-year old who’s about as clumsy as she could possibly be and the torment she suffers from Judith, the bully. For some reason she’s even encouraged to overexpose her ineptness by competing in inter-school basketball matches.
For reasons that are never explained she guides some random woman to a particular street and in return is given three wishes.
Anybody who’s seen anything to do with wish granting knows that for them to be effective, wishes need to be anally specific. Otherwise… chaos. An emotional 12-year old who had just tried to throttle the life out of her tormentor isn’t going to be the best at making rationally thought-out wishes. Clarissa, the ‘Genie’ is either some chaos-loving bitch or is just plain bonkers.
The first wish, spoken to Clarissa’s face, is taken literally, which is as expected. Everyone cocks up their first wish.
The second wish was randomly said in natural conversation with Samantha’s brother and nothing happened.
The third wish was randomly shouted in exasperation and was granted by Clarissa, who just happened to be there. The logic on the execution of this wish was non-existent and is proof that Clarissa is just not all there. It also cancelled the first wish, even though the two wishes didn’t conflict with each other.
The fourth wish (third executed) was to undo the previous one…except that the rule here seems to be that each new wish cancels out the previous one…and also had a tacked on wish which was also granted.
Because the wishes all sucked Samantha got to have another wish. An opportunity to make a better wish. Well, that’s one way to make a crap wish. The …or were they ending wasn’t really a twist ending but did finish in an unfortunate situation. However, due to the temporary nature of these so-called wishes, it’ll be all fine again soon.
I must have been spoiled by shows like the X-Files who explored the wish-making genre really well. This story felt a bit lacking in that the wishes were stupid and their executions were illogical.
Score: Worth reading – for completeness sake
I’ve also read: Welcome To Dead House, Stay Out of the Basement, Monster Blood, Say Cheese and Die!, The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb, Let’s Get Invisible!, Welcome to Camp Nightmare, Piano Lessons Can Be Murder, The Werewolf of Fever Swamp, You Can’t Scare Me!, One Day at HorrorLand, Monster Blood II, Deep Trouble, The Scarecrow Walks at Midnight, Go Eat Worms!, Return of the Mummy, Attack of the Mutant, The Headless Ghost, The Abominable Snowman of Pasadena, How I Got My
Shrunken Head, Bad Hare Day, Egg Monsters from Mars, The Beast from the East, Calling All Creeps!, Tales To Give You Goosebumps, Cry Of The Cat
Why I read it: My wife picked this trilogy up a while ago now. Decided to read it to her.
What is it about?: A warband of find themselves on a quest that makes them an enemy of all.
Thoughts: This classic-style fantasy adventure has the interesting twist of having the main protagonists as Orcs (and a dwarf). It reads a bit like a TV series as it has a very episodal feel to it as the orcs move from one thing to the next. The evil queen is suitably evil and dispatches her underlings at a greater rate than Darth Vader and Blofeld combined. The battle scenes are intense and violent and the Queen gets up to some pretty gnarly stuff.
As the end of the book drew near it was clear that it was setting up for a cliffhanger ending. Yup, it did.
My main issue with this book was with the two rivalries that look to be going somewhere interesting and then just come to nothing at all.
There was enough in there to encourage me to read book 2. The dream sequences are clearly more than they appear and it’ll be nice to know what the stars are all about. That I’m not bothered that much by leaving it on a cliffhanger shows how little invested I am in the characters. I think it’s less to do with the fact that they non-human but more to do with that I still don’t really know them. At least Jup had a couple of chapters almost to himself with his spy mission.
Score: Worth reading
Why I read it: Trying to read one graphic novel a week. Falling behind a bit.
What is it about?: Aurra Sing’s been hunting Jedi. Ki-Adi-Mundi leads a team of Jedi to stop her.
Thoughts: It was nice to get a bit more Aurra Sing, though short of being a little crazy and a brief flashback as her as a padawan, we don’t find out much more about her. I particularly like the confrontation between A’sharad Hett and Aurra Sing and Hett’s first feelings of the dark side.
The artwork was good enough to not detract from the story, though I was a little distracted by the way Aurra’s extra long fingers were depicted.
Score: Worth reading
Why I read it: If I forget to bring a book to work, or finish it before the end of the day, it’s good to have a back-up in case. Fancied giving this one a go.
What is it about?: While investigating a series of unusual murders, a detective discovers that the killers are not human. Unfortunately, now he’s gotten too close, the minions of Hell are targeting his children.
Thoughts: The story falls into two distinctive halves. The first half follows the detective as he investigates the murders, he’s already come to a Mulder-esk conclusion but needs to convince his partner to at least consider the idea. It isn’t really anything that’s not been done a hundred times before but the characters are well developed. The occasionally creepy moment involving the children holds the tone of the book.
The second half is a straight-up thriller with the ‘Goblins’ chasing the detective and his children across snow swept New York while they desperately try to survive.
It was a shame that the creatures were described in great detail because I just couldn’t shake the creatures from Gremlins and Gremlins 2 from look from my mind.
What I found refreshing about this story was that it worked on pure threat, rather than being a straight-up slasher gore-fest. Usually in such hunter vs. hunted stories, the myriad passers by and good Samaritans that the prey comes into contact with have a very short life-span. They’re there purely to die horribly as a reminder of what’ll happen to the hapless heroes if they stumble in their flight. With the exception of the crime scene victims at the beginning of the book, the rest is left to the imagination.
I can’t not mention the X-Files hallmarks this story has. From the Mulder and Scully approach to the unexplained to the vent screws that are undone from inside the vent, this could have been a decent X-Files episode.
Score: Worth buying
I’ve also read: The Face; Lightning; Twilight Eyes; Velocity
Why I read it: Rereading the Stainless Steel Rat series from my dad’s collection.
What is it about?: Interplanetary crook and scoundrel Slipper Jim DiGriz has been given a new assignment by his handlers, the Special Corps. This time he’s to stop an invasion force, from the inside.
Thoughts: This enjoyable infiltration and sabotage story of one man against an entire world is very reminiscent of Eric Frank Russell’s Wasp. It has a nice satirical look at the military and warmongery in general. Jim’s new wife Angelina features a little in this one, but mainly is just Jim.
The only negative about this book, and the series as a whole, is the James Bond level of survivability of the titular character. Yes, he finds himself in bleak situations but you know he’s always going to get out of them somehow. Sometimes though, it’s nice to just read an enjoyable romp without any stress.
Score: Buy it
I’ve also read: Bill The Galactic Hero; Bill The Galactic Hero On The Planet Of Bottled Brains; Bill The Galactic Hero On The Planet Of Robot Slaves; Bill The Galactic Hero On The Planet Of Tasteless Pleasure; Captive Universe; Galactic Dreams; In Our Hands, The Stars; Invasion: Earth; The Lifeship; The Men From P.I.G. And R.O.B.O.T.; Planet Of No Return; Planet Of The Damned; Planet Story; Rebel In Time; The Stainless Steel Rat; The Stainless Steel Rat For President; The Stainless Steel Rat Gets Drafted; The Stainless Steel Rat Goes To Hell; A Stainless Steel Rat Is Born; The Stainless Steel Rat Joins The Circus; The Stainless Steel Rat Returns; The Stainless Steel Rat Saves The World; The Stainless Steel Rat Sings The Blues; The Stainless Steel Rat Wants You; Stainless Steel Visions; The Technicolour Time Machine; To The Stars: -Homeworld, -Wheelworld, -Starworld; The Turing Option; West Of Eden, -Winter In Eden, -Return To Eden

