Sunday, February 15, 2015

Second Eye Operation

I went back to Harley Street for my second operation on Friday the 13th – not an auspicious day if you believe in that nonsense. This time I took a camera in the hope of getting some shots of the procedure, so be warned if you’re squeamish – the shot of me in a hair net is quite horrible.


When I arrived there I was still slightly worried about the cloudiness in the eye that had been operated on. I use the word ‘cloudiness’ rather than ‘blur’ because it wasn’t as if I was straining to focus but to see through a dirty glass. After a chat with my surgeon Mr Samer Hamada (a guy whose letters after his name are about twice as long as his name) and his inspection of my eye, I felt reassured. Swelling from the surgery causes astigmatism until it goes down and there are also debris in the eye that take a while to clear. Sometimes these debris stick to the lens but can be quickly cleared at a later date with what’s called a YAG laser – this takes just a few minutes.


Also noticeable during this consultation was when he checked what I could read on a card. I could read even some of the small print not commonly used. The vision in that eye is improving daily.


Anyway, after a bit of a wait I had the drops in my second eye then, after a further wait went into surgery. I handed the camera over to one of the nurses and climbed onto the surgical table. Same procedure as before, obviously, though slightly different pains and lots more fluid squirted in. Maybe he was making sure to be rid of as much of the debris as possible.


Afterwards my vision had improved noticeably – there certainly didn’t seem to be any of the cloudiness as from the first operation. I went home, put my eye drops in then later found myself even able to read the text on my Ipad without strain. I later went to bed with two eye shields on and looking like a bug.


The next day things were a bit blurry but I didn’t let it worry me. I took a train into London yet again for an inspection at the Optimax clinic in Finchley Road. Everything was still looking good. This morning I’ve seen another improvement and suspect that the slight blurriness I now have is due to the scotch I drank last night rather than the surgery.


Later I’ll try to find a video animation I watched in the clinic yesterday showing in detail the procedures I’ve undergone. Can’t find it at the moment.

Saturday, February 07, 2015

Eye Operation

A number of years ago, like most people heading into their 50s, I found that reading was starting to become difficult. Mostly it was a light thing. I picked up some +1.5 reading glasses which I used when the light was crappy and that is how it has always been. I could read in good light even when I moved to +2.5 and then admitted that my eyes still weren’t right and had them checked. About this time I suffered from a lot of styes mostly in one eye and it turned out that eye had developed astigmatism. Also it seemed my body had adjusted to the age-related inflexibility of my eye’s lenses by giving me one eye for reading and one for distance.


Because Caroline had had good results from laser eye surgery I went to see what could be done. Turns out that I had a choice: I could have my eyes lasered so I needed glasses only for reading or alternatively only for distance. Since I did not yet consider my distance vision sufficiently crappy I was a bit reluctant. Another alternative, at much higher cost, was refractive lens replacement. I booked to see the eye surgeon next time he was in the clinic but the appointment was cancelled because he wasn’t coming, so I just let it go. This was in 2012.
  

Over the ensuing years my vision worsened. The disparity between my eyes made it difficult to watch TV – I could read the time on the DVD player with one eye but not the other – and to drive at night. I ordered some glasses over the internet using my prescription but with the reading element taken off. These I used for driving at night, and then started to use for driving during the day. My eyes felt perpetually out of balance and tired.


Meanwhile, through my science reading, I learned about the new multi-focus lenses now being used in refractive lens replacement. So I decided to look into it again. I booked an appointment with Ultralase – where Caroline went – and learned that the clinic in Chelmsford had closed down. It turns out that Ultralase was bought out by Optimax and some clinics closed during the reorganisation. I went to a place in Southend and the results were much as before for laser, but by this time I was thinking what the hell, I’ll have the replacement lenses. The success rate for 20/20 vision is well into the upper 90%s and most failures can be corrected anyway. I am also aware that nothing is 100% and that usually the failures in any kind of surgery are with those who have something very seriously wrong or other health problems. Also the operation was a lot cheaper than previously quoted. And, in the end, an SF writer with cyborg eyes? Gotta be done. I paid the deposit and booked in.


