Book Review — Star Wars: Aftermath

Chuck Wendig's entry into the Star Wars mythos has garnered a lot of attention and a lot of criticism. The first is not surprising given the he is essentially launching the "Journey to The Force Awakens", the second seems disproportionate to any literary or fan crimes committed. Fast Paced Present Tense One of the biggest criticisms comes from the writing style. Wendig has chosen to imitate the feeling of the Star Wars movies by using the present tense and a lot of very short or broken sentences. I think this does in fact capture the pacing of the movies very well. It may however come across as rather jarring to …Read more  »

Book Review: Lock In By John Scalzi

There's no mistaking what Lock In is, it's a police procedural. It's got a couple of twists to the formula but at its core it is unapologetically the sort of detective story that CBS would happily put in their lineup. Procedurals tend get looked down on because they rely so heavily on a certain pattern, but they're also really popular. Which should tell you something. More importantly Lock In is a well executed procedural, and the twists are interesting in their own right too. What's It All About? The story is set in the near future after a virus (named Haden's Syndrome) ravages the world on a scale close to …Read more  »

Book Review: City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett

If you're looking for something a little different for your next fantasy read then you should check out City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett. It's not epic fantasy in the traditional sense nor is it the more modern grimdark fantasy. It eschews the common pseudo middle-ages time frame and sort-of european setting. So What's It All About? Shara Thivani, a secret agent (of sorts) arrives in the city of Bulikov to investigate the murder of a noted historian.  But Shara is walking into a tense political situation. Bulikov is still recovering from the war that Shara's country Saypur waged against "the Continent". A war in which the Continent's Divinities …Read more  »

Book Review: Cursed by Benedict Jacka

The second Alex Verus novel continues in the vein of the first. Which is to say that comparisons between this urban fantasy series and Jim Butcher's Dresden novels are inevitable and in some cases obvious. That's not entirely fair because Verus is a very different character to Dresden but, as my father likes to tell me, life isn't fair. One of the challenges with reviewing series books is coming up with something new to say. Unless the author doe something radically different, the people who liked the first book will like the second, and those who didn't, won't. Benedict Jacka isn't breaking new ground here, but he's executing well. What's It …Read more  »

Book Review: The Hob’s Bargain by Patricia Briggs

Patricia Briggs' fourth book departs from her previous Sianim series of novels and presents a stand alone tale set in a new fantasy world. Eschewing the trappings of standard fantasy, Briggs this time presents us with a world inhabited by creatures that bear a close relation to those in many real world folk tales. The result is a world that feels at once familiar and different. When wild magic begins to re-awaken and her village is threatened both by human raiders and strange fairy creatures that the villagers don’t understand, Aren of Fallbrook asks the Hob for help. The hob, a magical humanoid creature who serves the local mountain, offers …Read more  »

Book Review: Ancillary Justice by Anne Leckie

I spent most of the time reading Ancillary Justice trying to work out why I didn't like this book more. After all if I was grading on a checklist this would score really well. But of course you can't apply a checklist to taste. Ancillary Justice is the first of a science fiction trilogy that has received considerable critical acclaim and it's not hard to see why. It has a grand space opera setting, there's a "big science idea" at the heart of it and there's even some rather clever sociological elements in play. But while I can objectively see all that, I never warmed to the story or the characters and it …Read more  »

Mirror of Her Dreams by Stephen R. Donaldson

This review was originally written in December 2005 and is being posted here as part of a project to gather all of my reviews into a single location. This was probably the third or fourth time I had read the Mordant's Need duology which remains to date my favorite of Donaldson's books. Mirror of Her Dreams is book one of the two book Mordant’s Need sequence written by Stephen R. Donaldson. Unlike his Thomas Covenant books, this is a more traditional fantasy sequence in what is (at least on the surface) a traditional medieval type of fantasy world. As such it is probably much more accessible than Donaldson’s other work. …Read more  »

Book Review: A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin

The following review was written in September 2000 and is being reposted here as part of a project to gather all my reviews into one location. George R. R. Martin is a well-established writer. He isn’t known for writing Fantasy though so I was curious about this book. Keeping with longstanding fantasy tradition it’s a big book and it’s the first part of a series. When I bought it I was under the impression that it was going to be a trilogy. Turns out that its actually going to be 6 books! If they’re all this big then that’s a very long story indeed. “A Game of Thrones” is set …Read more  »

Book Review: Origins of the Never by CJ Rutherford

The latest book in my #GreatIndieReviewProject is Origins of the Nether by CJ Rutherford. I have a soft spot for epic fantasy that involves elves and dragons. Yes it's a well worn area, but I still love it. So I went in to this novella predisposed to enjoy it even though I didn't know much about it. It's important to know going in that this isn't a stand alone story. It's a prequel and while it does tell a story it also leaves a lot of things to be resolved in the main book sequence. I wouldn't let that put you off too much. You'll know by the time you …Read more  »

