Set in an alternate, early 15th-century Venice we enter a world rife with assassins, back-stabbing Machiavellian politics, pirates and of course werewSet in an alternate, early 15th-century Venice we enter a world rife with assassins, back-stabbing Machiavellian politics, pirates and of course werewolves, witches and vampires. It's certainly a twist on the usual horror theme and the assassin theme reminded me a bit of The Night Angel trilogy by Brent Weeks although this has a truer historical feel to it. The hero/anti-hero here is Tycho. Certainly a vampire, possibly a Fallen Angel, and in training to be the next Duke's Blade or chief assassin to the Venetian Court. It's an enjoyable read where the author imparts a gritty vision of his alternate, medieval Venice and mixes in a goodly dose of horror. That said, the storytelling is a bit convoluted and I get lost a few times. Worth reading if you fancy a new take on the vampire/werewolf theme....more
The heir to the super-rich Phule-proof Munitions, having bought a commission in the Space Legion, has annoyed his superiors. They can't fire him so thThe heir to the super-rich Phule-proof Munitions, having bought a commission in the Space Legion, has annoyed his superiors. They can't fire him so they ship him and his butler off to a remote swamp planet to take command of Omega Company, the worst bunch of rejects in the Legion. Who knows, he might very well quit!
But not Willard Phule, oh no! he's far to sharp for that and in a mildly humorous string of events and consequences we get to follow the antics of Phule's Company as Willard tries to turn them into an elite fighting force (or is that farce?).
It's never going to win any literary awards but it's a light and amusing read. While it's billed as science-fiction it could easily be set at any time and place as it's all about the characters and the string of situations they get into. Hard sci-fi or even slightly firm sci-fi it isn't but it is entertaining....more
Neal Asher returns to the Polity universe with a bang. It's set 100 years after the war with Prador and at the centre of the tale is the rogue AI PennNeal Asher returns to the Polity universe with a bang. It's set 100 years after the war with Prador and at the centre of the tale is the rogue AI Penny Royal. Definitely not be missed if you're a fan of Asher's Polity novels and while reading the earlier works would certainly help with names and plots, it's by no means necessary.
There are two converging story arcs. Once centres on a soldier, reputedly killed when Penny Royal flipped and annihilated the Polity forces on Panarchia during the war. Newly resurrected when his memplant is discovered, he's now bent on revenge against the black AI. The second concerns a crime boss who asked Penny Royal to upgrade her in order to allow her to "rip her enemies to shreds" and got far more than she bargained for. She too wants revenge on Penny Royal.
When the soldier hires the crime boss to help him track down Penny Royal he cheats her, albeit before she does the same to him, and now she's after him as well.
Dark Intelligence is a hard, action-filled sci-fi tale with a few twists and turns. Add a few renegade Prador, some humans who want be Prador and the planet Masada into the mix and it becomes a cracker of a tale....more
At first glance The Red Knight is a straightforward tale of a mercenary captain and his troop hiring themselves out to fight monsters and well, anyoneAt first glance The Red Knight is a straightforward tale of a mercenary captain and his troop hiring themselves out to fight monsters and well, anyone or anything they'll get paid to but it's oh so much deeper.
The realm is Alba, which has its civilized (in mediaeval terms) part and the Wild, which is populated with all manner of fae creatures - irks, boglins, faeries, wyverns, trolls and so on as well as rebellious or just wild humans. Nothing new there and obviously the two regions are at odds and border skirmishes are common and the story starts when a nun is killed by something from the Wild and the Abbess employs the company to find and destroy the threat before it escalates and boy does it escalate.
This a brutally gritty and detailed tale with lots of well-developed and interesting characters told from various points of view. While it might seem that it's a tale of evil sorcerer raising his horde of dark minions against the good and true folk of Alba it isn't so simple and you could easily take either side as the good or the evil. Also, the author is obviously a fan of medieval battle re-enactment and the level of detail about arms and armour is almost overwhelming at times.
