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  • Of Aliens, Prometheus and sci-fi

    Mon, 21 May 2012 14:40

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    Here at Book Depository HQ, we are in a Prometheus state of mind; the upcoming film by Ridley Scott has us equally exited and terrified. Originally meant to be a prequel to the Alien films, Scott decided to take it to a new level. Taking its cue from Alien's legacy, Prometheus promises to take us on a walk around its own universe and explore its own mythology and ideas. The well-thought-out viral marketing activities around the movie have opened the gates to a flood of discussions, estimations and alien thoughts.

    Sci-fi literature offers a rich tapestry of alternate universes, cosmic creatures and even intergalactic romance. From the early days of H. G. Wells's The War of the Worlds to the shiny world of Star Wars, the 'other' creatures have inspired a plethora of filmmakers, writers, artists and, of course, readers. Here are some of our favourite books that tackle the subject of aliens and even the question of human existence itself! We unfortunately can't offer you a guest appearance by Michael Fassbender as an android, but Prometheus itself will more than satisfy that need. Prepare yourselves for some good ol' mind-bending fun...

  • Win a camera - the winner

    Thu, 03 May 2012 12:54

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    It's been a very difficult decision but congratulations to Milda from Sweden for her picture 'Joys of Life' who we have chosen as the winner of a great Nikon SLR. Many thanks to Frommers Travel Guides for sponsoring the prize and many, many thanks to all of you who sent us many, many great photos.

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    There's a book group in Hook, Hampshire. They let us know that they were reading the Land of Decoration by Grace McCleen and wondered if we'd be interested in featuring their discussion. Why not? We said. Here's what some of them had to say about it:

    Fiona

    Having read the initial first page from the publishers describing the book so positively I was very sceptical of what to find.I usually find that over selling leads me only to disappointment; but I read on with an open mind. I found the book was different, and the story refreshingly new. After the descriptions of the land of decoration, I thought the book would move on to a typical story of childhood and one parent family issues. Not so, the book built on the image and importance of the land of decoration, I did not expect it to be so powerfully intertwined with the story. The plot became deeper and more involving with the characters following a theme of religious beliefs, loss and sorrow which was unusual for me to read and enjoy. As the book moved into the final part of the plot, I was surprised and intreged by the writer, I did not expect the plot twists and only after finishing it did I look back and recognise the clues and subtly written pieces I had missed. There is much more to this book than I was expecting, I did find it difficult to put down.

    Pru

    I think it is very well written. A couple of descriptions would be uncomfortable, edgy, addictive, original and fascinating. It definitely draws you on from the first page and I doubt many people would find it tricky to get into. I would give it an 8/10.

    Tanya

    Hmmm strangely compelling I found....thought she had quite a sad little life and felt sorry for her and for her father actually who obviously didn't have much in his life apart from his beliefs which he found to hold onto towards the end... Thought they were very alone in a hard, masculine community where not conforming with anything in life was seen as wierd. I would give the book a 6/10 - I wouldn't rush to recommend to anyone and was slightly disappointed after reading the publishers (?) blurb at the beginning about how she thought was the most amazing book that she couldn't put down etc - it WAS, as said, strangely compelling, but frankly if there had been anything else to hand I would have read that first..... I didn't get the GOD - was that a voice in her head or real?

    Helen

    Well I haven't finished it yet, but am really enjoying it! I find the writer is not too descriptive and informative, so really keeps you interested at all times. It is an unusual story so far, and the girl character seems like an amazingly strong person to cope with what life has dealt her. It is an intriguing story, which is keeping me hooked and I can't wait to finish it. I would score it as 8 out of 10.
  • Rooooooaaaaaarrrrrrr

    Thu, 29 Mar 2012 13:27

    blog imageFor the release of the paperback edition of Gordon Grice's Deadly Animals we've got Gordon himself to give us a little intro into his world of savage encounters...

