Dr Duncan James > Storytelling > Books

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You are welcome to recommend books that you think I might like!

Books are perhaps already a bit old fashioned. There are some good reasons to think other forms of media are overtaking books. In my work-life I work as a teacher and although one of my products is an eBook I am also putting a lot of effort into other forms of publishing and I am seeing companies in my sector completely drop book-publication to make their money with websites or apps. An interesting article on the topic of blogs http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/6446271.stm was written by the BBC.

I am a big fan of https://sffbookreview.wordpress.com which is website/blog from a keen reader and writer called Dina.

The David Gemmel Awards for Fantast http://www.gemmellawards.com/ are a good source of ideas of books to read if you are into fantasy books (think Lord of the Rings).

Phillip Ball wrote the book "Critical Mass: How One Thing Leads to Another". I really enjoyed this book and some of it's insights into how groups of people can come to good or bad decisions. A positive message was that by asking lots of people how many sweets are in a jar and averaging their answers this can give a very accurate value.

Mark Bowden wrote Black Hawk Down which I think is a good read for any young men with too much adrenalin. It helps cut away at some of the heroic misconceptions of war. However, my personal feeling is that it can still be misread as a reinforcement of the heroic war myth. On balance I still think it is a good read.

Science fiction books I like include all the books by Iain M Banks (books by Iain Banks are his non-science fiction stories).

David Brin has written the Uplift trilogy (I am particularly talking about the first trilogy here):- I enjoyed Sundiver as an introduction to this particular imaginary universe; I enjoyed the second book Startide Rising even more with a ship escaping a massive ambush by other races through great cunning, eventually disguising itself within the hull of another ship; The Uplift War is the third book and sees humans and chimps using cunning warfare and political tricks to win crucial friends and concessions from enemy races in this epic story. There is also a second trilogy. I enjoyed the second

I think the Foundation trilogy is a great read. There is a second trilogy which creates an additional layer of conspiracy above the original trilogy. I am not super-keen on the second trilogy and for me forgetting I read that and leaving it up to my imagination after the first trilogy makes the story more enjoyable.

I recently read Outlander which used to be known (before the TV adaptation) as Cross Stitch. I'm glad I read it but I was one of the people who didn't like "that scene" in the middle of the book. For me, the problem was that our hero had up until then shown an incredible commitment to caring for our heroine and not causing her pain (for example in their love-making): I simply felt it was out of character for him to do what he did in this scene. Perhaps we were supposed to see the beating as a special case due to his personal experiences with this way of responding to certain situations: I just didn't find this convincing. I had a second issue with this book which was that I felt the action become much more "comic-book" in the second half of the book: it seemed that the main characters were suddenly capable of beating more people in combat and having much more luck when trying something daring. A story-telling technique is to introduce the storytelling universe at the start of the book and then stick it so that the reader can better interact with the characters and predict what will happen and/or be surprised: I did not feel this was followed in this book. I enjoyed the review at this link http://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/1987388-am-i-the-only-one-who-can-t-stand-this-book. This first article leads to another interesting article http://mediaeval-muse.tumblr.com/post/96388820828/updated-outlander-and-spousal-abuse-in which I feel really gets to the heart of my issues with "that scene".

But what I would ask of ye - when you do tell me something, let it be the truth. And I'll promise the same. We have nothing now between us, save - respect, perhaps. And I think that respect has maybe room for secrets, but not for lies. Before I lost faith in this book I did like this quote. I have long been of the opinion that secrets are ok as we do not have to tell everyone everything surely. But to lie seems different to me. Although if only pithy quotes were how easy real life is. I have sometimes had people say to me that they wish I had lied about something as the truth was unnecessary and they just didn't want to know. Maybe this pithy quote needs extending to allow for lies in some circumstances? Or maybe we should try to surround ourselves by people who are comfortable with the truth?

