Category Archives: Books

1941 Hugo Awards

The 1941 Retro-Hugo Awards will be presented at a ceremony on Thursday, August 18, 2016 at MidAmeriCon II, the 74th World Science Fiction Convention.

The finalists for the 1941 Hugo Awards are:

Best Novel

  • Gray Lensman by E.E. “Doc” Smith (Astounding Science‐Fiction, Jan 1940)
  • The Ill‐Made Knight by T.H. White (Collins)
  • Kallocain by Karin Boye (Bonnier)
  • The Reign of Wizardry by Jack Williamson (Unknown, Mar 1940)
  • Slan by A.E. Van Vogt (Astounding Science‐Fiction, Dec 1940)

Best Novella

  • “Coventry” by Robert A. Heinlein (Astounding Science‐Fiction, July 1940)
  • “If This Goes On…” by Robert A. Heinlein (Astounding Science‐Fiction, Feb 1940)
  • “Magic, Inc.” by Robert A. Heinlein (Unknown, Sept 1940)
  • “The Mathematics of Magic” by L. Sprague de Camp and Fletcher Pratt (Unknown, Aug 1940)
  • “The Roaring Trumpet” by L. Sprague de Camp and Fletcher Pratt (Unknown, May 1940)

Best Novelette (310 nominating ballots)

  • “Blowups Happen” by Robert A. Heinlein (Astounding Science‐Fiction, Sept 1940)
  • “Darker Than You Think” by Jack Williamson (Unknown, Dec 1940)
  • “Farewell to the Master” by Harry Bates (Astounding Science‐Fiction, Oct 1940)
  • “It!” by Theodore Sturgeon (Unknown, Aug 1940)
  • “The Roads Must Roll” by Robert A. Heinlein (Astounding Science‐Fiction, June 1940)

Best Short Story (324 nominating ballots)

  • “Martian Quest” by Leigh Brackett (Astounding Science‐Fiction, Feb 1940)
  • “Requiem” by Robert A. Heinlein (Astounding Science‐Fiction, Jan 1940)
  • “Robbie” by Isaac Asimov (Super Science Stories, Sept 1940)
  • “The Stellar Legion” by Leigh Brackett (Planet Stories, Winter 1940)
  • “Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius” by Jorge Luis Borges (Sur, 1940)



Big Finish Doctor Who Audio Drama (1999)

The TARDIS takes the Doctor and Turlough to the London of 1702 where a mysterious highwayman roams the streets, a local occultist has made contact with the dead and gentlemen of fashion are disappearing, only to find themselves in a chamber whose walls weep blood…

The time travelers become enmeshed in the hideous plans of Sir Nikolas Valentine, a gambler at the mysterious Diabola Club who always seems to have a winning hand.

It’s a Stuart era monster/detective story. And rather pedestrian one at that.  Of course the ‘monster’ turns out to be an alien.



The Doctor — Peter Davison
Turlough — Mark Strickson
Henry Gaunt — Nicholas Briggs
Quincy Flowers — David Walliams
Edmund Carteret — Jonathan Rigby
Jasper Jeake — Mark Gatiss
Poltrot/Librarian/Major Billy Lovemore — Jez Fielder
Sir Nicholas Valentine — David Ryall
Dr Samuel Holywell — Steven Wickham
Hannah Fry — Julia Dalkin


Bloodline (Star Wars)
by Claudia Gray (2016)

A prequel to Star Wars: The Force Awakens, set roughly six years before the events of the film.

Despite the positive reviews, this just isn’t as good as her previous book ‘The Lost Stars’ The main problem is the pacing and plot. The first two-thirds feel too slow. Not much happens and around the half-way mark I was not sure if I could continue. Then the action and pacing occurs in the last third of the book. Where ‘The Lost Stars’ had the grand sweep of the original trilogy as background, this feels very restricted to a few planets. And despite mostly taking place at the administrative centre of the galaxy, it lacks an epic space-opera feel expected of a Star Wars novel. I kept going to the end and a new beginning for Leia.


Lost Stars

Lost Stars
(Star Wars: Journey to the Force Awakens)
by Claudia Gray (2015)

Eight years after the fall of the Old Republic, the Galactic Empire now reigns over the known galaxy. Resistance to the Empire has been all but silenced. Only a few courageous leaders such as Bail Organa of Alderaan still dare to openly oppose Emperor Palpatine.

After years of defiance, the many worlds at the edge of the Outer Rim have surrendered. With each planet’s conquest, the Empire’s might grows stronger.

