Fated, the first book in the Alex Verus series was a book that I enjoyed very much. I think the reason I liked it so much was because being the first...moreFated, the first book in the Alex Verus series was a book that I enjoyed very much. I think the reason I liked it so much was because being the first volume in a new series it displayed a lot of potential for more stories and gave us quite a wide view of the world while still hinting at more beyond what we were shown. Cursed is the second volume in the series and although it was a good read it didn’t work for me in quite the same way that Fated did.
The story in Cursed feels less important. Although things are a little more personal for Alex this time it still felt more like a side adventure than an important chapter in an ongoing story. Things play out on a much smaller scale. We see less of the world that these books are set in and it didn’t really seem like any new elements were introduced. The plotting didn’t seem as tight this time either. While Fated was a real fast paced adventure that really raced along, Cursed seemed to be constantly stopping and starting with nothing really interesting happening in the lulls between the action.
Where Cursed really does work though is the character building, particularly the changing relationship between Alex and Luna. A lot of this book is concerned with Alex figuring out exactly what his relationship to Luna is and what it should be in the future. By the end of the book things really have changed for the two of them and there are some interesting possibilities for the future. A few supporting characters from Fated make a return appearance. I was glad to see them again and they where integrated into the plot well. Unlike some ongoing series the appearance of the supporting characters felt natural they all performed an important function in the plot.
Cursed is a fun read. Benedict Jacka has quite a fun writing style so even though I didn’t enjoy it as much as Fated I still flew through it pretty quickly. I was thinking maybe the problem here is more with me than the book itself. Fated showed so much promise that I was frustrated that Cursed didn’t capitalise on all of that promise straight away. Perhaps it’s best to just enjoy the journey and trust that there are more interesting things to come.
Heft tells the parallel stories of Arthur Opp and Kel Keller. Arthur is a severely overweight man who hasn’t left his house in ten years. Kel is an ei...moreHeft tells the parallel stories of Arthur Opp and Kel Keller. Arthur is a severely overweight man who hasn’t left his house in ten years. Kel is an eighteen year old with a very troubled mother. Both characters are sad, lonely and desperately in need of help. The subject matter of Heft sounds very heavy and the story really does carry a large emotional weight. However it never feels overly sentimental. It’s actually quite a gripping read because of the likeable but realistically flawed characters.
At first Kel comes across as a little too grown up for an eighteen year old, but as his story goes on we see that he really is just a scared child who has been forced to grow up too quickly. Arthur on the other hand is really the opposite, an adult who has become very child like. He used to be an average adult who had a difficult childhood, but after he makes a very well intentioned mistake he hides in the comfort of his home and shuts out the rest of the world. It’s very easy to care for these characters and the further I got into the book the more gripped I became by their stories.
Fortunately Heft isn’t all sadness and depression. At it’s core it’s a book about hope, about how it’s never too late to change and it’s ultimately quite inspiring. This book has stayed in my mind since I read it. After it was over I really wanted to spend more time with the characters, which is a sign of a very good book.
Judas Unchained is the conclusion of the Commonwealth Saga which began with Pandora’s Star. The Saga is really just one huge two part novel, the previ...moreJudas Unchained is the conclusion of the Commonwealth Saga which began with Pandora’s Star. The Saga is really just one huge two part novel, the previous book ended with multiple cliffhangers and apart from a little bit of recap at the start Judas Unchained jumps straight back in to the action. Since this is the conclusion of the story I won’t go into too much detail here but this really is an epic story covering an entire society. There are a huge amount of different characters and plot threads. I left about a month or so in between reading these two books so at first it was a little daunting trying trying to remember who everyone was and where they all were especially when Hamilton started introducing new characters. I found my feet soon enough though and once things got moving I never again felt confused. It’s especially impressive how Hamilton can successfully juggle so many plot threads and form them into one complete story without overwhelming the reader. I don’t know of any other writer that is capable of telling story’s of this scale while still making the book extremely readable.
There is a nice moral debate at the centre of this story concerning weapons built to deal with the invading alien threat. This aspect of the plot gives Judas Unchained a weight that wasn’t present in the first book. It’s more than just a glitzy, ultra-violent space opera, there are some real questions asked here. Where I didn’t think this matched up to the first book was the pacing. Pandora’s Star was a very well paced story. It started slowly and steadily built up steam, coming to a very exciting conclusion. In Judas Unchained though the story seemed to be constantly speeding up and then slowing down, stopping and starting. It was a bit frustrating at times when things seemed to be getting going then we’d jump to another plot line and everything would slow down again.