And that was April.

What do I have coming up in May?
I intend to –
Finish:
1. My library book – A Second Chance At Eden by Peter F. Hamilton
2. Anita Blake: Guilty Pleasures by Laura M. Hamilton
3. Mussolini: His Part In My Downfall by Spike Milligan

Read completely:
4. My book of the month – Aliens: Bug Hunt
5. The Long Utopia by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter
6. Pyramids by Terry Pratchett
7. Matilda by Roald Dahl (reading to my eldest).
8-10. Star Wars Graphic Novels starting with Darkness.

A 50ish page bite out of:
Intervention by Julian May
The Willows and Beyond by William Horwood
Star Wars: The Old Republic: Encyclopaedia
Quantum Leap: Search And Rescue by Melissa Crandall

As much as I can of:
The BFG by Roald Dahl (reading to my youngest)
Dreams And Dust by George R. R. Martin (My A Song Of Ice A Fire Friday Lunchtime Read)
Ancestral Vices by Tom Sharpe

If you check out my Currently Reading page, you’ll find out more about my reading style and even monitor my progress.

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Top Ten Best Board Games

Over on Board Games in Bedford I have played dozens of games and own a goodly chunk number of them.
I enjoyed most of them and am keen to play them again and again, but if I had to pick only ten games, here are my ten most preferred games to play:

10. Seven Wonders

I’ve only played this a couple of times and I don’t even own it. This strategic drafting game has a lot going on in it so it’s never dull, which for a seven-player game says a lot. It looks great, it’s easy to learn but rewarding to master.

9. McMulti

Who know buying and selling oil would be so engrossing? Ever since I first played this economic game it has stuck with me. Fortunately I was able to acquire my very own copy. The only downside is it’s 4-player limit.

8. Escape From The Aliens In Outer Space

Picked this beauty up because it looked a bit different. I wasn’t prepared for how stressful it could be.
This axe-murderer in a dark room style game can keep 8 players perched on the edge of their seats.

7. Five Tribes

‘Oh look, a Days of Wonder game, this must be good.’ I thought when I picked up a copy. I was right. Meeple manipulations with multiple effects makes this an engrossing game…once you’ve gotten the hang of ALL the things that go on. Despite that, this is a really easy one to get the hang of. Shame it’s limited to 4 players, but kudos for developing 2-player rules.

6. Cosmic Encounters

‘Must…get…expansions!’ Starting as a five-player game, this game of combat and diplomacy can seat as many as eight…once the expansions have been collected. With so many aliens to play as, this is a game that will never be played the same way twice and is always interesting. So glad I picked it up after months of looking at it and going ‘Hmmmm…’

5. Dominion

A card building game…no, scratch that. The card building game. Have cards, use them to get more cards. Sounds easy… I don’t have this one…there’s just so many expansions!!!

4. Tiny Epic Galaxies

‘Look at that little box! What kind of filler game is it?’ ‘This? Why, this is no mere filler game!’ Despite it’s tiny stature, this game is Epic in size as four players compete to build the largest empire. There’s even a single-player mode. I just had to pick this up.

3. Takenoko

This game has a cute little plastic panda in it…that you’ll grow to hate! 4 players compete to build a communal garden and try to score by growing bamboo while other players score by feeding it to the panda.
It’s also a good one for the kids.

2. Small World

Another game that suffers from an excess of expansions…that I mostly have Muh hah haa!. 2-6 players compete with their tribes of powered races with additional random powers over a board that just doesn’t have enough space on it. With a different board depending on the number of players and a fixed number of turns, this game has so much going for it.

