Read Recently — February 2009

Echoes of the Great Song by David Gemmell

The Avatar Empire was maintained by energy crystals that allowed the Avatars to build flying ships and energy weapons, as well as live for centuries. But now a new ice age has come, and most of the Avatars have died. The survivors are cut off from their power source, and threatened on all sides by the people they have been ruling. And then an extra-dimensional invasion threatens everyone . . .

Somewhat atypical Gemmell in some ways, but otherwise very much his. Written in 1997, and so it may have seemed at the time to be a reasonable idea to name one of the heroes, “Talaban”. These days, the name carries, shall we say, less heroic connotations.

Cautiously recommended.

The Skinner by Neal Asher

Set in the same universe as Asher’s other work, but set on a unique planet. Basically, the world Spatterjay is a kind of ocean hellworld–where everything seems to be trying to eat everything else, including you (Ocean is mentioned because such worlds are usually jungles). However, Spatterjay also contains a virus which makes humans literallly immortal (barring whole-body trauma such as fire), albeit with certain potentially nasty side affects. To Spatterjay come three travellers: a woman who left a while ago and is now wondering if she wants to go on living, a man who is the arms and legs for a hive-mind from Earth (but a hive of what?), and a dead cop who hasn’t let being shot to death stop him from obsessively tracking down the criminals responsible for a savage slave-trade ring in the last war with an alien species that uses brain-controlled humans for just about everything. It’s probably a coincidence that the last survivor of that slave-ring is heading for Spatterjay now, too.

Oh, and the titular Skinner is the local boogieman. Unless, of course, he’s real.

Highly recommended.

Schulz and Peanuts: a biography by David Michaelis

Curiously, this would be a biography of Charles Schulz. It’s amazing how many people named Charles Brown he knew before he started the comic. Recommended.

50 Reasons People Give For Believing In God by Guy P. Harrison

So by now you ought to know me well enough to realise this isn’t “50 reasons people give for believing in God and why they’re right!” There’s really not a lot that’s new here if you’ve read Dawkins et al, but there is some and it’s organized interestingly. Recommended for atheists, and theists who are looking to argue with atheists.

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