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review 2016-05-28 08:10
The Final Chapter
The Last Human - Doug Naylor

It has taken ages for me to get around to reading this book, namely because when my sister first bought it back in 1995 she told me that I couldn't read it until she had finished it. I'm not sure if that ever came about – her reading it that is – however over Christmas, when I was back in Adelaide for a few weeks, I asked her if I would be able to borrow it (half expecting her to say no, namely because she hadn't got around to reading it yet) and fortunately she had this one, and Backwards, and leant them to me. So, I can now say that I have read all of the Red Dwarf books and can now look forward to bigger and better things.

 

I did quite enjoy this book, and while there were a couple of amusing moments, I wouldn't say that it is one of those huge, laugh out loud type of books (though I did draw a few stares from my fellow commuters on my regular trips by train to work) but it was amusing nonetheless. The biggest problem that I found with this is that it seems that Grant and Naylor didn't seem to communicate with each other as to how they were going to proceed from Better than Life. While both books follow on from Better than Life, it was clear that there were some conflicts between the two. For instance in Backwards only Lister, the Cat, Kryten, and Rimmer escape the world (and both Lister and the Cat are teenagers). However in this book, despite it being set years after they left the Backwards Universe, Kochanski had left the universe with them (and this had been done by placing her ashes in the universe so that she would then return to life and then grow younger with Lister). However, it is clear that the events of Backwards didn't get a mention in this volume.

 

As I said it wasn't bad, but I found myself having to change the story a bit to try and make the two books eventually fit in (and I did that by assuming that when Lister had returned to Red Dwarf at the end of Backwards, albeit in a different universe, that Kochanski was with the crew as well). Another thing is that in parts it seemed that the editors didn't pick up some glaring mistakes, such as Rimmer blurting something out that should have clearly come from the mouth of the Cat. Oh, and while it was good to have Kochanski in the mix, she really didn't seem to fit with the original crew, and in a way seemed to come across as a third wheel (and the Cat also seemed to sit in the background a little too much as well).

 

http://vignette2.wikia.nocookie.net/reddwarf/images/2/2c/RedDwarfStarbug.jpg

 

Like the other books, Last Human borrows heavily from the show so you will no doubt encounter some memorable scenes from the episodes (such as when Kryten becomes human, and the jokes that stem from that particular episode) as well as the one where Lister accidentally offends a tribe of gelfs and is forced to marry one of them to appease their anger. Those who have followed the show will no doubt be aware that in the later seasons they decided to bring Kochanski (who is Lister's love interest by the way) into the mix which I have to admit (and my Dad, who is a huge fan of the show, agrees with me) that it was the beginning of the end of the series – the best parts were with the original four crew members.

 

One of the interesting things is the concept that humans are alone in the universe – something that also comes out in Asimov's Foundation series. However that doesn't mean that the universe isn't populated, it is, it's just been populated by gelfs, or genetic engineered life forms. However, despite the fact that the Gelfs were created by humans doesn't mean that they are friendly to humans – much the opposite – they are actually quite hostile. This is where Red Dwarf differs immensely from Asimov – in Asimov humanity is being moved towards a point where they will be able to live in harmony with each other whereas in Red Dwarf humanity is inherently self-destructive and they will create things for their own ease and pleasure without actually thinking anything through – everything they do to try to make themselves more advanced ends up backfiring – there are no laws built into the gelfs to prevent them from turning on their creators.

 

Mind you, the whole concept of the last human is an interesting one. This is a part of the absurdity of Red Dwarf – humanity's last and best hope for survival comes down to this one person, Dave Lister – a good person, but not a shining example of the human race. Mind you, the original series, with just Lister being the last human alive, suggests the whole absurdity of the show, and in part the pointlessness of existence. Here we have Dave Lister, being kept alive for no reason other than to preserve the human race, yet there is no way that the human race can be preserved because there is no way that Lister can reproduce – it is interesting that the only other life form happens to be a cat, and an incredibly vein one at that. Also we note that all of the characters are male, but once again that just adds to the absurdity.

 

In this volume, however, the original absurdity, and existentialist nature of the show, has now taken a back seat and it has effectively turned into a action romp where at the end the good guy gets the girl and everybody lives happily ever after. In fact the main characters (which unfortunately doesn't include the Cat for, as I suggested previously, seems to take a back seat in this story, having been pushed out by the introduction of Kochanski) all overcome their obstacles (Rimmer included) and the book finishes on a upbeat note. However, I really did like the Rimmer plot (there are numerous plots being woven through this book, which is one of the great things about this volume), and I thought it really brought the character out well. However I will leave it at that and move on to my next project.

