The Long Earth series has been a real mixed bag for me and hasn't quite delivered as well as it should given the premise available and whilst its premThe Long Earth series has been a real mixed bag for me and hasn't quite delivered as well as it should given the premise available and whilst its premise and creative talent involved keeps me reading, The Long Mars unfortunately ends up being one of the weaker books from both Pratchett and Baxter, as it looks at the aftermath of the Yellowstone Eruption and the years that followed, following an en masse retreat into multiple other worlds away from the Dantum Earth. It's a great concept that really makes the most out of the parallel worlds and is one of the main reasons why I keep coming back to this series, the world - or Universe building, is simply on another level altogether.
The main real problem comes to the three separate storylines and it's clear that the book doesn't really need the three because they basically feel kind of repetitive and as a result limit the potential made available. It's like too much time was spent on the world building and the characters and plot suffered as a result, with scarcely any memorable characters present in a story that ultimately is underwhelming and never takes off the ground, lacking a clear defining plot that moves the book forward.
Ultimately it's a book that I really wanted to love but couldn't quite get invested in. There's infinite possibilities to explore but unfortunately the book never really well, explores them. The book also suffers from a case of it looking like the writers threw everything at the wall in an attempt to see what sticks - something that seems to be Marvel's approach to bringing out new comics right now. Like eventually you'll get a few good elements (Sticking with the Marvel approach this results in good comics like The Mighty Thor, All New Wolverine and Vision), but the negativity outweighs the positivity in this one.
Don't get me wrong, I still liked how some parts of the book pulled off and it's far from a bad book, but it just doesn't live up to the potential and is certainly not up to the quality that you'd expect from the collaboration of great writers like Terry Pratchett and Steven Baxter. Hopefully the series picks up in the next installment which I am going to read fairly shortly though, because right now it can't help but feel underwhelming. ...more
Dystopian young adult fiction is a genre that seems to be suffering from an over-saturation ever since the rise in popularity of The Hunger Games, and we’ve had countless of books billed as the next big thing, with The Maze Runner and Divergent franchises following suit in quick succession as they were adapted into movies. However perhaps the best of all four is Pierce Brown’s trilogy, starting with the titular opener Red Rising, which is darker and grittier than all three, incredibly violent and action packed from start to finish, set in an imaginative world that makes the most out of a Roman/Greek inspired origin.
As I’d recently read An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir I was reminded of a few similarities in the plot, with Darrow working undercover to bring down a regime much like the protagonist in that novel. But Darrow feels more realised, more memorable, and although he’s not perfect, being to hot-headed and quick to anger, he’s actually pretty well developed and grows throughout the book as he struggles to deal with the fallout of finding that not only is his wife dead, but also his entire life is a lie. His character can sometimes throw you off and can be frustrating, but there are other times when he really shines.
The book has echoes of The Hunger Games in its structure with fights to the deaths between groups of kids but handles it in a different approach. There’s a caste system which the dominate Golds rule over Mars, whilst he belongs to the lowest class of the Red, who are slaves. Darrow is a Helldiver, a miner on the Red Planet, and it’s all he’s ever known. When he’s thrown out of his familiar surroundings into new terrain he has to watch himself, lest he be caught using terms that only a Red would use. There’s this constant high stakes feeling throughout Red Rising, that constant danger as though nobody is safe. Darrow isn’t afraid to do the killing as well, with a notable memorable sequence happening to one of the characters who would have probably made it out in a book not as grimdark as this.
Whilst the setting and story may be fairly generic I couldn’t help but be entertained with this mostly well written drama that provides an excellent series starter even if the beginning is a fairly slow burner. The book really picks up about three quarters of the way through, as you learn more and more about the world which itself is richly developed.
I was reminded a lot of the Warhammer 40k Universe as well in the world-building and I could imagine something like this happening on a planet in the Universe, obviously with a few changes here and there. Obviously fans of The Hunger Games will enjoy this one as well and the groundwork is also laid here for some possible space combat in future novels, which is touched upon well. The Caste system that Brown develops is rich and well developed, exploring not just the Red and Golds but also White, Blue, Pink and more with each given a different task. It makes a bit more sense than the Divergent system for example but again it begs the question why must every other YA dystopia involve some kind of system like this?
Blending the Roman and Greek mythology together well, Red Rising is a very solid read if not really an original tale. Darrow does feel as though he can get pretty much everything right constantly and comes across as a male Mary-Sue equivalent at times. But whilst Darrow is flawed in that approach he is reasonably well developed in others, and the plot is tense enough to keep readers hooked, because this is a literal page-turner that was impossible to put down for me and as soon as I started I quickly found that I couldn’t stop reading.
Red Rising finds a way to out-do the brutality of The Hunger Games and holds nothing back to create a bold if flawed entry to the young adult genre that’s considerably darker than others of its ilk. Having already read the second in the trilogy, Golden Son, it’s already shaping up to be one of the better young adult series available right now and comes recommended as a result....more
So far the new expanded universe has been a very promising one with several stellar novels from awesome writers. Not a single novel that I’ve read has been a disappointment, with titles like Dark Disciple, Lost Stars and Lords of the Sith being very exciting indeed. But few books so far from the expanded universe have been able to explore the period between that of The Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens, or at least in any great detail, so that is where Bloodline comes in, and it’s a thrilling political novel that holds nothing back as Claudia Gray once again reminds us of why she’s one of this new Star Wars Universe’s best writers.
