Not that I feel like I’ve been away as I’ve been having a lovely bookish time elsewhere. I’ve been chatting lots on twitter, doing a monthly book club podcast with Rob, Kate (both from Adventures with Words) and Simon (of Savidge Reads) and doing my bit for genre with my other blog No Cloaks Allowed. I also get the privilege of making sure The Readers and You Wrote the Book go live every other week to their respective growing and loyal audiences.

Now, No Cloaks Allowed was bit of an experiment for me as I wanted to spend time ‘selling’ the idea that genre fiction as a diverse and wonderful world to explore. And it truly is but it’s a lot for one person. So I’m going to use No Cloaks Allowed to review and show off the wide range of SFF shorter fiction and nag some of my friends into joining in. It’s selfish really as I love SFF and it’s an excuse to keep buying collections and anthologies (Ellen Datlow’s Lovecraft’s Monsters is supposed to ship any day now.)

Blogging has always been about my own loves and then trying to make the idea of reading as infectious as possible. And it’s easy for reading to be infectious – being on twitter has been the worse thing for my TBR as you get to see so many people’s latest loves as they happen and then they push books on you! It’s wonderful.

But then you also read tweets like this:

And a couple of days earlier a female reader said they’ll never read another bloke.

I  don’t get it. It can’t be narrow-mindedness, can it? I just don’t why you’d be proud of not reading something on purpose? I can understand if the work itself is dire (or if you don’t like horror/gore as not everyone has a strong stomach) but apart from that no excuse really.


It’s not that hard to make a diverse TBR (admittedly this is SFF-heavy) but it didn’t take me more than 30-seconds to put together.

That was the tipping point. Just talking about SFF for me feels a little closed in and I’ve had this review of Gladys Mitchell’s Mrs Bradley half-written but nowhere to post it. So now I’ve not really got an excuse have I? I’ll have to finish it.

And now  the damn is broken I’ll have to just keep going and talking about different types of books because sometimes all you need is the gentle encouragement of someone showing you how to do things another way.

This why I love ‘social reading’ as you ask something like this:

And someone like Lisa reveals the ‘truth’ in fewer than 140 characters:

And now I don’t need to spend any more time thinking about it.

Thanks Lisa.


There seems to be a worrying trend where author participation via comments is seen as something to jump upon and put a stop to in certain online venues so I thought I’d make it clear that I welcome author’s comments (usual rules of civility apply as they do to everyone).

If you’d like to be clear on your blog feel free to borrow/copy/adapt as you see fit.


Sarah of BookWormBlues has written a great post to explain what welcoming an author means.


Should we read older SF? Gollancz seems to think so. Their SF Masterworks line has, for the last 14 years, highlighted SF classics and kept them in print. This series of posts is here to try to do two things. One to expand this authors’ knowledge of classical SF, especially eighties SF, and secondly to ask the question are classics worth reading?

I’ll put you out of your misery before we start it definitely deserves that title. Lots of people have been commenting whilst I’ve been reading that it’s one of their favourite SF novels and I can see why.

It hasn’t dated for a start and the SF elements are vague enough that the reader can see them as either some futuristic invention or an extension of currently available technology. Though the central element is scientific but not technological.

The central concept is that humans have discovered they can Jaunte. That is they can disappear from one place to arrive in another in moments. There are limitations jaunting. Without knowing the co-ordinates of your destination jaunting usually leads to death plus there is are limits to distances with each person having their own range in which they can travel.

Bester does a strong job of leading the reader into the concept of jaunting from its discovery to its mass use. He also introduces us to Gully Folye who manages to survive in deep space, alone, for 170 days. When he finally manages to escape he brings with him a grudge and a secret that could change the world.

I say grudge but that really does understate the feelings that Gully has. He has nothing left apart from revenge. And through his quest we get to see and meet a future that has a potential war between inner and outer planets, a place where where you live doesn’t have to be even close to where you work, where there are still people of obscene wealth and power, and you see that we can still be as base as we are now.

I am impressed with Bester after reading The Stars My Destination though in order to justify my feelings towards Gully I really did need to think of him of having a really big screw loose. Even after all the challenges and changes he goes though in order to enact his revenge fantasy he doesn’t alter course even when he seems to have everything else going for him.

But he’s forgiven for his behaviour and his methods. Drifting alone in space is going to drive you mad.

The thing that impressed me is that Bester manages to keep a few cards close to his chest which really do change the game when he puts them into play and it makes you wonder if Gully knew at the beginning what he does at the end if he’d actually take the same journey.

Saying that I don’t see Gully as a sympathetic character and many of his actions made me uncomfortable but how much of Gully reflects to the attitudes of the time of writing and how much is unique to Gully I’m not willing to bet.

The Stars My Destination has stood the test of time and Gully Foyle is a character who has a journey and a tale to tell. He’s also a good example of what you can do when you can focus. You can literally change yourself.

