Into The Slave Nebula

I bought this at a place called “The Book Barn“, which was an actual barn in the small farming town of Chertsey. It is quite a place with mountains of books.

I made a beeline for the science fiction section which was in a small room, and there I found a good selection of cheap paperbacks. I bought this book and another, both for one dollar each. I could have bought a lot more, but I already have plenty of other books in my bookshelf that need to be read.

The author is John Brunner who wrote quite a few stories, and won the Hugo Award for his book Stand on Zanzibar. He also wrote the screenplay for The Terrornauts, a film I must watch.

This is very much a pulpy science fiction story, but is engaging and has a thrilling ending. The story is basically about slavery where human children are passed off as androids and sold to Earth, which is the most wealthiest and privileged planet in the galaxy. There is a lot more to it of course, but I won’t go into details.

This is not essential science fiction reading, but I found it to be a very good read, and for $1 it was an absolute bargain. I shall return to the Book Barn one day.

Book count 2019: 1

Star Maker

I read somewhere that this science fiction novel, written by British writer Olaf Stapledon and published in 1937, is one of the all-time classics. Being a purveyor of fine science fiction stories I was intrigued so I sought it out.

But, it was heavy going right from the start, mostly due to the way it was written. Olaf was a philosopher and pretty much wrote this book while still in heavy philosophy mode, as well as deciding that it should be written in a dry textbook style. There were plenty of words I had never heard before such as cepheid.

Some sentences which did not have any fancy words were still hard to decipher. Here is an example:

This most subtle medium the Star Maker now rough-hewed into the general form of a cosmos. Thus he fashioned a still indeterminate space-time, as yet quite ungeometrized; an amorphous physicality with no clear quality or direction, no intricacy of physical laws; a more distinctly conceived vital trend and epic adventure of mentality; and a surprisingly definite climax and crown of spiritual lucidity.

I found myself going over a sentence again time after time to make sure I understood what was being said. Heavy, man.

But, the actual storytelling was fantastic and quite original, and very large in scale. It was basically about a chap who went for a walk and suddenly found he could mentally transport himself through space and time and visit distant galaxies in an instant. He also found he could mind-meld with aliens he encountered, and together they could travel throughout the universe and mind-meld with other aliens so that they soon became a large space gang observing the cosmos and seeking out the meaning of life. He soon discovered that an all-powerful being was responsible for everything, and was able to have a chat with him. There is a lot more to it, but there is also no real story, it was just him describing what he saw and learned about other aliens, galaxies, and even the stars themselves which as it turned out were also sentient beings.

One interesting thing I learned is that the idea of the Dyson sphere, named after Freeman Dyson, came from this book. Freeman had read the book and it inspired him to write a paper in 1960 about the concept. It is a very pie-in-the-sky idea though, very much science fiction. Arthur C. Clarke had much more obtainable ideas as he is credited as being the inventor of the communications satellite. Read Arthur’s Rama series if you can, brillo stuff.

Good luck to you if you want to make this into a film, it would be like turning Ace Ventura: Pet Detective into a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel…although I would read that.

Highly recommended for those into deep and meaningful science fiction flights of fancy, best read with a pipe and glass of brandy, and the Oxford Dictionary on hand.

After finishing this book I immediately felt like an easy read, so I chose the next book I need to read in the Doctor Syn series titled “The Courageous Exploits of Doctor Syn”. I am also simultaneously re-reading “The Way of Wyrd”, and old favourite.

Book count 2019: 1

I Was A Teenage Sex Pistol

This is Glen Matlock’s autobiography about his time in the band, and is a reissue of the original 1990 book, with a few added chapters outlining what the Pistols have done since. This was cheap for Kindle on Amazon.

It starts off with a brief look at his life before the Pistols, but quickly get into how he joined the band. Something I did not know was that he was working in Malcolm McLaren’s shop long before he was taken on as the bassist for the band.

There are a lot of stories and details about Malcolm McLaren, each of the band members, and various other aspects of the Sex Pistols, as well as some things about Sid Vicious. It is all told seemingly honestly and unbiased. Like any musician there is a little ego, but not a giant one, and he did not resort mud-slinging. John Lydon is obviously a difficult character, but Glen overall seems to respect him quite a lot, as well as his other band mates. He said at one point that Steve Jones is the heart of the band…interesting, but probably true.

Sometimes his attempts at humour and turn of phrase did not work well, but on the whole it was well written.

Highly recommended for Sex Pistols fans.

Book count 2018: 5

Forward the Page of Fame

It is high time an author was added to the MBMS Page of Fame. My two choices were Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke, but I decided on Isaac because his Foundation series of books is pure genius, although Arthur’s Rama series is a very close second. Isaac’s sideburns certainly helped.

And it looks as though there may be a series made based on the Foundation books, made by Apple.

Arthur will certainly be added at a later date.

The Dirt: Confessions of the World’s Most Notorious Rock Band

I want it to be known that I am in no way a Mötley Crüe fan, not in the slightest. But, the reason I read this was because it was number 32 in the 66 most important moments in metal history according to Loudwire (my fave music website along with NME). It sounded like a worthwhile read.

The book is a history of the band, with each chapter being told by each band member, which was a great way to tell the story. After reading one band member’s account of something that happened we would move onto another band member who would tell a similar story, or sometimes a different story.

