Katie Melua: Call off the Search (22 Mar 2004)

Ok, so a few reviews that I've been meaning to get round to...

So this album has hit 4x platinum but I'm not quite sure why. I like it - quite a lot actually - but I'm still a little confused where this hidden hunger for `country' music has come from in the general population. Of course, it's not called country music because that doesn't sell but it sounds like country/folk music. It's certainly not jazz.

But for those who thought that Norah Jones was a one off, the copycats are proving them wrong. At the top of the charts at the moment is the second Norah Jones, this album and "20 Something".

Now, I think that Mrs Melua has a better voice than Mrs Jones. I know that's a pretty flammable statement in some places but I think that the recording on this album is just better than Come Away With Me. A bit like Road to Perdition - a very beautiful work and a welcome break between more exciting stuff. But no substitute.

Greg Egan: Luminous

It's fairly common knowledge to readers of IV that I'm quite a big fan of Greg Egan. In fact, a browse of his website shows that I've almost read every book he has in print.

Luminous is a collection of short stories and this actually means that you get a higher "cool idea" frequency than in some of his novels. One of the stories is pretty forgettable, but all the rest are classic Egan. A number of the stories hammer home the conclusions of a Strong AI belief - something that the world is going to have to come to grips with at some point (I believe so, as a Strong AIist, of course. Others don't). The title story is very Godel, Escher Bach dealing, as it does, with axiomatic systems.

I'm not going to write a list of the others here. Borrow the book off me if you want to find out. Highly recommended.

Iain M. Banks: Excession

This is the first Iain M. Banks book that I've read. People have been mentioning him to me for ages and I finally read one on the train to (and from) Cardiff.

Now, this a political novel - not science fiction. It may be set in space with spaceships and the like - but that doesn't make it science fiction. Greg Egan is sci fi - this is space opera.

But as far as political novels go, it's very good. Almost excellent in fact. But I don't feel that I would have missed anything by not reading it (except for the best ship names in a book, ever). Something to read as the miles go by.