“An awesome novel with some great world building and some strong characters – Zachary Jernigan is an author who you want to watch out for.” ~The Founding Fields
No Return is a book that’s been on my TBR list for a while and when I got around to reading it, I was pleasantly surprised by the way that Zachary Jernigan had written this book. It’s varied, intense and very violent – Jernigan’s got the action certainly nailed in this debut. It’s got some great worldbuilding and boasts not only some cool ideas but also some very awesome characters that will keep you entertained whilst you’re reading this book. If you’re looking for a well written debut in the first half of 2013, then you can’t go far wrong with Jernigan’s No Return.
"On Jeroun, there is no question as to whether God exists—only what his intentions are.
Under the looming judgment of Adrash and his ultimate weapon—a string of spinning spheres beside the moon known as The Needle—warring factions of white and black suits prove their opposition to the orbiting god with the great fighting tournament of Danoor, on the far side of Jeroun’s only inhabitable continent.
From the Thirteenth Order of Black Suits comes Vedas, a young master of martial arts, laden with guilt over the death of one of his students. Traveling with him are Churls, a warrior woman and mercenary haunted by the ghost of her daughter, and Berun, a constructed man made of modular spheres possessed by the foul spirit of his creator. Together they must brave their own demons, as well as thieves, mages, beasts, dearth, and hardship on the perilous road to Danoor, and the bloody sectarian battle that is sure to follow.
On the other side of the world, unbeknownst to the travelers, Ebn and Pol of the Royal Outbound Mages (astronauts using Alchemical magic to achieve space flight) have formed a plan to appease Adrash and bring peace to the planet. But Ebn and Pol each have their own clandestine agendas—which may call down the wrath of the very god they hope to woo.
Who may know the mind of God? And who in their right mind would seek to defy him? Gritty, erotic, and fast-paced, author Zachary Jernigan takes you on a sensuous ride through a world at the knife-edge of salvation and destruction, in one of the year’s most exciting fantasy epics."
So No Return, a novel that is yet again, hard to pin down into one genre – crossing between science fiction and fantasy and Jernigan has pulled off the mix in a very believable way – the sci-fi elements never feel too out of place and neither do the fantasy elements of this book. I think my favourite thing about Jernigan’s debut is probably the setting, the planet of Jeroun – one that is watched over by a god with unclear intentions for his people. The worldbuilding is immense in this book and we get a great ambitious look into what makes the world tick. Characters adapt to the setting that the world can throw at them and it doesn’t feel like a standard fantasy world at any point in the novel’s 320 pages.
The book itself focuses mainly on a core cast of characters - Vedas, a skilled fighter and a member of the Thirteenth Order, Churls – a Mercenary followed by the ghost of her dead daughter and Berun – the construct, boasting mighty strength but limited to performing the tasks of his creator – all have a key role to play in No Return and are another strength of the book itself. They’re three dimensional and are very enjoyable to read about. Other characters who are also present in this debut are the two mages Ebn and Pol, and are also characters that are very intriguing to read about.
Whilst this book is one of the more enjoyable ones that I’ve had the pleasure of reading so far this year, No Return does suffer from a couple of flaws. Firstly, the pacing isn’t spot on. There are some elements that I think dragged out a bit too slow when we were following Vedas, Berun and Churls’ journey across the continent to get to the celebratory games, it just seemed to take too long for my liking even if I can understand why this portion of the book is fast paced – after all, journeys take time. And the climax is also not as strong as the rest of the book was, but that barely dampened my overall enjoyment of the book and I will be sticking around to read more that Jernigan puts out when I can. This is a book that adult readers of either fantasy or science fiction should enjoy, as there are some scenes here in this book that I do not recommend for a younger audience.
“Something that is a great fun to read for Whovians like myself, but is prevented from becoming a must read by a few key issues.” ~The Founding Fields
Writers: Andy Diggle, Brandon Seifert | Art: Mark Buckingham, Phillip Bond | Publisher: IDW Entertainment
The Doctor is back!
New York Times bestselling writer Andy Diggle joins Eisner Award-winning artist Mark Buckingham as a shadow being emerges from a machine used to view alternate realities, stealing time from those he touches in order to become “real.”
Can the Doctor save the Hypothetical Gentleman’s latest victim?
Also, writer Brandon Seifert and artist Philip Bond collaborate on a story. The Doctor and Rory, on a boy’s night out gone wrong, leave Amy to face the Silence on her own!
