User Profile


Joined 1 year, 6 months ago

Brit in Canada. I read when I can't sleep, so yes there's a lot of books here. Nearly all SF.


This link opens in a pop-up window

Stephen's books

Stopped Reading

2024 Reading Goal

57% complete! Stephen has read 29 of 50 books.

Hyperlocal interlinked stories

3 stars

I'm treating this as a more accessible version of Jerusalem by the same author, which is about four times longer.

I did not manage the first short which is written in a simple pidgin to show it is Early Human. It was very hard work.

The others were much easier to read. None are cheerful, and nearly all involved sex and death. Which isn't really a surprise. It does assume knowledge about local history, not all of which I have.

Caroline Dodds Pennock: On Savage Shores (2023, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group) 3 stars

Interesting but dry

3 stars

This book does the job it aims to do, to cover the stories of Indigenous people who came to Europe once Europeans starting visiting the Americas. The footnotes are amusing, and the explanations of the terminology of reconciliation are useful.

Fundamentally though, it is a list of vignettes seen from half a millennium later. It is somewhat sorted into categories, but I found it easier to read in short bites.

Julian Sancton: Madhouse at the End of the Earth (Paperback, 2021, Random House Large Print) 5 stars

Rollercoaster of a disaster film

5 stars

Gosh, this was enthralling. The Belgica sets off for Antarctica late, with a crew that don't get on and a desire for glory over safety. And taking Amundsen for his first polar trip.

And because they all wrote each other letters as they were going insane from scurvy and despair there's some great detail preserved.

Then finally the solution somehow managed to be to cut up the pan ice by hand to get to open sea. They were ridiculously lucky.

Anne McCaffrey: The Ship Who Sang (Paperback, 1985, Del Rey) 3 stars

Interesting ideas, but dated

3 stars

On the bright side, not "dated and sexist" or "dated and creepy" or "dated, sexist, and really creepy" like some of the male SF writers. But still you do have to take this basic idea of "babies with birth defects are put in indentured servitude running space ships" and just let it go over you before dealing with how all the characters deal with it. In the future, with still a lot of domestic violence. A bit like Jack Vance, in some ways.

Neil Gaiman: Fragile Things (Paperback, 2007, Harper Perennial) 4 stars

This is a duplicate. Please update your lists. See

Mixed bag

3 stars

The poetry is a bit weird, and on my Amazon Kindle also with mangled formatting making it even weirder. I think I'd like it more a second time, but I'd only really get into stories as they were finishing, as it's all a bit different in tone between the tales. I find Gaiman enjoyable but for some reason (the dreamlike nature?) very forgettable, so the Sherlock story at the beginning was my favourite, but the others were pleasant but I'd struggle to name them.

Adam Shoalts: A History of Canada in Ten Maps (Paperback, 2018, Penguin Canada) 5 stars

Suggested subtitle: Why Adam hates John Franklin

5 stars

Really enjoyed this book, very readable. I thought the ten chapters wouldn't link together terribly well but actually it mostly does. The author clearly loves the wilderness and geography of Canada (perhaps more than anyone else in it) and explicitly discusses this at the beginning and end of the book. I'm not sure he's necessarily noticed not everyone kayaks through icy rivers at the drop of a hat, mind.

There's great bibliographies and I'm going to go to those primary sources of the explorations as his quotes are so readable.

I'm just very amused, perhaps particularly as a Brit, in that it doesn't appear to be an accident that his last chapter is discussing John Franklin's other failed exploration of the High North. This time on land, and this time only killing half the party. The author contrasts Franklin's lack of preparation or heeding of native peoples' advice with all …

Iain M. Banks: Against a Dark Background (1993) 3 stars

Against a Dark Background is a science fiction novel by Scottish writer Iain M. Banks, …

Not sure Banks is for me

2 stars

Yet again, struggled through one of his books. I don't like any of the characters. Clearly a lot of the situations are supposed to be very funny, but without that connection I wasn't really in the mood. The second half of the book picks up the pace, but then a lot of the characters depart, for different reasons.