The new Culture novel. Surface Detail by Iain M. Banks

It begins in the realm of the Real, where matter still matters.

It begins with a murder.

And it will not end until the Culture has gone to war with death itself.

Lededje Y’breq is one of the Intagliated, her marked body bearing witness to a family shame, her life belonging to a man whose lust for power is without limit. Prepared to risk everything for her freedom, her release, when it comes, is at a price, and to put things right she will need the help of the Culture.

Benevolent, enlightened and almost infinitely resourceful though it may be, the Culture can only do so much for any individual. With the assistance of one of its most powerful – and arguably deranged – warships, Lededje finds herself heading into a combat zone not even sure which side the Culture is really on. A war – brutal, far-reaching – is already raging within the digital realms that store the souls of the dead, and it’s about to erupt into reality.

It started in the realm of the Real and that is where it will end. It will touch countless lives and affect entire civilizations, but at the centre of it all is a young woman whose need for revenge masks another motive altogether.

Iain [Menzies] Banks was born in Fife in 1954, and was educated at Stirling University, where he studied English Literature, Philosophy and Psychology.

Banks came to widespread and controversial public notice with the publication of his first novel, The Wasp Factory, in 1984.

His first science fiction novel, Consider Phlebas, was published in 1987. He has continued to write both mainstream fiction (as Iain Banks) and science fiction (as Iain M. Banks).

He is now acclaimed as one of the most powerful, innovative and exciting writers of his generation: The Guardian has called him “the standard by which the rest of SF is judged”. William Gibson, the New York Times-bestselling author of Spook Country describes Banks as a “phenomenon”.

Iain M. Banks lives in Fife, Scotland.

GUANTANAMO: My Journey by David Hicks

Random House to publish David Hicks’ memoirs

Random House Australia  announced today it would publish the personal memoir of former Australian Guantanamo Bay detainee, David Hicks, with the book, Guantanamo: My Journey, to go on sale Saturday 16 October.

Guantanamo: My Journey is the first published account by David Hicks of the years leading up to his incarceration in the infamous US military detention camp at Guantanamo Bay, his time as a detainee, and his search for a normal life following release from prison in late 2007.

Click here to place your order.

Written over the last two years, the book dispels myths about David Hicks’s life before Guantanamo and reveals insights into the interrogation techniques used by the Continue reading

Obama’s Wars by Bob Woodward

Bob Woodward’s first book on the administration of President Barack Obama, “Obama’s Wars,” will be published by Simon and Schuster on September 27.

After working behind the scenes for 18 months, Woodward has written the most intimate and sweeping portrait of Obama at work with his team. Drawing on internal memos, classified documents, meeting notes and hundreds of hours of interviews with most of the key players, including the president, Woodward reveals Obama’s critical decisions about the Afghanistan War, the secret war in Pakistan and the worldwide fight against terrorism.

Obama’s Wars offers an original, you-are-there account of Obama and his team in this time of turmoil and uncertainty.

Excerpts from the book will appear in The Washington Post beginning Monday, September 27. It is Woodward’s 16th book, all of which have been Continue reading

Reading Freedom by Jonathan Franzen (A review, of a kind by John Purcell)

I once read a book review written by Theodore Dreiser . The book he was reviewing was Of Human Bondage by W. Somerset Maugham. What I recall of that review, read many years ago, is that Dreiser had come clean, saying something like – it took Maugham 500 odd pages to convey all that is conveyed in the novel, and so much is, what hope have I of giving you an impression of such a novel in a short review? All I should say here is – read it. For it is only by others reading it that my review will be written.

When I sat down to write a review of Freedom by Jonathan Franzen I read through the notes I had taken while reading and found no recognisable pattern in them. If I were to write a review I would have to draw together these disparate reactions and manhandle them into one congenial whole. I found I couldn’t do this.

In the midst of my frustration, I remembered Dreiser’s approach. I was very tempted to follow his example to the letter, but I changed my mind. Readers today have umpteen million novels to chose from (and more every minute). In such bountiful times we all need help to decide what next to read. So, for what they’re worth, here are my notes. They are my thoughts whilst reading Freedom by Jonathan Franzen and, depending on your reading of them, they will either extinguish your desire to read the book, or increase your desire. I kinda a hope it’s the latter.