As the end of a story though the book works very well. All the important plot threads have very satisfying conclusions and every character gets there moment to shine. Some of the minor plot points are left open ended, I assume some of those will be picked up in The Void Trilogy which is set in the same universe as this and is now pretty high up on my To be Read list.
Starting pretty close to present day The End Specialist tells the story of what happens when we discover the cure for ageing. At first not much change...moreStarting pretty close to present day The End Specialist tells the story of what happens when we discover the cure for ageing. At first not much changes, peoples attitudes towards certain things begin to shift but nothing major. However the further we get down the timeline the more things change until we find ourself's in a world transformed by the absence of death.
The story is told from the perspective of John Farrell through material taken from his diary. This format was a very good choice, it often feels more like reading a blog than a novel making the story very easygoing and accessible. I didn't find John to be a particularly strong central character. He's very much the every-man type, no real distinguishing features, not particularly likeable or un-likeable, he's just kind of there providing a view on the world around him. I found myself feeling more for the people around him than I did for John himself.
Since this is John's diary throughout the book we get transcripts from news programs, letters and interviews that John has collected. This was another good format choice because although Johns experience is rather limited these articles flesh out the larger world and we see just how much the world has been changed by The Cure. It also gives Drew Magary the chance to explore some of his ideas more thoroughly. There are a lot of interesting ideas presented here, from peoples changing attitudes towards marriage to new religions and cults inspired by The Cure and the radically different ways countries like Russia and China react to the changing world. It's often thought provoking and left me thinking about how I would react in these circumstances when there are so many moral grey areas and no clear right or wrong answers.
The End Specialist is almost a good book but it has a few problems which stopped it from really working for me. It get's off to a strong start but once we get to the middle section the plot seems to meander a little and it starts to feel like the story isn't going anywhere. A little too much time is spent hearing about things happening around the world rather than moving the plot forwards. Fortunately by the end things get a little more focused and everything comes to a satisfying end. It's a novel full of good ideas and it is very thought provoking, as all good science fiction should be but with a more engaging central character and a tighter structure it could have been a much better book.
In 2380 the human race has developed wormhole technology which has allowed us to colonize hundreds of planets. The Commonwealth is a society with very...moreIn 2380 the human race has developed wormhole technology which has allowed us to colonize hundreds of planets. The Commonwealth is a society with very few problems; ageing has been cured through rejuvenation, it's a mostly peaceful society with no wars and people are free to live however they choose. When an astronomer observes a distant star trapped inside a massive force field the Commonwealth has to develop it's first ever starship to investigate the potential threat.
Epic is a word that gets thrown around a lot when describing Science Fiction and Fantasy but Pandora's Star is really worthy of it. The short description above doesn't really do justice to the hugeness of the story being told here but I didn't want to go overboard and give too much away. A lot of the fun of the book is in following the various plot lines, watching as they move apart and overlap slowly expanding the scope of the story as we go.
Pandora's Star is most commonly described as a space opera but it's so much more than that. It seem's that almost every genre is covered here at some point from detective story to political thriller, fantasy and more. Peter F. Hamilton is able to cover so much ground because the world he has created is so well thought out and richly detailed that there are a huge number of stories to be told in it. We see the world from all sides; the super rich politicians, astronauts, police, reporters, terrorists, average citizens and even aliens. In one of my favourite sections of the book we switch to the point of view of an alien species as it is encountering humanity for the first time. The alien species is truly alien, not just another humanoid life form. It thinks and acts in a very different way to us and Hamilton did a really good job of leading us through it's thought processes and making us understand something that is so strange.
The book is packed with detail. I'm not always a fan of books that spend a lot of time building a world in such extreme detail but for some reason it really works here. It's a huge book but I never felt like it was a slog to get through, in fact it's quite a page turner. With so many different view points I would usually expect there to be one or two plot lines that don't work as well as the others but that wasn't the case here. I was fully absorbed in the story the whole time and my only real complaint was that sometimes it was hard to remember where some plot lines had left off after they had been gone for 100 pages or more. You are required to hold quite a lot in your head as your reading the book but it really is worth the effort because the further you get into the story the more rewarding it becomes.
A lot of Pandora's Star is pure set up and things really get moving towards the end. This is really just the first part of one huge novel which concludes with Judas Unchained. Considering the multiple cliff-hangers that we are left on here that's a book I am really looking forward to getting stuck in to.