The operations were to be in Harley Street – first one eye on the 6th February with a check-up in Southend on the 9th, second on the 13th with a check-up on the 14th (this time in London). I’ve now had the operation on my first eye. I was nervous about this and still wondering a little if I was doing the right thing. Were my eyes sufficiently bad for this? Would the result be a marked improvement or sort out the vision problems I had but just replace them with other drawbacks? I had read about problems with halos and adjustment to the change. In respect of eyes being sufficiently bad (or ripe for change) I learned from the surgeon that the earlier the better. The harder the lenses are when removed the higher the likelihood of damage to the eye during the operation.


After a talk with the surgeon and the signing of some ass-covering forms I sat in a room, had a x penned on my forehead to mark the eye to be operated on and drops put in to open the pupil to begin numbing it. I then went into the theatre where more drops were added and then some sticky fabric was used to hold my eyelids open. I was a bit worried because my eye did not feel numb at all. I could see nothing but three glaring lights. A nurse offered to hold my hand but I manned up and folded them on my chest. The surgeon began furtling about in my eye and I could see movement. He then told me the next bit was going to sting. It did. I could feel my eye being cut, but only briefly. More furtling ensued – painless – and then the operation came to an end. Briefly I noticed something: I could see individual diodes in two of those lights. Next an eye shield went on and I went into recovery – just a blood pressure check and five minutes sitting chatting to a nurse – then I headed off  home. In all I would classify this operation as much less traumatic than having a filling at the dentist.


My vision was heavily blurred and it was more comfortable to keep my eye closed. My eye felt as it does when you have a stye. I also felt quite tired afterwards – maybe stress. The blur remained throughout the day but even through it I can read the time on my DVD player, which I could do before with that eye. At one point I did notice halos but they’re not much of a bother. They only seem to be there when there is a bright light nearby. During daylight there is no sign of them. The blur reduces each time I put my eye drops in – two lots 4 times a day consisting of an antibiotic and an anti-inflammatory. Now, on the second day the blur has reduced by half, the eye more comfortable and I’m keeping it open more. I’ve popped a lens out of my reading glasses since wearing them makes the blur in that eye worse.


I’ll do some more blog posts about this later. I might even take a camera to my next operation to see if it’s possible to get a few pictures…     

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Looking Good...

"Beautifully paced ... does just as well as at slam-bang action scenes as at painting frightening pictures ... This is space opera at a high peak of craftsmanship."
Publishers Weekly, starred review

“What Asher delivers here is state-of-the-art SF on so many levels … a compelling, smart read.”
—Paul Di Filippo, Locus

"An exciting, intricate, and unabashedly futuristic story rife with twists and turns ... Asher returns to his popular far-future series, Polity Universe, with another fast-paced space opera filled with his trademark technological marvels and elaborate world building."
Booklist

"Hardboiled, fast-paced space opera epic ... Asher’s books are similar to the world of Iain M. Banks’ Culture universe, but the Polity is arguably a much darker and more vicious environment—and all the better for it.”
The Register

"Perpetually on the knife's edge, and this constant tension works wonders for creating a page-turning atmosphere. It's a damningly gripping and infecting book."
Upcoming4.me

"A superb novel and Asher has an amazing talent for world-building, for writing larger-than-life characters, for weaving gripping plots and for imagining exotic alien races and wonderful technologies. Huge ships! Big weapons! Space battles! Ground battles! Treason! Revenge! This is New Space Opera at its best."
Sense of Wonder

"One of his best works so far ... Asher is a modern master of sci-fi."
Starburst magazine

"[The Polity books] are SF novels that mix early cyberpunk’s insouciance with the widescreen baroque spectacle of space opera and the pacing of an airport action-thriller. But even by Neal Asher’s standards, there’s something particularly grisly about Dark Intelligence.”