Doctor Who is probably one of my favourite TV shows at the moment, falling slightly behind Firefly, The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones in that order, but beating the likes of Sherlock and Supernatural. However, the first volume of the third series of graphic novels published by IDW Entertainment is my first foray into the comics of the Eleventh Doctor, and I was a bit anxious about what to expect. Having requested the title from NetGalley during a period where there was no Doctor Who on Television and after the finale of Amy and Rory in Angels Take Manhattan, I decided that I’d have to put up with my least favourite companion (Amy) of the New Series (All episodes from 2005 onwards) one more time to read a graphic novel featuring the Doctor.
And, well – I have mixed feelings about it. It’s one of those titles that’s not bad, but it’s not good either. The Hypothetical Gentleman is a very meh title. The plot focuses around Amy and Rory in search of a holiday/vacation spot and even sees the return of Christina from Planet of the Dead, a Tenth Doctor Special, ,but unfortunately before that storyline could come to a resolution my review copy seemed to end rather bluntly without any real conclusion.
The Hypothetical Gentleman is the main story here and for me is the more enjoyable one. I would have liked the backup more if it had a proper conclusion, but this reads pretty much like an episode of the TV series, which is what a Doctor Who graphic novel should do. Each volume should be an individual ‘episode’ with a concluding storyline, in my book – and this graphic novel does that element quite well.
Andy Diggle is a veteran comics writer, having written Green Arrow: Year One for DC Comics and is more recently known for his work on the New 52 Action Comics, where he departed the series after just one issue. He even has a character in the TV show Arrow sharing his surname. But this graphic novel didn’t make me have the urge to go out and read more of Diggle’s works immediately like was the case with authors such as Joe Abercrombie and Iain M. Banks, or even in the comics medium, Scott Snyder and Jason Aaron, despite the fact that Green Arrow: Year One has been under my radar for quite some time.
The art in The Hypothetical Gentleman doesn’t help the presentation either and it is clear that there are different styles in this graphic novel which is very noticeable. I’m not a big fan of the different styles myself and neither stood out as being superb and eye-catching, which also let the graphic novel down – as you know, the difficulty of good graphic novels is that they have to have a strong as well as strong artwork, and unfortunately – this graphic novel has neither.
My first outing of a Doctor Who graphic novel has turned out to be a fairly average experience. The storyline turns out to be a bit random, with lots of stuff crammed in and whilst it may have the pace of a recent Moffat stories such as The Wedding of River Song, the finale of Series 6 of the TV show, it lacks the awesomeness factor that that episode boasted. I wasn’t drawn into this graphic novel like the way I was drawn into the TV show, but it was far from the worst comic that I’ve read (That honour goes to Superboy Volume 1 by Scott Lobdell) and it was actually a fairly fun read throughout, and I probably won’t be sticking around for the next one.
“A wonderful novel, The Age Atomic proves that Adam Christopher can write sequels just as well as anyone. The most fun read of 2013 so far, and one of the best.” ~The Founding Fields
I loved Adam Christopher’s first novel, Empire State, when I first read it back in 2011. It would have made it high on my best of 2011 list as well, but for the fact that Seven Wonders was better. Needless to say, The Age Atomic was one of my most anticipated releases for 2013 and would be high on a list if I had actually remembered to make one. Regardless, it is nonetheless an awesome book and if you enjoyed Empire State then you should certainly pick up this novel, which might well be the first book classified as Atompunk that I’ve read.
The sequel to Empire State – the superhero-noir fantasy thriller set in the other New York.
The Empire State is dying. The Fissure connecting the pocket universe to New York has vanished, plunging the city into a deep freeze and the populace are demanding a return to Prohibition and rationing as energy supplies dwindle.
Meanwhile, in 1954 New York, the political dynamic has changed and Nimrod finds his department subsumed by a new group, Atoms For Peace, led by the mysterious Evelyn McHale.
As Rad uncovers a new threat to his city, Atoms For Peace prepare their army for a transdimensional invasion. Their goal: total conquest – or destruction – of the Empire State.
