Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

Review: Doctor Who: The Price of Paradise

Doctor Who: The Price of Paradise
Doctor Who: The Price of Paradise by Colin Brake
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

One of the things I both like and dislike about these books is the shift in voice and style from author to author. It makes the series more interesting and colourful, and kinda like those Skittles where they’re one colour on the outside and a completely different flavour on the in — you really don’t know what you’re going to get until you bite into it. The arrangement’s good because it changes things up and you get a variety of talents so one or two poor showings don’t bode ill for the entire range, but I don’t like it for much the same reason — not every book is guaranteed to be an enjoyable read.



Review: The War of the Ember

The War of the Ember
The War of the Ember by Kathryn Lasky
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I thoroughly enjoyed the Guardians series. While they’re surprisingly violent for books targeted at children, I still think of them as a good, easy read and do recommend them. The first few books especially were marvelous, though I must admit my favourite part of the entire series are the three books written about Hoole and Grank (honestly I think that those three books would have been better suited to the film adaptation than the ones actually chosen, though there were problems with the film that stretched far beyond the choice of material or adaptation decay that I won’t get into here). Actually writing out the legends instead of relating them piecemeal via exposition or dialogue was an excellent idea on Lasky’s part, especially considering what came after them in the series. However, I felt that it was after To Be A King that the series really lost its momentum, and it ultimately lets this final installment down.


Review: World War Z: An Oral History Of The Zombie War

World War Z: An Oral History Of The Zombie War
World War Z: An Oral History Of The Zombie War by Max Brooks
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Cleverly written as a ‘collection’ of personal stories across the world put together in the aftermath of a global zombie apocalypse, I thoroughly enjoyed the way Brooks chose to pace this interesting take on the post-apocalyptic zombie fare. There is just enough information to give the reader an idea of what went wrong and how without over-saturating with explanation and ruining the ‘feel’ of the book. There is no starvation for information however, and the ‘accounts’ cover many aspects of the ‘zombie war’. Government and military responses are mixed in with the survival stories of the average civillian, and there is a quite broad variety in the types of stories the reader is presented with.

A personal favourite of mine is one account of a ‘celebrity Big Brother’ type scenario gone terribly wrong, with a group of volatile showbiz types stuffing themselves into a fortified house and broadcasting their day-to-day survival. We can all guess how that panned out, though some predictability in this and other situations retold didn’t dull the entertainment value.

The entire ‘collection’ is presented in a sort of chronological order that covers the beginnings and the global spread, right through the military reaction and the eventual outcome and aftermath. Therefore, while World War Z is not a singular, linear narrative, it follows a timeline that nonetheless carries the reader through the history of the disaster without any confusing issues of when certain events occured. It is also, for the most part, well-paced.

One tiny nitpick I had, and of course, it’s just a personal quirk, is given the wide represenation of other nations throughout the collection, I would have loved to have seen a story from an Australian survivor (the one story ‘set in’ Australia was set in the aftermath and did not actually recount any events there). Instead I adapted a personal theory that Australia remained zombie free! Works for me!

However, if I had one real complaint to level at the book, and honestly it’s the only thing that actually stopped me from giving the book a whole five stars, it would be that the whole thing fell flat at the end. So much to the point, in fact, that I still haven’t done more than lightly skim the last few entries in the book. Once the aftermath phase of the collection is reached, much of the force and suspense falls off dramatically as the sense of immediate peril has ended, and the accounts start to become boring. That said, I thoroughly enjoyed everything preceding this section, and would still recommend it immediately to anyone looking for a good zombie apocalypse piece.

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On Bookstores. One in particular…

Talking about bookstores is important and all, but the purpose of this post is actually not what you might think it is at first glance.  What I want to talk about is one bookstore in particular.

It’s a pretty nondescript shopfront and its sign says simply ‘Books’. Simple, effective, and when you get into the store, quite alarmingly appropriate.

This bookstore is home to millions of books.

The thing that makes this remarkable is this is probably three times as many books as they can actually fit on their shelves.

They are everywhere: piled atop one another in listing piles of dust and hardcovers; strewn haphazardly across the tops of crates packed full of paperbacks; arranged in little niches and under boxes; piles of whatever could not fit on the shelves stacked unevenly in front of their approximate location. They are packed into dusty crates stowed under the stairs as though locked in a cage through which readers can only gaze in wonderment at the mystery therein. They are shoved and piled all about the sales desk. They teeter on the tops of shelves, and shelves teeter on the tops of shelves also.

This is the bookstore your librarian warned you about.

The above only shows half of the bookstore, if that, would you believe.  And as you can infer from the depth of the aisles, there are a great many hidey-holes in this place and I lost sight of my company numerous times. We’d decided to set out on an expedition into the perilous depths of this bookstore specifically because my companion wanted to find some Pern novels with the old cover art, so naturally our first port of call was the spec-fic section.

No luck here. To be honest, I wasn't sure where I was either.

Surprisingly, this section of the store was the most orderly, which is something I found surprising since, according to the store’s website:

“Australian history and politics and Australiana are the main specialty areas. The collection on labor movement and left-wing politics is the broadest in Australia, and stands up well by international standards, covering Australia but also other countries.”

And I certainly believe it. A good half or more of the bookstore was buried beneath tomes of the sort, though much of the bottom floor appeared to be dedicated mostly to fiction.

No this isn't a fish-eye effect -- the shelves really do curve out like that.

That was only half of the fantasy and sci-fi, but would you believe it? Not a single Anne McCaffery novel in sight.

I think this was supposed to be the children's section. It was a funny place to find a bunch of old classics in early 1900's cloth covers.

However, since we’d come all this way out at 8 on a Saturday night (a good hour and a half of travel), we decided to probe depths of the bookstore we hadn’t been brave enough to venture into before.


We remembered why.

Many of these aisles could only be traversed sideways, carefully controlling the angle of my bag. The gaps between the ends of the aisles and the back wall were even thinner, about 30cm at most, I would imagine.

At one point, one of the other customers came across us lost in the maze of paper and dustjackets and asked me if I had any idea how everything was organised. I postulated it to be some arcane system beyond the comprehension of mortal men. But that for the most part it appeared to be alphabetical.

I did a little bit of looking-into on the bookstore, known as ‘Gould’s Book Arcade’, and found that it apparently enjoys a bit of renown for its breathtakingly daunting clutter, and, perhaps, wears it as a badge of pride. Most of the books, according to their website, are 30 years worth of publisher’s remainders and other similarly-acquired titles, and many of the reference and art books we picked through were old library stock. Of extra interest to us was that the shopfront represents only a portion of the store’s immense collection: they are also possessed of a warehouse ‘stacked floor to ceiling’ with boxes more.

As for what could be seen on the shelves, they had a little of everything. Amongst the oddities we spotted were Japanese Pokemon animanga, Australian phrasebooks written in French, an archaic book of ‘art photography’ which featured nothing but hairy naked men in grainy, 1950’s black and whites, and an obscene number of copies of a certain vampire novel — though when you consider the fact it was a second-hand bookstore, it was really not that odd at all.

As can be expected, we didn’t leave the store empty-handed; my companion managed to glean the prize of a first-edition print of Froud & Lee’s ‘Fairies‘ book in beautiful condition and paid barely a song for it.

For anyone interested in probing the depths of this store for themselves, you will find them here:

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