SFX

Paul Di Filippo reviews Neal Asher - Locus Online


locus magazine banner

I particularly like this bit:

 "It’s a scenario that trembles on the edge of the Singularity while still being comprehensible to, and inhabitable by, the humans of the era and of course to us 21st-century dullards as well. Novelty and neologisms dominate nearly every page. Handled badly, such a strategy becomes confusing and frustrating. Asher does it well, though. And yet the reader needs to keep pace. There is just enough authorial guidance, but no condescending hand-holding. This type of SF is really the litmus test for separating serious readers from, say, media fans who might groove to Guardians of the Galaxy but blanch at A. E. van Vogt..."


Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Dark Intelligence Review - Starburst

BOOK REVIEW: DARK INTELLIGENCE / AUTHOR: NEAL ASHER / PUBLISHER: TOR / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
Neal Asher is one of those well known sci-fi authors who has produced a whole range of novels set in the same world, known as The Polity. This makes his work a little intimidating for new readers. Luckily, his latest work,Dark Intelligence, is a good jumping-on point. It also happens to be one of his best works so far.

Monday, February 02, 2015

Author AMA on Reddit

Well, I had no idea what an AMA was until a week or so ago. Apparently it is this:

About Science Fiction AMAs
AMA stands for "Ask Me Anything." AMA threads on Reddit are basically an online interview where Redditors can ask questions to the writer or artist who made the post. It provides a way to interact with fans and the general Science Fiction community at large. Sometimes an AMA post is scheduled to coincide with the release of a new book or film, so the discussion is mostly focused on the new work. AMAs may also deal with a specific event and have multiple interviewees available for questions and comments.
AMAs are usually posted in the morning and run for a few hours on a single day. Some AMA-hosts are available to post replies all day long, but when time is short the thread is posted to set up the discussion, and then replies can be made when they return later in the day. That allows questions to be posted while the AMA-host is offline, and other Redditors can upvote popular questions to make it easier for the host to focus on popular topics. The AMA forum provides a very easy and direct way to connect with fans interested in the host and their work.

So, I'll be doing an AMA on Wednesday 4th February at 11PM EST which is 5PM here in Britain. How it works i.e. whether you have to have a Reddit account to ask me questions and how you get to the page where I'm doing this AMA I don't know. I'll add to this post later as I find out.

Update 
Zebra Matt on Facebook has helpfully supplied some detail: 

OK, so at 5pm GMT you create your post on r/sciencefiction, and it's just like creating a post on a forum so you'll be able to grab the direct link and post it about. 

If someone wants to ask you something they need to have a Reddit account but settin
g one up is as easy as signing up to anything these days, and they can be totally anonymous, in case that's an issue for some people.

After you create the post, folks will do one of two things - post a question or upvote someone else's. Over the course of several hours this will result in a list of questions prioritised by majority voting. It is also possible to downvote, and by default posts with a low score won't show up. And it's also moderated manually, though they just deal with infractions of the rules.

Then you come back a few hours later and reply to the questions!

I guess this means I can't post a link to it till I start...

You could tell interest parties to keep an eye onhttp://www.reddit.com/r/sciencefiction and pre-register and whatnot.

Also, I imagine once you've made the post, it'll show up as the only hit on this search: 
http://www.reddit.com/r/sciencefiction/search...


reddit: the front page of the internet


So if you want to ask me some questions sign up to Reddit and get asking...

Update 2

Reddit AMA announcement here.

Sunday, February 01, 2015

Dark Intelligence Review - The Register

Hardboiled, fast-paced, mind-bending fun –Dark Intelligence IS sci-fi

Neal Asher’s latest Polity universe novel doesn’t disappoint


It’s not easy to come in cold on something like Neal Asher’s Polity universe, a hard sci-fi world spanning 12 books and counting that I’ve never quite got around to starting. Instead, it was a dive into the deep end with the twelfth novel, Dark Intelligence, the beginning of a trilogy about the black AI Penny Royal, who’s popped up in Asher books before.

