Isaac Asimov : The Stars Like Dust

•February 1, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Stars Like Dust


Biron, a student on post-nuclear apocalypse Earth in the far future awakes to find a bomb in his room. He escapes with the help of his friend Jonti, only to fall into the hands of the Tyranni, the galactic empire that killed his planet-ruling father. He manages to escape their clutches in the company of the daughter and cousin of the ruler of the planet Rhodia. Together they attempt to find a planet that the cousin has visited before that is a centre for rebellion against the Tyranni. In the process of which, they carve up against Jonti again, who is apparently also the ruler of a minor empire who is working in secret against the Tyranni. They reluctantly join forces (as it transpires that there was no assassination attempt, it was all a ploy by Jonti to throw the Tyranni off his scent) to find the planet.
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Patrick Moore : Planet of Fire

•January 31, 2013 • 2 Comments

Planet of Fire

This review has been made public in honour of both the general vintage science fiction movement across the review blogosphere that takes place in January, and also as tribute to the inspirational author of this work, Patrick Moore, who sadly passed away last year.
Contains spoilers in the second paragraph.

This 1969 children’s book by the astronomer, scientist, author, television presenter, xylophone player, and generally boss-like Sir Patrick Moore is a childrens book, clearly written in order to interest children in science and astronomy. It reminds me nothing so much as a cross between Heinlein’s ‘Space Cadet’ and Clarke’s ‘Prelude to Space’.
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An Explanation and an Apology.

•August 13, 2012 • Leave a Comment

This is for those people who have foolishly clicked on the ‘follow’ button on this blog.

You may have noticed that this blog hasn’t been updated for a while. Months, in fact. There is a reason for this, and I thought I should share it with you.

My original intention for writing a blog was to document my opinions on everything I read for future reference. I’m the forgetful type and frequently forget the plot of any given book, much less remember what I liked or hated about it. The website was intended, therefore, as an extension of my memory. An external hard drive, if you will, for my swiss cheese brain.


I found that by making the posts public, there came with this a whole lot of other concerns. Writing for an audience is very different to making notes for ones own use, and I soon found myself trying to write proper reviews, which, as most of you know, means a properly crafted article with no spoilers rather than a simple dump of thoughts and impressions. I also started to chase higher stats, which again, wasn’t my intention.

It wasn’t until I got a tweet from a publishing house offering me free copies of books to review, books that I wouldn’t even consider picking up in a bookshop but that I was tempted to read merely for the attention, that I realised what Snake Oil was on it’s way to becoming; a time sink.

So, in order to remain true to what I need this site to be, I have therefore made all my recent posts private. In fact, I’ve gone further than that and added an invisible (to you lot!) sticky post to front page containing hyperlinks to all my notes, sorted alphabetically by author. It’s now working as a rather high-maintenence database that is accessible to me from everywhere, rather than part of a public discussion.

I would like to apologise to you if you enjoyed reading my reviews, but there will be no more. They were just too much bother to write, and they didn’t end up performing the function I intended for them. I’ll keep the ones that I have already written public, as I don’t see a good reason not to, but otherwise this blog will stay quiet on the review front for the foreseeable future.

I wish all my readers, past and future, the very best.

Paul Ballard.

Patrick Rothfuss: Wise Man’s Fear

•March 31, 2012 • 2 Comments

Following on from The Name of the Wind, Wise Mans Fear is Rothfuss’ second novel, and that is what makes me angry. The Name of the Wind was a fantastic debut, if a little quiet action wise. Here, Rothfuss has stepped up his game even further. His characterization continues as nuanced as ever, and the humour has been amped up a little bit too, but what truly impresses here is Rothfuss’ style. It is mature, subtle and eminently readable. Many authors work their whole lives and rarely achieve the clarity of style and description that Rothfuss has attained in his second book. It’s maddeningly good.
That said, the book isn’t without some flaws, and in the interest of not merely gushing in this review, I’ll point up my issue’s.

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Isaac Asimov: I, Robot

•March 25, 2012 • 1 Comment

Disclaimer: This is an unusual book, and quite difficult to write about, so this is a strange review…
If you come to Asimov’s I, Robot expecting a tale similar to that found in the 2004 Will Smith vehicle of the same name, then you will be both dissapointed and utterly blown away. Dissapointed because the only similarities between the book and the movie are a few character names and the fact that both contain robots. Blown away because, as a Will Smith fan, you have probably never experienced the scope and power of a true science fictional novel. (In the interests of transparency, I have never forgiven Smith and Hollywood for taking a big steaming dump on the chest of Richard Matheson’s stone-cold classic I am Legend, and never will). Asimov’s 1950 I Robot is a collection of short stories featuring a cast of recurring characters cunningly wrought into the form of a novel.
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Arthur C. Clarke: The Sands of Mars

•March 14, 2012 • 2 Comments

The 1951 book The Sands of Mars sees Clarke following on the hard SF of Prelude to Space with a story about the colonisation of Mars. In it, science fiction writer Gibson (we don’t get his first name, so we will never know if it is William or not…) is sent across the gulf of space to Mars in a spaceship named the ares that will thereafter be the first commercial passenger transport between the worlds, with the mission of writing about what he finds there.
The opening quarter of the novel details his experiences on the voyage where he learns to deal with handling himself in freefall, learning about the ship, it’s occupants, and what they think about Mars.

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Robert Heinlein: Space Cadet

•March 9, 2012 • 1 Comment

Space Cadet was Heinlein’s third published novel, and is the second in his series of ‘Juvenile’ works (not juvenilia, but what we would now call Young Adult). It revolves around the experiences of a young North American boy from Des Moines, Matt Dodson, who enrols to become a member of the Patrol, an elite peacekeeping force whose task is to maintain peace on earth and in the wider solar system by use of negotiation and orbiting atomic weapons. The novel follows his progress through the academy as he learns to become a spaceman, and on his first missions out of Earth orbit. As the second in the series, it is difficult not to compare the book with the earlier Rocket Ship Galileo, so that is where I will begin.
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