Project Hail Mary, by Andy Weir

‘What’ is two plus two?’ With this thorny question, which our hero cannot answer, begins the epic space quest that will end all quests – especially if our hero (who doesn’t know who he is) gets it wrong.

I got so caught up in this book that I missed my train stop twice. For me, this was a strange achievement for a novel more packed with science than a textbook. But what exciting science it is. Both the story and the science move faster than a detective thriller. Our hero must detect through rapid experiments and improvisations, not made any easier by being in the wrong gravity, how to survive. Next, there is the question of fulfilling his mission, if only he could remember what it was.

I don’t want to add more to my above comments and to what the blurb (above) says for fear of accidentally spoiling the story. But I will note that one fascinating thing about it is the reverse-take on climate change. In this story, the earth is going to cool down fast, too fast. I am going to quote a bit. I’m sure the author won’t mind -perhaps its even part of the reason he wrote the novel, for all I know. That and a love of science.

‘Nineteen years. That’s my estimate for when half the people now alive will be dead. .. The math of famine is easy. Take all the calories the world creates with farming and agriculture per day and divide by about 1500. The human population cannot be greater than the number .. The major crops are sensitive to temperature changes. Dr Leclerc, Ch. 14.

Dr Leclerc goes on in grim detail about how the messed up climate will mess up food production. The mission boss, Ms Statt, adds how once agriculture is disrupted, hungry populations go to war against one another for the remainder, causing further disruption to food production and thus intensifying the famines. So there it is: whether our climate cools down too fast, as in this fictional scenario, or warms up two or three degrees, as in our actual terrifying reality, bad things happen.

This is not just Science Fiction; it is SCIENCE fiction. By the way, it turns out that high school science teachers rock. Just as well. It’s looking like only young scientists can save us.

I will leave you will a list of Very Important Scientific Equipment: String. Tape measure. Stop watch. Pen. Something to write on (or use your arm or a wall. Optional extras include sticky tape and popsicle sticks. Never get stuck in space without these essential items! Do you want to know why? Well, now you have to read the book, don’t you!

You might also enjoy my revisit, after 50 years! to The Foundation Series by Issac Asimov.

Where to find the Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir – who also wrote The Martian– which got turned into a movie with Matt Damon. Find it at BookDepository (free shipping) and Book Shop Org (supporting local bookshops). Or visit the sci fi section of your revered local bookshop. There is talk of turning Project Hail Mary into a movie too. But there is no way it could be as much fun as this book. Read it before the movie spoils it for you.

You are at Mark’s blog called Baffled Bear Books. Mark is a dark coffee tragic and bibliophile as well as the Guardian and blundering typist for Mawson Bear, Ponderer of Baffling Things and one of this bright world’s few published bears.

Asimov’s Foundation: revisited

Long ago, in the dawn of galactic history, way back in the 1970s, on the crust of a planet orbiting an insignificant star on the fringe of the star charts, a small bipedal creature hunched over well thumbed copies of secret lore printed on cheap paper and marvelled at the immensity of space and time.

From one end of the galaxy to another there was a crumbling Empire; and only Hari Seldon’s successors could save its billions of people from 30,000 years of barbarism. Maybe other kids like me felt like misfits as we fumbled at games and got relegated out of teams to merely keep scores on sports days. But we were involved in the sweep of galactic history. We also knew the Laws of Robotics by heart. We read Asimov.

I spent the earnings of my paper rounds (remember those?) on Asimov’s books. When I had enough cash (remember cash?) I made my pilgrimage to the sacred local bookshop. I’d approach the cash register already reading the first page and cycle home to read late into the night, straining my eyes at the tiny print and firing up ganglion after ganglion in my brain. Weeks would have to then pass before I could afford the next title, so what did I do? I read the titles I already had over and over again.

Asimov’s Foundation series appealed to me because they they were NOT space operas in which brawny jocks blew up green aliens and rescued females clad in scraps of cloth and leather. There are certainly wars in the story but they take place on the fringes. All the action is comprised of talk: talk and thought; people using their brains to solve vast problems of strategy, politics and the sweep of history. (‘I am .. not a clef-chinned, barrel-chested hero of a subetheric trimension thriller’. General Bel Rios to Brodig. Foundation and Empire.). To a teenager who was regularly pummelled by cricket balls because he never worked out how to catch them, this was great reading.