Taylor Anderson is the author of the Destroyermen series. This is a fairly bonkers book about a parallel dimension which a ship from the second world war ends up in. The writer is into military history and tactics and this shows. I am ok with the number of set-piece battles and I particularly enjoy the technological development that is happening through the series as they settle and start trying to gain a military advantage. Taylor Anderson seems to release a new book in the series every summer. I salute his commitment as I always enjoy reading the new installment. The 2016 book was "Blood in the Water" which interested me as it seemed to strike a really good balance between telling some parts of the universe story in detail and others with just brief asides from the characters not directly involved. I feel he is becoming a skilled writer now and for those considering reading the series I suggest you do so even if the first few books are not so well written as it seems to be maturing well.

Eric Brown wrote a slow-paced book dealing with the consequences of meeting aliens without the usual war scenario. It is called Kethani and I really enjoyed it and strongly recommend it.

Robert Crais wrote a thriller-type book called The Two Minute Rule which I particularly enjoyed.

Hugh Cook wrote a series of books called the "Chronicles of an Age of Darkness". It was originally intended to be something insane like 30 volumes. I think the first 4 or 5 books are fantasic. "The Wizards and the Warriors" (book 1) was a great start with a romping story and some clever twists. "The Wordsmiths and the Warguild" (book 2) was initially strange but quickly showed a great sense of humour. "The Women and the Warlords" (book 3) is a great female-driven story which si still set in an awful land for women but they do try to fight the system with some effectiveness. "The Walrus and the Warewolf" (book 4) is one of my personal favourite books. An incredible story about a reluctant hero with incredibly creative adventures. And there are great magical items such as bottles that you can hide hundreds of people in: an example of Hugh Cook's excellent writing is that there are a lot of bonkers consequences of having these bottles and he then allows the characters to think of these things and take advantage of the bottles to do clever things. At one point a character is stuck in a room and the person who rescues him simply says: "Why didn't you use the bottle you idiot?" But then from book 6 onwards he lost me. I am so happy I read the first books but I gave up after struggling through about 3/4 of book 6. A quick internet search confirmed that others felt the series fell apart at this point so I decided not to spoil the fantastic memories of the first 5 books any more.

The Star Wars Darth Bane trilogy is from before Disney took over the franchise. These are (from what I have heard) not officially part of the Star Wars universe any more but I decided to read them anyway as I had heard they were good. Wow. I strongly recommend these three books in the order "Path of Destruction", then "Rule of Two" and then "Dynasy of Evil". The first book was immense for me with gripping new ideas and exciting twists and turns. The second book felt a bit like "wait are they going to go and look for another ancient artefact and hang out in libraries this sounds scarily like the prequels". And then the third book felt to me like an incredible tide of story with so many characters becoming important and an ending that felt genuinely in the balance with a number of possible endings depending on how each character made decisions and dealt with their personal problems. If you know a bit about Star Wars and

Favourite quotes from the Darth Bane trilogy. From the lack of impatience or exasperation in the Twi'lek's tone, Bane could tell this was something he hadn't been expected to grasp on his own. This quote really rings with my teaching. I know it is easier to hold my patience when I am anticipating that the student would not get it first time - hence I would rewrite this slightly to refer to not getting first time rather than not getting on their own. "The Force will change you. It will transform you. Some fear this change. The teachings of the Jedi are focused on fighting and controlling this transformation. That is why those who serve light are limited in what they can accomplish. "True power can come only to those who embrace the transformation. There can be no compromise. Mercy, compassion, loyalty: all these things will prevent you from claiming what is rightfully yours. Those who follow the dark side must cast aside these conceits. Those who do not - those who try to walk the path of moderation - will fail, dragged down by their own weakness." The words almost perfectly described Bane as he had been during his time at the Academy. Despite this, he felt no shame or regret. That Bane no longer existed. Just as he had cast aside the miner from Apatros when he had taken his Sith name, so had he cast aside the stumbling, uncertain apprentice when he had claimed the Darth title for himself. When he'd rejected Qordis and the Brotherhood, he had begun the transformation evan spoke of, and with the Holocron's help he was at last on the verge of completing it. "Those who accept the power of the dark side must also accept the challenge of holding on to it," Revan continued. "By it very nature, the dark side invites rivalry and strife. This is the greatest strength of the Sith: it culls the weak from our order. Yet this rivalry can also be our greatest weakness. The strong must be careful lest they be overwhelmed by the ambitions of those beneath them working in concert. Any master who instructs more than one apprentice in the ways of the dark side is a fool. In time the apprentices will unite their strength and overthrow the Master. It is inevitable. Axiomatic. That is why each Master must have only one student." I like this quote for two reasons. The first reason is that it is just nice Star Wars history and explains how the Sith thing developed. Secondly I find the argument personally correct or wrong depending. It feels wrong as if the apprentices continued to work together after taking over from the Master then the Sith would still be stronger. That is why teamwork is so good. But I can also see how many people holding the wrong idea can overwhelm one or two dissenting voices who might be correct. I personally find the idea that as modern civilisation becomes based on more technical and obscure scientific skills the ability to let society sometimes defer to the specialist to make a decision might be appropriate.

