Double Whammy by Carl Hiaasen (1987)

Decker said, ‘May I assume we won’t be alerting the authorities?’ ‘You learn fast,’ Skink said. (Double Whammy, page 115) Carl Hiaasen, born in Florida in 1953, is one of America’s premiere writers of comedy thrillers, and by  the the rather bland word ‘comedy’ what we’re referring to is savage, bitterly satirical and often very […]

All Tomorrow’s Parties by William Gibson (1999)

Nothing dates quicker than the future. All Tomorrow’s Parties is the title of a song by the Velvet Underground recorded in 1967. The choice of a Velvet Underground track as the title of a novel supposedly set in a hi-tech future confirms the sense that Gibson, born in 1948, despite being credited with the invention […]

Idoru by William Gibson (1996)

Arleigh’s van smelled of long-chain monomers and warm electronics. (Idoru page 201) Virtual Light, the first novel in William Gibson’s ‘Bridge trilogy’, made me fall out of love with Gibson. Once I’d realised the tough ex-cop hero of the book, Berry Rydell was, underneath all the sci-fi add-ons, basically an avatar of John McClane from […]

Virtual Light by William Gibson (1993)

Yamazaki crossed to the smooth curve of cable that interrupted the room’s floor. Only an oval segment of it was visible, like some mathematical formula barely breaking a topological surface in a computer representation. He bent to touch it, the visible segment polished by other hands. Each of the thirty-seven cables, containing four hundred and […]

Cocaine Nights by J.G. Ballard (1996)

‘Leisure societies lie ahead of us…’ (Irving Sanger, p.180) A poolside thriller Although it’s longer than almost any of Ballard’s other novels, Cocaine Nights feels like a nice easy read, an airport or poolside thriller with an increasingly psychotic edge. I found Day of Creation and Rushing to Paradise a struggle to finish because their […]

Count Zero by William Gibson (1986)

He drank off the black bitter coffee. It seemed to him, just for a second, that he could feel the whole Sprawl breathing, and its breath was old and sick and tired, all up and down the stations from Boston to Atlanta…’ (Count Zero page 286) The setting This is the second novel in what […]

Burning Chrome by William Gibson (1986)

So I went out into the night and the neon and let the crowd pull me along, walking blind, willing myself to be just a segment of that mass organism, just one more drifting chip of consciousness under the geodesics. (Burning Chrome page 218) Burning Chrome is a collection of ten short stories by William […]

Neuromancer by William Gibson (1984)

She hooked thumbs in the belthoops of her leather jeans and rocked backward on the lacquered heels of her cherry red cowboy boots. The narrow toes were sheathed in bright Mexican silver. The lenses were empty quicksilver, regarding him with an insect calm. ‘You’re street samurai,’ he said. ‘How long you work for him?’ ‘Couple […]

Family Britain: The Certainties of Place by David Kynaston (2009)

Two more massive ‘books’ contained in one hefty 700-page paperback describing Britain after the war, the first one – The Certainties of Place, under review here – covering the period 1951-5 in immense detail. The main historical events are: The Festival of Britain (May – August 1951) October 1951 the Conservatives just about win the general […]

Some problems with Isaac Asimov’s science fiction

Americocentric It is Americocentric. There are no other countries worth troubling with on earth. Whether ‘man’ reaches out to colonise the planets, to settle on Mars or Mercury, invents hyperspace and travels to colonise distant planets, or stays at home to create the megacities of Caves of Steel – it’s Americans who do it, with American […]