Eons passed. Propelled by my interest in Table Top Wargames, I read much history, and realised that Asimov’s ‘pyscho-history’ was well based on the events on good old brutal Earth. The decay of his Galactic Empire is loosely modelled on the fall of Rome. General Bel Riose, who retakes parts of the old Empire but falls foul of a suspicious Emperor is obviously inspired by Flavius Belisarius who angered Emperor Justinian of Byztantium by being too successful. The “Traders” and their Association recalled to my mind the early aggressive European traders such as the Portuguese and, later, the powerful East India Company. There are many points of inspiration that I eventually spotted -and I imagine fellow Asimovians did too.

More eons passed – let’s call them ‘human decades’. There I was the other day browsing in the sacred local library, repository of the wisdom of the ages (and an astonishing number of Harry Potter books) when Lo! I chanced upon all three Foundation titles.

“Read us, Mark”, they called in that quieter-than-thought but unmissable voice that books transmit when they spot their likely readers (You all read a lot; you know the voice I mean.) “You’ve only read us a dozen times before. Take us home. You don’t even need to do a paper run in the rain any more. Borrow us. We’re free from your local library.” Readers, your Correspondent borrowed them.

What an intriguing return journey this is. It’s like returning to the town where you grew up but being now able to see it differently. Look, there on the second page are the ‘calculator pads’ that Asimov imagined in the 1940’s*. I thought it would be wonderful to have something like that – and now I do. I call it a ‘smart phone’. And there is the reference to the planetary power source that I did not understand at all in the 1970s but now know to mean thermal power. And look, there is the basis of all sci-fi travel, beloved by novelists and movie makers, without which their stories would be impossible even as improbable fiction – the notion of ‘Hyper Jumps’.

With the magic of hindsight, I can see too how Asimov was still stuck in the 1940s and 1950s despite the far reach of his imagination. For one thing, the characters read newspapers. Another oddity, is that although Asimov crafted his Robot novels on the idea of a ‘positronic brain’, there is little computerisation in the Foundation series – although, to be fair, he was imagining a decaying civilisation in which nothing new got invented. And there is the omission worthy of note even to a teenage boy in the 1970s: there are few women; and such who do appear, like Batya in Foundation and Empire, are introduced with cringeworthy emphasis on their looks. Tobacco smoking remains prominent and the men light up cigars at any excuse. Smoking inside space ships! The thought chokes me up.

*These stories by Isaac Asimov were first published in magazine form by Street & Street Publications and the first paperback editions in 1952 by Gnome Press. The 2016 edition by HarperVoyager is the one which I photographed above (with my calculator-pad-smart-phone.)

Where to find the Foundation series: At BookDepository (free shipping) and Book Shop Org (supporting local bookshops). Or visit the sci fi section of your revered local bookshop, repository of the wisdom of the ages and of books that will call to you from the shelves, “Take us home, take us home.”

You are at Mark’s blog called Baffled Bear Books. Mark is a dark coffee tragic and bibliophile as well as the Guardian and blundering typist for Mawson Bear, Ponderer of Baffling Things and one of this bright world’s few published bears.

Mountaineering Bears Traverse Suilven

Mountaineering at its grandest. See Scotland. Be amazed by these intrepid bears. Grab your ropes, read on, and conquer the peaks!

These adventures are brought to you by Munroe, a bear with no fear of heights. (Mawson has climbed as many as four cushions but isn’t quite as skilled a climber as Munroe). Be sure to visit Munroe’s Web Den for all his climbs.

Munro The Mountaineering Bear

This summer four experienced members of the Mountaineering Bears and three instructors from Bear Lodge School of Bear Mountaineering set out for an adventure in the mountains of Assynt in North West Scotland. They planned to climb the two summits of Suilven Caisteal Liath and Meall Meadhonach .

