Tag Archives: Reading

Read ‘Em And Weep

Anyone who is friends with me on Facebook, follows me on Twitter or, unlikely as it seems, occasionally looks at my Google+ account, will know that for the past two years or so I have been undertaking a reading marathon of Pratchett proportions.

I started with The Colour of Magic and continued with all 41 Discworld novels, as well as the maps, cookbooks, tourist guides, kids books and short story collections. After this I started on the non-Discworld books – Strata, The Dark Side of the Sun, the Bromeliad trilogy, the Johnny Maxwell books, etc.

The reason for this single-minded readathon are numerous, I tend to reread my Pratchett collection every few years anyway, but after his untimely death in 2015 I couldn’t bring myself to pick up a book by any other author.

I assumed this feeling would pass but several months later I was still in the same mood, a year later I felt the same, two years later and I was still in my reading rut.

Seemingly unrelated, about two months ago we got notice that our landlord wanted their house back, which was a bit inconvenient because we were just in the middle of trying to find somewhere of our own to buy. Scroll on to about a week ago and the house is full of boxes as we get ready to move to a new rental. I was packing up my Pratchett collection (shudder) and amongst them I found my Kindle, untouched since I picked up The Colour of Magic.

I wasn’t sure what to do with it so I left it on top of my drawers in our bedroom. Then, last Sunday night I was getting my stuff ready for work the next day and thought “why the hell not” and slipped the e-reader into my bag.

When I arrived at the train station on Monday morning I got it out and started reading (American Gods by Neil Gaiman, if you must know!), and have been doing so on every journey to work and back since. It seems my reading mojo has returned and, with it, my brain has also fallen off a deep precepice into the icy waters of “I Have To Write” again.

Ideas are sloshing around inside my head like a particularly spectacular Formula One pile up and my fingers are itching to type. But what to do first?

I’ve been working on a few things, slowly, for the past few months, a Discworld fan-fiction piece about Rincewind; a comedy fantasy novel about a vampire; a biography about my life as a type one diabetic; a kids book I’ve been working on for a couple of years now.

All these conflicting stories are arguing for precedence, so what I’m going to do is…go to sleep! Life is complicated enough at the moment without worrying about what and when to write, so I just need to put digits to keyboard whenever I get the chance.

Wish me luck!


Bookshops have always held a special place in my life. As an atheist who doesn’t believe in anything that hasn’t got a decent amount of proof backing it up, they are the closest I can get to a holy place.

In my adopted country, today was Father’s Day. Only the second one I have been resident here for. My five year old son was very excited and came running into our room, with the card he had written (with my wife’s help) and the things he had made for me at school.

My wife had organised for us to go out for breakfast, to a Bookshop in South Perth which has a café attached to it. We ordered our food and duly filled our bellies. Very nice it was too.

Upon finishing we sauntered through to the bookshop to have a browse. The young ‘un started leafing through some books about Star Wars, then dinosaurs. My wife had a general investigate to see if there was anything worth reserving at the library – we’re trying to save a bit of money and space at the minute by e.g. not buying extra/unnecessary stuff to fill the house.

After my fill of stegosaurs/wookies I decided to see if there was anything that piqued my own interest. The bookshop wasn’t huge but had an eclectic mix of topics. I realised, with some shock, that I haven’t really been in a bookshop to browse for about eight or nine months. That meant that it was also the first time I have visited one since Sir Terry Pratchett was taken by complications of his early onset Alzheimer’s in March of this year.

I stared at some of the books lined up on the shelves. I moved along and stared at some others. After a few more attempts I realised that I wasn’t thinking the usual thoughts of “ooh, that looks interesting” or “I’ll have to write that one down to get hold of when I have a chance”, I was just staring, blankly.

I am currently in the middle of reading, or re-reading Pratchett’s entire catalogue of books, as amassed on my bookshelves. I am doing the Discworld ones first, The Colour of Magic through to The Shepherd’s Crown. Then I’ll do the non-Discworld books, The Carpet People, Strata, Truckers, The Unadulterated Cat, etc. and so on. Finally I will read The Long Earth through to The Long Utopia. Having not yet read the final Discworld or Long books, it means I will finish with a new one. It is an emotional and exclamatory journey!!!

The problem is that I just wasn’t able to consider looking at any other books in the shop. Pratchett’s passing has left me temporarily (I hope) unable to consider reading anything else by anybody else. I love books and will read almost anything – physics, sci-fi, history, evolutionary biology, classics, speculative fictions, maths, religion, adventure, whatever – This is the first time I have ever stood in front of a bookshelf feeling nonplussed. It was horrible!

