Sunday, June 18, 2006

Time on Our Hands: James Valentine, Jumpman Rule One. London: Random House (Corgi), 2002.

As you've probably noticed, I'm not posting much at the moment. I have a manuscript to complete by the end of the month and it's rather taking up my time.

So I'm going to take a holiday. This is the last post until:

July 1st 2006

From that day on I'll once again be working solely on the children's book and you can expect daily postings once more.

But before I go:

James Valentine, Jumpman Rule One. London: Random House (Corgi), 2002.

Theo Pine wins a new edition Jumpman in a competition, but instead of taking him to a hot new time-spot, he finds himself in "Mil 3", the worst of times, and to top it off, he's in phase, absolutely Present.

Jules and Gen, two teens, are the in the room in which Theo materialises, and who need to keep him occupied at the same time as they sort out their own problems. While Theo works out how to get the co-ordinates to go home, they jump with him to different times, including the First Fish, and the Last Whale. Eventually, when Theo falls sick, Jules jumps forward to bring back his parents.

Two things really impressed me: Valentine maintains the "stranger/familiar" perspective essential to sf, so that when Theo is in his own time everything is taken for granted, but Jules goes "gosh, wow", and when Theo is in Jules's time he is the one reacting while Jules and Gen accept the world around them with all its faults unquestioned. The second aspect of the book which impressed me is simply that Jules gets to figure out the philosophy of time travel. It's complex, and not all readers will get it, and the author is clear that this is just fine.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

The Aventis Prize again: Richard Platt, Forensics, Kingfisher Knowledge. London: Kingfisher Publications, 2005.

The book is beutifully set out, with glorious, glossy pictures from every White person's country they can think of. Sorry, I know it isn't strictly relevant, but if they could take the trouble to sample photographs from the USA, the UK, France, New Zealand, Australia etc then you do start to wonder why they didn't go further afield, particularly as forensic archeology in post-war scenarios is one of the fastest growing aspects of the profession.

However, that said, it's a very good book of the old fashioned career type, setting out what forensic science is for and taking children through from the crime scene to the different ways of assessing evidence in no particular order, but clearly and simply. The assumption here is that children are information hungry.

If I have an issue it's the simplicity. The explanation of DNA and blood groups never goes beyond a description. We are told that people are very difficult to identify via photograph but there is no explanation as to why. Computer crime can be tracked, but we aren't really told how or by whom. One effect of this is that the professions which make up forensic blur, not in the sense that they all seem the same, but there is no clear discussion of the routes into these jobs. You have to go to the very end of the book to find a quick list of some of the roles, and there is still no career advice (such as "study chemistry if you are interested in firearms").

Although the summaries at the end of each chapter are good, the glossary at the back is useless.
"ultraviolet radiation: an invisble form of energy similar to light"
"assassin: a murderer, especially one who attacks by surprise"
"pathologist: a medical doctor who studies diseases and injuries and their causes".

On the other hand the book does have an index, and the sooner children learn to recognise and use indexes, the happier this university teacher will be,

Saturday, June 03, 2006

The Scientist in the Playpen? Alison Gopnik, Andrew N. Meltzoff and Patrica K. Kuhl's The Scientist in the Crib:

What Early Learning Tells Us About The Mind. New York; Harper Collins, 1999.

"We've even argued that our otherwise mysterious adult abilitiy to do science may be a kind of holdover from our infant learning abillities. Adults scientists take advantage of the natural human capacities that let children learn so much so quickly. it's not that children are little scientists but that scientisits are big children." (9)

Celebrate your childishness!