Reviews list

This is an index to my various book reviews. Most of the books and stories below are reviewed on my livejournal, but a few are reviewed elsewhere – [W] indicates those reviews to be found on my own website, [SH] those on Strange Horizons, [IP] those on Infinity Plus and [ECRD] those on the Ethnic Conflict Review Digest.

I notice that I tend to write longer reviews of non-fiction books. Shorter reviews are in a smaller font below. I have not bothered to list the really short livejournal entries which basically just note that I read the book.

I also notice that the reviews below don’t at all reflect my personal tastes. Some of my favourite authors (eg Brian Aldiss, Roger Zelazny) are barely represented at all.

And I’ve added links to my reviews of various Doctor Who stories as seen on TV.

Well, plenty more sorting into sub-categories to do, but here’s a first go.

Science Fiction and Fantasy


Piers Anthony, Steppe
Catherine Asaro, Primary Inversion
Catherine Asaro, The Radiant Seas
Isaac Asimov, Foundation’s Edge
[W] Isaac Asimov, The Gods Themselves
R. Scott Bakker, The Darkness That Comes Before
[IP] Stephen Baxter, Evolution
Greg Bear, Moving Mars
[W] Greg Bear, Darwin’s Radio
[IP] Chris Beckett, The Holy Machine
Edward Bellamy, Looking Backward: from 2000 to 1887
[SH] Amber Benson and Christopher Golden, Ghosts of Albion: Accursed
Alfred Bester, The Demolished Man
Michael Bishop, No Enemy But Time
James Blish, Cities In Flight
Ray Bradbury, Green Shadows, White Whale
Keith Brooke, Keepers of the Peace
[W] Lois McMaster Bujold, A Civil Campaign
John Bunyan, The Pilgrim’s Progress From this World to that which is to come
Anthony Burgess, A Clockwork Orange
Samuel Butler, Erewhon
Eugene Byrne, ThiGMOO
[W] Orson Scott Card, Ender’s Game
Orson Scott Card, Heartfire
Jacqueline Carey, Kushiel’s Avatar
C.J. Cherryh, Cyteen
C.J. Cherryh, Downbelow Station
Arthur C. Clarke, Imperial Earth
[W] Arthur C. Clarke, The Fountains of Paradise
Susanna Clarke, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell
Samuel R. Delany, Babel-17
Samuel R. Delany, The Einstein Intersection
[IP] Philip K. Dick, Cantata-140 (aka The Crack in Space)
Peter Dickinson, The Green Gene
Cory Doctorow, Down and Out In The Magic Kingdom
Eric Flint and David Drake Destiny’s Shield
[W] Neil Gaiman, American Gods
Neil Gaiman, Anansi Boys
Mary Gentle, 1610: A Sundial in a Grave
William Gibson, Pattern Recognition
Colin Greenland, Take Back Plenty
Jon Courtenay Grimwood, Felaheen
Jon Courtenay Grimwood, 9Tail Fox
Jon Courtenay Grimwood, Stamping Butterflies
[W] Joe Haldeman, Forever Peace
[W] Joe Haldeman, The Forever War
Robert A. Heinlein, Double Star
Robert A. Heinlein, The Door into Summer
[W] Frank Herbert, Dune
[IP] William Hope Hodgson, The House on the Borderlands and Other Stories
James Patrick Hogan, Paths to Otherwhere
Richard Jeffries, After London
[IP] Tim Kenyon, Ersatz Nation
[W] Daniel Keyes, Flowers for Algernon
[W] Ursula Le Guin, The Dispossessed
Fritz Leiber, Gather, Darkness!
Fritz Leiber, The Wanderer
Paul Leonard, [Doctor Who] Genocide
Rebecca Levene, Strontium Dog: Bad Timing
“Clem Macartney” (W.D. Flackes), Ten Years to Oblivion
Ian McDonald, King of Morning, Queen of Day
[W] Vonda N. McIntyre, Dreamsnake
Vonda N. McIntyre, Star Trek: Enterprise – The First Adventure
Juliet E McKenna, The Assassin’s Edge
Juliet E. McKenna, The Gambler’s Fortune
Juliet E. McKenna, The Warrior’s Bond
Katherine MacLean, Missing Man
Ian MacLeod, The Light Ages
Ken MacLeod, Learning the World
[IP] George Mann, The Human Abstract
George R.R. Martin, A Feast for Crows
David Marusek, Counting Heads
A. Merritt, The Moon Pool
L.E. Modesitt Jr, The Ethos Effect
[IP] Michael Moorcock, The History of the Runestaff
Michael Moorcock, The Dancers at the End of Time
[IP] Caiseal Mór, Carolan’s Concerto
[IP]Caiseal Mór, The Meeting of the Waters
Richard Morgan, Altered Carbon
Audrey Niffenegger, The Time Traveler’s Wife
Flann O’Brien (Brian O’Nolan), The Third Policeman
Pat O’Shea, The Hounds of the Morrigan
Edgar Pangborn, A Mirror for Observers
Lance Parkin, [Doctor Who] The Dying Days
Marc Platt, [Doctor Who] Lungbarrow
[W] Frederik Pohl, Gateway
Frederik Pohl and Cyril Kornbluth, The Space Merchants
Terry Pratchett, Going Postal
Terry Pratchett, A Hat Full of Sky
Terry Pratchett, Hogfather
Terry Pratchett, Lords and Ladies
Terry Pratchett, Thud!
Adam Roberts, On
Gareth Roberts, [Doctor Who] The Well-Mannered War
[SH] Justina Robson, Mappa Mundi
Kim Stanley Robinson, Forty Signs of Rain
[W] J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Geoff Ryman, Air, or Have Not Have
Robert Silverberg, The World Inside
Clifford Simak, Way Station
Clifford Simak, City
Dan Simmons, Ilium
Dan Simmons, Olympos
E.E. ‘Doc’ Smith, Triplanetary
[W] Neal Stephenson, Cryptonomicon
Charles Stross, Accelerando
Charles Stross, The Clan Corporate
Charles Stross, The Family Trade
Charles Stross, The Hidden Family
Charles Stross, The Jennifer Morgue
Charles Stross, Singularity Sky
Tricia Sullivan, Maul
Steph Swainston, The Year of Our War
Walter Tevis, The Man Who Fell To Earth
J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings
J.R.R. Tolkien, The Silmarillion
Jack Vance, Tales of the Dying Earth
Joan D. Vinge, The Snow Queen
[W] Vernor Vinge, A Deepness in the Sky
David Weber, On Basilisk Station
James White, The Dream Millennium
T.H. White, The Master
[W] Connie Willis, Doomsday Book
Robert Charles Wilson, Blind Lake
Robert Charles Wilson, Spin
Gene Wolfe, The Book of the New Sun
Yevgeny Zamyatin, We
Roger Zelazny, Creatures of Light and Darkness
Zoran Zivkovic, Hidden Camera

