Review: The Martian

The Martian
The Martian by Andy Weir
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The measure of a good book is how much you want to read it (or in this case listen to the book – my copy came from Audible). I looked forward to the next installment to find out how our astronaut (Mark Watney) would survive being abandoned on Mars.

The book is quite technical and there is a lot of science in there. Most of it seems plausible and you should perhaps be more concerned about the number of times luck is on the side of Mark Watney than the accuracy of the science. The book does a fairly good job of exploring how it would feel to be left behind and to be the only living organism on the entire planet. There is plenty of Martian geography in the story and even reference to old Mars rovers that are not longer in use.

I would like to know what happens after the story – there were a number of plot lines that I felt would lead somewhere only to be abandoned at the end. The audio book is extremely well read and around 11 hours in length making it a good buy. I would recommend this book without hesitation.

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Review: Blake’s 7: Lucifer

Blake's 7: Lucifer
Blake’s 7: Lucifer by Paul Darrow
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is really mostly for us ageing Blake’s 7 fans. The book starts with the story of Avon and his current location. Throughout the novel (which is about the right length and easy to read) the story explains a little about the Quartet which rules after the fall of Servelan and the federation. We find out how Avon escaped death (I’ve waited 30 years to know how this happened!) and what he is up to now. The character of Kerr Avon is in keeping with the tv series and the writing (which is surprisingly good for Paul Darrow) is also in keeping with the series.

Perhaps only for hardcore fans of the TV series but a good complement for my growing collection of audioplays etc from Big Finish.

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Review: The Girl on the Train

The Girl on the Train
The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A brilliant idea for a book let down slightly in execution. Slow in parts and full of characters that have problems or personality disorders. I think Rachel’s landlady is the only “normal” person in the book. The plot twists and narration were enough to keep me listening to the end (I got my copy from Audible) but unfortunately I predicted the ending about three quarters of the way through the book (pretty obvious as you know the author is constructing a plot twist with a limited number of options or characters). I still enjoyed the book – and I’m glad I don’t have nearly as many problems as the characters in the book!

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Review: The Chimp Paradox: The Acclaimed Mind Management Programme to Help You Achieve Success, Confidence and Happiness

The Chimp Paradox: The Acclaimed Mind Management Programme to Help You Achieve Success, Confidence and Happiness
The Chimp Paradox: The Acclaimed Mind Management Programme to Help You Achieve Success, Confidence and Happiness by Steve Peters
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I heard Professor Steve Peters speak at the ASCL conference about his work and his book. As well as being a very entertaining speaker his ideas seemed to make sense, essentially a model for how your brain works and how to learn to work with the primitive aspects to the brain.

I’ll confess I didn’t read the book in the traditional sense but I listened to the book, read by Prof Peters himself (courtesy of my Audible subscription). I find non-fiction books hard to read and thought an audio book would be easier than reading. With a hundred minutes in the car each day the audiobook was indeed better than a paper copy although I did have a tendency to let my mind wander (probably because you don’t get the same kind of imagery in your brain as you do reading a fiction book).

The first few chapters of the book covered the material Steve used in his talk about the chimp, the computer and the human in your brain (SEN teachers will be able to relate to the concept of the chimp being in control!). As well as giving a model to explain how your brain works, the purpose of the book is to train you how to program the brain, replacing the things that happen instinctively with things that you would prefer happen. This is then extended into target/goal setting for yourself and for working with others.

The book avoids using terminology that would bamboozle readers and keeps things simple, explaining why you have to set and follow the strategies set if you want to succeed (and some excellent advice about finding a partner). I would recommend this book to people from all walks of life who want improve their lives by achieving success, happiness and confidence!

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Review: Revival

Revival by Stephen King
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Not one of his best books, I gave up on this and came back to it a month later.

So what’s wrong with the book? Whilst the story telling is up to his usual standard, the story being told is not. It lacks pace and the characters don’t grab you and hold your interest like a regular King book. The plot is slow to develop and consequently the story takes place over the lifetime of the characters involved. The ending is when King chooses to pull the threads together and is adequate but not one of his best.

