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Dr Alistair Brown
Associate lecturer in English Literature; researching video games and literature

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Through exploring the psychopathology of Capgras syndrome, in which a patient mistakes a loved one for an imposter, The Echo Maker offers a sustained meditation on the ways in which we project our own problems onto other people. As a reflection on the mysteries of consciousness, the novel offers some interesting if not especially new insights into the fuzzy boundaries between scientific and literary interpretations of the mind. Read more


Book and Film Reviews

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I am always happy to receive books for review. Please click here for more information.

This page contains my book and film reviews, many of which were first published elsewhere in periodicals and journals.

In addition to these full reviews, you may also be interested in my blog posts on literature.

Luka and the Fire of Life, by Salman Rushdie

Luka and the Fire of Life is a children's fantasy, adopting Rushdie's usual mode of magic realism. However, as a fantasy novel Luka is unconvincing and undramatic, and although the novel has an interesting twist on magic realism as it is set within a computer game, Rushdie misses the opportunity to comment upon virtual culture in an insightful way.

The Echo Maker, by Richard Powers

Through exploring the psychopathology of Capgras syndrome, in which a patient mistakes a loved one for an imposter, The Echo Maker offers a sustained meditation on the ways in which we project our own problems onto other people. As a reflection on the mysteries of consciousness, the novel offers some interesting if not especially new insights into the fuzzy boundaries between scientific and literary interpretations of the mind.

Different Engines: How Science Drives Fiction and Fiction Drives Science, by Mark L. Brake and Neil Hooke

Different Engines offers a racy, if fairly predictable, synopsis of the ways in which science has influenced science fiction writers. However, the book fails to offer any convincing evidence for or discussion of the more complex possibility that literature may also influence scientific discoveries.

ID: The Quest for Identity in the 21st Century, by Susan Greenfield

Susan Greenfield's complaints about the impact of technology on society lead this leading neuroscientist to make a series of absurd hypotheses and unsubstantiated arguments. It amounts to a middle-aged grumble about the pace of social change, rather than a rigorous study of the neurological effects of technology.

Seeing Galileo, by Jason Lee

Jason Lee's Seeing Galileo is a provocative and complex book that combines essays, poetry, photography and drama. Although not a poetry of simple, affective feeling, it intellectually examines the relationship between traditional (religious or literary) and modern (scientific or photographic) ways of looking at the human world.

Inception, directed by Christopher Nolan

In this review of Christopher Nolan's film Inception (2010), I focus on the way in which it closely references other Hollywood movies in its representation of dreams. By this, it uncannily blurs the boundaries between dreams and reality, fiction and truth, for the cinema audience.

Thinking in Systems: A Primer, by Donella H. Meadows

An accessible introduction to systems theory, and the way it explains economics in terms of irrational human behaviour.

The Children's Book, by A.S. Byatt

A.S. Byatt's The Children's Book is a dense, intellectual novel which ultimately succeeds in its grand project to reconstruct the changing domestic and moral values of the Edwardian period, though in the process it neglects readerly pleasures.

The Case of the Imaginary Detective / Wit's End, by Karen Joy Fowler

The Case of the Imaginary Detective (published in the United States under the title Wit's End) is a metafictional novel that is perhaps most interesting for the fact that it is simultaneously postmodern, and populist.

Seasick: The Hidden Ecological Crisis of the Global Ocean, by Alanna Mitchell

Seasick is a valuable book which draws attention to one of the most important but least understood factors in climate change: the ocean.

Greenhouse: The 200-Year Story of Global Warming, by Gale E. Christianson

An accessible history of climate change science, but one which succumbs to the flaws of popularisation.

Bibliographic Software

Work with books for some time, and you are soon going to lose track of what you have read and what you own. Finding myself in this position, I have been scouting around for some form of database to allow me to keep track of my reading, and here I review four possible solutions.

An Introduction to English Poetry by James Fenton

This is a little gem of a book, which does exactly what it says on the cover.

Jerry Springer: The Opera

With its juxtaposition of cultural media, Jerry Springer: The Opera has the potential to shock by exposing the always-voyeuristic predilictions of an intellectually elite audience. However, it feeds for its satire parasitically on the bizarre sexualities of those who perform on the screen.

Life of Pi by Yann Martel

In this review of Life of Pi, I argue that this is a magical tale which rediscovers the power of the child's fairy-story. In the process it makes even the atheist, literary critical reader want to believe in God, and want to enjoy the story in its own way, rather than seeking to (over)interpret it.

The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography

An important work which presents new, potentially non-ideological, ways of reading history.

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This page was published on June 15, 2011 | Keywords: reviews, books, film, book reviews

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