Short Fiction (individual stories)

[W] Poul Anderson, “Goat Song”
[W] Isaac Asimov, “The Bicentennial Man”
[W] Isaac Asimov, “The Gods Themselves”
[IP] Stephen Baxter, Riding the Rock
[W] Greg Bear, “Blood Music”
[W] Terry Bisson, “Bears Discover Fire”
[W] Terry Bisson, “macs”
[W] Octavia Butler, “Bloodchild”
[IP] Simon A. Forward, Shell Shock
[W] Nancy Kress, “Beggars in Spain”
[W] Fritz Leiber, “Catch That Zeppelin”
[W] Fritz Leiber, “Gonna Roll The Bones”
[W] Connie Willis, “Even the Queen”
[W] Connie Willis, “Fire Watch”

Doctor Who (TV – see above for novels)

First Doctor
first episode
The Daleks
The Edge of Destruction
The Dalek Invasion of Earth
The Crusade
The Chase
The Massacre
Second Doctor
Fury From The Deep
Third Doctor
Spearhead from Space
The Green Death
Fourth Doctor
The Ark In Space
The Sontaran Experiment
Genesis of the Daleks (and here)
Pyramids of Mars
Fifth/Sixth/Seventh Doctors
The Sirens of Time (audio)
Seventh Doctor
Remembrance of the Daleks
Ninth Doctor
Rose (and here)
Dalek: here, here, here, here, here and here
The Long Game
Father’s Day
The Empty Child (and here)
The Doctor Dances
Bad Wolf (and here)
The Parting of the Ways:
Tenth Doctor
The Christmas Invasion
New Earth
School Reunion: here, here and here
The Girl in the Fireplace
Rise of the Cybermen
The Age of Steel
The Idiot’s Lantern
The Impossible Planet
Love and Monsters
Fear Her
The Curse of Fatal Death
Lust in Space

(other people’s reference posts on DW: Alex Wilcock,



  on the Ninth Doctor here.)

Other Fiction

Louisa May Alcott, Little Women
Ivo Andrić, In The Days of the Consuls
Dan Brown, The Da Vinci Code
Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, The Ingenious Hidalgo Don Quixote de la Mancha (Part I)
G.K. Chesterton, The Man Who Was Thursday
Santo Cilauro, Tom Gleisner and Rob Sitch, Molvania: A Land Untouched by Modern Dentistry
Emma Donoghue, The Woman Who Gave Birth To Rabbits
Apostolos Doxiades, Uncle Petros and Goldbach’s Conjecture
Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Crime and Punishment
Arthur Conan Doyle, The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes
Daphne du Maurier, Rebecca
Franz Kafka, The Trial
Mark Haddon, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
Carl Hiaasen, Skinny Dip
Khaled Hosseini, The Kite Runner
Tove Jansson, The Summer Book
Magnus Mills, The Scheme for Full Employment
Olivia Manning, The Balkan Trilogy
Phil O’Brien, Memories of the Irish Israeli War
Kenzaburo Oe, A Personal Matter
Shot’ha Rust’hveli, The Knight in the Tiger Skin
Veton Surroi, Azem Berisha’s One and Only Flight to the Castle
Jules Verne, Around the World in Eighty Days


Daniel Clowes, David Boring
Daniel Clowes, Ice Haven
Daniel Clowes, Like a Velvet Glove Cast in Iron
Kim Deitch with Simon Deitch, Boulevard of Broken Dreams
Will Eisner, A Contract With God, And Other Tenement Stories
Jason Little, Shutterbug Follies
Jason Lutes, Berlin: City of Stones
Terry Moore, Strangers in Paradise Pocket Book #1
Terry Moore, Strangers in Paradise Pocket Book #2
Joe Sacco, Safe Area Goražde: The War in Eastern Bosnia 1992-95
Marjane Satrapi, Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood
Jeff Smith, Bone
Art Spiegelman, The Complete Maus
Art Spiegelman, In The Shadow Of No Towers



