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Test 1 / 20

Places in the Darkness

A The Guardian

The award-winning Scottish crime author Chris Brookmyre tweeted a one-star Amazon review he received for his new novel, Places in the Darkness, earlier this month. ‘This needs a ‘serious science fiction’ warning, in capital letters,’ raged the reader. ‘I feel kind of bad,’ responded Brookmyre, brimming with sarcasm. ‘My publishers should maybe have put a space station on the cover or something.’ Brookmyre, who has dabbled in SF before with the novel Bedlam, gives us a fully realised world – one far enough into the future to feature intriguing technologies, such as the mesh implants that upload information into their owner’s brains. But what this veteran crime writer really provides in Places in the Darkness is another corker of a murder mystery, giving him the opportunity to wow us with an even twistier twist than usual.

B The Scotsman

Chris Brookmyre raised eyebrows when he revealed his latest novel was set in space, but Places in the Darkness doesn’t disappoint. Our first companion is Alice Blake, a government representative on her first journey to CdC from Earth, and the reader shares her disorientation at being bombarded with new information and sensations. Just as we’ve sized up Alice, we meet Nikki Fixx, in the throes of an almighty hangover. A cop, she is tasked with investigating the Cdc’s first murder – and yes, she’s forced to work with Alice, in buddy-cop film style, and the novel lives up to his description of it as ‘space noir’ as our patience with the sci-fi set-up is rewarded with a crime plot heavy on misinformation and misdirection. Good writers push themselves in new directions, though it’s a brave move – there is no guarantee the audience will follow. But Places in the Darkness is an ingenious crime story with plenty of relevance to today’s world.

C WordPress

Places in the Darkness by Chris Brookmyre Ciudad de Cielo (CDC) is the City in the Sky, humanity’s gateway to the stars. Located many thousands of kilometres above Earth, CdC is a space station comprising two enormous wheels, each wheel the home to thousands of men and women. There are no children. The pace builds and before you know it we’re aboard a runaway train. Places in the Darkness is tremendously exciting. Full of surprises, deadly chases and dark conspiracies, all taking place in the contrasting shadows and artificial light of Ciudad de Cielo. When I reached the end I was surprised at how far this book had taken me. It’s not a straightforward journey but it is most certainly thrilling. This is one of the best science fiction crime novels I’ve read in a long time – with the best of characters, story and mood – and I can only hope that Chris Brookmyre takes us into orbit or beyond again.

D The Scotsman

Chris Brookmyre is an author who is hard to pin down, which is one of the things that make his books so intriguing and entertaining. We’ve seen him referred to, and may even have referred to him ourselves, as an author of Tartan Noir. And it’s certainly true that many of his books could be fitted within that genre. Places in the Darkness is a book that is very hard to review without spoiling for prospective readers. It’s easy enough, and harmless enough, to say what a great book it is. But this is a book in which very little is what it seems; and a book in which almost no-one is who they appear. To embark on a discussion of the characters or plot, however superficially, is to risk taking away some of the joy of discovery that is part of what makes the book so good. As we read the book, the comparison that kept coming to mind was the 1982 film, Blade Runner. A great read for anyone with a taste for excellent sci-fi or excellent crime writing.

Which text

bemoans the choice of covering?
Text A
expresses a desire to see this author delve into the genre again?
Text C
claims that the novel is what the author wished it to be?
Text B
maintains that it would be easy to lessen the enjoyment the book?
Text D
communicates a difficulty in reviewing the book?
Text D
illustrates how the reader and characters share an experience?
Text B
states that the author could be classified in a different category?
Text D
shows the reviewer did not expect the effect the book had?
Text C
warns of the backlash of changing from a writer's established area?
Text B
mentions Brookmyre's previous flirtation with the genre?
Text A
Test 2 / 20

Four Woods

Read about the four different woods, then answer the questions.

Oak

Oak wood has a density of about 0.75 g/cm3, great strength and hardness, and is very resistant to insect and fungal attacks because of its high tannin content. It also has very appealing grain markings, particularly when quartersawn. Oak planking was common on high-status Viking longships in the 9th and 10th centuries. The wood was hewn from green logs, by axe and wedge, to produce radial planks, similar to quarter-sawn timber. Wide, quarter-sawn boards of oak have been prized since the Middle Ages for use in interior panelling of prestigious buildings such as the debating chamber of the House of Commons in London, and in the construction of fine furniture. Oak wood, from Quercus robur and Quercus petraea, was used in Europe for the construction of ships, especially naval men of war, until the 19th century, and was the principal timber used in the construction of European timber-framed buildings.

