“An excellent novel – David Ramirez establishes himself as a fantastic author who’s certainly one to watch with a complex, entertaining and original science fiction novel that comes highly recommended – you won’t want to miss this.” ~Bane of Kings, The Founding Fields
All that is left of humanity is on a thousand-year journey to a new planet aboard one ship, The Noah, which is also carrying a dangerous serial killer…
As a City Planner on the Noah, Hana Dempsey is a gifted psychic, economist, hacker and bureaucrat and is considered “mission critical.” She is non-replaceable, important, essential, but after serving her mandatory Breeding Duty, the impregnation and birthing that all women are obligated to undergo, her life loses purpose as she privately mourns the child she will never be permitted to know.
When Policeman Leonard Barrens enlists her and her hacking skills in the unofficial investigation of his mentor’s violent death, Dempsey finds herself increasingly captivated by both the case and Barrens himself. According to Information Security, the missing man has simply “Retired,” nothing unusual. Together they follow the trail left by the mutilated remains. Their investigation takes them through lost dataspaces and deep into the uninhabited regions of the ship, where they discover that the answer may not be as simple as a serial killer after all.
What they do with that answer will determine the fate of all humanity in this thrilling page turner.
The thing that sold me on The Forever Watch was its cover. Having no knowledge about the writer or the book I requested it from NetGalley based on the eye-catching cover and when I was able to get stuck in I did, and the book did not disappoint, providing among of the most unique science fiction experiences that I’ve had the pleasure of reading so far this year. It’s smart, original and compelling – and hopefully this won’t be the last that we’ll see of David Ramirez.
The-Forever-WatchThe Forever Watch charts the story of the spaceship Noah and its journey to find the Promised Land – Canaan. This alone was enough to remind me of my favourite TV series Battlestar Galactica – the 2003 version, where a group of survivors are fleeing the twelve colonies of Kobol in search of the mythical world known as Earth, and this book turned out to be very interesting indeed, putting the reader’s attention on the main character Hana Dempsey – a city planner who’s gifted in multiple fields, among them hacking and economics.
Given the fact that David Ramirez is an ex-scientist, you can expect that The Forever Watch is going to be well researched and far from a simple read, and you’d be right – the book involves a lot of technological elements and they’re pulled off very well, allowing for a complex read and it doesn’t just come from that front – The Forever Watch also handles complex characters and an interesting plot to boot, making it one of the strongest science fiction novels that I have read in a while, especially as it is a debut one.
Hana herself allows for a great protagonist. Her first introduction comes as a mother giving birth, as is required by law on board Noah, which is something that’s unusual to happen even in a book where a law isn’t there. However, this allowed an intriguing element to the book, and it was interesting to see how Ramirez dealt with this, and he handled it effectively in what otherwise could have been an awkward situation. As well as Hana there’s also Leonard Barrens, a police officer who drafts in Hana to help find the murderer of his mentor, and he is another good character that the writer has given us, well developed and just as interesting as Hana.
This book is one of the most original science fiction novels I’ve read in a while, there are some fascinating concepts here and they’re dealt with very well – despite the fact that this may be Ramirez’s first novel, he’s a confident and strong writer who manages to knock it out of the park – this could very well be one of the year’s best debuts by the end.
Ramirez doesn’t fall into the trap that comes with having vast amount of scientific elements in his story that will seem off putting to a reader only casually invested in the science fiction genre. However, Ramirez manages to tell a good story despite this, weaving a confident and strong narrative that doesn’t get bogged down with the details, the book turning out to be an incredibly strong read and the pace allows for some compulsive reading.
It’s amazing how much Ramirez has accomplished in his debut novel that feels like the second or third novel rather than the beginning. His book never feels overlong and doesn’t feel too short either, getting the perfect balance. In fact, there’s very little wrong with this novel, as the writer deals with powerful themes and an intriguing plot incredibly strongly.
"James SA Corey produces an excellent Star Wars book that is one of the best that the franchise has ever given us. As well as being a treat for fans of both Corey and Star Wars, it's also something that readers who are only familiar with the films can jump on board as well with little difficulty. Highly Recommended." ~Bane of Kings, The Founding Fields
A LONG TIME AGO IN A GALAXY FAR, FAR AWAY...
When the Empire threatens the galaxy’s new hope, will Han, Luke, and Leia become its last chance?
When the mission is to extract a high-level rebel spy from the very heart of the Empire, Leia Organa knows the best man for the job is Han Solo—something the princess and the smuggler can finally agree on. After all, for a guy who broke into an Imperial cell block and helped destroy the Death Star, the assignment sounds simple enough.
But when Han locates the brash rebel agent, Scarlet Hark, she’s determined to stay behind enemy lines. A pirate plans to sell a cache of stolen secrets that the Empire would destroy entire worlds to protect—including the planet where Leia is currently meeting with rebel sympathizers. Scarlet wants to track down the thief and steal the bounty herself, and Han has no choice but to go along if he’s to keep everyone involved from getting themselves killed. From teeming city streets to a lethal jungle to a trap-filled alien temple, Han, Chewbacca, Leia, and their daring new comrade confront one ambush, double cross, and firestorm after another as they try to keep crucial intel out of Imperial hands.
But even with the crack support of Luke Skywalker’s x-wing squadron, the Alliance heroes may be hopelessly outgunned in their final battle for the highest of stakes: the power to liberate the galaxy from tyranny or ensure the Empire’s reign of darkness forever.
I'm a massive fan of Daniel Abraham's work, whether he's working on his own, as MLN Hanover or with Ty Frank as James SA Corey. His The Expanse series has been one of my favourites of recent years and there was no way I was going to miss out on this book - especially as it was a Star Wars title, which is one of my favourite fictional universes. And what's more is that this series has already given us some high quality authors in the form of Martha Wells with her Razor's Edge title, which was focused mainly around Princess Leia. However, this time with Corey at the helm, the attention shifts to the smuggling duo of Han Solo and the Wookie Chewbacca, and whilst Leia and Luke get plenty to do, the main bulk of the narrative is focused on these two characters.
James SA Corey is an incredibly gifted writer (or pair of writers), and Honor Among Thieves is another stellar hit. Set after the destruction of the Death Star in A New Hope, Honor Among Thieves tasks Han and Chewie with an order to extract a high-level Rebel prisoner from the very heart of the Empire. It should be a refreshingly simple task, from someone who has broken into the Death Star in the past. However, there's a catch. The rebel Scarlet Hark doesn't want to leave, for she's dealing with an important mission of her own - the prevention of a pirate from selling a cache of stolen secrets that the Empire would do anything to try and get back. So naturally, it's clear that it would benefit the Rebellion, and Han finds himself with no choice but to stick with Scarlet and help her complete the mission.
