Archive for amazing

DOWN UNDER By Bill Bryson – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 25, 2011 by stanleyriiks

I bought this book just before going to Australia myself and never got round to reading it. I have to say that although it’s an interesting account of Bryson’s travels around Oz, and his amusing anecdotes offer a little insight into the country, I didn’t really miss much.

It’s an interesting book rather than fascinating. Amusing rather than funny.

The problem is exactly what drives people to read Bryson’s books, their very ordinariness. His adventures (using the term loosely) around Australia were almost as exciting as mine. The places he visited similarly to mine, although I didn’t get to the outback or Perth, I definitely saw more of Melbourne than he did, and my brief trip to Sydney seemed to encompass more than his.

The insights aren’t anything special either. You only have to talk to a couple of Australian and visit their cities to see the issues they have with the Aborigines.

Australia is an interesting and very new and empty country, and you get that idea from Bryson’s book. His travels around the country offer an insight if you haven’t ever been, but it’s much more fun to explore yourself. You’ll likely come to similar conclusions.

Where Bryson’s book does excel is his research. There are some fascinating histories in here amidst the middle-of-the-road traveller’s adventures. He seems to spend every evening in a bar having a beer, a traditional Aussie past-time perhaps, but hardly exciting for the reader.

Down Under isn’t a massive success, nor is it a massive failure. It’s difficult to get excited about the book either way. I neither feel compelled to read another of his book, nor bothered to remember not to.

Unlike a guidebook you don’t feel the sense of exciting of discovery, and Bryson’s mild excitement isn’t really enough to make you want to discover more.

May be this is one of his off books, and may be they’re all like this. I just can’t be bothered to find out.

KELL’S LEGEND By Andy Remic – Reviewed

Posted in Morpheus Tales Magazine, Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 31, 2010 by stanleyriiks

How do you create a possible successor to one of the greatest fantasy characters to ever live? I’m obviously talking about sword and sorcery legend Conan. The Cimmerian Barbarian has entertained readers for eighty years, and film goers for thirty. There hasn’t been a new Conan novel for a long time, but if you read any of the Tor novels you’ll find them remarkably similar – a plot on rails with very little imagination.

Conan is a prototypical fantasy barbarian, with well-known characteristics that many have tried to emulate.

Kell’s departure from these characteristics is what makes this story work so well. He’s a grumpy old man, a warrior past his prime and discarded by society, hiding away in a small northern town where he makes soup and is visited by his granddaughter, Nienna. After one such visit, the ears of the old warrior prickle as he hears screams. His door is kicked in by albino warriors who bleed white blood when he kills them using his trusted blood-bond axe, Ilanna, and the fight is on to save Nienna. It soon becomes clear that the albino soldiers are part of an invading army, and Kell is joined in his cause by a seducer and popinjay Saark, who’s more interested in saving his own skin and bedding Nienna or her friend Kat.

The invasion is led by General Graal, a leader of the Vachine, a race part vampire part machine. Graal is a cruel and twisted warrior who will stop at nothing to capture the entire human race, so that he and his people may feed.

Kell is a hero for the modern era, complete with idiosyncrasies, a deep and troubled history, and dealing with his own set of problems whilst struggling desperately to survive. The other characters in the novel are also very well drawn, and as the world gradually expands on their voyage, so too does the world become more detailed.

This book isn’t read as much as it is experienced. It draws you in deeply in the first hundred pages and then, as more and more dangers are thrown at our band, you feel you are surviving with them. Remic isn’t afraid to kill off a great character or throw in another challenge to spice things up and ramp up the tension. You can’t help feeling like you have to hold on tight just to stay on for the ride. It’s that tension and excitement that make the book stand out. There is real danger here. In most fantasies you know that the main characters are always safe because they have to appear in the next book, but although this is Book I of the Clockwork Vampire Chronicles, it’s not the Tales of Kell chronicles and you really do believe that at any moment another character could be killed. There’s an evil and twisted streak to Remic, which not only gives us added danger (and a little torture), but also provides the grim humour that is sadly lacking for many modern fantasy novels.

Okay, so it’s not perfect. For a start, you have to wait for the second instalment. (Grr! I have no patience.) There are far more typos than you would expect from a major publishing house and this can be bothersome, but not overly so. Also, the start of the story is a little slow, but only for the first couple of chapters and then it’s full speed ahead!

Kell’s Legend is a rare book. It’s one of those reads that makes you sit up and slaver with excitement. It has the page-turning quality of a thriller, the depth of an epic, the kind of protagonist that comes round one in a lifetime, and a story that twists and turns like a snake. It’s imaginative, brilliant, exciting, amazing, and truly inspiring. Yeah, I really did fucking love this book!

The cliffhanger ending will leave you on the edge of your seat begging for the next instalment. This series has the potential to be truly legendary and I really can’t wait for the next chapter.

This review appeared in Morpheus Tales 8 Reviews Supplement:

DRAGON By Clive Cussler – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 27, 2010 by stanleyriiks

I read my last Clive Cussler book a little before I bought this one, way back in 1990. Then I was trying to broaden my reading, which basically consisted of every horror novel I could lay my hands on. It’s been on my shelf now for nearly twenty years, but finally I get around to reading it, and it’s not too bad.

Dirk Pitt is Cussler’s American version of James Bond, brought up to date (to a certain extent), but he has very similar skills and manners. A brusque, no nonsense, man’s man. Smack up to date as head of the National Underwater Marina Agency, Pitt even gets himself a sidekick in the form of Giordino.

So, will Pitt be similarly given a grand Bond-Villain, a girl to capture the heart of, seemingly impossible feats and tasks to overcome, and a gripping, edge of your seat finale that sees him save the world. Oh yes. Dragon has all guns blazing!

Pitt is doing some secret underwater mining in the Pacific when a nuclear explosion on a ship miles away alerts him and the US Government of a plot to plant a number of nuclear weapons in strategic locations around the US as a form of industrial terrorism. The enemy, those pesky Japs. (Who were the biggest threat to the US back in the good old days of the early nineties!)

Despite several intelligence agencies knowing about it, Pitt almost single-handedly tracks down the source of the nuclear-cars, and then… well, he gets on with saving the world.

Very reminiscent of the Bond novels, Pitt is the quintessential hero. Despite the modernisation, our hero and the over-the-top enemy, remain so close to the original it’s quite amazing Cussler’s editors let him get away with it.

This book is great fun, exciting and adventurous. Nothing amazing, not that original, and slightly dated, but still great fun.


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