Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Blood of the Mantis (Shadows of the Apt #3) by Adrian Tchaikovsky - a review

So, here we are at book 3 in Adrian Tchaikovsky's epic Shadows of the Apt series.

There is a lull in the fighting/Wasp Empire invasion of The Lowlands due, mainly, to the onset of Winter and also to the military events in book 2 and this gives the author and the reader chance to visit more of the world only partially revealed so far. This actually turned out to be a bit of a relief as the first two books had seen a lot of fighting/warfare and this was a welcome change of pace.

As before there are new Kinden (races) introduced here and new characters ( I was particularly taken with the Fly Kinden pilot Taki - a great addition to the cast from the very beginning of the book). We also get more into the character of Uctebri, the mosquito Kinden, who I'm sure will be at the centre of everything bad and evil before too long.

As I said before, Blood of the Mantis is less about the fighting, so there is more espionage/politics but it does not make it any less of a gripping ride. Many questions - who is working for who, who can you trust etc. and I guess the rule would have to be trust no-one.

Add into the mix the chase for a magical McGuffin (in this case the box that was stolen in book 2), which leads the story down more traditional fantasy paths and what you have here is another intriguing chapter in what looks like becoming one of my al time favourite fantasy series.

AND IT HAS AN EXPANDED MAP!!!!!!!! (sorry about that but I do like a good map)

The only downside to this book is that at 424 pages it is a good bit shorter than the previous books in the series but I guess it was as long as it needed to be. Normal Big Book service will be resumed as soon as possible ;-D

4.5/5 stars

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Adrift On The Sea Of Rains by Ian Sales (a review)

The general scenario for this had me from the offset - A small group of men, engineers, scientists, military, stranded on the moon as the Earth dies in a nuclear holocaust. The once 'Big Blue Marble' is just a dead grey orb. The only hope of salvation lies with a 'gadget' that may help them find an alternative/parallel Earth. If they succeed, though, will they be able to reach it with their limited resources and what kind of Earth will they find?

This is a tightly written and tense, atmospheric book. I don't tend to use phrases like "not a word wasted" but in this case I will. There is a sense of loss and desperation amongst the men that is palpable.You also get a backstory of the lead character that fills in the details of what leads. up to the final days of life on Earth

I will say there are a lot of abbreviations both scientific and military but worry not, there's a glossary at the back. And, to be fair, you do get a good idea of what the abbreviated things are so you probably won't find yourself looking everything up.

Not a long book but a lot of story all the same, and just the right length. As the first in a quartet it does the job by making me want to read the rest.

A job well done

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Plague Town by Dana Fredsti - a review

First off, 2 questions;

1) Do you enjoy stories of the Zombie Apocalypse?, and,

2) Are you a fan of Buffy The Vampire Slayer?

If you answered yes to either of these questions you are pretty much going to like this book. If you answered yes to both questions there is no real doubt, you are going to love Plague Town.The reason for this will become obvious from pretty early on - Plague Town is pretty much Buffy The Zombie Slayer - and it carries the comparison well.

Our heroine for this series (there are 2 more that follow: Plague Town and Plague World) is Ashley Parker, a 29 year old Student and resident of Redwood Grove. As the story starts Ashley is just getting over a bout of Walker's Flu, a strain of flu that is doing the rounds. She is one of the lucky ones - most people are dying from it.....and then coming back. She also survives a zombie attack while out with her boyfriend. When she wakes up she finds she is 'special'.There are only a few who survive the attacks but those few seem to develop enhanced powers (not proper superhero type powers, more things like enhanced senses, rapid healing etc.) These select few, known as Wild Cards are enlisted by the Powers That Be to be trained as a 'Zombie Defence Squad'

There are a lot of good things going for this book - it flows at a good pace (I finished this in 2 days), the virus and it's effect (apart from the name, but I'll come to that later) are believable and the sense of 'impending doom' is never far away. There is also a lot of weaponry in this book and it is pretty obvious the author has done her homework.

On the downside (and it's not that bad really) I wasn't happy with the virus name (Walker's Flu) - you catch Walker's flu, you die, you come back as a 'Walker' (as the walking dead are known) - just felt a bit lazy. Another peeve I had was with the character of Ashley herself. She's a 29 year old but at times comes across as being much younger - but that could be just due to the people she is with (there are more younger members of the Wild Cards than older)

Don't let this put you off though - this is a real page turner of a book and I will certainly be following the further adventures of Ashley Parker and her fellow Wild Cards

7/10 stars

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Dragonfly Falling (Shadows of the Apt #2) by Adrian Tchaikovsky - a review

As I said before, my intention with this series is to do a short review of each book and a full review of the series of a whole when I have finished reading it.

So, here we go with book 2 - Dragonfly Falling....

The army of the Wasp Empire is still carrying on with their invasion of The Lowlands and The Lowlands are fighting back as best they can. And that is the main crux of this volume - Warfare. There are several major battles (no spoilers but if you've read Empire in Black and Gold you'll not be surprised to find one of them is the battle for Tark) and these are graphic battles. War is not a pleasant experience and Mr Tchaikovsky makes a great job of making the scenes quite brutal at times. Unlike in many books of this ilk though this, thanks to the Artificers, is a war of invention. People are basically inventing newer and more efficient ways to destroy the enemy and this is another area where the author excels as these people have to deal with the aftermath of what they have created.