Ghost Boy by Martin Pistorius. Martin had locked-in syndrome and was lucky and strong enough to become not locked-in. I liked this story a lot.

Quotes from Ghost Boy. I'd been put into a box long before, after all. Each of us has. Are you the 'difficult' child or the 'histrionic' lover, the 'argumentative' sibling or the 'long-suffering' spouse? Boxes make us easier to understand but they also imprison us because people don't see past them. We all have fixed ideas of each other even though the truth can be far removed from what we think we see. That is why no one asked what it might mean when I started to improve enough to answer simple questions like 'Would you like tea?' with a turn of my head or a smile. Wow, I often read things and think that I would make the same mistake. In this case I find it hard to comprehend. I think it is how I have evolved as a teacher that I continually look for people to improve and give them the opportunity. Do they think that a limited intellect means a child can't feel viciousness in a person's touch or hear anger in the tone of their voice? A sad paragraph that really touched me as he describes how some carers would treat him roughly perhaps because they thought it didn't matter. How did Joanna come to be so fearless? I highlighted this in the book because firstly it rang true with me as I wonder how some people are so scared to try new things or take risks. I also think that this book is not just about Martin and the freedom he gains through communication but also about other parts of his personal journey that have nothing to do with his unusual circumstances. I can't spend the rest of my life easing myself away from their expectations and fears. Another comment about fear as he looks at how the fear's of others can hold us back. I'm used to people trying to cjole me into doing things or wanting me to site passively while they do eerything for me. But Joanna accepts me as I am today and doesn't mourn what I one was. Back to his unusual physical situation again but with a nice perspective that Joanna sees him as a clean slate without comparing his abilities to anyone else's even his own before the illness. You can find out more about Martin and augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) on his personal website http://www.martinpistorius.com.

Jack Campbell is the author of the Lost Fleet series. I was recommended this by Amazon after showing repeated interest in the Destroyermen books. I can see why as they are broadly similar. I find something deeply irritating and deeply satisfying about these books. It feels too much to me like the main character is too clever. I sense the author is pulling back from this in later books as he maybe realises his mistake and starts giving more limelight to other characters. If you like military history/tactics and science fiction and are ok with some weaknesses in the writing I think you will like it. Many novel combat situations occur which require quick thinking and I enjoy seeing how they resolve. There is an (at the time of writing) up-to-date Wikipedia page on the series with the reading order. One of the things that has put me off this is that I find the reading order a bit confusing. How about some numbers please?!?

