Books read 2020

End of year Summary.

54 books in total this year. Excellent work on my part! A good split of genres and some real heavy duty stuff in there also. The highlights were, The Secret Commonwealth and Linux Command Line. Unfortunately the low lights were many ; Ready Player Two was garbage, but so was Silicon Snake Oil, The City and The Dungeon not to mention at least half a dozen others. I really need to be more picky in 2021 with where I throw my precious time!

 

 

DEC:

  • “Ready Player Two -E Cline.

First book was great, so I was looking forward to this.. unfortunately its a pile of crud. Total waste of time and money. Massively disappointing. 2/10.

NOV:

  • “Judge Dredd: The Small House” -Various.

Incomprehensible story line! I think one needed to be invested into Judge Dredd going back 30 years to fully understand what’s going on! 2/10

  • “Savage Sword of Conan vol 2” -Various

Huge volume. Sadly none of the story arcs seemed particularly memorable. Only for true fans. 5/10

  • “Sleepwalker” -A.Tomime

2nd time I’m reading this. I think I last read it 4 years ago. Some really good stories in this one. Some only a couple of pages long but the author does more in 2 pages than others do in 40. Adults only stuff.  8/10

  • “Kingdom” -J.McNaught

Garbage. 1/10

 

OCT:

  • “Judge Dredd: Mechanismo:Machine Law” -Various.

A reasonable Dredd story, a strong start, weak middle and a sort of twist at the end. Interesting but not worth a re-read! 4/10

  • “Critical Lives: Rimbaud” -S.Whidden

An interesting diagnosis of Rimbaud and some of his poetry by an Oxford don. Rimbauds poetry is notoriously opaque, mostly because its in a French, and uses puns and words from 150 years ago, so its hard to convey that stuff into modern English, however Mr.Whidden does a good job and enlightens us while also giving us a very brief biography of Rimbauds wanderings. I enjoyed it . 7/10

  • “Perl6 and Parrot” -A.Randal

Perl6 is an important new thing in the world of IT, its sadly not getting the sort of attention it should be but I digress, this book covers very briefly the syntax and changes to perl6 and parrot its interpreter engine, however its _such_ a high fly that it renders the entire thing near useless, I would have wanted a lot more meat here, a lot of deep dive and this sadly it does not deliver. 2/10

  • “You should come with me now” -MJ Harrison.

I had high hopes for this. A collection of short stories from Mr.Harrison, however, some of it is flash fiction, literally, a couple of paragraphs which doesn’t do much for me. The other stuff feels half done or just too bizarre to comprehend. Basically this feels like the authors agent came knocking one day asking “what you got?” and the author opened his drawer full of long forgotten half done sketches of ideas for stories and passed those over. Nothing within this slim book feels complete or note worthy. Waste of money this one.  1/10

 

SEPT:

  • “Operation Barbarossa” -R.Kirchubel

One of the more modern and well researched analysis of the Eastern Front in 1941. It is very well put together however, I found the overall text a little on the boring side and I had to force myself to keep reading. 6/10

  • “The Sunken Land Begins to Rise Again” -MJ Harrison.

This novel had one of the best starts to a story I’ve ever read. It was truly magnicient, a fantastic opening 30 pages or so, sadly it crawled up itself soon after and got lost the authors own cleverness and became a mass of smelly jelly. A shame, such potential and then wasted so early on. 5/10

AUGUST:

 

  • “Ultimate Spider-Man Ultimate Collection Vol 5” -B.Bendis

This is one of the best ones, a cracking Spidey story. 9/10

  • Amazing Spider-Man Vol. 4: Hunted” -N.Spencer

This is probably the best Kraven storyline ever. However, thats not saying much given that its a pretty lame villain and pretty 1 dimensional, however, Mr Spencer really writes his socks off to make it something grander, its good, but that’s all, just good. 6/10

  • “Amazing Spider-Man Vol. 3: Lifetime Achievement” -N.Spencer

Terrible. It was always inevitable you get a dud however. 2/10

  • “Amazing Spider-Man Vol. 2: Friend and Foes” -N.Spencer

Good stuff. Good writing from Mr Spencer and doing new stuff with Spidey. 7/10

  • “Amazing Spider-man Vol. 1: Back To Basics” -N.Spencer

Thought I’d binge on Spider-man! This is more mature and grown up Spiderman post body switch with Doc Ock. Some original ideas, its hard to squeeze in originality into a character thats like 50+ years old but he’s managing it! Will continue with his run. 7/10