Kenneth Cain, Heidi Postlethwait, and Andrew Thomson, Emergency Sex (And Other Desperate Measures)
Richard Caplan, International Governance of War-Torn Territories
Richard Caplan, Europe and the Recognition of New States in Yugoslavia
[ECRD] David Chandler, Bosnia: Faking Democracy After Dayton
David Chandler, ed, Peace Without Politics? Ten Years of International State-Bulding in Bosnia
Simon Chesterman, You, The People
Thomas de Waal, Black Garden: Armenia and Azerbaijan Through Peace and War
Sydney Elliott and W.D. Flackes with John Coulter, Northern Ireland: A Political Directory 1968-1999
Dirk-Jan Eppink, Avonturen van een Nederbelg: Een Nederlander ontdekt België
Thammy Evans, Macedonia: The Bradt Travel Guide
[ECRD] Danica Fink-Hafner and John R. Robbins (eds), Making A New Nation
Tom Gallagher, Theft of A Nation: Romania since Communism
Peter M. Haas (ed), Knowledge, Power and International Policy Coordination
Bardh Hamzaj / Ramush Haradinaj A Narrative About War And Freedom: Dialog with the commander Ramush Haradinaj
David Hannay, Cyprus: The Search for a Solution
High-level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change, A More Secure World: Our Shared Responsibility
Marko Attila Hoare, How Bosnia Armed
Paulin Kola, The Myth of Greater Albania
Anatol Lieven, America Right or Wrong: An Anatomy of American Nationalism
David McKittrick and David McVea, Making Sense of the Troubles
David McKittrick et al, Lost Lives
George Monbiot, Manifesto for a New World Order
Lindsay Moran, Blowing My Cover: My Life As A CIA Spy, and other misadventures
The 9/11 Commission, Report
John Norris, Collision Course: NATO, Russia and Kosovo
Matthew Parris, Chance Witness: An Outsider’s Life in Politics
Jeremy Paxman, The Political Animal: An Anatomy
Chris Stephen, Judgement Day: The Trial of Slobodan Milosevic
Prime Minister’s Strategy Unit, Investing in Prevention: An International Strategy to Manage Risks of Instability and Improve Crisis Reponse
Robert Thomas, The Politics of Serbia in the 1990s
Graham Watson, EU’ve Got Mail
Yugoslav People’s Army, The Truth About the Armed Conflict in Slovenia

History and biography

Dave Barry, Dave Barry Hits Below the Beltway
Ciaran Carson, The Star Factory

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Had hoped to go to Macedonia the weekend after next to wander around first world war battlefields, but the organisers of the Vojvodina event I was supposed to go to on the 7th have screwed up, and now it’s on the 6th; so I can’t go. So I think I will do a work-not-pleasure trip, going to Kosovo on the 10th, doing meetings there on the 11th, drive to Montenegro on the 12th, celebrate Montenegro’s independence on the 13th, home on the 14th.

It’s over 40 degrees in Macedonia at the moment anyway, so probably not ideal weather for clambering around the rugged ridges to the north of Lake Doiran. With any luck I will be able to get there in the autumn.

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Mission to the Unknown/The Dalek Master Plan

This was the longest single plot arc ever in Doctor Who, a twelve-episode story with a one-episode teaser broacast a month before, over the winter of 1965-1966. Like any serious fan of classic Who, I knew the following basic points about this story:

Two companions are killed off; the Doctor scandalously addresses the viewers directly at the end of episode 7; it marks the first appearance of Nicholas Courtney, later to play the Brigadier with most later Doctors.

So I have been listening to the BBC tapes of the sound track, with linking narrative description by Peter Purves (later of Blue Peter, but who plays the Doctor’s companion Steven in the story), on my commutes to and from work for the last few days; and have also watched the three surviving episodes (#2, #5 and #10). And it is very good.

First off, the plot hangs together pretty well (apart from episode seven and the cricket scene of episode eight, which I’ll get to in a moment). The various settings – the planets Kembel, Earth-in-the future, Desperus, Mira, and the various past and present scenes on Earth – all feel entirely distinct from each other (though one wonders a bit about how firmly the writers conceptualised the terms “solar system”, “galaxy” and “universe”). The ancient Egypt scenes in episode 10 look glorious.

The script, despite being by two different hands (Terry Nation wrote 1-5 and 7, Dennis Spooner 6 and 8-12) is a cracker. There is some great one-upmanship in temporal snobbery among the characters, as in episode 3:

DOCTOR: (holding some circuits) Hmm, it’s the worse of these out-of-date and primitive spaceships. One little bump and they all fall to bits.
VYON: Doctor, what are you talking about? This is a SPAR – the most technically perfect craft in the history of space travel.
DOCTOR: Oh yes, quite so. That’s why we are stranded on this pimple of a planet, whilst you fool with the fuse box!
and in episode 5 where poor Steven is sneered at by both the Doctor and Sara Kingdom:
STEVEN: We could use the Gravity-force from the ship’s power centre. (He points to a control bank.) I mean there’s an outlet, here.
SARA: (laughing scornfully) What?
STEVEN: (belligerently) What’s wrong with that?
DOCTOR: Too primitive, my boy, too primitive and far too dangerous. (He walks off into the lab as a grinning Sara turns to Steven.)
SARA: Gravity-force as a source of energy was abandoned, centuries ago.
STEVEN: We were still using it!
SARA: Oh yes, and the Romans used treadmills.
Also the Doctor himself is jolly impressive. No feeble old man, he sneaks into the Daleks’ council chamber to steal the taranium core for the Time Destructor, and manhandles a Dalek into a passage in ancient Egypt (also, probably, mugging the Monk). He also has several great lines, of which the best is “I am a citizen of the universe and a gentleman to boot!” Hartnell being Hartnell, there are a few fluffs – “Magic Chen” for “Mavic Chen” at one point, he is very hoarse at the beginning of episode 9 and disappears for most of episode 11 – but in general he seems on top form.