1. StarCraft: The Board Game

If you have the better part of 3 hours to play a single game, this 2-6-player game of conquest is mighty. A faithful reworking of the original computer game that’s just epic. Yes, it suffers from down-time if you’re not involved in the current skirmish but that time can be spent playing with your awesome miniatures featuring almost every single unit from the game. Anyone got the Brood War expansion? ‘Cos I need it!!!

There are a loads that didn’t make the list but all rank at =11 having just skipped out on 10th place by a meeple’s hairsbredth. All, that is, apart from those that’ll feature on my Worst 10 Board Games, when I get around to doing one. There’s currently not enough games I’ve played that I despise enough to put on such a list. At the time of this publication, I can get to about 5 but am not exactly in a hurry to fully populate it.

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March 2017 Book Wrap-Up

Another month of reading done, another 12 books finished. What were they this time and what did I think of them?

Why I read it: Jessethereader kept banging on about this trilogy and it sounded like the sort of thing I’d enjoy so I picked them up. Read book 1 as February’s book of the month, this was March’s and book 3 will be April’s.
What is it about?: This story continues the adventure of Jacob and his peculiar friends as they attempt to travel to blitz-filled London to right a wrong that happened at the end of book 1.
Thoughts: I do very much enjoy flipping through these books, looking at the photos, which are strange enough on their own, and then getting to them in the story and them then making sense. Except these are actual photos of actual weirdos taken for who knows what peculiar reason.
As for the story, I did struggle a bit in that the story never went in the direction I expected it to, which I’ve decided is actually a good thing. It did seem a shame, though, that many of the introduced peculiars didn’t hang about for very long.
It was also nice to have a little origin story for most of the peculiars. Enoch was less creepy in this one but still pretty caustic. Hugh’s bee revelation was a little sad but he did get an awesome rescue scene.
The final twists were pretty fantastic and I can’t wait until next month so I can read the third book.
Score: Booktastic
Why I read it: Going through my graphic novel collection. Working on the Star Wars chronologically.
What is it about?: Darth Maul sees Maul sent on a mission to destroy the leadership of the Black Sun criminal organisation. It is set just before the events of the novel Darth Maul: Shadow Hunter.
Thoughts: This story features plenty of bad-assery on the part of Maul as he slaughters hoards of nameless bad guys. The artwork is top notch and the action is brilliantly portrayed. However, with the exception of the female assassin bodyguards for one of the vigos and the top man himself, the characters are very uninteresting. They’re just there to die at Maul’s hand as he effortlessly Terminator’s his way through the lot. Only the Nightsister (which given the revelations in the Clones Wars makes for an interesting canon issue) gave him any semblance of a challenge.
If you like seeing Maul doing what you didn’t get to see him do in the movie, this is worth a look. If you wanted to know more about him, this gives you nothing except his tattooed torso.
Score: Worth reading
Why I read it: My graphic novels…I’m reading them.
What is it about?: Darth Sideous is still pulling strings getting various things into place. This time he’s using the Jedi to deal with the tumultuous Yinchorri (humanoid reptiles) with the benefit of having a potentially troublesome species curbed and some Jedi die.
Thoughts: This is actually a pretty good action flick with three bands of Jedi each facing their own problems. There’s some familiar faces and some new ones who may as well have been wearing red shirts. Particularly the member of the Jedi council we’ve never seen before, don’t get attached to him – Ki-Adi-Mundi takes his place on the council.
There’s a solid active ‘cast’ here with most of the council members getting a speaking roll at least as well as the appearance of some of the significant characters who feature in the Clone Wars graphic novels including a young padawan Whiphid by the name of K’kruhk and Aleena Jedi Master Tsui Choi. The Devaronian Villie Grahrk also makes a brief appearance.
It was great seeing some of the token presence characters from the films actually do stuff. Yoda’s also pretty bad-ass in this one when he needs to be. I wouldn’t want to be interrogated by him…
The artwork’s not bad, if a little cartoonish. The wide array of species drawn are pretty well represented.
The only negative on this one is the red shirt aspect that is rife with this era of graphic novels (and novels for that matter). A whole bunch of Jedi are introduced, only to get bumped off within the story. Having said that, these temporary characters did generate a little emotional gravitas before exit stage left. Being one of the earlier stories set in the run-up to Order 66, this does establish some of the more significant characters whose fates are left until much later (or, in the case of K’kruhk, much, much, much later).
Most enjoyable.
Score: Buy it.
Why I read it: I actually started reading this years ago as it was in the back of my parents’ car and it was something to do during the journey. Never really got anywhere with it and one day it was not there any-more. Finally gotten hold of a copy.
What is it about?: Earth has passed the point of no return regarding total ecological breakdown. The most wealthy entrepreneurs, largely responsible for the world’s plight’ band together to build six Star Arks (the Stark project) out in the Australians out-back to go live on the moon instead. Can EcoAction, a small band of whacked-out hippys and social drop-outs uncover this conspiracy and stop it before it is too late?
Thoughts: Despite the very scary ecological message that’s still relevant 20 years later, this is a very funny book. The farting camel scene had me laughing out loud. Tears formed.
The characters in the EcoAction team are caricatures of hippies and ageing trendies that borders on cartoonish. Walter’s hippy mannerisms and talking without saying anything is nicely complemented by his friend Zimmerman’s insanity. Rachel, CD and the Culhoons are merely there so that stuff happens. The members of Stark are archetypical fat cats without any semblance of morality, but with their own set of problems.
The story does meander a little bit and the ecological message is shouted loud and clear. However, the final few acts of the book really pick it up and makes for a great finish (and a certain flatulent camel). The ending is as expected and was pretty much spelt out in the rest of the book.
Score: Worth reading
Why I read it: I came to the Star Wars section of my TBR pile and rather that start the Jedi Academy trilogy I, couldn’t resist reading this one I’d recently picked up.
What is it about?: This is the official novelization of the film. It documents the events that were mentioned in one line of the opening crawl of A New Hope.
Thoughts: I like reading novelizations because often they add a bit of depth that either wasn’t in the film or was and I missed it. They allow you to see the thoughts of the characters as well as provide back-stories and other nuggets of info. In that, this book let me down. With the exception of a few ‘documents’ scattered throughout the story, one of which were memos regarding the installation of an exhaust port, there was very little elaboration over what the actors portrayed on screen. The last thoughts in the numerous death scenes was a nice touch and there was a little bit more focus of the power plays between Tarkin and Krennic.
It was written well enough that I was able to relive the movie experience while waiting for the blu-ray to be made available. The movie was better.
Score: Worth reading – for completeness sake
Why I read it: My graphic novels…I’m reading them.
What is it about?: At the end of Jedi Council: Acts of War, the Jedi council decided to vote in Ki-Adi-Mundi to the council. This story shows why he was chosen.
Thoughts: One of the few Jedi Council members to get a speaking line in the films, plus one of the most upsetting Order 66 deaths (after Aayla Secura), we get to find out more about Ki-Adi-Mundi and Cerean culture. It was great seeing how a Jedi can do his duties while being a family man at the same time. The 20-1 female-male ratio of Cereans meant that Ki-Adi-Mundi was allowed to marry for the sake of the species.
