My Favourite Science Fiction, Fantasy, D&D, and History Books

Updated [2nd September 2012]:

My favourite authors include science, science fiction, historic and political writers. Star Trek is not one of my favourite programmes from a Scientific prospective, I call it Science Fiction with out the Science. Try your local bookshop, library or, and Remember you can order new books at the library which they will either get from another library or buy them new, by writing a little card they provide and paying a small administration fee.

I have written about the following books: Algenod's Mouse, Fermat's Last Theorem, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, The Hobbit, Deathworld III, Dayworld, Aztec Century, Arthur C. Clarke Books, The Diamond Hunters, The Day of the Triffids, Down below Station, New Life for Old, A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawkings, Longitude - the True Story of a lone Genius by Dava Sobel, Animal Farm, Hitler and Stalin: Parallel Lives, The Time Machine (1895) by H. G. Well's, Legend: Druss the Axeman, The First Chronicles of Druss the Legend, Lion of Macedon about Alexander the Great's Campaigns, Raj - The Making and Unmaking of British India, and Bernard Cornwell's Sharpe series Sharpe's Fortress and Sharpe's Tiger set in India.

Second hand bookshops aren't what they used to be. There not only used to be a lot me of them. I frequented bookshops in Whitby and Scarborough and read veraciously while at Technical College, mainly on the bus from Whitby and in break times. Mainly Asimov, which is getting very dated scientifically. I read a bit of Arthur C. Clarke while at School and the Lord of Rings (about 1,000 pages) when I was 10 or 11 at Prep. School. The first bits OK with Bilbo's Birthday but then it gets a bit boring. My Brother Jonathan used to frequent two bookshops in Bath. One he bought books cheap from, read them and then sold them for a profit to the other shop. That was in the days when bookshops actually paid money for books.

Blackwells of Oxford has a giant sub-terrainian book room on Broad Street, off Cornmarket. This room is called the Norrington Room and is arguably the largest bookroom in Europe. Blackwells is a very busy shop used by the academic community, the town and mail order; it also has very busy academic and medical journals department which services customers world wide. It also has a Second-hand department which buys books: especially useful for students with textbooks to sell on and Rare books department which has a collection of expensive antiquarian books, also online. Blackwells also have some campus shops in other cities.

Oxfam Second-Hand Bookshops - over 70, some in Europe also, is now the biggest second-hand bookseller in Europe. There are two in Oxford, one on the road going North from Cornmarket, and St. Giles Street, on the left road: Woodstock; the other near the Covered Market and the ancient Bodleian Library. They get a lot of Science Fiction paper backs, University Text Books, and very old books (some 300 years old), from old University Professors, Students etc...

Infocom's Planetfall Infocom's Stationfall

  • The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien is a good read. We studied it at Prep. School. Going from his Hobbit hole with Gandalf the Wizard and about a dozen dwarfs, fighting the trolls, going under ground in the realm of the Orcs, finding Gollum who has been deformed by the ring, answering the riddle to get the ring in some versions of the books, in other versions Bilbo steals it, visiting the Elf’s in their home in the woods, visiting the town of Men, and finally defeating the dragon and getting all the treasure and returning to bag-end having breakfast, elevensise, lunch... and an easy life in the Shire away from the brewing horrors in the East. Tolkien's work is largely based a Norse Sagas and Legend (like Eric the Red going to Greenland) and he even invented a new language written in runes. He was an Oxford University Professor. He originally intended to call the Hobbit: There and back again but changed his mind and just had Bilbo say he was going to write a book by that title of his adventures. Not that any Hobbits were likely to read it being of a highly unadventurous nature generally. I really don't know why they haven't made a film of it. The Foundation too, see below. Perhaps some books are best left as books with your imagination providing a far better story than the silver screen could.

  • Deathworld III by Harry Harrison were Pyron's from the toughest planet in the Galaxy escape to found a new mining Colony on another world that a major mining corporation has already been forced out of by the highly hostile clan-like inhabitants. They arrive dressed up as a new clan and attempt to infiltrate clan's northern plains. The clan's don't believe in houses living in tents at bit like the Mongol horde. But there is also another more advanced culture with knowledge of gunpowder south of a great dividing cliff that can only be traversed by a dangerously week elastic rope or by going through a forbidden under ground cavine and through some water. What will happen when the two opposing cultures are brought together?

  • Dayworld by Philip Jose Farmer a world where it is a crime to Daybreaker. The world is vastly over populated and a new form a stasis sleep has been developed. The answer seems simple put people to sleep for 6 days a week and then left them carry on with their life's on the 7th day. But what if you take on 7 multiple identities to live 7 separate lives? Could your mind cope with having 7 different persona's? Incidentally it would probably been better for people cycle through 6 or 8 day weeks thus meaning Sunday's would actually occur on the 7th day as it seemed to you.

  • The Stellar Patrol in the Steve Meretsky Universe is similar to this with his charming and childlike Robot buddy come sidekick Floyd which won him a SciFi Nebula award in the '80's. If you want a copy of Planetfall game Email me and I will send you a copy, you can download the free WinFrotz interpreter from my Infoscripts site. Or try the newgroups Planetfall was one of my favourite games, the only IF game I solved completely by myself with out the help of Invisclues which I tended to junk out on and ruin the game. Now you can just get the games of the internet which has killed IF. See below.