Killing off not one but two companions (indeed, three if we are allowed to count Courtney’s Bret Vyon) gave the story a real darkness. Katarina, the Trojan handmaiden rescued from burning Troy at the end of the previous story, only has a brief time to make an impression but her death comes as a real tragedy – an innocent caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. It is something of a relief to learn that her death scene was actually the first filmed by Adrienne Hill in her brief time playing the character. Again, Hartnell gets good lines and delivers them well:

She didn’t understand.  She couldn’t understand.  She wanted to save our lives.  And perhaps the lives of all the other beings of the Solar System.  I hope she’s found her Perfection.
Oh, how I shall always remember her as one of the Daughters of the Gods. Yes, As one of the Daughters of the Gods.
Episode 4 is particularly bleak, with Katarina killed near the beginning and Bret Vyon shot down by new companion Sara Kingdom, who as it turns out is his own sister, at the end. Sara herself, having developed from loyal servant of the Earth government to loyal companion of the Doctor, then herself dies because she disobeys a direct order from the Doctor to stay away from him while he is stealing the Time Destructor. (Mission to the Unknown, the one-episode preview, also ended brutally, with all three human characters dead; more on that below.) At least Steven manages to survive, having saved the day on a couple of occasions despite his relative technological primitivism. The companions do display a distressing tendency to wander off and get into trouble.

The other great character is Mavic Chen, Guardian of the Solar System. One gets the impression that while he is a charismatic and popular leader, he is not a very democratic one; indeed, there are elements of him, especially his reliance on a scientific elite who are in some respects a state within a state, which resurface in Nation’s later creation, Davros. He is obviously a villain of the first order, but you can’t help but cheer for him as he outwits the Daleks and the other aliens. Afer all, he is the same species as us viewers. (Well, most of us.) I did wonder if there were any particular historical or contemporary examples of a “good”, democratic leader turning to the Dark Side that Nation might have had in mind as a type for Chen – I’ve seen plenty in the Balkans in the last ten years, but perhaps there were 1960s parallels in post-colonial Africa, or maybe the South Vietnamese, or even Castro in Cuba.

The Daleks are also on top form here. They continually refer to the humans as “aliens” and “creatures”, which gives them a cerain integrity – of course, we are as horrendous to them as they are to us. In the end, like Davros in Genesis of the Daleks, they are destroyed by their own creation, the Time Destructor. (Alan Stevens and Fiona Moore have a lot more to say about the Daleks in their superb, long analysis of the story.) Contrast this story with The Chase, played simply for laughs. I should say also that the Daleks’ appearance in ancient Egypt reminded me rather of the Carthaginian golems in Mary Gentle’s superb novel Ash.

Slightly less impressed by the other aliens – basically people in rubber suits and funny voices, which rather reinforces just how innovative the Daleks were. Also somewhat unimpressed by the Meddling Monk, who seems rather uncertain as to what he is doing in the story, yet somehow manages to break the Tardis lock; the Doctor is able to open it in the end, leading to this peculiar exchange between him and Steven:

STEVEN:  Yes, all right, but first you tell us something.  How did you break that lock?
THE DOCTOR:  Oh, that’s all very simple, dear boy. You see the sun in that particular galaxy has very unusual powers.  I merely reflected its powers through that ring.
SARA:  Is there something special about it?
THE DOCTOR:  Yes, it has certain properties.  The combined forces of that sun together with the stone in that ring was sufficient enough to correct the Monk’s interference.
STEVEN:  Yes, but what properties has it?
THE DOCTOR:  Now, I don’t want to discuss this anymore.  About turn, and do as you’re told. Go along.
No analysis of this story can be complete without addressing the vexed question of episode 7, The Feast of Steven, broadcast on Christmas Day, 1965. Here there are no Daleks (they are only mentioned once); the Tardis crew land near a police station in northern England in the 1960s, then escape arrest to materialise on a 1920s Hollywood film set. The Doctor gives career advice to a young Bing Crosby, and as he and his companions depart, they fill their glasses in seasonal celebration, with the Doctor turning to camera to wish “a Happy Christmas to all of you at home!” The odd thing is that it works, or at least it worked for me. (Thanks to Wikipedia for the picture on the left.) The story so far has been so bleak and at the same time so dislocated that the weird environments of episode 6 – we are told that the northern England setting is horrendously polluted, and the Tardis crew leave Hollywood with neither Steven nor Sara having the faintest notion of where they were – seem not too out of place, and the celebration at the end of the episode is a welcome note of happiness rather than humour. (The two humorous scenes of the next episode – the Tardis materialising at Lord’s, later ripped off by Douglas Adams, and the Trafalgar Square scene, both work rather less well.) As for the Doctor’s breach of the Fourth Wall, Wikipedia points out that “Tom Baker would sometimes give his lines while looking directly at the camera. In The Caves of Androzani, the character Morgus makes private comments as a theatrical aside to the camera, whilst Colin Baker delivers one of his first lines as the Doctor directly to the camera as well.”

Some day, someone (maybe me) will write an analytical comparison of The Feast of Steven with The Christmas Invasion, broadcast exactly forty years later.

I must finish, as it’s getting very late, but I’ve made only one reference so far to the single-episode story, Mission to the Unknown, which has to be considered as part of the Dalek Master Plan arc. It is probably the closest Doctor Who has ever come to pure space opera – in that the Doctor himself does not appear and is not even mentioned. The idea of the three astronauts fighting against both the Daleks and the “most hostile planet in the universe” is well done, and I hope it looked as good as it sounded.

This was the first classic Doctor Who story I have listened to entirely on audio, and I must say I enjoyed it a lot. I may try and get hold of the audio version of the story that followed, The Massacre – I tried watching a fan “reconstruction” and didn’t get much out of it, but now I’m comfortable with the format – and, perhaps more important, have a better understanding of where the story fits in the timeline.

