April 2010

Looks like I might have to forego using Firefox 2 and start using the bloated and fault ridden version 3. There have been a few sites lately that have had errors of presentation with Firefox 2 when I visited them (and it took me a couple of attempts to log into Facebook) but have been ok with Internet Explorer when I tested the sites. The main problem is that I use a U3 USB stick rather than run Browsers from my computer; and Firefox 3 isn’t available for U3 at the moment, only as a portable app. Which is something entirely different.

I’ve downloaded a couple of different portable browsers to play around with, and see if any of them are worthy of replacing Firefox.  The only thing is that I’m settled with Firefox; I’m comfortable with it, like it and there are a lot of settings stored such as passwords to sites and forums. I know a browser is basically a browser but they are not all the same.

The Sturgeon complete short stories Volume 12 has turned up and it looks like I haven’t read most of the stories in that volume. They were mostly first printed in ‘Sturgeon is Alive and Well’ which is a book I don’t have in my collection. Don’t know why I never bothered to buy a copy. There’s also an unpublished story in this collection which I made a bee line for.

The Doc Savage book has arrived too, and I’m looking forward to reading his last ever adventure. I’m in two minds about which one to tackle first as the second last one, Return From Cormoral, sounds very interesting too.


While waiting for a couple of books to arrive I decided to look through my pile of ‘to be read’ books for something to engage my time. I’m waiting on Volume twelve of Theodore Sturgeon’s complete short stories, a collection of shorts from Harlan Ellison and the last omnibus of Doc Savage (winging its way from America with free postage so that’ll take forever) with his final adventure, Up From The Earth’s Centre. I didn’t find anything I wanted to read, or anything that captured my interest. Everything seemed to be four hundred pages or above. I’m growing averse to big thick books; they don’t entice me at all. A novel of a couple of hundred pages is just fine for me at the moment.

A couple of days later while sorting out some books that could go onto the bookmooch list I came across a boxed set of James Herbert novels. I remember buying it for £9.99; five books so that works out at a couple of pounds each. There was only one or two that I had read before.

I used to read a lot of James Herbert; I either bought his books new, second hand or borrowed from the library. He’s a good solid writer that has produced a quality laden body of work over the years. I briefly checked through them before deciding on ‘The Haunting’ and I’m now about a third of the way through it – mainly due to the short chapters he has with this book. After reading one I look at the page count of the next chapter and think, ‘yeah, I can read one more.’

There may be a little nostalgia about choosing this book and James Herbert as, even though his books are horror novels, I know it’s not likely I’ll come across a lot of swearing, sex and mindless violence. It’ll be just a good story well told. Not that I’ve got anything against swearing sex and mindless violence; that can be a good night out. Sometimes they can be out of place in fiction, sometimes they fit perfectly and sometimes they are required. But it’s good to read something that is story and character based, well paced and from a master writer.

A little confession here: I bought a second hand copy of Killer Planet in hardback sometime in the early nineties but I never got round to reading it. When bought the book was put at the bottom of my reading pile, and it sort of stayed there. As books moved from room to room when space was needed here and there I never actually got round to reading it.

When I started completing my collection of Bob Shaw Gollancz hardbacks again (I briefly tried years ago with little success) the book Killer Planet was brought to my attention again as I looked through the books to see what was still to get and I put Killer Planet further up my list of books to read. But, again, it never made it to the front row – even though I found time to skim trough his other books while creating these reviews and on a couple of occasions completely re read some of Shaw’s books.

So. I set aside some time and decided to concentrate on this book. Unique among Shaw books in that it is for a specific audience. Killer Planet is a Young adult novel from Bob Shaw and so is a very slim book, coming in at just over one hundred pages.

Published in 1989 the brief prologue sets us up for many dangers, telling us that after mankind learnt to cross the distance between stars with the Gemmell drive he came across Mother Nature at her fiercest, with new dangers everywhere he turned.

