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Reviews Written by
Tony Watson "Bones" (Newcastle-on-Tyne, UK)

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Edition: Mass Market Paperback
69 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars Required reading for everyone!, June 15 2002
This review is from: Eva (Mass Market Paperback)
This wonderful book goes beyond the normal sci-fi book into the realms of social commentary, but without pushing it down one's throat.
The story really makes us think about how we would react, being thrust into someone else's body, unasked and unable to do anything about it, nor could the donor! It questions the rights of parents, doctors, sociologists, scientists to use their power in such borderline cases. The way this is handled is touchingly sensitive and surprisingly low-key for a book aimed at this age-group; it allows the reader to form his/her own conclusions, which generally arrive at the same point that author is aiming for.
The ending is is especially well done and one's heart leaps as Eva makes her decision - good on her!
Far better than many mainstream science fiction novels - this rates with the best of Sheri Tepper or Connie Willis. *****

By Force of Arms
By Force of Arms
by James L. Nelson
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 26.72
47 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars Action all the way., June 4 2002
This review is from: By Force of Arms (Paperback)
A string of unfortunate events propel Isaac Biddlecomb from captain of a merchant ship, to wanted smuggler, to foremast jack, then - the ultimate degradation - pressed into service in the enemy's Navy, aboard a hell-ship run by incompetent tyrants. Hopes of escape in Barbados are thwarted by a farcical attempt at anchoring, the subsequent disgrace tipping the unstable Captain over the brink into madness.
In parallel, all the elements are coming together for mutiny, both at sea and in the American colonies; this is 1775, just over a year after the Boston Tea Party, and the British blockades and harrying of shipping are stretching tempers to the limit.
Biddlecomb finds himself a key player in the run up to the struggle for American Independance
Mr.Nelson does a fine job of weaving the threads of this story into a fine yarn, with plenty of historical facts to back it up. The characters are well-drawn and believable, the writing flows and the action sequences are so vividly detailed, one almost feels like part of the crew.
This is book 1 of a 5-part saga, which promises great things. There is action and plot twists right up to the last page, I couldn't put it down.
The author has also thoughtfully included a glossary of naval terms for those readers unfamiliar with the jargon.*****

The Blackbirder: Book Two of the Brethren of the Coast
The Blackbirder: Book Two of the Brethren of the Coast
by James L. Nelson
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 19.79
36 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars Even better than 'The Guardship', May 23 2002
A premonition - and suddenly the comfortable world of Marlowe is turned on its head.
King James, the freed slave, slaughters the crew of a slave ship in a fit of passion, and to save face and reputation, Marlowe has to run him down and bring him to justice. Meanwhile, his sworn enemy is intent on destroying all that Marlowe holds dear ...
This sets the scene for another gripping tale in the same vein as 'The Guardship' - the same flowing prose and command of language endows this book with the mark of a master storyteller coming into his stride. Many threads, at sea and at home, combine to make this a thrilling, un-put-downable period story.
As the tale unfolds, we are taken into the minds of the protagonists, taking a glimpse behind the facade that each one has created, seeing the tale from several different perspectives, each with its own ideals and agenda, making us more and more involved in this wonderful complex story.
Even better than 'The Guardship' - and that's saying something. *****
Look out for 'The Pirate Round', book 3 in the series.

The Broken Bridge
The Broken Bridge
by Philip Pullman
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: CDN$ 8.99
31 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars Good but not great, May 18 2002
Not up to the same standard as 'His Dark Materials' but it's aimed at a different market, I guess.
I found the writing good, creating that dreamlike, unreal, almost nightmarish feeling when your world is suddenly turned upside down.
The book grips you and you feel dragged along with our heroine as she tries to make sense of what is happening and the 'visions' she has; the only failing is the ending which seems a bit of an anticlimax.
Nevertheless, a very good read.

Stars Beneath the Sea: The Pioneers of Diving
Stars Beneath the Sea: The Pioneers of Diving
by Trevor Norton
Edition: Hardcover
29 used & new from CDN$ 0.90

5.0 out of 5 stars Laugh-out-loud funny!, May 17 2002
I can't remember the last time I laughed so long and loud over a book. This is very, very amusing, laugh-out-loud funny, yet highly informative and interesting, e.g. the first recorded Dive Club had the singularly unimaginative name of 'The Bottom-Scratchers'!
The book is peppered with excerpts from many other books, but loses nothing by that, rather it shows how much research reading has been done.
We are taken on a biographical tour through the stars of underwater invention, in no particular order, but there are some early pioneers who are not mentioned, possibly because there is little information available to make interesting (and humorous) reading.
Our tour-guide extracts the minutest details for our delectation, again sprinkled with that undercurrent of wit. And our guide is no armchair chronicler either, he was there in the '50s, doing field work in the cold waters of Lough Ine.
Incidentally we find that some of our Stars worked in other fields as well; mining, surgery, explosives, writing, biology, photography, cinema, genetics - with the usual humourous anecdote, in case we were inclined to fall asleep (unlikely!).
A wonderful, refreshing read - guaranteed to liven up your lungs and your life!

