Category Archives: Books

We Need to talk About Kelvin : chapter 11

Earth’s full, go home

How the fact there are aliens on Earth is telling us either we are the first intelligence to arise or some unknown factor prevents the evolution of space-faring civilisations

Sometimes I think we are alone, sometimes I think we are not. Either way, the thought is staggering.
Buckminster Fuller

I’m sure the Universe is full of intelligent life. It’s just been too intelligent to come here.
Arthur C. Clarke

One striking feature of the world is so obvious that, like the darkness of the sky at night, it is almost never remarked upon. It does not matter what country you live in, what continent you are on, where at all you are on the planet. There are no aliens. They are not loitering on street corners, coasting angelically through the clouds above your head or materialising and de-materialising like crew members of the “Star Trek” Enterprise.
The fact there are no aliens on Earth is widely believed to be telling us something profound about intelligent life in the Universe. Unlike the case with the other everyday observations in his book, however, no one is quite sure what that profound thing is.

Over the years, many people have realised that the lack of aliens on Earth is a deep puzzle. However, the person who articulated it in the most memorable way was the Italian physicist Enrico Fermi. One of the last physicists to combine the roles of front-rank theorist and an experimentalist, not only did Fermi come up with a theory of radioactive beta decay, which predicted the existence of the ghost-like “neutrino, but he constructed the first nuclear reactor – on an abandoned squash court under the west stand of the University of Chicago’s Stagg Field. Fermi’s “nuclear pile”, which went “critical” on 2 December 1942, made the “plutonium” for one of the two atomic bombs dropped by America are on Japan. Those bombs were tested in the desert of New Mexico. And it was, while visiting the bomb lab at Los Alamos in the summer of 1950, that Fermi made his memorable observation about extraterrestrials.
He was having lunch in the canteen with Herbert York, Emil Konopinski and Edward Teller, the “father of the H-bomb”. The physicists had been discussing ETs because of a recent spate of newspaper reports of “flying saucers”. Although the discussion had turned to more mundane subjects, Fermi had gone quiet, deep in thought. Suddenly, in the middle of the ensuing conversation, he blurted out: “Where is everybody?” The others around the table immediately knew what he was referring to – ETs. They also recognised that Fermi, a man with a reputation as a deep thinker, had articulated something important and profound.
Fermi was a renowned for his back-of-the envelope calculations. For instance, at the explosion of the first atomic bomb at Alamogordo in the New Mexico desert on 15 July 1945, he had dropped a scrap of paper from shoulder height and watched how it was deflected by the shock wave from the Bomb. Knowing that Ground Zero was 9 miles away, he estimated the energy of the blast – the equivalent of more than 10,000 tonnes of TNT.
Implicit in Fermi’s “Where is everybody?” question was a similar back-of-the-envelope calculation. How long it would take a civilisation that developed a star-faring capability to spread to every star system in our Milky Way galaxy?
Fermi never revealed the details of his reasoning. However, more likely than not he realised that the most efficient way to explore the Galaxy would be by means of self-reproducing space probes. Such a probe, on arrival at a destination planetary system, would set about constructing two copies of itself from the raw materials found there. The two daughter probes would then fly off and, at the next planetary system, build two more copies. In this way, the probes would infect the Galaxy relatively rapidly like bacteria spreading throughout a host.
Using plausible estimates for the speed of such probes and the time required to make copies, it was possible to estimate how long it would take to visit every star in the Milky Way. And the answer was surprisingly modest – between a few million and a few tens of millions of years. Since this was a mere fraction of the 10 billion-year lifespan of our Galaxy, one conclusion was unavoidable. If a star-faring race had arisen at any time in the history of our Galaxy, its space probes should be here on Earth today. So, in Fermi’s immortal words, “Where is everybody?”

Fallen by Lauren Kate

My Love Lies Bleeding by Alyxandra Harvey

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Looking for something to sink your teeth into? Need a new hero to get your pulse racing? Waiting in ‘vein’ for another Twilight book? Look no further – the Drakes have arrived . . .