  • “Tales from the Loop” -S.Stalenhag

Got this after the watching the utterly amazing Amazon TV series. Sadly, the book isnt anywhere near as good as the show! An interesting but forgettable set of paintings some of which are accompanied with a paragraph or two. Nothing particularly memorable. 3/10

  • “Ultimate Spider-Man Ultimate Collection Vol 3/4” -B.Bendis

Good. 6/10

  • “Ultimate Spider-Man: Ultimate Collection Vol 1/2” -B.Bendis

Read these back in hmm.. 2006? 2007? Re-reading.. its held the test of time! Probably the best launch point into Spiderman.  8/10

  • “Russia’s War” -R.Overy

A good single volume book covering the eastern front from 1941-45. It delves more into the politics rather than the order of battle so that was refreshing for me. Some good points are made, like how without lend-lease and aid from the UK and USA, the USSR would not have been able to deliver the knock out punch, but its usefulness was trash-talked during the cold war. Not a bad little read. 7/10

  • “Prime Numbers” -E.Gracian

An interesting book all about prime numbers and some history about how various mathematicians over the years puzzled over them. Its actually quite a read if you’re into that sort of stuff! 7/10

 

JULY:

  • “Savage Sword of Conan vol 1” -Various

A huge collection comprising of the 1970s run of Marvel Comics Conan. It’s huge! There’s a lot of reading here and it’s pretty great too if you’re into Conan. (I am!). 8/10

  • “The Lost Civilisation Enigma” -P.Coppens

An interesting read, however the author is very naive, its also quite a few years out of date as the “civilizations” he cites have been thoroughly outed as fakes and scams. Some interesting stuff once you cut out the nonsense. 5/10

  • “Zagor: In the Jaws of Madness” -T.Sclavi, G.Ferri.

The longest Zagor story that was ever printed apparently… sadly it shouldn’t have ever gone to print. This is the most disorganised, nonsensical mish-mash of genres I’ve ever read. It’s got cowboys, it’s got horror, i’ts got SF, i’s got metaphysics and it just doesn’t work at all!  1/10

  • “Zagor: Origins” -M.Boselli, G.Ferri.

Much better than the last one! Probably the best Zagor stories out of the bunch. Quite enjoyable actually… nothing great or memorable, but a good way to pass a lazy Sunday. 6/10

  • “The Taint” -B.Lumley

Sadly not as good as the previous collection from Mr Lumley that I read last month. I mean, its okay, but nothing stand out other than the oft printed ‘Lord of the Worms’ story which pretty much appears in every collection of his! 3/10

JUNE:

  • “Nightshift” -V.Hancox

This is one of those choose your own adventures but aimed at more mature audience Its genuienly creepy and similar to the sequence of events that you’d see in the Silent Hill games. Really well written with great puzzles. This is good stuff. 8/10

  • “Zagor:Terror from the Sea” -M.Boselli, S.Andreucci

Zagor was a very popular comc book in Italy, the old Yugoslav states and Turkey during the 1960s and 1970s. Its proper pulp stuff, great artwork, but you can tell the stories are not great and probably overlong, no doubt because they were keen to keep the ongoing monthly publishing deadlines.  4/10

  • “Silicon Snake Oil” -C.Stoll

Something of a historical oddity. Written as a sort of random thoughts by Cliff Stoll back in 1994 or so, it was just prior to the big internet boom. He makes a lot of predictions like how people wont want to shop online , and how hard it is sending media across the net, so time has definitely proved Dr.Stoll wrong with this one! Sadly, there is very little of use in this book, a shame, as his previous book Cuckoos Egg really got me loving computers. 1/10

MAY:

  • “The Haggopian” -B.Lumley

Mr Lumley has really captured the Lovecraftian style of creeping horror and dominated the sector. He’s very good and probably a more technically accomplished and better writer than Lovecraft himself ever was. This is another collection of various Cthulhu style horror stories and very well done it is to. If you’re into this sort of thing then he’s an author who is very much worth reading. 8/10

  • “The Lovecraft Anthology 1” -D.Lockwood

A great little graphic novel featuring some of the most famous of Lovecrafts works, really great weird art to unsettle you. 8/10

  • “The Lovecraft Anthology 2” -D.Lockwood

Sadly, not as good as the previous collection, a change in art style for me at least, meant it wasnt as engaging nor as creepy. 5/10

  • “The Call of Cthulhu – graphic novel” -HP.Lovecraft, A.Baranger

The original text wrapped around some art work. Its good, but not as great as the reviews suggested. I’ve never really enjoyed the ending of this story as it never made any sense to me… Cthulhu gets hit by a big boat… then kinda goes back under the sea like it’s been whupped?! Doesn’t sound very omnipotent to me! 6/10

