Sunday, 28 June 2009
Author: Eric Brown
Release Date: June 1st 2009
Two years after the events of Necropath, telepath Jeff Vaughan is now working for a detective agency. He is called to investigate a series of murders linked to the colony world of Mallory, and the slaughter of innocent aliens there by a colonial organization. But Jeff’s new-found optimism is shaken when he begins to uncover a genocide…
Xenopath is the second Bengal Station book by Eric Brown, focusing on a telepathic detective based in a huge spaceport off the coast of India. The first novel, Necropath (review), was a joy to read last year and it certainly whetted my appetite for more stories focusing on Jeff Vaughan and his abilities. With Xenopath I was hoping that the general feeling would be carried through and that the characters would continue to be as enjoyable as they were in Necropath. I was pleasantly surprised in the direction it went and managed to blast through it with no problem at all!
Set two years after Necropath, Jeff Vaughan has now married Sakura and they are expecting their first child. After having his pin removed he now works outside of the investigative area and enjoys a quiet, although not wealthy, life. This was the first thing that struck me when reading Xenopath. Gone is the depressed and moody Jeff Vaughan and here we are with a happy and content one, enjoying his life with Sakura even though they live in a relatively small apartment and don't have too much to show for themselves. What does come across very well is the love that Jeff and Sakura show for each other. It's a very real and very well written relationship - if you've ever been in love then you can relate to the deep feeling between the two and just how well Eric Brown puts that across.
So, it's clear from the off that we've got a different type of novel here with different motivations and well structured character relationships. When we move on to the investigative and telepathic side of things, once Jeff has had a new well paid job and state-of-the-art implant, the novel kicks into gear and moves along at a good and steady pace. The set-up is established and the case starts to get deeper and deeper until the pieces start to point to one place - but why? This is what kept me turning the pages and trying to figure out just what exactly was going on. It's fairly obvious from early on what the outcome could be, but the questions of how? why? when? what? - you know, that feeling you get when you're really enjoying a story and just want to get to the part where it all gets explained - pushes you on and on.
I was more than happy with the conclusion and Eric Brown managed to write a damned good story and got it across in a very effective way. I can't say that this is better than Necropath, but it certainly is different. The tone is lighter and more optimistic and the ideas and concepts dealt with are bigger, but it's just as good a read. I would recommend this without hesitation and strongly suggest that you start the journey from the beginning to fully appreciate it. Here's looking to book 3, Cosmopath!
Buy from: Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.com
Wednesday, 24 June 2009
Title: The Name of the Wind
Author: Patrick Rothfuss
Release Date: 12th June 2008
'I have stolen princesses back from sleeping barrow kings. I burned down the town of Trebon. I have spent the night with Felurian and left with both my sanity and my life. I was expelled from the University at a younger age than most people are allowed in. I tread paths by moonlight that others fear to speak of during day. I have talked to Gods, loved women, and written songs that make the minstrels weep.
My name is Kvothe.
You may have heard of me'
So begins the tale of Kvothe - currently known as Kote, the unassuming innkeeper - from his childhood in a troupe of traveling players, through his years spent as a near-feral orphan in a crime-riddled city, to his daringly brazen yet successful bid to enter a difficult and dangerous school of magic. In these pages you will come to know Kvothe the notorious magician, the accomplished thief, the masterful musician, the dragon-slayer, the legend-hunter, the lover, the thief and the infamous assassin.
The Name of the Wind is fantasy at its very best, and an astounding must-read title.
The Name of the Wind is one of those books. You know, the book that gets hype, gets great reviews and is generally loved by those that read it. For me, The Name of the Wind was a fantasy book that I kept on hearing great things about - there aren't that many fantasy books that will pique my interest enough to go out and buy them, I just don't tend to lean towards fantasy at all and would quite happily pick up a sci-fi book instead. However, I did buy it, and after having it on the shelf for a few weeks I decided to pick it up and see what it had in store. If you read the blurb, especially the quote from Kvothe, you're given such a huge scope and great promise and I wondered just how the story would meet that initial bait. It certainly delivered everything a good story should, and touted as the first book of the Kingkiller Chronicles (or to be exact: day 1), it did everything I expected the first volume should offer.
