Archive for adventure

CONAN AND THE TREASURE OF PYTHON By John Maddox Roberts – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 20, 2016 by stanleyriiks

Maddox Roberts has a lot to answer for. When I was fourteen years old I walked home from school past the local WH Smiths, and had a look at some of their books. I picked out Conan the Valorous because I liked the cover. I bought it and went home, started reading and nine pages in I put the book down, went back to WH Smiths and bought a couple more.

Since then there has rarely been a time when I’m not reading a book. And although I’ve come to realise that the newer Conan novels aren’t really a patch on Howard’s originals, they are still great sword and sorcery.

Conan is bored having a drink at an inn when he takes on the job of escorting a beautiful woman, her brother-in-law and their scholarly friend, deep into the mysterious Coast of Bones to help find her husband.

It rapidly becomes clear that Conan has been lied to about the purpose of their journey; they are in fact in search of treasure, as well as the missing husband/brother. With a gang of cut-throat pirates to try to keep control of the Cimmerian must also travel through strange forests, cannibal-infested lands, and jungles, all the while followed by murderous Stygians.

The Conan books offer adventure, exploration, and excitement. There is fighting, sorcery, beautiful women, and evil. They are simple, enjoyable, entertainment.

Roberts does it again, another exciting fantasy adventure. More Conan please!

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LEGION By Dan Abnett – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 30, 2013 by stanleyriiks

The action writer who started off the Horus Heresy series returns to familiar ground in this, another novel of the expansion of the Heresy “Universe”. While the first three novels is the series set up the Heresy, this and the previous novel in the series (Descent of Angels) set up/explore other parts of the unsuspecting human empire in which the terror of the Heresy will take place.

In this novel, for the first time we are focussed on the Imperial Army rather than the Space Marine Astartes. Soneka and Bronzi are het (kinds of sergeants) in the Imperial war effort on Nurth, a lost planet, one previously colonised by Terra, but lost over time. The army has invaded and fights against the resistance to get the world of Nurth to comply. Matters are complicated by a spy called Konig Heniker, but is he a double agent? And what are the mysterious Alpha Legion keeping secret, apart from their presence? And who are this strange Cabal that is pulling the strings in private?

This is an intriguing novel, more double-crossing, spies and secrets, than action and violence. Of course, there is some action and violence, but a bit more rather than the politics and intrigue might have been nice.

I understand why Gamesworkshop and The Black Library are expanding this incredibly successful series into an entire universe of books, but I would like them to focus more on the pivotal characters within the Heresy Horus: the Emperor and the Primarchs.

This is another instalment that feels a little like padding.

There’s plenty of story still to take place from the main characters in the Heresy, the central protagonists, so why are we getting a story like this? Are these characters going to be playing a part in the conspiracy at a later stage? If they are then fine, but can’t it be as part of a shorter series, like a trilogy of books, like the first three books in the Heresy series.

I can’t help but think the story is being expanded to fill the wallets of Gamesworkshop rather than to tell the story that needs to be told, the story of the actual Heresy.

Am I being impatient? I am over-reacting?

Possibly. This is good stuff from Abnett, who is always good value. It’s not his best work, Horus Rising or the Eisenhorn novels are excellent, with tons more action, adventure and excitement.

I hope that this novel of secrecy and intrigue is an integral part of the tale of the Heresy, otherwise I’m going to feel a little bit cheated.

THE DEPARTURE By Neal Asher – Reviewed

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 1, 2013 by stanleyriiks

A few hundred years in the future, the world is run by the Committee: an evil, faceless bureaucracy that punishes disagreeable thought, and polices the world with robotic killers, and the Inspectorate (a military police force who crack down on the populace without mercy). Earth is running out of food, resources are depleted after the world is raped and abused. Billions must die so that the Committee can continue to rule those that are left, those deemed societally valuable. Those not valuable to society or the Committee (zero-assets or ZAs) will be killed, slaughtered by a massive set of lasers orbiting the planet.

The small Mars colony is abandoned by a resource hungry Earth, the Committee set about planning the murder of those not valuable enough to continue living when one of them finds out about the Committee’s plans. A rebellion is about to take place on Mars.

Alan Saul wakes up on his way to an incinerator (where the Committee sends its enemies), and sets about causing as much pain as he can to the Committee and those responsible to turning him into the man he is today. The man who remembers nothing of his past over than it was wiped from his memory by pain.

This is Asher’s modern take on 1984.

I’m a bit of a fan of Asher, and I do mean a bit. I really enjoyed the adventure and exploration of The Skinner, but found the second book in the Spatterjay series, The Voyage of the Sable Keech to be repetitive and disappointing, so I was looking forward to trying a new series from the author. This one looked a little more action-packed, so I thought I’d give this a go. To a certain extent it is action-packed, but Asher’s writing style doesn’t lend itself to speed and pace, there is a lot of description, and everything is explained fully so the world we explore is finely detailed and exciting. But there’s a distinct lack of speed, the action is realised with Asher’s trademark adventure style (like paddling along a river in a row boat [albeit a river filled with flesh-eating monsters and surrounded on all sides from immortal pirates]), not the pace and drive of an Andy Remic novel (a rollercoaster thrill-ride that’ll take your breath away).

