First off I don’t play computer games, especially war games, and I don’t read military SF... except for maybe Tanya Huff and Karen Traviss. If it hadn...moreFirst off I don’t play computer games, especially war games, and I don’t read military SF... except for maybe Tanya Huff and Karen Traviss. If it hadn’t been for the fact that I love Traviss’ Star Wars Republic Commando books I would never have looked at this twice let alone picked it up... and if that had been the case I would have missed out because this book is good. It’s hard to compare because – as I say – I don’t have much Mil-SF in my reading repertoire to compare it with, but as a book about believable characters in extreme circumstances, coming to terms with the pain that life has thrown at them in the past and is still throwing at them in the present, this works really well. I’m not gushing; though it’s by no means slow to start the action it took me fifty or so pages to really get into this – possibly because I must be one of the few people on the planet who had no clue what Gears of War was about. (It took me a while to work out that a ‘gear’ was a soldier of the COG, Coalition of Ordered Governments, you’d thing a cog would be part of a gear, not the other way round, but...) But once I got into the pattern of this book and began to understand some of the world background it all fell into place. It’s a pair of stories, one set in the book’s present and the other in its past. The present story tells of humankind’s fight for survival against an alien menace which has emerged from beneath the surface of their planet to destroy most of the population and reduce cities to rubble. The backstory is of three boys growing to be men and soldiers during the last few years of an eighty year war between human factions (pre alien menace) culminating in the Battle of Aspho Fields and the death of one of the trio. It’s about secrets untold and words never said and the damage they can do which runs as deep as bullets. Traviss has a knack or putting a human face on war. You can tell in every line that she has deep respect for the men and women on the front line everywhere, in fact and in fiction, and she knows what she’s talking about. (It’s obvious she does from her bio.) The characters are, if not always likeable, compelling and – yes – I cared what happened to them, and what will happen to them, for though this book has a satisfying conclusion, Traviss has wisely not wrapped up all the loose threads. There are plenty more untold secrets out there, people left behind who still need to be retrieved, and a new threat developing for the ragtag bag of resource-depleted humans.
This book says it’s the prequel to the award winning video game. Hopefully there’s room for at least another prequel and possibly more. I’ll be watching out for them. (less)
I felt obliged to read this because, though the animated movie was terrible, by mate Karen wrote the novelisation and she's a bloody good writer. Her...moreI felt obliged to read this because, though the animated movie was terrible, by mate Karen wrote the novelisation and she's a bloody good writer. Her Star Wars Republic Commando books are worth anyone's time whether you're a Star Wars fan or not because she really gets under the skin of the common soldier. Sadly she couldn't do much about the plot of The Clone Wars' which was Not Her Fault, but she did manage to inject some characterisation into it which the movie sadly lacked. Padawan Ahsoka is lovely – which makes me wonder what happened to her when Order 66 was given to kill all the Jedi. There's real smiler moment comes at the beginning of Chapter four when in all the little quotes at the beginning of chapters Karen includes an intelligence report by Komr'k N-6, one of the minor characters in her Republic Commando books. A little wink from the author to her regular readers.
Despite this being a straightforward novelisation, there's a subtle examination of good and evil going on within the confines of this book's parameters.(less)
Star Wars? Yes but without the usual suspects and more like the 'Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead' version as the story of a few individuals amon...moreStar Wars? Yes but without the usual suspects and more like the 'Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead' version as the story of a few individuals amongst the thousands who wear the Empire's anonymous white armour unfolds between the momentous events as shown in the Star Wars movies, starting with the Battle of Geonosis. As usual Traviss gets right under the skin of the uncommon soldier. She's worked as a war correspondent, been a member of the TA, actively supports campaigns to improve the lot of the average 'grunt' and it shows in her writing.
This is a welcome continuation of the Republic Commando series - which can no longer be called that because in the last novel (Order 66) the Republic was taken over by Emperor Palpatine and his right hand fist Darth Vader. Though a part of the Lucasfilm Star Wars franchise, Traviss has made this line of books peculiarly her own. Centred on a bunch of clone soldiers who were genetically engineered (cloned from Jango Fett) for the Republic in half the usual growth time by the Kaminoans and who provided the cannon-fodder at the Battle of Geonosis, there are some superb characters in here from aging Mandalorian training sergeant Kal Skirata, a few unorthodox Jedi who escaped order 66 (the Emperor's attempt to wipe out the Jedi completely); Uthan a creator of genetically targeted biological super-weapons and the clones themselves - all looking and sounding alike but each one an individual.