As I started reading The Name of the Wind I felt that the praise that had been heaped on it was perhaps a little unjustified, the story just wasn't jumping off the page to tempt me. Following Kote, the innkeeper, his helper Bast and the regulars around the bar seemed like a bit of a let down, although there was something there to keep me going. By the time I got to around page 40, things were picking up, and when Kvothe starts to tell his story the pace picks up considerably. Looking back at these early sections after finishing the book make me realise why they are there and how effectively it helps the build up of the story by adding a little more depth and perspective, but at the time is didn't feel that way.
The story starts properly at around the 50 page mark where Kvothe sits down with Chronicler to tell and record his story - and what a story! I won't go into details on what the story entails to avoid any spoilers, but suffice to say that it is in equal measures breathtaking, funny, heartbreaking, wonderful, imaginative, enchanting and, above all, a damned good page-turner.
Patrick Rothfuss is a master storyteller, of that there is no doubt. The way in which he has told a story would make you think he has been doing so for decades, such is the standard of the writing. This is truly a stunning and spectacular read with very few faults, and those are minor and are only present because this is not the full story, but only part of it. The end of The Name of the Wind doesn't finish in a climax as such, but ends at a natural breaking point. It is a shame that it does finish the way it does with no sense of completion, full or partial, but with another two novels to go I can fully appreciate that this is merely a part of the full story and not a self contained section.
All I can do is let you know that this is a novel that I would recommend without hesitation and is a must read of the genre.
I'll leave you with the words of Kvothe himself:
"It would be something of a tragedy if it stopped there," I admitted. "But it depends on how you look at it, really. I prefer to think of it as a story that's waiting for an appropriately uplifting sequel."Buy from: Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.com
Saturday, 20 June 2009
Title: Torchwood: Bay of the Dead
Author: Mark Morris
Publisher: BBC Books
Release Date: 25th June 2009
When the city sleeps, the dead start to walk…
Something has sealed off Cardiff, and living corpses are stalking the streets, leaving a trail of half-eaten bodies. Animals are butchered. A young couple in their car never reach their home. A stolen yacht is brought back to shore, carrying only human remains. And a couple of girls heading back from the pub watch the mysterious drivers of a big black SUV take over a crime scene.
Torchwood have to deal with the intangible barrier surrounding Cardiff, and some unidentified space debris that seems to be regenerating itself. Plus, of course, the all-night zombie horror show.
Not that they really believe in zombies.
This is the second Torchwood book I've read recently, and after my enjoyment of The House That Jack Built (review) it was only a short matter of time before I got into the next one on the shelf. I had a choice between this and Into The Silence, but when you've got zombies on offer there is very little you can do to turn them down! It was with great anticipation that I sat down to see how a zombie story could fit effectively into the Torchwood setting, and boy did I enjoy every minute of it!
The setting once again is Cardiff and although this is a Torchwood novel, you wouldn't really notice it from the first few chapters. We get to see the zombie attacks from different viewpoints and start to follow other characters along with Jack, Ianto and Gwen. What's good about the way the story is told is that Jack and Ianto are together, Gwen and Rhys and then further groups of different people. This really does help the story and I was extremely pleased with the way the novel unfolds.
Although this looks like a typical zombie attack, there is that Torchwood twist at the end and the reasoning behind everything is believable and realistic - well, at least as far as any typical Torchwood story is! The pacing is spot on and doesn't slow much at all which makes for some adrenaline fueled scenarios and mad escapes. Of course, the zombie killing is gory in the only way zombie killing can be and Mark Morris has done a wonderful job at giving us what any decent zombie story should do.
I won't go into too much detail about the characters, suffice to say that the main ones are exactly as expected and play their roles well. It was nice to see Gwen's husband, Rhys, getting plenty of page time and he and Gwen played off each other really well, although Jack and Ianto weren't quite up to the same standard but still work well. The supporting characters were more detailed than I expected and had a depth that was surprising, especially for those that weren't on the page for more than a handful of times.
All in all, this is the best tie-in novel I've read and will probably be the best zombie novel I'll read this year. Compared to Stephen King's Cell, the last zombie novel I read, this is far superior and so much more fun! Highly recommended for both Torchwood fans and zombie lovers.
Buy from: Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.com
Tuesday, 16 June 2009
Title: Nylon Angel
Author: Marianne de Pierres
Release Date: 15th January 2004
In a world where the rich live behind the safety of a giant fortress wall and everyone else can go to hell, Parrish Plessis has learnt some useful survival tactics. Like don't cross Jamon Hondo - unless you want to be dead by the morning. But heck, what's a girl supposed to do when the one chance she may have of escaping from his grubby, stinking paws presents itself? Anyway, it's hard to be a saint in a city, and Parrish Plessis is sick of doing what she's told. Tonight, she's going to take her chance. Because she can't face tomorrow. NYLON ANGEL is the first Parrish Plessis novel. She will be back. When you've met her, you'll understand why.