It may sound over-dramatic, but I believe what I am experiencing is a form of grief. I am in mourning for a man I met once, but who had such a profound effect on my life that I am a wholly different person to the one who travelled down the non-Pratchett trouser leg of time.

I have lost people before and am conversant with the feeling of broken memories, disjointed conversations and half recalled situations, which rip through your mind at inopportune moments, making you smile and bringing a tear to your eye in equal parts. The odd thing is that in this particular case these memories are wholly fantastic, involving Wizzards (sic.), witches, trolls and a disc shaped planet supported by four elephants carried by a world sized turtle.

If I am right then I guess I will slowly recover and one day may be able to feel the thrill of searching for new worlds and characters, new technologies and species. But for now, I am lost in a lonely literary universe.

Terry Pratchett, April 28, 1948 – March 12, 2015

I woke up this morning as I would on any other day, alarm sounded, arm wildly flailed to find the snooze button, hop out of bed, pull on some shorts, turn on phone and head to the kitchen to make some toast. After my blood test I buttered my toast, sat down and started checking my messages, I had been tagged in a post on Facebook by my friend Ian, so I opened Facebook and went to see what he was drawing my attention to.

This is how I learned of the death of Sir Terence David John Pratchett, OBE.

Our cat had decided to spend the night outside, this is unusual for him, so Deanne got out of bed to open the back door and call for him. After being outside for seven hours the cat came in and used his litter tray immediately, rather than taking the more sensible option of relieving himself in the garden, but I digress.

I felt numb, but not as sad as I would expect, reading the article from the Independent newspaper. I walked through to the bathroom and held the phone out to Deanne to show her the news and as she said ‘oh no’ I burst into tears. I think that sharing the news with her had made it real. She asked me if I was alright and I didn’t answer, because I was not.

To explain why let me take you back in time to 1988. I was a prolific reader, even when I was 13, and begged, stole and borrowed any book I could get my hands on to devour the words held within. One day my eldest brother, Paul, had just finished a new (second hand) one. As usual, I asked if it was alright if I read it then took it before he had a chance to answer.

I started reading and found that I couldn’t put it down. I laughed so much that I cried, then I actually did have to put the book down in several places because I couldn’t control my body for the humorous convulsions taking it over.

The book was about an inept, cowardly Wizzard (not wizard), living on a flat world carried on the back of four elephants, standing on the back of a colossal turtle named Great A’Tuin. The magician was called Rincewind and he had been tasked with looking after the Discworld’s first ever tourist, a friendly bespectacled man with a profusion of gold, coming as he did from the Counterweight Continent. The book was called The Light Fantastic.

I finished reading, put it down and immediately counted up my meagre savings to see if I would be able to afford the first book in the series, which was called The Colour of Magic, thankfully I could and so, at my first convenience, I did so.

This is how I came to know Terry Pratchett, and how I became ensconced in his worlds and words. At first I just had to get the books, no matter how, so for a time I bought them when they came out in paperback, as it was more affordable, but as I got more and more entrenched in the fabulous places and people it started to become an addiction.

I would investigate the release dates and make sure I had enough funds at my disposal and a free morning in which to visit the local bookstore so I could get there first thing in the morning, buy a first edition hardback copy of whatever the latest one was, then spend the rest of the day in repose on the sofa letting the characters, situations, stories and puns (or plays on words) bathe my mind in a glorious warm glow of happiness.

To put this in context, my wife and I met about 13 years ago, it is our twelfth wedding anniversary and 13th anniversary of being a couple at the end of this month and I love her, and our son, more than I can put into words. Having said that, I met Terry (in a metaphorical sense, although I was lucky enough to see him in the flesh as well) 27 years ago and although I didn’t know the man, exactly, I have loved his words for longer than I have been growing hair on my face, I had Terry before I had my first job, he was with me through the good times, the bad times, the happy and sad times, he helped me cope when life was at its toughest and added to the euphoria when things were at their best.

This is why I will miss Sir Terry more than I can say, I have read almost everything he has ever written, I own a good deal of his work in first edition hardback, have a folder containing newspaper articles and short online pieces I discovered over the years, and only just got hold of A Slip of the Keyboard. I feel like I know him as well, or better even, than I know some of my closest family members.

