fighting the lack of good ideas

the secret fire by martin langfield

I had high hopes for Martin Langfield’s book, The Secret Fire when I purchased it several months ago. The cover headline reads, “the world is under threat… from a weapon launched in 1944”. Sounded good.

The back cover, likewise, sounded pretty good, too:

Sotheby’s, London, 1936

A paper by Sir Isaac Newton is sold at auction to a bookseller’s agent, and within minutes of leaving the auction house he is killed and the paper stolen. For the Nazis are desperate to get their hands on a Newton formula that will unleash the Secret Fire – a weapon beyond all imagining that can wipe their enemies off the face of the earth. And this document is the key … unless the French Resistance and SOE operatives also on its trail can stop them.

Good so far, no? Who doesn’t like some WWII conspiracy craziness? (Though why this “Newton formula” is a secret and not widely known after 300 years is up for intellectual consideration.)

New York, 2007. Katherine Reckliss learns her grandmother’s SOE radio has started picking up disturbing messages from occupied France, warning that a V1 containing the Secret Fire is being launched by the Nazis. Its target? Present day London.

Here I should have had my suspension of disbelief brought into question, but I bought the book anyway.

So begins the desperate race to halt the Secret Fire – both in 1940s Nazi-occupied France and modern-day London. The clock is ticking as history starts to re-write the future in a new and terrifying script …

Alright – so parallel universes can work. So can time travel. So can parallel universes talking to each other. (Anyone see the movie Frequency or The One?)

However, psychics, random “Enemies”, spirits from alternate worlds, and other aspects of the book of which I was not aware when I bought it have done this one in for me. I got a couple pages in, hoping it would improve, and it has not. So I am doing something very rare for me and throwing it out. I can’t recommend this to anyone, personally.

  • Quality of writing: 1/5
  • Entertainment value: 0/5
  • Story engagement: 0/5
  • Overall: 0/5


little vietnam

I’ve been enjoying a small restaurant near my apartment in Singapore. It’s a cash-only operation called Little Vietnam. They’re located at 511 Guillemard Road S.

They open at 1700, and close at 0100 Tuesday through Sunday.

I’ve now been there several times, trying different pho options, the spring rolls, and some other specialties that jump off the menu at me.

But what’s kept me going back is not merely the low prices on food (you can get full for ~S$6), but how polite and friendly the staff is. I have trouble pronouncing their names, and so far have only gotten one down: Thanh.

The staff is from all over Vietnam, and has been interested in talking to me – partially because I’m an American, but also because I go in by myself, and am willing to chat with them. And I don’t treat them like they’re servants or slaves the way a lot of waitstaff are treated here in Singapore.

Another benefit of the restaurant is they do not have a built-in service charge – so I can leave a tip for what I think the meal and service is worth rather than being forced to leave 10-15%.

This has definitely become my favorite restaurant in Singapore to go to.