July 19th, 2002

More cool Amazon web services implementations...

...keep on cropping up. This is turning into a meme for proof of concepts amongst the web services crowd.

This tool calculates similarities maps for different types of products, based on Amazon's database. So if you like a book or an authir, or a CD or a band, just feed it in, and get a graphical representation of what other, similar, items you might like.

Here's one I did earlier for Charlie's short story collection Toast.
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The Friday Morning "Off To Jersey For The Weekend" Review: The Silence In Heaven

To be honest, I'm not entirely sure why I bought this book. Or even where. I'm guessing it was one of those last minute Eastercon purchases, when Cold Tonnage or Talking Dead sell off paperback stock in cheap batches (that old "4 books for £5" sign), and you desperately try to find a book to round off the package. Still, the back blab looked good, and it was from Tor. Unfortunately that was just about all that was good about Peter Lord-Wolff's The Silence In Heaven.

The idea seemed promising. Ejected from heaven in the Fall, an angel finds himself stranded on the island that becomes Bermuda. As the millenia pass, he meets humanity and becomes fascinated by them. A shipwreck leaves two survivors on his island, survivors who turn out to be vampires that were created by another angel - one that our angel loved deeply. Desperate to get back to Heaven, the angel returns to Europe with the vampires, in the middle of the 16th century plagues. Time passes, and in the present day, he finds a possible route home - which leads him back to his vampire companions.

So much for the plot. It's the writing and the research that let things down. The prose is, at best, plodding. It fails to lift itself when describing the wonders of angelic life, and fails to chill as we see the vampire feeding frenzies. Little more than human sharks, the vampires should chill the reader. Instead they come across as vapid gadflies. The angel characters fare little better. Instead of inspiring awe, they just whine about how they can't go home anymore. The research is booklore only. When you see the Isle of Purbeck described as the Swanage Peninsula, you have to worry. And when Poole Harbour becomes a central part of the plot, you get no feel for the complex little port of Poole, nor the crowded waters of the Harbour itself. I'd like to see someone try to land a flying boat in the middle of a dinghy race (or without crashing into an island or a sandbank). Then there's a London that bears little relation to anything other than an A to Z...

This really can't be recommended. The vampires need to be more like Kim Newman's, the fallen angels more like Xas in Elizabeth Knox's wonderful The Vintner's Luck.

But there is one scary thing about The Silence In Heaven.

It's the first part of a trilogy.
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