The hole that his passing is going to leave in my life is irreplaceable. The only positive twinkle being that I have an enormous library of his scrawlings, from The Carpet People, first released in 1971 three years before my own arrival into the human race, to the final message on Twitter, which I suspect he had quite a hand in crafting. I will read these again and again, as I always have, and I will get pleasure from knowing that he would have appreciated he was making someone’s life a better one.

Terry Pratchett was not just my favourite author, he was a part of my family and I will miss him as such.

Here’s hoping Death was kind, giving him a pat on the back and offering to carry his typewriter.

Reviews – Robinson Crusoe 2244 by E.J. Robinson and Jump…by Me

In my ongoing attempt to dominate the world of publishing, I have been getting a bit more socially involved, internet wise. Yes, I still have the six extra Twitter accounts (more about that some time soon), the G+, Facebook and other such tools that I’ve been using, but now I have also started looking for and reviewing other authors’ work.

Being a poor (or at least tight!) writer I am not inclined to fork out much (or indeed, any) money for books, so I’ve been keeping my eye out for deals of the day on Amazon, as well as following all kinds of promotional accounts on Twitter. it was via this medium that I happened upon a book which sounded kind of interesting.

The name of the book, as alluded to in the title of this post, is Robinson Crusoe 2244. The author’s name is E.J. Robinson, whom I discovered, in the course of writing my review, is called Erik. I did wonder to myself if his name had anything to do with why he chose that particular classic to update, but there isn’t any hint of that in any of his supporting material.

I’ll paste my review in now, and then get on to what happened next…

I had no preconceptions when I started reading this. I assumed it would be some kind of futuristic updating of the classic desert island shipwreck adventure, but didn’t expect for a moment that it was about to become one of my new favourite books!
The thing that surprised me most was the similarity to the writing of Jack Vance, the dialogue, the colourful characters, the intense impressions of scenery and clothing. Everything is so beautifully extemporised that you feel you’re inside the scene watching.
And the story…Instead of just a straightforward update, Mr Robinson (Erik, not Crusoe) has ripped the original into little pieces, mixed it up with half a cup of Richard Matheson, some shavings of Stephen King and fashioned a believable but horrifying future. I loved it!
Can’t wait until 2245!

In case you’re wondering, he has another book coming out in a week or two’s time, which is going to be called Robinson Crusoe 2245. Suffice to say I will be purchasing it when it hits the shelves! He is a sublime writer and the story was brilliantly planned, well thought out and included situations which, although fantastical, were utterly believable.

So, I posted my review, then forgot all about it.

A week or so later I realised that I had completely missed setting an account up on one of the biggest reading/writing resources on the interweb – Goodreads – so I signed up and went through the process of getting myself recognised as the author of Jump. In case you’re at all interested, my page is here. After getting it all sorted I had one of my first interactions, someone had bought my book and it turned out to be the aforementioned Mr Robinson. I was mildly surprised and also intrigued to see what he would think of it.

Reading it seemed to take him no time at all and shortly after he finished the following review appeared on my feed.

E.J.’s review

In JUMP, it isn’t the discovery of time travel that sets the story churning, but the potential misuse of it. When a covert environmental group threatens to destabilize the past in hope of limiting man’s influence on the future, the fate of the world hangs in the balance and our likeable cast of heroes must race to heal time’s wounds before it’s too late.

Ladle’s prose is intelligent and thoughtful and the story focuses on the characters as much as the premise. The time travel element is heavy on theoretical psychics and laymen not used to the genre might get confused, but the second half picks up the pace to what is an exciting resolution.

For fans of the time travel genre, JUMP is the thinking man’s TIMELINE, and it’s good to see there’s room for a potential sequel. A solid debut.

I was, literally, amazed! This nice man, whose book is a masterpiece of modern sci-fi/fantasy/fiction, seemed to think that what I wrote is worthy of a modicum of praise and even a sequel. He awarded me four out of a possible five stars too.

This is the first review Jump has received and the best I could ever have hoped for. The fact that he thinks the theoretical physics stuff is intelligent surprised me somewhat, as I am in no way a physicist and didn’t even do very well on my exams for that subject more than 20 years ago!

I was also pleased that he recognised that I was going for a character driven story and not trying to focus on the technical side of things too much, as that was exactly what I aimed for while writing the thing.

So, all in all I’m very happy with what he wrote, hopefully he feels the same way about my scribblings on his own labour of love. The whole experience gives me some hope that the 100,000 or so words I created are not so bad after all.

Here’s to you, Mr Robinson!