There are a few chapters where you want to read on and find out what happens next but these are few and far between. I have to say I’m disappointed by this book, it contains the smallest of ideas stretched out to fill a whole book and King is capable of much more…

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Review: The Silkworm

The Silkworm
The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I bought this book after enjoying the first in the series and this is more of the same. Whilst not quite as good as the first as the first book, this book follows a similar formula with a high profile murder and lots of twists and turns.

Although we are familiar with the characters, Galbraith manages to weave more information about them and their lives into the narrative of the story. The story crafting is good and I found it easy to visualise the characters from the detailed description and attention to detail.

As with the previous book, this is an adults only book with the occasional piece of strong language (thrown in to make a point?). However the pace of the story and the twists and plot developments held me until the end.

I look forward to reading the next in the series!

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Review: Malware

Malware by Stephen J. Sweeney
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’d rate this book as a 3.5/5

Whilst the first book was more about hacking and a little less far-fetched, this book is what happens after the hacking and when things have all gone wrong. Much of this story happens in cyberspace and it has a number of similarities to the Matrix in that respect.

This isn’t a bad book by any means but it doesn’t live up to the first book. A little far fetched and with a few plot holes (not to mention a very convenient and rosy ending) it lacks the believability of the first instalment.

Read it to find out how the story ends, but it won’t make much sense without the first book to fill in the back story.

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Review: Firmware

Firmware by Stephen J. Sweeney
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The scary thing about this book is that it isn’t too hard to imagine…

At the moment people are concerned about the loss of privacy associated with the internet and smart phones. Some people hack and root their phones to get extra features or make them better (including improving privacy). This story tells of a future where people have chips implanted in their head. A few people have learned how to hack these to give extra abilities and talents.

Unfortunately the company running the chips (and the software) aren’t as transparent as we would like, and it is down to a group of hackers to guess what they are up to.

I enjoyed this book and whilst it isn’t very long (or it didn’t take long to read) I would recommend it to my sci-fi fans. Unfortunately you have to be prepared to read the sequel to find out how it ends but don’t let that put you off!

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Review: Mr. Mercedes

Mr. Mercedes
Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was a strange book for Stephen King. No supernatural beings, no aliens, no monsters or rabid animals. This is a classic thriller, the story of a retired cop who is targeted by a serial killer who he failed to catch when he was in service. The story turns into a cat and mouse tale, with the story switching between cop and killer.

What this book has got is the usual hallmarks of a King story. Excellent story telling, well built up and defined characters, a hook at the start to reel you in and plenty of suspense. What there isn’t in this book is anything different or special – whilst I enjoyed the book I felt it wasn’t one of his best books. It felt relatively ordinary and that disappointed me – I expect more from Stephen King.

I would still recommend reading this book but don’t be expecting ghosts, hauntings or supernatural goings-on, there isn’t any – it’s just a plain cop and killer story…

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Review: The Cuckoo’s Calling

The Cuckoo's Calling
The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I listened to this as an audiobook rather than read it as a paper/ebook which may be one of the reasons I enjoyed it so much (it makes the journey to and from work much more bearable).

The plot and the storyline isn’t one of the best ever but it was good enough to keep me hooked. The author cleverly leads you through the story getting to know the main characters but moving from suspect to suspect to keep you guessing about the end.

What I really loved about this book was the story telling. When I read a book I want a picture in my head and one thing Galbraith/Rowling does is to create excellent imagery using words. The detail in the book isn’t superfluous but helps add credibility to the story, and gets you involved and believing in the characters.

I loved the two main characters and the back-story that surround their lives. The ex-army private detective who has a fake leg and sleeps in the office, and his temporary secretary who turns out to be one of his greatest assets. The story is about the death of a famous supermodel and the quest to find her killer, and it takes us on a tour through fashion houses and the lives of the rich and famous.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and I’m looking forward to reading the next one when I have time!

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