Honor Among Thieves is quite possibly one of the best Star Wars novels that I've read. It's no surprise given the creative team behind it but the combined action plus good characteristics allow for one hell of a read, making this title an unputdownable novel that ranks among my favourites. What's best about this book is that unlike later Star Wars novels it doesn't rely on years of continuity that fans have to be familiar with before jumping on, all you have to do is be familiar with at least A New Hope and then you're all set. But most likely, you'll have seen the original trilogy - so that shouldn't matter. Aside from Scarlet Hark and a few other original characters created by Corey, Honor Among Thieves casts the principal heroes in the spotlight and drafts a compelling, enthralling and addictive read that hopefully will not be the last novel in this universe by the writing team.
Han and Chewbacca, as one would hope, are pretty much nailed spot on in terms of character. Corey captures the voice of both, crafting an incredible narrative that illustrates just how much Han in particular changed as a character during the course of A New Hope, and there isn't a better way to do that then have him reconnect with one of his old smuggling buddies, Bassen Ray. However, both newcomers, Ray and Hark, don't really stand out in terms of characters at this point - mainly because they're competing against figures a heck of a lot more developed and recognizable than them and it shows, with both characters come across as feeling weaker versions of Han and Leia respectively. But that's really the only problem that I had with Honor Among Thieves - the rest of the book is Star Wars fiction at its best.
Corey writes some incredible action scenes and there are a lot of fun moments to be had. It's not just the combat scenes that are excellent, but there's a great layer of fun that comes thrown in there as well. Star Wars novels that are dull and boring aren't really Star Wars books - because in order for these books to be good, they have to be enjoyable - and Honor Among Thieves certainly succeeds in that department, even if there's no tension because we know that these respective characters are too big to make it out alive.
Whilst certain biases may be there, with the Star Wars characters being among my favourite in the Science Fiction genre ever, and James SA Corey being among my Top 5 favourite writers in that genre as well, I inevitably knew that before I even started reading I was going to enjoy this book. However, I can safely say that it was not a disappointment, and can certainly come highly recommended, whether you're a hardcore Star Wars fan or someone who has only seen the original trilogy and is looking to try out the tie-in universe for the first time. This is the place to start.
SEE MY BOOK REVIEWS PAGE ON THE FOUNDING FIELDS FOR DETAILS BEHIND THE NEW GRADING SYSTEM.
PREVIOUS STAR WARS NOVEL: Choices of One by Timothy Zahn | NEXT STAR WARS NOVEL: Razor's Edge by Martha Wells
Note: Despite being released after the first novel in the series, Razor's Edge, the Star Wars Wiki lists Honor Among Thieves as taking place before the events in that novel, so if you are reading the Star Wars novels in chronological order rather than series order, you would read Honor Among Thieves first. But as they are both focused on different events, you can read one novel without knowledge of the other.
Very short read - my first Doctor Who book featuring 11 & Clara. Some decent stuff here - Colgan nails the personality of 11 & Clara pretty weVery short read - my first Doctor Who book featuring 11 & Clara. Some decent stuff here - Colgan nails the personality of 11 & Clara pretty well. Full Review Soon!...more
“James SA Corey continues to create an incredibly fun, entertaining and awesome book that moves from strength to strength. Like the last three novels in the saga, Cibola Burn is most likely going to be one of the best books of the year. Highly Recommended.” ~Bane of Kings, The Founding Fields
ENTER A NEW FRONTIER…
The gates have opened the way to thousands of habitable planets, and the land rush has begun. Settlers stream out from humanity’s home planets in a vast, poorly controlled flood, landing on a new world. Among them, the Rocinante, haunted by the vast, posthuman network of the protomolecule as they investigate what destroyed the great intergalactic society that built the gates and the protomolecule.
But Holden and his crew must also contend with the growing tensions between the settlers and the company which owns the official claim to the planet. Both sides will stop at nothing to defend what’s theirs, but soon a terrible disease strikes and only Holden – with help from the ghostly Detective Miller – can find the cure.
Chances are, those of you who have read The Expanse series will have probably either ordered this book already or are going to buy in the near future regardless of what this review says, because we’re now at the stage where this series has a strong fanbase already, most of whom will now be looking forward to the upcoming Expanse TV adaption on Syfy – so it should be interesting to see where it goes both there and in the books. Will we see a Game of Thrones-esque level of quality in space or will it flop like most recent offerings from Syfy (think Defiance, Helix)? I can’t wait for it regardless of how it turns out – (remember Syfy have also given us the incredible Battlestar Galactica), but for now – let’s switch our focus back on Cibola Burn, James SA Corey’s fourth outing in the saga.
Cibola-BurnThe land rush has begun, true wild west style. Settlers from humanity’s core planets are streaming out in endless masses, landing on new worlds. Among these Settlers is the crew of the Rocinante, but they’re not there to colonise. Holden, Naomi, the rest of the crew and the likes of the ghostly Detective Miller have other plans – they’re haunted by the past, and want to find out what happened to the great intergalactic society that was here before them, and the builders of the gates that prevented the people from the Solar System from reaching the stars beyond. And to make matters worse, tensions are growing between various factions, and a terrible disease is brewing.
Despite being the fourth book in the saga that only looks set to get bigger and better, Cibola Burn manages to feel just as fresh as the first book. The novel doesn’t repeat a tired formula, but instead keeps things fresh – the expansion to the rest of the universe playing a large part in this, as well as the expansion in cast members since the beginning of the book. Because of this, it’s a fun read, picking up from where Abaddon’s Gate left off and not disappointing. The action is there and the tension is high, allowing for a page turning read that won’t disappoint fans. Of course, newcomers (if there are any reading this) will want to start from Leviathan Wakes – but trust me, it’s well worth playing catchup. This is one of the best space opera series of recent years and that’s got me looking forward all the more to the upcoming TV series, even if Syfy doesn’t have the best track record.
The cast of characters have expanded since the start of the first novel and only get bigger here. Sure, we get our old favourites – Holden and the crew of the Rocinante are at the centre of things and it’s great to have them back, but there are also new additions that keep things fresh. Development across the whole cast is great, and things are in a very different shape at the end of the novel from the beginning. So when we return to the Expanse saga once more with the fifth book, things should be very interesting indeed.
If there was a tiny problem about this latest entry however is that Cibola Burn sometimes feels like a transition novel, setting up the next act in the saga. However, that’s only a minor issue – because the end result is very positive indeed, with a complex plot that continues the high level of consistency from the previous volumes. The politics and the alien horror/mystery elements are blended well, giving us a very interesting storyline to follow.