I liked the extra series called Beyond the Frontier as I am a fan of the whole "what would happen if we met aliens" thing. If you do not like stories about wars this might not be the book for you. The books do focus heavily on war being bad and the heroes of the book are heroic because they refuse to get drawn into many of the awful things that happen during wartime. However, the vivid descriptions of the battles are given a lot of time in the books and you need to enjoy them. Also, be aware that this is arguably a bit "trashy" as many of the characters are one-dimensional and rely on obvious mistakes by other characters to then look good. Although this series goes a bit wonky for me as they then go back to Earth and what I would describe as some odd things start to happen. Leviathan is the last book which I also enjoyed but I also felt that it showed the books set in this universe are getting a bit stale. The author decided after this one to take a break and rethink where he is going which does not surprise me: it makes me happy to see an author who writes books that I enjoy take time out from writing to think about the big picture.

The series the Lost Stars I have not started on yet. It is a complete set of 5 books that I may start on but for the moment I've decided that the "trashy" tendencies of these books is just a bit too much right now. When I need some pulp fiction to read at some point I'll pick it up again!

The Atrocity Archives is about a spy agency set in a present day with some slight differences. Mainly the difference is that magic is real. I'm really getting into this series. I like stories that play with the consequences of slight differences in the world. If magic were real what might happen? Well, this series gives some answers. A reading order can be found on the Wikipedia Atrocity Archives page. I enjoyed the Fuller Memorandum but not so much: it felt like the imagination continued but the story-telling wasn't so good for me although I enjoyed the pay-off at the end and it felt worth it after some hard-going through the middle. I stuck with the series and moved onto book 4 which also doesn't feel to me like it is hitting the highs of the first book. Currently book 5 called "The Rhesus Chart" is tempting me to read it but I wonder if it is the right time for me to walk away from this series.

Yes, Fred was a f**kwit. He kept asking me stupid questions, was too dumb to learn from his own mistakes, made work for other people ot mop up after him, and held a number of opinions too tiresome to list. This quote is one of the reasons I like this series as the writing is edgy, provocative and intelligent to me.

McTavish... he's got that smell. Although there is a slight something else about him as well: he punches above his weight. I liked this quote. The use of smell and intuition in the description. Something that we all do in everyday life as humans and I think it adds to the strength of the impact of the story a lot.

There are many Warhammer 40k books that I enjoy as I am now very immersed in this fictional universe having spent so long playing the game. I tried reading Horus Rising but the whole Horus thing doesn't quite do it for me. I have also read Death of Integrity which I really loved but maybe because it was not standard for this fictional universe and had other elements of science fiction. It is based around an artifact from before the darker times, how it still works now and how people living in the Warhammer 40k universe might respond. There is a short series of books called Gaunt's Ghosts that again to me feels slightly non-standard for Warhammer 40k being about standard human soldiers surviving through tactics and negotiation which is maybe why I also liked these. I need to look for some more though I think. Any recommendations welcome!

The books about detective Harry Bosch have somehow ended up on my reading pile. Not sure how. I'm sure there are loads of crime series out there maybe generally better than these but I like this series. I dislike the sense that the main character is exaggeratedly good at too many things for my taste. I like a lead player who is skillful but it just feels silly when they are good at so many things. Even if they are good at lots of different things (which is I suppose fair enough as if you are good at one thing studies have shown you are statisically more likely to be good at other stuff) please let them have a weakness that crops up as a regular issue. For example, people say I am good at a lot of things but my people skills are often terrible and it often makes things awkward for me. So far I have read the books The Black Echo, The Black Ice, The Concrete Blonde, The Last Coyote, Trunk Music and Angels Flight. I really, really enjoyed the first four books. The fifth I enjoyed. The sixth I read whilst thinking "wait this is kind of familiar and now I'm used to it (or maybe because the books are changing) a lot of the clever lines feel very forced." So, I'm glad I read the first few but also glad I didn't buy the special offer on Amazon Kindle to get all the books in the series at a reduced price.

There is no trap so deadly as the trap you set for yourself (from The Black Ice). No particular reason but I just liked this quote. Imagine the idea is not new at all but sort-of resonates for the Harry Bosch character for me as he is so often acting at least partially as a loner - which is maybe a trap in itself.