By the way, isn’t it just utterly bizarre that episodes 5 and 10, having been lost by the BBC, were eventually located in a Mormon temple in Clapham?

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On the Radio Again

If you tune into The World Tonight, on Radio 4 in half an hour (or stream it from the BBC website) there’s a fairly good chance you will hear me. Am setting off for the studio now.

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Strange Horizons

Wow, lots of blood spilt over this review, this reaction (supported here, the author himself reacting somewhat more mildly) and the reviewer’s defence. I’m simply baffled by the fuss: I don’t understand how anyone could have taken Morrison’s speculation that reviewers are bribed to lie as anything other than hyperbole. If there have been muttered accusations round the blogosphere, or any part of fandom, to this effect then I missed them completely.

Anyway, that’s beside the point I wanted to make, which is to respond to Nick Mamatas’ renewed attack on Strange Horizons and its review policy, as personified by . (To whom, Happy Birthday!) To declare my own exposure here, I have had three reviews published on Strange Horizons myself, with a fourth in the works; which represents roughly 1% of all the books I have reviewed on-line. I have not been paid for any of them (indeed, did not even get review copies for all of them).

I have to say that my experience of Strange Horizons’ editing process is that they are more thorough than any other on-line publication outfit I have been associated with, with the sole exception of my own current employers. Deadlines are serious; feedback is meticulous and timely; and thought is given to which reviews are published when. So in terms of the mechanics of the reviewing process, and given that few of the reviewers are being paid (despite rumours to the contrary), I give them pretty close to top marks for professionalism and for effort in editing.

As for content: it seems to me that the criticisms I’ve seen directed at Strange Horizons’ reviews are on the whole not very substantial. I wrote about this before, but just to condense the argument: I am not sure where those who want to see better reviews are going to find them, and from reading their complaints I don’t have a good idea of what they are looking for in a review anyway. I like the fact that Strange Horizons encourages its reviewrs to write entertainingly, even if this means they sometimes raise hackles – indeed, especially if this means they sometimes raise hackles.

I subscribe to , and suggest that you do so too, if you haven’t already.

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Dungeon meme

I escaped from the Dungeon of Nhw!

I killed Treddytrafalgar the floating eye.

I looted a Figurine of Pvaneynd, a Figurine of Sevenorora and 13 gold pieces.

Score: 113

Explore the Dungeon of Nhw and try to beat this score,
or enter your username to generate and explore your own dungeon…

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People like me

I have a bit of an obsession with people who have certain things in common with me, like my exact date for birth, for instance, or shared interests via livejournal.

One sub-set of this obsession is with people who share my name. This includes a number of ancestors – my great-great-grandfather, who lived from 1780 to 1844; his great-great-great-grandfather, lived c.1583-1654, and his grandfather, who lived c.1532-1592 (and died a prisoner in the Tower of London). I have mentioned a couple of others here before – “>a 19th-century New York architect and the president of the Huron County Federation of Agriculture.

Of course, I have a Google alert set up for my own name, and variations of it, which is where I got the reference to the Huron farmers’ spokesman. I would estimate that 95% of the alerts I get are about me, often flagging up interviews I had forgotten giving (indeed, in one recent case it was an interview I hadn’t given – they used stock footage of me from an interview last year and pretended it was current).

Over the last couple of days, it’s been a little different. Nicholas Whyte, the bright son of Jamaican immigrants to Brooklyn,

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Birthday and crocodile

We celebrated B’s birthday last weekend, and the weather was good enough to celebrate outside:

The two big presents were a crocodile-shaped water-sprinkler (of which more below) and some bubble mixture. B being as she is, no actual pictures of her from her birthday (though agin, more below) but the bubble mixture was enyoyed by U:

And more directly by F:

though we must discourage him from bombarding guests with newly blown bubbles:

Later he seized control of the camera – note picture of uncle R and uncle R’s friend from the angle of a six-year-old:

And a study of his grandmother:

Yesterday it was time to take out the crocodile-shaped sprinkler. I am indebted to F for this exciting documentary (9 MB avi) showing how the water flows from tap to sprinkler, with his big sister playing in it. We have a number of much shorter movie clips too (.8 MB, .7 MB, 1.1 MB, .5 MB, 3 MB). And plenty of photographic evidence of just how much fun it is to have a sprinkler like that:

Weather’s less good today, but we are off in hope to a garden party.

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Who am I?

Corwin describes him as: “swarthly, dark-eyed . . . dressed all in satin that was black and green, wearing a dark three-cornered hat set at a rakish angle, a green plume of feathers trailing down the back.” (Nine Princes in Amber by Roger Zelazny.)Caine loved the sea and spent most of his time there. On land, he was known for his chasing women and making enemies. Caine was shot dead by Brand’s son, Rinaldo, as an act of vengeance in The Trumps of Doom.

Which Amberite are you?
this quiz was made by Mysti

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The Planet Quinnis, and Doctor Who’s family

Sparked by this evening’s episode and by the following exchange from 1964’s The Edge of Destruction:

(Susan points to the scanner where the picture has changed to that of a swampland accompanied by the cries of strange creatures.)
Susan : Oh, I recognise that. That’s where we nearly lost the TARDIS, four or five journeys back.
Doctor: Yes, the planet Quinnis.

The Tenth Doctor’s offhand remark to Rose this evening that he was once a father, and my current binge of watching early First Doctor stories, plus my past irritation with Lungbarrow, have been making me put some effort into constructing my own prehistory of the Doctor.

The Tenth Doctor describes himself as having been a father; the First Doctor is introduced to us as a grandfather. This to me clearly means that his race have the potential for a parent-child relationship of the kind excluded by the Lungbarrow scenario.