Today oak wood is still commonly used for furniture making and flooring, timber frame buildings, and for veneer production. Barrels in which wines, sherry, and spirits such as brandy, Scotch whisky and Bourbon whiskey are aged are made from European and American oak. The use of oak in wine can add many different dimensions to wine based on the type and style of the oak. Oak barrels, which may be charred before use, contribute to the colour, taste, and aroma of the contents, imparting a desirable oaky vanillin flavour to these drinks. The great dilemma for wine producers is to choose between French and American oakwoods. French oaks give the wine greater refinement and are chosen for the best wines since they increase the price compared to those aged in American oak wood. American oak contributes greater texture and resistance to ageing but produces more violent wine bouquets. Oak wood chips are used for smoking fish, meat, cheeses and other foods.

Elm

Elm wood was valued for its interlocking grain, and consequent resistance to splitting, with significant uses in wagon wheel hubs, chair seats and coffins. The elm’s wood bends well and distorts easily making it quite pliant. The often long, straight, trunks were favoured as a source of timber for keels in ship construction. Elm is also prized by bowyers; of the ancient bows found in Europe, a large portion of them are elm. During the Middle Ages elm was also used to make longbows if yew was unavailable.

The first written references to elm occur in the Linear B lists of military equipment at Knossos in the Mycenaean Period. Several of the chariots are of elm, and the lists twice mention wheels of elmwood. Hesiod says that ploughs in Ancient Greece were also made partly of elm.

The density of elm wood varies between species but averages around 560 kg per cubic metre.

Elm wood is also resistant to decay when permanently wet, and hollowed trunks were widely used as water pipes during the medieval period in Europe. Elm was also used as piers in the construction of the original London Bridge. However, this resistance to decay in water does not extend to ground contact.

The Romans, and more recently the Italians, used to plant elms in vineyards as supports for vines. Lopped at three metres, the elms’ quick growth, twiggy lateral branches, light shade and root-suckering made them ideal trees for this purpose. The lopped branches were used for fodder and firewood. Ovid in his Amores characterizes the elm as “loving the vine”, and the ancients spoke of the “marriage” between elm and vine.

Mahogany

Mahogany has a straight, fine and even grain, and is relatively free of voids and pockets. Its reddish-brown color darkens over time and displays a reddish sheen when polished. It has excellent workability, and is very durable. Historically, the tree’s girth allowed for wide boards from traditional mahogany species. These properties make it a favorable wood for crafting cabinets and furniture.

Much of the first-quality furniture made in the American colonies from the mid-18th century was made of mahogany when the wood first became available to American craftsmen. Mahogany is still widely used for fine furniture; however, the rarity of Cuban mahogany and over-harvesting of Honduras and Brazilian mahogany has diminished their use. Mahogany also resists wood rot, making it attractive in boat construction. It is also often used for musical instruments, particularly the backs, sides and necks of acoustic guitars and drum shells because of its ability to produce a very deep, warm tone compared to other commonly used woods such as maple or birch. Guitars often feature mahogany in their construction. Mahogany is now being used for the bodies of high-end stereo phonographic record cartridges and for stereo headphones, where it is noted for “warm” or “musical” sound.

Beech

Beech wood is an excellent firewood, easily split and burning for many hours with bright but calm flames. Chips of beech wood are used in the brewing of Budweiser beer as a fining agent. Beech logs are burned to dry the malts used in some German smoked beers, giving the beers their typical flavour. Beech is also used to smoke Westphalian ham, various sausages, and some cheeses.

The European species Fagus sylvatica yields a utility timber that is tough but dimensionally unstable. It weighs about 720 kg per cubic metre and is widely used for furniture framing and carcass construction, flooring and engineering purposes, in plywood and in household items like plates, but rarely as a decorative wood. The timber can be used to build chalets, houses and log cabins.

Beech wood is used for the stocks of military rifles when traditionally preferred woods such as walnut are scarce or unavailable or as a lower-cost alternative.

The fruit of the beech tree is known as beechnuts or mast and is found in small burrs that drop from the tree in autumn. It is small, roughly triangular and edible, with a bitter, astringent taste. They have a high enough fat content that they can be pressed for edible oil. Fresh from the tree, beech leaves are a fine salad vegetable, as sweet as a mild cabbage though much softer in texture. The young leaves can be steeped in gin for several weeks, the liquor strained off and sweetened to give a light green/yellow liqueur called beech leaf noyau.

Which wood is not spoken of as being used in military equipment?
Mahogany
Which wood doesn't have the reputation of being pretty to look at?
Beech
Which wood can be permanently submerged with little ill effect?
Elm
Which wood can make a food or drink more valuable?
Oak
Which wood are you most likely to find on stage at a rock concert?
Mahogany
Which wood became associated with luxurious buildings?
Oak
Which wood is the most flexible and is therefore used where this is required?
Elm
Which wood burns very well?
Beech
Which wood was used as an agricultural aid?
Elm
Which wood can alter its colour?
Mahogany