Humorous, light, and of course Dark Lord approved, Wynne Jones's 'Tough Guide' is both enjoyable for the casual reader and for the writer. Although no...moreHumorous, light, and of course Dark Lord approved, Wynne Jones's 'Tough Guide' is both enjoyable for the casual reader and for the writer. Although not a novel per se, it functions more as a dictionary to all the cliches and commonalities of fantasy writers, from the significance of a character's eye colour to the role of various individuals in a team.
Good to flick through and laugh at and for reference.(less)
First of all, I think it should be noted that if you don’t know what a ‘redshirt’ is, this probably isn’t the book for you. Perhaps you should try bru...moreFirst of all, I think it should be noted that if you don’t know what a ‘redshirt’ is, this probably isn’t the book for you. Perhaps you should try brushing up on your Star Trek knowledge, first. But I’ll explain it, anyway. Redshirt is the title given to the expendable crewmen (and women) who are killed off on away missions in science-fiction - particularly Star Trek - as a dramatic plot device to increase the tension around the main characters.
Most of the time, these characters barely have a line or two before they are killed off by terrible flesh-dissolving plagues, or giant marauding alien badgers. In a sense, it’s quite logical: if you or I were to be pinned to the side of a ship by an unexploded mine, or exposed to a gas that makes all of your organs shut down over the course of 48 hours, we would probably die.
But on the Intrepid, there are some people who are just lucky enough to get cured with less than fifteen minutes to spare, and manage to make it back to their station on the bridge just in time ti save the day and not get sucked into space by the inevitable hull breaches on decks 6 through 12. Coincidence? The crew doesn’t think so.
As a result of the increased mortality around the senior officers, the crew of the Intrepid have cultivated a healthy distaste for away missions, even going so far as to eerily disappear, moments before either Captain Abernathy or science officer Q’eeng enter the room. Unfortunately, no one has told the new crew about this handy little survival technique.
The book follows several of the new crew of the ship as they realise exactly how weird their situation is (including ice sharks, exploding heads, doppelgängers, and a very well-informed yeti) and desperately come up with a plan to fix it once and for all, stopping any more people from unnecessary and frankly appalling deaths. I mean, ice sharks? What’s the biology behind that?
It must be noted that you don’t have to be a die hard fan to enjoy this book, but a little background certainly can’t hurt. Certainly enough background to get this book’s more comedic moments. But if you’re a fan of Star Trek or of science-fiction in general, you will enjoy this. Laugh along with it, fall inside it (not literally. Careful of the black holes) and you’ll discover that you have far more empathy for those redshirts than you knew you could.
Dark Matter is Michelle Paver's first 'adult' book, following her extremely successful (and truly excellent) Chronicles of Ancient Darkness series. Ma...moreDark Matter is Michelle Paver's first 'adult' book, following her extremely successful (and truly excellent) Chronicles of Ancient Darkness series. Marked as a ghost story, the book is written as the journal of a member of an expedition, hoping to overwinter in Spitsbergen.
Jack Miller, our narrator and the teams wireless operator, begins as a pragmatic, but strangely idealistic character, who feels that he has lost his chance at life and regards his companions, Algie, Hugo, and Gus, very cynically, judging them on their upper class Oxbridge background.
This is quite a well balanced story, focusing more on the development of the plot and the interest of the main character in the "dread" of the ghost that haunts their chosen campsite of Gruhuken.
Reading around some other reviews of this book, a general criticism seems to be that it's too short a story. Well, I disagree. A book doesn't have to be long to be effective - in fact I can think of a number of occasions where a story has been dragged out far too long. This is a relatively short story and, as it is fairly easy to read, is one that can be read quickly. I think that this adds to the story as it's balanced nicely, without too much build up and suspense and without dragging the events out for too long.
Without giving too much away, the ghost itself - the droug - is a rather simple construct, filling those around it dread and haunting the hut and the bear post. It's simplicity, however, is managed very well. While it does adhere to the "ugly ghost" convention, it still comes across as a fairly balanced character, with a good contrast of current and back stories.
The only thing I would fault about this book is that, again without giving too much away, the relations between Jack and Gus seem a little exaggerated at the end. It just doesn't seem to fit Jack's character.
Overall, however, I think it's a very good book. A little simple in places, perhaps, but it doesn't fall prey to the over complications of some ghost stories and works well.
Torak is twelve summers old and has just lost his father. Now he is running for his life from the Demon Bear, and armed only with his fathers parting...moreTorak is twelve summers old and has just lost his father. Now he is running for his life from the Demon Bear, and armed only with his fathers parting gifts: a hunting knife and some advice, "Stay away from people".
Along the way, Torak gains several allies in the form of Ren, a girl from the Raven clan, and a wolf cub, who acts as a guide as he struggles to defeat the Demon Bear, and fulfill his destiny as The Listener.
Alright, I admit that this sounds a bit like a run-of-the-mill scenario, but it Michelle Paver compensates for this in Wolf Brother with excellent writing, a brilliant set of characters and a believable (yes, I know) storyline.
Set in a native-American tribal culture, this is a story as much about survival as it is about heroics and the development of powerful bonds of friendship.
Now, I should probably point out the fact that there is a prophecy or two involved here, of The Listener, who "fights with air and speaks with silence."
A lot of people think that having a prophecy is cliche, overused and stereotypical. Used in the right way, they couldn't be more wrong. Paver has managed the balance beautifully here.
Typically classed as a children's book, this is a fantastic series for any age, beginning with a brilliant first novel.