The Bastard’s Grimoire by Joseph Hirsch


Rating: (2 / 5)

** I was given a review copy by NetGalley **

This book is set in and around the city of Koln in an alternate Medieval age where demons and magic abound. The premise of the story being that an evil wizard enchants a young man forcing him to embark on a campaign of rape to impregnate women (and men) with demon seed forcing them to give birth to demons. His antagonists are a magical dwarf and a young illegitimate boy raised in a whorehouse (the Bastard of the book’s title).

There isn’t much to recommend this book.

I suppose I can say it was well written with some gritty depictions of Medieval life. However, between the scenes of gratuitous violence, and the weird and perverted sex acts, there is not much of a story.

I consider myself to be pretty broadminded and not at all prudish. A book, in which the central action is graphic description of rape, I find to be distasteful. I had to struggle to finish it. Possible the author has set out to shock and offend people. He hasn’t succeeded; it’s just puerile. .

Don’t put it on your Christmas list.

Revenger by Alastair Reynolds


Rating: (4 / 5)


I am a great fan of Alastair Reynolds’ books, and I have read most of his work. This book is written in a different style and is set in a new universe.

The story is a fast paced science fiction adventure. The action is set in a decayed planetary system – possibly in the distant future- where the inhabitants live in the Congregation – a swarm of thousands of artificial habitats and planetoids . Civilisation has risen and collapsed many times, and technology is barely understood – a weird mix of alien and human. The dating system of the story is such that it appears to be set in the 18th century – and the writing style gives more than a hat-tip to the likes of Alexander Kent and the naval sea adventures of that time on Earth.

We follow the adventures of young Arafura (Fura) Ness as she absconds with her sister from the boring safety of life on Mazarile, to join the crew of Captain Rackamore, on his decrepit solar sailed spaceship, to hunt for technological treasure from lost civilisations. Along the way we encounter alien beings, nefarious pirates, treachery, and violence, but also friendship.

This is a coming-of-age story as Fura matures from a young girl into a strong and determined woman as she sets out to find her sister who has been kidnapped by pirates.

The pace, and the relative shortness of the book, means that the characters are only lightly sketched out. Similarly the universe of Revenger remains tantalisingly vague, with hints of something bigger happening outside of the scope of the story. Perhaps this is just an introduction to further adventures in this strange cosmological environment.

I feel another story coming soon!

The Centauri Device by M. John Harrison


Rating: (1.5 / 5)

  A bleak, nihilistic, and dark satire on the space opera genre. The drug and violence fuelled excesses of William Burroughs, meet and corrupt, shades of Banks and Reynolds. The plot is weak, the characters shallow, and the (anti-)hero totally miserable and unlikeable. All of this buried in impenetrable, florid prose.

An SF classic? May have been when it was written in 1974, but now it’s just wearisome.

Don’t read this, unless you are particularly masochistic .

Book Synopsis:

John Truck was to outward appearances just another lowlife spaceship captain. He peddled drugs when they were available, carried cargo when they weren’t. But he was also the last of the Centaurans – or at least, half of him was – which meant that he was the only person who could operate the Centauri Device, a sentient bomb which might hold the key to settling a vicious space war.

The Quantum Thief by Hannu Rajaniemi


Rating:  (4 / 5)

  Perhaps the best book I have read this year. There is a strange and complex beauty to the writing of this book, where the reader is dropped into a maelstrom of events that are initially confusing. Just go with the flow and enjoy the strange culture, characters, and exotic technology that populate this universe.

