Why I’m going to the Discworld convention


It’s August in an even-numbered year. That means only one thing: time to head up the road to Birmingham airport. Not to fly, though. To attend the Discworld convention at one of the airport hotels.

You may be wondering why a serious and respectable mathematician is planning to spend four days in the company of 800 committed sci-fi fans, who, when not clad in anoraks, are dressed as wizards, witches, trolls and vampires, attending debates such as “Elves: nasty or nice?” and “The great hedgehog race”. The answer is that I enjoy spending time in the company of the highly intelligent devotees of Sir Terry Pratchett’s brand of humorous fantasy. Which isn’t exactly science fiction (or SF or s-f; only mundanes call it “sci-fi” and if you need to know what a mundane is, then you are one already). The fancy dress is a bit of fun, not a lifestyle; if anyone’s wearing an anorak it’s likely to be me; and I follow the party line on elves. Two years ago the hedgehog race was absolutely gripping, and I’m hoping it will be even better this year …


Mockingjay proves the Hunger Games is must-read literature


Mockingjay, the end of Suzanne Collins’ science-fictional Hunger Games trilogy, attracted the kind of fervor usually reserved for YA fantasy like Twilight or Harry Potter. And the good news is, it more than lives up to the hype.

I’m going to keep this review almost spoiler-free — there will be minor league spoilers, but nothing too heavy duty, and no major plot twists. Please try to do the same in the comments — if you need to post a spoilery comment, the Mockingjay spoiler thread is here.

So to start off with, I’ll just give the verdict first: Mockingjay starts off badly, with a rocky first few chapters full of clunky exposition. And then it quickly gathers steam and becomes a thing of incredible beauty and power, until it reaches an ending that you’ll be thinking about for days, or maybe years, afterwards. And for those of you who’ve been waiting until the third volume came out to decide whether to read the Hunger Games books, it’s now officially a good idea to do so. This trilogy is going to be up there with Ender’s Game and a select handful of other books as a powerful examination of coming of age and wartime.


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