  • “Neonomicon” -A.Moore, J.Burrows

My second reading of this one, the first time I read it I was really disturbed as it was very adult stuff but 2nd time around, meh. I guess I knew what was going to unfold! Nevertheless, very excellent stuff and this one, along with Moore+Burrows Providence series are the most adult graphic novels I’ve ever read, not for the squeamish or faint hearted, personally I feel they should come with a warning stating “not for under 25’s” . 8/10

  • “Clicker Training for Dogs” -K.Pryor

The queen of clicker training, however this is a thin book and while is covers the basics it seems to do so without enthusiasm. Personally, I found better knowledge on this stuff on YouTube, plus the videos rather than the still images in a book, reveal much more. 5/10

  • “The Cthulhu Mythos Encyclopedia” -D.Harms

A lot of stuff in this, but most of it is rubbish, another part of it is conflicting, so actually as a reference work…. its not great, its more a curio than an encyclopedia. Plus it totally looks like it was rushed, the author himself mentions he didn’t have time to annotate the list of cited names at the back. Slack!  3/10

  • “Killing and Dying” -A.Tomime

I first read this approx 4, maybe 5 years ago, and I was really impressed back then. Upon second reading I can see the flaws! There are 5 stories within.. only 1 of which is outstanding, another is okay, the other 3, very sub par.  I guess my tastes have changes over the years. 5/10

 

APRIL:

  • “The Hobbit” -J.R.R Tolkien

One of the first books that I ever read and was so overjoyed that I immediately re-read it. Reading it again as an adult, I was slightly more aware of some of the more clumsy sentences in the book plus some unnecessary and longwinded paragraphs that added little, nevertheless this is a great book and story,  and a must read for anyone regardless of their age. 9/10

  • “The Linux Command Line”- W.E.Schotts

I’ve had this book for a great many years but recently just read all of it. Its a fantastic reference and if you in any way work with linux then buy this and keep it close by and every now and then just randomly flick to any page and give it a read. Its a great introduction and overview, and keeps things on the easy/intermediate level. If you want to do indepth networking traces and debug core dumps, this wont really help, as thats very specialist but if you just want a rough overview just to get you through your immediate problem then this is a great book and offers you little snippets of history along the way also. 10/10

  • “Sixteen ways to defend a city” -K.J Parker

A great idea let down by the ending, but also the somewhat annoying jokey 1st person style of presentation. If it was done in a more sober manner using the same ideas, this would have been a very successful novel as it is, only a weak 4/10

 

MAR:

  • “Three men in a boat” – JK. Jerome

I’m interested in Victorian era novels,  and this book has long been touted as Victorian comic genius, and while I can see the merits in it, sadly, time and culture has stripped this book of hilarity, and thus it was dull with the ‘jokes’ telegraphed way ahead like in a poor sit-com and I was tempted to put it down several times but I struggled on to the end. Once perhaps this was the height of comedy writing, but really, there’s nothing of merit or note left here, the world and literature has moved on by and left this one firmly stuck in the late 1870s. 3/10

  • “The Scarfolk Annual” – R.Littler

I purchased this due to twitter buzz and some reviews on Amazon so my expectations were high. Unfortunately, it’s a regretful purchase, the so called humour is not very funny and while I can see what the book was trying to achieve, for me , it fails in so many ways. 1/10

  • “Ready Player One” – E.Cline

Second time reading this, I last read it maybe 5 years ago? 4? I watched The Spielberg movie of it and I thought, what is this rubbish, the novel was nothing like this! So I re-read the book again. The first time I read it I recall thinking it was amazing. 2nd time around and the lustre has worn off a tad. Still good, but for me, not a classic. 7/10

  • “The Secret Commonwealth” – P.Pullman

The 2nd book in the Book of Dust series following on from His Dark Materials. A more grown up novel than Mr Pullmans previous novels and I have to say, the better for it. This is a brilliant and well crafted book featuring fan favourite Lyra Silvertongue, but now as a 20 year old young woman. It’s got some real hair raising moments and is a great page turner. It ended right on a cliff hanger however, so now I have to wait no doubt 2 years until the final book in the series is available! Argh! Excellent stuff this. 10/10

FEB:

  • “Hackney Archive: Work and Life 1971-1985” – N. Martinson

A nostalgic trip down memory lane for me! This photo-book captured the area and time during my formative years. It even included a couple of photos from my actual primary school, plus various other Hackney haunts now long since gone! Made me very emotional looking at this one. A bygone era lost forever. For me, this is a 10/10, however, I suspect for others, probably a 6/10, you sort of need to have known how things were to truly appreciate it I think.