    Isaac Asimov's view of Nuclear Power is rather naive due in part to the newness of it in his time. To think that Nuclear Reactors could be reduced to the size of a walnut (see Techman section in Foundation and Empire) AND be safe is very Foolish, and that nuclear fallout appears in patches. Also he assumes not only that every Planet will have Oil, gas and Coal all derived from the corpses of life forms - meaning life has to evolve on EVERY planet but not to a higher functioning level. And that it will not be depleted after over 10,000 years of history. We ARE LIVING IN A GOLDEN AGE. Oil will be depleted in 100 or 200 years and Gas will not last longer the 500 to 1,000 years. Charcoal will have to be used to smelt metal, only aluminium can be smelted by electricity or mega-deep mines opened. Plastics will have to made from bacteria on a much smaller scale. Then there is NOTHING!!!!!

    Global warming IS NOT A POSSIBILITY IT IS A FACT to 30 years or a little later it will happen. It seems to be happening a lot slower than it should! As have the worlds cities are on the cost due to trade, fishing and colonisation. They will ALL flood unless protected. Where are the people to go in a over populated planet and where will the food come from lost farm land? Only Nuclear Power, but we only have 70 years of known Uranium deposits. France has 80% nuclear power and we even import some across the Channel. Dams, Wind, Wave, and perhaps Solar and Thermal power can help but are very expensive and sometimes unreliable. I went done a Gold Mine, Western Deeps in South Africa just west of Soweto (SOuth WEstern TOwnships) which is the deepest in the world and needs cooling water pipes to stop the workers dying from the Earth's core which is used to power the whole mine and near by town. Helium-3 of course is the answer, see moonbase.

    The boys and girls at Harwell or Culham (I forget which) Southern Oxfordshire better get a move on with their 'Joint European Torus' a toroid shaped magnetic field that will contain a safe waste free nuclear fusion reaction (together, as opposed to nuclear fission: apart that we currently have where one particle hits an atom releasing three, which go on to release nine etc...). It will be as hot as the Sun. This will use Helium-3 commonly available on the moon. Russia has plans to go to the Moon in 2015 and the United States in 2018 to collect it. The Breaking of the Speed of Light Barrier may mean Fusion Power is here today???

    I went for an interview with a couple of Doctors at one of these places for a job check Satellites. They had a bloke going round with a trolley of books for all the Scientists. They still make them through-hole large PCB components because they are tried and tested. You don't want to send up Millions of pounds/dollars/rubles? Satellite to go up in space and then break. I always thought they used SMT (Surface Mount Technology) which used much smaller components assembled by a robotic pick-and-place machine, so as to safe weight and space thus reduced the cost of getting it into space. They also have a small Particle Accelerator. We're still waiting to discover one more exotic particle and the ever elusive Graviton. There are plans for a even bigger particle accelerator to be built than the one at CERN funding by the US, EU and Japan but there seems to be a bit of a squabble over where it is to be built.

  • Another thing they study is the atmosphere in order to gauge how bad the effects of global warming are. I meet one of the Scientist's who does this on an Alpha Course at where you have a free meal, an instructional video and a debate about Christian theology with other members of the group. You can look up your nearest one on the internet at They're world wide. It certainly increased my knowledge of the Bible, provided good food and made me a few new friends. There were about a dozen of us there and the Vicar popped in once. But didn't really change me from being an arch-atheist-scientist type.

    Most of the Bible stories you have heard of appear in Genesis and Exodus. And if you want to read a short book try Jonah, it's only one and a half pages long. They also say John is very inspirational: In the beginning the Word already existed. He was with God and he was God.... There are so many different versions of this opening. It could be interpreted loosely as a code or programme for the Gravitational Constant, DNA... I suppose. All four Gospels tell the story of Christ many bits being repeated in each. John was an apostle and I believe didn't write this book of the Bible until over 100 years old in Ephesus in the Roman Province of Asia and the Ionic coast (West Turkey today). It was home to one of the 7 wonders of the world, compiled by the Greeks and surprise, surprise all two of them being Greek. The last Greeks were expelled from Ephesus by the Turks in 1900. To be re-populated by Muslim Kosovan's expelled by the Serbs.

    I think she quite liked me, I quite good at the old one-liners. She had her own big house which only she lived in but she wasn't really my type. I should have recommended her to Christian Friend's Fellowship an organisation that brings couples together through local meetings and group holidays.

    No one knew if a nuclear bomb when released would lead to a never ending chain reaction that would consume the entire atmosphere and not peter out. The computer boffins at Albuquerque, New Mexico (the oldest State Capital in America founded by the Spanish) developed the first computers to figure this out during the Manhattan Project in WWII. Los Alamos near by was the site of 'Trinity' the first nuclear explosion: ground zero. Albuquerque became the hub of the world computer industry for a short time and Bill Gates was based their hacking away at his MS-DOS (Microsoft Disk Operating System) and BASIC (Beginners All-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code). What hacker of the '80's with a cheap personal computer that plugged into your TV didn't use this. Programming seems to have gone out of fashion with the rise of the Internet, colleges still teach internet languages such as PERL which is only used as far as I can ascertain to strip internet sites and USENET newsgroups of you Email to be compiled in millions on CD's and sent out as SPAM'S (from Monty Pithen’s SPAM, SPAM, SPAM and EGG'S sketch). Check my article 25 years since the first Microcomputer (longer now since I wrote the article) at for a bit of Tech. Nostalgia.

