Author Archives: Les Bessant

Alastair Reynolds – Blue Remembered Earth

It took me a while to get around to buying this book. It then took me a while to bring it to the top of my virtual reading pile on my Kindle. It then took me a couple of attempts to get into it, which is unusual for me when it comes to Alastair Reynolds.

And to be fair to me, it is a bit of a slow burner – as the various threads of the story come together, it takes a while to really get going, for things to actually happen.

But once it does get started, it’s well up to what I’ve come to expect from Al Reynolds. There’s the usual moderately large cast, lots of misdirection, and indeed a mystery, though not of the “hold on is this a detective story” kind.

Set in a near future where Earth is recovering from the effects of climate change, and where Africa is an economic powerhouse, it revolves around members of the Akinya family – owners of a mind-bogglingly rich and powerful company with interests in space exploitation. The central figure is Geoffrey Akinya, who declines to get involved with the family business as he’s more interested in working with elephants. But he gets dragged into the story when he’s sent to recover the contents of a safety deposit box left by his recently dead grandmother Eunice.

And although she’s dead, Eunice is the focus of the story – partly because of a low-level AI simulations of her (“real” AI, known as artilects, are not allowed…), but mostly because she’s laid a complex trail that Geoffrey and his sister Sunday find themselves obliged to follow. And at the end of the trail is something that changes everything…

This is the first in a trilogy, and I waited so long to get around to it that the second volume, On the Steel Breeze, has been out for, err about a year. I’ve just bought it for my Kindle and I’ll try to get around to it before the last volume appears.


Weight and Stuff Report – 19 October 2014

Weight: 216.7 pounds (15 stone 6.7 pounds, 98.3 kg)
Steps taken: 1,787

Hmmmm. Either I’m dramatically down today or the scale is having one of its periodic bouts of playing silly buggers. I suspect the latter…

I’ve been having a quiet day in, catching up on some of the TV I haven’t got round to watching due to being distracted by shiny discs with things on. Next up: the ever-exciting pile of ironing.

Here’s a photo from St Peter’s basin yesterday:

St Peter's Basin

St Peter’s Basin

Camera: X100S
Aperture: ƒ/11
Shutter speed: 1/450s
Focal length: 23mm
ISO: 400
Taken: 18 October, 2014

The boat in the middle is a preserved old fishing boat rather than somebody’s expensive toy. Though it’s good to see the expensive toys, as they let me argue that my camera habit isn’t all that expensive compared to what some people buy[1].

[1] This excuse is ©Les Bessant, 2014. Licences to use it are available at reasonable[2] rates.
[2] Defined as “enough to fund my next camera”

Terry Pratchett – Mrs Bradshaw’s Handbook

No, not a new Discworld novel, but a nicely silly companion piece to last year’s Raising Steam. In that book, you might recall that a lady called Mrs Bradshaw[1] was writing a useful guide for travellers on the new railway network. And here it is, more or less, give or take.

It’s a lovely book, from the distressed-looking cover[2] to the illustrations, sample notices and adverts to the descriptions of the numerous places where travellers can enjoy local cuisine and hospitality.

Travellers will be happy to know that the Thieves’ Guild offers an enhanced luggage protection service. Pay them and no licensed thief will interfere with your property. And given the Guild’s robust attitude to unlicensed thieves, you really shouldn’t have a problem.

And you might want to pay a visit to the ancient Effing Forest, habitat of the endangered Effing Great Tit[4], not to mention some local lumberjacks who’ve formed a choir. I have a suspicion that they might sing something a wee bit familiar…

There is, of course, much more.

It’s all good silly fun, and highly recommended.

[1] More of that leakage between worlds thingy
[2] This is the sort of thing I have to have in DTV[3] rather than Kindle form
[3] Dead Tree Version
[4] Now there’s an expression I don’t use often

Weight and Stuff Report – 18 October 2014

Weight: 220.6 pounds (15 stone 10.6 pounds, 100.1 kg)
Steps taken: 7,677

Oddly up today. Probably just a temporary wossname or something.

After the usual breakfast and shopping, I decided to go out with the X100S, as it hasn’t had much exercise lately. I took the bus to St Peter’s Basin, then walked along the Tyne[1] back towards the bridges.

Here’s a photo:

The Tyne

The Tyne

Camera: X100S
Aperture: ƒ/11
Shutter speed: 1/450s
Focal length: 23mm
ISO: 400
Taken: 18 October, 2014

[1] Apart from that annoying bit where the riverside path stops and doesn’t resume until you get to where the Spiller’s flour mill used to be[2]
[2] Which reminded me that all that rush to pull it down seems to have been a bit silly, as nobody is showing any sign of using the site for anything else.

Weight and Stuff Report – 15 October 2014

Weight: 217.3 pounds (15 stone 7.3 pounds, 98.6 kg)
Steps taken: 5,755

And excitingly[1] down again today.

Slightly more steps today because I did a semi-walk home, caused by me needing to collect something[3] from Tesco.

Back to Durham for another photo. I’m not sure what this group of muscians thought about being surrounded for a horde of photographers, but they didn’t appear to be bothered. Maybe it happens all the time…



Camera: X-T1
Aperture: ƒ/9
Shutter speed: 1/160s
Focal length: 52.4mm
ISO: 200
Location: 54° 46.4629′ 0″ N 1° 34.5598′ 0″ W
Taken: 11 October, 2014

[1] For the exceptionally easily-excited readers[2]
[2] Or unicorns.
[3] Details will follow. Eventually. When I find the tuits.