Category Archives: Books

Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman


Norse MythologyNorse Mythology by Neil Gaiman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Neil Gaiman re-tells the old myths and legends from Norway/Scandinavia.
Odin All-Father is wise, but vengeful. Thor is headstrong and cocky.

Loki Lies. All. The. Time.
And yes, at one point does turn himself into a mare to distract another horse – and gives birth to am eight-legged foal! And has other bizarre children who may be destined to bring about the end of the world.. Ragnarok.

We learn about Asgard, and Midgard, and the world tree Yggdrasil. We learn how Thor gets his hammer Mjollnir, and how other gods gain the items which make them unique.

Neil Gaiman states in the beginning, that the occasional detail in his re-tellings are either his own additions, or an amalgamation of several shorter tales into one. Therefore, not the text-book resource for if you were to study mythology. It does however, give you a great and easy to read insight into the topics and themes of Norse Mythology; the characters of all the players, and ultimately the culture of the Ancient Norse peoples.

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On The Beach by Nevil Shute


On the BeachOn the Beach by Nevil Shute

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

After a nuclear war, the remainder of the world survive as long as they can. Spoiler: it’s not very long. Quite a sad book. Even more sad when you think that it could actually happen.

WARNING: Review Contains Minor Spoilers

The nuclear war seemed to take place almost by accident, as the first missiles that came from (apparently) Albania were thought to have come from elsewhere, and thereby causing various nations to attack each other following this snowball of misunderstandings. Again, with the current political climate, this also seems scarily possible.

The fallout from the nuclear bombs has rendered the entire northern hemisphere uninhabitable. The survivors all flee to the southern colonies, particularly Australia, where this novel is set. Slowly but surely the radioactivity is spreading southwards. The human race is frankly doomed, and those that remain deal with the coming definitive end of the world in their own ways. The character of Moira understandably comments that “the people are slowly going mad” and behave either as if the coming tragedy is not going to happen, or they are trying to use up the remaining resources (such as fuel for motor vehicles, or rare alcoholic beverages!) as fast as they can.

The last remaining operational US submarine is sent on a few final missions to test scientific theories that there may be survivors elsewhere, or that the radioactivity may be decreasing in some areas. The commander of the submarine, Dwight Towers finds some respite from thoughts of his wife and children with his new friends Peter Holmes and his wife Mary, their friend Moira Davidson, and scientist John Osborne.

Dealing primarily with the characters and their mental states, more than the environmental disaster itself, it’s an example of how humans may behave in the face of the worst possible outcome of war. Haunting.

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Contact by Carl Sagan


ContactContact by Carl Sagan

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

You need at least a minor background in science to understand the themes and terminology. But it’s worth it.

Contact – the movie – is one of my all-time favourite sci-fi films. It’s a slow burner, and full of political machinations, but the payoff is quite profound. The book is very similar in tone and the story is basically the same, however some events happen to different people, the time period begins some years before the setting of the movie (but spans a greater time period in total), therefore impacting the technology involved in the narrative, some characters are involved less heavily than they were portrayed in the movie, and relationships differ greatly. In my opinion, I think the book has greater realism compared to the movie, simply because it focuses more on the science, the mathematics, and the ingenuity of the people involved in decoding the “message” and building the “machine”.

Eleanor Arroway is a brilliant scientist working on the SETI – Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence. Using radio telescopes, she and her team search the skies for possible transmissions from outer space, from potentially advanced civilisations in the far reaches of the universe. A signal is received containing a questionable message, huge amounts of data in a language unknown to human kind, and completely changes the entire perspective of the people of the world. All the countries of the world put aside their political differences, and for at least a few years are all completely cooperative in trying to work out the mystery of the message, and what the function of the “machine” actually is…

Probably one of the most clever narratives in science fiction that I have read or seen (to date). I don’t know much about radio telescopes and the related technologies, but with google at your side, you can definitely begin to understand more and more of how such a thing would work. I’ve learned a few things reading this book.

Thoroughly enjoyable. I recommend to anyone with even a minor interest in space.

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Suicide Forest by Jeremy Bates


Suicide Forest (World's Scariest Places #1)Suicide Forest by Jeremy Bates

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A fun engaging read. Blair Witch in Japan, but with less irritating characters!

Several years back, I watched an episode of a show called “Destination Truth” with Josh Gates going all over the world working out if monsters and stories of hauntings were real. He went and spent the night in Aokigahara, the Suicide Forest, and BOY did they see some weird ****! Nowadays, he’s on a show called Expedition Unknown on the Travel Channel (I like this guy’s style!). Check it out if you can.

Anyway, this book is set in that same forest. A group of friends initially meet up to climb Fuji-san, but bad weather forces them to find something else to do. They join up with another couple who they meet by chance, and decide to camp out in Aokigahara. Great idea! A day or so in, they lose their way, run out of food and water, and one by one the friends start to die.. or did they kill themselves?

A great narrative, characters you don’t mind hanging around with in a dark forest, and a satisfying eventual reveal of what is going on around them in the woods.

Would probably make a better horror film than the original Blair Witch! (Which I don’t dislike, but this is still way ahead).

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Ready Player One by Ernest Cline


Ready Player OneReady Player One by Ernest Cline

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Addictive. Loved it. For anyone, like me, who grew up in the 80s/90s and is also a gamer, this is a must read.

The human race barely goes out any more, the real world is poverty-stricken and run down. In most cases all work, school, and leisure takes place in a virtual world – The Oasis. This platform was created by two guys, one of whom – James Halliday – dies, leaving behind an “Easter-Egg Hunt” of epic proportions. The winner of the hunt will win ownership of the entire Oasis system (and billions of dollars). Cue a race to solve all the clues, fight battles, argue over 80s trivia, and the entire life and times of Halliday. Not only are the users in competition with each other, but also against the (typical) evil corporation, who want to win the hunt so that they can gain control of, and monetise, what is currently a free-to-access system.

Wade Watts AKA Parzival is a poor kid who lives with an exploitative aunt, who’s only escape is the school system within the Oasis. When the hunt goes live, he and his online friends both help (and hinder) each other to try and solve the clues. Wade stumbles across an answer to the first clue, putting him top of the “leaderboard”, and subsequently putting a target on his back.

Filled with humour, 80s nostalgia, and references to all those old movies and games that you’ve almost forgotten about, Ready Player One is one hell of a page-turner.

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