  • Arthur C. Clarke (1917-2008) served in the RAF (Royal Air Force) as a radar instructor and technician from 1941–1946. He proposed a satellite communication system in 1945 which won him the Franklin Institute Stuart Ballantine Gold Medal in 1963. He was the chairman of the British Interplanetary Society from 1947–1950 and again in 1953.

    For a time I liked him because his Science is well researched and based on fact generally. He invented the geostationary satellite and now lives in Sri Lanka a country with over 10,000 years of history thanks to it's warm climate with many ancient Palaces and Fortresses.

    2001, a Space Odyssey 2001 for and away his most famous book. It starts at the dawn of history when mankind's primitive half-ape ancestors find a strange Monolith has arrived. It soon teaches them to use tools which they use for hunting. Turning them from a half-starved group on the edge of survival into a well feed group with a very promising future.

    Unfortunately he got his dates wrong thinking we would have a strong space-faring culture by 2001. I strange alien monolith is discovered on the Moon by it's magnetic signature which seems to broadcast to a Moon of Jupiter. I mission is setup to go and explore that Moon using a Spacecraft controlled by a Self-aware Computer name HAL (Many have postulated that this is a dig at IBM which is one letter apart, but it is probably just a co-incidence, it actually stands for euristic ALgorithm). Two crew are awake during the mission to Jupiter and three more are in suspended animation specially picked for their skills in science and exploration, to be awakened when they arrive. But the computer goes mad and things don't work out to plan...

    They actually made a film of this book. Unfortunately it lost many of it's nuances in being transferred to the big screen. And having Rigsby the Landlord from Rising Damp and one of the key Astronauts/Scientists seemed a funny choice.

    There is also a new film called 'HAL's Legacy' which was made in 2001 staring Arthur C. Clarke and Garry Kasparov: 'How close are we to building a real HAL-9000 computer?'.

    The City and the Stars The City and the Stars is about the last City on Earth where people are retrieved from the Eternity Circuits in the Hall of Creation to live 1,000 years and go back again to live once more later. The city is run by a giant Computer and Robots and the Eternity circuits ensure it stands for ever. A City that will stand against Time itself!

    But, occasionally something unusual happens, a new life is created! Called Uniques they have a desire to escape the City and change history. Alvin the Hero is one such unique, summoned from the hall of creation fully grown and given adopted parents and a tutor. To help him in his quest is the Jester put in the City by it's creators to liven things up by playing pranks now and again. In order to play his pranks he is given deep access to the circuits that control the City and can use them to help Alvin in his quest, he however can not leave the City like all it's inhabitants due to a in built fear. Only Alvin, a unique can! But he must unseal the gate first...

    Rendezvous with Rama Rendezvous with Rama is about a alien Starship which arrives in the Solar System. Only one human spaceship is near enough to reach and explore it before it travels on and leaves the Solar System. Once inside they discover it is staffed by Biots (BIological RobOTS) which our just head, arms, legs, a brain and a 'battery', no digestive track or reproductive systems. They our created out a Biological/Chemical soup and highly advanced machines so they don't have to remain alive in Deep Space. He also postulated Simps (Smart Genetically Engineered Chimps) to work in Space as they eat less, take up less space and require less rocket fuel to lift into orbit (which is VERY expensive). Why not use Dwarfs?

    A Fall of Moondust A Fall of Moondust a book about a Moonduster craft that travels over dusty areas of the moon carrying tourists. It sinks and the book goes into various suggested methods to rescue it and it's inhabitants. Testing the Space Engineers to their limit with the clock ticking. The passengers go through all sorts of emotions like fear, hope, and boredom while waiting to see whether they live or die. Only a lone scientist on a Spacestation circling the moon knows where the duster sank using infra-red technology.

    The Fountains of Paradise The Fountains of Paradise set in a fictionalised (10 degrees South so it is on the equator) version of Clarke's adopted home of Sri Lanka, one of his most personal. The story is based around the fantastical yet scientifically supportable idea of a 'Space Elevator', a 'tower' from the earth to geo-stationary orbit, 23,000 miles "high". The purpose is to make access to space routine, safe and cheap, and the 22nd century-set novel essentially follows Vannevar Morgan in his quest to complete this monumental project.

    As luck would have it I have already written a bit about the Space Elevator at

    Incidentally Arthur C. Clarke has postulated that genetically engineered life could exist in the upper Jovian atmosphere. They would be giant zeppelin like creatures that float and life of gas, or eating vegetable matter that feeds of the heat generated by the pressure of the Jovian Atmosphere. They could be harvested for meat. The surface area of Jupiter is about 100 times that of Earth! Only 10 times the radius. The surface area of the Moon is equivalent to that of Africa. And it is possible the there is a diamond the size of the Earth at it's centre. Pressure and heat make diamonds from common carbon. Heat can be generated by pressure, or be that left over from the creation of the Solar System like the Earth's core, which hasn't had time to cool.

  • The Diamond Hunters by Wilbur Smith begins on the Skeleton coast of South West Africa as it was at the time the book it set in. Part of the vast Kalahari desert which covers most of the country. It never rains in the desert so roads are made of salt! A Diamond Company owns to vast reservations of that cover more that half the country, only employee's are allowed access. Anyway a Father, his Son and Daughter, and adopted Son live in this hostile environment. They have a wonderful childhood but the Father finds his Daughter and adopted Son in Bed together as they are growing up. It is entirely innocent, but he immediately send the adopted Son away, and will never talk to him again, but continued to support his education. The younger family move to Cape Town to complete their education at Rhode's University.

