Review of Andy Weir’s Artemis



Andy Weir

New York, NY: Crown, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-525-57266-4

307 pp.

Andy Weir shot to fame as the result of his first book, The Martian, which became a best-seller as well as a prominent feature film. That book told the story of an unfortunate astronaut stranded on Mars when his colleagues were oblige to leave without him. The astronaut possesses reservoirs of scientific and technological knowledge and the ability to put this into useful practice through dexterity and clever innovation. The majority of the books as the man himself and his usually time-aspected rush to solve what appear to be impossibly difficult problems.

In Artemis, Weir attempts, not always successfully, to open the action to a small cast of characters, who revolve around the central character Jasmine or Jazz. Jazz is the daughter of a Saudi Arabian welder who has migrated to the eponymous city that is located on the moon. Artemis has reached the level of a modest-sized town, governed by a mayor and a man who is effectively the sheriff. Since it is very difficult to produce much in the way of consumer goods on the Moon, the citizens of Artemis are going to be reliant on imports from the Earth for the foreseeable future while being dependent on the tourism industry. It is clear from this that there is going to be a great deal of inequality in a society such as this and the signs of inequality will be evident in the possession of space and the items that be used to fill it. Jazz, of course, has very little space for herself and has also accumulated some unfortunate debts. Her answer to this predicament is to organize a modest but potentially lucrative smuggling ring. Alas, she is successful enough to reach the attention of people who can see a bigger picture and insert her into a scam which then drives the rest of the plot.

What is both the best and one of the worst things in the book is the relentless obsession with the science and engineering of living on the moon. No sentence is too short that three facts cannot be shoehorned into it and no conversation so inconsequential that it cannot be used as the vehicle for important technological knowledge:

“We reached the shelter hatch and I knocked on the small, round window. A face appeared – a man with watering eyes and ash-covered face. Most likely the foreman, who would have entered the shelter last. He gave me a thumbs-up and I returned the gesture (p.30).”

Not everyone will enjoy this style especially when it is combined with Jazz’s endless gag cracking (rather like Spiderman, whom one can imagine the author following) and the grotesquely simplistic characterisation of the remaining cast. To be honest, I am glad that I do not oblige myself to give a book marks out of ten on this site because I would have had to give quite a low one here – the dialogue is dreadful, the plot is ludicrous, the characters are irritatingly superficial and Jazz herself is the least credible female character I can remember encountering (and there have been quite a few unbelievable women in science fiction). However, the underlying nature of the book, which is an extended tour of how it would be possible to build and live in a moonbase, remains fascinating. The book would be better as a piece of fiction if it could have just involved an impersonal Jazz making a tour of Artemis while interacting with a computer but I imagine the publisher would not have been keen on such a thing. Instead, we are obliged to go along with the concept that technical competence is really the only characteristic that matters in valuing an individual and it is the principal means by which relationships may be maintained, damaged or repaired. Well, readers familiar with The Martian should know what to expect and would have no one to blame but themselves.

It will be interesting to see how, if at all, Weir develops his career from here. We have had Mars and the Moon so what will be next? A spaceship? A submarine marooned on the floor of the ocean? An asteroid? Perhaps he might be better advised to form a writing partnership (perhaps with a ghost writer – it has been known) as a means of combining the undoubted technical fireworks he has with a mode of fiction it is possible to enjoy in its own right.


Review of Stephen Baxter’s The Time Ships

The Time Ships
Stephen Baxter
London: HarperVoyager, 2016
ISBN: 978-0-00-813454-9
499 pp.

The prolific science fiction writer Stephen Baxter has become known not just for his own, numerous creations but, also, for his work in recreating classics of British work. He recently had published an updated version of The War of the Worlds and this, presumably, prompted the reissue of The Time Ships, which first appeared in 1995.

