Tag Archive | 5 stars

The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick

Format: Hardcover
Rating:  5 Stars
Reviewer: Laurel

I had seen the movie Hugo some years back, not realising it was based on a book. When I discovered the book and saw some images of the pictures that form part of the story, I knew it was one I could read together with my daughter.

We thoroughly enjoyed the adventure with Hugo, learning about the train station he lived in, the mechanical man he works to fix, and its relationship with the old man who runs the toy booth. It was also interesting to have this fictitious account of Georges Melies and go away and learn about the real Georges Melies.

Selznick’s art is magnificent, and together with the prose makes this book an absolute pleasure to read. Rarely have I seen such absolutely gorgeous pencil drawings. Worth every penny.

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Pebble in the Sky by Isaac Asimov

Format: Paperback
Rating:  5 Stars
Reviewer: Laurel

I clearly wasn’t paying attention when I picked up this book to read, as I hadn’t realised it was a GE tale. So I was delighted to discover I was in a corner of the Foundation empire, albeit a very distant, small corner. Nonetheless, this book, while focussed on Earth, retains the vastness of the GE, and so it was perfect for me.

Joseph Schwartz, in the 20th century, picks up his foot and puts it down in GE 827. Disoriented and confused, he finds himself at a farmstead among people who speak a language incomprehensible to him – as his is to them. Soon he finds himself the subject of a scientific experiment, the Synapsifier, purported to make people very, VERY clever.

Meanwhile, Bel Arvardan, an archaeologist from Sirius, arrives on Earth, intent on proving once and for all that it is the planet origin of the human race. He has his suspicions, but proof would be appreciated.

It doesn’t take any kind of degree to realise that, in Joseph Schwartz, Arvardan has the proof he’s searching for, but more problematic is the Society of Ancients, the rulers of Earth and their hide-bound prejudices – not to mention their intent on wiping out the rest of the Galactic Empire with some nasty bug they’ve developed – and other obstacles that stand in the way of Arvardan even knowing of Schwartz’s existence.

I always love a good story from Asimov, and this is no exception. I didn’t see the resolution coming, and to that I doff my proverbial cap to this master of deception and storytelling.

The Sleeper and the Spindle by Neil Gaiman

Format: Hardcover
Rating:  5 Stars
Reviewer: Laurel

Three dwarves discover a sleeping princess and return to their queen. She sets out to save the princess on the eve of her wedding.

This is a clever mashup of Sleeping Beauty and another fairytale I won’t mention (spoilers, you see…), with excellent illustrations from Chris Riddell. I enjoyed the twists and the connections, and the story definitely left me thinking. My knee-jerk rating was four stars, but being a Neil Gaiman book, I’ll be musing over this story awhile, and that rates five stars.

What I do know is this: don’t go into any Gaiman book with expectations (I didn’t in this case, but he still surprised me) because whatever they are, he WILL defy them.

A very, very good book.

Palimpsest by Charles Stross

Format: Hardcover
Rating:  5 Stars
Reviewer: Laurel

Palimpsest. Noun. a parchment or the like from which writing has been partially or completely erased to make room for another text. (link)

Stasis. Noun. a state or condition in which there is no action or progress. (link)

Agent Pierce is a member of Stasis, an organisation of time travellers who have tasked themselves with the preservation of humanity and the recording of humanity’s history. His initiation into Stasis was to murder his grandfather – effectively writing himself out of the history books. When he survives an ambush, he is contacted by a doctoral researcher he eventually marries. But things fall apart when he travels through time to the Final Library and finds no record of the time line in which he marries the researcher.

I really really enjoyed this story. It certainly was a great way to end off my travels through The Time Traveller’s Almanac. In Palimpsest Stross creates an explosive cocktail of some of the themes I love best from scifi: deep time, time travel and the time travel paradox. While this novella is somewhat complex, at the same time it’s relatively simple. I could definitely see scope for it being expanded considerably, but I also like that Stross leaves some of the story to my imagination to fill in.

Definitely a huge thumbs up to this story from this scifi fan.

The Coelura by Anne McCaffrey

Format: Hardcover
Rating:  5 Stars
Reviewer: Laurel

This is the tale of the Lady Caissa, body-heir to Baythan (who has too many titles to repeat here), and her coming of age on the planet of Demeathorn. It depicts a very stylised, stilted society bound by rigid rules – especially when it comes to procreation. Body-heir contracts can be extensive and have clauses that can reverberate down the years.

When Baythan demands that Caissa consider a body-heir contract with a certain man, Caissa is determined to find out why. Her search – and frustrations – lead her to unwittingly discover Demeathorn’s greatest secret, something that’s never been mentioned in her presence, and love.

This is one of my favourite McCaffrey stories, and gets reread with regularity. Definitely one of my comfort reads, or a palate cleanser when I feel the need for one. Though the society depicted is stylised and artificial, Caissa is a break from that mold, and the coelura are creatures second to none. Definitely one of the most intriguing, imaginative conceptions I’ve come across in all my years of reading science fiction.