The Route

The Team

Left to Right. Corbett, Emma, Archie, Miss Twiggy, Endon, LBB, Munro

As they prepare for their adventure the team were looking forward to exploring nature and some fine mountain views. They were also excited about making new pals as they worked together to tackle the challenges that lay ahead.

Big Ted the Principal of Bear Lodge has some advice for the furry adventurers ‘Have an exciting time, but don’t take unnecessary risks and don’t let the team get separated’

The bears started their adventure from Inverkirkaig and on route make a small diversion to visit the falls…

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 Landing On All Four Paws: The diary of a kitten called Ollie, by Ollie Cat

Cats rejoice! Ollie is here. By perusing his diary, the discerning cat (and aren’t all cats ‘discerning’) can be taken through important questions such as how to successfully enter a new household, how relate to the other established felines, and how to manage the Two-legged-furless-food-bowl-filler-person.

‘There’s a lot of work involved in being a kitten. It’s not all lying around looking cute and adorable, you know, although that is part of my job description.’ Ollie speaking (on the day of The Great Toilet Paper Debacle.)

The Lazy Paws Guest House for Discerning Felines

The Pet Shop Man phoned The Cat Lady of Brook Street about a kitten who had lost his home. She called him Ollie, ‘and he didn’t stop crying.’ Meeting a line up of six huge cats, Garfield, Sam, Billy. Timmy, Ricky and Charlie, when he arrived only frightened him more.

Great Garfield, the Obi Wan Kenobi of Felines

But Garfield takes kindly to the kitten and helps him to understand important things. ‘Cats live alongside, humans and … we help them, guide them, show them the way.’ Mentored by wise Garfield, Ollie learns the ways of the Guest House and how to enjoy his life. Napping, eating, exploring, watching the birds, and dancing with butterflies are important parts of his curriculum.

Some Things To Not Do, Apparently

Trying to dig a way out of a laundry by making an artistic hole in a new mat. Peeing on a cushion. Leaping out from behind doors on unsuspecting fellow cats. Peeing on the cushion again. Jumping on other cat’s tails. Chewing the knitting wool. Helping to sweep by standing on the broom. Bounding on to Mum’s bed at 4.30 am.

The Great Cat In The Sky

As he gets a bit bigger, Ollie also learns how to swing from the curtains, do daring roof climbs, and to make neighbourhood friends. From Garfield he learns the stories of cats who have lived before in the house, and how to Say Goodbyes.

‘The Great Cat gives us a certain amount of time with the two-legged furless ones … and its up to us .. to teach humans about life and how to get the best out of it.’ Garfield to the house hold cats.

‘I, Ollie, ,the award-winning Diary writer Extraordinaire, have danced with Butterflies’. Ollie, in May

 Landing On All Four Paws: The diary of a kitten called Ollie, by Ollie Cat, is now available on Amazon. (FREE too, if you use Kindle Unlimited.) The author dedicates it to “all the cats I’ve known and loved, and those I’ve yet to meet.” Take a look. You will purr, you will growl, y ou will discover cat Tai chi, you will curl up for a nap, and you will get a bit teary. And look out for his further adventures – coming soon.

Don’t miss Ollies further adventures.

The author: Pauline Dewbery helped Ollie to record his adventures. She trained to be an editor and had many articles published in teen girl’s magazines. Pauline is a pet bereavement counsellor. The Daily Mews is Pauline Dewberry’s popular website for cat lovers. With cat humour and jokes, caption contests, guest articles about cat care and cat antics, it is your ‘purrfect way to start the day.’ It provides, among other things, a space to respectfully reflect on feelings of grief for our passed pets, for instance, in the tributes called “Napping on A Sunbeam”.

Cover of For Such A Time As This, by Pauline Dewberry

Pauline also wrote For Such A Time As This: My journey through cancer. How love and my cats sustained, fortified me, and helped take the pain away. This is listed at Amazon UK and Amazon USA and on Amazon Australia. and more. It’s about $3 on Kindle and in some regions its FREE to read with Kindle unlimited.

