I noticed this in the Kindle Store – in fact the version I got was an omnibus edition of the first five books of the series. I don’t read a lot of science fiction but the reviews were excellent and it looked like a good deal at £3.
The author describes it thus:
This is the story of mankind clawing for survival, of mankind on the edge. The world outside has grown unkind, the view of it limited, talk of it forbidden. But there are always those who hope, who dream. These are the dangerous people, the residents who infect others with their optimism. Their punishment is simple. They are given the very thing they profess to want: They are allowed outside.
People live underground in the Silo, as the environment above ground is no longer safe for some as-yet-unknown reason.
This first story is about an hour’s read. It’s really good.
The Wool / Silo series reviews
I’ve never done this before. I am abandoning a book – leaving it unfinished – with no desire to return. I’ve listened to over an hour and nothing has happened. The main character is not very likeable (for all the wrong reasons). I’m not willing to invest any more time on this… crap.
Perhaps the problem lies with the narrator – such a boring, dull voice. He is unable to inject any emotion into the characters. There is very little difference between him voicing the main character and when he is simply reading the text.
I also have a book called Typhoon by the same author – I will give that a go as he is supposed to be one of the new generation of British spy story writers and the audiobook has a different narrator.
He’s getting a second chance – there won’t be a third. I’m not short of good books to read…
Well made, well told. A bit soppy at the end.
There are a lot worse ways to kill a couple of hours.
That’s about it…
• Empire: Moneyball review
2^(64) -1 = 18 quintillion, 446 quadrillion, 744 trillion, 73 billion, 709 million, 551 thousand and 615
I’ve been looking for a good explanation of exponential growth. For some reason I hadn’t realised its true power and implications, despite having it come up time and again, especially in a book like Race Against The Machine with it’s talk of being on the “second half of the chessboard.”
Well, the number above is the total number of grains of rice on a chessboard at the end of the Wheat and chessboard problem, which Wikipedia describes as:
If a chessboard were to have wheat placed upon each square such that one grain were placed on the first square, two on the second, four on the third, and so on (doubling the number of grains on each subsequent square), how many grains of wheat would be on the chessboard at the finish?
To give an example of how things ramp up at the end of the problem:
On the 64th square of the chessboard alone there would be 263 = 9,223,372,036,854,775,808 grains of rice, or more than two billion times as much as on the first half of the chessboard.
See it all play out in this YouTube video playlist…
• Wikipedia: Doubling time
I reviewed Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy upon its release in the cinema – see my Mini Review – and I said “Slow. Complex. Deliberate. Magnificent.”
It is all these things, but I recently got the chance to watch the film again and wanted to add some comments. This is largely due to having listened to the BBC’s Complete George Smiley Radio Dramas and getting to know George Smiley’s character in more detail.
When I saw the film originally I went in not knowing what the plot was. Now I view the film again and can appreciate some of the details that I either missed or was oblivious to the first time round. Some of the looks. Some of the dialogue that previously meant nothing – “a debriefing at Sarratt”. At least one of the minor characters would come to much greater prominence later in the Karla trilogy of books.
What also becomes clear is the good job that is made of making all the principal characters possible contenders to be the department’s mole.
This really is a film for people who know the story – seeing the film a second time makes you realise just how much information you are assulted with. No wonder you miss a lot. Starting with the “Tinker, Tailor” radio drama could be a good place to start, as it lasts an extra hour (three hours to the film’s two) and gives the plot additional space to develop.
So lower the lights, sit back and enjoy once more a very classy film – and the best of the Smiley stories where he is the main character.
This is a real achievement – radio adaptations of all the John Le Carre novels that feature his character George Smiley… Excellent for me, as I have only read one of the books. Here we go:
Call for the Dead / A Murder of Quality
Both good stories, but hardly great. You get some hints to Smiley’s background and some characters that return in later stories, but these are who-dunnits, pure and simple.
The Spy Who Came In From The Cold
A real step up in the quality stakes, and the creation of a great character in Alec Leamas, a laconic, likable, wearied agent. You start to wonder where Smiley will appear, but it soon becomes clear that he is in the background directing the affair.