There's Darman whose illicit affair with a (now dead) Jedi, left him with a bouncing baby boy with potential force-abilities; Niner, his sergeant, critically injured at the end of the last book but now recovered; Fi, brain damaged in an earlier book and listed for 'disposal', but rescued and mostly restored by renegade Jedi Jusik; Ordo, married to Bessany, totally ruthless yet screwed-up ringleader of the Nulls, an experimental bunch of clones who proved to be too intelligent and daring to be controllable as children, and whom Skirata saved and later adopted, Mandalorian style.
And the clock is ticking. The clones were grown to maturity in half the time, so they're aging at twice the speed. If Skirata can't encourage Uthan to come up with a process to halt that, then these guys will be old men by the time they're thirty five. (less)
Though I still love Karen Traviss' Star Wars Republic Commando books I'm not so sure about Gears of War. On the pro side Traviss has a very sure voice...moreThough I still love Karen Traviss' Star Wars Republic Commando books I'm not so sure about Gears of War. On the pro side Traviss has a very sure voice and gets under the skin of ordinary soldiers better than anyone else I've ever read. Her characters are three dimensional and very human - intense and conflicted. I love that.
What I can't quite wrap my head around is the world. Obviously it's from an X-Box game so it's not Karen's world (I think I might have liked it better if it had been) and some of the parameters seem a little strange. The last one (Aspho Fields) was supposedly a prequel to the state the gamer finds himself/herself in. I know nothing about the world so I bring no preconceived ideas to the books. I don't know where the scenario is supposed to lead us for the start of the vid game. Maybe that's a disadvantage, maybe not. It's a world that has been torn by war for more years than our main characters have lived. Firstly it was a territorial battle, then a battle with the 'Locusts', murderous alien creatures that erupted suddenly from underground tunnels. There seems to be little rationale for the Locusts' sudden appearance. How come no one even had an inkling that they were there? Aspho Fields opens in the latter days of the battle with the grubs and explores both past and present for a small band of 'gears' (their name for infantry soldiers).
Jacinto's Remnant follows the same soldiers, mainly Marcus and Dom, but also Bernie (female), Baird and Cole as the leftover human government decides to turn its own destructive weapon against Jacinto, the last surviving human city, It's about asset denial and killing the grubs by drowning them as Jacinto collapses into the sea. Subsequently the remnant of Jacinto's population (much reduced) must be protected and led to safety. In the backstory we learn that most of the human population was actually destroyed by the deployment of the Hammer of Dawn - a super-weapon invented by Marcus' late father - in an attempt to deny the grubs assets worldwide. The logic of it is inhuman and I don't quite grok it. It seems to go: 'In order to prevent the grubs from grabbing our resources and killing our people we will destroy our resources and kill our people ourselves.' Nope, that wouldn't have been my first or even last choice. Here's where - because I'm not familiar with the game - I'm unsure as to whether that idea comes from the author or the game developers. I suspect the latter.
Note: OK, I just checked a gaming website and if their description was accurate Aspho Fields was pretty close to the game in terms of walking the gears through various firefights with Locusts, but this book seems to take them beyond the scenarios in the game into new territory.
Basically I love Karen's writing and will read the next Gears book because she writes brilliant characters, but I'd rather be reading her Wes Har books or her Republic Commando ones. Maybe if she's stepping slightly outside of game territory the next book will have fewer constrictions. I will read it, of course. (less)
These little Dr Who hardback books are usually pretty undemanding and can be whizzed through in a couple of hours, satisfying a general lack of all th...moreThese little Dr Who hardback books are usually pretty undemanding and can be whizzed through in a couple of hours, satisfying a general lack of all things Doctor Who in the starvation year of no-proper-season-and-just-four-specials. Why, then, did this one take me weeks? Stephen Cole is usually a reliable writer, but this book just didn’t; spark for me at all. Set in 22nd century Africa it involves some priceless alien artworks buried in a dormant (or not) volcano, another set of alien treasure hunters, a sciebtist that wants to create a food crop to save the world and a revolution. The protagonists are the Tenth Doctor and Rose... but they didn’t jump off the page at me this time. I'd rather read some good fanfic.(less)
Ah, what can I say? I was 13 when the movie came out and I saw it so many times I could chant along with the dialogue, so of course I had to have the...moreAh, what can I say? I was 13 when the movie came out and I saw it so many times I could chant along with the dialogue, so of course I had to have the book. And there it is, still on my bookshelf. I guess I just can't bear to part with it.(less)
Una McCormac: The Way Through the Woods A Doctor Who novel
I'm always wary of tie in novels. However well written they are never going to deliver surpri...moreUna McCormac: The Way Through the Woods A Doctor Who novel
I'm always wary of tie in novels. However well written they are never going to deliver surprises because the writers are not allowed to change canon. Having said that I'm always willing to read tie-ins by people I know and whose writing I admire and Una McCormack is one of those people. Already well known for her Star Trek DS9 tie-ins this is her first Doctor Who novel, though not her last. It’s a story featuring Eleven, Amy and Rory, set some time after Rory and Amy have tied the knot, and delivers a stand-alone story involving creepy goings on in a bit of ancient English woodland. Once every fifty years someone disappears. The locals know all about it, but there's a conspiracy of silence. Things are about to come to a head when a new policeman comes to town determined to get to the bottom of the latest disappearance. If only the Doctor wasn't locked in the cells he might be able to help, but Amy's on the case, only a hundred years behind Rory.