You are at Mark’s blog called Baffled Bear Books. Mark is a dark coffee tragic, bibliophile and Guardian of Mawson Bear, a Ponderer of Baffling Things and one of this bright world’s few published bears.

Subliminal Dust, by Pooja Mittal: Poetry from Odyssey Books

Silence is never silent so long as there is a listening ear. (Back cover of book.)

After four readings of Subliminal Dust I am still finding lines to enjoy differently. The poems bring out voices in movements, whispers amid chaos, sounds trapped in small rocks, the stretching voids of unspoken emotions, terribly pale silences.

There is music in this triangle, as in a shell ..

subliminaldust 2865

Iain Sharp of The Sunday Star said of Pooja Mittal, ‘Exceptional … A voice rather like that of a Zen master – insightful and enigmatic in about equal measure‘.  Zen often springs to mind on reading her poems, in particular the notion of koans.

Kōan, in Zen Buddhism of Japan, is described as a succinct paradoxical statement or question. The effort to “solve” a koan is intended to exhaust the analytic intellect and the egoistic will, readying the mind to entertain an appropriate response on the intuitive level.

I don’t suggest that Mittal intended her work in quite that way but certainly her images and unexpected juxtapostions had that effect for me. They set you loose from the usual tightness of linguistic meanings and adrift into the spaces and arenas of one’s own mind.

Gentle universes that float past 
like tall, starry ships .

A favourite poem for me is ‘Seducing A Poem’ (p. 26), which so well conveys the frustrations of writers and the patience needed to bring to the fore that elusive something that you know you must write down, somehow.

.. come here poppet on little black shoes ..

Pooja Mittal has been widely published  since the age of 13. At 17 she was the youngest Featured Poety ever in Poetry New Zealand. In 2007 she was featured in The Best Australian Poetry 2007. Her work has been performed in Moscow in Russian translation.

Subliminal Dust was published in 2010 by Odyssey Books . This publisher also brings out more fine poetry by artists around the world. For instance, consider looking at How To Wake A Butterfly by Loic Ekinga and at When No One is Watching by Linathi Makanda, poets based in South Africa.

Where to read and buy Subliminal Dust:
See the links here to publisher Odyssey  Books, to Amazon (where it is FREE on Kindle Unlimited, to Bookshop Org, to BookDepository (free shipping) and Waterstones UK.

Mark is guardian and blundering typist for Mawson, one of this bright world’s few published bears. He is the writer-bear of She Ran Away From Love and  It’s A Bright World To Feel Lost In

Alina: A Song For The Telling, by Malve Von Hassell

‘Something tugged at me – a dream of seeing distant lands’. Ch. 3.

‘Fourteen-year-old Alina refuses to accept the oppressing life her strict aunt wants to impose upon her. When the opportunity comes along for her to escape, she and her brother embark on a journey through the Byzantine Empire all the way to Jerusalem.’ Back Cover.

In the Spring of 1173, Alina and Milos, who are only 14 and 15 years old, set out from Provence. They have lost their parents, and although Milos is supposed to eventually inherit his father’s land, the estate is now controlled by their uncle and Alina’s has only a bleak unwanted marriage to a suitor selected by her aunt to look forward to. Alina’s lot in life is strictly limited due to her being a woman. But as we all know, once you leave home on a journey almost everything looks different. When the siblings reach the far land, the holy land, ‘Outremer’, almost anything seems possible, perhaps even an independent future which for Alina had been an impossible dream. And her dream is to become a trobairitz like Beatriz de Dia, that is, a woman troubadour.

I have always loved stories set in medieval times. I devoured books by Henry Treece, Geoffrey Trease, Rosemary Sutcliff, Alfred Duggan and Zoe Oldenburg. Most of these novels featured knights or barons – men in a male world. Only one or two, such as The Lady For Ransom by Alfred Duggan, placed a woman centre stage, and these were the wives of powerful men. In Malve von Hassell’s story, however, heroine Alina is very young, not well connected, not wealthy, not married, and not beautiful. What she does have is the highly valued gift of making music and song.

‘In Jerusalem, nobody will care that we are the children of an improvised troubadour .. or that his wife was falsely accussed of witchery.’ Milos to Alina, Ch. 3.