Solange Drake has always known she is a vampire, but she’s not just any vampire. She is the only female vampire ever born; she is destined to fulfill an ancient prophecy and become queen. The trouble is, a lot of people and vampires want to kill her because of this, and those that don’t just keep falling in love with her. To top it all off, Solange doesn’t really want to be queen and would rather concentrate on surviving the excruciating, and possibly fatal, change from human to vampire that occurs on her 16th birthday. Right now, life sucks for Solange.

Lucy is Solange’s human best friend. So when Solange is kidnapped Lucy is determined to come to the rescue with the help of Nicholas, Solange’s sexy older brother. Can Lucy save the day and resist the charms of Nicholas?

Try the prologue and first chapter here

Bloomsbury has created a Facebook fan page for ‘fang-tastic’ My Love Lies Bleeding this will be regularly updated with news, competitions and more. Access the fan page here.

Strange Angels: Betrayals by Lili St.Crow

BetrayalsPicking up immediately after Strange Angels ended, Dru is thrust into yet another dangerous situation.

Placed in a Schola for her own protection, she does not know who to trust or who is trying to kill her. The Schola is riven by factions, the Wulfen who welcome Graves, her loup-garou friend and look upon him as a prince of their kind, and the Djamphir, part-Vampires, whose disdain for the Wulfen is almost palpable. The Wulfen mistrust her and the Djamphir see her more as a tasty snack than a potential saviour.

Surrounded by secrets and lies, Dru learns that she does not know everything she thought she did, and must rely on her own instincts and skills to stay alive.

What are Christophe’s true intentions, and to whom does he owe his loyalties? Why is she being kept sequestered in a reform school for the supernatural? Who are her friends? Who is the traitor in the Order and why has she been lied to and misled? What is her full name?

We start finding answers to some of these questions in Strange Angels: Betrayals, the second book in the Strange Angels series by Lili Saintcrow.

One thing is for sure – she is not at Hogwarts, and no-one can be relied on to protect her.

Betrayals is an excellent follow up to Strange Angels, a kick-arse heroine, supernatural politics, more mystery than you can shake a stick at and just enough information is dropped during the book to make me want the third book NOW! I loved it – even more than Strange Angels, and can see this series going far

Lili Saintcrow captures the high school atmosphere and transfers it to a setting where the characters can sprout fur (natural for teens) and fngs (slightly less natural) and are expected to draw blood in their lessons. It gives new meaning to high school being a warzone.

Betrayals can be read on its own but will be more enjoyable if read in sequence.

The Making Of ‘Grandville’ And The Anthropomorphic Tradition – a talk by Bryan Talbot

Bryan Talbot is the award-winning creator of The Tale of One Bad Rat, The Adventures of Luther Arkwright, Alice in Sunderland and more recently Grandville – a graphic novel which is a Victoriana/Art Nouveau steampunk tale of murder and intrigue (with added badger). He has also illustrated many other graphic novels including Slaine, Nemesis the Warlock, Sandman, Hellblazer and Teknophage.

Mr Talbot has a talk he can give for older audiences, called ‘The Making Of ‘Grandville’ And The Anthropomorphic Tradition’.

Bryan can be contacted for more info via… bryantalbot at btinternet dot com

Free eBook offer from YA author Jonathan Zemsky


YA author and all-round excellent bloke Jonathan Zemsky has released his first novel Beyond the Shadows of Summer into the wilds as an eBook.

Download the book here: Beyond the Shadows of Summer

It is one of the first books I reviewed, you can read the review here.

Did I mention that it is free? Get downloading! It is a fantastic read and an excellent introduction to a brilliant writer!

Sea Djinn by Linda Davies

Fear one thing in all that is… Fear the Djinn – The Wishmaster

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In writing Sea Djinn Linda Davies has created a book that takes you inside the story and makes it real. The description of the sand, sea and surf in the opening chapter made me long for the ocean and to feel a surfboard move gliding me over the waves, it was then that I knew I was hooked that Sea Djinn had hooked me!