Update: A much cheaper edition of Freedom has been released – you can buy it here – if you want…


Franzen opens Freedom with a teaser, he says, these ordinary people, Patti and Walter Berglund, living ordinary lives, are not what they seem. Then he draws a pen portrait of Walter and Patti as seen through the eyes of their neighbours. Yep, we readily agree, these are ordinary people. And yet lurking in the back of our minds is – he said all is not what it seems. And we turn the page. Continue reading

The Penguin Book of the Ocean (edited by James Bradley)

The world’s finest writing about the world’s wildest place.

Ever since the first travellers reached the coast of Africa hundreds of thousands of years ago, the ocean has been one of the wellsprings of the human imagination. Its restless immensity has given us new horizons to cross, new possibilities to explore, and inspired wonder, heartache and heroism.

In The Penguin Book of the Ocean bestselling author James Bradley presents a dazzling selection of writing exploring this grandest of obsessions, combining fact and fiction, classical and contemporary, to create a collection like no other.

From Rachel Carson’s luminous account of our planet’s birth to the story of the wreck that inspired Moby-Dick, from Ernest Shackleton’s harrowing account of his escape from Antarctica by open boat to Tim Winton’s award-winning dissection of the dark side of surfing, The Penguin Book of the Ocean is a hymn to the mystery, beauty and majesty of the ocean, and to the poets and explorers it has inspired.

James Bradley was born in 1967. He is the author of three novels, Wrack, The Deep Field and his most recent, The Resurrectionist; a book of poetry, Paper Nautilus; and the editor of Blur, a collection of stories by young Australian writers.

He is a well-respected critic and regularly reviews for the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age. He lives in Sydney with his partner, novelist Mardi McConnochie.

Follow James Bradley on Twitter – here

RRP $35.00 Booktopia Price $25.95

ORDER NOW and SAVE 26%click here

Coming in December: The Man Who Loved Children by Christina Stead (Good start. Now publish all of her work.)

“I am convinced that tens of thousands of people would bless the day that this book was published, if only they could be exposed to it.” JONATHAN FRANZEN

The Man Who Loved Children is Christina Stead’s masterpiece about family life. Sam and Henny Pollit are a warring husband and wife, he a fully blown narcissist and she spoiled and prone to fits of despair.

Their hatred, aggravated by too little money and too many children, lies at the centre of this chilling and brilliantly observed novel about relations between parents and children, husbands and wives.

The Man Who Loved Children is acknowledged as a contemporary classic of Australian and international literature.

Christina Stead was born in Sydney in 1902. She left Australia in 1928 and lived in London, Paris and the United States, writing and travelling with her husband, the novelist and political economist William Blake. In 1953 she and Blake settled in England. Widowed, she returned to Sydney in 1974 and died in 1983. Her first work, a collection of stories, The Salzburg Tales (Please publish this in a cheap edition), was published in 1934. It was followed by Seven Poor Men of Sydney (Please publish this in a cheap edition) (1934), The Beauties and Furies (1936)(Please publish this in a cheap edition), House of all Nations (1938)(Please publish this in a cheap edition), The Man Who Loved Children (1940)(Please publish this in a cheap edition), For Love Alone (1944)(Please publish this in a cheap edition), Letty Fox: Her Luck(Please publish this in a cheap edition) and many others.

Rereading ‘The Man Who Loved Children’


Published in The New York Times : June 3, 2010

Re-publish me! Re-publish me!

There are any number of reasons you shouldn’t read “The Man Who Loved Children” this summer. It’s a novel, for one thing; and haven’t we all secretly sort of come to an agreement, in the last year or two or three, that novels belonged to the age of newspapers and are going the way of newspapers, only faster? As an old English professor friend of mine likes to say, novels are a curious moral case, in that we feel guilty about not reading more of them but also guilty about doing something as frivolous as reading them; and wouldn’t we all be better off with one less thing in the world to feel guilty about?

To read “The Man Who Loved Children” would be an especially frivolous use of your time, since, even by novelistic standards, it’s about nothing of world-historical consequence. It’s about a family, and a very extreme and singular family at that, and the few parts of it that aren’t about this family are the least compelling parts. The novel is also rather long, sometimes repetitious and undeniably slow in the middle. It requires you, moreover, to learn to read the family’s private language, a language created and imposed by the eponymous father, and though the learning curve is nowhere near as steep as with Joyce or Faulkner, you’re still basically being asked to learn a language good for absolutely nothing but enjoying this one particular book. More…

Our Kind of Traitor by John le Carré

John le Carré‘s latest novel, Our Kind of Traitor, is set in contemporary, recession gripped Britain. A left-leaning young Oxford academic and his barrister girlfriend take an off-peak holiday on the Caribbean island of Antigua. By seeming chance they bump into a Russian millionaire called Dima who owns a peninsula and a diamond-encrusted gold watch. He also has a tattoo on his right thumb, and wants a game of tennis.