Whilst the book itself is set several years after Empire State, in 1954 – the other New York has only seen a few months changing in a very CS Lewis-esque fashion. But of course, don’t go expecting any Narnian-related themes with The Age Atomic, for I think it’s quite obvious that Lewis and Christopher are both very different authors and both really strong ones. Things seem to be going to hell in both worlds – Empire State has Rad Bradley and newbie Special Agent Jennifer Jones discovering an underground organisation and the creation of a new robot army, whilst as is expected, things in New York aren’t too pretty as well, and that is largely due to the new group, Atoms for Peace, led by Evelyn McHale – a character who is one of the key players in this book and really adds another layer of awesomeness and originality to the story with her character. I won’t spoil it for you, but she plays a key role in the book, as does most of the cast. Her role however is mainly notable for the fact that she was indeed a real life character who committed a real life suicide, as Christopher explains at the end of the book. You’re probably asking – how can she appear in this book if she committed suicide? Well, the answer can either be found on other reviews or in the actual book – I’ll just leave the ‘surprise’ there for you because I’d rather not spoil what I can.
The action here is wide and varied and we get some awesome scenes in Empire State and New York. Christopher’s pace is fast and furious and you’ll struggle to be able to put the book down – I loved every second of this. The noir aspects of The Age Atomic are just as clear here as they were in Empire State, however the novel is a whole different beast to its predecessor even if it is recognizably part of the same series. The book manages to be as a result not only entertaining and fun, but also fresh, for the problem with some sequels that I’ve read is that they can feel very similar to the original - Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins, the sequel to The Hunger Games, being a prime example.
The cliffhanger at the end of The Age Atomic is epic. Seriously, if you enjoyed Empire State and are looking forward to this then you will be blown away by it. Christopher has crafted a strong sequel, with a very fast pace and a very fun book. Bradley is a strong character again here and he continues to develop over the course of the story along with the other cast, showing that Christopher has mastered the split between the increasing of the tension and the development of characters. I am fully looking forward to where he takes the reader with the next book, or if he chooses to write in another setting.
All that said, The Age Atomic might just be one of my favourite reads of 2013. It’s certainly the most fun, out-beating The Emperor of All Things, another fun read that I’ve read recently. For the best, I think it’s tied with Peter V. Brett’s The Daylight War and Myke Cole’s Fortress Frontier.
THE EMPIRE STATE SERIES: The Empire State, The Age Atomic, ...more
“Whilst The Great North Road is superbly written, it takes a while to get going.” ~The Founding Fields
Peter F. Hamilton is an author who I’ve never re“Whilst The Great North Road is superbly written, it takes a while to get going.” ~The Founding Fields
Peter F. Hamilton is an author who I’ve never read anything by before. So when The Great North Road was available on NetGalley, I seized the chance to request it – and once I got my request approved, I instantly started reading, going in with high expectations. And were they met? To a certain extent yes, but it did disappoint me in some ways, chief among them the pacing. Normally, I don’t mind slow burners – but there’s slow burners, and then there’s The Great North Road. Don’t go into it expecting to finish it anytime soon, as it took me over a week to finish it as an ebook – and I’d say that I’m a fast reader. But in a way, I kind of expected it to be slow, after all – I’m yet to encounter a novel that’s as large as this that has been fast-paced all the way through. In fact, I think The Great North Road, standing in at 1100 pages on the hardback version published by Macmillan according to Goodreads, may just be the longest standalone novel that I’ve read. Ever.
"In Newcastle-upon-Tyne, AD 2142, Detective Sidney Hurst attends a brutal murder scene. The victim is one of the wealthy North family clones – but none have been reported missing. And the crime’s most disturbing aspect is how the victim was killed. Twenty years ago, a North clone billionaire and his household were horrifically murdered in exactly the same manner, on the tropical planet of St Libra. But if the murderer is still at large, was Angela Tramelo wrongly convicted? Tough and confident, she never waivered under interrogation – claiming she alone survived an alien attack. But there is no animal life on St Libra. Investigating this alien threat becomes the Human Defence Agency’s top priority. The bio-fuel flowing from St Libra is the lifeblood of Earth’s economy and must be secured. So a vast expedition is mounted via the Newcastle gateway, and teams of engineers, support personnel and xenobiologists are dispatched to the planet. Along with their technical advisor, grudgingly released from prison, Angela Tramelo. But the expedition is cut off, deep within St Libra’s rainforests. Then the murders begin. Someone or something is picking off the team one by one. Angela insists it’s the alien, but her new colleagues aren’t so sure. Maybe she did see an alien, or maybe she has other reasons for being on St Libra … This is a stunning standalone adventure, by a writer at the height of his powers."
Yeah, the blurb’s big. This is unashamedly sci-fi from one of the most famous sci-fi writers out there today. Peter F. Hamilton’s novel, although it could have been slimmed down a bit – on reflection, I could have skipped most of the first half of the book before the things really kick off, and he didn’t really have to describe everything as in depth as he did. But those are essentially, the only real gripes that I had with The Great North Road.
