Friday, 30 July 2010
I came across this while browsing upcoming releases on Amazon and thought I'd share it. This is the third in a series that started with The Age of Ra and continued with The Age of Zeus, both books that are sitting on my to-read shelf at home. I like this, mainly because it has stuck with the same format as the previous two books, a factor I think is hugely important when publisher's release series. It's due in early 2011, so a while to wait yet!
Thursday, 29 July 2010
Title: The Noise WithinAuthor: Ian Whates
Release Date: 13th May 2010
Buy from: Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.com
On the brink of perfecting the long sought-after human/AI interface, Philip Kaufman finds his world thrown into turmoil as a scandal from the past returns to haunt him and dangerous information falls into his hands. Pursued by assassins and attacked in his own home, he flees.To me, Ian Whates is perhaps best known for running Newcon Press, a small publisher that has released some excellent novellas and collections. When I first found out that he was entering the novel writing game I was very eager to see what he'd produce. While The Noise Within isn't his debut (it loses out only by a couple of months to City of Dreams and Nightmare), it is my sort of book - space opera. The synopsis is fairly short, but it did get me wondering what it held in store and I marked it firmly as a must read book for this year. I wasn't disappointed either, Whates manages to write such a story that fans of Hamilton, Asher and Morgan would be more than happy to read.
Leyton, a government black-ops specialist, is diverted from his usual duties to hunt down the elusive pirate vessel The Noise Within, wondering all the while why this particular freebooter is considered so important.
Two lives collide in this stunning space-opera from novelist Ian Whates!
The Noise Within starts off with an excellent action sequence and introduces Leyton, a ULAW (United League of Allied Worlds) operative on a mission to break into a a supposedly secure base to try and steal information. There has been pirate activity by a ship known as The Noise Within, but ULAW is unable to track it and find out who it is working for, hoping that this time they'll get a break. Philip Kaufman is the son of Malcolm, the inventor of the Kaufman drives that enable interstellar travel, and as such is in his shadow. However, details of The Noise Within make its way to him and he stumbles across a startling discovery - could it be that the ship is in fact the Sun Seeker, an AI ship he helped design and that went missing when it turned on its crew many years ago?
Suffice to say that Ian Whates packs in a lot of action and story into this novel, from the black ops missions to space fights, each is securely rooted in the genre and will make any fan smile. What I found most pleasing about The Noise Within is that Ian Whates is just so capable at telling a compelling story, from well drawn out characters like Leyton and Philip Kaufman, and is able to include some interesting and well plotted details.
I particularly enjoyed reading Philip Kaufman and his interactions with his semi-AI father, essentially a downloaded personality. There is obvious hostility between the two, but there is also a deeper relationship there and one that is explored throughout the novel. Leyton comes across first as a typical special ops character, but the more time we spend with him the more there is to him, it's like peeling back an onion to find more and more layers.
The story is definitely the main plus point here - it's concise, well structured and told with flair. While this could easily have been a book with double the page count, Whates is able to easily focus the events and get all relevant information across without bogging the story down in unneeded detail and worldbuilding. Speaking of which, the worldbuilding here is rather good indeed, but I suspect that the setting will come into its own once the sequel comes out next year.
The sequel, The Noise Revealed, is definitely a book on my must-read list for next year. The ending here opens up so many questions and throws this series into the realm of some of the best space opera available today. I'd recommend this in a heartbeat to any fan of the genre, but also to anyone that wants to read a fast paced story written with style. It's a page turner for sure!
Tuesday, 27 July 2010
Once the Enginemen pushed bigships through the cobalt glory of the nada-continuum. But faster than light isn’t fast enough anymore. The interfaces of the Keilor-Vincicoff Organisation bring planets light years distant a simple step away. Then a man with half a face offers ex-Engineman Ralph Mirren the chance to escape his ruined life and push a ship to an undisclosed destination. The nada-continuum holds the key to Ralph’s future. What he cannot anticipate is its universal importance – nor the mystery awaiting him on the distant colony world.Here's the cover for Engineman by Eric Brown, due from Solaris later this year (and pinched from their blog). There was another going around earlier this year, but it appears that this is now the final one. Personally I prefer it, the lighter tones and blue/yellow mix is really nice. Can't wait for this one!
Engineman is a thrilling action adventure by the author of Helix and Kéthani. Also in this volume are nine stories set in the Engineman universe, including the Interzone award-winning ‘The Time-Lapsed Man.’