Well worth reading.

This review was originally posted on The SF and Fantasy Masterworks Reading Project Blog

Equations of Life by Simon Morden

Morden dumps us in the middle of London Metrozone, a place where there is some sort of law and order but also gang warfare mainly between Russian and Japanese mobsters. It seems that there has been nuclear fallout in both their home countries leading them fighting for territory elsewhere.

As future SF goes Morden’s version is a little bleak but it is not only a backdrop it is also a character in the main adventure. And it is an adventure. From the moment that Petrovich acts the next three hundred plus pages keep you gripped firmly in his hand as Petrovitch runs around the city trying to stop himself getting killed whilst meeting lots of colourful characters along the way.

Equations of Life isn’t all that it seems. It really is a little sneaky. Yes, the main thrust is all about saving the girl but then Morden sticks in a computer programme that is trying to take over the Metrozone so not only does he have to save the girl but the city itself. Oh and he’s not completely telling the truth. And that adds another layer. A question of redemption and good deeds paying off bad ones and what people do to survive.

Don’t get me wrong this is a narrow focused, fun, tale of heroes and gangster villains with a huge SF heart. It’s not going to make you slow you down and think too much. But that’s not to say that there isn’t lots of thought in the background. There is. Lots has gone into making the world as it is and one of those events that is behind the challenges that Petrovich faces.

And that’s what makes it a fun read. It’s a pulp adventure that is only the start to something bigger (two more book in this trilogy and the first book in a new trilogy just released). You can see why The Samuil Petrovitch Trilogy  won the Philip K. Dick Award in 2012.

Next up: Theories of Flight.

Another new podcast is live! As Simon is spending some time with his gran I was joined by Jared Shurin publisherblogger, and campaigner for progressive, intelligent and entertaining works that contain elements of the speculative or fantastic for my first show without Simon. I had great fun and I think it’s inspired me to take the leap to do my own show, finally. More news of that soon.

If you fancy a listen:

***Don’t forget you can find The Readers on TwitterGood Reads and Facebook as well as subscribing on iTunes here.***

An Uncertain Place by Fred Vargas

An Uncertain Place by Fred Vargas


Commissaire Adamsberg has left Paris for a police conference in London, accompanied by anglophile Commandant Danglard and Estalere, a young sergeant. The city offers a welcome change of scenery until a gruesome discovery is made – just outside the gates of Highgate Cemetery a pile of shoes, all containing severed feet, is found.

Returning to Paris, the three men are then confronted with the violent killing and dismemberment of a wealthy, elderly man. Both the dead man’s son and gardener have motives for murder, but soon another candidate for the killing emerges. As Adamsberg investigates the links between these two unsettling crimes, he puts himself at terrible risk.


An Uncertain Place is the sixth novel to feature the peculiar detective Commissaire Adamsberg and perhaps is Vargas’s strangest to date. The several pairs of shoes that trigger this strange series of events doesn’t really give an indication as to how strange this whole case is going to get.

I think you need to be in a certain frame of mind to read a Fred Vargas novel. I say this after struggling with the previous one, This Night’s Foul Work, last year. Fred Vargas demands concentration but not analysis. Her writing also requires a leap of faith; it doesn’t seem that she is going to bring everything together but she always does. She’s the queen of manipulation and deception in that regard.

I put down This Night’s Foul Work I think because I was frustrated as I was more in the mood for a novel that was linear and direct. Not something you’d get from Vargas.  But when I picked it up again, because I know how amazing Vargas can be, I pushed through and  by the end I wondered what the barrier was as Vargas has a way of revealing things so you see what has gone before in a different way and when she does the fog goes away and everything is clear and not how they first appeared.

Not to spoil An Uncertain Place but the same thing happened. There was a point where the story turned in an instant and the mist lifted. Not that she obscures things exactly but like her hero she has a way of storytelling that is unorthodox. And it’s definitely a positive thing for both parties. In Adamsberg’s case you get a detective who is illogical and whimsical (as are the detectives he is surrounded with) and with Vargas you get an author who takes you places that you’d never get to go to with any other writer.

This has to be one of the strangest cases yet. It starts off with the feet in London, which is weird in itself, and it gets weirder. It also parallels  Adamsberg’s  strange relationship with those around him, they intermingle, as they always do in Vargas’s books. I think in this book’s case it’s a good idea to read the last one as knowing some of the characters a bit better would enhance a few key moments.

This book I didn’t struggle with. I whizzed through it. I met Vargas’s mind and let her guide me. She informed me too. I know more about a certain area of Europe and its legends than I did. And she managed to fool me, again.


Commissaire Adamsberg remains one of my favourite detectives, the cast is quirky, the crime (murder) is as unformulaic as you can get. There is a reason she’s sold 10 million books!

I’m very much looking forward to reading the next one, The Ghost Riders of Ordebec. And I won’t have long as it’s out today.