Book Review - The Road To Soweto

by Julian Brown (Jacana) ISBN 978-1-4314-2400-9 

Having read a number of well put together histories of South Africa recently, I think I may have approached this book expecting too much from it. 

The Road to Soweto is an interesting exploration of the 1976 uprising but there is nothing new in it as far as I can tell. It hits all the marks one would expect for its genre but and does so in a detailed and well researched manner. But it is not easy to read and is not particularly well written. 

What seems to have happened here is that Jacana mistakenly slipped the jacket of a pop non-fiction book onto what is really more suited to be a text book. At best it is a well written academic article with and I believe this really worthwhile information in it. 

However it is neither entertaining nor engaging in the way it should be. 

Christopher Dean


Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. Writers Write - Write to communicate.

Book Review - The End Of Whiteness

by Nicky Falkof (Jacana) ISBN 9781431423279

This is a fascinating account of the ‘panics’ experienced by some white people in South Africa in the 1980s, such as the Afrikaner family killings and Satanism scares.

Falkof has opened up areas of thought that are not often or never thought of by the post-Apartheid generation. This book might be essential in understanding the minds of white people old enough to have lived in these times. It may also shed new light on how we think about how we think about people, race and culture and why we think this.  

This book has been well adapted for a broad audience and is an enjoyable read. It makes us confront commonly held beliefs while being supremely humorous. It also creates an understanding of why your uncle, father, or grandmother reacts so strongly to things that are meaningless to people under a certain age.

You will be pleasantly confused by some of the thoughts in this book and how they alter your perception of the past and present. 
If nothing else read this book for this strange anecdotal account from the 80s that makes that decade look like America during their witch trials. In particular, look forward to the insanity around Satanism in Afrikaner communities in Apartheid South Africa.  

This is a truly worthwhile book.  

Christopher Dean

Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. Writers Write - Write to communicate.

Book Review - Unlocking The Secrets To Scorpios

by Trish MacGregor (Page Street) ISBN: 9781624141539

Unlocking the Secrets to Scorpios is a comprehensive guide to the various relationships a Scorpio could have with any other person. It details the dos and don’ts but does not preach in absolutes. It makes sense and is constructive and conducive to positive ways of thinking.

Do you want to know how a Scorpio and a Taurus mother and son can learn to interact? This book will tell you concisely what you need to know. Trouble understanding the soul-rending gaze of your Scorpio friend? This book won’t comfort you but it will inform you of just how transparent your friend thinks you are.

Whether you think this is rubbish or not I guarantee anyone in close proximity to a Scorpio would benefit greatly from this well-written book.

Christopher Dean

Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. Writers Write - Write to communicate.

Book Review - The Shepherd’s Crown

by Terry Pratchett (DoubleDay) ISBN 9780857534811

The last of the Discworld books by Terry Pratchett resolves the remaining stories in the decades old saga of the Discworld’s witches. The comedy of Discworld has always been about how the common and stupid of the world frustrates the powerful and magical. This book closes with the transfer of power from the old to the new in the very traditional way death forces upon everyone – the most common nuisance even gods suffer. 

While still funny and still light-hearted, this book will have fans feeling strongly about the loss of not just their favourite world and its characters but how perfectly Pratchett managed to end his story. It is probably not a book to read in public or at least without a good supply of tissues. 

As with Raising Steam this book revisits the remaining characters in Pratchett’s Young Reader Discworld novels and ties up loose ends. We follow the witches of Lancre and Tiffany on our last adventure together with the terrifying elves and the brave pictsies of the Nac Mac Feegle clan down dark paths once again. 

Deeply satisfying and horribly final this book has to be read by anyone who has been affected by the miracle that was Pratchett and his Discworld.  
Christopher Dean


Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. Writers Write - Write to communicate

Movie Review: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey


The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey 

Does the movie honour the book?

By Christopher Dean

I have read The Hobbit over fifty times. Don’t expect an unbiased review.
I had tears in my eyes when the first few line of the book was read aloud. Perhaps that is some indication of how much this book means to me. And I can say beyond a shadow of a doubt that I don’t want to hurt Peter Jackson in any way. He pulled off a miracle.

He has been caught between the studios ‘need’ to make three movies and his real love for the story. He managed to fill the time with every character every footnote that I have wondered about instead of just dragging us through overused graphics unlike another well-known director. 

Every moment was worthwhile even if I think that some scenes should have been left for the DVD release. He got the dwarves just right. They are people not just comic relief. But the elves remain as undeveloped as they were in The Lord of the Ringsdespite there actually being material for him to work with. He has chosen to skip most of it in favour of bringing a minor character from later in the books to the foreground as some sort of menace for Thoren to bash around.

In short we have a well-paced action packed movie that lacks some of the joviality ofThe Hobbit but brings in much of the history of the world that fans crave to see. The serious scenes are somewhat over done given their tone in the novel.

I’m glad it was made. Glad I saw it. Sure I’ll see it many more time, buy the box-set with director’s commentary and make my friends suffer through it. 