    Rhodes was a rich diamond miner and colonial adventurer trying to start the Boer War early and founding Southern and Northern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe and Zambia). He began with nothing and worked his way up, using his strength of character and a few cons as well. Their is also a Rhodes College in Oxford that provides scholarships to promising students, the most famous of which is former U.S. President Bill Clinton.

    Anyway after working for a Diamond Recovery Business on the Atlantic coast, they decide to set up their own business. They have found an island in the Southern Atlantic of the South West African coast and buy the guano rights to it, which also include the mining rights. The document goes back to a failed attempt to collect the guano many decades ago, the island proved to difficult to dock at. A big diamond mining company owns the rights to mining a vast area of the South Atlantic and claims it's claim is superior, the court rules otherwise. Incidentally guano is the dropping from millions of seabird's who nest on little islands over millions of years i.e. a lot. And is used as a high-grade fertilizer. Industrial Chemistry now provides our fertilizer stripped from the atmosphere: nitrates, also used in the munitions industry. They shell out a fortune for a specially commissioned ship to mine the channel between two islands that theory predicts will be diamond rich. But they only discover a tiny amount. What could be wrong? Read the book.

    South West Africa / Namibia: The Portuguese reached this area in 1488, just before the history changing discovery of the Cape and the Route to the Riches of the East, then controlled by high mark-up middle Eastern traders. Explorers, hunters and missionaries followed over the next few centuries. It was made a German Colony set up in 1884, after the Congress of Berlin which carved up Africa between competing European Powers. The German's founded two colonies on the coast Luderitz and Swapmondkand, which still contain a German speaking population. They then performed Germanies first but not last Genocide killing 60% of the native population! The German Government now sends in vast amounts of cash in support of remaining Germans and recompense. The colony was invaded and captured by South African forces in the First World War. No reinforcements could be sent through the strength of the British navy. If they had to spare in the first place. Another German Colony: Tanzania held out to the end of the War, but changed hands at the treaty of Versailles, 1919. During the Cold War Namibia was used as a base for South Africa to invade Angola, which had been occupied by Cuba. Cuba did not have the resources for a long occupation gambling that the Soviet Union could not afford to lose face and would back them up, which they did. The Communist and Capitalist factions still squabble and occasionally come to blows, mainly over both forces having to integrate in the army and Angola's intervention in the Congo. In 1989 the South West African Colony was made independent and named Namibia, after Cuba agreed to withdraw from Angola. It has since had democratic elections, and also intervened in the Congo.

    Aztec Century by Christopher Evans: the Aztec Empire has been growing ever since Cortez changed sides in the 16th century. They already control great areas of the world and now it's 20th-century Britain's turn to submit to Aztec rule. This story of war, politics, intrigue and romance is narrated by a daughter of the British Monarch.

    They started by allowing Jesuit Missionaries in to teach them modern science, then fought a battle in the Mississippi valley against a combined British and French army which they win forcing them to retreat to Boston and Montreal. They then got a foothold in Europe by a Royal Marriage with Spain and they influence continues to grow. Also details the rather unpleasant Aztec religious practises. The most know of which is the sacrifice of many people on their great pyramids to appraise the Gods and guarantee that the Sun will continue to rise. The Inca's had a similar believe but only 3 child sacrifices are known high in the Andes - little dolls.

    Day of the Triffids by John Wyndam Where a bright flash of light blinds nearly every one except for the hero who has had eye surgery and is wearing bandages and a few other lucky people. Civilization soon breaks down as people can't work.

    The Day of the Triffid's Book The Day of the Triffid's Video One group clubs together at a local University by using a search light to guide all seeing people to them. Their plan is to gather supplies and truck out to a country estate and try to start again, growing food etc... they get a load of blind girls from the local school (not boys) as they know how to work without seeing and will be used to re-populate the country. No other blind people can be taken the harsh judgement is taken as they will be of little or now use. Disease and starvation spreads quickly with a plague, the collapse of the sewage system and many dead bodies, a lot through suicide.

    Another more compassionate group tries to save as many people as possible by attaching one seeing person to a group of blind people and going on scavenging missions to shops. Our hero is forced to help this group and handcuffed to some blind people.

    But this is not all. The Triffids a sentient moving plant originally breed to make oil escape their farms and start killing humans with their stings. There pods spread everywhere, soon nowhere is safe. Our hero escape and joins the University mob. He has skill on a Triffids farm and brings his Triphids hunting equipment to help protect the group.

    A third militaristic group sets up in Brighton and used blind people as slave labour, making them pull ploughs and feeding them mashed Triphid. Triphids can be farmed safely if their stings are cut out. They set up small enclaves surrounded by electric fences to farm the land. But one by one these fall to the Triphids who bunch together against the wire until if falls. Only sheep survive due to their fleece protecting them from Triffid stings.

    The University mob retreat to the Isle of Wight (which I have visited on the fast cat, like being at the helm of a Starship if you sit up front. I've also been on the ferry to France: Le Harve from Portsmouth and Dieppe from near Brighton). They collect and destroy the pods before they have a chance to grow into Triffids. Those who don't agree with the ideology of the group are allowed to retreat to the Channel Islands and run things their own way.

    There's also a film of Day of the Triffids which I found most enjoyable when it was shown many years ago. It hasn't been repeated like a lot of good old programmes and I'm not sure whether it is readily available now.

