Ancillary Justice came out of nowhere when it first was released and took me by surprise as to just how incredibly good it was. It was so good in fact, that it won the Hugo, Nebula AND the Arthur C. Clarke awards, and it’s great to see so far that the trilogy has kept up its consistent pace, emerging as one of the best science fiction trilogies that I’ve read, and that is no small level of accomplishment, because this is a fantastic book. I was kind of worried that the third book wouldn’t end the trilogy on a high note, but thankfully, it has more than matched expectations and is likely going to be one of the best novels of 2015, much like Ancillary Justice was one of the best of 2013, and Ancillary Sword, was one of the best of 2014.
Breq, the main protagonist of the series, has come a long way since Ancillary Justice, having used to belong to a collective group of ancillaries linked up with the AI on the Justice of Toren. However, she has since found herself alone, without the support of the starship following its destruction, but has singled in one target for revenge, the quite possibly insane Anaander Miaani, who just so happens to be the Lord of the Radch, and is heavily armed. The odds are not in her favour, but with running not being an option for everyone at Athoek, she’s going to have to take on Mianni anyway. And so what follows is an excellent read that’s not only complex, ,but also incredibly entertaining, fun and engaging. Fans of the previous two novels will enjoy Ancillary Mercy, as it delivers on all fronts and provides a satisfactory conclusion to the trilogy, with plenty of surprises in store.
Breq herself is still dealing with problems from the aftermath of Ancillary Sword at the start of the book and it’s interesting to see her continued tale of revenge against the Lord of the Radchaai Empire. It’s action packed, entertaining and yet at the same time, balances the quieter moments with the more dramatic ones very well, adopting a smooth, confident pace that keeps heading towards the final act. This book achieves what few others can manage, weaving an ending that not only could see as an end point in the Trilogy, but also as a starting point for a whole new series of adventures in the Imperial Radch world. There’s loads of different opportunities for prequels and other side stories, but at the same time, if Leckie were not to write them, the trilogy stands on its own perfectly well.
Ancillary Mercy is a book that combines the flashbacks and the present narrative so well, with some fantastic structure. Few books make you care as much about the flashbacks and the present day storyline as much as this one does, and with the addition of two new characters thrown into the mix as well, things remain as strong and consistent as ever. They’re both diverse and intriguing new characters that are well-realised, and make excellent additions to the book.
The character driven book brings Breq’s story to an excellent conclusion. Secondary characters such as Seivarden also get some good, emotionally satisfying endings as well, and there’s an incredibly few list of things that this trilogy got wrong. But that said, I recgonise that not everyone is going to like it, however, chances are, if you’ve lasted to the final book in the Trilogy then you will, nine times out of ten, be satisfied by this superb ending.
Highly Recommended. And now I feel a compelling urge to go back and re-read the trilogy again from the beginning, because it’s just so damn good. I can’t wait to see what Leckie comes up with next.
David Baldacci has always been an author whose work I have wanted to read more of but he keeps putting out too many novels for me to stay on top of. He’s of the same breed of the likes of James Patterson, John Grisham and Lee Child, thriller writers who churn out at least one new book each year and you always know what you’re going to be in store for, a fast paced, quick read that more often than not, will be at the very least entertaining. Whether it’s part of a long running twenty book series or a new one, like Memory Man, these authors will keep you hooked from page one to the end of the book for the most part. The author himself may be hit and miss for me and I have never found his books too brilliant, but having only read the first King & Maxwell book as well as the first Will Robie novel, there’s always something more to explore and Memory Man, the start of a new series centred around new protagonist Amos Decker, is one of them.
Decker himself is an interesting character who didn’t originally start out life as a Private Investigator. He was in fact the only person to come from Burlington, his home town, to ever reach the level of professional football, however, with the very first play, a collision knocked him off the field for good and left him with an unlikely side effect, the ability to remember everything, which naturally, two decades later, has disastrous consequences when he returns from his day job as a Police Detective to find his wife and daughter murdered after a break-in. Winding up on the street after quitting his job, he’s now a P.I, and has been for a year. When he is pulled into a horrific murder at a school that brings his hometown to his knees, Decker is called into the investigation which may have terrifying ties to his wife’s death.
Baldacci’s characters are often pretty strong and easy to get behind. Decker is a well-crafted main character and you quickly find yourself wanting him to succeed, even if he is still cut from the same mould as your stereotypical lead men in thriller novels, however his unique ability allows a somewhat fresh take.
The plot is pretty fast moving as per normal and it even ranges into the creepier elements at times, creating a great, plot twisting mystery that deals a plot that seems ripped straight out of the headlines, a school shooting. The mystery is successfully presented and will really keep you guessing until the reveal, which is fairly satisfying and is wrapped up well allowing for the start of a series to come. Yes, some of the plot twists may be fairly unrealistic for a slightly grounded novel but if you can put that aside, Memory Man still remains a fairly engaging read that is pretty intense indeed.