Book Synopsis:

Jean le Flambeur gets up in the morning and has to kill himself before his other self can kill him first. Just another day in the Dilemma Prison. Rescued by the mysterious Mieli and her flirtatious spacecraft, Jean is taken to the Oubliette, the Moving City of Mars, where time is a currency, memories are treasures, and a moon-turned-singularity lights the night. Meanwhile, investigator Isidore Beautrelet, called in to investigate the murder of a chocolatier, finds himself on the trail of an arch-criminal, a man named le Flambeur…

Solving Windows 10 upgrade issues

A not so simple upgrade

It took me a while, but I finally managed to upgrade my Windows 8.1 Pro to Windows 10 Pro. It would seem that the upgrade either works flawlessly the first time, or it is a real pain in the ass; unfortunately the latter scenario was what I encountered. Why didn’t mine work OK – I don’t know why. My laptop is nothing out of the ordinary; it has a reasonable spec :- An HP Pavilion with an i7 processor, 8Gb RAM and 1Tb hard disk.

I had to download the ISO file from Microsoft, and burn a DVD as I could not get the upgrade downloaded to Windows update to work. I also wasted some time by not verifying the DVD after I burnt it, and tried to run the install from DVD, which packed up half way through with disk errors, so I had to burn a new disk.

So, was all the hassle worth it. Yes. I’m still working my way through Windows 10 features, but it is definitely a much better product than Windows 8. The only major dislike I have is that there is no way I have found (yet) to turn off the automatic update feature.

Some hints and tips you may wish to consider doing yourself

  1.  Back up your system disk where your current installation is installed. I don’t keep any data on my C: drive – I have other drive partitions where I store this and back these up separately.  I use Easeus TODO Workstation  software to backup onto a Synology network server, and that is separately backed up onto  Amazon S3 cloud. ( I like to be secure!). My C: drive backup was large – 165Gb. I’s also worth doing a test to ensure you have a valid backup and that your recovery software can access the backup.
  2. Go into Windows Update and install any outstanding updates for your current Windows version, including Optional updates. I have my updates set to install manually so I had quite a few of these. Check they have worked ( they don’t always) and reapply any that fail.
  3. Download the Windows 10 ISO  install file and burn and VERIFY an install DVD.
  4. Download and run Slim Drivers, and install all the latest updates for your computer. You don’t need to reboot until you do the last update.

  5. Scan your PC with your current Antivirus software to ensure that there are no nasties lurking around. I use ESET Smart Security and also Malawarebytes.
  6. Uninstall your antivirus software – don’t just turn it off. You can reinstall this again once you have completed the upgrade. Check to see if there was a specific new update for Windows 10, and download this. There was a Windows 10 update for ESET.
  7. Go into Task Manager (CTRL,Shift,Esc) Startup tab and disable any non-vital startup programs. If you are not sure leave it alone.
  8.  Disconnect any unnecessary devices, such as cameras, external disk drives, SSDs, etc – just leave mouse and keyboard if required.
  9. Make sure there is no rubbish left around from previous upgrades or failed upgrade attempts.
    • Go to C:\$Windows.~BT folder and ensure the Hidden items option is checked in the toolbar section of the window. Delete many files and folders as possible. Some files cannot be deleted due to permissions issues.
    • Do the same for C:\$Windows.~WS\
    • If you have problems with this open a Command Window in Administrator mode and run the following commands (you can cut and paste them):
      takeown /F C:\$Windows.~BT\* /R /A
      icacls C:\$Windows.~BT\*.* /T /grant administrators:F
      rmdir /S /Q C:\$Windows.~BT\
      takeown /F C:\$Windows.~WS\* /R /A 
      icacls C:\$Windows.~WS\*.* /T /grant administrators:F 
      rmdir /S /Q C:\$Windows.~WS\
  10.  Now you are ready to go. Insert the DVD and start the install. It will take a long time! At some point you may start to worry that the install has hung. The point to note is – Is your machine looking dead, or is it making some noise? Is the drive light  flickering or flashing? If so, then it is best to wait.

    Microsoft has detailed a few points in particular, where the Windows 10 upgrade process may appear to hang:

    1. At 30-39% : At the black screen with a blue circle. Here  Windows 10 is still  downloading all dynamic updates for Windows 10
    2. At 96%: Windows 10 is busy backing up your data
    3. At message: It’s taking a bit longer than usual to set up your device, but it should be ready soon. Things are just about done – just hang in there!
  11. Good Luck!