This story takes a little while to get going leading to a bizarre aliens-type encounter in space (it would be great to see those things back again) and a rather unnecessary encounter with Jabba the Hutt and a lightning storm.
Jabba’s bestest buddy Ephant Mon also featured a fair bit in this story, and I enjoyed seeing him fleshed out a bit more. I always found him one of the more intriguing characters of Jabba’s entourage.
The bonus story at the back that follows Ki-Adi-Mundi’s first solo mission as a Jedi dealing with bandits on Cerea was a nice little bonus.
Score: Worth reading
Why I read it: I’d picked up the box set of all nine books, it was going cheap and I fancied giving it a go. Ended up reading them to my wife at bedtime.
What is it about?: Alex Rider is a 15 year old who has found himself going on succesive James Bond style spy missions to save the world. This is his seventh such adventure where he finds himself pitted against a snakehead criminal organisation and an assassination attempt.
Thoughts: This one took a little while to get going with the ‘straightforward’ and ‘minimal risk’ part of the mission taking up the majority of the book. I’d predicted the twist very early on.
It seems that Alex’s luck level equals Tintin’s as he is able to survive against impossible odds. Of course, being a James Bond inspired story does allow for this sort of thing, but I did find the waterfall scene perhaps a little bit of a stretch. The hospital scene was particularly dark for this series but did show the increased level of threat that the snakehead represented.
This edition had the bonus chapter ‘Coda’ telling us how ‘it’ happened. Although it did flesh out the sentence that described the scene a little, it didn’t really tell us anything already stated or implied in the original sentence, except perhaps add a little ambiguity to certain things.
This edition also featured an afterword by Anthony who revealed the origins and thoughts behind most of the names from the series. This was a nice touch.
Score: Worth reading – for completeness sake
Why I read it: There’s a bookcase full of hardback books based on the 2005 onwards series of Doctor Who just sitting there. Been working my way through it.
What is it about?: The 11th Doctor, along with Amy Pond and Rory Williams find themselves
Thoughts: I found this one a little difficult to engage with as so much of what happens and so many characters are not what they seem. It was unclear what was at stake and there were so many ‘big reveals’ that they had little impact. The reader-grabbing prologue did it’s job well, but the following story didn’t really relate to it.
I thought Rory made an excellent companion in this book and made some very strong contributions to the team. It’s somewhat unusual to have a strong male companion to the Doctor these days.
I found the aliens a bit woolly and due to their numerical names and human visages found it more effort that it was worth to keep up with who was whom.
Score: Boring – Nonsensical
Why I read it: I’d been going through by graphic novel collection and recently read the first 3 book of Knights of the Old Republic, the only books of the series I had. Came across this in my local library.
What is it about?: This features 2 story arcs:
Daze of Hate concludes the story from the Nights of Anger story arc from book 3. Zayne and one of his Jedi hunters is forced to work together to stop the exogorth swarm threat.
Knights of Suffering sees Zayne reunited with Gryph and they get embroiled in the Mandalorian invasion of Tarsis. This time Zayne is forced to team up with another of his Jedi hunters as well as the revenge-fuelled sister of the apprentice he is framed for murdering.
Thoughts: As this is two stories, I’ll cover them individually.
Daze of Hate:
I found this one of the weaker story-lines, despite the awesomeness of the exogorth (that’s Space Slugs to those who don’t know…you know, the thing that tried to eat the Millennium Falcon in Empire Strikes Back) swarm. I did enjoy the ‘reunions’ of the guests, that had some very funny moments. The conclusion to Campier’s story was quite impactful.
The art style was a bit of a let down, it had gone very cartoony compared to the first half of the story.
Knights Of Suffering:
This compelling story had some plot to it, but it was overshadowed by the character moments. The interplay between the vying factions and Zayne being teamed up with 2 individuals who want him dead was brilliant. I laughed out loud at the knee-in-the-armoured-but-not-armoured-enough scene. The artwork was much improved and looked really good.
All in all a very satisfying read, but fans of Jarael may be disappointed, she’s not in this one much.
Score: Buy it
Why I read it: ‘Cos I like Star Wars
What is it about?: This continues the story of the pilots in the new Republic’s famous Rogue Squadron. This story follows directly on from the conclusion to the Last Command and the fall of Thrawn. Isard isn’t as dead as was first believed but this time wants to form an alliance with the Rogues in order to take down an Imperial warlord.
Thoughts: I’ve enjoyed all the X-Wing books so far and this, the eighth one, didn’t disappoint. The myriad descriptions of the particulars of TIE fighters blowing up has always amused me.
Often when characters get married or otherwise pair off, it can get a little stale, not so in this story. There was a good exploration of the controversial relationship between Gavin and Asyr as well as married opposing poles Mirax and Corran who still keep secrets from each other.
Excepting for the newly promoted Wedge Antilles and Iella Wessiri who did get plenty of ‘screen time’, most of the other pilots didn’t really get much focus. When then inevitable deaths occurred, they were red shirts and nothing more. The two more significant deaths were a blow.
I greatly enjoyed Whistler and Cage’s break-out and adventure, and found that it was over far too quickly. I felt more time could have been spent with them.
If you haven’t read any of the previous X-Wing books, I would strongly urge you to read them before this one. There are many references and plot points that follow those books. If this were an episode on a TV series, there would have been a substantial ‘Previously on Rogue Squadron’ segment. I think even some of the graphic novels were referenced.
Score: Buy it
Why I read it: Graphic novels, gotta read ’em.
What is it about?: With the Tusken Raiders seemingly organised and lead my a mysterious figure, Ki-Adi-Mundi is sent to Tattoine to discover the fate of Sharad Hett, a Jedi and former padawan of Eeth Koth who was believed dead. Following him into the desert is Aurra Sing, seeking to kill not one, but two Jedi.
Thoughts: After the lengthy Prelude To Rebellion, it’s surprising that they kept with Ki-Adi-Mundi. Particularly as, away from Cerea and his family, there’s less to learn about him. However, with the inclusion of the bloodthirsty Aurra Sing, Hutts, a Krayt Dragon and a closer look at Tusken Raiders’ society, the focus was never going to be on the Jedi hero. There’s also the introduction of A’Sharad Hett, who goes on to bigger things, particularly in the Legacy storyline much, much, much later. I also appreciated seeing Aurra’s thoughts as she hunted the Jedi, making her a better character than just another mysterious hunter. It was a little unsettling where she breaks the fourth wall.
The artwork was top-notch and helped make this the compelling story it was.
Score: Buy it
Why I read it: Having read book one to my eldest who enjoyed it, of course we would move on to book 2.
What is it about?: Having returned from the past, Chevron Savanno now lives in an alternate reality where a time-travelling tyrant had conquered the Victorian world after she left and shaped it to his design. Chevie must return to the past to stop events before they start, only she has no memory of her alternate self.
Thoughts: An interesting switch on the time-travel trope where usually the time-travellers always remember every iteration of reality, purely because they are time-travellers. This features some of the characters and places from the first book, as well as plenty of new ones and more sewage than you can shake a bog brush at.
Where Garrick, the villain in the first book was particularly memorable and gave a real sense of threat to our young heroes, Colonel Box and the Thundercats, in contrast, provided more of a James Bondesque villains that was less interesting. Yes, there was the whole ‘If we don’t stop this then the world we know will be gone’ aspect, they just didn’t come up to Garrick’s level of malevolence.
The finale with the tank was nicely over the top.
Score: Worth reading…to a child

