Wednesday 26 June 2013


As some people know a complete collection of my Jack Giles books were stolen from a private display at a public venue.

The good news is that, today, the person who took them returned them to the table where they had been displayed.

To that person I would just like to say - thanks.

Certainly, putting my books on display will never happen again.

Wednesday 12 June 2013

READY PLAYER ONE by Ernest Cline

It is 2044 and the world as we know it is still in decline - there is no sign of a recovery from the recession that began in the beginning of the 21st Century.
For Wade Watts life exists in the stacks - trailer park vans that are stacked up on insecure scaffolding - on the outskirts of Oklahoma City.
To escape Wade drifts off to his hideout and logs into the virtual world of OASIS. Here, under the avatar name of Parzival he can be who and what he wants. This is where his school is and the chat room that he visits is called The Basement. Here he meets up with his best friend Aech.
This virtual world is the creation of the great games designer and programmer James Halliday aka the wizard known as Anorak - and author of 'Anorak's Almanac'. If anyone wanted to know about Halliday's life and times then this was the book to have.
Halliday's death takes the world by surprise - even more so when his will is read. His fortune and gaming rights pass to the player who can find three keys, three gates and rise to the challenges within to prove that they are worthy of taking on that fortune.
On the trail of this fortune is Innovative Online Industries (IOI) who will stop at nothing to gain control of OASIS to make a profit from it. To them, the person who controls OASIS controls the virtual worlds.
Level One sees the first set of clues and the answer lies in Halliday's 80s childhood and the Dungeons & Dragons game that he created. This is where the almanac becomes the handbook or bible that helps Wade to solve the clues.
It is not long before Wade realises that he is not alone in the quest as friends Art3mis and Aech are hot on his tail.
However, he solves the first of the quatrain clues and wakes up to find himself the centre of attention as he tops the scoreboard. And when he drops a hint to his friends they have the top 3 places and then they are joined by two more 'gunters' (that is what the gamers are known as) from Japan.
But what begins as fun turns deadly as the stack he lives in is destroyed by the IOI who are unaware that their quarry is safe in his hideout.

On the one hand this is a geeky book - films like 'WarGames', 'Monty Python and The Holy Grail' and 'The Beastmaster' are all reference points along with bands like Rush and a whole feast of gaming consoles and games like 'Pac-Man'.

Ernest Cline racks up the tension until the grand finale when everything comes together. Wade Watts is a fully rounded character - a loner who feels safe with his online friends. Though they compete against each other they have, also, got to learn how to trust so that they can work together.

First impression is that the book is supposed to have a target audience - but the deeper I got into the book I felt that it was universal. It is one of the best sci-fi/fantasy fiction that I have read in a long time. The quest may be an old fashioned theme but this is played out in an arena that many can identify with - it is that which makes this a satisfying read.

Tuesday 11 June 2013

XBOX ONE vs PS4: The Battle Begins

Today saw the opening of the big game consoles and gaming event know as E3 and the big names unveiled their new consoles.
First up were Sony with the new Playstation 4 followed by Microsoft unveiling the all singing all dancing Xbox One.
The first thing that was obvious was that contrary to Amazon's listing the price for this new console is £429.00.
For that price you get a Blu-Ray player, a TV player, a computer and a games console. All of which you get by paying an extra £30 to £40 per annum to access Xbox Live to enable players to go online.

The PS4 comes with Blu-Ray player but concentrates on games and gaming and will cost £349.00. Like the PS3 online comes free.

An aspect of the Xbox One that I don't like is a) some games will continue to play while a player is offline or asleep; and b) other players will be able to just jump into your game.

Early feedback seems to infer that the Xbox One has failed to galvanise the gaming public. As current figures show that over the last few months Xbox 360 sales which stands around 75 million sales have been overtaken by Sony's PS3 with 77 million sales (both figures are worldwide).

As a gamer my leaning is towards the PS4 and Sony hasn't given me the problems that Microsoft's 360 has, And do I want all the extra junk that comes with the Xbox One - I think it is obvious that I don't.
Nor do I think either console will compete against the growing 'app' craze amongst the young. The real gamers today grew up with, possibly, the PS One way back in the mists of time (15 to 20 years ago?) Though there are those who recall Atari, Sinclair, Commodore 64, Sega and early Nintendo.
Now, in modern times, the next generation has arrived.