Everything else, I loved. The characters, particularly Angela – are some of the stronger elements of the novel and they grow and change as the book goes on. The world building was fantastic, and you can tell that Peter F. Hamilton has not made this up as he went along, with a planned plot and some interesting setting allow for a complex mystery which can only escalate as the novel goes on. Angela’s story is much more crucial to the plot though than the Investigation in Newcastle, and though there were some enjoyable scenes in that half of the story and Sid is a likable character, it just doesn’t really have enough support to make it stand in comparison to Angela’s adventures, if you get what I mean.
“There are some series that I wish could go on forever, and The Expanse is one that fulfils that category. James SA Corey delivers another stunning entry with Abaddon’s Gate, and therefore Book Four cannot come fast enough.” ~The Founding Fields
James SA Corey is the penname of Daniel Abraham & Ty Frank, for those people who do not already know – if you’ve been following the series or at least have read the first volume, then you’ll know this by now. Daniel Abraham it seems can turn everything he touches into awesomeness – I’ve really enjoyed his The Dagger and the Coin epic fantasy series, whilst his urban fantasy Unclean Spirits under the penname of MLN Hanover has made me want to read more of that series, although I have not picked it up in a while, which is something that I really need to get around to.
"For generations, the solar system – Mars, the Moon, the Asteroid Belt – was humanity’s great frontier. Until now. The alien artefact working through its program under the clouds of Venus has emerged to build a massive structure outside the orbit of Uranus: a gate that leads into a starless dark.
Jim Holden and the crew of the Rocinante are part of a vast flotilla of scientific and military ships going out to examine the artefact. But behind the scenes, a complex plot is unfolding, with the destruction of Holden at its core. As the emissaries of the human race try to find whether the gate is an opportunity or a threat, the greatest danger is the one they brought with them."
We’re back with the crew of the Rocinante, and it’s very interesting to see how the main cast develop over this instalment, with Jim Holden, Naomi and Amos being the main crew memebers, but there’s also strong showing from other returning characters too. Newcomers, such as Bull, Melba and Anna, also present an interesting, fresh look in the series, and we’re starting to understand for the first time for why this series is called The Expanse. It’s big. There are several characters alongside those already mentioned and the book rarely stays from the POV of most characters for long, which can be jarring for readers who favour one character over the other, but Corey has managed to make each viewpoint enjoyable and there wasn’t a dull one. Another point in favour of the Expanse goes to the Space Opera setting itself, it allows the reader to explore a wide variety of concepts and setting so that we never feel like Abaddon’s Gate is simply just a re-hash of Leviathan Wakes and Caliban’s War, with Corey coming up with new ideas to bring to the table.
Middle novels in series can be sometimes of a chore to get through. All too often, they are spent setting up the final act, continuing on from the first, and not much really happens. Not so with Abaddon’s Gate, it’s page-turning action all the way through – and even this novel brings a certain sense of conclusion to the book, as the series was originally planned as a trilogy before being extended. I haven’t been finishing novels as quickly as I would like to lately, mainly due to exams (which are now out of the way), but Abaddon’s Gate was one novel that I have been waiting for since Caliban’s War and exam the next day or not, I could not resist staying up slightly later than normal to get as much reading done. So, if I did fail my exam – I blame James SA Corey for crafting such an impressive and mind-blowingly awesome novel.
Seriously. This series has to be among the best of the Space Opera at the moment, up there with the likes of Iain M. Banks & Alastair Reynolds. Corey’s novels keep getting better and better. Whilst I’m no expert in politics, everything seems pretty realistic here, with humanity not being presented as a unified force, which is the problem that I have with such things in other media, Independence Day and Halo being two notable examples, it seems as though we’re never going to put aside our differences at any point. Not even for a big massive alien invasion.
Another thing that I love about this series is the lack of Hyperspace Travel/Warp Drives etc. This is a series not set 40,000 years into the future like the novels of Black Library, and it’s a little closer to home. Technology is still developing, and there isn’t a massive influx of alien races in Star Wars. Fans will be pleased to know that there’s no change here, and Corey continues so that Abaddon’s Gate is still recognisably part of the same series, although it probably isn’t the best jumping on point for newcomers – you’re better off just playing catchup. Whilst it may not be the cheapest option, it’ll certainly be the most rewarding one.
Fans of the series will not need any convincing to buy this book – but I’m going to give this book my strongest recommendation anyway, as it currently stands a contender for one of the best novels of 2013 so far. Count me on board for Book #4 for certain.