Saturday, September 27, 2008

YA Fiction

Juno of Taris, review by Joanna Ponder

I fell in love with Juno. The story of a twelve year old girl who tries to fit into the utopian society of Taris. Taris was established after a major upheaval in the outside world. Here there are many rules the inhabitants are expected to live by, but Juno can't help herself asking - why?
Juno is a carefully crafted novel, it moves along at a steady pace, and kept me entertained me every step of the way.
Richard really enjoyed it, and the declared it was a girls' book, and he is probably right, but obviously it has a wider appeal than just girls.

Friday, September 26, 2008


Congratulations to Jazz Kane, winner of the $20 gift voucher for September's plastic bag recycling draw.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Sci Fi

Peace and War by Joe Haldeman

I could not help but notice this in the bargain bin section of Rona Gallery. Peace and War is one of the most celebrated Science fiction classics ever - originally published as "Forever War" "Forever Free," and "Forever Peace."

These books have haunted me since I read them almost ten years ago. I would recommend them to anyone who wants to understand what those veterans went through, or just to someone who loves science fiction that makes not only a social commentary but uses the known laws of physics as part of the underlying metaphore. And the basic premise is that people encounter aliens. Nobody is sure how the shooting started, but it has started, and the world goes to war to destroy the threat.

Only it's not that simple fighting bugs out in space, because this is one of the few Science fiction stories I've read where Einstein's relativity is a factor, and each time the soldiers return, not only are they coming home damaged by their experiences but the world is so changed they feel like they are not coming home at all...

Joe Haldeman was a Vietnam Vet and his storytelling isn't as polished as some, but the drama, and the plot, and the theme - and the sheer guts of this story, more than make up for a lack of fancy prose. Indeed it would seem out of place. There's a lot in this book, a lot of disturbing ideas about how wars are fought, and Joe Haldeman does not deny any connections with the Vietnam war, in fact when he was in New Zealand he described it as his therapy when he came back, his way of making sense of what happened to him, and I think that is why the books are so powerful and why they have been re-published again and again over the years.

Review by Alicia Ponder

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

YA Fiction

The Alchemist by Michael Stott

The Alchemyst, Nicholas Flamel is still alive, his tomb lies empty -- and ready to exploit this is Michael Stott, author of -- well, The Alchemyst.

He does it well.

Josh works in Nick Flemming - sorry Nicholas Flamel's bookstore, his sister Sophie works across the road. It's something they only discover when John Dee, another character out of the past comes to steal the book that contains the secret of eternal life.

It's fast paced fantasy, and once started the story rolls onward with a breathlessness that doesn't stop. No seriously it doesn't stop - it just leaves you on a cliff-hanger so you can't wait to read the next book.

It's not the best book in the world, and doesn't hold a candle to "The Mysterious Edge of the Heroic World" or "Verdigris Deep" at least not in terms of stylish writing, but in plot and knowing his market Michael Stott has done a superb job.

I found it fun, and so did Richard, once he got past the information about the famous historical figures and got into the plot. Recommended for about 12-13+

Thursday, September 04, 2008


This Sunday at Rona Gallery

Bernard Beckett talks about his new novel Acid Song, the internationally acclaimed Genesis.

We are looking forward to seeing you there.


Monday, September 01, 2008

Adult Fiction

Acid Song by Bernard Beckett.

Every so often I take a deep breath, focus really hard and attack the writing of a New Zealand author. Such exertions often bring mixed results, mostly because they are so mainstream oriented and I'm not. But I went there again, because Bernard Beckett is ostensibly a perfect science fiction writer because he's an ideas man, and I was pretty impressed with his award winning children's book. Anyway, Acid Song is quite a departure for Bernard Beckett, being his first adult novel.

The beginning of Acid Song stumbled around with a deliberate incoherency, enhancing the theme of a frayed, but intertwined destiny, with all the characters bathed in a social acidity that has them so disconnected from their feelings and their relationships. This theme was enhanced by the characters themselves being quite male-centric, as though the only purpose for females was to in some way define the men and provide them with something to ogle. Well, I like to think that this was a deliberate comment on society, and that the ambitious female documentary host on her big break was demonstrating a kind of modern shallowness -- that she was not simply a cardboard character. Easily enough she could be both, I suppose, even as she was also the glue, or more accurately the hinge around which all the bigger, "more interesting" characters took their cue.

In the end, the interesting part of the book wasn't the characters, however enjoyable, and insightful they were. The interesting part about the book was an idea. The idea of a fraying society busily trying to hide socially unacceptable facts, even as the loose knot of characters and their lives fray around the edges and are left indelibly etched by the lack of support and respect that truth and honesty fail to gain. Not just generally in society, but most particularly in the educational and academic worlds.

A must read for everyone in education, and not just for the wonderfully sad-funny resignation letter that is never posted. Well written, well paced, and of course most interesting for anyone who wishes to understand how science and society sometimes clash, and how most important and influential ideas are often released against the tide of the status quo.


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