  • New Life for Old Simon Rack in 'New Life for Old' by Laurence James Galactic Security Service agents Commander Simon Rack and Bogart are shipped out to Paradise, a Cryogenics Space Station where hundreds of Rich and Famous people have been frozen to await life saving medical treatments not yet invented or just see the future. But something fishy is going on! Bogart sure don't like his 'Hesher’s' but he does try a certain machine designed for the most intimate pleasures not entirely to his satisfaction as it turns out plus some of the Women who shipped up with him for treatment during the one week induction course. May be difficult to find. Only cost my 25p from a second hand book shop but that was some years ago when I was still at Technical College. Other books in the Simon Rack series include 'Planet of the Blind' and 'The Earth lays Sleeping'.

  • A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawkings (1988) which I actually understood more or less. 10 dimensional space is a bit hard to swallow. He also says matter can actually come out of black holes as well as enter them, due to pairs of matter and anti-matter which usually cancel each other out splitting when one falls in and the other escapes. I also understood the theory of relatively more or less. Where by the closer a Starship gets to the speed of light the heavier it becomes, and the slower time goes. Energy goes up exponentially meaning even all the energy in the universe won't be enough to get a Starship to light speed. Weight goes up as energy is related to matter, and time slows as the movement of particles is slowed by requiring more force to move, I suppose. A Photon has no mass so can travel at the speed of light. But it does seem to carry energy.

    Physicist's still have yet to develop the Unified Field Theory. Magnetism and Electricity have long been linked by Faraday (who invented the Motor, Dynamo and Capacitor among other things) or Maxwell's differential equations (a Scottish engineer come mathematician (magic-a-mation ;-) ). The 'weak' force Gravity and the Nuclear force still haven't been linked in.

    A Brief History of Time The foundation of Quantum Theory was laid by the German physicist Max Planck, who postulated in 1900 that energy can be emitted or absorbed by matter only in small, discrete units called quanta. Also fundamental to the development of quantum mechanics was the uncertainty principle, formulated by the German physicist Werner Heisenberg in 1927. Known for Heisenberg cat's proposition: a cat is put in a box and may or may not be gassed, you don't know if the cat is dead or alive until you open the. So what? Yawn? Physicist’s seem to lap this one up though. Another one is that a the position and velocity of a particle can not be known at the same time. Well obvious really, if you hit a particle with a electron to detect it will move. The heart of a transistors operation is Quantum Mechanics as electrons trigger whether a transistor is on or off (1 or 0: binary, the heart of all digital electronics). Hawking’s further developed Quantum Theory into String Theory. Or as it is known 'the theory of nothing' as it has absolutely no practical applications! Incidentally while not at the union debated and drinking he used to test how long he could hold his breath in the bath. He lasted a long time which may have damaged his brain caused his motor-neuron disease which he was told would kill him in a matter of years he has lasted decades! He can memorise complex mathematical equations in his mind. Quite a feat. Einstein said 'God does not play dice'. Well according to Quantum Theory he does!

    Also I believe that Quantum Singularities can exist, are extremely complex, and can Warp Space. Not to be confused with a Singularity which created the Universe!

    Where did I get all this stuff? I watched the whole Open University Video Teach-a-phon on 'Astro-Physics' at the Library at Polytechnic and the rather more gruesome and haunting the 'World at War' series. Thanks God for Nucs. Or they would have had material for a now series when the Soviets invaded Western Europe. It is said NATO forces could last no longer than 3 weeks on mainland Europe. The forces were only really to stop the Soviet's infiltrating our boarders; give time for negotiation before Doomsday and Nuclear Winter; and reassure the public. Luckily our policy worked, Britain and France spent about 7% of their budgets on the military other European countries about 5% where as the Soviet Union spent 40%! Clearly our money was spent on better things like investment in infra-structure, scientific research and the welfare state ('A safely net, not a crutch?').

    What did the Soviets have to show for their policy: decaying nuclear submarines in Murmansk and Vladivostok and a ruined economy. Russia has always suffered from too many borders, too few people (relative to the country’s size: 150 Mill. against 1.3 Bill. in China for example) and off course a terribly harsh climate. Their Paranoia about a new German / 'Western Imperialist' invasion help feed their arms race. At a time when West Europeans were actually winding up their Empire's while the Soviet's had one in Eastern Europe! Not unjustified as Germany has cost the Soviet Union 20 million war dead and the Western powers had intervened in support of the White's in the Russian Civil War holding most of the ports which cost 10 million war dead.

  • Longitude - the True Story of a lone Genius

    Longitude - the True Story of a lone Genius by Dava Sobel who solved the Greatest Scientific problem of him Time. Ships could not tell the time at sea due to not having sufficiently good watches, this lead to them not knowing their Longitude which meant many got lost at sea. Parliament offered a prize for who ever could find a way of navigating safely. John Harrison clock maker eventually won this price after many years work and four clock's: H-1 to H-4. Which I viewed at the Greenwich Admiralty, London.

    Another method was proposed based on studying the Stars and Sun using a Sextant which eventually blinded seamen in one eye. Complex Logarithmic tables were then used calculate ships position. Charles Babbage a Victoria Scientist proposed and partially constructed an Arithmetic Engine used cogs and clockwork to calculate logarithms correctly without the many mistakes that hand/brain calculation accrued. He couldn't get it to work due to Victorian Engineering not having the required precision. The Science Museum, South Kensington, London has built a copy according to his plans and it works, I've seen it. The only other copy is owned by Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft and Multi-Billionaire.