I enjoyed the children’s journey from Provence to Venice to Acre and on to Jerusalem almost as if I had become a tourist a thousand years ago and was seeing the sights for myself. Once in Jerusalem the pace changes as Alina and Milos rely on the dubious promises of crafty men and get drawn into the complexities of the court. The author skilfully disentangles the reasons for all the plots and factions and the competing suitors for the hand of princess Sibylla – who is even younger than Alina. I galloped through the last half of this story as suspicions mount and danger follows danger. This is book so deftly written that you would almost not realise the depth of the research it must have taken to create it. The story is fascinating and Alina is a wonderful creation. I also enjoyed the portrait of Princess Sibylla, imperious and arbitrary to Alina, but really just a child struggling to face her imminent responsiblities in a little kingdom facing danger on all sides. This is highly readable historical fiction.

Malve von Hassell is a writer, researcher, and translator.  On her website you can learn more about her works including Letters from the Tooth Fairy, written in response to her son’s letters to the tooth fairy, The Falconer’s Apprentice, her first historical fiction novel for young readers and The Amber Crane, a historical fiction novel set in Germany in the 17th century,

Learn more about Trobaritz, the women singers and song makers of the Twelfth Century, on Malve’s excellent blog, Tales Through Time. The quote that precedes the tale of Alina is by Countess Beatriz de Dia, who composed the one piece from that time that survives with musical annotations, the A chantar m’er.

Where to find Alina A Song For the Telling

Alina, A Song For The Telling, published by BHC Press 2020, is available through Bookshop Org, BookDepository (with free shipping), Amazon – including in Kindle and Audio, Waterstones UK, Booktopia, AbeBooks, Chapters Indigo and more.

Your host, Mark, is Mawson Bear’s Guardian, photographer, editor, blundering typist, chocolates fetcher and cushions re-arranger. Mawson’s own Blog is Mawson, A Writer-Bear for Our Befuddled Times.
Baffled Bear Books ABN: 4787910119.

Forever Thursday

Last week. There I was in the lift at work trying to recall the name of the other person who had got in. Andy? Sam? Aloyosios? Joe? Mortimer?.

As cover, I said, thank goodness tomorrow is Friday.’
‘Yeah, that’d be so great,’, said Gavin or Hadrian or Alex or Tim. ‘But tomorrow is Thursday.’


It was around 3pm. I had spent most of that day in the wrong day!


Next day about 3pm, I realised it was STILL Thursday. Was Thursday going to never end?

This week. I see my train leaving the station. It will be 12 minutes until the next. What useful thing could I do in 12 minutes? Support my neighborhood small business by buying a lotto ticket of course.

‘6 games for tomorrow night’, I say to Ana, or Julie or Susan. She knows my name, so what’s hers? I try to recall.


‘So that’s 6 games for Friday night?’ Asks Jill or Cathy or Bethany.
‘For Saturday, please, tomorrow.’
‘Tomorrow is Friday. Today is Thursday.’
‘Thursday? Today is Thursday? Oh.’

So you see, friends, I seem to be trapped in some sort of fold in time in which today is forever Thursday.

Asimov’s Foundation: revisited decades on

Long ago in the dawn of galactic history, back in the 1970s, on the crust of a planet orbiting an insignificant star on the fringe of the star charts, a small bipedal creature hunched over well thumbed copies of secret lore printed on cheap paper and marvelled at the immensity of space and time.

From one end of the galaxy to another there was a crumbling Empire; and only Hari Seldon’s successors could save its billions of people from 30,000 years of barbarism. Maybe other kids like me felt like misfits as we fumbled at games and got relegated out of teams to merely keep scores on sports days. But we knew stuff! We were involved in the sweep of galactic history. We also knew the Laws of Robotics by heart. We read Asimov.

I spent the earnings of my paper rounds (remember those?) on Asimov’s books. Each few weeks, when I had made enough cash to make my pilgrimage to the sacred local bookshop (remember those?) I would slide the chosen title from the shelves, approach the cash register already reading the first page and then cycle home to flop onto my bed and read late into the night, straining my eyes on the tiny print and firing up ganglion after ganglion in my brain. More weeks would have to then pass before I could afford the next title, so what did I do? I read the titles I already had over and over again.