As well as many of the old faces from 'Empire' we are introduced to a whole host of new characters, races and places. Not everyone may be where you would expect them to be by the conclusion, but again, they all have their reasons. There is a good amount of foreshadowing which promises well for future books but, to be honest, this series has got its' hooks well and truly into me so I would have been after the in the series anyway.

How good is this as a series? Lets just say I have plenty of books on my To Be Read pile but although I planned on reading 'Shadows of the Apt' one book every month or so, interspersed with others, within a couple of hours of finishing Dragonfly Falling Stenwold, Che, Grief in Chains et al were calling and I had to listen.

So, next up, Blood of the Mantis

See you soon ;-D

Friday, 30 January 2015

Sorrow's Isle by Jen Williams - a review

I don't tend to give 5 star ratings to short stories but in this case I'm making an exception. The reason behind this is simple - this story, set before the events of The Copper Promise, is just what a good short should be. The characters, Sir Sebastian and the wonderful Wydrin of Crosshaven fit comfortably into the narrative, making it feel like time spent with old friends, and the story itself doesn't try too hard to be too clever and deep.

It is a straightforward quest story with our heroes hired to find a girl missing on the titular island. You get action, peril, all in the right amounts. I've said before that The Copper Promise was very much in the style of the old Dungeons and Dragons game. That being the case both this short and the forthcoming sequel are like expansion packs - new lands, new creatures etc .

The writing and storytelling of Jen Williams is an absolute joy so treat yourself to Sorrow's Isle and join Sebastian and Wydrin on their quest - you'll be glad you did.

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Empire in Black and Gold by Adrian Tchaikovsky (a review)

This is the first book in the Shadows of the Apt series, a 10 book set (and not small books either). My plan is to give a brief review on the blog for each book in the series and do the main review for the series as a whole when I'm done.

The world here is a world at the start of its' industrial age but also a world on the brink of war. Thanks to the industrial revolution angle we get to see a slightly different world to what we usually get with this type of story and also the introduction of things like mechanical transporters, railways, airships and the likes (giving it a steampunk/fantasy hybrid feel at times)

The big selling point though are the races of man. Each different race shares characteristics with an insect so you have, for example, Beetle kinden, Spider kinden, Dragonfly kinden, each with different abilities, I expected to maybe struggle with this at first but they are written in such a way that it all feels natural.

The characters develop well throughout the course of the book (and they have to grow up quickly as Mr Tchaikovsky really puts them through the wringer at times)

As the first book in a series 'Empire' sets things up nicely with more or less non stop action and a nice lead into book 2. I have high hopes for Shadows of the Apt and, having started book 2, I see no reason to doubt that this will become a series held up there with the 'fantasy classics' in time

4.5/5 stars

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Comedians vs Horror Writer - 2 reviews in 1

Two books up for review here. The first is Dead Funny, a collection of horror stories by comedians, edited by Robin Ince and Johnny Mains, of which I was sent a review copy. The second is The Adventures of Dalton Quayle by Paul Kane (a book I purchased for myself).

The reason I am reviewing both books together is simple - one is horror stories by comedians, the other is comedy by a horror writer. I was curious to how they would compare against each other and who would do best in the others genre.

So, first up Dead Funny. As soon as I heard of this collection I knew it would appeal to me so getting a review copy was a bonus really. There are 16 stories in this set, by comedians you will have heard of and some you may not, names like Rufus Hound, Al Murray, Phil Jupitus, Sara Pascoe, Katy Brand and Reece Shearsmith. As a collection there are some very dark tales here especially the opener 'Dog' by Reece Shearsmith, which I found quite unsettling. I guess I knew from there this was going to be a good read. Al Murray's 'For Everyone's Good' was also a stand out for me

Not every story is great but I didn't find any that didn't really belong. If you are looking for a good and dark collection you won't go far wrong with this.

And so we move on to The Adventures of Dalton Quayle by Paul Kane. Now, I will let it be said here, Paul Kane is one of my favourite authors of the last few years. For this collection PK steps away from the horror scene (slightly) and heads into humour with a bunch of stories that owe a lot to Sherlock Holmes with a lot of nods to genre films.

The stories, as with Holmes, are told from the journal of Dalton Quayle's friend and associate Dr Humphrey Pemberton. There are other hints of Holmes (Inspector Le Strange, the house keeper Mrs Hudsucker, his arch enemy Siphiliti). The settings range from the English countryside to the Wild West (Dalton Quayle Rides Out) via the depths of the sea (Dalton Quayle's Wet One). Each tale is a fun read and each mystery is nicely tied up. A very satisfying collection that had me laughing out load many times, and sometimes just rereading lines and passages in awe of PK's skill with wordplay. A book I will certainly comeback to again.

So, which comes out on top of the two books? Dead Funny is maybe not what you would expect from comedians but is a very good idea for a collection and hopefully there will be a volume two (if you're reading this Robin and Johnny please consider it ;-D), Dalton Quayle was also not quite what I was expecting - much funnier than I thought it would be and, for someone who is a big Sherlock Holmes and genre fan a joy to read.

I guess I'm going to call this a dead heat. Two books that are both worth your perusal and enjoyment.

Dead Funny - 4.5/5 stars

The Adventures of Dalton Quayle - 4.5/5 stars