Saturday, 24 July 2010
Review | Wyrmeweald: Returner's Wealth by Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell (Doubleday Children's Books)
Title: Wyrmeweald: Returner's Wealth
Author: Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell
Publisher: Doubleday Children's Books
Release Date: 29th April 2010
Buy from: Amazon.co.uk
Young pioneer, Micah, enters Wrymeweald full of hope to return home having made his fortune. But this is a land where wyrmes, fabulous dragon-like beasts, roam wild and reign supreme. In Wyrmeweald man is both hunter and hunted – and seventeen-year-old Micah may never return alive, let alone a hero…I was actually rather interested in this book when I saw it, and with it being a fantasy aimed at a younger readership I really fancied giving it a go to see what the YA market has to offer, especially from two authors who have had great success with their previous books. I started reading it because I wanted a quick change from sci-fi, and being a YA book (despite it's hefty size) it read very easily and quickly. From the moment I picked up Returner's Wealth I knew I was in for a treat, the first pages pulling me in and taking me along for the ride!
After a near-brush with death on the edge of a canyon, Micah soon finds a chance to prove his worth when he meets with Eli, a veteran tracker of Wyrmeweald. They choose to defend a rare whitewyrme egg and its precious hatchling before it falls into the hands of a band of evil Kith. But the fledgling wyrme has its own guardian in the shape of the beautiful, brave and dangerous Thrace.
Thrace, a Kin and a highly-skilled wyrme rider-assasin; and Micah, a would-be Kith, should never mix - but the magnetism between them is strong. Together they join forces on a mission to rescue the hatchling and seek vengenace for loved-ones lost at the hand of Kith bandits. Meanwhile the glorious whitewyrme colony of Wyrmeweald looks on as its land is encroached by gold-diggers and ravaged by bounty hunters. Is Exodus the only option? And if so, when - and where - will they flee too?
We first meet Micah after he has left the safety of the plains and headed into the wyrmeweald, a place of danger where wyrme's roam free and bandits - the kith - are a constant problem. As he makes his way deeper into the wyrmeweald he narrowly escapes with his life after encountering wyrmes before meeting Eli, a veteran of the wyrmeweald. Micah's goal is simple - to gain returner's wealth so he can return to the plains and live a life in luxury. With events drawing him and Eli to Thrace, a kin with her own great wyrme, events lead to more than just the quest fo the returner's wealth.
Wyrmeweald: Returner's Wealth is a great and action packed story that is set in such a vividly realised setting. The background details are revealed throughout and it's great to read a story where the authors have done such a good job at creating a world that is interesting and enjoyable to read about, even the more sinister aspects add a great depth to the story.
Micah is the main character here and early on in the novel we learn of his reasons of leaving the plains through a series of flashbacks telling that tale. It adds a good amount of depth to the character and allows a connection to him throughout his journey and discoveries. Eli is also a really interesting character with more to him than first meets the eye. Through the interactions between him, Micah and Thrace we learn more of why he is like he is and how he has survived for as long as he has. Thrace is the outsider as far as the three main characters go, living a life of solitude with her wyrme and protecting other wyrmes in the weald. She has a good arc and the events at the end of the novel open her up more than I initially thought we'd see of her.
One of the things I did notice about this novel is that despite its YA target audience it does read very much like a normal fantasy novel. It's not been hacked of all mature content and I was pleasantly surprised by the inclusion of some scenes. The occasional scene of violence and romance are handled well, but I though that this is a book for mid to late teens rather than early teens, at least that's what I thought after reading it.
All in all a promising start to a series and I'll be sure to check out the sequel when it's released!
Friday, 23 July 2010
A time of flux, a time of change. While mankind is adjusting to its first ever encounter with an alien civilisation - the Byrzaens - black ops specialist Jim Leyton reluctantly allies himself with the mysterious habitat in order to rescue the woman he loves. This brings him into direct conflict with his former employers: the United League of Allied Worlds government.Here's the cover and synopsis for Ian Whates sequel to The Noise Within, The Noise Revealed. I read The Noise Within a month or so ago (review coming soon!) and thoroughly enjoyed it and would recommend it to any space opera fan, it really is a hugely enjoyable novel. The synopsis here makes this a very highly anticipated book for 2011 and I'll be reading it as soon as I can :)
Scientist and businessman Philip Kaufman is fast discovering there is more to the virtual world than he ever realised. Yet it soon becomes clear that all is not well within the realm of Virtuality. Truth is hidden beneath lies and there are games being played, deadly games with far reaching consequences.
Both men begin to suspect that the much heralded 'First Contact' is anything but first contact, and that a sinister con is being perpetrated with the whole of humankind as the victim. Now all they have to do is prove it.