Book Review: The Thief’s Gamble by Juliet E. McKenna

This review was originally written in September 2000 and is being reposted here as part of a project to get all my reviews hosted in one place. This, you won’t be surprised to discover, is a fantasy novel. It's also “The First Tale of Einarinn” although quite what that means isn’t clear. It might be interconnected stories or it may be a full blown series ala Jordan. Its also the author's first published work so make whatever allowances you feel appropriate. The main viewpoint character is Livak, a thief. She’s also rather full of herself, very cynical and bitchy. Given that so much of the story is seen through her …Read more  »

Book Review: The Stone Canal by Ken MacLeod

This review was originally written in September 2000. I am reposting it here as part of a project to republish all of my old reviews in one place. This is the second Ken MacLeod book I’ve read. Its part of a sequence of books, all of which share the same universe and explore certain political ideas. The Stone Canal also has particularly close links with the follow up book The Cassini Division (which I read first just to be difficult) in that the events in this book are referred to in The Cassini Division. The central characters in this book are Jon Wilde (yes the plural was deliberate). The story …Read more  »

Book Review: The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison

This book defies genre conventions in a number of ways.  It does feature a young man who turns out to be critically important to the future of a fantasy land. But the thing is that Maia, the eponymous Goblin Emperor is not special. In fact he is exceptional in his ordinariness. The story is also strangely lacking in the usual fantasy elements. There are no epic battles, there's no clear villain for most of the book and events just sort of unfold at a sedate pace. It's really more of an exploration of character and setting than it is a story. And yet it does what it does with such …Read more  »

Book Review: Red by J.B. Wise

My latest #GreatIndieReviewProject book is Red by J.B. Wise. Taking characters from classic fairy tales (in this case Red Riding Hood), bringing them to the present day and giving them a paranormal spin is a concept that is rife with potential. I see glimmers of that potential in Red but sometimes the execution gets in the way. It's worth noting that there is a novelette that precedes this story and that reading that first might better set the stage for what happens in the novel. Some of the events are referenced here but don't receive explanation which can lead to confusion for the reader. It's easy as the author to …Read more  »

Book Review: Hawkwood’s Voyage by Paul Kearney

This is part one of “The Monarchies of God”. Presumably the traditional fantasy trilogy. Which is appropriate because this is a fairly traditional fantasy story. No elves and dwarves though. Instead the author has plumped for something closer to Europe in the middle-ages. The so called “Monarchies of God” (a group of countries) are being invaded by the heathen Murduks. And they’re losing. Their most holy city has been sacked yet they wrangle amongst themselves. [amazon template=image&asin=0441009034] The church is equally.divided with men scheming to become the next High Pontif. Captain Richard Hawkwood is commissioned by the the King of Hebrion’s cousin to sail across the western ocean to a …Read more  »

Book Review: The Reality Dysfunction by Peter F. Hamilton

This is a very BIG story. I don’t just mean this (1225 page) book either since its part one of The Night’s Dawn Trilogy. I don’t just mean the trilogy is big either. The scope of the story is huge. The number of characters involved is large and the ideas aren’t exactly small either. [amazon template=image&asin=0316021806] Its hard to summarise a book of this size and nature. There are a number of plot threads running throughout the book. Only one of them could really be described as resolved by the time you read the last page. The closest thing to a main character is Joshua Carver, an exceptionally clever, lucky …Read more  »

Book Review: Fated by Benedict Jacka

It's fair to say that Fated, the first book in Benedict Jacka's Alex Verus series had a lot in common with a certain Chicago based mage.  It's a similarity that Jacka even acknowledges with an in story reference.  I'm sure there are people who will dismiss the series as a cheap copy based just on a handful of familiar elements. And that would be a shame because while it is hard not to make comparisons early on (raised by a dark mage... check!) Alex Verus is not Harry Dresden. Both his powers and his character are different. This is something that becomes increasingly obvious as the book progresses. Those Similarities... [amazon …Read more  »

Sword in the Storm by David Gemmell

David Gemmell has been writing popular fantasy books for years now and anyone who has read any of his previous works will have a rough idea what to expect from this one. In this first book of the “Rigante” series we follow the childhood of Connavar, a member of one of the Rigante clans. As he grows to adulthood he shows considerable natural talents and certain mystical beings take an unusual level of interest in him. There is nothing really new in this book. It features many of Gemmells favorite themes all mixed together with a healthy dose of tragedy. One thing I’ve noticed about Gemmell’s writing is that with …Read more  »

