Back in May, during Lockdown #1 when I had little gaming news to report, I posted an update on books I'd been reading. Since we're now in a similar position for the next few weeks here in England, here is another list of books I've been reading (thank goodness for Goodreads or I'd never remember which ones I'd read!)...
Wiffle Lever to Full!: Daleks, Death Stars and Dreamy Eyed Nostalgia at the Strangest Sci Fi Conventions by Bob Fischer
An odd book...like a lot of.my reading this was a 99p special on the Kindle and is an account of the author attending various science fiction conventions. It avoids being too mocking and if you've ever attended a con you'll recognise lots in the book. My only experience of conventions was attending a couple back in the mid 80s in Glasgow. They were great fun and I got to meet one of my favourite authors, Harlan Ellison, but I have an abiding memory of a group of us being chased out of a screening of Star Trek 2 by a mob of angry Trekkies for laughing during Spock's funeral scene (apologies for the spoiler!)... somehow we lived to tell the tale!
Eastern Horizons by Levison Wood
A really good travel writer, this is an account of his first big overland trip through Eastern Europe, Iran, Afghanistan and into India.
Rogues edited by George RR Martin & Gardner Dozois
This is one of those collections of short stories which can be very hit and miss... on balance there were a few clunkers but mostly the stories were pretty good, especially the Neil Gaiman and Joe Abercrombie stories. There were also a few writers I hadn't come across who I really should follow up on.
White Bicycles: Making Music in the 1960s by Joe Boyd
If you're a fan of late 60's/early 70's British psychedelia and folk music you'll have come across Joe Boyd. He ran the UFO Club in London and produced bands like early Pink Floyd, the Incredible String Band, Fairport Convention and Nick Drake. His accounts of the era are fascinating as well as his stories of organising tours with a range of Jazz and Blues artists in the 60s.
Written in History: Letters that Changed the World by Simon Sebag Montefiore
This takes historical letters from figures throughout history and attempts to use them to offer insights into the events or the people involved. Sadly the letters quoted are often very short with little context and really tell you nothing about the person or the times. I can't help feel this could have been done much better and it felt like a real wasted opportunity.
Guards! Guards! by Terry Pratchett
It's ages since I've read a Pratchett book so I decided to start working my way through the Night Watch books. I was at uni when a friend mentioned this new book he'd read called The Colour of Magic and I've been a fan ever since... I could go on for ages about the many layers in a TP book as well as the gentle Wodehousian humour, the philosophy and the insight he had into so many aspects of life but I'd better stop now!
The Green Man's Heir by Juliet E McKenna
My best friend recommended this (another Amazon 99p special).. an interesting take on traditional British myths and legends in a contemporary setting. I guess it has a similar vibe to the Ben Aaronovitch Rivers of London books (which I can highly recommend)...this isn't anywhere as good but was still an interesting read
Meddling Kids by Edgar Cantero
Imagine Scooby Doo or the Hardy Boys once they've grown up and are trying to deal with the PTSD impact of all those mysteries as youngsters. Now add in a dollop of the Cthulhu mythos and you have Meddling Kids. An entertaining romp that avoids being a complete Scooby Doo spoof and is more a tribute to all those children's books and tv series... the setting is appropriately in the Blyton Hills, by the Zoinks River... good fun.
Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh
A book I knew relatively little about other than vague memories of the 80s tv adaptation. Absolutely fantastic and definitely one you should read! A not totally unkind look at a fading world, written in the 1940s when it seemed that the aristocratic world might not survive the huge changes of the war.
The Last of the Romans by Derek Birks
Another 99p Amazon deal... 99p too much! I've always found the Arthurian/Late Roman period fascinating and thought this might be a good Cornwell-esque romp. It isn't. Shockingly bad... an unlikeable character who can single-handedly slaughter his way through hundreds of enemies, sustaining serious wounds that he later shrugs off, while spouting terrible, terrible dialogue and a complete lack of characterisation. Perhaps I should come off the fence and say what I really think...
Normal People by Sally Rooney
A recent tv series on UK tv (which I missed) I was recommended this as having a similar feel to Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City books (which I loved). It charts the twists and turns of 2 people's relationships at school and then at university. To be honest I gave up part way through as I simply didn't care about any of them.
The Winter King by Bernard Cornwell
An attempt to re-dress the balance after reading the dreck that was 'The Last of the Romans'. I think this is probably the best of Cornwell's books... an attempt at a 'realistic' Arthurian book, given that we really know very little of this period. It's a great read and the trilogy is worth checking out if you haven't read it. The only downside is that it reminded me that I find the whole Arthurian myth very depressing... everyone betrays everyone else and there is an inevitable sense of doom as the story progresses... or is it just me?
The Worlds War by David Olusoga
A Father's Day present from my son. this is a really interesting look at the black and minority ethnic soldiers from parts the British Empire who fought in the First World War. Some really interesting insights into the huge contribution made by soldiers, especially from India, whose experiences are often overlooked or unrecognised
Empire in Black and Gold by Adrian Tchaikovsky
Tchaikovsky is one of those authors whose books I've seen on the shelf in bookshops and the library but not really looked at. I picked this up (yes...another cheap Amazon deal) and really enjoyed it. To be honest the setting and background does read like something he'd knocked up for a role-playing campaign (and it turns out he's a LARPer and role-player so perhaps I'm right!) and when describing it to others it sounds a bit rubbish... different races/peoples with aspects of insects in a fantasy world. So, for example there are Beetle-people who are engineers, Dragonflies and Mantis people who are warriors, Mystic Moth people etc. And then there are the Wasps who are basically insect-Nazis, set on conquering the world and bending everyone to their will. Despite this slightly dismissive description of the setting it was a really entertaining book which I rattled through in no time at all. One of those books where you finish a chapter and then think...maybe I'll just read the next one... highly recommended although I was a bit put off when I discovered that that there are at least 10 books in the series!
Factfulness by Hans Rosling
A really interesting take on the world situation (admittedly pre-Covid) and how our understanding is based on a very slanted world view and not necessarily on fact. It also looks at how using data can shine a light on how things really are...often in a more positive way than you might imagine. This was recommended during a presentation at work by our Data Team and I then discovered my son had a copy which he lent me. Recommended... especially at the moment when actual facts and data are being misused so frequently
Other Minds by Peter Godfrey-Smith
If I was to say, why not read a book about octopuses and their brains you might think 'it's ok, Ill pass', but this is a simply fascinating look at how brains and consciousness have evolved and how cephalopods may be the closest thing we have to a different form of consciousness and intelligence. A journey through evolutionary biology and philosophy in a very accessible way this is highly recommended although it my put you off eating calamari for life!!