And that was March.
What do I have coming up in April?
I intend to –
Finish:
1. My library book, Silver by Chris Wooding
2. Icespell by C.J. Busby by (reading to my youngest)
3. The Stainless Steel Rat’s Revenge by Harry Harrison
4. Bodyguard Of Lightning by Stan Nicholls

Read completely:
5. The final book of the Miss Peregrin’s Peculiar Children Trilogy by Ransom Riggs. This will be the book of the month so will have to be read first before I can read anything else (not counting what I read to others).
6-10. The first 5 books of the Goosebumps series we have in the house, starting with Welcome To Dead House by R. L. Stein
11, Medusa’s Children by Bob Shaw
12-15. At least 4 graphic novels starting with Star Wars: Republic: Twilight

A 50ish page bite out of:
The Return Of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle
Congo by Michael Crichton
Intervention by Julian May
The Willows and Beyond by William Horwood

As much as I can of:
My other library book, A Second Chance at Eden by Peter F. Hamilton
Dreams And Dust by George R. R. Martin (My A Song Of Ice A Fire Friday Lunchtime Read)
Mussolini: His Part In My Downfall by Spike Milligan
Darkness Comes by Dean Koontz
The Long Cosmos by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter (I intend to read this in it’s entirety but I doubt I’ll read it all this month, then it’ll be interrupted by April’s book of the month).

If you check out my Currently Reading page, you’ll find out more about my reading style and even monitor my progress.

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Ten things I’d like to see in an upcoming No Man’s Sky update

So far this game is excellent. The occasional updates are so worthwhile too. Knowing that Hello Games are continuing to improve and tinker, here are 10 things I would like to see implemented in a future update:

1. Space whales.
Make this a thing.

2. Predatory birds.
Death from the skies.

3. Carnivores eating their prey rather than going on asshole killing sprees.
Nuff said.

4. Carnivorous plants.
No I’m not taking about the whips. Sean Murray even mentioned about a plant that grabbed birds from the sky…

5. Butterfly nets and everything that entails.
Bugs are a rare find and are indestructible. Let us catch them and then impale their exotic bodies on cork boards…

6. Temperature-based chemical states
e.g. slippery ice: permanent on cold planets, forms at night time on planets where it’s cold at night, needs breaking through to access/escape water. Resources may even look different depending on temperature.