  • Animal Farm by George Orwell deals with the perversion of the ideals of Communism pointing to it's supreme simplicity, naivety, and the ease with which it can be corrupted. It is based on the great terror of Stalinism in the post Lenin Soviet Union (Lenin didn't want Stalin to succeed him) and forced Industrialization - he also wrote 1984 (new Speak, Big Brother, Ministry of 'Truth'...) which I listened to in the evenings of 1984 on Radio 4 at the age of 14.

  • Hitler and Stalin: Parallel Lives by Alan Bullocksee above. Details how these evil men gained power, what they did when they got it, and the Great Continent Shaping War between their two opposing ideologies in which 50 Million People died. For my Commentary of how this War could have been avoided goto and download the WinFrotz Interpreter and my largely un-regarded game 'WhatIF'. If you have any problems getting it to work just Email me.

  • Animal Farm

    The Time Machine

    The Time Machine (1895) by H. G. Well's - in part a commentary between the differences of the working and ruling classes in pre Social Democracy Industrial Europe.
    "He envisaged a race of frail, privileged beings, the Eloi, living in a ruined city and co-existing uneasily with ape-like Morlocks who toil underground and are decended from the downtrodden workers of today."
    He also wrote:
    • The Invisible Man (1897)
    • The War of the Worlds (1898)
    • The Shape of Things to Come (1933)

    Well's was a committed Socialist and one of the World's first Science Fiction writers after:

    Mary Shelley who wrote Frankenstein in 1815 (the same year as the Battle of Waterloo: Wellington and the Prussians v. Napoleon). She was married to Percy Bysshe Shelley. During the Shelley's stay with Lord Byron at Lake Geneva she conceived Frankenstein at the age of 18 . Wrongly assumed as the name for the Monster, Frankenstein is in fact the creator of the monster. I believe Lord Byron was a Poet and fought in the War of Greek Independence against the Ottoman Turks.

    Jules Verne who works include:

    • Journey to the Center of the Earth (1864; trans. 1874)
    • From the Earth to the Moon (1865; trans. 1873)
    • 20,000 leagues Under the Sea (1870; trans. 1873)
    • Mysterious Island (1870; trans. 1875)
    • Around the World in Eighty Days (1873; trans. 1873).

  • David Gremmel's Source saga-religion series dealing with the fight between Heros, Good and Evil, Magic and the 'Chaos Dimension'. I particularly like Legend: Druss the Axeman where the Heros stand at Dros Delnoch a seven walled mountain fortress against overwhelming odds. Known to the Nadir invaders as 'the Sender'.

    Legend: Druss the Axeman The First Chronicles of Druss the Legend Lion of Macedon

  • The First Chronicles of Druss the Legend. Druss lives in a new settlement in the Skoda Mountains in the lands of the Drenai. He has a strong temper. His job is chopping down trees to build a stockade for the village, to protect it from raiders. There is only one Drenai Cavalry Regiment available for the whole of the West lands. So raiders eventually attack before the Stockade is complete. Druss's wife is stolen by slavers. Her name is Rowena. He turns from a hewer of trees, to a hewer of Men with his Axe. He pursues her for years fighting his way through many villains and wars on the way. With a poet friend who is obsessed with courting as many women as possible.

  • And if you are interested in the history of Alexander the Great's conquest of the Persian Empire you should read Lion of Macedon. It sees the campaign through the life of one of Alexander's General's Parmelion whose General Father Xenophone came from the rich city state of Athens and defected to their bitter enemy the ultra-militaristic and perverted city state of Sparta. Dedicated to one aim: WAR! They didn't even have city walls as they regarded the army as undefeatable. Their perversions are not for me to describe but were so great that even the not so pure Romans felt they were left with no choice but to raise the entire city. They had slave as did all Greek states.

    Anyway Parmelion's life in Sparta was not pleasant being half-Athenian a fact of which he was reminded many times in often brutal ways. He did however learn to fight. And more importantly the war tactics which helped him become a General.

    In 480 B.C. Leonidas I and his 1400 men fought at the only major Greek north-south pass at Thermopylae (hot gate) in, 300 being Spartans against a Persian force estimated to be 1 million strong, of course many were camp followers. They ultimately were betrayed by a fellow Greek who showed the Persians another less good pass which allowed them to come up behind them. But they held out long enough for Greek forces to assemble, and much more importantly for their not insubstantial fleet supported by trade and colonies across the Mediterranean (middle Earth sea) to assemble and destroy the Persian fleet. This forced the Persians to withdraw the Asia as they were left unsupplied with food etc... saving the Greek states.

    Alexander's father Philip of Macedon who died unfortunately young. Had ended the interferment of the Greek city states and leagues in Macedonia who often bought off different towns, opened a Gold mine and started a military college. Philip is also the name of the Queen's Husband who came from the now defunct Greek Royal family. Alexander was training by one of the great Greek Philosophers.

    Thus the greatly strengthening Macedonia with the aim of expanding which it did south into Greece proper and then attacking East across the Aegean sea into the Persian Empire's Western most province which contained mainly great subjugated Greek cities and whose Capital was Lydia. These liberated Greeks soon flocked to the colours.

    The Companions were an elite regiment headed by Alexander. He was known for his giant drinking sessions and on one unfortunate occasion got so drunk he ordered the burning of the Persian Capital Persepolis (pre-Islam from which the name Persia is derived). Persian practiced the religion of Zaroastroism, the worship of fire. he then secured the treasury and the rest was easy, cities could be bought or intimidated to surrender and army paid. The Greek Phalanx, a line of Soldiers 8 or 16 men deep with 20 foot poles tipped with arrows proved invincible.