Baxter has produced a sequel to the Wells original which, it is hardly a spoiler to reveal, ends with our time travelling protagonist having to abandon his beloved but quite feckless Weena to the sinister and brutish Morlocks and their (Miltonesque) underground engines. The time traveller subsequently escaped a close shave with those creatures by escaping to the far future, where he witnessed what appears to be the onset of the end of the world or, at least, of the end of humanity before returning to his own time and relating the tale to the nameless Writer. Now, the Traveller prepares to return to the future, so to speak, with a view to rescuing Weena and finding some way of living happily ever after with her in some way. However, as the back cover blurb reveals, his first intervention in the chromosphere has rather upset things and a whole new series of timelines has been introduced The Traveller has the opportunity to travel unimaginable distances in time and to witness the different and mostly unfortunate ways in which his actions have changed humanity and the other creatures encountered along the way.

Baxter does a good job of portraying the Traveller as a stiff upper lip type of chap who would do sterling work in the administration of the Empire. The world is described through his perspective and, so, it appears as a potentially dangerous place which could, nevertheless, be wrestled into submission and put to productive use with a dose of elbow grease:

“… But I knew … that my 1891, that cosy world of Richmond Hill, was lost in the fractured Multiplicity.
Well: if I could not go home, I decided, I would go on: I would follow this road of Changing, until it could take me no further! (p.349)”

It would be a little unkind to observe that there is a gap between perception and reality such as this in nearly all of Baxter’s work – his characterisation has improved over the years and has become functional, although it is hard to imagine future PhD candidates will be probing the psychological makeup and development of his characters.

The class system is deftly deployed in the spirit of the original to display the true nature of society in its various guises and the Traveller’s inherent confidence in dealing with it in the many ages of the world he has the chance to visit.
Since the Traveller was to a significant extent responsible for the new universe of divided timelines and, perhaps more importantly, because through possession of his time machine he retains agency in seeking to affect the external universe, he is kept at the heart of events by the central figures of various eras who might, one might suspect, have reason rather to resent his continued presence. Just like Wells and his ambivalent attitude towards Britain’s place and behaviour in the world, Baxter, through the Traveller, exhibits little doubt that Britain nevertheless has the central role to play in the disposition of global events. It is interesting to compare this belief with those attitudes of the others who comes to us through the prism of the Traveller’s eyes. This is all quite nicely and subtly done.

I cannot help but think that Wells would be somewhat appalled by the world today – mendacity, spiteful divisiveness, the idiocy of Brexit, all of the contemporary phenomena that destroy the sense of solidarity on which he would (class system notwithstanding) have based society. What would he make of this book? Presumably he would have been disappointed that, a century later, it would still be necessary to write it. To write about time travel in the way that he did was to call for changes to the future that he foresaw (among the Eloi and the Morlocks, which one was the bourgeoisie? An argument could be made either way). Since then, the course has been set errantly and now it might be said that we appear to be heading to hell in a handcart. Baxter, characteristically, deploys his big picture technology to address this problem using concepts not available to Wells. The approach is satisfying and the result a worthy tribute to the great man.

Peer Reviewing 2017

Peer Reviewing

Eight times for the Journal of Economics, Management and Trade

Fifteen times for the African Journal of Business and Management

Issues in Business Management and Economics

Three times for the African Journal of Marketing Management

Two times for Asian Journal of Economics, Business and Accounting

Three times for ICBMR (conference in Indonesia)

Asian Journal of Advances in Agricultural Research

Ten times for Asian Journal of Agricultural Extension, Economics & Sociology

Asian Education and Development Studies

Archives of Current Research International

Twenty times for ICMC 2017

Six times for Acta Universitatis Danubius Oeconomica

Journal of Agriculture and Ecology Research International

Current Journal of Applied and Science and Technology

Two times Journal of Economics and International Finance

International Journal of Livestock Production

Five times for African Journal of Agricultural Research

European Journal of Family Business

Journal of Contemporary Asia

Advances in Research

Fifteen papers for ICMC Young Scholars award.