Asimov’s Foundation series appealed to me because they they were NOT space operas in which brawny jocks blew up green aliens and rescued females clad in a scrap of cloth and leather. There are certainly wars in the story but they take place on the fringes. All the action is comprised of talk talk and thought; people using their brains to solve vast problems of strategy, politics and the sweep of history. (‘I am .. not a clef-chinned, barrel-chested hero of a subetheric trimension thriller’. General Bel Rios to Brodig. Foundation and Empire.). To a teenager who was regularly pummelled by cricket balls because he never worked out how to catch them, this was great reading.

Eons passed. Propelled by my interest in Table Top Wargames, I read much history, and realised that Asimov’s ‘pyscho-history’ was well based on the events on good old brutal Earth. The decay of his Galactic Empire is loosely modelled on the fall of Rome. General Bel Riose, who retakes parts of the old Empire but falls foul of a suspicious Emperor is obviously inspired by Flavius Belisarius who angered Emperor Justinian of Byztantium by being too successful. The “Traders” and their Association recalled to my mind the early aggressive European traders such as the Portuguese and, later, the powerful East India Company. There are many points of inspiration that I eventually spotted -and I imagine fellow Asimovians did too.

More eons passed – let’s call them ‘human decades’. There I was the other day browsing in the sacred local library, repository of the wisdom of the ages and also an astonishing number of Harry Potter books, when Lo! I chanced upon all three Foundation titles.

“Read us, Mark”, they called in that quieter-than-thought but unmissable voice that books transmit when they spot their likely readers (You all read books, you know the voice I mean.) “You’ve only read us a dozen times before. Take us home. You don’t even need to do a paper run in the rain any more. Borrow us. We’re free from your local library.” Readers, your Correspondent borrowed them.

What an intriguing return journey this is. It’s like returning to the town where you grew up but being now able to see it differently. Look, there on the second page are the ‘calculator pads’ that Asimov imagined in the 1940’s*. I thought it would be wonderful to have something like that – and now I do. I call it a ‘smart phone’. And there is the reference to the planetary power source that I did not understand at all in the 1970s but now know to mean thermal power. And look, there is the basis of all sci-fi travel, beloved by novelists and movie makers, without which their stories would be impossible even as improbable fiction – the notion of ‘Hyper Jumps’.

With the magic of hindsight, I can see too how Asimov was still stuck in the 1940s and 1950s despite the far reach of his imagination. For one thing, the characters read newspapers. Another oddity, is that although Asimov crafted his Robot novels on the idea of a ‘positronic brain’, there is little computerisation in the Foundation series – although, to be fair, he was imagining a decaying civilisation in which nothing new got invented. And there is the omission worthy of note even to a teenage boy in the 1970s: there are few women; and such who do appear, like Batya in Foundation and Empire, are introduced with cringeworthy emphasis on their looks. Tobacco smoking remains prominent and the men light up cigars at any excuse. Smoking inside space ships! The thought chokes me up.

*These stories by Isaac Asimov were first published in magazine form by Street & Street Publications and the first paperback editions in 1952 by Gnome Press. The 2016 edition by HarperVoyager is the one which I photographed above (with my calculator-pad-smart-phone.)

Where to find the Foundation series: At BookDepository (free shipping) and Book Shop Org (supporting local bookshops). Or visit the sci fi section of your revered local bookshop, repository of the wisdom of the ages and of books that will call to you from the shelves, “Take us home, take us home.”

You are at Mark’s blog called Baffled Bear Books. Mark is a dark coffee tragic and bibliophile as well as the Guardian and blundering typist for Mawson Bear, Ponderer of Baffling Things and one of this bright world’s few published bears.

Snowfall Tree (Part 1)

One of a series of fine tales featuring Moose Valley. In this one, the Moosiversity arranges a field trip.

Why not follow them all. Mawson and the bears do!