Our hero the captain, aka The Red Knight, is a mystery with a deep and complicated history that is trickled out along the way and holds so much promise for following tales. But he's not the only one - his lieutenants, the King, the Queen, the Abbess, the king's magician, the drover, the novice, the Keeper, the Sossag, the daemons and the dragon all have colourful and involved parts to play.
Of course all of this makes it quite a hard story to get your head around but it's worth hanging in there. The Red Knight is quite simply the best fantasy novel I've read in a while and I can't wait to get my hands on the follow ups....more
Electronics expert Terry Holt needs to vacate Manilla while some furore between fishing boat crews dies down so when he gets an offer to spend some paElectronics expert Terry Holt needs to vacate Manilla while some furore between fishing boat crews dies down so when he gets an offer to spend some paid time on a swanky sailing vessel building some experimental gear he almost jumps at the chance. Almost - because they won't tell him what they're doing or what the kit is for and he's not very happy about that. All he's told is that something mysterious is happening in the Luzon Deep and it's connected to the fishing boat situation.
This is an old-fashioned, science-fiction novella mixing deep sea monsters with strange, outer space mystery and it works pretty well. It is a bit dated as such an isolated situation couldn't really exist today with everyone connected to the Internet. I'm sure they'd have soon had some serious interest from the world's press and U.S. Navy as soon as whispers of this got out but back in the 50s or 60's it's perfectly believable.
It's a bit predictable as you can pretty much guess what the mystery is quickly enough but it's a decent read, reasonably well-paced and with some good old monster action on the high seas.
Have you ever wondered what it'd be like to be a character in your favourite fantasy novel? To wander the halls of mighty castles; to be a spectator aHave you ever wondered what it'd be like to be a character in your favourite fantasy novel? To wander the halls of mighty castles; to be a spectator at a joust or maybe even take part in one; to live in a time of magic and dragons?
When college student Sedrick Weir is magically transported into the land of "Those Accursed Chronicles", his absolute favourite fantasy series and one filled with murders, betrayals and debauchery, he just has to tell the author Paul Breston - with disastrous results.
The Pen Is Mightier takes a slightly satirical look at a "what if" scenario. What if whatever you write down becomes real and essentially the author is God. If he or she writes "a mighty storm was gathering", then the skies would darken and the wind would pick up and so on. If they wrote "the assassin struck from the shadows" or "the ship foundered on the rocks and broke up", then someone would surely perish. Now the author believes that someone was real and that they died by his or her hand and how can they continue on their literary trail of destruction through what is now a real world with real, living and breathing people?
Obviously an homage to the hugely successful Game of Thrones saga by George R.R. Martin with a bit of Inkheart mixed in, it's definitely a different take on the fantasy novel and quite an enjoyable and sometimes humorous read. There are a few parallels with Game of Thrones but not many. For example, the Starks become Trasks and Ser Gregor Clegane becomes Sur Bollock the Beasts but largely, this world is of the author's creation and there are some promising ideas in there.
Consisting of the somewhat simply-titled sand, stone, sea, marsh and forest kingdoms all under the rule of an overking, it's not developed overly much and we don't really get a feel of the politics or peoples that make it up. This is also true of the characters who are only thinly fleshed out and only for as much as is needed for this tale. That said, it was still a decent read.
I'm not sure if a sequel would be possible but I'd definitely read it just to see where it goes....more
A good, old-fashioned adventure tale with a bit of steam-punk and the threat of alien invasion thrown in. Our Victorian-era heroes, a failed priest/miA good, old-fashioned adventure tale with a bit of steam-punk and the threat of alien invasion thrown in. Our Victorian-era heroes, a failed priest/missionary and his brilliant-but-disabled female sidekick, while trying to convert some natives on a far off island find themselves transported to an alien world with some very strange and almost comical inhabitants called the Yatsill.