International Journal of Health Care Quality Assurance

Two times for Pertanika

Seven times for Journal of Perspectives on Development Policy in the Greater Mekong Region

Three papers for the 2018 AIB conference


Book Reviews 2017

Book Reviews

Agamben, Giorgio, The Fire and the Tale, SIU Journal of Management, Vol.7, No.2 (December, 2017), pp.94-6, available at:

Ali, Tariq, The Extreme Centre: A Warning, Nepalese Journal of Management Science and Research, Vol.2 (2017), pp.71-2, available at:

Austen, Jane, Northanger Abbey, Ladprao 64, available at:

Baxter, Stephen and Alastair Reynolds, The Medusa Chronicles, Ladprao 64 (2017), available at:

Chang, Ha-Joon and Ilene Grabel, Reclaiming Development: An Alternative Economic Policy Manual, SIU Journal of Management, Vol.7, No.1 (June, 2017), pp.103-7, available at:

Cheng, Joseph Y.S., The Use of Mao and the Chongqing Model, The Journal of Shinawatra University, Vol.3, No.1 (January-April, 2016), pp.53-5, available at:

Cornwell, Bernard, The Archer’s Tale, Ladprao 64, available at:

Dick, Philip K., The Man in the High Castle, Ladprao 64, available at:

Gaiman, Neil, Norse Mythology, Ladprao 64 (2017), available at:

Hamilton, Peter F., Night without Stars, Ladprao 64 (2017), available at:

Hanley, Steve, The Big Midweek: Life inside The Fall, Ladprao 64, available at:

Harvey, David, Rebel Cities, Vol.7, No.2 (December, 2017), pp.100-3, available at:

Honda, Tetsuya, The Silent Dead, Ladprao 64 (2017), available at:

Kawabata, Yasunari, The Old Capital, Ladprao 64 (2017), available at:

Leckie, Ann, Ancillary Justice, Ladprao 64, available at:

Liu, Cixin, Death’s End, Ladprao 64, available at:

McEwan, Ian, On Chesil Beach, Ladprao 64 (2017), available at:

Morris, Marc, King John: Treachery, Tyranny and the Road to Magna Carta, The Journal of Shinawatra University, Vol.3, No.1 (January-April, 2016), pp.58-61, available at:

Munro, Alice, Open Secrets, Ladprao 64, available at:

Pasuk, Phongpaichit and Chris Baker, Unequal Thailand: Aspects of Income, Wealth and Power, Nepalese Journal of Management Science and Research, Vol.2 (2017), pp.67-8, available at:

Piketty, Thomas, Chronicles on Our Troubled Times, SIU Journal of Management, Vol.7, No.1 (June, 2017), pp.96-9, available at:

Reynolds, Alastair, Revenger, Ladprao 64, available at:

Rice, Anne, Of Love and Evil, Ladprao 64, available at:

Sassen, Saskia, Expulsions: Brutality and Complexity in the Global Economy, The Journal of Shinawatra University, Vol.3, No.1 (January-April, 2016), pp.51-3, available at:

Schlosser, Eric, Gods of Metal, Nepalese Journal of Management Science and Research, Vol.2 (2017), pp.69-70, available at:

Stross, Charles, Empire Games, Ladprao 64, available at:

Upreti, Bishnu Raj, Sagar Raj Sharma and Suman Babu Paudel, eds., Food Security in Post-Colonial Nepal, SIU Journal of Management, Vol.7, No.1 (June, 2017), pp.99-103, available at:

Varoufakis, Yanis, Adults in the Room, SIU Journal of Management, Vol,7, No.2 (December, 2017), 96-100, available at:

Zizek, Slavoj, Against the Double Blackmail: Refugees, Terror and Other Troubles with the Neighbours, The Journal of Shinawatra University, Vol.3, No.1 (January-April, 2016), pp.55-8, available at:


Review of The Archer’s Tale by Bernard Cornwell

The Archer’s Tale

Bernard Cornwell

London: Harper Collins, 2005

ISBN: 10-0-06-093576-6

374 pp

In this enjoyable romp through the Hundred Years’ War, we follow the adventures of the sponymous Thomas of Hookton, who travels through France with the English army aiming to make a fortune at the expense of the unfortunate local people. Thomas has the additional goal of seeking revenge against the unknown French raiders who destroyed his home village and, also, there are some unfinished issues relating to his heritage – his father was a priest of unknown provenance and, as readers, we expect there will be gradually revealed through the course of his novel and, since the front cover presents this as the first book of the Grail Quest series, over the course of other books as well (I am going to guess it will be three altogether).