The latest to fall under the Emperor’s control is the isolated mountain planet Jelucan, whose citizens hope for a more prosperous future even as the Imperial Starfleet gathers overhead…

This acclaimed novel really is as good as everyone says. It traces the journey of two individuals through the events of Stars Wars ‘A New Hope’ to ‘Return of the Jedi’. The story has two points of view. We follow Thane Kyrell and Ciena Ree from trainees on both sides of the war to the end of the Empire.  This would suit anyone who wants to go deeper into the Star Wars universe. There is an audio-book available.


Genocide Machine

The Genocide Machine
a Dr Who Big Finish audio drama (2000)


On the planet Kar-Charrat, the Seventh Doctor and Ace try to prevent the Daleks acquiring a technology called the Wetworks Facility.

A decent Dr Who story, with a science fiction theme of misused technology. It’s also a straightforward plot which helps with the increasing tension in the story. There is even an interesting twist and reveal in the forth part. (4/5)

The Doctor — Sylvester McCoy
Ace — Sophie Aldred
Rappell — Daniel Gabriele
Bev Tarrant — Louise Faulkner
Chief Librarian Elgin — Bruce Montague
Cataloguer Prink — Nicholas Briggs
Dalek Voices — Alistair Lock and Nicholas Briggs
Phantom Voices — Daniel Gabriele

Flight of the Ferryman

Flight of the Ferryman
William Irvin Rice (2016)

On the way home, a computer of the funeral spaceship Charon wakes up the crew from their cryo sleep, after it detected a signs of life in ship’s morgue.

Well written and paced Sci-Fi horror obviously inspired by the film Alien. There is enough twists and turns to keep you guessing where it’s going. While this looks like a first novel, there is a polish to the story of an experienced author. Good entertaining read for Science Fiction readers, especially given it’s current price of $0.00

Cloud Minders

The Cloud Minders – Episode of Star Trek

This troubled planet is a place of the most violent contrasts.
Those that receive the rewards are totally separated from those
who shoulder the burdens. It is not a wise leadership.

Spock – “The Cloud Minders” Star Trek
first broadcast 28/2/1969

Is this just a coincidence ?
The very weekend I am reading the book
“When Corporation rule the World” by David Korten
this star trek episode is aired on TV4. I thought I had seen
them all. Korten uses this future morality tale to highlight
the problems he sees with the world today.

This book chronicles the economic history of the last 50 years,
since the Bretton Woods conference and the creation of the
IMF and World Bank.

Korten tell how large corporations have influenced the economic
world and ensured a system that is to their advantage.
Some of the accusations are a bit to simplistic for my liking,
the impression gained is that all the evils of the 20th century
can be laid at the feet of big business. He fails to take into
account other trends of our modern world, especially the influence
of technology.

Most of the trends and influences he outlines ring true, anyone
who has read similar books will recognize the themes –
* reduction of environmental standards
* the error of growth based economics
* undermining of democratic process

Indeed, some of the work he quotes I read in previous books in
similar subjects. All those interested in economics should read
the Cobb/Daly book “For the common good”, as this must be the
most quoted book on “new” economics.

Some notable quotes from the book –

According to Joe Kurtzman, editor of Harvard Business Review –
* For every $1 circulating in the productive world economy,
$20-$50 circulates in the world of pure finance.
* In international currency markets alone, $800billion to
$1 trillion changes hands each day. Far in excess of the
$20-$25 billion required to cover trade in goods and

Production accounts for only 25% of the selling price of a
typical product.

Overall a good read. The prose is good, and not too technical.
Most of the book concentrates on the problems, with the solutions
being kept until the last few chapters. Korten doesn’t propose
solutions, he simply states the strategies that others have
started to enact.

I sympathize, therefore, with those who would minimize, rather than
those who would maximize, economic entanglements between nations. Ideas, knowledge, art, hospitality, travel – these are the things
which should of their nature be international. But lets goods be
homespun whenever it is reasonably and conveniently possible, and
above all, let finance be primarily national.
– John Maynard Keynes

(c) Nigel Baker 29/3/98

The Sirens of Time

Dr Who

The Sirens of Time

Big Finish Audio Drama (1999)



Gallifrey is in a state of crisis, facing destruction at the hands of an overwhelming enemy. And the Doctor is involved in three different incarnations – each caught up in a deadly adventure, scattered across time and space. The web of time is threatened – and someone wants the Doctor dead. The three incarnations of the Doctor must join together to set time back on the right track – but in doing so, will they unleash a still greater threat? The Seventh Doctor is in Episode 1 of this four-part story; the Fifth Doctor is in episode 2; the Sixth Doctor is in episode 3; and all three Doctors are in the final episode.

