Category Review

Review: Secret Codes and Cryptograms

Mammoth Book of Secret Codes and Cryptograms

Satisfies a Sweet Tooth for Logic

I had the great privilege of interviewing Elonka Dunin for an unrelated project and managed to snag a copy of The Mammoth Book of Secret Codes and Cryptograms before the day was out. For anyone who likes to see things unfold under careful scrutiny (fans of The Da Vinci Code rejoice), this book will not disappoint.

The relative difficulty of the ciphers varies, of course, with the complexity of the set, but the savvy reader will find perseverance to be useful. Every detail of this book must be regarded with some suspicion from the start, as in true cryptographic fashion it holds secrets within secrets. In addition to the practice ciphers and tutorials on codebreaking, the book contains several famous cryptographic quandaries that mostly remain unsolved.

O...

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Review: Grunts!

Grunts! by Mary Gentle

Bloody Good Fun

If you are a fan of fantasy, you may have found yourself at times feeling less than satisfied with the standard fare. A great evil rises, darkness falls over the land, and brave heroes ride valiantly into combat against a mindless horde that seems almost complicit in ensuring that good always triumphs over evil, yeah? Author Mary Gentle says, “I’m sorry, I’m just not having it.”

Grunts! paints the picture from the other end of the canvas, in a world reeling in the aftermath of the Final Battle, and just as in every Final Battle before it the Dark Lord has once again been vanquished by the Light...

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Review: Young Fu of the Upper Yangtze

Beautiful, Descriptive Storytelling

I first read Young Fu nearly twenty years ago, and it has been one of my favourite books ever since. Ostensibly a title aimed at young readers, it nonetheless has a depth and breadth of story that is not often found today, riddled with sayings plucked out of the Classics and subtle story arcs that may not be immediately apparent. Elizabeth Foreman Lewis did well to lend this novel an earthiness that draws the reader in without ever letting you forget that, beyond the boundaries of the limited stage upon which our heroes act, the world keeps moving.

The story follows its titular character, Fu Yunfa, from tragic beginnings as he and his mother leave their ancestral village for the bustling metropolis of Chongqing after the death of Yunfa’s father...

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Review: Code of the Lifemaker

A Must-Read in Science Fiction

There have been only a handful of science fiction novels that have kept me reading from one page to the next, and Code of the Lifemaker is certainly not the least among them. James P. Hogan does a spectacular job of laying out a truly wonderful story against a backdrop of a not-so-different-from-our-own human society that lends both credibility and disbelief to the plot. From the introduction of the man who (arguably) serves as the main protagonist–Karl Zambendorf–to the grand revelation about what lurks on the surface of Titan to the climactic finish that will have you clawing at the page to see the conclusion, Code of the Lifemaker does not disappoint.

The story follows, for the most part, two chief characters, the first being mentalist and all-around hucks...

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