As for the cover, well, it's pretty stunning. I'm a big fan of covers like this that depict a scene from the book, I think it makes the world of difference compared to other, more mundane covers. It's also great to see a nice continuity between books in the same series, something that all publishers should aim to do. Great stuff!
Thursday, 22 July 2010
Title: Planet of Mystery
Author: Terry Bisson
Publisher: PS Publishing
Release Date: December 2008
Buy from: Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.com
Marooned on Venus, Hall and Chang of the first Chinese-American expedition are surprised to find themselves breathing Earth-normal air; and alarmed to find themselves captured by beautiful amazons mounted on foul-smelling centaurs.This was a book that I picked up during Alt.Fiction in June and was a freebie offered by PS Publishing. They had a few on the desk and I stealthily snatched it up to read as I'd seen it a few times when browsing the net and fancied giving it a go. I wasn't really sure what to expect or what it was really about, it was the title and cover that got me interested. To be honest, I didn't enjoy it all that much, which is a shame because it could have been so interesting.
"None of this can be real!" Hall protests, as he is dragged off to meet the Amazon Queen. Chang is inclined to agree (even though the arrow in his shoulder feels genuine).
Then the robot rolls in...
As the synopsis says, it follows the first manned mission to Venus and the discovery on landing that conditions are Earth normal, a fact that surprises them considerably. Not only that, but they're met by beautiful Amazon women along with Centaurs and are taken to their castle. Although a robotic probe had been sent there before the mission it stopped broadcasting and they thought it was dead, until they discover the semi-AI probe on the planet while there.
Weird is certainly one way to describe Planet of Mystery - mysterious would be another, but that's just plain obvious from the title! With the two crew members on the surface hesitant to report what they've found to the orbiting craft they instead plan to find out more of what is there before making any announcements. Throughout the story the simple question on whether they are dreaming or dead is raised, but enough evidence exists to prove that they are still alive and what they see is actually what is there.
The two main characters are Hall and Chang, the former being the leader of the mission while the latter is the creator of the robot probe they find alive and well on Venus. The feeling I had throughout is that the characters were simply there for the story to be told and the situation explored rather than advancing the plot in any way. Despite some interesting scenes and developments with the characters they felt pretty two-dimensional. It's not a bad thing that this is the case, but it doesn't really allow any form of connection to the story.
The only real thing that kept me reading was the question of just what exactly was going on. With an alien spacecraft thrown in halfway through I just let the story take me wherever it went, not really caring for anything except the 'want to know' factor. The ending was all a little 'huh?' for my liking and nothing was really resolved.
Planet of Mystery is a book that I read to the end because it was short and not one I would be in a hurry to recommend to anyone. It could have been more, but would have required a little bit more extrapolation and explanation, and as it is it just doesn't stand up as a believable sci-fi story.
Tuesday, 20 July 2010
Title: Approaching Omega
Author: Eric Brown
Publisher: TelosFormat: Hardback
Release Date: January 2005
Buy from: Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.com
Mission to locate Earth-temperate planet for colonisation: failed ...Approaching Omega is a short novella by Eric Brown released by Telos in 2005 and is a take on a fairly well travelled trope of science fiction, the colony ship. It's not a long story and is a story that has twists and turns while it takes you on its journey to its conclusion. While not entirely original it is well told, although had I read it when released I probably would have had different thoughts on it - all I seem to do is think of a couple of more recent examples that are similar to this.
1000 years out from Earth base, damage to colony sleeper hangars 1, 3 and 4 sustained ... all lives lost ... hangars 2 and 5 still operational ...
Mission parameters adjusted: Augmentation of colonists to commence ...
Request all drones and 'bots to medical units to begin experimentation ...
Latimer is one of the maintenance crew, due to be awoken at various points during the journey to check on progress and ensure everything is running smoothly. When he awakes for the first time it becomes clear that not everything has gone to plan and the small crew discover that two of the five hangars containing the colonists has been destroyed but what looks like a collision of some sort, and a third is now floating away from the main body of the ship being kept from drifting off only by cables. Weighing up their options they decide to secure what they can and continue the mission, re-entering cold sleep again. Waking up again it becomes clear that things have gone from bad to worse, and the first look at what has happened is only the tip of the iceberg.
One thing I usually note about Eric Brown's work is that he makes the characters the focus of the novel and uses the setting as a backdrop for the story. While this is partially the case here, the setting is at the forefront much more and drives the characters to do what they must. We do get the human touch from the characters, especially from Latimer whose wife is one of the colonists and is still alive in the hangar floating away from the main body. The other characters each have their own touches and help propel the story along nicely, but it is the situation that is the main driving force here.
