Nystagmus Network Open Day 2015

Raffle draw

My son has congenital Nystagmus. In simple terms he has an eye condition that results in lateral eye movement. Wobbly eyes if you prefer. The severity and impact of this condition can vary. Like all parents we worry about the impact Nystagmus will have on our son as he grows. Neither of us are keen on meeting new people or socializing. So with no small amount of trepidation we drove up the spine of the country to Newcastle to spend a day listening and learning from other people that are going through or have experienced some of the same things as we will face.

The first thing I noticed walking in to the conference was a  man in glasses  with his chin to his chest and his tablet angled away from him. This made me smile as my little one does exactly the same thing. I’ve never seen so many small children wearing glasses before. We didn’t go for the creche option so we were worried about a seven year old sitting through all the talks. He got bored at points but as usual he surprised us with his fortitude.

There were talks by researchers, experts in navigating the education system, a parents group and even a talk about the challenges adults face. I’m not going to go in to the details of each session as much of the day was recorded and will probably be available to watch soon. What I will say is that we know we are not alone and more importantly our son knows that he’s not alone. There are many people going through exactly what he is and more usefully there are plenty of people that have had great lives and careers regardless of any disability.

There was a point in the parents group session where every single one of us was either in tears or nearly  in tears. There had been a few parents clearly frustrated with the lack of support they had been receiving when out of nowhere a young man called Michael from Belgium started talking about his experience. He had clearly railed against life and was only just growing into himself (we’ve all been there). He talked about his love of football and not being able to follow the fast moving ball and his being the only one of his friends not driving away in a car when he was eighteen. This upset us all but then he said something I’ll always remember (I am paraphrasing here though). He said that us as parents need to be there. Our children will fall, and fall hard many times. We just need to be there to help them up and point them at the next challenge. For me this has made me more determined to ensure that my son has hobbies and skills that he will not be disadvantaged in, but more importantly I have been reminded how it important it is to always be there for my children.

I’d like to thank everyone at the Nystagmus Network for their hard work and welcoming atmosphere. The open day was thoroughly enjoyable and highly informative and I’d recommend it to anybody wanting to learn more more about Nystagmus. Oh and I’m really sorry that my son who was chosen to pick out the winning raffle ticket chose mine. My wife could have died with embarrassment.

Dark Apostle by Anthony Reynolds

Dark Apostle by Anthony Reynolds

A little while ago I decided to go back and read some Chaos Marine fiction to inspire me to start painting my army again. What better place to start than the first Traitor Legion. As a Warhammer 40k player it is really easy to see the universe in terms of good versus evil or to add in a pinch of politics by viewing armies as either authoritarian or libertarian. As with just about everything worthwhile there is a lot more to it than that. The most inspiring and fascinating thing about this book for me was how the author managed to portray the devotions and fervour of the Word Bearers in way that was eerily similar to those of the loyalist chapters worshipping the rotten corpse atop the golden high chair. Sorry I may have got a little caught up and paraphrased one of my favourite lines from this book.

There is only war! That means every 40k novel has to have battles. This book deals with battles on two levels. The overt and frankly huge pitched battle between the Imperial Guard and Scions of Mars and the Chaos Legion of the Word Bearers. The brutal and attritional nature of warfare was hammered home like an orbital bombardment but that wholesale slaughter is just a means to an end. There is a secret buried within the heart of Tanakreg. The Magos is determined to keep the Wordbearers away from the secret he thought forgotten two millenia ago. The warp fueled visions of the Dark Apostle on the other hand have driven him to sacrifice an entire warhost for the opportunity to retrieve the prize he has glimpsed.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and have already bought the second and third parts of the story. Unfortunately I’m now going to be to busy reading to start my painting yet. Oh and I just ordered a couple of codexes too.

Shadows by Joan De La Haye

Shadows by Joan De La Haye

I’ve read a few stories by this author and was surprised to find this one lurking at the bottom of my reading pile. At the start of this book I was asking myself whether the demon was real or in the heads of the victims. By the end of the story I wondering if the victims were real or there purely as a punishment for the demon. Looking back after a couple of days I’m not sure I could definitively tell what if anything was supposed to be real. I might be having an existential crisis of sorts right now.

This book review is real. I’m sure of that (I think). As you probably gathered from my ramblings above this is a psychological horror. There was a nice balance of how much information was provided and how much was left to the reader. There was a slight negative for me though, there was a raw and unrefined quality to this book that left me thinking it could have been even better. If I was to read only one story by Joan De La Haye it would be Requiem in E# but Shadows was still an enjoyable read that put me in the mind of The Scarecrow from the DC Universe.

The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson

The Psychopath Test by Jon RonsonI don’t read a huge amount of non-fiction books. When I do it is usually by an intelligent, insightful and witty journalist. This author hits the mark on all counts. I bought this book after attending a talk by the author. He is a funny and engaging man that manages to come across as humble and approachable. Even the way he sat on the table as he signed books afterwards invited us to chat and not just sign and run. I liked that.