So in conclusion therefore, whilst Cibola Burn may feel like mainly a setup novel for the next installment in the series, it’s still executed very well and should satisfy fans of the saga – providing readers with a very strong installment that could end up being one of the best science fiction books of the year. So if you’re a fan who hasn’t brought this book yet, then what are you waiting for? Go ahead and buy it – you won’t be disappointed.
THE EXPANSE: Leviathan Wakes, Caliban’s War, Abaddon’s Gate, Cibola Burn ...more
“The Almost Girl draws you in with its excellent cover and keeps you hooked right the way through. Fun, fast paced – it’s a young adult novel that manages to be original with a kickass female protagonist and a confident narrative. Recommended.” ~Bane of Kings, The Founding Fields
"Seventeen-year-old Riven comes from a world ravaged by a devastating android war, a parallel world to Earth.
A Legion General, she is the right hand of the young Prince of Neospes. In Neospes, she has everything: rank, responsibility and respect. But when Prince Cale sends her away to find his long-lost brother, Caden, who has been spirited back to modern day Earth, Riven finds herself in uncharted territory.
Thrown out of her comfort zone but with the mindset of a soldier and in a race against time to bring Caden home, Riven has to learn how to be a girl in a realm that is the opposite of what she knows.
Will Riven be able to find the strength to defy her very nature? Or will she become the monstrous soldier she was destined to be?"
The second novel that I’m reviewing of the year is another Strange Chemistry book that I finished at the end of last year, and it’s another strong read from the Angry Robot Young Adult imprint. I mentioned in my review of Shadowplay that I haven’t read a book that I’ve disliked from the publisher yet and that trend is continuing through The Almost Girl, a book that won me over based on its cover alone. Just look at how awesome that cover is. It draws you in, and once you start reading, you’re hooked. It’s unputdownable, fast paced and lots of fun. The characters are fun and engaging and the plot is mostly original as well, even if there are a few cliched elements thrown in there which could have been avoided (I’ll touch more on this later). The Almost Girl is a fun book that does suffer from a few problems, but still manages to be a pretty solid read.
The book itself combines bits and peices from a lot of different genres. It’s a part science fiction thriller, part romance (but then, which young adult novel doesn’t have some form of romance in it these days?), and also throws in the involvement of some conspiracy theories in there as well. It deals with a lot of stuff and covers more plot ground than most other young adult books do in in two or more books – you’re certainly getting your money’s worth in terms of content, but despite this – you’ll tend to breeze through the whole book pretty quickly. Like Pantomime, Shift and other Strange Chemistry books, The Almost Girl has got the pace factor nailed down. It never stops being fast and there’s always something going on. However, whilst there may always be something going on, that doesn’t mean that it’s always good. Lots of young adult novels set on Earth tend to have some sort of high school involvement of some form and this book turns out to be no different, and frankly – this section just came across as cliched and one of the more dull parts in an otherwise exciting read. It’s not helped by some inconsistency when it comes to the main character, Riven – who is, like other popular young adult heroes before her, up to date with a lot of pop culture references – and we possibly get too many for one novel, which is a shame because it felt like it detracted from the plot a bit. However, saying that – I did like the reference to Stargate. But for someone familiar with most pop culture stuff be, well – more experienced with keeping her cover story? A part that frustrated me was the mention that where she came from her people had one name, rather than two. An inconsistency made even more glaring when the character is an experienced general – and I don’t know about you, but even at seventeen, Generals don’t tend to make that many basic mistakes.
The main character, Riven – heralds from world that runs parallel to Earth, only a lot worse off, ravaged by wars and authoritarian leadership. In short, it’s a nice place to live, and is bursting with enough depth that we could easily have had the whole novel set on the world without ever going to Earth at all. So Amalie Howard gets a point for that – giving some strong depth to a world without letting it dominate the flow of the storyline. Riven also seems to get stuff done pretty quickly too, at fourteen, she’s already a General and a gifted killer. When we meet her at seventeen, she’s spent three years on Earth already. Three years on the hunt for Caden, the Prince’s long lost brother in order to return the wayward relative, where his fate will most likely be death. Of course, to add some more tension into the book, Riven is not the only one hunting him for there are others after the boy as well.
Overall then, the book is fun and enjoyable despite its flaws. I couldn’t help but enjoy it and I think you will too, especially if you’re a a young adult or love books in that genre like myself, or are even both. Riven is a strong and confident character, and manages to be likable and rootable. The Almost Girl sees another good book from Strange Chemistry, and despite its problems it’s well worth a look.
A very strong and unorthodox science fiction novel. Pretty good indeed - full review closer to publication date, and it's a book that I was sold on beA very strong and unorthodox science fiction novel. Pretty good indeed - full review closer to publication date, and it's a book that I was sold on because of the cover. 2014 is already off to a strong start and I haven't read a bad book from next year (even if I've only read three) so far. ...more
“An excellent collection of short stories - Marching Time learns from the mistakes made in The Black Wind’s Whispers and delivers a very awesome read that comes highly recommended for anybody looking for a true variety in time travel stories.” ~Bane of Kings, The Founding Fields
History is written by the victors. History is re-written by the time travellers. Brave men and women will fight to the death in the battle to have the last word…
There is no technology that war will not bend to its desires. And despite the risks, so too does this include the dangers of time travel. Edited by Ross O’Brien, Andrew Aston and James Fadeley, the Bolthole writing forum is proud to present twelve new tales from the cunning minds of its new and veteran authors. Including chronologically-twisted tales of warfare from Jonathan Ward, “Spares” author Alec McQuay, Lauren Grest, Mark Steven Thompson, Ed Fortune, Griff Williams, Mark Grudgings and a special guest story from veteran writer C L Werner.
