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Into the Unknown: The Fantastic Life of Nigel Kneale
Given the number of Kneale-related DVD releases over the last few years (the BBC Quatermass serials, the Hammer Quatermass films, The Stone Tape and The Year of the Sex Olympics, with Beasts out soon) and the contemporary popularity of work by Kneale aficionados Russell T Davies (Dr Who) and Mark Gatiss (The League of Gentlemen) the most surprising thing about this book is that it's the first of its kind. 'Nigel Kneale invented popular television,' claims Gatiss on the back cover, and while the accolade could be taken the wrong way - who'd want to be responsible for today's programming? - it's true that The Quatermass Experiment, Kneale's first major original work for the BBC, revolutionised television viewing in the UK. More importantly, it displayed the first full flowering of an imagination that cross-fertilised the Wells-Ballard strand of British SF - extraordinary, unique ideas rooted in recognisably mundane environments, with alarmingly prescient results - with an obsessive worrying of the border between science and superstition. But perhaps Kneale's most enduring quality is an ability to dig deeper than his peers: Quatermass II has parallels with Invasion of the Body Snatchers (Jack Finney's serial and Kneale's script were written at around the same time, although they don't seem to have influenced each other), but while Finney envisages the start of an alien invasion in small-town America, for Kneale the aliens have already infiltrated the highest echelons of government; and in The Stone Tape the discovery of a haunting, far from providing the story's conclusion, simply prompts the researchers to probe further. [Continued]


Freakonomics is one of those books that sets people talking for all the right reasons. It's well-written, extremely interesting and very thought-provoking. In this case the best-seller status and the countless plaudits are an adequate reflection of the quality of the book rather than the result of hype.

For those who've not been keeping up with the news, Freakonomics is a book about the work of economist Steven D. Levitt. If your idea of economics is interest rates, monetary policy and the like then think again. Levitt's not interested in that at all. He views economics as the science of making choices, and that's what he looks at - the choices that people make and the often unforeseen consequences of those choices. With journalist Stephen Dubner as co-author, the book explores some of the surprising outcomes of Levitt's work, from crime and social policy to race and estate agents.

Levitt's modus operandi is to pick a question and then to attack it with hard data, creative ideas and plenty of lateral thinking. The choice of question he tackles is fairly eclectic - Why do drug dealers still live with their moms? Where have all the criminals gone? - but the methods he uses are the same. Rather than accepted opinion or conventional wisdom, he wants to look below the surface at what people really do rather than what they say they do. [Continued]

Parallel Worlds

It has become compulsory to describe any book on quantum physics as 'mind-blowing', and there's no good reason to buck convention with this title. Authored by theoretical physicist and author Michio Kaku, this book covers some of the latest ideas in the search for a 'theory of everything' that can unite the cosmological and quantum realms. Currently the best candidate for this over-arching theory looks to be M-theory, a form of string theory, which can unite relativity and quantum mechanics, unite the fundamental forces and which posits the existence of multiple universes co-existing in different dimensions.

It's heady stuff, of course, and Kaku does his best to explain it all in terms familiar to the lay reader. Mathematics is banished from the text to a large extent, and while this may serve not to alienate some readers, it might leave others wanting to know more. What do the fundamental equations of string theory look like? There's plenty of discussion of collapsing dimensions, sets of equations from one theory emerging as special cases of other theories and so on, but there's no sign of these mysterious equations ever appearing in the text. [Continued]

Forthcoming Reviews

The Voltairine de Cleyre Reader, Headpress Guide To The Counter Culture, Language and Politics and a whole lot more …

Black Star Review is an independent source of book, film and music reviews. Focused on the areas of popular culture, politics, sexuality and genre fiction, this is a site where the emphasis is on content rather than form. The site exists as a non-profit making project - there is no hidden agenda, no links to on-line bookstores or ecommerce sites, we are not trying to sell product. In addition to carrying reviews, there are plans to expand Black Star Review to include articles, stories and a directory of interesting sites. If you'd like to contribute then send us reviews, stories, reports and links to sites which share some of our interests. We also welcome comments and suggestions. If we are the last site on the web to be based on text then that's no bad thing so long as the text is worth reading.

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