'Harry, you want the swag on this?' 'Swag?' 'Scientific wild ass guess.' I quite like the lingo of which this is just one example. I don't recognise most of it, probably because I'm not usually that into crime or police fiction and I'm from the UK but the book is based in the USA.

Peter F. Hamilton has written two of my favourite books Pandora's Star and Judas Unchained. If you have not read them and like science fiction I strongly recommend them. I like the way he runs with the logical consequences of the science, the technology and the situation. The moment where the aliens reappear in the story was breathtaking for me and an incredible moment that I can still remember vividly. I would argue the end of Judas Unchained is a little bit of a cop-out but I think it still makes sense that the technology leap would have been available to humans due to their flexible and powerful approach to research and development.

Clouddancer stopped. His wings rustled, the tail snaking from side to side. 'No we don't. We are not responsible for any one but ourselves. You chose to walk our paths, Ozzie, you decided where they would end. Take responsibility for your own actions. Don't blame everyone else, you'll turn into a lawyer. You want that?' (From Judas Unchained.) I like this quote because it seems to be one of many references to the powerful aliens that have left paths throughout the universe having rationalised that they do not interfere with others. One of the arguments elsewhere in the book (extended slightly by me) is that they cannot interfere where there superior knowledge and experience would help because where do they draw the line as should they therefore make everyone's decision for them all the time? Also, it seems to simultaneously make a fun joke about the (admittedly "slippery slope") argument that we need to take responsibility for our own actions or lawyer-madness can ensue.

'Haven't you listened to a f**king thing I've been telling you? We don't intervene. Never have, never will. And the tecnologially advvanced Anomines are past the time when they interfere in the events of other species. Like us, they now let evolution flow where it may. If you want to restart the generator and shut the Dysons back inside the barrier, do it yourself.' (From Judas Unchained.) One of the stronger passages describing the non-interference policy. This relates to my teaching where I have learnt over time to give students space to learn and never, ever force the pace myself. I believe this allows the student to grow the best way with a strong foundation of understanding and the development of the ability to continue learning themselves. This might sound odd but it is something I do in everyday life too. If I am in a group discussing something scientific I will often let them continue exploring it themselves and not intervene as my years of training often mean I know the well-rehearsed arguments relating to the topic in hand already and so just let the group work it out at their own pace.

The series has been extended, or at least additional books have been written based in the same fictional universe. The reading order can be found on the Commenwealth Saga Wikipedia page. I have also read The Dreaming Void Trilogy. I am glad I read it after the Pandora's Star and Judas Unchained because the universe Peter Hamilton has created has so much depth I think I would have been lost if I'd read this first. As someone with a physics degree thought that some of the science was very speculative, although maybe I'm missing something. Perhaps all you need to do is accept that distance is meaningless and that once you master science you can essentially move instantly from one place to another. And probably you also need to accept that there is some kind of underlying structure smaller that we are not currently aware of that can be controlled to produce computer circuits. I felt these two were very large jumps and although I really enjoyed the book it felt a little bit too much like fantasy and not science fiction to me.

Edeard nodded in understanding even as he was reminded of something Finitan had said to him once in an unguarded moment: 'Most people who have failed miserably in life itself have one last resort left available to them, they become a politician.' I thought this was funny!

'...True life is the understanding and support of other people of selflessness, of charity, of kindness.' 'Of being abused and exploited, you mean,' Vintico replied. I like how powerful authors can keep putting lines like this in a book to give you pause to think. People in everyday life often say interesting things. I like books where the characters do the same to add flavour and enjoyment for the reader.

Typical case, educated way, way beyond her IQ, with ambition stronger than ability. This gave me a laugh. It feels like a lot of people I have met in life. Or maybe I overestimate the ambition of the education system to create thoughtful, skilled people.