(And while of course accepting that this is not necessarily a biological relationship, there are no grounds whatever for insisting that this must apply to the Doctor.)

It’s also observable that when the Third Doctor was in an earth hospital in Spearhead from Space, while the human doctors exclaimed at his second heart, they didn’t remark on any other aspects of his plumbing. It’s also observable that female Gallifreyans have visible secondary sexual characteristics. (Speaking of secondary sexual charcteristics, are there any bearded Time Lords?) I therefore feel certain that Gallifreyans reproduce sexually, and not very differently from us humans.

(But I don’t take the Leela/Andred relationship as useful evidence of interfertility between Gallifreyans and humans. While I accept that Leela is probably descended from earth humans, I don’t think she did much research on Andred’s biology. Though she may well have done some.)

So there’s a whole history of two Gallifreyan generations in the Doctor’s life before his arrival on Earth in 1963. I see there is various secondary canon literature on this, and I may well start reading it. Or, perhaps, more than just reading it.

Oh yeah, and it’s noticeable that Ian doesn’t spot anything odd about the Doctor’s heartbeat in The Edge of Destruction. Maybe Gallifreyans get the second heart only when they first regenerate?

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2005 Camouflage by Joe Haldeman
2004 Paladin of Souls by Lois McMaster Bujold
2003 Speed of Dark by Elizabeth Moon
2002 American Gods by Neil Gaiman
2001 The Quantum Rose by Catherine Asaro
2000 Darwin’s Radio by Greg Bear
1999 Parable of the Talents by Octavia E. Butler
1998 Forever Peace by Joe Haldeman
1997 The Moon and the Sun by Vonda N. McIntyre
1996 Slow River by Nicola Griffith
1995 The Terminal Experiment by Robert J. Sawyer
1994 Moving Mars by Greg Bear
1993 Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson
1992 Doomsday Book by Connie Willis
1991 Stations of the Tide by Michael Swanwick
1990 Tehanu: The Last Book of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin
1989 The Healer’s War by Elizabeth Ann Scarborough
1988 Falling Free by Lois McMaster Bujold
1987 The Falling Woman by Pat Murphy
1986 Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card
1985 Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
1984 Neuromancer by William Gibson
1983 Startide Rising by David Brin
1982 No Enemy But Time by Michael Bishop
1981 The Claw of the Conciliator by Gene Wolfe
1980 Timescape by Gregory Benford
1979 The Fountains of Paradise by Arthur C. Clarke
1978 Dreamsnake by Vonda N. McIntyre
1977 Gateway by Frederik Pohl
1976 Man Plus by Frederik Pohl
1975 The Forever War by Joe Haldeman
1974 The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin
1973 Rendezvous With Rama by Arthur C. Clarke
1972 The Gods Themselves by Isaac Asimov
1971 A Time of Changes by Robert Silverberg
1970 Ringworld by Larry Niven
1969 The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin
1968 Rite of Passage by Alexei Panshin
1967 The Einstein Intersection by Samuel R. Delany
1966 Babel-17 by Samuel R. Delany (tie)
1966 Flowers For Algernon by Daniel Keyes (tie)
1965 Dune by Frank Herbert

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Lust In Space

This is a very silly 50-minute documentary, made in 1998, starring Nicholas Courtney in the guise of a Time Lord judge trying Doctor Who (the programme, not the character) on charges of sexism. A stupid premise, badly executed. But fun to see Sophie Aldred in particular, also Katy Manning, JNT, Terrance Dicks, Anneke Wills, Nicola Bryant, Wendy Padbury, and Sarah Sutton being interviewed. However, I wouldn’t pay money for it.

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The Edge of Destruction

This must be one of the few pre-Davison stories that I had neither seen on TV nor read in novelisation form. It’s a two-parter, from immediately after the first Dalek story, featuring only the four members of the Tardis crew – the first Doctor, his grand-daughter Susan, and the teachers Ian and Barbara. There is a fifth character, not played by an actor, but I’ll get to that.

This was very very brave. The production team had run out of money, and had to do an entire story with no guest actors and no sets beyond what had already been made. The two episodes had two different directors, one of whom had never directed a television drama before. It could have been a disaster.

In fact it is very good. I would even have said excellent, were it not for the bathos of the minor technical problem with the Tardis which turns out to be at the core of the plot. But apart from that – and one or two minor slips from Hartnell, though he keeps it together for the big set-piece speeches – I was surprised by just how good it is.

I also watched the DVD documentary, which is entertaining and enlightening, and also actually slightly longer than either of the episodes. Meta-text, isn’t that the concept I’m looking for?

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June Books 13) The Gardeners of Salonika

13) The Gardeners of Salonika, by Alan Palmer

Where Ward Price’s book was a journalistic account written half way through the campaign and subject to a strong propagandistic bias, Palmer wrote this half a century after, in 1965, with access to the memoirs of all the major participants on all sides, as a comprehensive and masterly scholarly account of the Macedonia Campaign. He concentrates especially on the geopolitics, especially the squabbling between the armies’ far-off masters in Paris and London debating what it should do (or indeed if it should still be there). The final chapter, where the commanding general manages to persuade/hoodwink the politicians into letting him try a September offensive against the Bulgarians, and they fold within days and partly as a result the whole war finishes a few weeks later, is very exciting and almost moving.