Book Review: Revelation Space by Alastair Reynolds

GoodReads recommendation engine has been suggesting Alastair Reynold's Revelation Space to me for a couple of years now and it's not hard to see why, after all it's epic scaled science fiction written by a British author, and that is kind of my thing. Well it finally made it to the top of my to read pile and I'm glad it did. While it starts slow by the end it's gripping stuff. So What's It All About? Nine hundred thousand years ago, something annihilated the Amarantin civilization just as it was on the verge of discovering space flight. Now one scientist, Dan Sylveste, will stop at nothing to solve the Amarantin …Read more  »

Book Review: Foundation’s Fear by Gregory Benford

I approached this book with considerable trepidation. I'm a big fan of Asimov's original Foundation Trilogy but was not overly impressed by his later additions to the series like Foundation's Edge where he attempted to tie the Foundation stories in with his robot stories. So, knowing that this book took place prior to the setting up of the Foundations, that it featured robots and that it was written not by Asimov (for obvious reasons) but by Gregory Benford, who's books I had never read….. I was, however, pleasantly surprised. This didn't strike me as a great original story, nor is it an Asimov Foundation book. What it is though is …Read more  »

Book Review: The Barbed Coil by J. V. Jones

I hadn’t read anything by J.V. Jones previously but there have been a number of positive comments on the mailing list so when I saw this book in the bookshop I decided to buy it. The plot as summarised on the back of the book is fairly traditional. Villainous King bent on conquering the world. Three disparate individuals brought together to stop him. But of course it's not the bare outline of a story that makes the book, it's the details. The villain is a strangely caring man warped by fate and supernatural forces. At points you are left feeling quite sorry for him. Likewise the three heroes are somewhat …Read more  »

Book Review: The Sum of All Men by David Farland

Right its the first part of a fantasy series. So lets get out the checklist: Our Hero is a Prince……………………….CHECK Our Heroine is a Princess………………….CHECK The villain is a powerful sorceror…………..CHECK A “great evil” is about to sweep the land…….CHECK Only our hero can prevent it………………..CHECK The cover art depicts a scene from the book wrongly and in a terribly clichéd manner…………………….CHECK But you know what they say about judging a book by its cover. This book is actually rather good. I’m certainly looking forward to part two of the series. [amazon template=image&asin=0812541626]For a start the author David Farland has come up with an interesting twist on how magic works. …Read more  »

Book Review: Foundation and Chaos by Greg Bear

Foundation and Chaos is book two of the Second Foundation Trilogy is rather different to book one. For a start Bear sticks more faithfully to the Foundation universe as described by Asimov. How important that is will vary depending on the reader. More importantly, the plot of this book feels more cohesive, resulting in a more entertaining read. [amazon template=image&asin=0061056405]The Second Foundation Trilogy covers the life of Hari Seldon, his invention of psychohistory and his setting up of the two Foundations. This particular book concentrates on the period of his life when he was put on trial by the crumbling Empire. Although Hari Seldon is the main character of the …Read more  »

Book Review: Voyage by Stephen Baxter

It seems particularly appropriate this week during the 30th Anniversary of the moon landing that I’m reviewing this particular book. Voyage is an alternative history exploring what might have happened if, following the moon landings, instead of developing the Space Shuttle, NASA had concentrated its resources to landing a man on Mars. The book starts when Neil Armstrong stands on the moon and finishes in the 80s when NASA sends a mission to Mars. The result is a fascinating but flawed look into what might have been. Baxter has obviously done a prodigious amount of research into NASA. Reading this book you learn a lot about the culture, language and …Read more  »

Book Review: Last Argument of Kings by Joe Abercrombie

Joe Abercrombie's First Law Trilogy is a remarkable work that brings epic fantasy down into the gutter. The writing is sophisticated and compelling and yet I feel the need to have a shower after I finish reading. In the third book Last Argument of Kings all the plots so carefully put into place are brought together in a series of thrilling set pieces and the answers to several puzzles are revealed. Characters and Voice [amazon template=image&asin=1591026903]One of the areas where Abercrombie excels is in giving his characters such a distinct voice and attitude. Whether it's Logen (got to be realistic, say one thing for Logen Ninefingers say he's) or Sand …Read more  »

Book Review: Kill School by Gregory Lynn

This is the fourth book review in my #GreatIndieReviewProject and once again it's a solid read that would hold up against many traditionally published work. Have you ever read a book and thought, "that was good, but it was so close to being very good"? Because that pretty much sums up my reaction to Kill School. There's nothing fundamentally wrong with the story as it stands but I think it actually has the potential to be much better. One of its strengths is certainly the goblin Hobbes himself who is just inherently likable (usually of benefit for a viewpoint character) but there are a couple of points where the events …Read more  »