 

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/b/b5/RedDwarfShip.jpg

 

Source: www.goodreads.com/review/show/1647311749
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review 2016-04-11 18:05
The first of a triptych but not the full story
Tobias (The Triptych Chronicle) by Prue Batten (2015-12-01) - Prue Batten

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

I was fascinated by the description and the concept behind this historical novel. A story of spies, trade, politics, brotherly love, prejudice, song and art, set up in the era of knights, noble houses, the Crusades and Byzantium, the book had story, adventure and interesting characters (including the protagonists, achondroplasic twin brothers, Tobias and Tomasso, dwarves who are not only minstrels and accomplished musicians, but can fight with the best and are spies too).

Although there is plenty to recommend this story (beautiful writing, incredible description of settings, power relations, ships, trade routes, and even social and religious customs), my difficulty with it was that I felt I caught the story half-way through after lots of it had already happened. Not having read the previous series the author has dedicated to the noble house of Gisborne, the constant references to facts and adventures that had happened before made me feel as if was missing a big chunk of the action (although this is book one, and that could cause confusion to some readers).  

The story is told in the third person but from Tobias’s point of view and I had some difficulty with the amount of telling that required at times, as due to their small stature and the need to be discreet because of the risks involved in the business at hand (the trading in an illegal and very valuable purple dye, that has come to embody power and everybody wants), the brothers are in hiding often and others have to tell them what happened. I felt the style of these fragments was not different enough from the rest of the book as to clearly indicate another speaker, rather than something once again seen from Tobias’s point of view.

I also felt I needed further information to fully empathise with the main character and his hesitation, ambivalence, difficulty making decisions, and his strained relationship with his brother (whom I found the more interesting of the two, perhaps because more morally ambivalent, with several shades of grey). Not knowing how Tomas had changed, or what their relationship had been like before, other than in a brief flashback to their time in Paris, didn’t help me fully understand why he found him so difficult now. By contrast, I thought some of the secondary characters like the captain of the ship, who is always handy to save Toby, and the doctor, were fascinating and well deserving of their own books (perhaps that’s already planned).

A solid book about a fascinating topic, with historical detail of the period beautifully rendered, that I feel it will be enjoyed more by readers already familiar with the characters and their backgrounds.  

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review 2016-03-24 18:40
Dwarfpower hahaha
Carnifex (Legends of the Nameless Dwarf) (Volume 1) - D.P. Prior

If I could give another star I think I would. This story starts off with excitement from the get go.
And the creation of the characters was solid(because they're Dwarfs),great!
With the world they live in being rather unique.This story was soley about Dwarfs (which had my interest).
There was drinking and brawling.And then there was fighting.
I was really captivated by this book so much that I didn't want it to end.
Aww but it did. Now I have to find the next book.

And I would like to thank Bookwraths for the recommendation:)

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review 2016-03-17 11:43
Trapped in Virtual Reality
Better than Life - Grant Naylor

I version I was reading was actually part of the [book:Red Dwarf Omnibus] which, along with the first two books, also has the script of the original radio play, and the pilot episode that they used to pitch to the TV executives (and as was suggested, at the time TV executives were very reluctant to take on a science fiction show, despite the fact that at the time Doctor Who was a rip-roaring success). Anyway, in the script for the pilot episode there was a line with a star next to it, and the footnote said 'the rest of the line is missing'. Upon seeing this I immediately thought of the ancient texts that I read where you see this occurring fairly often. This made me wonder what would somebody two thousand years from now, after our society had collapsed, think if he (or she) unearthed a casket that contained a copy of the Red Dwarf Omnibus. In fact what would they think if this box contained a bunch of John Grisham novels, along with say, something by Jackie Collins. In fact, if this box contained a copy of Life of Pi, what would they think of our society – would they have this weird understanding of the world that existed before the collapse of our society, and would they actually believe that we had conquered the stars? Mind you, sometimes I have the desire to build a huge underground vault and stock it full of books (and maybe even a computer, along with all of the manuals) for somebody in the future to uncover.

 

Anyway, I'm not going to answer that question, but if you have any thoughts please put them in the comment section below because I would love to hear what other people would think.