'Don't do it, dude,' Ozzie said. 'Let her work it out for herself, it's the only true route to understanding. The truth of this statement is clearly open to debate. Well, I am at least not aware of conclusive research on this topic. From my personal experience this is true and it is my approach to teaching. In this case the overall context is that these books have many situations where higher-developed civilisations do not interfere with the lower-developed space-faring races. Probably if Peter Hamilton had not set up this philosophical approach there would be a lack of internal logic in his books because otherwise why don't the most powerful races just interfere and fix things when they go out of control: and if they were known to do this it would remove the tension. But I actually feel it is a good philosophy and in general I like it.

'True life is the understanding and support of other people, of selflessness, of charity, of kindness.' 'Of being abused and exploited, you mean,' Vintico replied. I love this for the philosophical question it poses about should you be thoughtful to others or not. I enjoy the characters in books to themselves say interesting things as it gives me more to chew on while I'm reading.

Neal Asher has written the Polity series that confuses me as to a good reading order. I get that Neal Asher can be more creative writing within the Polity universe with this approach but I would really like some kind of numbering system. I do not have a good enough memory for sub-plot details and minor characters and often find myself confused when reading things out-of-order as I forget or do not link together certain things that I think would make it more enjoyable. Rant over! Anyway, my first impression after reading the first book was "I'm enjoying reading these despite my slight struggle keeping track of the characters and in-universe details". At the time and in retrospect I enjoyed reading Shadow of the Scorpion. Gridlinked I initially thought I'd enjoyed reading. I think maybe I felt smug about having guessed most of the plot twists or maybe it was residual good-will from the first book I had read. I actually bought the next book Brass Man and was about to dive into it. Then I woke up the next morning and realised I hadn't actually liked the book afterall. This happens to me sometimes with things in life. I didn't regret it but on reflection I decided that all those little moments where I had got lost or confused or had not felt engaged were maybe more significant than I realised at the time. Probably I'd been giving the book a pass because I'd liked the previous book. I am now fairly certain that these are books that sound clever but either don't logically hold together or hold back too much information from the reader meaning based on what we read it is impossible to follow properly. I am sure that for many people having a logically-consistent story is not important but it is for me and it felt like a deal-breaker. So, I wont't be reading any more as plenty more books to try!

Time Out Of Joint by Philip K Dick. This just does not work for me. There is a big pay-off towards the end. I was not that excited by the pay-off and did not feel interested in the characters during the rest off the book. So, big disappointment for me!

Ken MacLeod has written Learning The World: A novel of first contact. I can imagine this is not for everyone. Personally I like science fiction novels that try to do more detailed characterisation of the aliens. This has fully half the book dedicated to the development of characters on the alien planet. I loved it! I then looked for another book to read by him. And I got the impression that a lot of his other books have problems with dialogue or characterisation or jarring tonal problems in the technology. So, unless one crops up at some point I won't be reading any more!

Mr Penumbra's 24 Hour Bookstore is a book I'm terrified to write anything about in case I spoil it. I thought it was very cleverly written and I really enjoyed it. From a personal point of view I was a bit frustrated that some of the technical stuff that is obvious to someone with science/maths/technology skills was explained so much but I understand that for the average reader it was necessary. If you do have the knowledge already I think I saw some clever "easter eggs" in there mainly in the form of a pattern to which things the author made up and which were real: so I enjoyed that and felt rewarded by it. Probably my only criticism is (spoiler alert) that later on in the book the Google experts fail to decode something: I have experience of data mining and analysis and felt that skilled analysts could probably have cracked it and that the way it was eventually solved could have been realistically predicted if a sensible approach had been used that included reading around the subject and doing more advanced pattern-analysis that surely would look for repeated letters.

I think I'd like to delegate my fist to Alex's face. is my favourite line from this book. An amusing reuse of the word delegate into a primeval, brutal sentence that felt cleverly at odds with the emotional, simple feeling behind it!

Kim Stanley Robinson is one of my favourite authors. Although frustratingly for me while I love some of his books I also hate some of his others.