The most dangerous of these was Verdia, nick named the Killer Planet. Many people had gone to the planet never to return, including the brother of Jan Hazard. Hazard’s father, Donn, had spent the last few years working toward sending an expedition to the planet to rescue his son. A mission he intended to do alone. Jan though has other ideas; he knows his father would not be up to the job and is adamant that he will take his father’s place, go to Verdia and rescue his brother.

Unfortunately Donn Hazard has neglected to pay the bills during his quest to build a spaceship to go to Verdia and with the most inappropriate timing bailiffs turn up the day before the launch to confiscate all of Donn’s possessions to pay off his debts. Jan has no other option. The flight must go ahead; the rescue attempt must be made. And so Jan steals the ship and the rescue attempt is still on.

He makes it to the system where the Killer Planet is and is surprised to discover someone else on board. Petra is the love interest of the story, introduced in Chapter one as a friend. Jan is initially against her presence but as luck would have it Petra manages to take control of the ship when Jan is knocked semi unconscious at the final take off toward the planet.

The ship struggles through the cloudy atmosphere of the planet, nearly destroying the vessel – which is made out of hard plastics rather than metal due to the nature of Verdia, which attacks metal. They land on the planet and straight away are caught up in the weird and dangerous life forms on the planet as they try to investigate an old ruined city.

But it is when they discover the shattered and seared ships and equipment that the real surprise of the Killer Planet shows itself.

This is pretty much an action adventure from Bob Shaw, as mentioned geared toward the younger reader. There is a lot of vivid descriptive writing from Shaw and the characters are the straight forward no nonsense hardy type. Also, being designed for the younger reader, the book isn’t very long, in fact it is too short.

It took me a little while to get into the swing of the book, and Shaw only gave us minor glimpses of characterisation to help identify with each character in the book. The emotional attachment of going to the Killer Planet to rescue their sibling gave a good enough motive, and the action of the escape from earth forces was well written, well paced and enthralling, however the characterisation lacked a little in my opinion.

Overall it was an enjoyable read, really only picking up in pace and excitement when the protagonists actually reach the Killer planet around Chapter Five, and Shaw is very inventive in getting his heroes out of the scrapes they find themselves in on the planet. A mixture of daring do and brains keeps the two – Jan and Petra – alive to fight again. The whole story is neatly tied up with a happy outcome for all concerned following an adventurous and thrilling dénouement. This novel would make a good introduction to Bob Shaw, particularly for the target audience of the young adult.

I joined bookmooch recently, mainly to get rid of some paperbacks that have been lying around and have no chance of ever being read. But I decided also to add the SF Book club editions of the Bob Shaw novels I own.  A couple I bought ages ago and a couple I bought by mistake recently – when they were advertised as the Gollancz editions. For the ones I bought years ago I now have the Gollancz editions so they are surplus.

I’ve nothing against the SF Book club – if it still exists – I just don’t personally like them. They don’t look good and their jackets are dull in my opinion.

I did belong to book clubs years and years ago but they never issued their own editions, just clipped editions from the original publishers.

So, if you’re in the market for free books have a look at bookmooch.

First of April and all that. Didn’t get caught out by any April fools this year. Not that I’ve noticed much. Spotted a couple online but that’s it. Since Climategate I’m a lot more suspicious of anything I read and take less and less on trust – having said that someone emailed me and said they had millions of pounds waiting to be transferred to my account …

Bought my name again; the dot com, the dot co dot uk seems to be still suspended, even though it ran out at the beginning of the year.

So, another blog. I’ve put WordPress in a folder on my main site and when the dot com is up and running I’ll just get it redirected to the new folder. (Hopefully.)

WordPress is great. I had the blog up and running after about ten minutes. The only problem with it is that you can’t change the user name, and the default user for everyone is called admin. Ergo I have to make sure I’m typing the correct password into the correct admin for the blog. There are now three at the same dot com. I’m trying a new theme there and have made a few test posts with pictures. A couple of glitches but things are alright now. Just have to get pictures to fit into the picture frame in the theme; right now they are being stretched a little.

I’ll have to tinker with the blog a little before it’ll be perfect but it’s looking good. Widgets and plugins have been installed and it’s on the latest version of WordPress from the get go.