Wonderful Life: The Burgess Shale And The Nature Of History
Wonderful Life: The Burgess Shale And The Nature Of History
by Stephen Jay Gould
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 16.86
71 used & new from CDN$ 1.19

2.0 out of 5 stars It certainly is..., May 17 2002
... but the book is not ... It has its moments, but I found it to be largely incomprehensible, not due to the content, but the delivery.
The title is misleading, in that I was expecting a tad more detail about the Burgess Shale site and the deposits and specimens.
Mr.Gould is no Richard Dawkins - he may be a brilliant scientist, but he is no raconteur; the style is patronising and implicitly assumes that the readership have passed the necessary exams in the Classics; the text is full of obscure Greek references and untranslated quotes; I found it difficult to hold the threads of the arguments and had to re-read passages several times to get the drift.
He also deals shamefully with Dr.Walcott - with the benefit of 20:20 hindsight, Walcott's theories are dismissed with scant regard for the years of devotion to his craft.
All the drawings (lots of them) are good, but most of the diagrams are too small and sometimes confusing, and the black and white photographs would have been better left out.
I struggled to the end of the book, but would have been better impressed if it had been more readable: as it stands it reads like paper in Nature, rather than a book aimed at the popular science niche.

Stone of Tears: A Sword of Truth Novel
Stone of Tears: A Sword of Truth Novel
by Terry Goodkind
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: CDN$ 9.84
96 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars Good but not great, May 16 2002
Very Good, but not great... good characterisation and descriptions, the prolonged graphic descriptions are there for a purpose, not from a morbid pre-occupation with rape or pain - we see the results of his months of torture with Denna (book#1) causing the deaths of two Sisters - without being pre-armed with his forceful hate of collars, we would think his refusal to wear one a bit pig-headed.
Many things are injected into the plot whose significance is not apparent until much later - I found myself forgetting about Scarlet, until she suddenly appears; probably the egg will have a significance in the next book(s).
Altogether a good sustaining read - never boring - makes you want to continue straight on to the next book in the series.
My Wife has just finished 'Temple of the Winds' (book#4) and says it continues to be just as exciting, unlike the 'Wheel of Time' series.

by Neil Gaiman
Edition: Paperback
37 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars Catch a falling star, May 16 2002
This review is from: Stardust (Paperback)
I have heard of Neil Gayman through the 'Sandman' comics (seems the wrong word- let's call them 'graphic novels') although I have never read any - but I may do in the near future after reading 'Stardust'.
Tristan Thorn, of dubious parentage, enchanted by his love of Victoria makes a rash vow to recover a falling star in order to gain her hand; she in return makes a rash promise to marry him, if he should ever return with the prize from beyond The Wall (unlikely, she thinks).
Then follows pure fairy-tale, intricately woven and told in a flowing, familiar style that just keeps you flowing along with it.
It has witches, unicorns, magic, dark burrowing beings and light airy things, all wrapped up in unexpected twists and turns - and of course it all turns out happily ever after, as all the best fairy stories do.
I would be doing the future reader a disservice by revealing any more of the details; suffice to say that this is one of the most enchanting adult fairy stories that it has been my pleasure to read - on a par with 'The Hounds of the Morrigan'. I look forward to reading more of Mr.Gaiman's work.
...I have recently become more strict with my 'star' allocation. It seems logical that ***** should be reserved for those excepional, out-of-the-ordinary pieces of work - this gets those 5 stars.

Percival Keene
Percival Keene
by Frederick Marryat
Edition: Paperback
25 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

3.0 out of 5 stars Sadly disappointed, May 16 2002
This review is from: Percival Keene (Paperback)
Having read Dean King's recommendation (as he is usually accurate), I was expecting something above the average - especially as it is included in a series of Classics...
Sadly, not.
Written in typical 19th Century style, it tends to verbosity and skirting around, instead of coming straight to the point.
Considering that Marryat was a disciple of Cochrane, there is remarkably little action and little detail of that... a few shots are exchanged, the enemy is boarded and the prize is taken in one easy lesson - none of the tension, tactics and strategems that feature so large in other nautical tales. Nor do we get under the skin of any of the characters, there is no fleshing-out of the personalities, so we end up not caring what happens to them.
Our Hero Percival stumbles from one lucky accident to the next in true Victorian story-telling style, but there seems to be no central theme to the plot, apart from his estranged father's aloofness and disguised patronage.
I kept expecting some surprise or twist in the tale, but only the expected happened.

On the Missionary Trail: A Journey Through Polynesia, Asia, and Africa with the London Missionary Society
On the Missionary Trail: A Journey Through Polynesia, Asia, and Africa with the London Missionary Society
20 used & new from CDN$ 1.12

4.0 out of 5 stars Well-researched story of an epic tour, May 16 2002
A story full of anecdotes and tales of the 'great figures' of British legend, like Raffles and Clive of India (not such a great guy after all), the book is full of interest; not for its religious content (though there's obviously a lot of that), but for the way that our two heroes view the cultures that they are trying to enlighten.
At one point we feel that they are almost ready to embrace Buddhism, they are so impressed with the simplicity of their creed and freedom from internal squabbling - unlike their Christian church.
We get insights into the way cultures are developed or destroyed, either by religion, commercial greed or both and how countries bend the rules in order to get a political or commercial advantage - here the British are at their worst in promoting the opium trade, precipitating the war with China.
The book is a nice marriage of the narrative of the two Envangelists and Mr Hiney's well-researched commentary, the two parts blending seamlessly into a very enjoyable read.

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