Thursday, August 31, 2006

Ray Bradbury's "Martian Chronicles" : Review

This review is late because I have been on holiday: a great cottage in Ludlow with no PC.

I enjoyed the Martian Chronicles as much on this re-reading as when I first discovered the stories : many years ago.

I love RB's lyrical style, humour and pathos. Nobody in SF/Fantasy and very few authors of any kind are more effective in capturing the tragicomedy of the human condition.

The chronological linking of the stories is effective in holding the book together and keeping it focused, while at the same time allowing side trips into all kinds of interesting places.

The hilarious fate of the second expedition, and the terrifying end of the third,are followed by the outstanding "And the moon be still as bright" in which Spender, perhaps the most filled out character in the whole book, tragically realises that men always bring their own hell with them.
Does this story remind anyone else of Ursula Le Guin's "Vaster than Empires, and more slow"?

I don't remember "Way up in the middle of the air": a powerful evocation of fifties racism and a warning that things don't really change very much, after all: I think it must have been left out of the early edition I read in the seventies.

"There will come soft rains" is one of all time favourite stories as the house continues to live, and finally die, long after the people who lived there were destroyed.

There are so many good things in this slim volume : definitely worth the asking price.

The great thing about the SFX reading group is that it's making us rediscover things we haven't read for years. The next book is Larry Niven's "Ringworld"_________________

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Self praise is no recommendation...

But I'm still as happy as dog with two tails (?or a fox with nine?).

Thanks to SFX I'm now a proper published critic -- well a bit.

Check out the book club ("War of the Worlds") page in the current issue.

Normal hat size will be resumed shortly...

Sad librarian, guilty as charged

Hi, everyone;

I'm back from my holiday in Ludlow, and now very ready for another one.

It's a wonderful unspoilt market town with a fine castle, magnificent church, over 500 listed buildings, and is a foodie and real ale paradise, so I had a great time.

While there I did the traditional sad librarian thing and spent some hours in the splendid new(ish) library and heritage centre.
It really is a fine resource for a small town.

(Heather : "But as to manga, they only had Vol 4 of "Gravitation!")

Photo attached to prove I was there:

(With Christine, my wife and sad library assistant).

Next: I'm going to get "Shropshire Lad" on the ass of my poetry group.

Friday, August 11, 2006

August's Graphic Novel group

The August meeting of the group is tomorrow, at 3.30pm in Bolton Central Library's Adult Fiction section. Tea and biscuits provided!

We'll be talking about GN/movie crossovers - with it being summer, a summer blockbuster-type topic seemed a good idea. Plus it's big enough and vague enough to keep us on-topic for the entire hour, which is pretty much unprecedented...

I might have to sneak out a bit early, but the group will finish at 4.30-ish. Comment on this post if you've got something to say. I'll be adding a follow-up on Monday morning, all being well.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Current security concerns

With the current concern over airport and flight security, a dedicated Terror alert and travel implications section has been added to Signpost.

The section pulls together advice and information from trusted sources, but be warned: some of the Government sites are obviously attracting many more visitors than they are used to. Because of this, their websites are slower than usual. If you experience this problem, use the BBC pages instead.

Travel safely.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

SFX Book Group, take 2

Hi, everyone :

The second book for discussion in the SFX book group is Ray Bradbury's "Martian Chronicles" ; a bit of an odd choice, I think, though I love RB's writing.

Review soon.


Friday, August 04, 2006

Domesday online

With much fanfare, the Domesday Book has been made available online.

You can visit the site and search the database by modern place name, 11th Century place name (which, of course, you know...) or by the name of an individual mentioned. The search interface seems reasonably straightforward and results were returned quickly - presumably, lessons have been learned from the 1901 Census fiasco...

Some crushing disappointments for me though: first, the results you get are only records; you have to pay for downloadable, scanned images of pages from Domesday. None of the news I've read in my RSS aggregator or in various emails mentioned this fact, nor did (to my hazy, tea-fuelled recollection) the piece on BBC Breakfast this morning.

The biggest problem, though, is in the results returned. I tried a few places I've known and loved over the years:

Goxhill - it's in North Lincolnshire and I lived there for about six years. My parents are still there. Searching Domesday online for "Goxhill" returns a place of the same name in Yorkshire. This map shows the difference between the two. There is a point, and it is this: I know the Domesday Book includes and entry on "my" Goxhill because I've seen it in a translation of the text in Bolton Central Library's Reference Reserve Stock. So, I searched the catalogue for the book and found this more accessible translation on the open shelves. Lo and behold, the Goxhill in Lincolnshire has several entries in the index.

Caistor - this town in Lincolnshire is where I went to school. It was originally settled by Roman troops and, if memory serves, Roman remains were found while some building work was being done, way before my time. Again, searching Domesday online finds several "wrong" Caistors: but the book I swiped from the shelves lists the "right" one in its index.

There are two possible explanations here - either the index behind the data supplied by the National Archives is not very good, or I'm using the database incorrectly. In both cases, I believe the fault lies with TNA: the data should be comprehensive and it should be easy to search.

The moral of this story: the online service is all very well and good, but maybe you're better off with a book in this case. Try this search at Bolton, Trafford and Wigan and see what you can find. Signpost's link to Domesday online is in the Reference books online section.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Big Brother

No, not the dreadful reality TV show. I'm thinking of something more Orwellian.

I stumbled on ClustrMaps, a nice little app that adds a world map to a website, showing the locations of visitors. I can already look at the geographic location and server names of visitors to the blog using the data I get from Google Analytics, so it doesn't really add anything new for me.

So why is it there, and why am I writing this post? It's there, and the same goes for Google Analytics to some extent, because I can put it there. There's a need to be able to monitor the use made of any service we provide, because that's one of the things we're measured on as a library service. It's useful to know where our hits come from and what technologies people are using (which GA can do), so we can tailor content to identifiable groups at some mythical future point.

The main reason the map is there, at the bottom of the sidebar on the right, is that I think it looks nice. I like colour. It makes things look more interesting. I'm not using the Big Brother-esque stuff to spy on people; I see myself as more of a benevolent dictator. :)

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

SFX book group

My copy of SFX was sitting on the doormat when I got home last night, hence this blog post. I thought it might be worth refreshing people's memories of swlrir's post, but you've only got a couple of days to add your thoughts at

The Graphic novel section in Signpost has had a link to SFX for a while now. Any suggestions for other SF, fantasy and horror sites? One thing that's missing, IMHO, from a lot of the mainstream book recommendation services is genre fiction coverage.