Monthly Archives: May 2014

Proxima

Proximaby Stephen Baxter

Prior to reading this book, my only experience of Stephen Baxter was as a co-author with Arthur C Clarke and Terry Pratchett, so I decided to try his solo work. I chose “Proxima” as it was a recent book and is one of the few that does not form part of a series.

My first impressions were good. The characters are interesting and right from the start you can see there are good back-stories and interesting personality clashes. I was also intrigued by the dual story-line, following two completely different sets of characters, separated by decades and light years of space.

Stephen Baxter’s skill as a story teller is obvious as each of the stories unfolds and the characters and their stories begin to take shape. 

But then the plot begins to take a rather strange turn. The discovery of a mysterious “hatch” triggered a memory of the TV series “Lost”. And remembering how badly that ended, with a twisted plot and so many loose ends it was positively frayed, I got a little concerned.

But this isn’t a TV series, it’s a highly praised Science Fiction novel, so I shouldn’t worry about things like that. 

At this point the two different stories begin to merge and take a whole new direction. It remains tight and well written, with the characters continuing to develop and grow. The science is imaginative and well explained and I really enjoyed the book – until the end!

The premonition I had with the discovery of the hatch turned out to be well founded. The book ends without any attempt to answer many of the questions it raises. It was a disappointing end to an otherwise interesting book. I know that sometimes science fiction writers like to leave the reader with something to think about, but in this case I felt slightly cheated. Will I read another? Maybe, but I will pick it much more carefully next time.

Men from the Boys

Men from the Boysby Tony Parsons

This is a book that was passed onto me by my wife who said “you really must read this”. Fair enough I thought. Why not? What she didn’t tell me was that is the third of a three part series! Mind you, if she hadn’t said that I would never have known, as it is self-contained and does not rely on having read the other two.

For some reason I had been expecting a funny story. Not sure why, as none of the sleeve notes said it was, but what I found was a very engaging and touching tale of a man trying desperately to hold onto his family. 

The central character is Harry Silver, a radio producer who lives in London with his second wife, his son, her daughter and their own daughter. About as complex a modern family as you can get! And on the face of it, life is good for the Silvers, but underneath there are cracks beginning to emerge. 

As Harry approaches his fortieth birthday, events outside his cosy household bring chaos and frustration into their lives. With the return of his ex-wife and the appearance of two old army comrades of his father’s, Harry’s world begins to change.

Every parent will recognise the frustrations and seeming futility of trying to understand and deal with teenagers. And I think most of us have faced the frustration of dealing with elderly friends and relatives who refuse to play by the rules of the modern world – any why should they? 

In Harry Silver we have a character that most modern men can relate to. Often in the shadow of his strong father, unable to fully understand the world his teenage son and daughter inhabit, he finds himself loosing grip on everything he holds dear.

“Men from the Boys” is a touching and, yes, sometimes funny look at the trials and tribulations of 21st century men. 

I read all 320 pages in just over two days, something I haven’t managed for quite some time, but I couldn’t put the book down. Certainly a welcome change from the more intense books I seem to be reading of late. 

Thanks to my wife, I have several more Tony Parsons novels waiting for me on the book shelves. I am looking forward to reading them.