The Yatsill, resembling four-legged molluscs, are brilliant mimics and soon pick up the mannerisms and thoughts of the two and so begin to rebuild their city and their culture in the style of Victorian London. However, it's not long before this seeming idyll gets shaken up and our heroes are plunged into a dastardly plot involving blood gods, horned demons, submarines, sonar weapons and alien invasion.
Mark Hodder's style makes you want to keep reading to find out just what crazy idea is coming next and this is no exception. A Red Sun Also Rises was very readable with a straight but also insanely convoluted plot. Almost Lovecraftian in nature but not quite so dark, this was well worth the read and I hope there's a sequel in the works....more
This is a very good near-future, hard science-fiction tale where humanity has colonized the solar system. Earth still runs the show but the colonistsThis is a very good near-future, hard science-fiction tale where humanity has colonized the solar system. Earth still runs the show but the colonists are getting sick of the taxes and demands so tensions and resentments are building. Nothing new here other than we have a few factions involved - Earth, Mars, the asteroid belters and the outer planets. Into that scenario we have Jim Holden, executive officer of an ice freighter that stumbles upon an abandoned ship with a secret and Miller, a police detective from Ganymede who's looking for a runaway rich girl.
As you'd expect, both of the main character's story lines merge, the mystery deepens, all hell breaks loose and, given the wider ramifications of the discoveries made, we have the potential for a much grander tale.
It's a very enjoyable detective/mystery tale of corporate greed, interplanetary war and alien horror. Hope the next book's as good....more
In a bit of a spin-off, this book follows Rosh’s adventures after he leaves the Voidhawk and crew behind. In this, Rosh (the one the elves made invulnIn a bit of a spin-off, this book follows Rosh’s adventures after he leaves the Voidhawk and crew behind. In this, Rosh (the one the elves made invulnerable) gets saddled by a female demon, learns some life lessons and the character is fleshed out and developed a bit more. It's a light and quick read, especially if you've followed the Voidhawk tales....more
To say much more would give away too much of the story but imagine a world where a bizarre sequence of events resulted in the assassination of Queen Victoria and the subsequent rise of steam-punk science and genetics and you get an idea of where this is going. Our pair of historical gent detectives follow the evidence, battle the enemies and ,with lots of derring-do and what-ho's abound, it's a fun and enjoyable read....more
Having read the excellent Coldfire trilogy by C.S. Friedman, this series was an easy choice to make. Like the Coldfire stories, magic and power in thiHaving read the excellent Coldfire trilogy by C.S. Friedman, this series was an easy choice to make. Like the Coldfire stories, magic and power in this world have a dark cost. Using magic requires the very stuff of life and if the user isn't careful, death soon follows.
The story centres around Kamala, a life-hardened street whore who has the ability to cast spells but who also aspires to be so much more. Witches in this world don't tend to live long but the male sorcerers, the Magisters, have managed to conquer magic and can cast spells without cost..or can they?
Add to that the resurgence of the ancient evil of the Souleaters and those who would aid them and you have a decent fantasy tale. I'm not sure it's up there with the Coldfire stories but I enjoyed it enough to want to read the next tale. ...more
Five years was a long time to wait but worth it in the end. Set immediately after the events in Red Seas Under Red Skies, Locke is slowly dying of a pFive years was a long time to wait but worth it in the end. Set immediately after the events in Red Seas Under Red Skies, Locke is slowly dying of a poison with no known antidote - until he's offered a kill-or-cure chance of survival by one of those he despises most - a Bondsmage - for a price.
From there we get two stories in one. In present time we see Locke and Jean pitted against an old ally in a game played by the Bondsmagi of Karthain. Every five years the people of Karthain elect their ruling council and Locke must guarantee an entertaining contest or dire things will happen to someone he loves.
We also get the second tale - one of Locke's very beginnings with the thieves of Camorr and leading up the The Gentlemen Bastards participation in a play - The Republic Of Thieves.
