It’s available worldwide. Spin on to 2m30s for the start of the programme.
Terry Pratchett — Wyrd Sisters: Episode 1
Three witches meet on a blasted heath while murder is in the air. Stars Sheila Hancock.
The Ionia Sanction is a sequel to The Pericles Commission. It features Nicolaos, the young Athenian who has invented the job of agent in order to learn politics to avoid becoming a sculptor like his father.
I liked The Pericles Commission and the only quibble I had was that Athens wasn’t as grim in Gary Corby’s book as I thought it might be. That’s no bad thing because I thought the ancient world could be an unpleasant place. Pretty much as unpleasant as in The Ionia Sanction, which is slightly darker and more violent than the first book.
The book opens with the apparent suicide of Thorion, a proxenos. A proxenos was someone who would help with the interests of a foreign city. Thorion was an Athenian citizen with connections to Ephesus, so when his suicide note suggests he’s committed treason Pericles decides someone needs to find out what has happened. He sends Nicolaos to investigate. It quickly becomes clear Thorion was murdered, and events lead to Nicolaos leaving the safety of Athens and travelling to Ionia, inside the Persian empire.
Like the first book, The Ionia Sanction is based around a historical fact. In this case it’s the life of Themistocles. Themistocles was the general responsible for the defeat of the Persians at Salamis. However, Themistocles was not a modest man and with some Spartan help he was framed for treason and ostracised. To flee to safety Themistocles surrendered himself to the Persian king and became satrap of Magnesia, on the coast of what is now Turkey.
The text runs smoothly. The only jarring note for me is that these are edited for the American market. It means Themistocles talks about assholes, which looks odd. Assholes feature in a section of the book due to a method of execution that uses a sharp wooden stake, tiptoes and a slow death through exhaustion. Gary Corby also had to find a sexual vice that a man had that could be used for blackmail. This man was an ancient Greek, so a small round of applause is due for finding one.
A common problem for any book like this is that there were some things known in ancient Greece that the reader doesn’t know. How do you get this information in? Fantasy authors have that well-used standby “As you know your father, the king…” before launching on five pages of exposition. Here the source of knowledge is Diotima, the (ex)girlfriend of Nicolaos who left for Ephesus a few months before and a female slave, Asia. It’s not stretching credibility for Nicolaos to know very little about the Persian empire, so it works without the sound of narrative gears crunching.
Fortunately the amount of exposition needed wasn’t too much. The book is a story, not a history lesson. As a story it works. Not everything was obvious, I didn’t work out any of the murders before they were revealed, but there was nothing that seemed too contrived.
It’s taken me a while to read it. I didn’t want to read it while working on anything ancient because I didn’t want it to feel like work. I’ll probably make a point of getting Sacred Games when it comes out and buying an authors next book is probably a pretty good indication of how his last one went.
The thing I’ll grouch about this time is the cover. As art I like it, but it doesn’t fit well with the book. It looks a bit YA, and I think The Ionia Sanction is more 18+. The first two books will be out shortly in paperback, with the Australian covers. After a couple more books I’ll complain if the covers aren’t in the same style, so this isn’t a major gripe.
If you enjoyed The Pericles Commission then the The Ionia Sanction is worth your money. If you’ve read neither then starting with the first book is the better bet.
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This past season of Formula One has been the best since 1993. The next season, I think, will be the first where no one on the grid has driven against Senna. Depending on how you feel about Schumacher, it’s possible Senna was the last great driver in Formula One. He wasn’t the most successful, but Senna raced in era when other drivers had access to potentially race-winning cars. His biggest rival, Prost, was in the same car for a couple of seasons.
It’s easy to fixate on one of the drivers, but the book covers the development both of the. Prost’s tale starts with his first spell with McLaren of that rivalry from Prost’s arrival at McLaren in 1980. Folley doesn’t simply take Prost’s recollections. He also draws on other people around at the time, such as Tony Jardine. Senna’s early career is covered with his time in Formula Ford in the UK. Martin Brundle gives an honest view of how it was like to race Senna at the time.
Jo Ramirez, who worked at McLaren during the Senna/Prost era is another source of material for their time in the team. Other drivers gave brief accounts to fill out the story. There are interviews with Hill and Williams too. Senna’s time before his death at Williams was brief, but it was Williams who gave Senna his first F1 drive as a part of a test session.