Now, the situation seems to be vague at the start, but the more we discover the more it becomes clear that this is by no means Brown's usual light sci-fi tale. Instead it is one of horror and shock, of discovering that an AI can do things a human would never dream of. It shows how human motivation to survive can differ so drastically when looked at from another perspective, even one that is programmed by humans in the first place.
Now, I mentioned that all I could think of were more recent examples of this sort of story, one of which is a game (Dead Space) and another a movie (Pandorum). While both are slightly different takes on this, the overall feeling is similar - Approaching Omega comes across as a survival horror story, plain and simple. I'm not saying that it's bad by any means, just very different from what I was expecting. If you like this sort of thing then you should pick up this book and enjoy what lies within, but going in blind may lead you to a lesser enjoyment.
Overall this is a good novella, interesting with its subject matter and resolved well. I'd recommend it as a good horror sci-fi story and due to this it won't be for everyone. Still, it's a worthy addition to my library.
Friday, 2 July 2010
Title: The Evolutionary Void
Author: Peter F Hamilton
Publisher: Pan Macmillan (UK), Del Rey (US)
Pages: 736 (UK), 704 (US)
Release Date: 10th September 2010 (UK), 24th August 2010 (US)
Buy from: Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.com
Peter F Hamilton's startling perspectives on tomorrow's technological and cultural trends span vast tracts of space and time; his stories are as compelling as they are epic in scope, and yet they are always grounded in characters - human, alien and other - who, for all their strangeness, still touch our hearts and fire our imaginations. Now, in The Evolutionary Void, Hamilton concludes the highly acclaimed Commonwealth saga that has unfolded in The Dreaming Void and The Temporal Void.Having finally mastered his astonishing psychic abilities and how to harness the power of the city itself, Edeard is dismayed to find that life in Makkathran is as challenging and dangerous as ever. No matter what he does, there always seem to be threats to quash and unrest to settle. Although he knows he can eventually rid the city of corruption and anarchy, he is coming to understand that he himself will have to pay a terrible price for Makkathran's peace and liberty.Here it is, the book I've been waiting nearly two years for: The Evolutionary Void. The conclusion to the Void Trilogy, started with The Dreaming Void and followed up by The Temporal Void, is by far my most anticipated book of the year and the series is making very strong noises to be my favourite finished series ever. So, with expectations that simply couldn't get any higher, does The Evolutionary Void meet these? Simple answer: Hell yeah!
Inspired by their shared vision of Edeard's story, millions of Living Dream pilgrims embark on their gigantic, ultradrive ships, heading towards a new and perfectible life within the Void that lies at the centre of the galaxy. Their arrival will trigger a super-massive expansion of the Void which will devour everything in its path - ultimately the galaxy itself - and, for those of the Greater Commonwealth who would stop the pilgrimage, time is running out.
On the run from planet to planet, pursued by every Commonwealth faction, Second Dreamer Araminta realizes she can no longer flee her destiny and chooses a course of action that will not only confound Living Dream but also will transform her in a way no one could have expected.
Unable to deliver the Second Dreamer to the Commonwealth's ruthless field operative, the legendary Paula Myo, a desperate Oscar Monroe brings together a team of players who may just be able to stop Living Dream's pilgrimage. Unfortunately his plan includes the genius recluse Ozzie, who has no intention of embarking on any kind of mission to save the galaxy - besides, Ozzie is not quite the man he used to be... if he is a man at all.
The Accelerator faction, intent on supporting the pilgrimage so that it can gain access to the technology behind the Void, finally activates its mysterious swarm with disastrous political and military consequences for the Commonwealth. This leaves the Delivery Man, a one-time faction agent with devastating firepower at his disposal, teamed up with an unlikely ally as he frantically tries to limit the damage. Together with his new partner he travels to an alien world which has abandoned evolution in favour of fate, hoping to find a solution.
Then there is Gore Burnelli, one of the oldest, most influential humans left from the pre-Commonwealth era who claims to know much more than he is letting on and perhaps knows just enough to save the galaxy - if he can outwit Ilanthe, the driving force behind the Accelerator faction. But Ilanthe has the Cat on her side, and that can only mean big trouble for anyone who gets in her way.
The Evolutionary Void will leave no reader in doubt as to why Peter F Hamilton is Britain's number one bestselling SF Novelist.