I really enjoyed this book - there's never a dull moment and we get to see a side of Locke that even he wasn't aware of. There's thieving, fighting, carousing, magic, political manoeuvrings, some loving and lots of acting, both on and off stage.
I only hope The thorn Of Emberlain doesn't take another five years....more
All You Need IS Kill was recommended to me after having seen Edge of Tomorrow, the big screen adaptation of this story which, even though it's been heAll You Need IS Kill was recommended to me after having seen Edge of Tomorrow, the big screen adaptation of this story which, even though it's been heavily Americanized and gung-ho'd up, has stayed remarkably true to the original story. That said, if you've seen the movie, then you'll notice the similarities right away but this original Japanese tale is well worth reading regardless.
Earth has been invaded by aliens and humanity is losing the fight. Nothing new there; there are hundreds of similar stories but this one, told from the perspective of new recruit Keiji Kiriya who is killed on his first encounter, this one has an edge - time travel.
Through some inexplicable phenomenon our newly-dead Keiji wakes up on the day before the battle and finds himself caught in a time loop as his death and resurrection repeats time and time again. However, Keiji's skill as a soldier grows as he passes through each time loop and he discovers that he's not the only one so affected and that there may be a chance to use this to defeat the aliens.
Read the book, see the movie! Both are very, very good.
Another stunning story from Joe Abercrombie, the plot centres around Prince Yarvi, disabled from birth and regarded as only half a man by his father.Another stunning story from Joe Abercrombie, the plot centres around Prince Yarvi, disabled from birth and regarded as only half a man by his father. Unable to swing a sword or hold a shield, he developers the only other weapon he has - his mind.
When his father and brother are betrayed and murdered, he inherits the throne but his reign is short-lived and he barely escapes with his life. Sold into slavery and chained to a galley oar, he vows to avenge his murdered kin and regain his throne but he has a long and hard journey ahead.
Abercrombie never fails to produce the most gripping tales. Can't wait for the next book....more
Military action tales aren't my usual first reading choice but add a bit of sci-fi and a free copy from the auther and I took the bait. As an action sMilitary action tales aren't my usual first reading choice but add a bit of sci-fi and a free copy from the auther and I took the bait. As an action sci-fi thriller, The Chimera Vector works pretty well and I found it a reasonably enjoyable read. There's a plausible and realistic storyline and plenty of gritty, detailed action where the bad guys can shoot every bit as well as the heroes.
The three main characters are pretty shallow at first but, without wanting to feed in too many spoilers, that works quite well and they develop along with the story as we get flashbacks and their mental programming is loosened. On the downside, I did get a bit lost a one point, wondering who was on who's side as the double crosses and counter double crosses piled up. It also plays a little fast and loose with genetics and DNA manipulation by our current standards but it is science fiction so who knows what's possible.
It's not the first tale of a shady, undercover organization working outside government control and manipulating everyone and everything to suit its own nefarious ends and it won't be the last but it does make a decent story of it....more
Finally, it's done, all five books read. It's taken me almost nine months, broken by reading other stories in between these volumes. I'd always wantedFinally, it's done, all five books read. It's taken me almost nine months, broken by reading other stories in between these volumes. I'd always wanted to read Ender's Game and then they made it into a movie so after watching that, it moved the reading up the agenda and I dived in with this, five-volume monster.
Ender's Game the book transferred to film very well although they filtered out a lot of the stuff involving his siblings, which did make the book a bit more of a stodgy read but it was good nevertheless.
Anyway, to the story - Earth is under attack by an alien species and we're losing. Andrew Wiggin, called Ender, is a "third", an extra child born under special license beyond the normal two-child limit as his parents and siblings were deemed to be extremely intelligent and necessary to the war effort. Ender and other young hopefuls are sent to Battle School to train for war against the aliens where they hope their great intellects will help develop winning strategies in the fight. There are a few twists and turns in the tale which comes to a suitably cataclysmic conclusion.
