Incidental Science Fiction

Science Fiction is a rich and diverse branch of literature and cinema.
From the days of H.G. Wells and Mary Shelly to the genius of Phillip K Dick, Issac Asimov and Stephen Baxter we have diverse and plentiful bounty of worlds to explore.

When I was a bookseller a long time ago, part of my job was to recommend titles to customers. I'd occasionally try and get them to read something they might not have thought about trying. As I'm an avid sci-fi fan of course I'd point people in that direction. I was told by many customers that the problem with sci-fi was too many spaceships. I even had another bookseller claim, if they put a book with a spaceship on the over face out, it sold. This, frankly annoyed me for many reasons but mostly because it took this broad genre and simplify it to one tiny component.

Whether I then lectured these people on the virtue of sci-fi goes without saying, however I still hear naive comments like this from time to time, usually from people who refuse to try out anything they perceive as being different. And yes it still raises my blood pressure. Life is about trying new things so don't knock something until you've at least looked beyond the cover.

What I find fascinating about sci-fi isn't the brilliant stuff - you know the things Doctor Who, Star (Trek/Wars/Gate) love exploring but more the times when the sci-fi elements are incidental to the characters but still vital to the overall story.

Incidental Science Fiction.

What do I mean by this? Well let's take a perfect example, Donnie Darko (2001). While many found the film confusing and others got into endless debate about the time travel element, at its core the film is about a boy and his effect on the people in his life. Simply put there is nothing fantastical or inaccessible about that. Which is probably why it was such a huge cult film, each character had depth and Donnie's interactions in turn were interesting, all of these were more important than the sci-fi elements.

Another more main stream example is The Lake House (2006), based on a Korean film, the movie is about two people falling in love over letters. OK the letters are traveling through time but again its is fundamentally a love story and that is what kept everyone watching.

This isn't us limited to cinema, Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro, is a novel about a girl who is coming to terms with her own eventual death. She happens to be a clone and her body will be harvested for its organs but again, rather than focus on the huge sci-fi element, Ishiguro has us the reader invest in the protaganist Katy, we know her, understand her, see into her life and that is the point of the novel. The author poses many pertinent moral questions but its subtle enough to slip under the radar of the space ship haters.

However let's flip this around, if we look at Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card, a book with all the overt sci-fi elements you would typically associate with the genre - spaceships, aliens, explosions, war, future tech etc we have many interesting moral questions that make the subject a lot deeper than one might assume. Child soldiers, xenophobia and the impact of genocide are some very current topics tackled by the book.

The point I'm laboring is that science fiction is more than just space ships or shallow assumptions. The best science fictions uses the fantastical to explore themes that are familiar and poignant, sometimes posing and exploring very candid and dark questions or current ethical issues. The point of most of the best science fiction is to get people thinking and that can never be bad.

My favorite example of incidental science fiction is a film called Another Earth (2011). Its a moving story of redemption and a visual treat. If its your first foray into sci-fi I hope it surprises you.


9. Gelato: Scoop


After a whole summer of eating my way around London it seemed that the time had come to review Scoop. For those who love gelato I'm sure you all know all about this chain. They have been on the scene for years and years and offer gelato cakes and delivery.

I've been saving a visit because I really wanted to see what London had to offer.

Last Friday the ban was lifted and off we went to South Kensington. I of course got carried away and had two flavours, chocolate and strawberry as well as a brownie. Considering a small is £4 (with one choice) and mine was about £5 I think I got the best value for money.

Firstly I must say the brownie was gorgeous! best brownie I've had for months, so rich in fact I had to give some away because I couldn't physically finish it.

The chocolate ice cream was nice and really that is all I can say about it. Nothing stood out and nothing irked me. There was a slight coffee taste to it, which was unexpected but not unwelcome.

The strawberry was another affair, this was possible the worst strawberry gelato I've ever had, so much so that I couldn't bring myself to eat more than half before giving up. My guests felt the same and declined to consume anymore.

While I'd happily go back for the brownie the rest left me rather unsatisfied. Given the high price I'd probably only eat the brownie next time.

Flavour: Chocolate - 3 | Strawberry - 1
Texture: Creamy - 3
Price: £4.00 (2 scoops) - 2
Experience: 2
Venue: 3
Total Score: 2.3


8. Gelato: Gelato Gusto

Gelato Gusto

I was visiting a friend in Brighton and he suggest we give Gelato Gusto, as the sign looked inviting and we happened to be next door, it seemed rude not to pop in and sample their wears.

Now as I am given to do, I may have gotten a little carried away and ordered a waffle along with my gelato (dark chocolate). For £5 I didn't think I would be disappointed. However after a little while a plate appeared with a giant anemic waffle. Sadly the quality of this waffle might have tainted my experience somewhat. Mainly because it wasn't very good.

The chocolate gelato was of a mediocre quality and tasted a little akin to Nesquik. This was pleasant enough and better than some others I'd had, but on the whole nothing special. I did sample some wild berry and this was delightful, a little too sweet for an entire scoop but yummy none the less.