 

This is how the first book in the series ended:

 

What harm was one more day? He turned away from the dissolving exit and crunched up the drive to 220.

One more night of that pinball smile.

Just one.

He couldn't leave them on Christmas Eve.

But, of course, in Bedford Falls it was always Christmas Eve …

 

Lister and the crew of Red Dwarf had found themselves trapped in a game called 'Better than Life' and this is where this book begins. Mind you, the book isn't set entirely in Bedford Falls, just the first part, and we learn how they escape – thanks to the fact that Rimmer has this mental disorder in which he simply cannot accept that anything good can ever happen to him. Mind you, it is not that this is a disorder that he knows, but rather something deep in his subconsciousness, something that he doesn't realise himself, but a reality that will eventually rise up and destroy any joy that he has in his life. This is hinted at in the first book, where we learn that despite the fact that they live in this virtual world where everybody's fantasies come true, the Brazillian bombshell that he married still has an affair with the pool cleaner.

 

That is the thing with Better Than Life – it is supposed to create a world based on your subconscious where everything is perfect, which means that when you jack into the game you never want to leave. As such while you live in paradise, your body is slowly dying. Of course the writers never consider that people living in such a world could be hooked up to an intravenous source for sustenance, but then again this game is illegal so such facilities basically don't exist. Actually, I remember watching a film once (I can't remember what it was called though) where everybody lived in such a game while in the real world they were sleeping in beds being fed intravenously (no, it's not The Matrix).

 

The scary thing is that we see similar things happening today, where people log onto online computer games and simply spend their entire lives immersed therein. I remember living with somebody like that, in the days before World of Warcraft (back then it was Everquest and Ultima Online). His fiancée ended up breaking off the relationship namely because he preferred to play Ultima Online than actually spend anytime with her. Seeing this unfold before my eyes sort of put me off the whole online roleplaying phenomena (and the fact that I was never willing to ply the subscription fees – though I did play around with Neverwinter Nights for quite a while, but that had more to do with creating a world using their editor than anything else).

 

Like the first book in the series, Better then Life contains a montage of episodes from the next couple of seasons. Mind you, I have to admit that reading some of the jokes, such as the joke where Lister and the Cat dream of having an affair with Wilma Flintstone, and then discarding it based on the fact that she would never leave Fred, are so much better when you watch the TV series than when you read it in the book. However, having watched pretty much all of the original seasons, reading the same jokes still gives me a chuckle, namely because I remember the visual jokes from the screen. In fact I simply cannot picture the crew of Red Dwarf without images of Craig Charles, Chris Barrie, Robert Llewellyn, and Danny John-Jules (not to forget Norman Lovett) in my head. Actually, I suspect that they intended this to be as such since the books were written after the TV series were released.

 

Better than life ends similarly to the previous book, in a way that suggests that a sequel could be coming along, and ending it in a way that could leave us quite content. While it is tempting to write about the last section of the book I think I'll leave it at that, namely because if it is similar to this book then the beginning of Backwards is going to go on from the end of Better than Life. I just hope I don't forget some of the ideas that related to this when I get around to reading that book (which shouldn't be too far into the future).

Source: www.goodreads.com/review/show/1578134847
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review 2016-02-23 12:19
Gazpacgo Soup
Red Dwarf: Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers - Grant Naylor

I can't say exactly when I first encountered Red Dwarf – I was probably sitting at home one night, board out of my brains, and channel surfing, when suddenly I discovered this show that looked very science-fictiony on the ABC and was instantly intrigued. While I can't remember the first episode that I ever watched (though I believe it was the third season), I do remember instantly falling in love with it. In fact, at the time I was still really interested in film making and seeing what I could do with little to no funds (and this was the days before mobile phones, so a video camera cost something in the vicinity of $1000.00 – and I didn't have one). I was always particularly interested in low budget science-fiction shows: Blake's 7 and Doctor Who. When I stumbled serendipitously upon Red Dwarf my interest was immediately caught.

 

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/thumb/9/98/RedDwarfShipOriginal.jpg/250px-RedDwarfShipOriginal.jpg

 

 

Anyway, Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers is basically the novelisation of the first two seasons of Red Dwarf, though it is drafted in a way that creates a much more seamless story. Those of us who have watched the early shows will be very familiar with the episodes that make their way into the books, including the one where they first meet Kryten, the one where Rimmer creates a duplicate of himself, and of course the pilot episode. However, unlike the series the authors (who also created the series – which was originally a radio show) did a brilliant job creating what is in effect a seamless story from a collection of disparate episodes. However, while the idea of a science-fiction sitcom in space is always appealing, it is the characters that really attract my attention.