Politics was unfortunately one of the weakest parts of Lucas’ prequel trilogy as they never really worked and were often boring. Put aside any worries of that being repeated here though as Gray manages to make it interesting, dispensing of the usual Jedi vs. Sith battles that most Star Wars writers go for in favour of a more behind the scenes look into how things are run in the Star Wars Universe. The book explores what spurred Leia to create another Rebellion, or in this case, the Resistance, and with help from Episode XVIII director Rian Johnson, sheds some light on the events that led us to The Force Awakens, putting Leia in the spotlight.
Seeing Leia take centre stage is great because she’s one of my favourite Star Wars characters and Gray writes her very well indeed. Her experience as a hero of the Rebellion really shows, taking threats seriously whereas other politicians don’t for example. She’s tasked with dangers on all sides, including from her past due to her parentage as Vader’s daughter.
The book is set a few years before the events of The Force Awakens but don’t expect to see questions like the identities of Rey’s parents asked here, and indeed, there’s not a lot of focus on any of the other trio of Luke and Han, although we do get to see how well Han is coping with a ship that isn’t the Falcon. It’s Leia’s book, and it really shows, playing to her strengths as a character very well.
Political intrigue hasn't always been Star Wars’ strongest element but Gray has managed to pull it off well, bringing some great development to the table in terms the characters featured here. Bloodline also manages to move along at a great pace as well, handling its complex plot strongly. Once again Gray has continued to establish herself as one of the most promising Star Wars writers in the new expanded universe and I really can’t wait to see what she comes up with next. A must read for fans of the film series. ...more
Adrian Tchaikovsky is one of my favourite science fiction/fantasy writers and I really love his Shadows of the Apt series so I was interested to see what he’d do with science fiction in this Clarke-award nominated novel that I couldn’t wait to get stuck into. This book is instantly on par with the best of the decalogy though, and explores a fascinating concept that really pays off.
The book covers a wide timeline and the amount of world-building put into this novel really shows, with some great plotting that blends several different storylines together very well. Tchaikovsky tackles several things in this novel that range from the evolution of a species to humanity travelling in a ship looking for a new planet to settle on, very reminiscent of Battlestar Galactica, except here they’re fleeing Earth rather than searching for it. The plot keeps the reader hooked and the diverse concepts that this book explores here will attract anyone looking for a thrilling standalone science fiction read.
The characters are all believable and you’ll want to get behind them and support them. They’re just as interesting as the origin of the species that we also follow, and the exploration of both sides is excellent, and the ending will simply leave readers breathless, it’s that good. Also worth noting is that cover, which I really, really like, and is instantly-eye catching.
Sometimes books with interesting premises fail to be properly executed but Children of Time is pulled off so well you’ll be left awed as Tchaikovsky delivers one of the best novels of 2015 and I’m really regretting not reading this sooner because chances are it would have been in my Top 10 of last year for sure. If you've missed out on Tchaikovsky's Shadows of the Apt series and want a taster as to his work you really should consider picking this one up as soon as you can. You won't regret it! ...more
Warning: Minor Spoilers for The Force Awakens but no major plot points revealed. Proceed at your own risk.
The Force Awakens was one of my favourite movies of last year, coming in only behind The Hateful Eight and Mad Max: Fury Road, joining Steve Jobs and The Martian in the top five. It was a nostalgic trip through the greatness that captured the awe-inspiring feel of the original trilogy, reuniting us with fan favourite characters and introducing us to some great new ones in the process, arguably establishing itself as the third or even second best film out of the entire series. So when the novelization was released I knew I was going to read it sooner or later and it didn’t disappoint, offering the same thrills as well as some brief new content that fleshes out on the more problematic parts of the film that were left unexplained.
Alan Dean Foster is a veteran to movie tie-ins and has written for a whole host of films in the past so it was easy to see why he was chosen to helm this novelization. The story feels smoothly paced and really captures the same feel of the film, with the moments when Han and Chewie arrive on the Falcon for example are just as good as the scenes later on in the film, when the action reaches its peak. Foster manages to answer some plot holes that would have been cut from the film presumably due to pacing issues, such as Poe’s fate after he and Finn crashland the TIE-Fighter and how he manages to make it back to the Resistance. It’s a brief scene that really works, and allows us to spend more time with Poe who didn’t have as much screentime as Rey and Finn in the film.
There’s so much stuff that goes on here it provides a great excuse for revisiting the film so soon after its release in cinema. I’ve seen it twice on the big screen and each time the experience was just incredible so it’s great to see the experience recaptured here in novelization format. It also makes me wonder how much of an impact the Star Wars films would have had had they debuted as novels. Whilst The Force Awakens novelization may miss the epic soundtrack that the film has to offer, you can easily remedy that by listening to John Williams’ score as you flick through the pages, making the novel a very quick read, which is also probably due to its relatively short size as one of the thinnest Star Wars novels so far in the new canon.
Don’t expect any great mysteries such as the identities of Rey’s parents to be answered however, as you’ll have to wait until Episode 8 or maybe even 9 to learn the truth, if they’re addressed at all. There’s still several elements of the unknown left unrevealed, whilst some minor problems are cleared up at the same time. If you’re looking for a stop-gap to read until the release of Rogue One that fits in with the feel of the original trilogy and have already read the awesome Aftermath, then The Force Awakens novelization should be right up your street. Recommended.
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.
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.