Space Mercenaries (A. Bertram Chandler)

Another book from the second hand bookshop that pre-dates ISBN numbers. I’m almost beginning to feel that’s the sign of a good book. Perhaps because people loved it enough to keep it before it found it’s way to the bookshop.

Anyway, this sci-fi book could easily be the beginning of a series… (thanks to Google and this site, it appears there are more in this vain though they are not grouped as a series of novels). This book was a short and comfortable read with an easy to follow story. One of the things I noticed most was that my thumb was never in the way. I’m serious, you know how when you hold a book your right thumb is over the bottom lines of text? Well this book has a huge 4cm bottom margin so your thumb is never in the way of the text. I have no idea if this was the style of typesetting of the time (there’s not a date in the front cover to even know when it was printed) but it sure made a difference to the quality of the read. Perhaps that was just novelty though.

Back to the story, Empress turned retired empress uses her battleship to do some ‘good’ in the universe. Mixes things up with a solar system of bird like creatures some of whom are are picking on an isolated human colony that got there way before the birds discovered space flight. Some neat ideas on future technology mixed with a little politics.

Rootie Rating…4 out of 5, though I could almost give it more for the thumb space!

Brave New World (Aldous Huxley)

One of my rare moments of watching TV happened to be a segment that detailed the link between “1984” by George Orwell and “Brave New World”. I loved reading 1984, or at least, I think I remember loving reading 1984. I read it while at school around the age of 15. One of those books that everyone has spoke of and for some reason I actually read – even though it wasn’t part of my English homework. The impetus probably came from performing in “Animal Farm”, a play I thoroughly enjoyed (yes, I was one of the squares that did the am-dram at school. I wasn’t any good which is why I only ever had a a couple of lines.. like “and she’s got ribbons in her hair” while dressed as a pigeon).

Anyway, the link if I remember it correctly was that George Orwell was a student in Aldous Huxley’s class at whichever university it was. Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World is said to be another great Utopian Society type novel and a must read. Que my comment before Christmas to my brother “that’s a book I must read” and his reply, “Julia lent it to me, you can have it”. Wrapped and ready for Christmas day. I actually prefer that sort of present. It didn’t cost him anything and it was high on my list of desires. Perfect.

As for the story, I can’t be quite so enthusiastic. It’s a story of a modern highly ordered society with a ‘reserve’ for those weirdo’s who follow the old ways (that’s our ways of course). It’s interesting on how the story plays out but perhaps my expectations were raised too high from remembering my love of a story that others compared it too. It was undoubtedly well written and it’s quite clear to see why it has survived from it’s first publication in 1932 (according to the copy I have) to continuous reprints up until my 1984 vintage copy. Would I read it again? yes. Would I recommend it to others to read? yes. How do I rate it? Sorry to say I could only give it 3 out 5, just short of the 4 for me (perhaps Rootie Ratings should become a 10 point rating!)

The Stainless Steel Rat (Harry Harrison)

Every now and then you read a book and think “this would make a good film”. This book would make a good film. I could even place half of Hollywood’s famous actors in different parts of it.

The story is sci-fi but with all the best sci-fi I have read it could easily be applied to today’s world. In a society with planets of varying riches and sophistication, our lead character is one of the few remaining criminals. Quite what happens to all the wealth he is accumulating never becomes part of the story. He is caught quite early by another criminal turned policeman and recruited into a secret interplanetary anti-crime organisation. Who better to catch a criminal than a criminal. Our lead criminal is a nice criminal, in that he has never killed anyone in all his heists. However, his first assignment is to catch a criminal that has no regard for the life of anyone leaving death by the hundreds trailing behind.

There are so many details and twists in the story it was a joy to read. One thing I’ve noticed about a good book – it never dates. This was written in 1961.

Rootie Rating a clear 5 out of 5, and I found two others in the series too!