 

The thing with the characters is that they are all extremes. Mind you, I am actually hesitant to suggest that Lister is an extreme because he just seems to be your everyday working class slob. Sure, they paint him as being somewhat of an extreme slob that lives on a diet of vindaloo and beer, however there is actually something realistic, and appealing, about him. I guess it has something to do with the fact that he really doesn't care. Sure, life as thrown its fair share of punches at him, and wasn't born with a silver spoon in his mouth, but he seems to just roll with the punches and simply gets on with life. In a way he is carefree and really not worried about what people think of him, or what the next day would bring (and despite the fact that he is a working class slob, he is actually pretty smart, though these smarts would be considered street smarts).

 

Rimmer couldn't be the more opposite, which is probably why they suggest that Red Dwarf is the Odd Couple in space. Unlike Lister, Rimmer blames everybody else, but himself, for his short comings, and is always trying to impress the wrong sorts of people, which generally lands him up in a lot of trouble. In fact the friendships that he should be cultivating he actually rejects and he pretty obviously brown noses people that really couldn't care less about him. Rimmer is the classic example of the pointlessness of the career minded individual that seeks to elevate himself above others, which in the end earns their disdain. His repeated failure to pass the astronavigation examine (namely because he doesn't actually study for it) is a clear example of how all of his priorities are wrong (and let's not forget him spending his spare time in stasis so that by the end of the seven year tour, he is only six years older).

 

The Cat, however, is a rather enigmatic creature. In a way he is the opposite of Lister, for where Lister is a slob, he is incredibly stylish. In fact his attention to neatness and style puts him in the same camp as Rimmer, who always appears in an immaculate uniform. However, unlike Rimmer, he lives a carefree life which has no ambition beyond eating, sleeping, and looking for women (as well as making sure he looks incredibly stylish). Ironically it turns out that he relates to Lister much more than he does Rimmer (in fact nobody likes Rimmer, probably because he is just one enormous goit).

 

Red Dwarf is an incredibly existentialist piece of work. What we have are three (actually four if you count the computer Holly) characters stuck millions of miles from home, millions of years in the future. In fact from their vantage point there is unlikely to be any home left. As such anything, and everything, that gives them character – their home, their friends (if they have any), their goals and their dreams, have all been stripped from them leaving them alone without a world that can define them. As such they are in a situation where they are defined only by how they define themselves (though of course there is an element of creating a definition of each other: yes, Rimmer, you are a goit!). Of course, in this environment, where they are effectively on their own, they don't necessarily need accept what the other makes them out to be, which in a way gives them strength. Even though Rimmer still believes that he is in command, there is no formal command structure, which means that despite what he believes, there are only two things that Rimmer is in command of: Jack and shit, and unfortunately for Rimmer, Jack just left town. However, despite the fact that there are three people on the ship that all agree the Rimmer is a goit (and the reality is that Rimmer is a goit), that doesn't mean that he has to accept that. What Red Dwarf teaches us is that by stripping away all of society, and our peers, all we are left with is that which we have defined for ourselves (though of course, in Rimmer's case, this is completely delusional).

 

Of course, this all comes down to the scene with regards to the gazpacgo soup. When Rimmer first came on board the ship he was invited to the captains cabin for dinner and he saw this as his one big break, so he went out of his way to impressed them, and to say that it turned out to be a disaster is an understatement. The crux of the whole event was when he was served gazpacgo soup (which is supposed to be served cold – something that I didn't know until I watched the show) and Rimmer calls the waiter over to him and asks him to heat it up. This, allegedly (we are only going by Rimmers account here) the entire cabin burst out laughing and Rimmer was never invited back. A Lister points out, when Rimmer finally spills the beans, the only person that is holding onto that event, and letting it drag him down is him – even if it wasn't the case that everybody in that room has been dead for three million years, in any event, after a few days of chuckling, they would have got on with their lives, while Rimmer is forever kicking himself for that one mistake (or many mind you, but that is the one that haunts him – and it wasn't his fault by the way, they should have taught him in basic training).

 

http://theawesomecave.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/RedDwarfWallpaper1024.jpg

Source: www.goodreads.com/review/show/1554280634
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