This book is unsurprisingly about psychopaths. How to spot them and more important what it means for our society. Until I read this book the words psychopath and sociopath were words heard only on the screen or banter. A psycho kills means. That’s it. If thought that if you were a psychopath you murdered people. I was wrong. In an unscientific way I went through the PCL-R checklist on people I know. I was surprised to find that some people I know would have in my opinion scored highly. Oh crap!

Not all psychopaths are stone cold killers. It turns out that at the upper levels of corporate management there are a higher percentage of psychopaths than in maximum security mental health wards. I was blown away. My brain is still trying to process what a psychopath is and what the presence of them in my daily life means. That is the genius of Jon Ronson. After reading this book I will never look at people in the same way again. I have found myself looking up some of the references in the back of the book to find out more.

This book is a dark yet funny read that will make you think about yourself and everybody you know.

 

Reality Bites edited by Alex Davis

Reality Bites edited by Alex Davis

This anthology is a short sharp look at reality TV.  I’m pretty sure we’ve all wondered what would happen if zombies invaded the set of a reality TV show and eaten the vapid hosts or contestants. This book pokes fun (with a sharp stick) at the depths reality TV will sink to in the future. How else will they continue to get higher ratings and the advertising revenue that brings? The public will become inured and leave in their droves. This book asks the reader whether there is anything an executive would not do for ratings.

This book was structured in a way to intimate TV episodes rather than written stories. I liked that. I could almost hear the camera lenses whirring behind me. The six stories somehow managed to feel unrelated but at the same time inter-connected. There was the obvious link of them all being reality shows but there was more to it than that. In every story there was a character that seemed trapped, alone and desperate to escape the faux-reality they were part of. It was this link that intrigued me.

There is no way I’ll be able to watch The Voice in the same way tomorrow night and I love that. Will Rita Ora open her bag and admit to being a trained killer by killing the zombie hordes attacking the set?

 

The Death Of Sir Terry

I don’t think I have ever struggled over the title of a blog post before. I tried quite a few words but none seemed to be appropriate.  Words like legend, icon and hero are bandied about too easily. To me Terry Pratchett is all of those and much more. There was a time in my late teens when there was very little happiness in my life. I felt like everything was closing in and crushing me. I read books to escape from reality. There were other authors that shaped my reading habits more, but no other author that has so profoundly changed how I felt. There is nothing as precious as being able to smile when you have nothing to smile about. Terry Pratchett did more than that though. I can remember reading The Colour of Magic on the bus and literally crying with laughter. At that point it was probably the only time I’d had a positive emotion in weeks. For that reason alone I will always remember Pratchett and that book in particular. I went to quite a few Pratchett  signings and every time was greeted by a smiling and humble man that was as excited to meet me as I was him. It didn’t matter if I was first in the queue or last he really knew how to treat his fans. After I demolished a stand of books at a signing in Colchester he called me Pestilence and signed my book accordingly. That made my year. I still treasure that book.

I decided to honour the memory of Terry Pratchett passing in the only way I know. I read. I read something I had been meaning to read for years and never got round to. Volume 1 of The Sandman by Neil Gaiman. I’m not sure how I’ve managed to avoid reading it for so long (I’ll be getting the rest soon enough) but this was a perfect choice for me. Aside from the obvious links Sandman is of course an anthropomorphic personification and that has always been a key for me in Pratchett’s work. I’ll be reading some other stuff over the coming week that I’ve been putting off.

I’ll miss Sir Terry and his work.

 

Emily Nation by Alec McQuay

Emily Nation by Alec McQuayAlec McQuay is an author who’s work I’ve enjoyed. This though is very different from his book Spares. It did recognize the setting instantly from his short story Bunker Buster (that story can be found in the book reviewed here). This made me happy as I’d enjoyed that story.

I like the cover of this book. There is a simple quality that appeal to me. I Can’t help feeling that it should have been photo-realistic and sepia though. This book is set in a post-disaster Cornwall. It somehow manages to avoid being Steampunk story and reminding me more of a western. A western with energy weapons and artificial intelligence engine that ensure mankind never again has the destructive capabilities to destroy the planet.

Emily Nation is an assassin. She’s a sociopath that takes great delight in her profession. She also happens to have a great grounding at home with her wife and daughter. What seemed like a normal job destroyed Emily’s life and everything that mattered to her. This is more than a simple revenge or justice tale though. There is an entirely different story unfolding just beneath the main one. What is the Custodian doing? Why does it have a deal with Emily? What does the Custodian suspect about Mr Silvine? The bigger of these questioned do not get answered in this book. Which I’m hoping means that there will be a sequel to this story.

In  short this book is like Tank Girl, Mad Max and DOOM mashed together and set in the old west. Except in this case the west in question happens to be Cornwall.  What’s not to like?