    Alexander actually claimed to have conquered the entire world, knowing of only three continents:

    Alexander died in the newly founded Greek City of Alexandria of his many war wounds. He always fought in the heart of the battle to inspire his men. He is said to be buried in the catacombs their but no one has ever found him. Other Greek colonies include the French city of Marseilles and the Sicilian city of Syracuse - home of Archimedes of Eureka fame 'I've found it'.

    So what Alexander was really saying was that he was unable or too dumb to send out explorers to the edges of the known world! He assumed the Caspian sea was a branch of the great northern sea even though it had fresh water NOT salt! Also his mean rebelled refused to cross the Indus river, as they missed their home land and families who that had not seen for many years. No Email or Telephones then! A later Greek worked out the world was round by planting a stick in Pella the Capitol of Macedonia and then going to the first cataract of the Nile in Greek controlled Egypt and planting another stick. Measurements of the lengths of the shadows showed that they were not the same length thus meaning the Sun's rays were distorted by the curvature of the Earth thus proving the Earth was round. Q.E.D. Also showing much of it was yet to be discovered.

    Persians often hired Greek soldiers, as they were very very very rich having over 100 Stalaps (provinces) in their Empire and weren't fond of fighting. They regarded Spartans as worth 5 normal soldiers, and Athenians worth 3. In Roman times the rich state of Pontus in north Anatolia / Turkey hired exclusively foreign Mercenaries so when Caesar came calling they simply surrendered knowing the skill and strength of the Roman legions. Hence the term Latin: Veni, Vidi, Vici : 'I came, I saw, I conquered!'

  • Raj - The Making and Unmaking of British India by Lawrence James details the history of the British in India:

  • Sharpe's Fortress Sharpe's Tiger Two books from Bernard Cornwell's Sharpe series Sharpe's Fortress and Sharpe's Tiger. Sharpe's Triumph is also set in India but I haven't read it. Portraying History through the eyes of a Soldier/Hero who has to live a though and often unfair Army life and giving a 'flavour' of the time (Dr. Achedimi an Iraqi Lecturer at my University used to use this expression a lot to describe studying a subject, getting an overview of it). Events include the future Lord Wellington's Campaigns in India against the Muslim Tippoo of Mysore and his largely Hindu subjects in defence of the British founded trading port of Madras which dealt in Spices and small quanties of Silk, tea still coming largely from China at this time. The Tippoo had a moving model made of a Tiger Ripping the heart out of a British East India Company Man now at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London I believe. The fight then goes north on to the squabbling but for the time united Marathas Confederacy backed by French Arms, mixed-race gunners hired from Portuguese Goa and a few defecting Company Officers who were paid a King's Ransom for their knowledge of modern fighting tactics. Relations between Company Men and Native Indians were a lot more friendly and easy than in the later days of the Raj when the British Army took over from the Company. Regiment flags were blessed in Hindu and Muslim Ceremonies. As there were no White Women in India at that time, relations soon bloomed between European Men and Indian Women. Encouraged it would seem by the very liberal view to sexuality of the Hindu religion. Which often has it's temples decorated with highly erotic scenes. Bernard Cornwell especially likes his Bibbi's.

  • Sharpe's Trafalgar begins at the docks in India. Telling the tale of Shapes return to England via the naval Battle of Trafalgar were a slightly smaller but better trained British Fleet beat the combined forces of France's and Spain's Man-O-War under Napoleon thraughting his plans for an Invasion of the poorly defended British Isles and making the Atlantic and Indian Oceans into the British Empire Ponds for a Century which lead to a free hand in Colonial America, ever increasing British Influence in India lead partly by a need to defend existing Possessions and Allies, and the War for Spanish Independence under Simon Bolivar (see Founding Fathers section at Continental Congress) and other leaders. Nelson died on his Flagship Victory now persevered at Portsmouth Harbour (next to Portsmouth Harbour Station, also the new but late Spinnaker Tower in the shape of a sail and Gun Wharf Keys are there plus the Steam Powered Warrior which never fired a shoot in anger but deterred the French in the late 1800's, and the Mary Rose which sank during Henry VIII's Voyage which he viewed from Southsea Castle on it maiden voyage as it was to full of troops on the top decks). I actually remember them collecting for this at my Prep. School many years ago.

  • The War then goes onto the Peninsula Campaign a War in aid of Portugal and Spanish Guerrillas (meaning Little War) opposed to Napoleon, and the final invasion of Toulouse in France before the Emperor Napoleon is forced to Abdicate and retires to the Island of Elba. Thus allowed the French aristocracy to return. He later escapes and raises his legions to his colours including the Elite Imperial Guard (who War Cry is 'Vive Le France') and marches on the British Garrison in Belgium and the Netherlands under Wellington. Wellington of course wins due at Waterloo in large part to the late but fortuitous arrival of the Prussian Field Marshal Gebhard Leberecht von Blüche and his force.