In Speaker For The Dead, the war is long over and Ender Wiggin is almost forgotten but his deeds live on as Ender the Xenocide. Now called Speaker for the Dead, he was sent for to read the death of a man on the planet Lusitania, a world with the only other known alien species so far discovered, the Pequeninos or "piggies". When they're seen as responsible for more human deaths, only Andrew can get to the root of the mystery.
In Xenocide, we're still on Lusitania, where resides an almost indestructible and always fatal virus called the Descolada. When a faction of the aliens decides it wants to leave Lusitania and spread out, Starways Congress so fears the virus escaping with them that they've ordered the destruction of the planet. The Fleet is on its way and a second xenocide seems inevitable. Unless of course Ender, the Lusianians, the aliens and Hive Queen can find a solution before they get there.
In Children of the Mind, the 3000-year long tale of Ender Wiggin comes to a conclusion as Lusitania is threatened by the same planet-destroying weapon that he himself used so many years before on the Bugger home world. Only with the aid of the computer intelligence Jane and a world called Path can they save the three sentient races of Lusitania.
Ender in Exile takes place after Ender's Game and attempts to fill in some of the detail of Ender and Valentine's travels and the rise of his brother Peter to Hegemon. It sees him write the Hive Queen and The Hegemon and embark on his calling as Speaker for the Dead.
Okay, that's the summary but as for the stories I found Ender's Game a great read. Speaker for the Dead was completely different and took me much longer to get into but once there, it was also very enjoyable. Xenocide followed on from the second book and was also a good read. Children of the Mind was excellent. Ender in Exile seemed a bit of a filler in to help explain some of the previous events after the Formic war but again, I enjoyed it. It's been a long ride but worth staying the course. There are other tales in this milieu from Mr. Card so I'll probably hunt them down and add them to the reading list....more
Another tale in life, death and resurrection of Harry Dresden, professional wizard and it's yet again a cracker. Cold Days was excellent and this oneAnother tale in life, death and resurrection of Harry Dresden, professional wizard and it's yet again a cracker. Cold Days was excellent and this one follows along very closely to that high level.
Mab, Queen of Air and Darkness, has loaned Harry to perhaps his greatest nemesis and he has no choice but go along and play nice, well as nice as he can be until there's an opening he can use to his advantage before the other side can double cross him.
The "job" is a robbery but not any old robbery as the target is in the best-protected vault in the Nevernever and belonging to Hades, god of the Underworld. On top of that, he only way to get there is through possibly the highest-security vault in Chicago, the property of local gangster John Marcone.
So, as usual, nothing is straight with the Fae and in a tale involving good wizards, bad wizards, the Order of the Blackened Denarius and hordes of evil minions, a Knight of the Cross, a shapeshifter, an archangel and the Holy Grail, Harry has to watch his back and his front while coming up with a plan to survive and possibly thwart his enemies....more
The saga of The Long Earth continues. Set a generation after that tale, humanity has spread far and wide across the Long Earth and some are wonderingThe saga of The Long Earth continues. Set a generation after that tale, humanity has spread far and wide across the Long Earth and some are wondering why they're being asked to pay taxes to the distant and little heard from government back on Datum Earth. And some, over a million steps away, are refusing to pay and declaring themselves independent. Obviously, that doesn't go down well back home so, a military expedition is sent out to bring the errqant settlers back into the fold - by hook or by by crook.
On top of this, the Trolls are disappearing from the Long Earth and no one knows where they're going. Their haunting song is diminishing everywhere as well as their much needed labour, on which a great deal of mans economy is built. Enter Lobsang who recruits his old ally and fellow adventurer of old, Joshua, now married and a father, into finding the Trolls and, along with Sally Lindsay, they set off deep into the Long Earth.
As a sequel, I think they got it right. It has enough interest to keep the story rolling along in what develops into a good story by itself. The title may be a bit misleading thouhg. I kept waiting for the battling to begin but it's more subtle than that.
Well worth reading and we're off into space for the next one in The Long Mars so here's hoping that has some surpises as well....more