The Looking Glass War
Dour and dry, this is the story of a little known, insular intelligence agency called The Department that has a chip on its shoulder about not being as recognised as Smiley’s MI6. Trying to recapture some of its previous wartime glory it launches a mission into East Germany with ultimately sad results. The powers-that-be believe that they are all-knowing, but there is always the stench of forthcoming failure, and Smiley is willing to let The Department go through the motions with minimal assistance. Employing obsolete equipment and out-of-date ideas, they do not want to face the fact that they may be being duped – rendering everything else that follows meaningless, despite the sacrifices that some characters are making. More straight-laced than other Smiley stories, it is still riveting listening.
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
The production on this is excellent, with the BBC well in its stride now. It is easier to follow than the film, with the extra hour giving this version greater room to breathe. It’s interesting to recognise the differences between the film and the radio versions.
The Honourable Schoolboy
A great wedge of story to tell, even if you do have three hours to do it. This is Smiley’s first attempt at repairing the damage caused by the events of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. The production is a success simply because despite the main character calling almost everyone “sport”, it doesn’t get immensely annoying.
Smiley manages an unsatisfying victory over his arch-enemy Karla, in a complex story that is hard to follow.
The Secret Pilgrim
I’d not heard of this one, but it was actually very interesting. This is a number of stories about the Cold War told by a character called Ned after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Smiley’s presence creates a framework for what is to follow. The stories concentrate on the personal impact that spying has on those who get involved. They are life defining, often devastating for the characters. Hardly a testament to the intelligence community…
Compared to other spy books I have read (mainly Len Deighton), I find these stories in the main overcomplicated, and rather dry – and I like an intelligent read. These radio dramas are an excellent way to get a taste of what le Carre is about. My favourite is The Spy Who Came In From The Cold (see my reviews of the audiobook and the film). However, I do not think that I will be going back and reading the other full books in the near future. Then again, they’re not going anywhere, so I’ll be back one day… If I tackle another le Carre it will be A Perfect Spy – George Smiley can rest easy, as I won’t be disturbing his retirement any time soon.
The main reason that I don’t feel attracted to the stories is perhaps why they are generally held in such high regard – the hollowness of the intelligence service is laid bare. There is a lack of humanity, the people ultimately feel nothing and there is no sense of achievement. Any sense of duty they felt at the beginning of their careers seems to evaporate over time as they corrupt themselves – their actions seemingly no better than those of the people they are fighting against. Their main motivation in the end is to hold on long enough to qualify for a pension – even then, they may retire but they can never totally escape.
After everything, I can appreciate George Smiley and his ability to survive (although he certainly has picked up his fair share of scars along the way), but I don’t particularly like him.
In a week where a committee of MPs concluded that Rupert Murdoch is “not a fit person” to exercise stewardship of a major international company, and the Leveson inquiry continues, this film review seemed rather apt…
This film tells the story of the journalists whose stories ultimately brought about the resignation of President Nixon.
When five men are caught breaking into the Watergate building, the National Democratic party headquarters, they are first thought to be burglars; but things appear strange from the outset and Bob Woodward (Robert Redford) of the Washington Post is sent to cover the story. Another journalist, Carl Bernstein (Dustin Hoffman) also wants in on the piece. When one of the “burglars” admits he works for the CIA, it is clear that the men were there to bug the offices. Leads point to important people in the White House and suspicions of Republican party research into Teddy Kennedy.
As certain names crop up, sources start to become more evasive and stories start changing. To make things worse for the journalists, the paper’s editor also offers resistance and does not give the story the prominence it deserves. Other newspapers start delving into the story, which ups the pressure even more, compounded by the fact that now no-one wants to talk at all. New leads finally highlight a money trail from the “burglars” to the fund-raising efforts for the Nixon re-election campaign. Is this really just one part of a massive sabotage campaign against the Democratic Party? Over the next two years all the main people featured in the Washington Post stories into the affair are found guilty of different crimes. President Nixon is found to be involved, and has to pay the ultimate political price.
This is stylish, quality film-making – featuring a strong cast, writer and director. The film takes you along on the journey, and keeps you enthralled all the way through, keeping the storyline clear and the pressure on – no mean feat. The film was made only a couple of years after the events and has aged well. If you have any interest in this period, this is definitely worth watching.