The shop itself is very cramped but there are plenty of tables, the decor is cute and the staff are most pleasant. We still had a fun time and I'd be happy to go back and try more flavors. Do note, they charge by the number of scoop, not cup size, and the cups are not filled like most of the other shops I've reviewed.

Flavour: Chocolate - 3 | Wild berries - 3.5
Texture: Heavy and milky - 3
Price: £4.00 (2 scoops) - 2
Experience: 3
Venue: 3
Total Score: 2.9


7. Gelato: Joe Delucci's

Joe Delucci's

Last week I headed over to Westfields Stratford to give Joe Delucci's a try. I've seen a few of their parlors before - with the distinctive scooter style stools but never had the inclination to buy. I can't say after this tasting I'll be going back.

I ordered Chocolate and Strawberry and as I dipped in, something struck me.

I'd had this exactly same taste before.

Not the combination or the texture but the exact same taste to the very last morsel. I'm afraid to say this tasted like a perfect replica of Wall Neapolitan soft scoop. I was transported back to being about 8 years old again. While I enjoyed it I can't say I was overly impressed. I can buy a giant tub of Walls for about £1.80 - at £3.50 I was feeling a tad over charged.

My guest wasn't overly enthusiastic about the flavours either. She'd gone for Chocolate and Creme brulee. While the Creme was an improvement on the strawberry, it didn't taste much like what it professed to be.

The experience and venue left a bit to be desired. A slow queue and a super crowded shopping centre. With only about 5 seats on offer. We did manage to grab a perch but you feel very exposes and don't get to enjoy the experience. Maybe on a quieter day it might be more fun. Thankfully my companion was wonderful and more than made up for the mediocre gelato.

Flavour: Chocolate - 2 | Strawberry - 3
Texture: Heavy and milky - 3
Price: £3.00 - 2
Experience: 2
Venue: 2
Total Score: 2.3


6. Gelato: Oddono's


Last week I had the pleasure of sampling Oddono's for the first time. We went to the branch in Bayswater which seems to stay open late. The staff very patient and jovial (I was being very indecisive) but I settled for chocolate and peanut butter.

Given that the prices are so cheap £2.45 for a small - the cheapest we've found so far, I went for a medium because why not have more for my money. I'm happy to report it was scrumptious. This might be a new favorite combination.

The taste was very good, while not my favorite chocolate, the peanut butter was excellent and I'll be back hear again to try more soon. The texture was very good, one of the best I've had and the overall expereince most pleasureable. As this branch is in a shopping centre it doens't have a lot of character but it more than makes up for it in other ways.
There are several branches around London so I certainly suggest a visit is a good idea, my guest also concurred. I completely taste why this place is award winning.

Flavour: Dark Chocolate - 3 | Peanut butter - 4
Texture: Creamy and smooth- 4
Price: £2.45 -5
Experience: 4
Venue: 3
Total Score: 3.8


5. Gelato: Gelato Mio

Gelato Mio

I got halfway through my waffles and gelato before I remembered to take a picture. We went to the Holland Park branch of Gelato Mio and this time I branched out and got waffles (which were very yummy). The staff are nice, the flavours are plentiful and tasty. If you go towards the end of the day you can be disappointed as the major flavours might have sold out. One sad point is that you can no longer get two different flavours in a small cup, apparently there has been a change in policy which is a real shame.

 However whatever you do choose the taste and texture are excellent. This is my local gelato shop so I’ve tried most of their offerings, today was a dark chocolate and strawberry mix and neither disappointed. My guests were also rather pleased with their choices and I think we all gobbled up so fast I forgot to try more before it was all gone. The seats are comfy and this is great place to meet people and enjoy your dessert.

Be warned on Sunday afternoons there can be a queue, but it’s worth it.

Flavour: Dark Chocolate - 4 | Strawberry - 4
Texture: Soft, creamy, delicious - 4
Price: £3.40 - 3
Experience: 3.5
Total Score: 3.7


4. Gelato: La Gelatiera

La Gelatiera

The first time I tried this little place was in the interval for an performance of the Great Gatsby. We had 20 mins and all of it was spent eating the delicious offerings of La Gelatiera. Since then it has won a number of awards, at least all the stickers in the window say so and I would have agreed with them all.

Imagine my disappointment at arriving back this year to find that this lovely little business didn't live up to the hype.

I was able to get two flavours in the small cup, begrudgingly, but two things of note went with this. Firstly the staff seems rather annoyed at being asked for two choices and grumpily served us* and the amount in the cup was about half what all the other Gelato shops in London offer for pretty much the same size and price. The choice of flavours didn't excite me at all but I got the control group - dark chocolate, and settled on amaritti biscuit (there was another ingredient in this but as I couldn't taste it I'm not listing it).

I don't mind a smaller portion if the taste is fantastic but this I'm sad to say just didn't come close. The dark chocolate while still very palatable had an odd aftertaste and the amaretti was so sickly sweet that the taste was hard to discern. The store itself is tiny so you are better off having take away, given the service I was in a rush to leave. My guest (who is an avid gelato lover) refused to order because none of the choices appealed which I think says volumes.