Along the way, Thomas has various adventures and the strumpet fate pushes him down and pulls him back up again. Cornwell is a veteran of the historical genre and readers may be familiar with others of his works (e.g. the Sharpe series and The Last Kingdom) which have found their way into being adapted for the screen. The characters are vivid and deployed deftly so that the villains appear when needed and the heroes have to suffer enough for us to bond with them. The language and style do not really compromise with the needs for contemporary readers to be able to understand the text without thinking much about it and there is nothing to suggest the depth of consciousness that the medieval mind might enjoy and which has been portrayed so brilliantly by Dorothy Dunnett, among others. However, as the concluding historical note observes, nearly all of the principal incidents described did in fact happen in pretty much the way that was described. These were, indeed, grim events and although the nitty-gritty of the rape and pillage is kept off the page, it is certainly there in the background.

The main theme of the book is the role of the archer, specifically the English archer – there are some Welsh archers (Pat, for example) but they have the grace to wait in the background. It seems to have been true that archers were a particularly dangerous force on the battlefield but, assuming we are not guilty of exaggerating their importance, why did other countries not seek to replicate them? Cornwell himself has no answer other than that it must have been a very difficult skill to acquire and to require very time-consuming practice and people from other countries were not up for it. There have been archery specialists in Southern Britain since Neolithic times and perhaps the yew wood was particularly helpful. Other places specialised in other forms of warfare and there are various geographic, cultural and social issues that interact with each other to produce specific forms of military practice. For example, in this book we have the well-known Genoese crossbowmen, while the French are of course busy with the flower of their chivalry. Meanwhile, I remember going to school every day past St. Mary’s Butts in Reading, at which men came to practice archery under the orders of King Edmund IV (who is featured in this book, although for some reason his vital Reading links are overlooked). It is one of the few things for which Reading is known, together with Queen Victoria’s enmity, the statue of the lion which would fall over in real life and Oscar Wilde’s imprisonment (now that the biscuit factory has closed down).

As mentioned previously, this is an enjoyable romp through history – we end up at the Battle of Crecy (spoiler alert, we English won) and there is plenty more of the story to come. There is also the Holy Grail to be found and, one suspects, some heresy and persecution to come. Fun.


Review of Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

Northanger Abbey

Jane Austen

London: Collins Classic, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-00-736860-0

XIV + 258 pp.

At the risk of suffering from the curse of Morris Zapp, I did not read Jane Austen while pursuing my undergraduate degree in English Language and Literature – it is necessary to choose which courses to take on the basis that one person cannot read everything and I preferred Old English, Medieval literature and so forth. I have tried to catch up with some of the things I missed over the years since but there are so many other books and, besides, I have to spend a fair amount of time reading things for work. Anyway, the point of this preamble is that Northanger Abbey was new to me and, one afternoon having popped I to Sanmin ( I thought it was about time to change that situation and I am glad that I did.

The plot follows Catherine Morland, a young woman from a family at the lowest possible level of ‘quality’ and her adventures in exotic Bath and beyond. Her life appears to be a crushingly boring round of household chores and she has aimed to avoid the worst effects by allowing her mind to become filled with various notions. Her understanding of the world and the people who live in it is challenged after she gratefully accepts an invitation from the neighbouring Allen family to spend a fortnight in Bath, where people go to take the air or the cure or somesuch thing on an annual basis. She must then navigate the issues of what to wear, what to talk about with other people and, over and above all, how to get an introduction to someone else, almost anyone else. Without such an introduction, one must be passed over in silence even in the height of one of Bath’s notorious balls, so full of a violent press of people it seems like it might literally be dangerous.