Time Travel is an awesome subject, is it not? It’s been around for a while – heck, Doctor Who celebrates its fiftieth anniversary today with a special episode and it’s very interesting to read about the endless possibilities that come from it. More recently (well, in 2011) we’ve had the likes of 11.22.63 by Stephen King look at the events concerning JFK’s assassination – an event which this week also shares the 50th Anniversary with – and that was a pretty awesome book even if it felt over long at times. The idea translates into pretty much every medium - Back to the Future for example is arguably the most popular film series with time travel as its core, with there no doubt being countless of other stories thrown into the mix as well. There’s last year’s Looper - a time travel movie starring Joseph Gordon Levitt and Bruce Willis – and finally, there’s the classic HG Wells novel The Time Machine. As you can probably gather, the very concept of time travel has an endless amount of possibilities and it’s great to see them explored in so many different ways by the authors here – with no two stories feeling similar as each bring a fresh and unique take on the subject matter. In fact, there’s barely a miss in the entire collection as all of the works found within are engaging and awesome.
marchingtimeThe anthology opens with a very solid story – Jonathan Ward’s Ripples, delivering a strong start that’s possibly one of the best of the lot. It’s as equally captivating as it is enthralling providing a powerful opener that will have readers looking forward to the next story even if it is by a completely different author. Ward’s story starts the anthology off with a bang however and the form of the book continues pretty much all the way through – there’s no obvious weak link and the stories are all solid and engaging. Obviously it’s tempting to skip straight to CL Werner’s novel as he’s the most established author here, but the book reads much better if you’re reading one short story after another and it gives you a great chance to taste other’s stories before you delve right into the thick of things. The team behind this anthology have learned a lot more than they did when they were working on The Black Wind’s Whispers - and if you’ve read that anthology then you’ll know what I mean here. Don’t get me wrong, The Black Wind’s Whispers is still an entertaining read, but Marching Time is stronger as a publication and comes with an awesome cover art to boot. I don’t normally mention cover arts in reviews but seriously - just how awesome is that cover? If I was walking past it in a bookshop I’d probably buy it right there on impulse – it just looks so amazing and is worth buying for the art alone.
It’s not just the returning authors from The Black Wind’s Whispers who put out some consistently strong stories in the pages of the book – Alec McQuay’s Fractured for example is just as strong as newcomer Ed Fortune’s Marked For Death, and A.R. Aston’s The Subliminal Reserves is as enthralling as Family Ties by Lauren Grest. Easily the most unusual and original tale of the bunch is James Fadeley’s Flár Ragnarök - with its interesting and unique setting allowing for a very page turning read. However, whilst there are the hits, like any anthology there are also the misses – even if they may be far from frequent and obvious. The world building in some short stories isn’t given the time and space it needs to in order to flesh itself out and the transition between some stories takes a while to adapt. It was very rarely that I found myself reading multiple stories in more than one sitting, proffering to spread them apart so I wouldn’t be thrown off by the next short story.
So whilst Marching Time may not be a perfect success – it’s a marked improvement over the still good The Black Wind’s Whispers - and provides a very entertaining read. If you’re looking for some time travel stories other than Doctor Who to focus on this week then you can’t go far wrong with Marching Time - providing a very unique batch of stories that remain fresh and very engaging. They’re all certainly worth checking out – and this thus comes recommended.
“Every so often, you get surprised by a book. Something that drew you in with its awesome cover and then blows you away – and I’m glad to say that Ancillary Justice was very much this book. Surprising, original, and a delight to read. Ancillary Justice is very much a book that you should look out for come its release. Prepare to be not just surprised, but amazed.” ~Bane of Kings, The Founding Fields
On a remote, icy planet, the soldier known as Breq is drawing closer to completing her quest.
Breq is both more than she seems and less than she was. Years ago, she was the Justice of Toren–a colossal starship with an artificial intelligence linking thousands of corpse soldiers in the service of the Radch, the empire that conquered the galaxy.
An act of treachery has ripped it all away, leaving her with only one fragile human body. And only one purpose–to revenge herself on Anaander Mianaai, many-bodied, near-immortal Lord of the Radch.
I read a lot more fantasy and comics nowadays than I do science fiction, so any sci-fi novel that comes my way I’ll be interested in reading purely because this allows me to get back into the genre. A few years ago it would have been reversed though – Practically all my reading was sci-fi, even if it came in the form of tie-in fiction published by Black Library. I still do read the odd Black Library book every now and again, but something fresh, original and entertaining I’m always on the look out for, and Ancillary Justice manages to hit that spot perfectly, and after a bit of a gamble, being swayed by its amazing cover-art and Scalzi-praise – as well as a few positive reviews on twitter and Goodreads, I leapt right in, not expecting to be blown away.
Ancillary JusticeI know I’ve been doing a lot of positive reviews lately, and I’m going to have to say here and now that Ancillary Justice is another positive review. I’m one of those people who will find something to enjoy about most things, and I very rarely come across a book that I haven’t liked. Dan Abnett’s Pariah, Descent of Angels by Mitchell Scanlon, The Lost Symbol and Inferno by Dan Brown have all fallen into this category – but Ancillary Justice is certainly a book that does not. I loved pretty much every second of it – narrated in first person by Breq, a strong and rootable female lead character, Ann Leckie weaves a compelling story with an imaginative world building and several fast paced action sequences that are really worth your time.
The book introduces us to Breq, the lead character – who years ago, she was effectively the Justice of Toren, a Radchaai starship. She’s controlled the Justice of Toren for a thousand years, overseeing a vast army of ancillary bodies – operating as one of the more important figures in the ever-expansive Radch empire. Now though, she lacks the assets that she once had available, reduced to ‘merely’ one body – and that’s not the worst thing. She’s on the run, carrying information vital to the Empire, and is alone, not knowing what plans they have in mind for her. As mentioned earlier, she’s a strong character – confident and powerful enough to be the only first-person narrator in the book, more than making up for the fact that we don’t get the viewpoint of anybody else – even if this would have helped add further depth to Leckie’s world, which still manages to pretty well crafted.
The book itself, with just the concept – has managed to be one of the most original and fun books I’ve read this year. Ancillary Justice manages to more than live up to the awesome cover and the praise that it’s gaining – whilst it may not have been a huge hit so far I can certainly see it gaining a lot of followers. It’s clever, inventive and builds up to a pretty awesome reveal. The plot is clever and complex, with strong prose that doesn’t really feel like a début author at the helm of this. Leckie’s worldbuilding is masterful and adopts a slightly different, simple twist on what most books use – the main gender featured here is female. Characters referred to as being female are male, and taking this one step further, Leckie’s main character, Breq – is implied to be female through her body – and thus, naturally the audience assumes that she is a woman, but her consciousness lacks a gender altogether, allowing for an interesting angle where Breq finds herself having difficulty assigning the gender of a person who doesn’t hail from the Radch Empire.
In conclusion then, Ancillary Justice is a pretty awesome read. It’s something that you should give a try when it hits shelves next month. It’s original, refreshing, imaginative and kickass. Highly Recommended, this could well end up being one of my Top 25 books of 2013.
