June 2010


I didn’t mean to but I went on a sort of book binge today. I happened to be in a WHS today and browsing through it noticed they had a clearance on some books. I picked up an Ursula K Le Guin collection of short stories for two pounds; The Birthday of the World and Other Stories. Hopefully it will be more interesting than the previous collection of hers I picked up where I couldn’t get into any of the stories. I also picked up a novel set in ancient Rome for a pound and two Ben Elton novels for a pound each – they were sold together. Four books for a fiver. Not bad.

Then, minutes later, in Waterstone’s, I pick up another three for two. Right in front of me as I walk into the store was a signed edition of Transition by Iain Banks. No M in the name but it deals with parallel worlds and the time between the fall of the Berlin wall and the fall of the Twin Towers. I remember it had some mixed reviews when it came out last year but it sounded interesting enough for me to pick it up and give it a try.

Although, as it’s a signed copy, perhaps I should keep it pristine (?). More than likely it was a batch lot signed by Iain Banks for Waterstone’s, or for the publishers to distribute to booksellers. But, seeing as he lives a stone’s throw from Kirkcaldy (or, as he has been quoted as saying – with Kirkcaldy being in the constituency of Smiler Brown – a ‘mortar lob away’:) ) there is a also every chance the shop got copies signed by him direct.

The three for two was rounded off with another collection of short stories (supposed to be as rare as hen’s teeth nowadays as short stories ‘don’t sell’ but I’ve picked up a few main stream collections recently) and the 5oth anniversary edition of To Kill A Mockingbird, which was the one I got ‘free’.

Also I have a copy of The Worlds of Philip Jose Farmer to be winging its way across the Atlantic any day now. This is a collection mostly about Philip Jose Farmer and is a limited edition. I’ve been told my copy is number 128 and it’s being signed by the authors attending FarmerCon V.

It seems like I spent most of my time online updating laptops, which for some reason seems to take at least half an hour per update. There is the downloading of the updates then the installing of the updates and then the obligatory reboot; nine times out of ten after install of updates I was informed there were further updates available. And round it went.

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Warren Peace was published by Gollancz in hardback in 1993 but renamed as ‘Dimensions’ when it came out as a paperback – also published by Gollancz in the UK. It is the sequel to Who Goes Here?

I had this short review all ready until I realised something: it is also the last novel that Bob Shaw published. It has been said that Shaw went through a period of writer’s block: indeed during the eighties and nineties Shaw released revised and updated versions of his works. For books like Ground Zero Man and The Shadow of Heaven this may have been justified as they had limited releases in the UK on their first outing. For a while Shaw issued a book a year: indeed during the seventies there were sometimes two per year, with the latter part of the seventies perhaps his most productive time.

Although saying Warren Peace is a sequel may not be entirely accurate as the book takes the story, characters and situation to a different level.

Peace is now one of the Oscars, the elite Golden Supermen who have no need for food, drink or sex. But Warren is not happy with his situation. In fact he is bored rigid. We meet him on the eighth day of the Oscar Galactic Jamboree and he is not having any fun at all. Luckily for Warren he comes across a group of criminals who are getting ready to attack the Oscars.

Warren thinks the plan is to strand the Oscars on the planet but the big glowing purple rock that is dropped on them and kicked away into space by Warren has more implications.

The rock turns out to have been Pryktonite, which for Oscars is a fate worse than death – it turns them back into human beings.

The Oscars quickly deduce that this is the work of the Galaxies greatest villain, Jeeves. Jeeves has evaded the Oscars by reverting to his nice side any time he is captured. However, his evil side will want revenge on the person who foiled his plan to eliminate the Oscars: Warren Peace.

The Oscars want to protect Warren but Warren doesn’t want to be bored to death by their lifestyle. He is still kept within the Oscars but sent to worlds where the Oscars can’t do much. His first job is at the sea planet Golborne where he has to work out what exactly is the alien porn that keeps turning on the workers called squelchers.

It is on this planet that Peace is caught in an elaborate trap laid out by Jeeves, who, in classic villain style, explains the trap to Peace. It seems that Jeeves’ assistant, Wimpole, didn’t get the black holes needed for the plan but instead got Puce Holes, which have an entirely different effect.

Peace thinks he has only been displaced in space due to the actions of Jeeves. His ship is lost in waters as he lands. The situation becomes confusing as Warren tries to figure out where and when he is without making the locals suspicious – it doesn’t work as the local Landlord gets angry at Warren a couple of times; the threat of violence which he manages to extricate himself from.

Warren quickly concludes that he is in another universe, where time and circumstances were different and society grew in a different direction. His next step was to go to Manchester, where they built spaceships. Warren gets a job as a draughtsman and his next plan is to work out how to get back to his universe and tackle Jeeves.

To be honest the book is a bit of a mish-mash, and I think Shaw padded it out with a couple of short stories from elsewhere as the first part of the book is a little episodic, something similar to Ship of Strangers which was a novel created from previously published short stories.

This doesn’t stop it being tremendously enjoyable – although not quite as funny as the predecessor Who Goes Here – particularly when Warren finds himself in an alternate world with a close to Victorian society. Personally I found too many situation changes for my liking. Generally there is only one real twist in most novels, which should occur halfway through. With Warren Peace there are a couple which, although it doesn’t spoil enjoyment of the book, didn’t ring right either.

This may have worked a little better if it wasn’t linked to Who Goes Here? An entirely separate hero going through the latter half of the novel may have been more entertaining and rewarding. Certainly the predicament Warren finds himself in halfway through the novel is very far removed from the central premise and the central threat of Jeeves.

The Jeeves/Oscar storyline could have been issued on its own and the time/alternate universe story could easily have stood on its own.

But we have this novel from Bob Shaw, his last. Not by any means his best but a good solid novel revisiting familiar characters and exploring high concept ideas. The alternate universe was well drawn and well thought out and would have been fun to explore further.

I upgraded the laptop today with more memory. It arrived quite quickly and was no problem installing. Switched the laptop on and the new memory worked like a dream.  Although there is a notable difference with most of the programs one is giving an error since the memory was installed. I’m not too bothered as it is a program that I hardly use, and I got it free from a computer magazine about four or five years ago.

Still getting problems with Firefox V2 so I downloaded and installed the portable version of Google Chrome. When I first tried it Chrome it wouldn’t open several sites, including ansible.co.uk, u3.com, and a few others but since then I have been able to access some of them. U3 dot com hasn’t been available for the last few times I’ve tried to access it and maybe it’s gone for good. This is a shame as it’s about the only place where I can get official U3 software which, in my opinion, is far superior to Portable App software.

I’ve tried Chrome and it’s ok; not as fast as people say it is and it doesn’t have any menus. It imported the Firefox bookmarks no problem but I’ve still to get the saved passwords into it. Even though it’s portable the default setting for importing is to look at the browser on the hard drive.

I use Windows Live Writer for blogging (write once blog many times) and I’ve also upgraded that by adding other Windows Live components. The main one being Windows Live Mail. Again it’s quite good. I added a few email addresses and it went and got the emails with no problems – Yahoo involved only entering the email address and password, no POP3 settings or outgoing mail server requests that you get from other email programs.