A book of his that I love is Aurora. This has some poor reviews but personally I like the unusual narrative structure. If the story flows in a way that does not fit a typical structure I'm happy with that and enjoy the change. I also particularly enjoyed the way the story was told from the point of view of a computer that was learning how to tell a story. The computer perspective also allowed the book to talk about humans in an interesting way: covering topics such as our logical errors in thinking and how we operate as societies. The book also looks at the failures of programming and how spoken human languages help to overcome some of the weaknesses of computer algorithms. The dilemma that perhaps neither computer nor human language is perfect is explored and discussed in the book.

We're going to experience some allopatric speciation, that's inevitable... The book covers the very interesting problems that could develop on colony/ark ships if bacteria evolve faster than the larger life-forms. In this case the lack of a larger group of animals with a variety of genes means bacteria (and viruses and so-on) could present a series risk to human health. Phrases relevant to this topic include "island biogeography" and "zoo devolution".

Michael Moorcock wrote fantasy books. I know many people are fans and read a lot of his work. I happened to read The Hawkmoon: History of the Runestaff books first. I really enjoyed them, perhaps partly because I love exploring and the outdoors and the heroes are often hiking across deserts, hiking and flying over mountains, wading through bogs and so-on. I have tried some other Michael Moorcock books thinking I would love them too but for some reason they have not resonated for me so much and I quickly gave up and decided not to read any more. I come back to the Hawkmoon books every few years to reread them and enjoy the adventure again. The full series is The Jewel in the Skull, The Mad God's Amulet, and .

'Understandable,' said Oladahn. 'It's sure that the drug kills you in the end. A monstrous plan! Take innocent men, feed them a drug that turns them mad and ultimately destroys them, use them to murder and loot, then collect the proceeds. I've heard of nothing like it before. I'd thought the Cult of the Mad God to be comprised of honest fanatics, but it seems a cooler intelligence controls it.' For me this sums up one of the great things about these four books. Character motivations are often obscured. And if a character chooses to lie they will often do so very convincingly and behave consistently. Sometimes this makes them appear to be changing sides or reneging on a promise when they are actually choosing a strange path that will only become clear later. I really like this and it makes it feel more realistic to me.

'It seemed that you might beach in this particular place,' replied the Warrior in Jet and Gold. 'So I waited' One of my favourite characters is the very powerful Warrior in Jet and Gold. He (for it is a he) seems to always have an uncanny knowledge of what is happening and sometimes appears when most needed. Which is never fully explained: how can he possibly know? But he is enigmatic, has other powers that are partially explained and so it is not improbable. I can imagine some readers might dislike the "luck" of the Warrior in Jet and Gold appearing at the right moments but I like it and feel it is consistent with the universe that is setup early in four books by the hints of the awesome power of the Runestaff to control events.

'There are no coincidences where the Runestaff is concerned. Sometimes the pattern is noticed, sometimes it is not.' More epic-sounding dialogue!

At length they were across, and Hawkmoon felt fresh, as if he had had several days' rest. He mentioned this to the Warrior in Jet and Gold who said, 'Aye, that's another property of the Throbbing Bridge, I'm told.' The books are full of world-building/flavour text like this that I love and it appeals to my love of exploring and discovery.

'What about your mate?' said the man in the badget mask. 'He's got no sward at all.' He indicated Yisselda. 'Then give him one, fool,' barked D'Averc in his most lordly tone, and the badger hastily obeyed. I feel like D'Averc comes close to stealing the whole set of books from Hawkmoon and for some sections he feels like the main character. I can imagine many readers enjoying D'Averc's ability to brazenly cope with possible setbacks by blagging his way through.

Hawkmoon swayed in his saddle now, battle-weary and half-dazed with pain from a dozen minor cuts and a great many bruises. His horse was killed, but the weight of men surrounding him was so great that he sat [on] it for half an hour before he realised it was dead. There is much fighting (although there is plenty of other adventure and I do not think the fighting is overdone) and this one quote should give a clue about how well-written and crazily epic it is.