Penny Royal is a rogue AI from the mostly beneficial, but definitely meddlesome rulers of a post-human society called the Polity. He’s from a stash of AI minds created during the Polity’s long war with the fiercely martial crablike species the Prador, when a number of artificially intelligent minds were let out of the factory in a hurry with more than a few screws loose.


Forbidden Planet Signing

So, I turned up at the offices of Macmillan at about 12.20. I was a bit early but didn’t fancy mooching about the streets of London until it was time because it was bloody cold. After I’d signed in and sat down Louise Buckley came out to keep me company for a while. Only then did I spot my books in the display behind the reception desk.


Bella Pagan duly arrived and we headed out to a nearby pub/restaurant. A short while later the others arrived and an enjoyable 2 hour lunch ensued. From left to right these are James Long, Bella, Me, Julie Crisp and Sam Eades.


These guys had to go back to work afterwards so that left me at a loose end for a while. I took the tube over to Holborn and wandered towards Forbidden Planet, slipping into a pub called the Princess Louise for a glass of wine. There I was alone effectively in a booth by the bar so I had a stealthy vape or two. The barman spotted this and told me I could not do that in there. Fucking jobsworth. This annoyed me so I left. This, I decided, was probably a good thing because I did not want to turn up at my signing completely bladdered. I just turned in the opposite direction from Forbidden Planet and walked up High Holborn for half an hour as far as St. Paul’s before turning round and heading back.


I arrived at Forbidden Planet at about 5.20...



...and was conducted into their backroom offices. The d├ęcor there tells you precisely where you are, especially the aliens climbing out of the desk. 


The staff brought in a stack of my books to sign for pre-orders. Sam Eades turned up a little later for moral support as we waited for signing time. I had coffee and a chocolate biscuit, both of which I ended up abandoning when I was told there was a queue outside.


When I went out well there was a queue – about my first ever – but then I guess that’s what happens when you haven’t done a signing for 7 to 8 years. The first two guys here were collectors who had me sign 30 to 40 books. I recognised the first guy from a previous signing – tad unnerving to note he was right there are the front of the queue wearing surgical gloves!




The whole hour was used up signing books and standing up for photos. I’m told that out of 100 copies of Dark Intelligence there were 30 left. Whether the figures included those I signed for pre-order I don’t know. Here’s a few of the guys who were there.







After the signing, as was my habit on previous occasions there, I went round to The Angel for a beer or two. Some of my fans were there and an enjoyable evening ensued. Right now I must apologise to those who attended who didn’t know about this. I didn’t want to broadcast it and end up swamping the pub and sort-of assumed that those who follow me on Twitter and Facebook knew about it.

At kicking out time I finally managed to buy a round. Once that was gone I said my goodbyes and headed off. It was about midnight when I caught a train back towards Wickford. I remember seeing the first station it passed through then nothing afterwards until some woman shook me awake. I’d slept through numerous stops, missed the one at Wickford and now the train was parked up at Southend Victoria. Bugger. I was too knackered to think about getting a train back so got a taxi home, which cost me £50.

But in all, this was successful and enjoyable. It’s humbling to see fans who have travelled quite some way just to get my scrawl in a book. There were people there who had come from France, Germany and one even from Japan. If there’s anything that is going to reaffirm my intention to get back to writing properly then this is it. 

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

UPCOMING4.ME Dark Intelligence Review




"Dark Intelligence" is Neal Asher's long awaited comeback to Polity universe and is something of a blinder. To be honest, I desperately wanted it to be great so I'm pretty chuffed that it really is. Long gone are the days when authors were just a name on the cover. Today we, as readers, are often treated to insights about their private lives, their real-life views, interests and passions. In my opinion we're better for it because often you learn to appreciate the authors for what they are and not just because they're, well, such talented writers. So through social media I was aware that Neal had an extremely tough year behind him and I can't even imagine how hard it must've been writing "Dark Intelligence". And yet, contrary to his previous very bleak Owner trilogy, his new one somehow feels carefree and effortless. It brings together all the best bits of the Polity universe while at the same time providing an excellent entry point to newcomers. It's simply a damn good book.

Read the rest of the review here.