Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel

This is an odd one, and when I started I wasn’t sure I’d enjoy it. The book’s written as a collection of interviews, messages and conversations in Chinese restaurants. It begins with the discovery of an ancient alien weapon that’s been disassembled and buried in different locations across the globe. From discovery, we move quickly to assembly, but the trouble starts when the scientists and military try to make it work. …

Now, I’ve read a couple of books like this, and I haven’t always enjoyed them. Unless you can do it well, then comes across as a bit of a cop-out. Unless you can do it well, then it gets pretty tedious very quickly.

Luckily, the writer pretty much nails it. The whole book is dialogue basically, and it’s written so well that the scenes are set, the relationships defined and the suspense is … er … suspensed, all through these snippets of conversation. The characters are mostly believable, though I did feel that sometimes their behaviour came out of the blue, which demonstrates the problem with this kind of writing: because you’re getting parts of the story, you get the feeling that something’s developing in the background you might be missing. For example, I didn’t pick up that one one player had built such strong feelings for another he’d be driven to do something hideously out of character.

Still, the whole book shows great imagination and attention to detail, which makes it, like all good speculative fiction, strangely believable. A great combination of a quick read and an intensely readable page turner.

Vellum: a list of wants without the tantrum

I have a strange relationship with Vellum. It’s one of the most expensive apps I own (or rather license), and it’s the app that I probably use the least. And yet it’s one of the few apps I wouldn’t be without, because when I do get round to using it, it saves be a bucketload of time and churns out professional quality results without me pulling out what little hair I have.

So for the uninitiated, Vellum is sort of like a word-processor … though not really. You can load a file (.docx, .rtf) into it, or type your book straight in, and Vellum will churn out beautifully formatted ePubs for a handful of mobile platforms such as Apple Books, Amazon Kindle, along with PDFs that be dropped into CreateSpace or Ingram Spark.

Yes, I know that I can do the same thing in Word and Scrivener, but even Scrivener can’t deliver such a clean, well-dressed output without some fiddling afterwards. Vellum will space out your text to make sure all the pages are balanced without leaving those niggling single lines on a page before skipping off to the next chapter.

I’m not a believer in the one-stop-shop kind of an app, but Vellum is so easy to use and so well thought out, I find myself wondering what would it need so I could use it more.

So here’s is my list of wants for Vellum, based on nothing more than my own sense of entitlement (there’s a lot of it about after all).

Continue reading “Vellum: a list of wants without the tantrum”

Ulysses switches to paid subscriptions… Faeries wither and die all over the internet

I rarely cover tech stories, but Ulysses is used by so many writers (myself included) I thought it was worth chatting about what is becoming an increasingly popular revenue model for software developers.

You can find the announcement and pricing on the Soulmen website, but the short version is that you can no longer buy Ulysses as a one-off payment; you now pay every month/year if you want to keep on using it.

Realising this won't sit well with their use base, software companies often write a tome of a blog article explaining why this is necessary and why it is good for their customers. You can pretty much skip over whatever they write because it always boils down to two points: Continue reading “Ulysses switches to paid subscriptions… Faeries wither and die all over the internet”