I bought it for a considered account of the Kosturina retreat of December 1915, which I believe my grandfather was engaged in, but in fact Ward Price’s account is much better. However there were several incidental details that I found very interesting:

i) the account of the trial and execution of “Apis” (Dragutin Dimitrijević), which Rebecca West refers to in murky terms in Black Lamb and Grey Falcon, but I found entirely comprehensible as presented here – Pašić knew that Apis had already been responsible for the murders of King Alexander and Archduke Franz Ferdinand, and didn’t want any more names added to the list (and Pašić was not the last Serbian Prime Minister to worry about rogue elements of military intellgence; unlike poor Zoran Djindjić, he was able to get them before they got him); and

ii) the brief but intriguing and entertaining account of Essad Pasha’s attempts to present himself as the legitimate ruler of Albania – obviously, while he was able to bring in extyra forces and territory, it was very welcome, but eventually the Allies decided they weren’t all that interested in Albanian territory anyway.

One really annoying thing – the town of Veles is consistently mis-spelt Veleš (except in the maps). And Štip is mis-spelt as Stip. As I keep on saying, if you’re going to get the diacritical marks wrong, better not to use them at all.

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Fear Her

I thought that was excellent, in a series where we’ve had several really excellent stories so far.

OK, not especially sfnal, more kind of magical, but I thought it dealt with the dysfunctional family setting much more realistically and compassionately than “The Idiot Box”; it was well written, grippingly filmed, brilliantly acted.

And, of course, we have the foreshadowing of Rose’s imminent departure – the Doctor unable to give her straight answer (if indeed he is even listening) as to how long they will be together, and his casual remark that he was a dad once, to which she can’t think of anything to say.

Loved it.

(I know this is a bit heretical, but I am not overwhelmed by David Tennant’s Doctor. He’s good, but sometimes he’s over the top in mid-to-late Tom Baker mode, and I’m afraid the scene with the Olympic Torch at the end was the one bit I didn’t like about this week’s episode.)

Edited to add: first two comments on my f-list: hated it, liked it but not as much as I did.

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Hugo winners meme

There’s a meme going round at the moment to list all the Hugo-winning novels you have read. I have, in fact, read all of them, so won’t do it that way. But I will list the ones I have written on-line reviews of below – most are short notes, but in several cases I have posted longer analyses on my website (marked with an asterisk):

2005 Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, Susanna Clarke
2004 Paladin of Souls, Lois McMaster Bujold
2003 Hominids, Robert J. Sawyer
2002 American Gods, Neil Gaiman*
2001 Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, J. K. Rowling
2000 A Deepness in the Sky, Vernor Vinge*
1999 To Say Nothing of the Dog, Connie Willis
1998 Forever Peace, Joe Haldeman*
1997 Blue Mars, Kim Stanley Robinson
1996 The Diamond Age, Neal Stephenson
1995 Mirror Dance, Lois McMaster Bujold
1994 Green Mars, Kim Stanley Robinson
1993 Doomsday Book, Connie Willis*
1993 A Fire Upon the Deep, Vernor Vinge
1992 Barrayar, Lois McMaster Bujold
1991 The Vor Game, Lois McMaster Bujold
1990 Hyperion, Dan Simmons
1989 Cyteen, C. J. Cherryh
1988 The Uplift War, David Brin
1987 Speaker for the Dead, Orson Scott Card
1986 Ender’s Game, Orson Scott Card*
1985 Neuromancer, William Gibson
1984 Startide Rising, David Brin
1983 Foundation’s Edge, Isaac Asimov
1982 Downbelow Station, C. J. Cherryh
1981 The Snow Queen, Joan D. Vinge
1980 The Fountains of Paradise, Arthur C. Clarke*
1979 Dreamsnake, Vonda N. McIntyre*
1978 Gateway, Frederik Pohl*
1977 Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang, Kate Wilhelm
1976 The Forever War, Joe Haldeman*
1975 The Dispossessed, Ursula K. Le Guin*
1974 Rendezvous with Rama, Arthur C. Clarke
1973 The Gods Themselves, Isaac Asimov*
1972 To Your Scattered Bodies Go, Philip José Farmer
1971 Ringworld, Larry Niven
1970 The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula K. Le Guin
1969 Stand on Zanzibar, John Brunner
1968 Lord of Light, Roger Zelazny
1967 The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress, Robert A. Heinlein
1966 Dune, Frank Herbert*
1966 “…And Call Me Conrad” (This Immortal), Roger Zelazny
1965 The Wanderer, Fritz Leiber
1964 “Here Gather the Stars” (Way Station), Clifford D. Simak
1963 The Man in the High Castle, Philip K. Dick
1962 Stranger in a Strange Land, Robert A. Heinlein
1961 A Canticle for Leibowitz, Walter M., Miller Jr
1960 Starship Troopers, Robert A. Heinlein
1959 A Case of Conscience, James Blish
1958 The Big Time, Fritz Leiber
1956 Double Star, Robert A. Heinlein
1955 They’d Rather Be Right (The Forever Machine), Mark Clifton & Frank Riley
1954 (Retro-Hugo) Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury
1953 The Demolished Man, Alfred Bester
1951 (Retro-Hugo) Farmer in the Sky, Robert A. Heinlein
1946 (Retro-Hugo) The Mule, Isaac Asimov (part II of Foundation and Empire)

My favourites off that list are the novels by Le Guin, Clarke, Zelazny, Bujold, and Leiber, and also Gateway, A Canticle for Leibowitz, The Big Time and Fahrenheit 451.

My least favourites: Hominids, Neuromancer, C.J. Cherryh, The Gods Themselves, They’d Rather Be Right.