I first came across Marianne with her space opera offerings, Dark Space (review) and Chaos Space (review), and really enjoyed them. Marianne very kindly (and with huge thanks!) sent me Nylon Angel, the first book in her Parrish Plessis series, earlier in the year and it's been sitting on the shelf looking at me ever since. I finally got around to it this past week and can gladly say it was a joy to read. Why I left it so long is now beyond me and I'll be very soon investing in the other two novels :)
Set in Australia of the future - and with no specifics given - it's a refreshing change to read a society that feels at times like a post-apocalyptic setting, but can change it around to show just how the better half of society have adapted to the situation. The Tert is a place where gangs rule and people starve, where getting by day to day is a struggle in itself. The layers that we are shown of the Tert is eye opening and realistic in a way that brings some of the worlds problems today home hard. It's vivid and hard hitting and a place that brings out a very hard and adaptive way of life. On the other hand we have Viva City, a media ruled metropolis with constant surveillance and security. Attempting to get there is a risk that will often end in death.
As for the characters, well, Parrish is just so perfect for the world Marianne has created. We get the story in the first person, through her eyes, and get to fully appreciate the character for all her issues and faults. Parrish is a real person, not a two-dimensional construct in place only for the purpose of telling a story. I thought Marianne had done an excellent job with having a strong female lead in the novel, a lead that enhances the story and has added extra that a male lead just wouldn't have.
All the supporting characters are also interesting and many of them leave us guessing as to their motivations and background for quite a while. Loyl-me-Daak is especially interesting as one of the larger supporting roles. He's always around just at the right time and obviously knows a lot more than he lets on, but we don't really get the full picture until closer to the end. This helps in continuing the guessing games and keeps the intrigue up long enough to move the story along at a decent pace.
All in all Nylon Angel is a good solid story with a great lead character, the world it is set in is all too realistic and although the tone can be dark, it's equally fun to read. I'll certainly be going out to get hold of the next two in the series, Code Noir and Crash Deluxe, to follow Parrish's story. Recommended!
Buy from: Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.com
Friday, 12 June 2009
Title: Heroes of the Space Marines
Author: Edited by Nick Kyme and Lindsey Priestley
Publisher: Black Library
Release Date: May 5th 2009
In the grim darkness of the Warhammer 40,000 universe mankind is beset by foes in a galaxy wracked by eternal war. Step forth the Space Marines, superhuman warriors and the ultimate protectors of humanity. Heroes of the Space Marines is an anthology of stories about these brave champions and their dark counterparts, the Chaos Space Marines.
This anthology features an Ultramarines series tie–in by Graham McNeill featuring the Iron Warrior Honsou, a prequel story to the forthcoming Salamander series by Nick Kyme, a tie–in to the new Imperial Fists series by Chris Roberson and all–new Deathwatch and Night Lords stories, setting the stars ablaze with the fury of the Space Marines.
The Skull Harvest, Graham McNeill - 9/10
A great start to the collection with the Skull Harvest, an event that pits warriors against each other, the winner claiming the legions of warriors left over from their fallen commanders. Any story that starts off with punch that knocks a head off is one that I know I'm going to enjoy. Not only that, but it sets the bar for the rest of the stories.
Gauntlet Run, Chris Roberson - 9/10
This one is just as good, but different enough to make it enjoyable. With a squad on their bikes searching the land for the orc army that has landed on the planet, they find trouble in a squad of equally lethal orcs that want nothing more than to destroy them, or back them into a corner to finish off at their whim. Great descriptiveness in this story and for such a fast paced narrative it really works well. Plus the twist put a smile on my face.
Renegades, Gav Thorpe - 8/10
A squad that find themselves in an unwinnable situation are faced with some choices on how to proceed. With it being their punishment for a previous mistake they are limited in their options, but when you have your back against the wall. Some good stuff here that focuses on the characters and choices made rather than balls-to-the-wall action.
Honour Among Fiends, Dylan Owen - 6/10
A good story, focusing more on the hunt for one man by the Black Legion, but with a twist int he tail. Overall not bad, but a little more difficult to follow for a W4oK newbie.