7. Deeper oceans
This would include underwater base-building options, submarines and bigger/more plentiful aquatic animals

8. A topographical scanner
Handy for locating geographical places of interest such as bodies of deep water, caves, volcanoes, etc.

9. Tractor beams
For carrying crashed ships or exocraft.

10. Multiple Bases
These can also be warped between.
On the subject of the warp gate, where you get the destination choices could we have more information about each destination rather than warping and then going ‘Nope, that wasn’t the one I wanted’?

Not fussed about the multi-player but I know that would make people more interested.

Which of these did you agree with?

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No Man’s Sky: Pathfinder Update Review


If you have read my original review of No Man’s Sky, then you probably know that I’m already an unashamed fanboy of this game. So far I’ve racked up 166 of hours playing this game (100 hours before the Foundation update and then it’s been nothing but Survival for me). As I mentioned previously, I saw Hello Games playing the long game with this one right from the start and it looks like I’ve been proven right.
I’d come off the game for a bit, played Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens to 100% completion and ironically loaded up No Man’s Sky the very day this update took place. So that was nice. Incidentally, the Lego game was decently fun and took me 33 hours to complete 100% everything.
This update sees the opportunity to further develop the bases with over double the components than before, the wireframes of which can be bought from a new live-in shopkeeper in your base. There’s also a new currency system to aid blueprint acquisition. Now, instead of randomly collecting blueprints you already have, or don’t need yet, all those sources, instead, give a number of Nanite Clusters. Spaceports now hold shopkeepers who will hold a random selection of blueprints (including known ones) and these can be purchased with these Nanite Clusters.
The other significant addition is the photo mode setting. This pauses the game and gives to a freely floating view (you still can’t see yourself) to set up some excellent shots free of all the HUD junk. You can even reposition the sun for day/night or sunsets or long shadows amongst other things. The range of movement is restricted to about a 100 yard radius (including up and down), but it does allow for a bit of exploration, particularly if you’re undercover waiting for a storm to pass and you need to know where the nearest platinum plant is so you can make another shielding shard. Also handy for taking photos of the faces of creatures that keep turning away from you, attacking you or running away.
It even works mid-drive and mid-flight so you can get your vehicle in action. I’m trying to get one mid-jump, not managed it at the time of writing. When I do, I’ll be sure to add it here:

EDIT: Since attempting this, there’s one issue I have with the camera setting. When you get the quick access bar ready to select the camera, by the time I’m in position, it’s gone again and the moment’s passed by the time I find the camera icon again (the quick access never starts where you left off, which is never the camera).
There’s also a new game setting: Permadeath. Like with Minecraft, this survival setting plays from scratch and when you die, that’s it. Game over man! Game over! Not tried this yet because of the next thing that’s been added:
CARS! Chicks dig the car.

I wasted no time in getting my wheels and, somehow, I love this game even more. It’s great just driving about, smashing through those otherwise impassable pillars of rock, getting impossibly whipped by those tentacles and doing awesome jumps. The environment has been made to be so much more accessible. Instead of having to hunt about looking for 200 plutonium every time you touch down, the cars use plutonium as a gradually consumable fuel. The only real problem is falling down crevices or holes. Then it’s the case of climbing out the vehicle and blasting a road out with the launcher or climbing out and summoning it to you.
So far there looks to be 3 types each of which can be outfitted with mining lasers, combat cannons, scanners and boosters:
– the lightly armed roamer – which you get first and has a small amount of cargo space. This is easily the best of the three, reasonably speeding, decent storage and manoeuvrable as hell.
– the slow mining truck – a bigger vehicle complete with mining laser and larger cargo space. So. Very. Slow. Also the mining laser is set at the top and cannot aim at objects on the ground unless you’re on a slope. The massive storage space is handy though.
– the fast scout – tiny cargo space but quick. Literally to be used as a runabout.
You do not need a base on a planet to have these vehicles. If you go to another planet, you just need to rebuild the vehicle pod and there it is, with the inventory intact from last time.
The denser rock formations (you know, those ones with the mushrooms coming out of it which take an age to mine and give a huge wodge of Iron) now gives a different resource and can only be mined with a vehicle’s mounted mining laser. Interestingly, resources that require advanced mining cannot be mined with the vehicles laser.
There are other changes too, but I’ll let you find those out for yourself.
This update has given loads of extra content, enough to keep me perfectly happy for hundreds of hours to come.
Okay, what did I like not so much?
1. There’s still an annoying bug that triggers when I get in my ship and take off too quick that makes it look like I’m driving from the back seat (Screenshot to be put here when I capture one). I can barely see where I’m going or shooting at.
2. Rebuilding a base on a new planet and building a workstation with an already hired alien causes an issue when I try to interact with the alien (message stating go and hire an alien from a station pops up…but I’m looking right at him!).
3. A life-form scanner for the car would be good. Normally when you hold down F, you get these green and red dots denoting lifeforms.
4. Concerning these red and green dots that denote lifeforms, how about 2 different symbols for identified species? Rather than just a green dot, how about a green leaf and a hunk of meat, that way you know if the species you’re looking at is suddenly going to come barrelling over the hill and bite your legs off.
5. Not sure about the empty crashed ships that I used to ‘acquire’ before stripping and regaining my original ship. Haven’t found one with a larger cargo space than what I’ve currently got to fully explore yet, but so far I’m a little concerned…I’ll update this bit when I’ve found out more.
6. The Transfer of goods between the ground vehicle inventory and your only seems to be via the ship. This could do with a little refining so that it’s clear what’s being transferred to where from where.