‘The moosen of Snowfall Tree are a happy bunch, even though it is cold two thirds of the year there. These moosen have many festivals and celebrations to make the long winter months go by with glee and cheer. There is always much work to do, but they do it with helpful pooves and a […]’

Snowfall Tree (Part 1)

Stars in the Night, by Clare Rhoden: A story of enduring love

1970 in suburban Melbourne: ‘That was how it happened, thought Harry, feeling the memories rise; they were never far away .. Trusting you to remember, trusting you to do something about it. As if you could fix things, mend the dead, put the world back the way it was.’

And so we go back into Harry’s memories, into the seared experiences that gave him nightmares for decades, back to the day in 1917 when Harry cannot find his foster brother Eddie. Harry searches. He crawls out of the Passchendaele mud in no-man’s land searching for him. He looks into dugouts and stumbles down communication trenches and he asks at Casualty Clearing Stations. Fifty years later his granddaughter comes upon an old notebook in the attic and asks him,”Who is Eddie?”

The Stars In The Night is a story of love. Nora waits for Harry but he harbours fears whether she can accept him after what he has been through. Eddie hopes for a life with Claudelle. It is a story too of love between men, brothers-in-arms, Harry and Eddie, Wallis, Hartigan, Alex. From Gallipoli to Flanders the war thunders over all of them like the endless numbing artillery barrages. But it does not end for them when the guns fall silent.

We only recently have begun to speak openly of PTSD and try to understand that it messes people up for a long time. Harry survives wounds and sickness and comes home, but in dreams he returns to no-mans’ land, still trying to rescue mates. The women have their losses too, made harder to bear by Harry’s inability to speak of things he simply does not want to bring to mind. Harry’s mother Ellen, for instance, cannot connect with him any more.

The mines and the shelling is like the end of the world. The worst we have seen, and we have seen some bad ones. Harry and me are fine but it makes you cry. There are so many dead you cant help but walk on them’. Eddies notebook.

Clare Rhoden takes us into this vast arena of events, from the debate in Australia about the rightness of the war, into terrible battles, and on through into the waves of pyschological effects upon those who survived and their families. These 220 pages hold material for a 1000 page book. But the author has brought large and complicated things down to the personal level by revealing them in the way that we all ordinarily talk to each other: through a household argument, the queries of a nosy neighbour, the grumbles of soldiers about the food and the cold, the guarded talk about Gallipoli by a sergeant to a fresh officer as they weigh each other up, and through diaries and letters home. This makes The Stars In The Night deeply personal and emotional. I got so caught up in it that I paused reading several times so as to absorb it. I cannot praise this novel highly enough both for its story and it’s technical execution.

Although it is about the experiences of Australian soldiers, this heartache and loss described in this novel could really be about the horror of any war, not just the one that millions prayed would be ‘The War To End All Wars.’ The character Harry Fletcher, like many veterans, could not bring himself to attend Anzac Day ceremonies but stayed quietly at home. Yet for anyone interested in the scars left by the Great War and thus the origin of the ‘Anzac legend’, the facts of it, and sometimes the mythology of it, this is a must-read.

Lest We Forget.

Note about ‘Anzac’ to readers unfamiliar with the term: The first units of Australians shipped out in 1915 were merged with the first New Zealanders into the Australia New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC). Their losses in Gallipoli and later in France shocked both young countries. Australia, population four million in 1914, sent 417,000 volunteers to the conflict. 62,000 died. Both Australia and New Zealand suffered casualty rates of over 55% – killed, wounded, gassed, captured, marked as ‘missing’. The term ‘ANZAC’ endures.

Personal note 2020: As I began this book, Australia was dealing with the Black Summer and the whole world was attuned to news about some sort of virus. There was tension in the air, and for the first time I think I had an inkling of what it might have felt like in late 1914 in the households across nations as they readied for conflict, not knowing what lay ahead. On the day that I thoughtfully laid down The Stars in the Night, Anzac Day services were cancelled for the first time due to the menace of Covid-19.