I give the book a 5/5 but the movie a commendable 3.5/5

From Writers Write


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Attuned Leadership

by Reuel J Khosa (Penguin) ISBN 9780143528197 

This book is supposed to be about incorporating Ubuntu into Capitalism. 

I think the intent is to emulate Malcolm Gladwell and create the success and hype of an African Outliers. However, it is written in such a highbrow style that anyone who could benefit from reading this book will be bored to tears after the introduction. This book is aimed at young black, and white, professionals but will only be read by balding white professors. 

It is badly written with dense pages of facts, endless philosophising, and never-ending sentences.  It should be inspirational non-fiction but it comes off as purely factual with no analysis or insight. This is a good idea, badly executed. 

It is clear that a lot of time, effort, and research has been put into this book, but none in putting it together. It’s a self-indulgent work, perhaps interesting to a handful of people. If it sells at all it will sell to an ever-diminishing group of historians and academics. Khosa has not reached the people he wants to reach. 

Anything that has a glossary and several appendices of over 100 pages should be sold in an academic bookshop and not inflicted on the general public. If you’re looking for a unique perspective of irrelevant and boring events described in painful detail this is a great read for you. 

Christopher Dean

Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. To find out about Writers Write - How to write a book, or The Plain Language Programme - How to write for business, email 

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by John Gwynne (TOR) ISBN 9798230758452


It’s hard to say whether this book is something to make a fuss about. I feel it really should be.


Malice is an epic in a high fantasy setting. It has swords, sorcery, daemons and destiny. So all the elements that make a good old adventure. The history is well put together and the characters believable, however they do feel like the common stock in this sort of book. The setting is a bit vague. You never quite feel you could quite place where things are.


The thing that stops me saying this is a bad book is that the story is novel. It’s not one the Lord of the Rings clones or the Game of Thrones tedium. If anything it resembles the excitement of The Magician. It brings the scale that these stories deserve. While Game of Thrones is a soap opera, Malice is a true epic where you really feel the world is at stake not just some sodding noble men with petty grudges.   


Now don’t get me wrong, it’s not a masterpiece but it’s so much better than any other fantasy that has come out lately. It breaks with the fad of portraying a magic story in a realistic way and I’m so grateful for that. Read this book if for no other reason than this is John Gwynne’s first novel and it works. If we can get more of his kind we can sooner forget the ramblings of Martin and Paolini’s elf fan-fiction.


Christopher Dean


Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. To find out about Writers Write - How to write a book, or The Plain Language Programme - Writing courses for business, email

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by Rachel Hartman (Random House) ISBN 978 0 857 53157 5


Generally a book about dragons is about some nobody going through a soul-changing quest until he finds the strength to kill an evil old lizard. That always leaves me feeling like I’m being lied to. A giant flying fire-breathing god of death is always going to win.


That is, unless the humans band together, make fire-proof armour and specialized equipment for tearing through scaly skin. And that’s where this book begins. Humans have become just enough of a threat to the Dragons that they, for the first time, have considered a truce.


But neither side is completely dedicated to peace and war threatens to break out again. It might take more than good intentions and treaty documents to stop it. Perhaps, the only ones that can save the peace are those who can see the world of both the species. Maybe, a half-dragon is needed.


But surely no such creature could exist.


Seraphina was the most original dragon story I have read in many years. It deserves great praise even if the writing at times is not perfect.


Christopher Dean


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The Long Earth

by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter (Doubleday) ISBN 978-0-857-52009-8


This is the most well written book I have ever read.


That aside, the plot is not novel and its ideas are old. But who cares? At the pace you will be turning pages in this book you won’t have time to have long thoughts like those. This book grips you from page one and drags you through its story like a hyperactive child desperate to show off a new toy.


The Long Earth is your classic multi-dimensional science fiction story. Many versions of earth have suddenly appeared none of them seem to have any human life on them. Why is this? Humanity sets out to find out the answer to these questions. The story as I say is rehashed and feels a bit like a Frank Herbert story mixed with Douglas Adams’ humour. In this way I guess it is a novel idea in bringing the two styles together.


The important thing is, unlike so much fantasy, I felt for the characters. I liked and hated them. The dialogue was exceptional. It was not just a romp through a well imagined world. The authors made it feel as if I were the main character. And that counts for more than pretty scenery that you have to imagine anyway.


Christopher Dean


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City of Dragons: Book Three of The Rain Wild Chronicles

by Robin Hobb (Harper Voyager) ISBN: 9780007273805 R240


Return to the world of the Liveships Traders, journey along the Rain Wild River in the third instalment of the Farseer trilogy.


Wait, I can do this. I hated the last book I read in this series so much I almost swore off on reading this one. But it is good. And I don’t know why.


Well, I mean it’s written well it has compelling characters, and, finally has something happening in the plot. And then it ends. Hmm. Well you’re thinking, “That sounds good, I bet there will be another book out soon to continue the series.”


But you are wrong. Hobb is getting old and only writes in series. I have had to read twelve other of her books to understand her brief glorious passages. Most of her work is boring and over written but her overarching storyline is fantastic. And for that I will forgive her.


I just hope she finds some commons sense and finishes the story before she dies.


P.S. I love dragons.


Christopher Dean



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