  • Prussia was a highly militaristic Germanic state East of Germany were the Russian enclave of Kalingrad and a coastal section of East Poland is. This is where the Piped Piper of Hamlin fabbel comes from, German colonists going East to Prussia and Transylvania (northern Romania) with the Teutonic Knights. It acquired or conquered the divided German States of Modern Germany including the free North German states such as Hanover and the state of Bravaria. Also the provinces of Polemia (on the Baltic coast between the ports of Stettin which Chancellor Kohl tried unsuccessively have put back in Germany from Poland due to it remaining 2/3 German and Silesia acquired from Austro-Hungary and rich in coal and iron ore which also went to Poland which lost 1/3 of it's territory to the Soviet Union in the East thus being moved effectively 1/3 West. Nearly all German's in these provinces were deported to Soviet Central Asia by Stalin to raise Cotton and Grain and dilute the nominally Muslim Population (under Communism religion was totally banned, some Christian groups smuggled in Bible's however). So Hitler lost 1/3 of German territory for ever. Plus 5 million German War dead. All German Speakers were deported from Prussia by Stalin.

  • Hanover was a British possession owned by George I who spoke only German and was Elector of Hanover of the Holy Roman Empire (famously said to be neither of the three). Half the Colonist's of the United States at Independence were German speaking and Hessian Mercenaries were drown from Hanover who fought in the War. There was an referendum after Independence to decide whether English or German should be the language of the country. As all the Governors, Continental Congress and most Business Men were English speakers, and it was thought English speaking pilgrim country New England might succeed English won. Would America have joined the World Wars if it had been German speaking or fragmented?

  • Incidentally the Turks of Anatolia migrated from north of Mongolia displacing Armenians, Greeks and others. Central Asia is where part of the Silk road ran. The word 'Slav' of Russia derives from the name 'Slave' when Russians were kidnapped and castrated in Jerevan capital of former Soviet Armenia and shipped to the Great Caliph of the Middle East. West Europeans were also seized and enslaved by the Moors in Cordaba, a great city just South of Madrid where the Jewish, Moorish (Muslim North African descended from Sub-Saharan African, a few Romans and the Visigoths: of Germanic stock) who swept though Gaul, Hispania: Spain and Portugal and Mauritania: North-eastern Africa. They speak Arabic, Berbers also live there and speak not surprisingly Berber.

  • Also I think Yemen and Oman in Southern Arabia dealt in African slaves through the ports of Mombassa in Eastern Kenyan. I went to University and stayed in halls with a one Mohammed Ali (really that was his name both names our very common among Arabs) whose Father came from Yemen and runs a Maize Milling Company. His Father had two wife’s, one had 10 children, and the other 4. He said he would probably only have one wife. He referred to the relationship between two half-brothers as cousin-brother. He said I should find a 'Nice Asian Girl' presumably Muslim so I would become a Muslim, as he seemed to think Islam would be good for me? I actually barely drank while I knew partly because I has no drinking buddies, party because I seldom feel the need for drink except when out to loosen me up and steady my nerves and a little bit out of respect for his beliefs.

    He speaks English and Swahili but can other write his name in Arabic. Aden it's Capital was once a refuelling port for British ships on the way the India which had come through the Suez canal.) and Zanzibar. This trade drove many African's south into Southern Africa such as the Zulu's who conquered their own Kingdom in a brutal manor. Livingston was forced to rely on Arab slavers to explore the Zambezi river area, which boarders Zambia and Zimbabwe. European Engineers built the Kariba Dam and lake to supply the needs off these two countries in Colonial times.

  • I used to read computer books at Blackwell’s in Oxford to get a bit of code to hack a program like one that sorted names alphabetically. It boiled down to using the '<' key to decide whether one letter was greater or smaller than another - that was in BASIC of course. The terribly dated ASCII (American Symbolic Code for Information Interchange) is still used widely today. It used a byte of data: 7-bits which gives 127 possible characters, with one bit for parity which is used to check data hasn't become corrupted in transmission. The first 32 are control codes like backspace, carriage return, tab, Esc, Ctrl. Other control codes like NAQ & ACQ (acknowledge) are used to control printers, modems etc...

    The remaining 96 codes are assigned to common punctuation marks, the digits 0 through 9, and the uppercase and lowercase letters of the Roman alphabet. If memory serves me correctly: 0 starts at character 48, Capital A at 65, and Smallcase a 97. So by just AND'ing uppercase letters with 32 you can get the lowercase equivalent. There is also a 256 character version which includes mathematical symbols, foreign letters and characters for drawing boxes pre-Windows graphics. All you have to do to get any character is hold down the Alt key and type in it's number. It is a highly outdated system and modern computers speed, memory and data transmission speeds could easily support a 2-byte version which would allow over 65,000 possible characters.

  • You can sell books on the internet. Particularly popular ones, there are also newsnet groups that lists many books but few sell. The trouble is postage and packing. I recently sold two Star Wars books for a friend on eBay. One sold for £2 plus £2 P&P. I ending up paying £5 for the jiffy bag (99p) and the postage. If you fiddle on eBay it affects you rating and you might be barred from the site so you have to honour a deal. Another sold for a more reasonable £10.50 plus £4 P&P to someone in Italy. But the postage cost £8 airmail! He said he would split the profit 50:50 so we made about £3 each. Listing costs 20p, I think you only pay if it sells. Pictures increase demand and may lead to a very profitable bidding war.

  • My Mother has more success selling books. She used to be a librarian. She now works for the Oxfam bookshop in Oxford as a volunteer. She prices some books, and posts them one the internet wrapping them in bubble wrap and brown paper which is cheaper the jiffy bags. I tend to collect old postal packaging for future use. I used to collect a load from various places I used to work but threw them away when I moved as I had too much stuff to move. Anyway they get a lot of old academic books from the widows of retired professors which sell well in America, some go to specialist bookshops. So my Mother gets to buy some of the old un-wanted books cheap from the Oxford Market and list them on eBay. She makes over £100 on some.