Book Review: The Fens by Francis Pryor

This book proved to be something of a disappointment. The first half covers the prehistory of the Fens, the second half is a travelers guide to pubs, cafes, and churches.

There’s also a lot of inconsistency: for example, in the half about prehistory, there’s a section break and a new section about Pryor visiting a local aviation museum, which was completely out of place. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of that occurring in this book.

I really enjoyed Pryor’s books “Britain BC” and “Home”, but this book suffers from lack of structure. I’m easily given the impression that the publisher gave Pryor a wordcount that he struggled to make.

Either way, am still happy to read his other works – just be warned that this book is more a love letter about the place into modern times rather than the prehistoric periods Pryor’s other books cover.

Available from Amazon.


Book Review: The Neolithic of Britain and Ireland by Vicki Cummings

Cummings provides a good, broad introduction to the Neolithic period in Britain and Ireland, that makes for accessible reading for a general interested audience as well as students looking to familiarize themselves better with the period. Although the focus is on the Neolithic, Cummings does cover the end of the Mesolithic and the start of the Bronze Age for context.

Each chapter opens with an introduction to the specific subject to follow, then goes into specific examples and trends, before providing a concluding summary and further reading.

Unlike some other books, Cummings doesn’t simply focus on the “stones and bones” of material culture and instead makes some effort to think about the people and their practices, and how these relate to what material culture is covered. If there’s a weakness in the book, it’s Cumming’s hesitancy to touch on wider issues, especially when there is much more that can be said on language and beliefs, and even DNA analysis of populations.

However, this does make for a good read and general overview, with other books filling the gaps – there are plenty recommended.

Overall, a decent broad introduction of the Neolithic period that aims to be reasonably comprehensive about key ideas and themes, but without becoming bogged down in simply describing every aspect of material culture as some others do. The only real negative is that I made so many notes that I exceeded the publishers limit for exporting them from my Kindle!

The Neolithic of Britain and Ireland by Vicki Cummings is available on Amazon.


Book Review: A Rain of Fire by Ralph Kern

A Rain of Fire effectively re-imagines Dunkirk in a space setting, in which the Hegemony has invaded a planet of the Republic, and the Kingdom needs to retrieve its expeditionary force from one of the continents. The story is told from a handful of characters: a private on the frontline, a battleship captain, an admiral, fighter pilot, and mech warrior.

Kern’s prose is fluid and easy to read, and makes for an exciting story. However, by the end there’s plenty of pathos to underline importance of Dunkirk in history.

The biggest potential criticism is that the setting follows Dunkirk so closely that really just names have been swapped out, when the world-building could have been developed more uniquely. However, there’s a good counter argument that this would have been disrespectful and undermine the purpose of the book.

Overall, this is a great book that is four stars most of the way through, but is raised to five by the end, and I’m looking forward to picking up the next in this series.

A Rain of Fire by Ralph Kern is available on Amazon.