  • “David Copperfield” – C.Dickens

This is a another of Dickens’ hefty tomes. I think if writing this novel now, any editor would insist it lose 20% of its chapters. There is a lot of words and descriptions that don’t really add to the overall story arc, however, luckily its saved by some absolutely fantastic writing and a bit like a soap opera you keep reading wanting to find out what happens to the various characters and their personal stories. I guess because so very many words are dedicated to even minor characters, they all become very well fleshed out and consequently they will stay with you for years; characters such as Steerforth, Uriah Heep, Betsy Trotwood etc are all well tapestried characters. Having said that, the subject manner was not really my style and thus there were points when reading through where this was a serious uphill slog. 6/10

  • “The Compleat Crow” – B.Lumley

A collection of short stories featuring historian/occultist Titus Crow, a pain in the butt of Cthulhu and various other weird Elder beings. Two of the stories are great, genuinely creepy and terrifying however, most are just average curios and easily forgotten. Felt dated. 6/10

  • “Rusty Brown” – C.Ware

Well that was depressing! Chris Ware has a way of dragging out some of the most painful and awkward experiences that probably most of us have had at some point or another and laying it bare. Its a hard read, the impulse is to turn your head away but its compulsive stuff. This is a vignette of stories none of which are really reached to a satisfying denouement, so its like a snapshot of a persons most painful memory, you relive their pain and then you move onto the next one! Having said that, its a pure work of art, its pretty amazing stuff. 9/10

  • “The City and The Dungeon” – M.Schmidt

Absolute pulp trash. I had to force myself to read to the end. Nothing to see here. 1/10

JAN:

  • “Below” – L.Gaiteri

A fantasy book about a party of callow adventurers delving deep into a dungeon in a quest for gold. Sadly, this is amateur stuff and it shows. I suspect no editor cast their eye over this and its a hefty tome with a lot of superfluous pages (if not entire chapters!). The idea is good, but its been mangled into pieces due to the cack hand of this wannabee author. 2/10

  • “Elder Ice” – D.Hambling

A slim book based upon an ex-boxer debt collector who gets mixed up in some 1920s Cthulhu mysteries. Its actually good stuff and put together with thought and skill. Apparently its a series of books and while good, its not great and hasn’t whetted my appetite to read the main protagonists further adventures. 7/10

  • “The Monsters know what they are doing” – K.Ammann

A hefty tome for Dungeons & Dragons players, it goes into the exact fighting strategy of just about each possibly monster/creature that you can encounter playing this hallowed and auspicious game! Typically combat in D&D can be a chore especially when it lasts a long time, I personally favour lowering the HitPoints of both players and NPCs to speed things up, or dropping damage and just just assigning ticks.. (so a goblin has 1 tick.. hit him once, and he’s dead… orcs have 2 ticks.. dragons have 15 ticks etc) or rolling to-hit dice and damage dice simultaneously. Anyway, I digress, a lot of combat is just mindless attacks, this book attempts to readdress that, and how certain monsters depending on WIS and DEX will act in a certain way, it should I think certainly make for more entertaining combat and chases.. because a lot of intelligent creatures, if wounded sufficiently will and should just run away.. they are intelligent, why should they fight to the end unless they have a particular philosophy for it? Anyway.. its good but I feel not fantastic and useful only as a reference by the gaming table, also any DM/GM with any time to plan combat should be using these ideas anyway without the need for a book to explain stuff. 7/10

  • “I’ve Lived in East London For 85 1/2 Years” – M.Usborne

A slim book of photographs some old chap. In my youth I knew similar old gents like the chap in this book in the East End of London where I grew up in the 1970’s and 1980’s. Its poignant stuff that will bring a sad smile to the face of anyone who knew Shoreditch past and present, otherwise, a wasted purchase as you need to have that frame of reference to truly enjoy it. So if you’re a cockney.. 5/10, if you’re not 2/10.

  • “Scarred for Life. vol 1 ” – S.Brotherstone & D.Lawrence

A light hearted look at TV/Film/Books/Toys from the 1970s. Its a giant self published book weighing in at 700ish pages and covers certain (not all!) standouts from 1970s era, which in my opinion was the greatest decade in human civilisation, it went downhill after that. Lucky enough to remember this era it was a nice nostalgic trip and I chuckled often remembering some fond and perhaps not so fond memories. I dipped in and out, reading the entries with which I had personal history, and ignoring stuff that I had no knowledge of, so I guess really I only ended up visiting half this tome. A witty read for anyone who remembers this decade but I suspect a turn off to anyone who does not. 7/10.