    How I Came to Write Deadly Animals

    My journey toward writing Deadly Animals began with a single step-actually, with two steps, which landed on the same spot. One was made by my own size-12 boot, which left a print on the fine soil of a country road in Wyoming. The other was the step of a cougar, which left its own print-four oval toes plus an M-shaped pad-neatly within my bootprint. I had felt watched as I walked the road the previous evening.

    Here was confirmation. It may seem like an odd reason to start a book, but the real story for me was the conflict between my gut and my brain. My gut said I was in danger as I walked back to the ranch house that cool evening. My brain told me cougars don't eat people, because I'd read that in books.

    Current events quickly told me the books were wrong. In Colorado, a teenaged runner was killed and eaten by a cougar. In California, another cougar ate a mother of two.

    I took another look at old books, and what I saw revealed a puzzling pattern. Victorian writers had no doubt that cougars were dangerous to humans. Some of their accounts, like an 1860 bit of fiction by Harriet Prescott Spofford, reek of melodrama. Spofford's "Indian devil," as the animal was often called at the time,has "breath like a vapor from some hell-pit." It stands in for Satan himself, causing the heroine trapped in its claws to engage in all manner of theology before escaping. (If you ever find yourself trapped in the claws of a cougar, a better strategy is to gouge the eyes. Eye-gouging beats theology every time.) Nonetheless, Spofford's story reveals some understanding of real cougars. She knew, for example, that a cougar can lick the skin from its prey with its "rasping tongue." And there are true accounts from that era, including one from the meticulous Charles Darwin, attesting that cougars occasionally ate people.

    Reports of death-by-cougar dwindled in the twentieth century. From 1949 to 1971, there were no cases of predatory attacks on people. It's easy to find books from this era that describe cougars as "cowardly," no danger to humans except when sick with rabies.

    Starting in the late 1980s, the attacks resumed. They were hardly common -certainly not as common as death from bee sting or dog bite - but the pattern was puzzling. In talking with biologists, I learned that the biggest factor in play was human behavior. It used to be the custom to kill predators on sight. In the rural area where I grew up, men would stop their trucks to shoot at any coyote they happened to spot. They'd patiently decapitate rattlesnakes with garden hoes. This approach to predators reached its apex in the mid-twentieth century, when well-armed humans were plentiful across the Americas.

    But in recent decades, we've come to understand the many ways ecosystems can be damaged by such indiscriminate killing. We've sensibly changed our ways. And one result is that some cougars no longer fear us.

    We used to think of that fear as innate, a tribute other animals paid us as a special species. It turns out that we'd made ourselves fearful through violence. This is a radical shift in thinking, for it means we have to accept that cougars and other animals aren't mere machines responding with hard-wired instincts. Young cougars learn from their mothers which animals to treat as prey and which to leave alone. When they strike out to establish their own territories, the young males experiment, testing unfamiliar animals to see which ones taste good and which ones are dangerous. They're smarter than we thought. And more like us.

    That changes everything. It's not just the cougars; across the animal kingdom, we're beginning to understand how our own behavior interacts with the behavior of other animals. We know, for example, that deforestation sometimes leads elephants to trample people and that dumping garbage into the sea can cause shark attacks miles down-current. The animals are ancient, but the circumstances are new.

    There were good old books about animal attacks-or human-animal conflict, as we've come to call it-but they may as well have been written in a different world. I wanted a new book for the twenty-first century. So I decided to write it myself.

  • World Down Syndrome Day

    Wed, 21 Mar 2012 15:16

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    Worldwide it is estimated that 5.8m people have Down syndrome, the condition which gives people an extra chromosome 21 (so there are three rather than two). Today is World Down Syndrome Day (21/3) which sees many events around the world and a UN conference. The Book Depository has been proud to support (we've had book auctions, sponsored bookmarks and other fun stuff) Down Syndrome Education International - a charity which works in many countries helping children with Down syndrome with reading skills.

    You can find out more about Down Syndrome here.

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