What else he wants propels the young lovers on a tortuous journey through Paris to a safe house in the Swiss Alps, to the murkiest cloisters of the City of London and its unholy alliance with Britain’s Intelligence Establishment.

Those readers who have found post–cold war le Carré too cerebral will have much to cheer about with this Russian mafia spy thriller.

While on holiday in Antigua, former Oxford tutor Perry Makepiece and his lawyer girlfriend, Gail Perkins, meet Dmitri “Dima” Vladimirovich Krasnov, an avuncular Russian businessman who challenges Perry to a tennis match. Even though Perry wins, Dima takes a shine to the couple, and soon they’re visiting with his extended family. At Dima’s request, Perry conveys a message to MI6 in England that Dima wishes to defect, and on arriving home, Perry and Gail receive a summons from MI6 to a debriefing. Not only is Dima a Russian oligarch, he’s also one of the world’s biggest money launderers. Le Carré ratchets up the tension step-by-step until the sad, inevitable end.

His most accessible work in years, this novel shows once again why his name is the one to which all others in the field are compared.

Publishers Weekly 09/08/2010

Kim Scott, author of the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize Winning – That Deadman Dance, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru Asks

Kim Scott -

winner of the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for best book in south-east Asia and the Pacific for That Deadman Dance -

and author of the Miles Franklin Award Winning Benang and True Country

Ten Terrifying Questions

UPDATE: Kim Scott has won
the 2011 Miles Franklin Literary Award – details here


1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?

Born in Perth, Western Australia, but moved to Albany when I was three or four years old and did all my schooling there. Albany is my home town.

My father’s family had lived a couple of hours drive east of Albany, at what’s now Ravensthorpe for the generations since its proclamation, and lived in the vicinity since human society was formed there. But Ravensthorpe has a bad rep with most Aboriginal people today because of a lot of killing that occurred there in the earliest years of its colonisation. I didn’t even know about it until I was a young adult. There’s much food for thought, contemplating one’s Aboriginal family raised in those circumstances, having reconciled themselves with Continue reading

Jason Akermanis: Open Season (or Open Season on Jason Akermanis)

Loathe him or loathe him, there is no escaping the ill-informed pronouncements of this most unappealing of sportsmen. If you are inclined to laugh at sexist jokes, smirk at racist and homophobic slurs, if you find yourself nodding in agreement to speeches made by Pauline Hanson, Fred Nile and Senator Bill Heffernan, then you may find this book interesting and, at times, amusing.

If not,  I reckon you’ll be able to decide whether or not you want to buy it.

To help in your decision, here’s what the publisher has to say:

Say what you like about Jason Akermanis – footballer, showman, show-off, troublemaker, (BBGuru: or jerk) – there’s no denying that he’s made an impression in his 15 years as an AFL star player .

Now, after more than 300 games, three Premierships and a Brownlow Medal, the curtain has come down on his extraordinary career (BBGuru: ie: thrown out of club for being a tool). No longer restrained by contractual obligations and free to speak at last, Aker reveals a no-holds-barred look at a stellar sporting career, including behind-the-scenes details of Aker’s falling out with Leigh Matthews, his move to the Western Bulldogs, run ins with fellow players, and his thoughts on the game.

Interwoven throughout is the personal story of finding and reconciling with his biological father – a married man with a family of his own who lived next door. Told with trademark honesty (BBGuru: publisher code for ‘thoughtlessness’) and passion, this tell-all (BBGuru: may include unsubstantiated claims and a total disregard for the feelings of others)  memoir is a must-have for all footy fans.

So there you have it. What a book!

(BBGuru: See? I said I would help promote it and I have. Can I go now?)

DBC Pierre, Man Booker Prize winning author of Lights Out in Wonderland, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Ten Terrifying Questions have turned 50!

To celebrate this unexpected achievement (coach said I’d never ‘mount to nuffin) we’re delighted to present our 50th author…

the Man Booker Prize winning

DBC Pierre!


So here it goes… for the 50th time!

The Booktopia Book Guru Asks

DBC Pierre,

author of Lights Out in Wonderland, Ludmila’s Broken English and Vernon God Little,

Ten Terrifying Questions


1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?

South Australia, Mexico City, and in life generally. I was about to feel that was too brief to put, but in fact it probably says Continue reading


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