Where to find The Stars in the Night:


From publisher Odyssey Books , from Book Shop Org (supporting local bookshops)from BookDepository (with free shipping worldwide) and from Amazon in softcover and Kindle, Barnes and Noble in soft cover Nook, Chapters Indigo, Booktopia, and Waterstones. Or, ask your friendly local bookstore to order it in for you.

Clare Rhoden has also written a dsytopian series called The Chronicles of the Pale. See more about the series at her website here. My review of the first book, The Pale, is here.

Another novel I have reviewed here on this blog about WWI is ‘Nursing Fox‘ by Jim Ditchfield which focuses on the nurses. You can read about it here.

Acknowledgement: The graphics shown here are by courtesy of Clare Rhoden and Odyssey Books.

Mark, your reviewer here, is guardian and blundering typist for Mawson, one of this bright world’s few published bears.

Get snuck up on today with ‘She Ran Away From Love’, by our own Mawson Bear

‘This gentle little book snuck up on me. I didn’t know what to expect, but I was glad I dove in.’

She Ran Away From Love is a small book that looks like a children's book but asks big questions
A teddy on the cover, yes, but this is mostly a book for grownups

She Ran Away from Love is an adventure on more than one level. It’s the physical journey of a small, frightened bear who finds love just a bit too bright for comfort, but it is also an inner journey in which the little bear finds herself.’

Our heroine Frilly goes on a quest. You can read it during a short break yet you may think about it all day

‘I suspect this book will touch different readers in different ways. I smiled through the entire book.’
Review by Bernice Sneedy at Amazon AU. ‘

Thank you Bernice Sneedy for this kind review of Frilly’s quest to find herself.*

Mawson’s Guardian adds: And LOOK! Its HALF price for a soft cover to hold in your paws (or hands, as the case may be) at Amazon Australia. And only $3 on Kindle everywhere.

Go on, get snuck on yourself!

Other places to find She Ran Away From Love by Mawson, one of this world’s few published Writer-Bears:

Our publisher is Odyssey Books. Look also at Bookshop Org (supporting local bookshops), at BookDepository (free shipping), at Amazon everywhere, at Amazon Australia (where Mawson naps), at Barnes and Noble, at Dymocks, at Booktopia, at Walmart, at Google Books, and more. 

*Oooh, that reminds me of another Bernice, a really cool young detective. Why not plunge into my review of Bernice Takes A Plunge while you are here.

Your host, Mark, is Mawson Bear’s Guardian, photographer, editor, blundering typist, chocolates fetcher and cushions re-arranger. Baffled Bear Books ABN: 4787910119.

Stories by Rebecca Burns: The Settling Earth

The women in these stories voyaged from Britain to the ends of the earth, “the Antipodes”. Driven by hardship, propelled by hope, they left behind their old lives and strived to make new ones in New Zealand. But the settlers brought with them the same stultifying conventions and social constraints they had left behind. For women in particular, sometimes little seemed to have been gained.

Isolated on bleak farms or confined to soul-destroying boarding houses, these women are each at the mercy of men’s whims and male control of property. They live one slip away from destitution, and must reach deep inside themselves, getting past old ways of life and old conditioning, to do what they need to do to survive.

Each story is complete and satisfying in itself, and yet, like life, they are also connected by events or characters; so that the stories towards the end satisfyingly close the circle of themes raised by the earlier ones. The last story, by Shelly Davies of the Ngātiwai tribe, adds a Maori viewpoint of these arrivals.

 I found The Settling Earth to be a fascinating perspective into frontier New Zealand and Burns new novel Beyond The Bay further looks into life in a raw new country as seen through the eyes of two sisters in Auckland.

Novels and short stories by Dr Rebecca Burns

Where to find The Settling Earth: Published by Odyssey Books, The Settling Earth is at BookDepository, Amazon, and Bookshop Org, among others. More excellent short stories by Rebecca Burns can be read in Artefacts and Catching the Barramundi. Her novels include The Bishops Girl and Beyond the Bay. See her website here.

You are with Mark at Baffled Bear Books. I am guardian and blundering typist for Mawson Bear, Ponderer of Baffling Things and one of this bright world’s few published bears. Mawson has his own website too, called (wiggles ears modestly) Mawson Bear.