Book review: The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

The Alchemist was published years ago (1988, according to GoodReads), so … I’m a bit late getting to it. I picked it up because a friend said if I enjoyed Silk then I might enjoy this. He was right; I did, though I don’t think it was the story as much as the simple, poetic writing and the insights into the human condition it presented.

The story is about a shepherd boy who embarks on an adventure to find a treasure buried near the pyramids. Along the way he meets a king, a merchant of fine crystal, bandits, men of learning and of course … an alchemist. But this wasn’t really about finding the treasure, it was about the journey the shepherd undertook to reach it, and how the people he met along the way changed him and his perspective on life and his future.

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Book review: The Queen of Sidonia by Richard Fox

This one was from the ‘random grab and read a few pages’ list. I’ve got a lot of these books sitting in what I laughingly call a ‘short queue’, and a lot of them stay there for years. Every so often, I’ll pick one out, read a few pages, and if I carry on reading then we have a … Oh my god … is that … a slush pile?

Queen of Sidonia was up next, and after page ten, I realised it was the just kind of book I was in the mood for: an unpretentious middleweight sci-fi story with plenty of action and a nice tidy ending.

And it wasn’t advertising itself as anything else. I mean, the cover is basically telling you this isn’t Shakespeare, but you’ll have a damn good time all the same.

And yes, I really did enjoy it. The story is nothing that you haven’t seen before, and the characters will be exactly who you expect them to be: we’ve got an idealistic, straight-laced hero; a feisty princess; a ruthless villain and a fop. Still, they all have their quirks so you’ll have no difficulty remembering who’s doing what to who, and the dialogue is distinctive and punchy. Fox doesn’t waste time having his characters chatting about stuff you don’t need to know.

But back to the story. Yes, it’s nothing too original, but as I’m always saying, it’s not what you tell, it’s how you tell it, and this is told with flair, humour and without wasting a single word. The world-building is one of the best I’ve ever come acros, weaving the structure and politics of the future civilization into the story with leaving a seam. Great stuff. The plot thunders along without straining the reader too much, building to a climax that is perhaps a little too predictable aside from one nice touch which, if I’m honest, I didn’t see coming.

So, after taxing myself with something a bit more heavyweight (and probably far less fun), I’ll be back for the sequel: The King of Sidonia.

Raised by Wolves (HBO)

COVID binge watch # 6.

Following a war between atheists and other people, the planet Earth has become uninhabitable. In order to give humanity a second chance, an atheist scientist (you’d think they all were, but this isn’t the case) launches a probe to Keppler 4b. The probe contains two androids and boxes packed with frozen embryos.

The planet proves unsurprisingly hostile, and after twelve years, the androids (called Mother and Father) have lost all the children except one.

And to make matters worse, a ship from the religious sect arrives …

You can tell Ridley Scott was involved: Raised by Wolves is what you get if someone decided to do a spin-off series for the androids from the Alien franchise. It’s dark, dystopian, and a bit … gooey. Like Alien, there are a lot of skeletal monsters … and mucus. My god, there’s a lot of mucus …

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