January 23rd, 2012


January Books 21) Children of Steel, by Martin Day

One of the last two Sarah Jane audio books, featuring the voice of Daniel "Clyde" Anthony and a story by Martin Day about a timetravelling steampunk android (the "difference golem") which needs to be sorted out by SJS and pals. I have not seen the last series of SJA so the character of Sky was new to me, but the story is well done and Anthony a decent reader who sensibly gets on with trying to convey emotion and character rather than imitating voices.

January Books 22) The Blue Angel, by Paul Magrs and Jeremy Hoad

I didn't really get much out of this Eighth Doctor novel, set immediately after the two-volume Interference, with the Doctor, Fitz and new companion Compassion getting involved with various aliens and Iris Wildthyme. I did like the fact that we encounter a young svelte Iris as well as the standard more elderly version - indeed this is one of the better stories about Iris out there. But I was hoping to get a better handle on what Compassion is all about, and didn't; and the various alien plot threads were all entangled without being terribly interesting. One of those books that I recommend only for completists (and fans of Iris).

January Books 23) Packing for Mars, by Mary Roach

This is a great book about the human side of space travel. There are fascinating chapters on how astronauts are chosen (people who are able to keep making decisions and responding to instructions while under extreme stress, and also do not snore) and on the problems of personal hygiene when underwear and room for manoeuvre are limited. The chapter on sex in zero gravity was a bit disappointing because there is in fact no empirical source material. But there is a lot about poo, a recurrent theme throughout the book culminating in a long chapter which answers every question you ever thought you might ask, and many more, about toilets in space.

The book is not quite as entertaining as the same author's Bonk, I guess because sex is a more familiar activity than space flight (for me, anyway); it is also not quite as well edited, with some repetition of anecdotes perhaps indicating that some of the chapters began life as newspaper or magazine columns. But it is great fun anyway.