Still, as I have always maintained there is nothing wrong with the Xbox 360 and the good news today is that it is not going to be abandoned. A new slimmer version is up for sale from £149.00 and Microsoft has plans to keep it going. We shall see but I suspect this will be so until the new Xbox One drops to an affordable price.

Now does that mean that there will be a 'Forza 5' for the 360?

(A new Part 2 added today Aug 5)

Friday 7 June 2013

FELIXSTOWE BOOK FESTIVAL - 15th and 16th June 2013

Next week sees the very first Felixstowe Book Festival and there is quite a line-up of authors, artists, poets and literary people ready to talk books.

Mind you had I gone by the articles that I have read recently then it looked as though it would be an all singing, all dancing female fest broken by breakfast with Stephen May (author of 'Life! Death! Prizes!'. However, after a good chat with local librarian, Debra, and armed with a programme guide things became a lot clearer.

Still all things considered I will look forward to Mark Mower on the subject of true Suffolk murders. I have a copy of his book.

Also in the frame is Martin Edwards - author of the Harry Devlin novels with titles straight out of the sixties Top Ten ( 'All The Lonely People' and 'Waterloo Sunset' for example) and the Lake District Mysteries.
Barbara Erskine will be there too along with several local authors like Ruth Dugdall who impressed with her novel 'The Sacrificial Man' which was reviewed on this blog.
Talking of blogs - Simon Thomas of 'Stuck-in -a-book' ( and Elaine Simpson-Long of 'Random Jottings ( will be along to talk about their blogs and how to set one up and explain some of the pitfalls of doing so.

All in all it looks as though organiser, Meg Reed, has put together a pretty good programme that includes events for children.
If I have a gripe then it is that the spectrum is narrow but this is just the first year and I hope that next year will see the inclusion of other genres like horror, fantasy, sci-fi, thrillers and adventure.

The venues are:
The Orwell Hotel,
Felixstowe Library,
The White Horse,
Write The Blurb bookshop
Landguard Fort.

All in Felixstowe, Suffolk.

Thursday 6 June 2013


So here it is the new games console from Microsoft - the Xbox One. The next generation that will cost, according to Amazon, £599.99. Nor will the games come cheap either as they are listed at a price of £89.99.
No incentive there to buy this product.
The games will cost over double the current game discs.
And if my current gaming experience is anything to go by then there is little to encourage me to even think about investing in a new console.

Currently, I get messages from Microsoft to say that my Xbox 360 cannot connect to Xbox Live and that I should turn off my modem for 30 seconds and then retry only to get the same message. In reality I cannot turn off the modem for the simple reason that it is up and running okay because my wife is using it for the PC.
Switch off the Xbox and put on the PlayStation 3 - not a problem with connection.
So will things change with the new Xbox console? I doubt it.

With the new console comes 'Call Of Duty: Ghosts' game.
Again not the greatest advert for a new console - not when you have 'Call Of Duty: Black Ops 2' as an example.
A sample game in online multiplayer goes like this:
In order for a game to begin there is a list of players (12 Max)
Need more players to balance teams (there are 12 players listed)
Migrating hosts (whatever that means)
Need more players etc.
The game is about to begin.
Need more players (no change there)
The game is about to begin.
Eventually, and after time to visit the loo, the game does start - then as you start the game goes black and the message 'Migrating Hosts' appears and the player finds themselves back at the title screen.
To add insult to injury the player is told that if they leave a game then they will face a penalty - but the player didn't leave the game.
Countless 'Server Error' messages turn up.
Then there are the glitch issues - avatars that don't take bullets; or move slowly or just plain disappear.
Not the way to sell a product for a new game in the 'Call Of Duty' saga.

As it stands - I'm sticking with what I have.
There is an old adage that says that fools and their money are soon parted.
And another that says that if it isn't broken then don't fix it - the current Xbox still has a lot of unexplored potential and I don't think that producing a new console will improve things.