Wednesday, 22 June 2011

The Draco Tavern by Larry Niven (Hardback, Paperback, mp3, CD)

Will it be dry ice with that, sir? 5 stars
A fascinating, varied and deliciously strange collection of short stories. Just what you would expect from Larry Niven on the subject of human - alien interaction. The Tavern is a meeting place for alien visitors to earth but the number of humans present can usually be counted on the fingers of one hand (assuming your species has fingers or hands).

The ever-present, worldly wise bar owner, Rick Shumann, acts as fixer for problems of an intergalactic nature. Written between 1977 and 2006, some of the stories are remarkably topical, all of them are vivid, visual and reliably entertaining.

Psychology, philosophy and linguistics collide in a spectacular series of misconceptions, misapprehensions and very near misses in terms of interspecies relations. This is a thought-provoking, imaginative and mind-expanding collection of tales that will bear repeated reading and enjoyment.

Friday, 17 June 2011

James Everington: Scattershot Writing: In Defence Of Short Stories #6: Peter Salisbury

Guest-blogging is good! Find me today at James Everington's blog:

James Everington: Scattershot Writing: In Defence Of Short Stories #6: Peter Salisbury: "Today's defence is mounted by Peter Salisbury , a science fiction writer from the UK. He writes both serious, intelligent sci-fi, such as..."

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Oplontis: Roman Villa in Italy

From my visit to Oplontis, these are some more pictures from this wonderful villa:

small section of mosaic floor at the back of the villa          store room containing amphorae

bird in an architectural setting

                                                                             plaster cast of carbonised 
bi-fold doors, showing panels and hinges


I love going to such places, they are so full of inspiration and little details to delight and stimulate the imagination. Who paused with their feet resting on that piece of mosaic between two tall columns. Why was he or she looking out across the garden at the back of the villa. Did the wind rustle in the trees or the birds sing? Who else was nearby?

What was stored in each of those vessels

Why did the artist give the pigeon its almost human expression?

What secrets were kept behind those doors?

Who sat with their back against the wall next to those peacocks, resting from a swim in the pool close by?

Saturday, 11 June 2011


I have been to this Roman city four times now and it always thrills. Even in heavy drizzle it was an inspiring place. In fact the patterns of some of the mosaics showed up more clearly than when seen under a baking sun.

Water glistened from stone streets where the paving was worn by carts nearly two thousand years ago.

Friday, 10 June 2011

Roman Villa in Italy

I have recently returned from a visit to the on-going excavations of a large Roman villa near Naples. There were many exceptionally fine frescos. This is a small part of a particularly whimsical set which extended for many metres along one of the walls.

There were very many more and it was an exceptionally well restored and interesting place.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Malta & Gozo (Bradt Travel Guides) (Paperback) Juliet Rix

A thoughtful guide to the rich cultural and historic heritage of Malta    5*

I have visited Malta several times already, however, the next time I go, I will be taking this guidebook with me, as it appears there's still rather a lot I have yet to see!
The Bradt series of guidebooks specialises in revealing the hidden charm to be found in the country or region featured. This one is no exception: the Malta revealed in these pages is described in wonderful detail, from its monuments, which are more ancient than the Great Pyramids, to the present day amenities. The well-known beaches and resorts are described but so too are the less well-known activities and sites, like the scuba diving schools, bird-watching, catacombs, churches, fortifications and museums. The fact that the book runs to over 300 pages in total shows what a wealth of interest there is to be found.

This guide is bang up to date, containing many internet addresses for useful and helpful websites and podcasts. Bradt also maintain an Additional Content and Updates site. As is mentioned in the guide, there are several internet cafes and many hotels which provide internet access, so the visitor can check for up to the minute information during their stay.

Juliet Rix, an experienced journalist with a strongly evident love of this Mediterranean country, has produced a guide that is absorbing, authoritative and easy to read. Right from the front of the book, the reader is treated to fascinating pieces of information and beautiful photos of Malta's many features. In addition to those at the beginning, there are two further sections of colour photographs offering inspiring views. One particularly spectacular photo is of a cannon being fired on the Saluting Battery at noon. The accessible sections, many maps, extensive index and three appendices make this an enjoyable book to delve into at any time. Once you have visited Malta, this guide will also make a valuable focus for reminiscing about your trip, or for planning the next one.