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Planning the campaign

A couple more book purchases in the last few days, as part of my insane plan to find the spot where the 6th Royal Dublin Fusiliers held the line between Lake Doiran and Strumica briefly in early December 1915. Ward Price’s book, on-line, has this map:

Correlating that with the facts on the ground ninety years later may be tricky. I have located the following helpful on-line maps which give some guidance – the first from Multimap showing more villages, including, helpfully, one or two which are actually named on Price’s map, and the second from Mapquest giving a better idea of which roads are likely to be usable:


Further research necessary, I think. Fortunately Cyril Falls’ book has arrived and appears to have better maps – almost too detailed, in fact.

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Europe’s longest-serving head of government (as opposed to head of state), Cardinal Sodano of the Vatican, is to retire in September. He had been doing the job of Secretary of State for almost exactly fifteen years, since 28 June 1991, and had held the post in an acting capacity from December 1990.

There are six other Prime Ministers in Europe who have been in office since before 2000:

  • Guy Verhofstadt of Belgium, since 12 July 1999
  • Mikuláš Dzurinda of Slovakia, since 30 October 1998
  • Bertie Ahern of the Irish Republic, since 26 June 1997
  • Tony Blair of the UK, since 2 May 1997
  • Göran Persson of Sweden, since 22 March 1996
  • Jean-Claude Juncker of Luxembourg, since 20 January 1995

Also one could make a case for three of the seven members of the Swiss Federal Council, Moritz Leuenberger who has been on it since 27 September 1996, Pascal Couchepin since 11 March 1998, and Joseph Deiss since 11 March 1999 (Deiss is retiring next month).

That’s heads of government. There are no less than fifteen Heads of State in Europe who have been in office since before 2000. (Again, one can make a case for including the Swiss.) They are (with those who actually wield significant power in bold):

  • Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin / Владимир Владимирович Путин, President of Russia, since 31 December 1999
  • Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga, President of Latvia, since 17 June 1999
  • Robert Kocharian / Ռոբերտ Քոչարյան, President of Armenia, since 4 February 1998
  • Mary McAleese, President of Ireland, since 11 November 1997
  • Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson, President of Iceland, since 1 August 1996
  • Jacques Chirac, President of France (and therefore also co-Prince of Andorra), since 17 May 1995
  • Alexander Lukashenko / Аляксандар Лукашэнка / Александр Лукашенко, President of Belarus, since 20 July 1994
  • Albert II, King of the Belgians, since 9 August 1993
  • Harald V, King of Norway, since 17 January 1991
  • Hans-Adam II, Prince of Liechtenstein, since 13 November 1989 (he has already handed over most of his powers to his son)
  • Beatrix, Queen of the Netherlands, since 30 April 1980
  • Juan Carlos, King of Spain, since 22 November 1975
  • Carl XVI Gustaf, King of Sweden, since 15 September 1973
  • Margarethe II, Queen of Denmark, since 14 January 1972
  • Elizabeth II, Queen of the United Kingdom (and therefore ruler of various other bits), since 6 February 1952

Noticeable that while women are under-represented as a whole, they are less so in the list of long-lasting heads of state where they are three of the top five (and Tarja Halonen of Finland just missed my cut, as she was first elected in 2000). However the only woman currently serving as head of government in Europe is Angela Merkel in Germany. (Again, one might have to also count Micheline Calmy-Rey, of the Swiss Federal Council, who will probably be President of Switzerland next year.)

The longest-ruling monarch in the world at the moment is Bhumibol Adulyadej / ภูมิพลอดุลยเดช of Thailand, who has ruled since 9 June 1946.
The longest-ruling non-monarch is Fidel Castro, who became prime minister of Cuba on 1 January 1959 and president on 3 December 1976 (the post of prime minister was abolished at that time; the president is head of government).
The longest-ruling non-monarch who hasn’t changed job title since he came to power is Omar Bongo Ondimba, President of Gabon since 28 November 1967. He hasn’t changed job title, but did change his own name to Omar from Albert-Bernard when he converted to Islam in 1973 and added the Ondimba part of his name in 2003.
The longest-ruling non-monarch who has changed neither job title nor his own name since he gained power is Muammar al-Gaddafi / معمر القذافي‎, of Libya. However this is a bit of a stretch because he doesn’t actually hold any formal office in the Libyan state.
The longest-ruling non-monarch who has been formally in power without changing either his job title or his name for longer than anyone else is Maumoon Abdul Gayoom / މައުމޫނު އަބްދުލް ގައްޔޫމް, President of the Maldives since 11 November 11 1978.

Gosh, I’m glad I worked that out.

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Seen in passing

Jenny Turner’s piece on Doctor Who in the London Review of Books. Written partly as a review of Kim Newman’s book. Very interesting.

Seen on Language Hat: Dear Abby on what happens when you assume that the foreigners can’t speak your language:

My mother is from Germany, and I speak German. I vacationed there with my husband, two children, my mother and my in-laws. On the way home, my father-in-law and I went to the flight desk to check in. The woman behind the counter told us our plane had left two hours before! Then, in German, she said to her co-workers that we were stupid Americans, and she’d make us stay another night and take a flight the next day. I replied in German that we were not stupid, and we’d take a flight that day. Her jaw dropped, and her boss came over and ran with us to the next flight.

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June Books 12) See Delphi and Die

12) See Delphi and Die, by Lindsey Davis

Latest (I think) in Davis’ successful series of novels about Marcus Didius Falco, a private eye in ancient Rome (this book set in 76 AD). Generally good stuff here, as he and his glamorous wife tag up with a tour group going around Greece to try and solve a couple of unexplained deaths. Not totally convinced by the plotting and reslution, but enjoyed the ride and the scenery.

Presumably Davis is building up to a big shocker for the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 AD? I can’t imagine her not wanting to tackle it. And she has killed off characters before, including in one case having our hero’s brother-in-law mauled to death by lions in the arena after a misunderstanding with the local authorities.

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