Obviously the two title characters dominate the book, but it is a taste of what Formula One was like in the 1980s. The extra background adds more context to what was going on. For example, the classic clip of Senna first coming to threaten Prost is from Monaco 1984 where an irresistible Senna in a poor car chased down Alain Prost in almost undriveable conditions. Prost’s hand waving in the downpour is easily mistaken for someone appealing to be given the win (1984 Monaco Grand Prix — part 7). However it is clear from the book that Prost was deeply affected his accident in practice for the 1982 German Grand Prix where Didier Pironi came out of heavy rainspray to smash into the back of Prost’s Renault. Pironi never raced in Formula One again. (Didier Pironi — Hockenheim ’82, crash and recovery)
1982 was a black year for Formula One. Along with Pironi’s career-ending accident, Villeneuve and Paletti died in races. Paletti’s death would be the last at a Formula One race till the weekend in 1994 when Roland Ratzenberger and Ayrton Senna died. Prost was aware that F1 was a dangerous career. Ayrton Senna didn’t start in F1 till 1984. His faith was a worry for some other drivers, especially in his later years, when some thought Senna believed he had divine protection.
There is a problem with any book like this. Prost is alive to give his side of the story. Senna is not. It’s hard to judge now if Senna really thought he was invulnerable. If you’re already a fan of one over the other I don’t think you’ll find anything here to change your mind. But the other drivers come well out of this. Derek Warwick in particular could have been bitter after Senna effectively ended Warwick’s hopes of getting in a race-winning car.
The close of the book is inevitable, but even here Folley is able to add something, like the pressure Senna felt from Schumacher. Everything Senna had thrown at Prost was now coming back at him from Schumacher. A surprise in the book is how is seems Senna appreciated what a rival he had lost after Prost’s retirement. It also emphasises the shadow left by claims over the Benetton team using traction control. Did Senna die chasing an illegal car? http://www1.skysports.com/formula-1/news/12433/7362401/Verstappen-Schuey-s-car-different–
With no Schumacher or Barrichello on the grid for 2013, this will be the first season in a long while where none of the drivers will have known a death at Grand Prix weekend. The massive advances in safety are due in part to the death of Senna. No other event could have shocked the sport into improving safety by so much.
viais this video demonstrating a marshmallow-like macroporous gel that could be used for separating oil and water. Like the accompanying press release says, this is obviously useful for marine oil spills, but there are many more applications.
Rockabye Baby have a lullaby version of Lullaby by The Cure. If you’ve not heard of Rockabye Baby they’re repackaged versions of hits slowed down to more somnolent pace.
Except for the versions of Coldplay songs obviously.
If you haven’t heard any of them there’s plenty to choose from by searching YouTube for Rockabye Baby. My favourites include:
Queen Under Pressure Rockabye Baby! Under Pressure Queen
Smashing Pumpkins Today Rockabye Baby! — Lullaby Renditions of Smashing Pumpkins — Today
and Nirvana Smells Like Teen Spirit Rockabye Baby Lullaby Renditions of Nirvana — Smells Like Teens Spirit which will give babies nightmares to scar them for the rest of their lives.
Other bands covered include U2, Metallica, the Smiths and Guns ‘n’ Roses.
and I’m not joking about Coldplay not being slowed down. Rockabye Baby! Lullaby Renditions of Coldplay — Clocks
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I’ve finally added my review of Phases of the Moon Pro to the Play store. This brings my total of Play reviews up to… umm… one.
I’ve been using it on my Galaxy Note 2, but I’ve just seen on the Virtual Star Party (as I type this) that it’s available on iOS. It looks like it’s better on a Nexus 7 or iPad.
It’s a simple thing really, you start it up and it shows the moon phase. But it’s done very well. You can put your finger on the moon and sweep it to increase or decrease the phase, set it to full and then see when that is. Or sweep it on or back to new and get a time for that phase.
The app name is a little bit misleading now. You can use two fingers to zoom into the moon and craters, seas and Apollo landing sites get labelled. You need to pan two fingers round to move the image on the screen once you’ve zoomed in.
This week’s Virtual Star Party — Jan. 20, 2013is a good one too, with more moon than usual.
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For non-Welsh people, Merthyr Tydfil is town half an hour or so inland.
“We don’t get a lot of sharks around here, so he did very well.”
Paul Marshallsea drags Bronze whaler shark away from Noosa beach
A BRITISH holidaymaker grabbed a six-foot shark by its tail and dragged it away from a group of toddlers as they played in shallow water off the coast of Queensland.
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