Now onto the negatives. The characters themselves, the supporting cast, are totally generic and forgettable. You get a stereotypical obsessive reporter type character and a couple of generic sympathetic police officers. Only the villain is fairly developed, but everything else feels bland but that more often than not is the problem when the writer decides to focus entirely on one character as we don’t get any other perspective than Decker throughout the novel. They don’t really add anything to the book and you get the feeling that Decker would have been able to do pretty much everything that he did without their involvement, which is a shame, because Baldacci has proven that he can create powerful, compelling secondary characters in the previous novels that I’ve read.
So on the whole, Memory Man is a solid start to a new series from David Baldacci. It’s an addictive, engaging read that will keep you hooked from start to finish but at the same time, there are a few problems here and there. It’s not perfect. But am I going to read the next novel in the series? You bet I will.
Claire North is quickly turning into one of my favourite authors with two astounding novels that have quickly blown me away. The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August was a spellbinding, original and inventive read and Touch is another novel of a similar ilk, focusing around a different protagonist but nonetheless incredibly entertaining, sending us into the guise of Kepler, a man who can possess bodies at whim, seeing lives through the eyes of their hosts for minutes or lifetimes, it doesn’t matter. It starts with his death, and explodes from there.
The prose is incredibly well written and at the same time, Touch moves along super fast, balancing the character development with story and action very well. The premise is instantly appealing, with the ability to jump between characters at will, including between both females and males. When Kepler is possessing a woman named Josephine Cubla who gets killed in a Turkish Metro station by someone who knows what Kepler can do, the book turns into a hunt for answers that takes place across a vast span of locations. As the curtain is peeled back we start to learn more about Kepler and the fact that he’s being hunted by someone or something who knows what he can do, adding an element of intrigue which really works.
The interesting development of the characters comes when you look at the Ghosts themselves. Most don’t really care what happens to their hosts, and why should they? They can just move onto the next one at a whim, but Keplar is different and protects his inhabitants well throughout the centuries. It’s an interesting motivation for the character and provides for the spark of mystery and intrigue to kick off. Yes, there is a lot of body swapping which could present some confusion, but if you pay attention you shouldn’t get too lost. The blend between flashbacks and present narrative could have easily been a jumbled mess and whilst it may be overly complex to some, I very much enjoyed Touch. It’s original, smart and richly compelling with a powerful prose.
The concept is the main drawing point of the novel but the characters are equally fascinating and the premise holds up well. As a standalone science fiction novel, Touch doesn’t disappoint, making it two out of two for Claire North books that I’ve read and enjoyed. Her Gamehouse novellas just leapt up to the top of my to-read list and I really can’t wait to see what she comes up with next. Highly Recommended.
"From the author of the Revelation Space series comes an interstellar adventure of war, identity, betrayal, and the preservation of civilization itself.
A vast conflict, one that has encompassed hundreds of worlds and solar systems, appears to be finally at an end. A conscripted soldier is beginning to consider her life after the war and the family she has left behind. But for Scur—and for humanity—peace is not to be.
On the brink of the ceasefire, Scur is captured by a renegade war criminal, and left for dead in the ruins of a bunker. She revives aboard a prisoner transport vessel. Something has gone terribly wrong with the ship.
Passengers—combatants from both sides of the war—are waking up from hibernation far too soon. Their memories, embedded in bullets, are the only links to a world which is no longer recognizable. And Scur will be reacquainted with her old enemy, but with much higher stakes than just her own life."
This is just going to be a quick review here as Slow Bullets is only a short story, but it’s a very good one. Alastair Reynolds is an author who has put out some consistently brilliant hard sci-fi work, be it Blue Remembered Earth or Revelation Space, and the Slow Bullets looks at an intriguing original universe, merging several themes together and putting a strong female lead, named Scur, at the heart of the conflict, and exploring her capture by a renegade war criminal who hasn’t yet heard about a ceasefire.
If you’re looking to explore Alistair Reynolds’ work but are worried about investing in a full length novel, Slow Bullets is perfect. It’s a quick read and offers a very accessible story to new readers, not feeling like most of the hard science fiction that Reynolds normally writes. The short is unpredictable and enthralling, and the lead character, Scur, is a likeable and well developed protagonist. Reynolds manages to weave a compelling and engaging science fiction short far better than a few full length novels that I’ve read recently, with everything falling into place to work perfectly. It’s amazing how, given the short pagecount, Reynolds is able to develop and expand the world, and blends everything together very well indeed.
Slow Bullets is a confident read from Reynolds that will please fans and newcomers alike, and hopefully it will draw in new readers and encourage them to explore more of the writer’s work. Highly Recommended.