“A great, first person-narrated take on one of the most iconic Space Marine characters, Cato Sicarius, and apart from a few flaws - Veil of Darkness stands along with Damnos as being another very strong instalment in Nick Kyme’s Ultramarine stories.” ~Bane of Kings, The Founding Fields
"++‘Life signs stable.’ ‘He looks… troubled.’ ‘Many going through sus-an membrane coma experience discomfort as part of the revivification process.’ ‘Do you think he’s reliving what happened to him on Damnos?’ ‘Perhaps, it would be his last memory before slipping into a coma.’ ‘I cannot imagine that would be a pleasant experience. That thing very nearly cut him in half.’ ‘He endures, and will rise again.’ ‘You’re confident about that?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘And what about the state of his mind? Will that be intact?’ ‘I… cannot answer.’++"
I haven’t listened to an audio-drama in a long time. However, with a return to College, I needed something to keep me entertained on my long bus rides there and back, and to fill that void came Veil of Darkness, a companion piece to Nick Kyme’s Damnos, that wraps up loose ends. It shows how Cato Sicarius was affected by the failed defence of Damnos, as for the first time that we’ve seen him, he must deal with the fact that for once in his life, the Captain of the 2nd Company has not completed his task. As Warhammer 40,000 fans will likely know – Sicarius is a brash, headstrong leader with several victories to his belt along with a multitude of titles – viewed by some as heir to Marneus Calgar, Chapter Master of the Ultramarines. Of course, this does not fit well with Severus Agemman, the first Captain. Their rivalry is really brought to light in this book, as Kyme decides to tell the narrative from the first person point of view of Sicarius.
The first person perspective of Sicarius deals with two angles here – one one side, we get the entire narrative from his perspective, however – I felt that the end twist was all too predictable and clichéd to leave any real impact – and I was left finding the ending a little bit underwhelming, which was a shame – because for the first 90% or so of the audio-drama, the audio drama was executed really well. I loved the fact that the battle scenes that took place here happened inside the home of the Ultramarines Chapter themselves, and Nick Kyme really does make them feel vulnerable and isolated for the vast part of the novel. The audio drama shows just how deadly Necrons can be – and to me, they’re like the zombies of the Warhammer 40,000 Universe – if there’s something with the Necrons inside, It’s automatically going up my to-read pile. I’d love to see more crop up as enemies to various factions in future books, heck – I’d love to see them go up against Eldar. Now that would be awesome, as – correct me if I’m wrong – that there hasn’t been a book dedicated to an Eldar/Necron conflict from Black Library before, without any interference from the Imperium or another race.
However, the Necrons aren’t executed perfectly here. Sure, they do get some pretty awesome scenes and come across mostly as a formidable foe, but one problem that I had was the phrase “I am Doom,” repeated multiple times by the only Necron who has a speaking part. It’s meant to induce terror and fear inside the hearts of the Ultramarines under attack, but really comes across as being too cringe-worthy and cheesy. This is something that could have been avoided. The ending I’ve already touched upon was a let down as well, but those two problems are the only ones that I had with an otherwise really strong narrative. I loved the first person POV, which is something we’ve seen before in Kyme’s work - Vulkan Lives being the case here, and I felt that it was really executed well, giving us a great insight into Sicarius’ perspective.
The action is pretty brutal and pulled off well. If you’ve enjoyed Kyme’s works before then you’ll know he can write a good action scene, and whilst we don’t get to see any epic-scale battles featuring entire Chapters, the close-quarter combat allows for several strong sequences. The audio drama format really works well here, and although I don’t think Gareth Armstrong can pull of narration duties as well as others that we’ve heard in the past such as Toby Longworth, he certainly impresses, delivering a great voice for an Ultramarine Captain even when other elements aren’t as well performed.
The Audio Drama that I got for review as an MP3 file also came with multiple attachments – for anyone interested in the formatting of audio-dramas, or just wants to read the script as opposed to listen to the thing, then you can find the script attached. The cover art, which is pretty awesome – I might add, also comes as Wallpapers available for IPad/IPhone users as well as various Desktop formats. Another feature is a couple of images attached – one of a solitary Necron, and the other of Sicarius’ wargear. Whilst, script aside – they don’t provide any major new content, it’s a nice little bonus feature that you won’t get with a novel.
In conclusion therefore, a couple of flaws aside, Veil of Darkness is an audio-drama that’s mostly a lot of fun and if you’ve enjoyed Nick Kyme’s works in the past, then it’s certainly worth your time despite the couple of minor flaws that I had with this. Therefore, I can offer my recommendation. It’s a great look into the aftermath of Damnos, and if you want some pretty awesome close-combat action between Necrons and the Ultramarines in the Fortress of Hera itself, then Veil of Darkness will be worth checking out.
“An excellent start to a promising new series, whilst the team of Connolly and Ridyard may not bring the most original story to the table, they certainly know how to deliver a fun, compelling read that should keep sci-fi fans entertained. This book is certainly worth checking out.” ~Bane of Kings, The Founding Fields
"The Earth has been invaded by the Illyri, a beautiful, civilized, yet ruthless alien race. Humanity has been conquered, but still it fights the invaders. The Resistance grows stronger, for it is the young people of Earth who are best equipped to battle the Illyri.
Syl Hellais, conceived among the stars, is the oldest alien child on Earth, the first to reach sixteen years of age. Her father rules the planet. Her future is assured. And Syl has hidden gifts, powers that even she does yet fully understand.
But all is not as it seems. The Illyri are at war among themselves, and the sinister Nairene Sisterhood has arrived on Earth, hungry for new blood. When Syl helps a pair of young Resistance fighters to escape execution, she finds herself sentenced to death, pursued by her own kind, and risks breaking the greatest taboo of her race by falling in love with a human.
Now the hunter has become the hunted, the predator become prey.
And as Syl is about to learn, the real invasion has not yet even begun…"
I don’t really get to read that much young adult science fiction, particularly ones focusing on alien invasions nowadays, and it’s always something refreshing to read even though they may not be the most original. Conquest - is the latest tale to join these ranks, penned by John Connolly and Jennifer Ridyard, one of whom is an author I’ve been meaning to check out for a while now and the other I haven’t heard about before cracking this book open, and as I was reading it I expected something similar to the likes of The Fifth Wave by Rick Yancey, or The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. As it turns out, Conquest was a bit different to those two books, but was just as gripping – I was engrossed from the get go as the double pair of writers weaved a fantastic book that has me eagerly awaiting the sequel.
Described by Connolly as an “adventure novel”, Conquest clocks in at around 400 pages and spins an epic journey of gripping and enthralling science fiction goodness. If you’re a sci-fi fan, like I’m guessing that most Founding Fields readers will be - Conquest will be right up your street. I saw another reviewer describe this book as Star Trek meets Aliens but set on Earth and if that sounds like your type of thing then you should certainly give this one a go, because Conquest tells an enthralling if unoriginal story with all the confidence that a veteran author can bring, and it’s very hard to notice the narrative change if there is any between the two authors collaborating on this book as the pace moves along in a very steady way – not as fast as a thriller in the style of James Patterson and company, but it doesn’t allow itself to fall into the trap of info-dumping aside from the short prologue at the beginning which is merely designed to tell the background of the Illyri invasion, and rather than being dull and feeling boring, Connolly and Ridyard use this to increase the tension, raise the stakes right from the get go, clearly establishing just how powerful the Illyri are, and it pales in comparison to the humans. This was an interesting element and reminded me oddly of the recent Sci-Fi Western drama Defiance - in the way that it’s set after the alien invasion. However, the mainstray of the novel is actually very different to Defiance - and for once, outside of Doctor Who or Torchwood we get to see an alien invasion set in the UK as opposed to the USA.