'Strange that all those legends should place its position not on the continent of Amarehk, but in Asiacommunista,' said D'Averc. 'Perhaps it is not a coincidence,' smiled the boy, 'it is convenient to have such legends.' I love it!

'It is probably the oldeste clock in the world, brother - a "grandfather" it was called and it was made by Thomas Tompion.' 'I have not heard the name.' 'A master craftsman - the greatest of his age. He lived well before the onset of the Tragic Millenium.' The hairs on the back of my neck rise up when I read this line. A watchmaker from the 17th century in England. I love this little giveaway that the books are set in our future (well, there are parallel universes in this book but regardless it is still broadly true). Which is important for me because I think you can then start interpreting things that they find slightly differently with that knowledge. There are obvious similarities in many of the place names and the geography but I feel the actual same name brings it closer and suggests that even if it is a parallel universe (and not our own) for the same people to be doing the same professions means it is a closer universe to us than one which merely shares geographical features.

One day, as he rode back on a steaming horse from one of his many journeys of exploration along the shores of the violet sea (sea and terrain seemed without limit), he saw the flamingoes wheeling in the sky, spiralling upwards on the air currents and then drifting down again. It was afternoon and the flamingo dance took place only at dawn. The giant birds seemed disturbed and Hawkmoon decided to investigate. I like this "flavour text". I feel like this one passage gives the reader rich layers of information.

'I do not know how you came to Granbretan, Hawkmoon and D'Averc, but I do know you now for a pair of fools! Were you too seeking the old man? Why, I wonder? You already have what he has.' 'Perhaps he has other things,' said Hawkmoon, deliberately attempting to obscure the matter as much as possible, for the less Meliadus knew, the more chance they had of deceiving him. 'Other things? You mean he has other devices useful to the empire? Thanks for telling me, Hawkmoon. The old man himself will doubtless be more specific.' I feel this is more obviously written than other double-talk and misleads from the characters but I still enjoyed reading this particular one a lot.

'It seemed that you might beach in this particular place,' replied the Warrior in Jet and Gold. 'So I waited.' 'I see.' Hawkmoon looked up at him, uncertain what to do or say next. 'I see…' D'Averc and Oladahn came crunching up the beach towards them. 'You know this gentleman?' D'Averc asked lightly. 'An old acquaintance,' Hawkmoon said. ‘'ou are Sir Huillam D'Averc,' said the Warrior in Jet and Gold sonorously. 'I see you still wear the garb of Granbretan.' I love this for the implication that either the warrior knows D'Averc will eventually stop wearing it or because he has maybe seen D'Averc in the future or in some parallel universe when he did not have it.

Stuff on my "to read" list: The Snowpiercer trilogy of graphic novels. Read about the inspirational historical figure Edith Cavell. Let the right one in by John Ajvide Lindqvist. The Debt to Pleasure by John Lanchester sounds intriguing. The Earthsea Quartet. The Epic of Gilgamesh I want to read this because it was written in Babylon 4,000 years ago and tells of the hero going to heaven to find out the secret of life... he is told there isn't one! And he returns to live the live he has to the full because of this knowledge. Fast Forward I have heard the book is really good and worth trying instead of the TV series. A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K Le Guin. I want to read something by Carl Sagan as his work seems to have passed me by, similarly Oliver Sachs. Losing Control by Stephen King (not the horror author but HSBC Chief Global Economist). The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can't Stand Positive Thinking by Oliver Burkeman sounds intriguing and I wonder if there is a positive message hidden in therre anyway just in a different form? What if the Earth had Two Moons? by Neil Comins sounds like the kind of popular science book I might like after I have lost interest in the genre for seeming to repeat itself too much and for me being often very obvious. The Death of Grass by John Christopher is from 1956 and supposed to be a classic and I would like to try it. Ark by Stephen Baxter. Once I have spare "pulp science fiction" space on my reading table I want to try the The Expanse Series. I have heard some good things about The Quantum Gravity series by Justina Robson so plan to try that.

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