Fires of War, Nick Kyme - 6/10
A simple task of freeing a city from rebellion by the mysterious cult that has risen turns difficult. This is the longest story in the collection and is a prequel to an upcoming series, but it just didn't hit the spot fully for me. I guess this was another that suffered because of newbieitiss, but some stunning scenes nonetheless!
The Labyrinth, Richard Ford - 7/10
I liked this story of volunteers to brave the Labyrinth, only the bravest and fiercest of warriors prevailing at the end. Some of the motives were pretty good and this played out nicely (if not a little obviously) by the end of the story. There were also some other little bits that could have been put across better, but all in all it was a good, quick and fun read - exactly the sort that I was expecting from this collection.
Headhunted, Steve Parker - 9/10
An excellent short story about a covert operation on an Orc ship. The action come shard and fast and the squad work together to complete their mission. Easily one of the best in the collection with vivid descriptions and characters I'd like to read about.
And They Shall Know No Fear, Darren Cox - 9/10
When Reinhart and his squad land on a planet where their ancient fortress is located they find themselves in the middle of a battle. With their mission a priority, the surviving groups they team up with are kept in the dark about the its true nature. This was an excellent story, the characters were great and the pacing and atmosphere near perfect. Definitely a highlight!
Nightfall, Peter Fehervari - 7/10
The night were only the strongest of the ghoul-like youths will survive to be taken to their destiny has arrived. Zeth is one of these and has a plan, but the night is darker than even he imagines. A nice story and a different change of pace for the collection. The concept worked well enough but it missed the extra something.
One Hate, Aaron Dembski–Bowden - 8/10
Argo and his chapter, the Crimson Fists, arrive on Syral as what appears to be back-up for the army of Lord General Ulviran. But everything is not as it seems as the true mission of the Crimson Fists is revealed. Another interesting look into the world of W40k and a nice way to round off the collection.
As far as collection by multiple authors go, regardless of the subject matter involved, this one is good. There wasn't any that fell by the wayside in terms of style or readability. In fact I'd go as far to say the opposite - the whole collection read very much in a similar style, which is both a good and bad thing. If you enjoy it then you've got a treat in store, but if not you'll be ultimately let down.
As for me, I enjoyed it very much and this collection is a very enjoyable one with some excellent stories, and some good ones. If you've not read Warhammer 40k before then I can wholeheartedly recommend it as a nice jump on spot without getting too deep into all the history. There are a couple of stories that could do with some prior knowledge, but on the whole a solid read.
A chain-sword wielding beast of a book!
Buy from: Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.com
Monday, 8 June 2009
Title: The Grand Conjunction
Author: Sean Williams
Release Date: 7th May 2009
Imre Bergamasc is lost. His search for answers has led him up an alley so blind even his sense of self has become uncertain. Before he can save the galaxy from ruin, he must find the strength to carry on and reclaim his ultimate purpose. But more than two million years in our future, the fight has changed.
Former allies are now enemies, and enemies have taken on entirely new forms. Chased from the very edge of humanity's vast empire into the heart of an ancient conspiracy, he must finally come face to face with Himself, for without the truth of his past humanity's future will never be secured.
The Grand Conjunction is the grand finale of Sean Williams' Astropolis series and follows on from Saturn Returns (book 1, review), Cenotaxis (novella, review) and Earth Ascendant (book 2, review). This is a series that is set in the far future and covers a time period of around a million and a half years through all stories. How Sean Williams manages to keep the plot focused over time scales like this is impressive in its own right!
The Grand Conjunction (at least the start) is set around 700,000 years after Earth Ascendant which, in reality, is headache inducing. Luckily enough there is a short chapter at the start that basically outlines what has gone on since the start of the series. This is a good thing, at least in my opinion, as the series can feel very fractured at the best of times and this primer brings it together nicely. Once we get into the novel proper we find a very unusual thing: a fifties noir detective story. That's what it reads like, and lasting for almost a quarter of the novel it is slightly overlong and disruptive to the pace that should have been present at the beginning, although it is fully tied into the plot. Don't get me wrong, I loved reading this section, but in the context of the story it felt misplaced and unnecessary. Once we get into the story proper things continue along at a good pace, following ties to Imre's fort-self, the Luminous and the Barons.