Both lead characters, the male and female protagonists, are strong, likeable and rootable and they really carry the book. Syl Hellais is a rounded female lead, and there wasn’t an insta-love story instead romance is pushed to the sides in favour of a more progressive plot with very action packed and wonderfully described battle scenes that allow for an interesting narrative. All too often YA fiction is let down by a vast unnecessary amount of angst, and I’m pleased to say that Conquest is very much not angst-ridden, and is capable of telling a compelling and enthralling story that makes it really worth your time.
And did I mention how awesome the cover is? It doesn’t look like much, sure – but I’m a massive fan of it. It suggests an epic science fiction story focused on two main characters and that’s what you’re going to find yourself with. The book allows for a fun and unpredictable read that delivers on a lot of things. Whilst it lacks the strength to stand up with the likes of superb YA books such as the previously mentioned The Fifth Wave and The Hunger Games, Conquest is nonetheless an enthralling read that fans of Sci-Fi who don’t mind reading smart, clever YA books should give this a try. John Connolly and Jennifer Ridyard have provided a nice opening to what I believe is their first novel written together, so it’ll be interesting to see how future Chronicles of the Invaders books develop. You can count me in for Book 2.
“An excellent read. Martha Wells gets the Star Wars franchise back on track – a lot of fun is to be had here with a great focus on Princess Leia, making Razor’s Edge a book that fans will love.” ~Bane of Kings, The Founding Fields
ALONG TIME AGO, IN A GALAXY FAR, FAR AWAY....
"Times are desperate for the Rebel Alliance. Harassment by the Empire and a shortage of vital supplies are hindering completion of a new secret base on the ice planet Hoth. So when Mid Rim merchants offer much-needed materials for sale, Princess Leia Organa and Han Solo lead an Alliance delegation to negotiate a deal.
But when treachery forces the rebel ship to flee into territory controlled by pirates, Leia makes a shocking discovery: the fierce marauders come from Leia’s homeworld of Alderaan, recently destroyed by the Death Star. These refugees have turned to pillaging and plundering to survive—and they are in debt to a pirate armada, which will gladly ransom the princess to the vengeful Empire . . . if they find out her true identity.
Struggling with intense feelings of guilt, loyalty, and betrayal, Leia is determined to help her wayward kinspeople, even as Imperial forces are closing in on her own crippled ship. Trapped between lethal cutthroats and brutal oppressors, Leia and Han, along with Luke, Chewbacca, and a battle-ready crew, must defy death—or embrace it—to keep the rebellion alive."
I went into Razor’s Edge with a lot of high hopes. Whilst I haven’t read any of Martha Wells’ non-Star Wars fiction, I understand she’s a highly praised author whose work I’ve been meaning to check out for a while now. Thus a Star Wars novel from her, and not just any Star Wars novel, but a book set inbetween the events of Episodes IV and V, my favourite two movies of the saga to date, focusing on my favourite characters of the franchise, Han and Leia, who are also among my favourite all-time favourite characters. Whilst Luke does play a role, it isn’t really as big as I had expected, and was actually quite surprised. However, his impact in the book is certainly felt, just as much as Han’s. However, both aren’t nearly given as much attention as Leia, who dominates the main point of view and is portrayed like the other two perfectly well, never once floating out of character, and Wells gets the characters just as well as the likes of John Jackson Miller and James Luceno or any other A-List Star Wars author, with her first novel for the franchise. (I’d throw Timothy Zahn in there as well, but I haven’t actually read any of his work yet). An amusing moment in the book came from the banter between Han and Leia, when they aren’t ready to admit that they’re attracted to another just yet, proving that the book doesn’t fall into the trap of being too grimdark, with some nice elements of humour splattered across the pages.
Razor's EdgeThe plot itself is pretty action packed and as unpredictable as a novel featuring characters from the films set in a period between the actual films can be – no matter what danger the three lead characters (and the rest of the characters such as Chewbacca and C3PO) find themselves in, we know they’ll make it out alive. However, the same cannot be said for any other character though – Wells does her best to make the book as unpredictable as ever, and even the outcome of the plot can be unpredictable in places. Action is used well, but don’t mistake this for a book filled with nothing but the shooting of blasters and the swinging of Luke’s lightsaber – and to Wells’ credit as an experienced author, she never manages to make the book feel like it’s moving slower during the non-action sequences, with the pacing nailed pretty much spot on.
If you think female characters are unappreciated in the Star Wars Universe, then you should look no further than Razor’s Edge. Wells not only offers a strong portrayal of Princess Leia, but deals with several other interesting female characters to boot that make the book much more engaging. As well as exploring the state of the Rebellion following the events of Episode IV (hint: It’s not a good one, despite their victory over the Empire in the Battle of Yavin), touching upon just how vital pretty much every mission has become for them. Other factions are explored too, but for a book in a series entitled Empire and Rebellion, it is almost surprising as to a relatively minor role that the Empire play in this book. But their presence certainly is felt, and whilst characters from that faction may not get as much page-time or focus as our main protagonists do, and they play a much bigger role in the book later on. Another element that Wells chooses to explore as well is what happened to the survivors of Alderaan, because even though the planet got wiped out, there was no possible way that Leia could have been the only person who wasn’t actually on the planet at the time. This nice touch allows for a few interesting aspects to come into play – particularly when you consider that her fellow people are now working as pirates in order to survive.
I think it’s safe to say that Razor’s Edge therefore, is a success. Martha Wells succeeds in sticking to canon, getting everybody in character throughout the book and bringing a great, well-paced read that sees the Empire and Rebellion series get off to a very strong start. Rest assured, if you’re a fan of the franchise – Martha Wells’ first outing is one that you won’t want to miss out on, and I eagerly await the next instalment in the Empire and Rebellion series, written by James S.A. Corey.