*Maybe the member of staff was having a bad day, we all do from time to time

Flavour: Dark Chocolate - 3.5 | Amareitti Biscuit - 2
Texture: Light, Soft - 3.5
Price: £3.30 - 3
Experience: 2
Total Score: 2.75


3. Gelato: Gelupo


They have a wolf as the logo, this is a good sign.

This is my friend DonkeyB's favorite gelato place so we've eaten here a few times. I normally order a small cup but this time as I was sharing I opted for a large and got to try four flavours. The Banana and honeycomb was the absolute best banana gelato I've EVER had.
Yes better than Italy.

In fact when it comes to tasty this place doesn't really get it wrong.

However there are two things that mark it down. Firstly you can't see any of the offerings before you try them which for me loses an experience point, part of the fun is being delighted by seeming all the yummies before you get to taste them. The second point is that this is one of the most expensive places around. A lesser point of note is that if you eat in the chairs are slippy, especially the stools. All of the this however is secondary to the main point here - everything is delicious.

I should say that my guests think that this is the best gelato in London and they are in good company.

Flavour: Dark Chocolate - 4 | Banana - 5 | Hazelnut - 5 | Pistachio - 5
Texture: Silky & Creamy - 5
Price: £4.00 - 3
Experience: 4
Venue: 5
Total Score: 4.3


2. Gelato: Lick


Last night I went to Lick on Dean Street in Soho. I really wish I hadn't. The shop is pretty tiny so only a few seats but that didn't matter as it was pretty much deserted, I should of taken that as a warning.

The first issue I had is that you are only allowed one flavour for a small cup, not the end of the world but not wonderful either.
So I ordered the obligatory dark chocolate.

I'm a huge chocolate fan, hence this being my control group, the closer to 85% the happier I am. With this in mind I have to state what I was served was not chocolate.
You could barely discern and hint of chocolate.

Essential I had a cup of dark brown stuff that had a watery consistency. In an attempt to find taste I ate about 6 spoons, trying to dig to the centre. Eventually with no satisfaction I give up. It wasn't worth wasting calories or money on. My guest also tried two spoons before declaring it terrible and refusing to eat any more. There was much debate as to whether I should take the cup back.

I hope this explains the following scores:

Flavour: Dark Chocolate - 0
Texture: Watery - 0
Price: £3.50 - 3
Experience: 0
Venue: 2
Total Score: 1

It's rather a shame as I'd eaten in Lick a few times before and has a pleasant experienc.  It's sad and disappointing to see it go down hill.


1. Gelato: Amorino & Snowflake

Anyone who knows me has probably been dragged to a gelato place at some point or another and seen me gorge on gallons of deliciousness.

In a brilliant excuse to let me eat more gelato, for the sake of science and public good I'm going to start reviewing each gelato place I visit. Fortunately London has a wonderful number of these establishments so bring on the scoops.

All scores are out of 5 and I'll be evaluating the following: Flavour Texture, Price, Experience and Venue.

Dark chocolate is my control grou,  yummy yummy.

To kick things off a double review of two fantastic places.


I visited the Soho branch on Old Compton Street, there are often queues on weekend but don't be put off. The staff might take a little time to get to you but they make up for it in artistry as each cone is made to look like a flower. This is one of the few places that I'll order a cone over a cup, simply for the aesthetic value. Generally I find the cone can detract from the taste.
You pay first which is convenient, as it stops you trying to balance a purchase while hunting for money. The branch itself is very narrow and can get crowed. The descriptions are not very clear and if the store is busy you feel guilty trying too many before choosing. I had a dark chocolate and Cherry mix - my own black forest gateau. A unique point - they will let you have as many flavours as you can squeeze in to a cone cup. I tend to stick with two because I think too many can dull your palette and you forget to really taste each one properly, thus diminishing the experience.

Flavour: Cherry - 4 | Dark Chocolate - 4
Texture: Creamy, Smooth and Light - 4
Price (Small): £3.50 - 3
Experience: 3
Venue: 3
Total Score: 3.4

My guest ordered two sorbets - raspberry and mango and assured me they were delicious.


I tend to go to the branch on Wardour Street which has ample seating and very patient staff. The flavours do change around so don't be disappointed if they don't have your favorite in stock. The staff are always very patient when you want to try a variety before deciding on your final cup. The taste is second to none here, boasting my favorite dark chocolate with a yummy strawberry (yes I made Neapolitan).
A nice touch is they have thoughtfully designed labeling highlighting the milk free and guilt free scoops so if your lactose intolerance or just trying to be healthier you know which ones you can enjoy, without compromising taste. This is my preferred choice when in Soho and there is a lot of strong competition about.

Flavour: Strawberry - 4 | Dark Chocolate - 5
Texture: Moreish, Smooth, Creamy -4
Price (Small): £3.20 - 4
Experience: 4
Venue: 4
Total Score: 4.1

One this occasion my guest ordered pear and almond - essentially replicating a pear and frangipane tart one of my favorite desserts - I order it next time and it was heavenly!