Books I’ve Read in 2017

This year, I’ve made it a personal goal to read only new (to me) books. I haven’t been good at finding new things to read and I’ve spent a lot of time (possibly a whole year) re-reading Discworld books, with occasional dips into my comic shelf.

So that was a simple challenge – only read books I’ve never read before. Not even a long time ago.


  • David Copperfield
    I read Nicholas Nickelby last year and enjoyed it, this was a little bleaker but still very interesting. You learn a lot about everyday Victorian life from Dickens.
  • The View From the Cheap Seats
    A little disappointing, it feels a lot like a reminder to read things and listen to people I wanted to anyway. The other things in there would probably be more interesting to me if I had already read them, kind of like a covers album is better if you already know and love the originals.
  • Singing From the Well
    Trippy as hell. Reminds me of the film Cat Soup, and to a lesser extent My Neighbour Totoro. An easy read, I got through it in a couple of weeks.
  • The Un-discovered Islands
    An interesting book about places that we thought exist, but don’t. I think I might look for the Phantom Atlas for more, it’s an interesting alternative to real history/geography.
  • Star Trek: Destiny
    Recommended to me as the best continuation of Star Trek after Voyager, after I looked out on my own and found The Lives of Dax. I would have preferred a less epic, more DS9 focussed story but this was still good.
  • The Prince
    Very difficult to read, as it contained so many run-on sentences and I like to read just before sleeping. Not my most alert. Slightly interesting, but not nearly as diabolical as Macchiavelli’s reputation has come to be.
  • The Better Angels of our Nature
    Since I heard Penn Jillette talk about this book all the time on his podcast (Penn’s Sunday School), I picked it up. I even got it signed by Penn and Teller when we went to their London show! They said it was a great book, and it’ll change my life.


  • World’s End
    I was having a slow, tired week and wanted to read something but wanted something easy. I love World’s End as a story about stories (and one of those stories is about stories…) in a strange place – like a lot of good sci-fi, it’s not about what’s going on, it’s about the stories that happen before and after the episode. It fires the imagination.
  • Drive, Act One
    I think this counts mostly as a failure, because I’ve already read the story as a webcomic.

Book Review – Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

Product DetailsI recently finished reading Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith and Jane Austen (allegedly), which I’d found brand-new and mint condition in a charity shop for £1.50. That’s definitely worth a punt!

Overall, I found it a good read. I have read the ‘original’, and even seen TV adaptations of it, but to be totally honest that was in school and I’m not even sure there was any work or essay involved in it beyond just going through the motions of reading it as a class, and/or watching the television. I can sum up my total knowledge of it before I read this book as “Many Bennett sisters want to get married, there is a mean guy named Darcy who Elizabeth hates.” Which is probably the ground-state of knowledge, like what everyone knows about Superman, Romeo and Juliet, or Macbeth.

There were parts of And Zombies that made me think they were poking fun at or paying homage to the original in a way that is opaque to outsiders but absolutely obvious to someone familiar with the work. One chapter, which was only a paragraph long, summed up a whole journey as essentially not worth writing about. Does the original book go into lavish detail of the countryside passed and the entire trip’s trivia? I know Tess of the D’Urbervilles was far over the top as a traveller’s almanac, but I honestly can’t remember enough of Pride and Prejudice to say the same.

In some places, I had to scoff and thought it was going a little over the top – Elizabeth ripping out the still beating heart of a ninja in front of a noblewoman, for instance. But it was still entertaining, and as much as the action scenes were exaggerated and a little foolish, I found that I was getting bored and restless if it went too long between them. That’s the only thing that has stopped me from trying to find a cheap/borrowed copy of the original to read, because although my interest has been raised – I want to know how close this version is to the original – the ‘zombie-less’ parts of the book were, at times, a bit of a chore.

The only major criticism I have of the book is that the zombies are mentioned often, but always using one of a small handful of period-consistent terms. When used once, these terms are an interesting look at how zombies may have been seen in that sort of world, but each one is repeated over and over again. One of the least appealing is the word ‘unmentionables’ – since they are called that often, and while some characters talk of nothing else, Mrs Bennett is the only person I can think of off the top of my head that might not have mentioned zombies at all. They are far from unmentionable, people talk about them all the time! And while Mrs Bennett rarely (if ever) talked about zombies, she talked about her daughters fighting abilities – which is itself a direct consequence of the zombie plague.

Zombie references also feel shoe-horned in many places – the best uses are more subtle, like the fact that mail is expected to be delayed, as coaches must be more heavily armed when crossing the countryside, and even then may be attacked and require a better provisioned coach to recover mail and deliver it. The turning of Miss Lucas was most interesting when it was at a distance – the frequency and quality of her letters dropping, Elizabeth wondering when (or if) the next one would arrive, or whether her disease has been discovered and what fate befell her.

The Ginger Man

My reviews have spoilers. I make no apologies.

In short – I hated it. The style was jarring at the beginning, and mellowed out but still messed around, mixing up third and first person perspectives – most of the third person writing was in the first 15-20% of the book, then it seemed to forget that it was trying that and kept swapping around. This was incredibly annoying.

The plot can be summed up as “An arsehole moves to England, where he gets everything his own way.” As far as I can tell, it’s about a guy who sponges from his friends and treats his wife and child atrociously, never pays rent, then when it appears he can’t live in Ireland anymore due to landlords chasing him, the wife (and the rent his parents were paying directly to her) disappearing to Scotland, he leaves for England. There, he meets up with some friends who treat him well, an old friend who has (gasp!) worked and treats him extremely well, and they set him back up with a woman he cheated on his wife with (one of three) who is working and willing to support him despite him beating her and treating her like crap.

So an arsehole moves to England, where everything comes up roses for him. He always gets forgiven, and no-one means it when they say “this is the last time…” – including the friend who is practically destitute every time he is bothered for a drink!

Our main character, for whom everything works out terrific, is a drunk, an adulterer and a wife-beater. His child is only mentioned a couple of times and he appears to take no notice of her at all. Although he has a bad life in Ireland, it is entirely of his own making – pawning household items to pay for drink, never fixing or paying for anything if he can help it, not studying as a lawyer (as he is supposed to be doing), and driving his friends out of the country.

I was much more interested in the characters who left our lead. The estranged wife who sided with the despicable man’s father to leave him penniless and move firstly across to the nice district of Dublin, then to Edinburgh. His lodger – a devout Catholic taken advantage of, who regretted every time she (apparently willingly) let him have his way, and most of all his best friend who left for France to both make some money and lose his virginity. It appears in his letters to our star that he is having more adventures, including passing himself off as a cook to gain employment in a noblewoman’s house in Ireland, leaving there and moving on once more (all without losing that darned virginity!). He’s not succeeding, and probably not any nicer a person than the main character, but certainly had more interesting adventures and seems like he would have been more entertaining.

Even, and this is a stretch – the young girl beaten by her father who he extorted money from to move to London, who joined him later, left him because he was wicked then came back – after successfully losing weight, getting a job in the film industry, making good money for herself and all so he would like her more would make an interesting character to follow. She’s able to take all his crap right at the end, yet stays with him and supports him!

I don’t like books with characters like this lead. I want them to get their just rewards. There’s no obstacle for him to overcome – or rather, there are obstacles, but he just drinks and slobs and walks away from them. He doesn’t achieve anything, he gets lucky at the end due to his friends and a woman and gets the life he was trying to live all along – no work, no responsibility.

The only thing that I am possibly not understanding about this book is it’s humour. I could follow and like a book about a loser and a bastard if it was funny, but the only way that The Ginger Man is funny is in the Happy Slapper sense – not really very funny at all, on reflection.