Set in Dubai, Sea Djinn mixes 21st century Teens with the myths and folktales of the Emirates. Finn Kennedy lives in Dubai with his aunt and cousins and attends a prestigious local school with Georgie and his friend Fred. His life is changed when he comes face to face with Triton a Djinn of the Sea. Triton tells him that his parents have been kidnapped by Hydrus – the evil sea Djinni and that he Finn is a descendant of the royal blood of Atlantis and is an important part of the fight that is brewing between the forces of Light and Darkness.

Mixing mythic encounters into contemporary life is not a new concept but Linda Davies has created something special here, adding in human greed and intrigue as well as ecological awareness into a fast-paced adventure no part of the story feels forced or false. The characters are fleshed out through the book and even the (human) villains are more than two-dimensional caricatures that often populate YA books as foils for the heroes. The twists in the story are artfully done and I did not see them coming until they were happening. The sense of the fantastic is present throughout the book but magic never comes to dominate the story instead it is the humanity of the protagonists (mortal, animal and mystical) that shines through and leads the story.

I loved it and am eagerly awaiting Fire Djinn which is due out next year.

I also learned that Djinn is plural and Djinni is the singular. They are beings of fire and not to be trifled with even if you have a hankering for some free wishes…

Crocodile Tears Launch

As all fans of the fantastic Alex Rider series written by Anthony Horowitz must now know, the newest book – Crocodile Tears was launched on Thursday the 12th November. I was privileged enough to be invited to the launch party by the always amazing people at Walker Books.
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As it was a party there was cake involved…
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crowds of people had been invited to celebrate (authors, publishers and even librarians)
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Piles of Crocodile Tears were placed artistically around the room
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There was even a pianist tickling the ivories for the evening
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Our host spent the evening mingling with friends and well-wishers
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Although he was not too busy to stop for some publicity shots
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or to sign some of the rare copies that were given to the lucky attendees
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At the end of the evening there were some very smug Librarians
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including me ^_^
croctearssigned

amosdaragon
Four Masks, sixteen stones of power. A struggle between good and evil.
On the day of his birth, his fate was written in golden letters in the great history of heroes. His destiny: to re-establish the balance between the forces of Light and Darkness.

Covers_Amos_Daragon

Amos is a boy with a quick mind and the intelligence to direct it, despite being unschooled he proves himself to be the intellectual equal or smarter than many of the people he meets. After encountering a dying mermaid he helps his parents to escape a cruel lord who treats them little better than slaves Amos is thrust into a series of adventures before being anointed as the first of a new order of Mask Wearers and is tasked with bringing balance back to his world.

The author mixes folk-tales into the story with Amos cast in a role that combines trickster and hero in equal quantities. The first book introduces Amos’ world and some of the many species that inhabit it, including merfolk, fairies, manimals, gorgons, nagas and gods including Seth (Egyptian) and Baron Samedi (a loa from voodoo belief). This mixing of world myths works well and makes the books accessible to readers from different cultures as they will be able to identify stories that they may have heard woven into the narrative.

The Mask Wearer is written as a series of mini-adventures that combine into an overarching narrative that is brilliant for readers that struggle with their reading as it is as enjoyable to read in parts as it is to read from beginning to end. The Key of Braha is slightly more complex with fewer side adventures but is just as gripping and enjoyable to read.

The author Bryan Perro does not shy away from using themes of redemption, loss and death in his books.

Amos Daragon was originally written in French and to date has been translated into 19 different languages. The first two books are currently available in English and I am eagerly awaiting the release of book three: The Twilight of the Gods.

Beautiful Dead Competition

Thanks to the wonderful people at Galactus – the digital design, marketing & online PR agency not the planet devourer from Marvel Comics (although that would also be cool). I have three copies of Beautiful Dead: Arizona to give away.

arizona

Something strange is happening at Ellerton High. Summer, Phoenix, Jonas and Arizona…

All dead within a year.

To stand a chance of winning one of these amazing books all you have to do is put the names of the four teens that died in the order that they perished (hint: it is not in the above order). You can find the answers here: www.beautifuldead.com.

Leave your answers in the comments form under this post. The comments will remain shielded until the close of the competition.

The competition will run until the 15th November and is open to all.