Fortunately, such introductions are eventually secured and Catherine faces new challenges, including how to evaluate the intentions and impressions formed upon certain young men around whom she now orbits and is orbited. She finds on the one hand that opinions can differ (even in the case of profound issues such as preferences for novels and novelists) but that it is the nature of polite society that such differences might be managed without the need for unpleasantness. She is subsequently invited to spend time at the Tilney Estate, which is the eponymous Abbey and there, too, certain other of her notions are disabused, albeit that the essential and sturdy carapace of the emerging bourgeois social system must not be seriously threatened. Sinister events are shown to have perfectly respectable motivations and the need for heroic individual acts are, like Adam at the end of Paradise Lost, no longer required.

We have been living in the age of the veneration of Auntie Jane for some time now and her cultural footprint may now be found not just on the screen and the stage but also in the contemporary video game and the mash-up horror parody, among other places. In addition to the pleasure of reading her work, therefore, it is appropriate to note that she really was a very good writer. The critical eye most commonly focuses, of course, on the nature of the relationship within small households which may be considered in isolation, as if the rest of the world did not exist. However, although the proletariat does not raise its head, it does seem to be present, around the edges and the margins, keeping the whole thing going by virtue of slow accumulation and endless sacrifice. Her work needs no recommendation from me, of course but she may have one anyway.


Review of Revenger by Alastair Reynolds


Alastair Reynolds

New York, NY: Orbit, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-316-55556-2

425 pp.

The evidence of alien life and successful human attempts to transcend planetary geography are all around the people in this swashbuckling new novel by leading science fiction writer Alastair Reynolds but, alas, our ability to take advantage of these resources has been drastically diminished by the impact of entropic ageing. Like our understanding of the people of Dark Ages Britain, who looked upon the works of the departed Romans as the products of the Age of Giants, so too does humanity consider alien artifacts with a wild surmise. Those brave pirates who are able to penetrate the artifacts (which act according to predictable although gnomic rhythms) and can bring back swag from the inside without meeting catastrophic failures might be able to live very well on the proceedings for years to come. Yet the proceeds will quickly be watered down if the crew size is too large and so the pirate captains have an incentive to minimise crew numbers by ensuring that those who are enlisted re appropriately skilled for their main function and, also, preferably with other strings to their bows. Some skills may be obtained through hard work and aptitude but others are arcane and difficult to find. Principal among these skills is bone reading. For some reason, aliens have left behind a series of extra-solar system skulls from which, given the right equipment and conditions, may be coaxed communications from across space. A good bone reader would be capable, therefore, of providing a significant competitive advantage for their captains and that leads to benefits all round.

Enter, then, our two heroines, Adrana and Fura Ness, who hail from a solid bourgeois background which they are obliged to leave and seek their fortunes among the stars. As natural bone readers, they are able to obtain employment and lodging with Captain Rockamore and his crew, where prospects seem initially bright. Alas, not all who dwell in space are well-intentioned and the Monetta’s Mourn becomes victim of a space-jacking and forced to suffer the none-too-tender ministrations of notorious pirate Bosa Sennen. This sets the course for the rest of the book and we await the eponymous ship to arrive on the scene and set things aright.

I have to admit that when I first heard of this book, my heart sank slightly. I am a fan of Reynolds and I have seen what can happen when otherwise sensible writers (e.g. China Mieville and Steven Erikson) dip into parody and would-be satire. However, Revenger does not suffer from these kinds of problems. The universe created is detailed and vivacious and the characters must take the consequences of their actions seriously. There is a pirate-like energy and roister to the action but this does not lead to childishness or superficiality. The characters provoke an emotional response and clearly change and mature as the result of their experiences. The conclusion of the novel suggests that a sequel (and perhaps more) would be possible and, if that is the case, I would be happy to read that too.