I must admit that although The Grand Conjunction was enjoyable, the time differences ultimately made things a little too difficult to get my head into the book properly. Coming off Earth Ascendant and finding the main character thrust so far into the future with events having continued in his absence was the one thing that the story couldn't save itself from. The time spans involved are the essence of this story, and providing you can keep enjoying the novel and following details despite these you will find a rewarding series in Astropolis. Unfortunately this strength was my downfall and although I quite happily devoured the novel, some distant past details eluded me.
If you have the time I would strongly suggest reading the Astropolis series back-to-back to fully appreciate the dizzying time spans that Sean Williams has presented here. With such a grand offering I can only tell you that I'm not disappointed in the novel, but in myself for not being able to enjoy to its fullest.
Buy from: Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.com
Saturday, 6 June 2009
Here's the cover for Marianne de Pierres' Mirror Space, the third book in her Sentients of Orion series after Dark Space (review) and Chaos Space (review), due out from Orbit this coming October.
Araldis is still under occupation by hostile forces, and with the Orion League of Sentient Species seemingly unable - or unwilling - to help, Mira Fedor is forced to turn to the mercenary captain, Rast Randall, if she is to save her planet.I am really looking forward to this book in the series that is full of promise :)
But while Rast's contacts may be free of political constraints, what they lack in red tape they more than make up for in ruthlessness. As some of their hidden strategies are revealed, others become even more opaque. Why have the philosophers of Scolar been targetted? How far does the Extropist influence extend into Orion space?
From Lasper Farr, the Stain War veteran and ruler of the junk planet Edo, to the Sole initiates at Belle Monde to Rast herself, everyone is pursuing their own agenda. But are they really separate goals? Or are events rushing to a single, terrifying conclusion ...?
Thursday, 4 June 2009
Title: Death's Head Maximum Offense
Author: David Gunn
Release Date: 7th May 2009
The Aux have been dropped on a far-flung planet called Hekati, only it's in Uplift space and not really a planet at all. As for their mission, it's so damn secret that General Jaxx hasn't even told Lieutenant Sven Tveskoeg what it's about. It appears a citizen of the United Free, an empire not only more vast than Octo V’s but far more technologically advanced, has gone missing on this artificial world and it's up to Sven and the Aux to find the poor soul. But Hekati is a realm where nothing is quite as it seems and no one can be trusted. Smelling a rat, Sven is so not happy - and when he's not happy is when bad things start to happen - and the body count starts to rise...
The devil-may-care not-quite 100% human mercenary soldier-cum-killing machine Tveskoeg and the Death's Head squad are back: cue more extreme violence, a mega death toll, dirty sex, fiendish plot twists and explosive, non-stop action!
The first Death's Head novel was a very pleasant surprise back in early 2008 (review) and I had always meant to get around to reading this sequel once it was out. Of course, many things stopped me from reading it at the time, but now with the mass market I finally got my teeth into it - and what a bite it was! Everything I expected from the first novel was present and, just like the title suggests, to the maximum.
If you read my review of Death's Head you'll see that I had some gripes with the set pieces and back-story, but still enjoyed it. When I came to Maximum Offense I knew what sort of book I was picking up and wondered if any of those gripes would be refined this time around. To be honest, it's a little difficult to say that these have been resolved, but it didn't matter. It doesn't matter that the world-building is on the thin side again because what you get when you pick up Maximum Offense is a smile from ear to ear and a book full of action. That's not to say that there isn't any history or back story given, but it's subtle in the way that it's been built up over the two books.
The build up is definitely one of the aspects of Maximum Offense that makes it stand out above the first book, at least in the sense that after reading them both it feels like a more complete universe outside of Sven's view. The political aspects are also slowly coming into effect with Sven and his Aux being used for a mission that has implications higher up the political ladder. If the improvement between Death's Head and this is anything to go by then the third in the series, Day of the Damned, will be a great continuation of the story.
As for the characters, well, the improvement is clear and the supporting characters are coming into their own. As Maximum Offense is once again told through the eyes of Sven we have a great first person view of the action. This also means that we see all the characters as Sven does, which sometimes gives a slightly twisted view of them, but then that's the attraction of the novel. Sven is a bad ass, plain and simple, and that really helps a military sci-fi novel like this stand out. There are no apologies for his character or the way that Maximum Offense is written - it's to the point and full of action and big set pieces.
Bottom line: Death's Head Maximum Offense raises the bar set by its predecessor and delivers a kick ass, balls-to-the-wall military sci-fi novel with solid characters and a great story. Pick it up, if you can handle it...
Buy from: Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.com