Off the Shelf

Sally Course

THE horrors of China's labour camps are recorded in the new paperback edition of Grass Soup by Zhang Xianliang (Minerva $119). The book is based on Zhang's diary, written in 1960, two years after being imprisoned in Mao's Anti-Rightist crackdown. Writing the diary served as a way of reminding Zhang that another life existed outside the gulag. He published it as a warning of the excesses which an authoritarian regime can go to. Zhang, now a respected literary figure, spent 22 years in camps. Martha Avery translated the work.

Thailand: Dictatorship or Democracy?, by Donald Cooper (Minerva Press $153), investigates the future direction of the country beginning with World War II in Southeast Asia, which Cooper feels was the catalyst behind the modern-day set-up, and ending with the turmoil of May 1992.

If you want to make waves on your computer, Surfing on the Internet (Abacus $170) by J C Herz will tell you how. Written to appeal to the young at heart, the 21-year-old author zaps through cyberspace tackling lurkers (those who look but don't join in the fun), flame war (verbal battles between net users) and phreakers (phone system hackers).

Meanwhile, Nicholas Negroponte, director of the Media laboratory of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, promises a road map for survival on the information superhighway in Being Digital (Hodder & Stoughton $220). This is geared towards the older generation who may have missed out on the fun and are struggling to catch up with the implications of the new technology.

Paul McLaughlin's book Love at Second Sight (Michael Joseph $205) came about as a result of a strange romance he had in 1986. He then decided to collect other close encounters of an unusual kind, where people had been drawn together by dreams, amazing coincidences or inexplicable forces.

Raymond Moody MD (with Paul Perry) tackles meetings of an equally odd variety in Reunion: Visionary Encounters with Departed Loved Ones (Little Brown $272). Doctor Moody's research involves calling forth spirits under laboratory conditions and examining how to communicate with the departed. The results of his work are offered here.

The creator of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory gets the this-is-your-life treatment from Jeremy Treglown in Roald Dahl (Faber $119). The latter was a contradictory soul, with accusations of misogyny and racism standing beside accolades as a war hero, philanthropist and a hugely popular children's author. Treglown uses friends and relatives, including Dahl's former wife Patricia Neal, to try pin him down.

You may think Roy Trakin's Tom Hanks : Journey to Stardom (Virgin $60) couldn't have been timed better. In fact, it first came out in 1987 when Hanks was only just becoming recognised. It now has additional material on his recent success.

Maeve Binchy's The Glass Lake (Orion $72) is out in paperback. It focuses on a tragedy in a small Irish town which brings unforeseen changes to the MacMahon family.

Fantasy followers can escape into part two of Julian May's Galactic Milieu trilogy. Diamond Mask (Pan $85) finds Dorothea Macdonald, a woman with outlandish powers, in search of peace and quiet. But rebels are leading the human planets out of the Milieu and a mad element known as the Fury wants overall control. Looks like Dorothea is not going to enjoy the sheltered life for long.