User Profile

Nick Barlow

Joined 7 months, 3 weeks ago

I read a lot, and try to keep things varied and am always interested in broadening my outlook through something new. Currently writing a memoir about walking, mental health, and grief. Can be found elsewhere on the fediverse talking about things other than books at and

This link opens in a pop-up window

Nick Barlow's books

Currently Reading

View all books

2023 Reading Goal

56% complete! Nick Barlow has read 37 of 65 books.

Lion and the Dragon (2023, Orion Publishing Group, Limited) 2 stars

Unfocused and shallow

2 stars

This is more a vague summary of bits of British and Chinese history over the last couple of hundred years than a look at the relations between the two countries. There's no focus to it, no thesis being examined, no argument being made, just "this happened, then this happened" for a couple of hundred pages. I spotted one glaring error - Chris Patten wasn't appointed Governor of Hong Kong by Thatcher in 1992, because she'd been out of power since 1990 - and some of the statistics he quotes about China's growth are suspect and appear to contradict each other. There are interesting books to be written - or have already been written - about a lot of the subjects here, this fails to be interesting about any of them.

The Stars Are Legion (2017, Gallery / Saga Press) 4 stars

Somewhere on the outer rim of the universe, a mass of decaying world-ships known as …

Didn't click for me

3 stars

Didn't really click with the characters, too much people saying how terrible they were and doing terrible things because they were working for something they couldn't explain. Then the explanation is very obvious, and has the logic of a game rather than a story.

Inferior (2017) 4 stars

Inferior: How Science Got Women Wrong and the New Research That's Rewriting the Story is …

Science and the patriarchy

4 stars

Recommended by a friend following some earlier reading (Heart of Maleness) this is an interesting feminist angle on popular science tropes. It takes aim at the science, from Darwin onwards, that's been used to "prove" women are inferior to men, and that sex differences are somehow innate and unavoidable. Across a range of different areas, Saini exposes how some big scientific findings are based on very shaky ground. Weak science and patriarchal beliefs have led people to take tiny studies and blow them up out of all importance to reinforce stereotypes, and those working to correct and challenge these assumptions are left to the fringes. Ocasionnally a bit frustrating as she takes her time to debunk flaws that are obvious in the way she describes a study, and she perhaps gives some people a bit too much of the benefit of the doubt, but still well worth reading.

Galapagos 3 stars

Galápagos (1985) is the eleventh novel published by American author Kurt Vonnegut. Set in the …

Good idea but doesn't really go anywhere

3 stars

Though I guess that's what you could say about humanity as a whole, right?

Anyway, this is a story about how the next million years of humanity begin with a shipwreck on one of the Galapagos islands, leading to the few people surviving it becoming the ancestors of the next stages of humanity, all narrated by a ghost. But of course, being Vonnegut, it's not really about that, it's about evolution and the dead end of thinking our "big brains" will solve everything for us. There's some good lines and some interesting thoughts in there - this is Vonnegut, after all - but it's slight and unfocused, unsure of what to focus its attention on.

Desolation Called Peace (Paperback, 2022, Pan Macmillan) 4 stars

An alien armada lurks on the edges of Teixcalaanli space. No one can communicate with …

Excellent sequel

5 stars

Rare for me to find a sequel more interesting than the original, but this was one of those occasions. It takes the world-building from Memory Called Empire and then allows the characters to step further forward in the story. After being at the heart of the Empire before, we're now at the fringe, where it faces a threat and a potential war, with politics at play that might lead to a catastrophe. Really enjoyed watching how this all played out and the way the characters grew and developed through it.

The last English king (1999, Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin's Press) 5 stars

An imaginative take on historical fiction

5 stars

Originally read this years ago, but found a copy in a charity shop a few months ago and decided to reread it. Very glad I did, as it's a really good read. It's a tale of the vents of 1066, told mainly from the perspective of one of Harold's close guards after the event. The story is interesting in itself, of course, looking at how Harold and the Godwin family rose to power, how England found itself the focus of attention from potential invasions from Scandinavia and Normandy, and how the web of obligations and oaths tied them all together politically. However, Rathbone's ingenuity is in telling this story in the knowledge that this is historical fiction, not history, so he has a lot more leeway to insert an authorial voice, to highlight the incongruities of looking back at this from hundreds of years later and to purposefully deploy anachronism …

Walk (Paperback, Hachette) 4 stars

Stephen had seemed enthusiastic about the walk, when Benny first invited him. He kept going …

A ramble into toxic masculinity

4 stars

A book I found by chance, when a friend saw it on the shelf at a bookshop and passed it on to me. 'm glad she did, this is a really interesting book that starts as an account of two old friends' attempt to walk Offa's Dyke Path. I felt like I knew the sort of story it was going to be then, but suddenly another voice is added into the narrative and it becomes a lot stranger and a lot more interesting. It examines and challenges the conventions of masculinity and male friendship, pitting that within the directionless life of twentysomethings in the current economy, searching for meaning in a world that refuses to give them any. Sometimes the foreshadowing - we know something is going to happen, but it takes a while to come about - is a bit much and there's a bit of wheel-spinning (foot-dragging?) before …