No Man’s Sky maintains its 5 out of 5 star rating from me. Keep those awesome updates coming.

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Book Tags – The Expanse

Now it’s time for a book tag I created with Sabrina (click the link to see her answers on her youtube channel).
In celebration of the airing of the second series of the most excellent Expanse series, we though we’d do a tag based on the main characters from the books (the first six as number 7 isn’t out yet). These are my answers:

James Holden
Reluctant hero and leader, the more he shuns responsibility, the more he ends up having. He’s best known for telling the unshielded truth resulting in minor things like wars starting.
Q1 Pick a book with hard-hitting truths.
A1
Written 20 years ago, this satirical look at society and the environment is perhaps even more relevant today and pulls no punches.

Naomi Nagata
This overlooked lady happens to be far more resourceful with unseen skills and knowledge than most people in her position would be expected to have. What do we really know about her?
Q2 Pick a book full of secrets.
A2 It’s all about finding Easter Eggs and one of the supporting characters isn’t who they appear to be.

Alex Kamal
He is one hell of a pilot. In times of trouble you need someone like him to drive you out of it.
Q3 Pick a book you always turn to, or rely on.
A3 Regular readers of my book tags should not be surprised to see
It’s a reliable happy place for me. Human private eye gets summoned by an alien government to solve a mystery for them, only by the time he gets there, the aliens have been murdered and he doesn’t even know what the mystery is.

Amos Burton
A man whose mysterious past is very welcome to remain hidden. Do not get on the wrong side of this psychopath.
Q4 Pick a book that took you somewhere you didn’t want to go, or made you uncomfortable.
A4
A big deviance from his usual works, this certainly took me places I’m in no hurry to go back to. A chess tournament with mystery, murder and cheating.

Detective Josephus Miller
Corrupt and drunken cop. A joke to his peers. The saviour of planet Earth.
Q5 Pick an overlooked book you enjoy.
A5 I’m still not hearing enough noise about the absolutely excellent series. Spread the word! Three children are saved from the brink of death by a time-traveller, their new job: to travel in time correcting it when other abusers of time muck it up.

Bobbie Draper
This kick-ass soldier isn’t even mentioned or hinted at in book one. How did we get by without her?
Q6 Pick a sequel or additional book to a series that you love more than the original.
A6 As much as I enjoy the Saga of the Exiles series, I think I do prefer the follow-up with the kick-off to the Galactic Milieu. As mankind reaches a new level of evolution in mental powers, an alien alliance places humanity in probation to see if they are suitable for joining them. Not the best time for a rebellion…

Fred Johnson
Meeting a man they call the Butcher of Anderson Station and the head of the OPA might be a bit daunting for most.
Q7 Pick an intimidating book you grew to love.
A7 I’m going to pick for this one. When I picked it up, I had no idea what it was going to be like. The cover’s the sort usually associated with high-brow sci-fi, which this book is but it does focus more on the characters. Watch the show or read the books. Better yet, do both.

Crisjen Avasarala
She may be one of the most powerful people in the Solar System, but would you introduce her to your mum with that foul mouth of hers?
Q7 Pick a book you wouldn’t share with your mum (or dad, sibling, goldfish, etc)!
A7 I don’t generally read those sorts of books but I suppose I wouldn’t have shared with my mum, not that she would have read it anyway.

Shed Garvey
A medic with an interesting past, he’s going to go far…
Q8 Pick a book that was over far too quickly (actually or relatively).
A8
I could happily have stayed on Pyrrhus with Jason dinAlt, Meta and Kerk much longer before going to the less interesting planets in the later books.

Julie Andromeda Mao
Rich girl with daddy issues. Goes missing. Miller gets a bit obsessive in finding her.
Q9 Pick a book that you can’t stop thinking about or are obsessive over.
A9 I suppose is the book that I quote the most, particularly regarding: Thursday, lunchtime, pain, life, 42, dressing gowns, yellow, bypasses, beware of the leopard, sofas, planet-sized brains, bulldozers, poetry, mice, towels…GREAT GOOGLY MOOGLY that’s just some of them! I need help!

Clarissa Melpomene Mao
An enhanced human dedicated to destroying James Holden. Nothing can stop her. She will never be swayed from her vengeance. Oh, okay.
Q10 Pick a book that ended very differently to how you expected it to.
A10 Literally just finished . Two twists I didn’t see coming right at the end. Also certain newly introduced characters I thought would play a significant part quickly ended up dead or didn’t join the group. That ending though!

I hope you enjoyed that!
Feel free to give this tag a bash of your own.

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Book Tags – The Fifty Bookish Questions

This is a big one so no time to preamble…
1. What was the last book you read?

Star Wars: Choices of One

2. Was it a good one?

Yes. You can’t go wrong with Timothy Zahn.

3. What made it good?

I enjoyed the duplicitous nature of the book that made me think one thing for a lot of it before revealing itself to be another. It was also great seeing the characters before the events of Heir to the Empire and how they don’t quite meet up (Luke and Mara Jade particularly).

4. Would you recommend it to other people?

If I knew they were a Star Wars fan with some knowledge of the Expanded Universe, yes. Otherwise, there’s a lot of established material that would be make if a poor read if you didn’t know that X was such-and-such and Y went on to do the thing.

5. How often do you read?

3-4 times a day.

6. Do you like to read?

Yes. It would be weird if I were doing this particular booktag and I didn’t.

7.What was the last bad book you read?