At around 50,000 – maybe 55,000 words, this could be read and enjoyed by anyone of 9 and upwards but adult Whovians won't find it beneath them. It achieves an excellent balance. The story is intriguing, slightly surreal, a bit scary and some nice tension, but not gory and with a nice satisfactory ending. (less)
This is the original novel that the TV series 'Six Million Dollar Man' was based on, but I read this way back before the TV debut and loved it. Alas i...moreThis is the original novel that the TV series 'Six Million Dollar Man' was based on, but I read this way back before the TV debut and loved it. Alas it was a library copy so I can't go back to re-read it now.(less)
This is one of Karen's later Star Wars books, but will please fans of her Republic Commando series as here she does what she does best – takes a bunch...moreThis is one of Karen's later Star Wars books, but will please fans of her Republic Commando series as here she does what she does best – takes a bunch of unknown characters including Jedi knights, clone troopers, a battleship captain and a spy, and chronicles a very short span of their activity in the clone wars, where the good guys are supposed to be the Republic and the bad guys are the separatists. Yes, OK, we do have Annakin Skywalker, his Padawan Ahsoka and clone Captain Rex from the animated movie, but this isn't a formulaic adventure featuring characters we already know. Instead it's Karen asking hard questions again – about identity, human rights and the nature of love.
Spy, Halena, secret lover of Gil Pallaeon, captain of newly refitted assault ship, Leveler, is sent to the planet Athar to gather information about any proposed separatist activity and a potential threat to remove the current republic-friendly government by the downtrodden masses. Unfortunately she's not given enough information and the invasion is already underway. Rumbled almost immediately she requests extraction and Pellaeon and the Leveler happen to be the closest vessel. Unfortunately the refit hasn't been entirely successful and they're on a shakedown cruise with civilian engineers on board who are trying to fix a computer glitch which has taken their most effective weapons offline.
Added to that Annakin Skywalker has sent Captain Rex with Ahsoka and half a dozen fresh-out-of-training clones to familiarise themselves with Leveler's upgrades – that's the theory, but in fact he's just trying to get Ahsoka out of his hair and buy himself a bit of time with Padme – at this point in the Star Wars story arc they are secretly married and Annakin is suffering enormous guilt for forming an attachment. Add to this Master Altis' Jedi sect which allows marriage and children and you have an interesting mix of characters who are going to start questioning a) why Yoda is so keen that the Republic's Jedi knights be kept so strictly single and celibate, b) how and why the Republic knew that a clone army would be needed, c) whether the Republic has the right to treat clone troops like slave soldiers whose individual lives are not important and d) whether the Republic is actually the right side to be fighting on.
This is a simple get-me-out-of-here caper. What makes it interesting are the questions. Annakin and Ahsoka come up against Altis' Jedi sect and begin to question whether attachment will turn a Jedi to the Dark Side as Yoda insists. Halena questions her activities as a spy and whether she's on the right side. But it's the clones who raise the most questions. Karen always has great sympathy for the common soldier, portraying them as complex individuals, even the ones straight out of basic training. Grown to maturity in half the time it takes for an uncloned human, the clones are children in a world that values them only for their expendability and their camaraderie is as uplifting as it is heartbreaking.
An excellent novel, and not just for die-hard Star Wars fans.(less)
I don't read comics, I have some difficulty identifying characters from the drawings – whether that's a fault in the artwork or a fault in my percepti...moreI don't read comics, I have some difficulty identifying characters from the drawings – whether that's a fault in the artwork or a fault in my perception is a moot point. However I'm a Firefly fan and a Joss Whedon fan and this full colour hardback seems to be the only way to get this story, so I splashed out. It's a beautifully presented full colour hardback with extras such as the pre-production memo for Serenity (the movie). And I can more or less tell which character is which, so a win for the illustrator, Will Conrad.
The story bridges the gap between the last episode of Firefly and the beginning of Serenity. It sees the return of Agent Dobson, with a grudge, and the Hands of Blue. It leads up to the departure of Inara and Shepherd Book and leads into the (unnamed) agent who becomes the antagonist in the movie. The story is hardly complete in itself, just a brief episode in the lives of Serenity's crew, but it does fill a hole – and anything Firefly is fine by me. (less)