PREVIOUS STAR WARS BOOK: Splinter of the Mind’s Eye by Alan Dean Foster | NEXT STAR WARS BOOK: Empire and Rebellion #2: Honour Among Thieves by James S.A. Corey (2014) ...more
“A blend of Harry Potter and Steampunk, written by the fantasy master who gave us The Mistborn Trilogy. Compelling, creative and enthralling – The Rithmatist may well be one of the best Young Adult reads of 2013.” ~The Founding Fields
I’m a massive fan of Brandon Sanderson. I’ve loved his Mistborn Trilogy, with Vin making the list of one of my all time favourite characters. His Elantris is pretty good as well – awesome for a debut book, and Legion proved that he can write novellas well. So, how would Sanderson handle Young Adult fiction? As it turns out, as excellent as his normal fantasy. I finished this book in a couple of sittings, and couldn’t put it down. There’s only one minor flaw hampering The Rithmatist, but that wasn’t enough to detract from the overall awesomeness of the book apart from slow down its pace a bit more. The flaw in question is his magic systems – I know Sanderson’s magic systems are some of the most well developed in epic fantasy, but for those of you who felt like he went overboard in their description with his past novels, then think again. There’s a lot more description here, and that therefore slows down the pace a bit. But rest not - The Rithmatist is otherwise a wonderful book, and if you’ve loved Sanderson’s books in the past, then you’ll love what he’s done here.
"More than anything, Joel wants to be a Rithmatist. Chosen by the Master in a mysterious inception ceremony, Rithmatists have the power to infuse life into two-dimensional figures known as Chalklings. Rithmatists are humanity’s only defense against the Wild Chalklings — merciless creatures that leave mangled corpses in their wake. Having nearly overrun the territory of Nebrask, the Wild Chalklings now threaten all of the American Isles.
As the son of a lowly chalkmaker at Armedius Academy, Joel can only watch as Rithmatist students study the magical art that he would do anything to practice. Then students start disappearing — kidnapped from their rooms at night, leaving trails of blood. Assigned to help the professor who is investigating the crimes, Joel and his friend Melody find themselves on the trail of an unexpected discovery — one that will change Rithmatics — and their world — forever.
Bestselling author Brandon Sanderson brings his unique brand of epic storytelling to the teen audience with an engrossing tale of danger and suspense—the first of a series. With his trademark skills in world-building, Sanderson has created a magic system that is so inventive and detailed that that readers who appreciate games of strategy and tactics just may want to bring Rithmatics to life in our world."
There are several comparisons to Harry Potter in this book. You get the evil teacher, the young male hero, Harry (Joel) and the young female best friend, but not a love interest (or at least in Book One, anyway) Hermione (Melody), but whilst in any others hands it would be led to be viewed as a weak copy, Sanderson manages to make The Rithmatist filled with his own method of storytelling, compelling narrative and interesting characters that make the story stand out. Sure, Harry Potter fans will find something to love here – but it also manages to appeal to those who have read Sanderson’s work before, and epic fantasy readers looking to give the author a try for the first time – as well as more importantly, it succeeds in appealing to the young adult audience that this book is aimed at.
Whilst the magic may be overly described, it’s still very creative. There isn’t a magic system quite like it – whilst he simply could have used the magic system from Mistborn with a different paintjob, Sanderson has managed to invent a whole new style here, that adds to the uniqueness of the book and it was very interesting to learn about. I just wish Sanderson hadn’t quite as used it as much as he has done in the book – but otherwise, The Rithmatist hits all the right levels for me. The characters are interesting despite their connections with Harry Potter – Joel is sympathetic and rootable, and Melody is a strong female character in her own right – having plenty to do in this novel. Both are flawed and far from perfect – and Sanderson manages to make them compelling and believable. The other characters are also interesting to look at – and surprisingly, given that its set in a school – are all adults. The likeable Professors Fitch, and the Snape-esque character of Nalizar. Sure, whilst Joel does interact with the students and we learn a few of their names – the limited use of Fitch, Nalizar – and the other third main character, Inspector Harding allow for a limited use of cast allowing us to not lose track with too many characters, which has been the downfall of several novels in the past.
I also love that Sanderson hasn’t fallen into the trap of many young adult writers to try and include romance in the book, but at least in The Rithmatist, Joel and Melody remain friends throughout the whole novel. Whilst romance can be good if handled well – it’s refreshing to read a book without it, especially as it allows Sanderson to create interesting characters that don’t depend on the love of the other in order to fulfil a task.
In conclusion, I think if you like Young Adult novels or a fan of Sanderson, then you’ll enjoy The Rithmatist. It reads like a blend of steampunk and Harry Potter, and is compelling enough to keep you reading. A great book – and I eagerly await to see where the sequel takes us.
“An excellent début novel, Stephanie Saulter brings a stunning opener to a promising series. Handling several aspects from world-building to pace and character development wel, Gemsigns establishes itself as one book that you really should check out.” ~Bane of Kings, The Founding Fields
"Humanity stands on the brink. Again.
Surviving the Syndrome meant genetically modifying almost every person on the planet. But norms and gems are different. Gems may have the superpowers that once made them valuable commodities, but they also have more than their share of the disabled, the violent and the psychotic.
After a century of servitude, freedom has come at last for the gems, and not everyone’s happy about it. The gemtechs want to turn them back into property. The godgangs want them dead. The norm majority is scared and suspicious, and doesn’t know what it wants.
Eli Walker is the scientist charged with deciding whether gems are truly human, and as extremists on both sides raise the stakes, the conflict descends into violence. He’s running out of time, and with advanced prototypes on the loose, not everyone is who or what they seem. Torn between the intrigues of ruthless executive Zavcka Klist and brilliant, badly deformed gem leader Aryel Morningstar, Eli finds himself searching for a truth that might stop a war."
I wasn’t really sure what to expect going into Gemsigns. Released in May after having been pushed back from an originally intended March date, this book swept me by at first, and it wasn’t until I started hearing praise from it by reviewers who normally have good judgements on books that I’ll like, and when I was eventually able to read the book, I leapt at the chance to – and devoured it as quickly as I could. Like Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie, Gemsigns is a book that really caught me by surprise, and for exactly the same reason – I wasn’t expecting it to be as good as it was. I was drawn in right from the start and kept on the edge of my seat right the way through. And if you need anymore convincing, it’s published by the awesome folks at Jo Fletcher Books, who are in my eyes – one of those rare publishers (Angry Robot is another) that I haven’t read a book from that I haven’t liked. They have Tom Pollock’s superb The Skyscraper Throne Trilogy as well as Mazarkis Williams’ impressive Tower and Knife Trilogy. Both series are very unique and very awesome and Gemsigns, the first book in the new ®Evolution series is another one that I can add to that list.
