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Showing posts from July, 2018

Reading journal: Once Burned, Twice Spy by Diane Henders

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Genre: Spies and espionage Published: 2018 Series: Never Say Spy Date read: June 2018 Aidan Kelly works for a Canadian secret agency. In this outing she must ride herd on a bunch of international scientists showing each other their secret weapons. Something goes wrong and Aidan is accused of stealing the weapon. Quite a good yarn. I particularly liked the beginning, where Aidan’s team must drive through heavy snow to a meeting in Calgary, and one of their vehicles slides off the road. There’s a lot of detail about how to survive atrocious road conditions and what not to do. As an Australian living in the inland plains this is not a hazard I have ever faced, nor am I likely to. I was reminded of Tim Taylor in the series Home Improvement , a man who received an award for safety training for showing realistic accidents and injuries on his TV handyman program. Of course, Tim was actually a total klutz. Aidan does much better. This is the thirteenth book in the series, and th

Reading journal: The Flowers of Vashnoi by Lois McMaster Bujold

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Genre: Science Fiction Published: 2018 Series: Vorkosigan saga Date read: May 2018 This novella is quite a dark little tale, set on Barrayar. Ekaterin, Lady Vorkosigan, a botanist and ecologist, is working on a project to rehabilitate areas of high radiation left over from the last war. The site is the city of Vashnoi, ground zero for enemy bombing. Her team finds children living in the radiation zone, and the story explores how they got there. Ekaterin has to face down danger and find a solution for them. I don’t think any of the author’s books set on Barrayar fail to mention Vashnoi, or the after-effects of radiation and the cultural implications of a society forced to deal with high levels of mutation. Very thought-provoking.

Reading journal: The Rain Never Came by Lachlan Walter

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Genre: Science Fiction Published: 2017 Date read: June 2018 A story of a future Australia where the inland is in permanent drought and the inhabitants have been forcefully relocated or herded into camps. But there are hold-outs, people who hide from the Creeps and eke out a precarious living. The story begins with a football match against a passing First People caravan, and the return of Bill’s friend Tobe from his wanderings. Bill and Tobe are close, and share a tragic past. Bill’s loyalty is tested when Tobe insists on an exploratory trip into the badlands, but he follows Tobe faithfully, even when they must abandon their bolthole, only to be betrayed in the end. (I hope this isn’t too much of a spoiler). This is an interesting book. I enjoyed it as a writer, seeing how Walter has varied the pace to create atmosphere. The structure of the book is interesting too, a classic story structure with a strong inciting incident which I didn’t identify until the very end, even tho

Reading journal: Flight 404 by Simon Petrie

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Genre: Science Fiction Published: 2018 Date read: June 2018 An engaging novella from a Canberra author. Charmain is a pilot en route to a rescue mission in the vicinity of the arid home planet she abandoned long ago. It takes a long time to get anywhere in space, and brief spurts of action are interspersed with long periods of reflection on the past. Charmain explores the relationships she abandoned when she changed gender and left home through the means of conversations with her AI, K@rine, an interesting idea. The stakes rise when she discovers that her sister’s family is on the lost ship, and the actions of the other rescuers pose threats or add to the general confusion. I enjoyed the story. It’s low key; space is filled with people with normal human issues like regret, fear and greed, rather than high adventure, although there is some of that too. It reminds me of Nathan Lowell’s Traders’ Tales . And there are some lovely ideas — the arid planet has underground habi

Reading journal: Copenhagenize by Mikael Colville-Andersen

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Genre: Non-fiction Published: 2018 Date read: June 2018 Fascinating look at how to make urban cycling work. The book is sub-titled ‘The Definitive Guide to Global Bicycle Urbanism’, quite a mouthful, but it’s a fair summary of what the book’s about. The author lives in Copenhagen, and works as a consultant for other cities that aspire to the same level of urban amenity. Each cycling-related design problem has two sides — human behaviour and urban engineering. The key first step is getting past the idea that, whatever you do, cars must have the greatest priority and everything else must be fitted in around them. As the author points out, until the 1920s that wasn’t the case at all. Car priority is not set in stone. We’ve made horrible places out of cities that could be pleasant and safe. Very interesting book that also points out mistakes that are made with cycling infrastructure. Canberra, my former home, has made every single one of these mistakes, and hasn’t to my knowled