The Evolutionary Void picks up immediately where The Temporal Void left off with no break in pacing, continuing the story in an effective, confident fashion. The many plot threads that have been built up over the first two novels are now dealt with convincingly, some with immediate effect while others come to the fore in preparation for the grand finale. It's very difficult, in fact nigh on impossible, to find any fault with this aspect of The Evolutionary Void. It is clear from many references and clues laid down in Dreaming and Temporal that the Void trilogy has been intricately plotted and even has details that go all the way back to the Commonwealth Saga. This is rather unsurprising when you consider that many of the characters present here have their origins in the duology.
Some of the story lines that I was most anticipating delivered the goods. The Deterrence Fleet is hinted at many times and the revelation of what it is and the capabilities it has still manages to surprise. This can be said of many of the plot points in Evolutionary. For example, Araminta is the descendant of two Silfen friends and this is used during Temporal to show how she is able to share her dreams of the Skylord (albeit unknowingly) with the Living Dream movement. This heritage plays a fairly big role in Evolutionary and leads to some aspects that I just didn't see coming, despite how obvious they are when looking back.
The format of Evolutionary Void also follows a similar path to that of the previous books, with the Commonwealth elements mixed with Inigo's dreams of life in the Void. While The Dreaming Void was roughly a 60/40 split in favour of the Commonwealth sections and The Temporal Void was roughly 70/30 in favour of the Void sections, The Evolutionary Void switches right back to focus more on the issues in the Commonwealth and the Void aspects taking a back seat, leading to the split being in the region of 80/20 in favour of the Commonwealth. This really does work in its favour and allows Peter to do what he does best: epic space opera. To say that Peter is ambitious in his plotting would be an understatement, but past good form is present here in every way possible, from bringing together plot threads to concluding the story in a fantastic way.
Peter has developed all his characters throughout this series, with familiar faces from the Commonwealth Saga continually being developed nicely and new faces to the Void trilogy satisfying all aspects I could hope for. Each development that forms the story is conveyed convincingly through the characters, from Araminita taking the bull by the horns to the eventual discovery of Aaron's identity and past. Edeard's progress is perhaps the most controversial and seeing him change during his sections left me somewhat non-plussed. However, Peter does do an exceptional job at showing how extreme power can affect all while still managing to portray Edeard's life in a most realistic way. The eventual outcome is all the more satisfying for this exploration of his character and serves the story very well.
One of the main aspects I loved about Dreaming and Temporal was Edeard's story, a story that is both gripping and emotional. I mentioned briefly above about his character in Evolutionary so I won't go into more detail here, but what did surprise me is that the format of consecutive Dreams is not followed here. It turns out Inigo had a lot of Dreams of Edeard's life and all that is covered in the first two novels is only a small aspect of it. Instead of sticking to the known, Peter goes outside this pattern and does not tell us everything, but rather select and important times of his life that have the greatest effect on the plot and story. Yes, I would have liked to read them all, but quantity does not always mean quality, and it is the quality and overall story that makes this approach powerful and meaningful to The Evolutionary Void.
There were two particular questions that I had before starting The Evolutionary Void, one relating to Inigo's Last Dream and the other relating to just how effectively Peter could conclude this trilogy. While I wanted them to hit the right notes I was just that little bit sceptical that they may miss the mark, just not being able to convince myself to ignore those doubts, unfounded as they were.
Inigo's Last Dream is one of the most beautifully written and poetic pieces of writing I have ever read. Seeing it coming from Peter was one of the biggest surprises and most pleasant finds in Evolutionary. While fairly short, it conveys so much emotion and feeling that I had to put the book down after reading it simply to absorb what I had read. Stunning is one way to describe it, awe inspiring would be another, but without a doubt it is the highlight of the novel.
The conclusion of the trilogy was something I hoped would be a fitting end and able to silence previous critics of Peters work. Not only does it do this, it manages to bring aspects laid down throughout the trilogy together in an ending that is grand in scale and perfectly suited to what has been laid out in the trilogy as a whole.
If I had to put forward one quibble it would not be about this book, but rather the fact that the Commonwealth Saga, which consists of Pandora's Star and Judas Unchained and is set 1200 years prior to the Void Trilogy, really needs to be read to gain a full appreciation of this epic story. While both are fairly separate, the story they form as a whole makes the experience much more fulfilling. There are aspects present in the Void trilogy, particularly Evolutionary Void, that hark back to this previous saga. While I wouldn't say it's a compulsory read, you will get the most enjoyment if you take the time to get around to them first.
So, I think you can probably tell from the above that I really did love this book, thought the trilogy has been exceptional and would recommend it to anyone in a heartbeat. It's intricately plotted and you'd be hard pressed to find another author who can pull off such a vision. For grand scale, epic space opera on a huge canvas it doesn't get much better than this. Highly, highly recommended.