Romeo Spikes by Joanne Rea

8. What made you dislike it?

The blurb was misleading. It was boring and nonsensical. It kept setting up characters and then just killed them off. I didn’t care about the characters that survived. It was too long. The pay-off at the end wasn’t worth reading the rest of it.

9. Do you wish to be a writer?

Yes. Currently working on a series of short stories and have a couple of novels on the go too.

10. Has any book ever influenced you greatly?

Yes.

11. Do you read fan fiction?

No.

12. Do you write fan fiction?

No.

13. What’s your favourite book?

All the Colours of Darkness by Lloyd Biggle Junior.

14. What’s your least favourite book?

Great Expectations, so dull and depressing and boring I refused to finished it even though it was required reading for my English Literature GSCE.

15. Do you prefer physical books or ready on a device (like a kindle)?

PHYSICAL! I’ve yet to read anything larger than a novella on my Kindle.

16. When did you learn to read?

4 or 5 years old.

17. What is your favourite book you had to read in school?

The BFG, it was one I would have read anyway.

18. What is your favourite book series?

Discworld by Terry Pratchett

19. Who is your favourite author?

Terry Pratchett writer of the Discworld series.

20. What is your favourite genre?

Sci-Fi

21. Who is your favourite character in a book series?

Sam Vimes of the City Watch from the Discworld Series by Terry Pratchett.

22. Has a book ever transported you somewhere else?

That’s what good books do…

23.Which book do you wish had a sequel?

Tour Of The Universe. Let’s have another scrapbook featuring today’s sci-fi artists and with pull-outs and lift-the-flaps and other scrapbooky things.

24. Which book do you wish DIDN’T have a sequel?

Disappointed to hear Philip Pullman’s writing more for the Dark Materials series. I think that’s on a par with the sequels to Fifty Shades of Gray…and Fifty Shades of Gray.

25. How long does it take you to read a book?

1 day to 1 year. Depending on the book. Some books I’ll happily sit down and devour in a day (when I get the time to do so). A Song Of Ice and Fire Fridays however, sees me read a bit from that series during my lunch break, so that can take a while.

26. Do you like when books become movies?

Sort of. It’s nice to see what I’ve read, but often it’s a disappointment. Also what I’ve seen mostly overrides what I’ve visualised so a character I’ve pictured one way often becomes the actor. Not always though. I also lament the loss of the decent (or bad) book cover which stops being the distinctive artwork to being a movie poster regardless of how tenuous the movie is to the book.

27. Which book was ruined by its movie adaptation?

In a way I’d say most of them. The Lord of the Rings trilogy, for example, ruined the book by being far superior to it, making the book almost obsolete. Conversely, many movies butcher (or ruin) the book, but the book’s stronger because of it.

28. Which movie has done a book justice?

As already mentioned, the Lord of the Rings trilogy made a stuffy and difficult story approachable to all who like that sort of thing.

29. Do you read newspapers?

Nope, I’m allergic to newsprint. Seriously, it makes me feel dizzy. I made Papier Mâché with it once, almost collapsed.

30: Do you read magazines?

TableTop Gaming!!!

31. Do you prefer newspapers or magazines?

Look at my previous two answers, see if you can work it out for yourself.

32. Do you read while in bed?

Yes.

33. Do you read while on the toilet?

Guilty as charged.

34. Do you read while in the car?

I would if I wasn’t the designated driver of the family.

35. Do you read while in the bath?

No.

36. Are you a fast reader?

Yes.

37. Are you a slow reader?

Yes.

38. Where is your favourite place to read?

If I can read there, that’s the place for me.

39. Is it hard for you to concentrate while you read?

Nope. I turn off the universe.

40.Do you need a room to be silent while you read?

Nope. I turn off the universe.

41. Who gave you your love for reading?

My dad. He has several bookcases full of books. Many containing my first book love: Sci-Fi. Authors such as Bob Shaw, Harry Harrison, Jack Vance, Lloyd Biggle Junior, A. E. Van Vogt, John Wyndham, James Bliss, Robert A. Heinlein, Isacc Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke.

42. What book is next on your list to read?

Currently working on my book of the month – a book I must read before I’m allowed anything else. Hollow City by Ransom Riggs. For a more comprehensive answer check out my Currently Reading page.

43. When did you start to read chapter books?

5 or 6. Dick King-Smith books were my first, I believe. Particularly Magnus Powermouse, the Queen’s Nose, Daggie Dogfoot, the Sheep Pig and the Fox Busters.

44. Who is your favourite children’s book author?

Roald Dahl.

45. Which author would you most want to interview?

Terry Pratchett.

46. Which author do you think you’d be friends with?

Alex Scarrow.

47.What book have you reread the most?

Jurassic Park. I went through a period or reading it cover to cover over and over again. Currently the Discworld Series is on permanent reread, but I’ll have to reread them a lot to catch up with Jurassic Park.

48. Which books do you consider “classics”?

Books that snobby people get snobby about.

49. Which books do you think should be taught in every school?

Personally I hate being made to read something, which is why I will never join a reading group. I also believe that nothing ruins something more than it being taught in school.
My English teacher did the best thing ever for me which was to give me a list of suggested titles and try to read a few of over the summer. The Carpet People was on that list, hello Terry Pratchett. I cannot remember what else was on it, which suggested it would have been a pretty eclectic list most would have found something to appreciate.

50. Which books should be banned from all schools?

Don’t ban books! Nothing will get people wanting to read a book more than if you ban it. Instead ensure that there is a broader range of genres available. That’s not to say that schools should be careful to ensure that the material is age appropriate.

All done.
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