Initially confusing, this tale is four stories on 2 hours, loosely joined with yet another timey-whimy time travel tale. The first three episodes are just average, but the final provides opportunity for the three incarnations of the doctor; Sylvester McCoy, Peter Davison and Colin Baker some fun interaction, illustrating the differing characteristics of each incarnation of the character. The villain only becomes apparent at the and and hence not as interesting as the doctor(s) (3/5)


The Seventh Doctor (parts 1 & 4) — Sylvester McCoy
The Fifth Doctor (parts 2 & 4) — Peter Davison
The Sixth Doctor (parts 3 & 4) — Colin Baker
Commander Raldeth — Andrew Fettes
Coordinator Vansell — Anthony Keetch
The President — Michael Wade
Elenya — Sarah Mowat
Ruthley — Maggie Stables
Sancroff — Colin McIntyre
Commandant — John Wadmore
Lt Zenther — John Wadmore
Captain Schweiger — Mark Gatiss
Schmidt — Andrew Fettes
Helen — Sarah Mowat
The Temperon — Nicholas Briggs
Ellie — Sarah Mowat
Pilot Azimendah — John Wadmore
Captain — Mark Gatiss
Delegate — Nicholas Pegg
Sub-commander — John Wadmore
Knight Commander Lyena — Sarah Mowat
Knight 2 — Mark Gatiss



Tess of the d’Urbervilles
by Thomas Hardy

I read this as it was the subject of the 7 May 2016 episode of Melvyn Bragg’s BBC podcast ‘In Our Time‘.

I started this book with some trepidation, books I have tried of previous centuries often have flowery language and are not very relate-able.  Fortunately this was better.  There is a lot of commentary on the social aspects of the story in the narration, like John Fowles or D. H. Lawrence. The language is very rich and full of archaic and obscure words, not enough to put you off, but it gives the prose a weight that makes you slow down to appreciate it. Not since Melvyn Peake’s  Gormenghast series have I actually enjoyed just the reading (at first).

As for the story, Tess is a young woman who right from the start has more responsibility thrust on her than a woman of nineteen would expect. Her horse dies, her father appears to be related to aristocracy and so she must make her way indignantly  in the world. At just over half way, in part 5 her new husband finds about a previous boyfriend. His reaction is so over the top, the reality of the story ceased and it began to feel like some type of farce.  On reading a synopsis, I found that Tess, way back in part 2 had a baby that died. This was something I completely missed, I don’t recall her having sex !

It now becomes apparent that this is an exercise in style over substance. The ability of the author to clearly convey a plot has been compromised  and I lost all interest in continuing.

As for the podcast……..

It does explain why I missed the part where Tess gets pregnant. It’s not actually mentioned, apparently the act is only implied. And they do pick up on my point about the rich and dense nature of the prose. However for a modern reader, it is a slow read, and I didn’t finish it. So it only gets a rating of 1/5.





Library eBook Testing

Christchurch City Council Library eBook Testing Report
Written 2011-04-08

Since this report I have not borrowed any ebooks from a library

Hardware: Kobo (original)
LG Android Smartphone

Previously I got two ebooks at Beckenham library successfully.
1/ Dick Francis – 10-lb Penalty
2/ Fiona Kidman – The Captive Wife

Because they were not checked out on my computer I can’t see a way of ‘returning’ the books.

I wasn’t sure what the point was of ‘returning’ the ebook so borrowed ‘The Fry Chronicles’. This turns out to be a 14 meg file – lots of pictures.

After borrowing the book, I immediately returned it.

The epub file stays on the computer but doesn’t appear in Adobe Digital Editions (ADE). Copied the file to the Kobo to find that the content was locked.

Second try (Crossfire by Dick Francis)
Note – when downloading it’s important to have the Kobo plugged in then get ADE running. ADE will recognize the reader.
Don’t save the file or use a download manager but load it directly
into ADE. Once downloaded, switch to ‘Library View’. Highlight the
book description and drag it onto the ‘KOBOeReader’ icon. This will
copy the eBook to the device.

So I don’t have problems getting books for my Kobo but haven’t bothered to try the Android Smartphone. The Overdrive Android App is not very intuitive and you can only read books within the app. The app is very basic and doesn’t have much in the way
of altering the formatting of an eBook.

The best eBook reading app for Android is ‘Aldiko’. It can override the default fonts, margins, alignment etc in an ebook.

With the Kobo, when buying or borrowing DRM books you are at the mercy of the ebook designer as to margins, line spacing, paragraph indents etc.

Here are a few podcasts that cover the subject of eBooks:
Podcast by the guys from Can get very
technical about how to make ebooks but also covers general news and events.
Although mainly for American users with a kindle, this covers
general topics and has an interview.
Mainly covers SciFi & Fantasy genres. News discussions,interviews
with authors and book reviews. One of the longest running book
related podcast, it has covered eBooks for several years.
Features author Michael Stackpole.

News Sites


Moderated site about publishing news from around the world.
News and discusion about current issues.

Nigel Baker 2011-04-18