GemsignsThe book discusses one of the most interesting questions that has been presented to us many times before in fiction, as well as other areas – and that is What makes us human? The question is attempted to be answered by Eli Walker, who is one of the book’s many characters. He’s not the only one who gets a Point of View as well, for the book starts off with a third person narrative from someone whose identity is never revealed, allowing us to be introduced to some of the key players. Over the course of the book more and more characters are added to Gemsigns - Aryel, Bal, Gaela, Gabriel, John and of course Eli – allowing for a fairly complex narrative that also makes room for some perspectives from non-main characters when needed. This allows us to get into the heads of a variety of characters, who are for the most part complex and relatable, thanks to Saulter handling them very well, so that the story can move along at a pretty solid pace.
The world created by Saulter is really fleshed out well. Throughout the book you’ll find the odd article, or something similar – thrown in cleverly to provide info-dumps in a way that actually manages to work (most of the time), expanding on the near-future setting and creating a pretty original world. Saulter blends the use of technology that we are used to in the present with her futuristic elements to further add depth and intrigue to this setting, and manages to make the book move along without falling into the trap of slowing down the pace so we can examine everything that’s new in great detail.
Gemsigns is a rare book that doesn’t fall into the trap of focusing on the revolt or the rebellion of the genetically enhanced humans, which provides a relief because we already have a vast amount of novels that follow that plot-line in science fiction. It explores what happens after the uprising has taken place, and despite UN declarations, things aren’t as easy as they seem. Whilst this may not translate into a page-turning read, the book still manages to take place over a very short space of time (a week) with an interesting approach that deals with various angles of action, politics and more angles in order to keep the book ticking over in a compelling and engaging way.
Making a nice change to the recent action-packed novels that I’ve been reading then – three recent examples include Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson (review soon), Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie and BZRK: Reloaded by Michael Grant, Gemsigns is a debut that manages to stay consistently strong throughout and is certainly a book that you should consider checking out if you’re looking for something fun and entertaining. Whilst the info-dumping is pulled off mostly well, there are a few elements that don’t always work – some may not like the info-dumping that crops up every now and again, but aside from that minor issue, Gemsigns is superb. It’s something that more people should be looking at reading, and it’s a novel that should be receiving a lot more attention than it has been so far. Apart from a minor problem then – this book comes highly recommended.
“A fun, enjoyable read. Certainly worth checking out if you have access to Amazon ebooks.” ~The Founding Fields
It’s been a while since I read a self-published novel, so I was a bit unsure as to what to expect, especially when it was requested that I delay my reading of review in favour of reading an edited copy at a later date. However, my fears were quickly washed aside within the first few pages - Altered Destinies turned out to be a very enjoyable read. There’s a lot of things that are strong about this book, and the editing has really benefited it – I didn’t get a chance to read it beforehand so cannot work out the exact differences, but was still pretty impressed by this book, and Alexander McKinney has now got me interested in checking out any future novels by him.
"2159 A.D. Humanity is forever changed by an event known as “The Sweep.” People wake to a new world. A new world where once-rare Keystones number in the millions. A new world where man is no longer at the top of the food chain. A new world with new rules.
Immediate beneficiaries of these new rules include Deklan, who wakes inside a drawer at the morgue, sees his own autopsy photos, and tries to hide the evidence; Jonny, who is capable of spraying an unknown liquid from his hands, thereby saving him from a careless mistake while he is on safari; and Sebastian, who instantly grows wings after being pushed off a building.
Cay and Calm were among the rare few who had superpowers even before The Sweep took place. Cay is a juvenile delinquent capable of unlocking any item. Calm, the most famous man alive, can negate all forces for seven meters around him. Together, in the far reaches of the solar system, they unlock an alien artifact, with catastrophic consequences. This massive event is The Sweep.
Back on Earth, Deklan tries to resume his normal life, but an epiphany about the ramifications of super-powered animals on civilization sends him to Boa Vista, Brazil, in a race against time.
In Brazil, as his life is repeatedly placed at risk, Deklan learns the true level of antipathy that his fellow Keystones can have toward others. With the knowledge that there is no going home, Deklan pushes onward, seeking help from new allies and trusting to luck and daring.
As the stakes are raised higher on Deklan’s journey, he finds himself paying the price, measured in pain, suffering and anguish. To succeed, he needs to dig deep within and embrace his unproven Keystone nature."
If you’re tired of all the epic fantasy novels that are hitting shelves lately, then Altered Destinies is the novel for you. It comes in at 343 pages, which is your average, medium sized book. Not a 1,000-page doorstop like George RR Martin’s works, and as a result, the pace is quick, fun – and easy to read. The various characters are interesting as we find an interesting science fiction backdrop, but one that isn’t massively so high-tech that it could be labelled as hard sci-fi. Whilst McKenney manages to cram a lot of characters in, he gives them enough time so that they don’t feel like they’re a waste of space – Deklan, Cay, Calm et al, are all interesting in their own right and they never feel boring when you’re reading chapters from their perspectives.
The book takes cue from creations like the X-Men, and Heroes, the only difference here being that animals were affected with “The Sweep” as well as humans, allowing for some interesting story potential. However, the difference is here that rather than be part of the minority, as is in the case of the X-Men, the Keystones are actually expanded, there are millions of them. I love the whole angle of ‘characters with powers’, and if I see a story like this that’s a got sci-fi/fantasy/urban fantasy backdrop and is not erotica or paranormal romance, then I’ll read and most likely enjoy it. Altered Destinies was a book that I should have enjoyed right from the get go, and it’s one that I did – I couldn’t put it down. The book itself is helped from some great humour, for example – there’s a character whose Keystone power is to produce Twix Bars at will. This allows for some great comedic moments, and said character doesn’t come off as a comedy relief character either, with plenty of depth, much like Deklan and Sebastian, who get plenty of page time, probably more so than the aforementioned character in question.
However, not all of the characters with Keystones come across as that original – for there are several that seem very similar to already established superheroes from the likes of DC and Marvel comics – Slate, a vigilante – can be comparable to Rorschach, of Alan Moore’s Watchmen for example, and Sebastian can be compared with Angel from X-Men as they both share similar superpowers. However, McKenney manages to create a fun take on this angle and the characters don’t really feel like weaker versions of ones that have had more time to be established.
The book itself benefits from a strong writing style, with plenty of action, and you can tell when an author has put plenty of research into a book because it comes off well with Altered Destinies, as this allows the reader to be drawn into an imaginative page-turner of a book – whilst there are a few questions left unanswered, Altered Destinies looks set to be the first of a series, unless of course I missed the answers in question in the book. However, you can count me on board for a sequel if there is one – I’m looking forward to returning to the year 2159. Awesome stuff. If you have a Kindle, you’ll want to download this book when you can – it packs a few surprises to throw at you.