The author used some of the dirt he got on a band member to good effect. He would get some information one band member had never told another member before, go off and tell the other guy, then use his reaction in the next chapter. An example is when in one chapter Vince (the singer) slept with Nikki’s girlfriend, and in the next chapter we got Nikki’s reaction after the author told Nikki about it. All very high school gossip stuff, but quite entertaining.

Calling Mötley Crüe the world’s most notorious rock band is probably quite an accurate label if this book is anything to go by. They did drugs and alcohol to the absolute limit and two of them came very close to death from their excesses. They also liked the ladies a lot, and even during the middle of a concert the lead singer would disappear from the stage during the guitarist’s long solo to “meet a lady”.

Hair spray was of course an important part of glam metal

Some of the stories were quite disgusting as they were quite terrible human beings at times. Three of the band members just did not have inhibitions, they would do anything for sex and drugs, but not necessarily for rock ‘n’ roll. However, the stories that Nikki told about some of the antics of Ozzy Osbourne were quite nutty, including the time he snorted a line of live ants. Sharon Osbourne though was great, she kept Ozzy strictly in line when she was with him on tour, and she even had Mötley Crüe under her thumb when they toured with him. When she was gone though, Ozzy reverted to quite an animal.

The more I read this, the more I wondered about the accuracy of the storytelling. Each member seemed able to recount in great detail events that happened in the eighties, despite being either totally drunk, drugged out of their minds, on an ego high, or any combination of the three. A lot of was corroborated by their managers, assistants and others, so it is probably accurate in most accounts.

The one band member that seemed to be a decent dude was Mick Mars, the guitarist. He was drunk a lot but that was mostly due to a rare condition he has called ankylosing spondylitis which is an extreme form of arthritis. He got it at a young age, and by the time he was in the band he was in a lot of pain and could only stand still on stage while playing. He also seemed to be the most musically talented.

So it was a well-written book with lots of juicy rock ‘n’ roll excess and personal stories about four guys who as teenagers became a huge band, made lots of money (staggering amounts), lost a lot of that money each time their short marriages ended, and by the time this book was released in 2001 realised that they had better start growing up.

In a way this book is a guide on how to start a rock ‘n’ roller band. It teaches you that in order to be successful you have to be willing to do anything, be very single-minded, and to do all of things that the fans expect you to do like setting your pants on fire with lighter fluid and throwing TV’s out of hotel room windows (there was a great story about Keith Moon leaving the hotel in a limo on the way to the airport and asking the driver to turn the car around and go back to the hotel so he could throw the TV out of the window). What I learned though is that being successful is not a lot of fun if you can’t handle it, so I’d just rather remain somewhat normal.

Certainly one of the most important events in metal history.

The next book on my Kindle is “Star Maker” which so far is good reading.

Book count 2018: 4

The Day of the Triffids

Last November I watched the 1962 film based on this book, and while I found it to be somewhat entertaining, I knew that it was not at all true to the book. And now that I have completed the book (in three days), I can confirm that the book is far superior.

Right from the first few paragraphs I was hooked, which explains why I finished it in only three days (I take weeks, sometimes months to finish a book). It was written in first-person present tense which is nice for a change. While the story was pretty grim stuff it was quite humourous at times, and had lots of thoughts and soliloquies from the main protagonist about the meaning of what was going on around him, and little nuggets of wisdom on everyday life.

What surprised me though was that the book was more about life after a cataclysmic event that incapacitated most of the human race, rather than about a species of plant that went around killing people, they were almost incidental for most of the story. This though did not matter as the rest of the story was just so well told and gripping in other ways.

One could easily see how this book could have influenced or inspired stories like any future zombie film or TV series, especially “The Walking Dead”.

The ending of the story may disappoint those who expect a final battle or concrete answers, but for me the ending was as it should be. It would have been possible to write a sequel story, but even that was not necessary.

I rate this book along with the “Foundation” series by Isaac Asimov, “War of the Worlds” by H.G. Wells, and the “Rama” series by Arthur C. Clarke, as one of the best science fiction books I have ever read.

Next up on my Kindle is “The Count of Monte Cristo”, quite a book to get through.

Book count 2018: 3

The Courageous Exploits of Doctor Syn

This is the fifth book in the Doctor Syn series, rollicking good tales about smugglers led by the cunning “Scarecrow” of Romney Marsh.

Like the previous book in the series this was an episodic collection of adventures, although there was an underlying story of a brilliant naval captain sent to capture the Scarecrow.

The various adventures that Doctor Syn and his trusty sexton “Mipps” went through were all reasonably entertaining, but it was really just more of the same.

The story moved along at an odd pace at times. In some chapters the story would slowly plod along in great detail, building up to what should be an enthralling conclusion, only to be hastlily wrapped up within just half a page or so. Sometimes the reasons for Doctor Syn’s cunning escapes from certain capture were not explained at all.

The language as in the previous books was hard to understand at times. For example, I had to look up what “lawn sleeves” were (the sleeves of a bishop’s ceremonial garments), but it is all part of the fun of reading about 18th century smuggling in dear ol’ England, and educational to boot.

An entertaining read, but I hope the next book in the series, Amazing Quest of Doctor Syn, is as amazing as it proclaims.

Next up on my Kindle is The Day of the Triffids.

Book count 2018: 2