Having said that the book builds nicely towards the climax, even if the action sequences aren’t as action-packed or as fast-paced as you might expect. The world is a genuinely entertaining dystopia, and Asher’s characters are compelling, Saul in particular is someone who is massively memorable.

This is part of the Owner series, and do not misunderstand, this is in no way a stand-alone novel. It ends on a massive cliff-hanger halfway through the story, and you have to continue with Zero Point, the second book in the series which I will be reading shortly.

Asher has created an amazing world and some great characters, but the promise of an action-lead novel doesn’t quite materialise. This is more of the same, adventure and excitement, not a full, in-your-face action-a-thon.  Still enjoyable, and I’ll be reading Zero Point to make sure I find out how the stories continues, as it just gets really interesting at the end of this book.

THUNDERBALL By Ian Fleming – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 4, 2013 by stanleyriiks

Possibly the most controversial of the Bond stories, as this story was developed for an original film, which wasn’t made until years later, and Fleming was sued by the film’s producers for stealing the story.

That story is of the terrorist organisation SPECTRE, overseen by Ernst Blofeld, who have stolen two nuclear bombs and are holding the powers of the UK and US to ransom. On M’s hunch Bond is sent off to the quiet islands of the Bahamas to try to find out where the bombs might be and stop the dastardly plot.

What follows is typical Bond, beautiful women, adventure and spy-shenanigans.

In David Wolstencroft’s short introduction (I’m reading the Penguin editions) he says this is possibly Fleming at his most accomplished as a writer.  And although certainly the plot could be considered one of the most impressive of the Bond novels to date, and the words brim with life, the action sequences are good, but where is the vivid description of local flora and fauna? Where are the luxury items that make you drawl with envy? Is this a slightly more grown up Bond?

Thunderball is a good book, Fleming delivers a more mature and realistic tale of terror, that apart from the racist and misogynistic comments, wouldn’t look out of place in a modern thriller.

Bond is Bond, and you have to love a man who will stop at nothing to save his country and the world. When the stakes are this high, who else would you look at to save us? Bond, the original and the best.

DEATH’S HEAD: MAXIMUM OFFENCE By David Gunn – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 5, 2011 by stanleyriiks

Futuristic warfare is brutal. Just ask SvenTveskoeg, Lieutenant in the elite Death’s Head regiment of the Octovian Army, head of the go-to squad for General Jaxx, and seconded to the U/Free (superior alien race) to search for a missing ambassador on the artificial world of Hekati. Except nothing is ever as easy as it first appears for Sven, as his mission is a cover, and he doesn’t even know what his real mission is as it’s on a “need to know basis” and despite him being in charge of carrying out the mission, his superiors don’t believe he needs to know. Sven and his small team, the Aux, have to do their best to be diplomatic as they search for the missing U/Free on a world inhabited by bandits and gangs, all the while being chased by the Enlightened (humanity’s greatest enemy), and having to cope with a nineteen year old colonel who thinks he’s in charge.

But the Death’s Head series isn’t so much about plot as it is about action, here it’s delivered by the bucket-load. Fighting, battles, warfare, snipers, talking guns, spacecraft, treason and treachery, missing arms and all sort of action, excitement and adventure. There aren’t many books that could even keep pace with this face-stomping, arm twisting, rip-roaring riot of a novel. There’s little room here for developing characters (except for Sven who is our trusty narrator as well as our hero), clever plotting, or realistic futuristic worlds, all of these are secondary to the action-packed fun.

That’s not to say they’re missing, the second book in the series shows a slightly more complex structure than the first novel, there’s even a twist at the end. And the general narrative has a lot more depth, but this never takes away from the speed and excitement of the journey we’re on with the Death’s Head squad.

Only Andy Remic can hold a candle to the sheer blood-fuelled adrenaline shot that the Death’s Head books give you. There are few books as pacey or as exciting, and the second book leads so well into the third that you can’t help but leap up after finishing it, ready for more. Bring on the third book!

FIREFIGHT By Chris Ryan – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 26, 2010 by stanleyriiks

A kind of grown-up boy’s own adventure. A gritty, urban, modern James Bond, without the sexy women, the hot gadgets, or Fleming’s style. In fact without the panache, without the fast cars, and the big bad villain. Without any of the accessories that make Bond such a great character. So what do we have?

Former SAS Captain Will Jackson is a drunk, having left the regiment two years ago after the brutal murder of his wife and child in a terrorist attack. But Jackson is called in by MI5 for one last mission, to seek out Faisal Ahmed, a former CIA operative who has gone rogue and intends to target London in a massive terror attack. Jackson must put together a crack team to follow the only lead they have, to Afghanistan to attempt to save Ahmed’s sister from the Taliban in the hope that she will lead them to him.

Ryan’s writing style is basic, and even a little clumpy in areas. His characters are cardboard, his plots are weak and predictable. What he does bring to the table is authenticity, and he does that by the bucket load. Despite the failures of many parts of the book, it still manages to hold up (just), because of the small details that make you think, yes, that’s right.

There are better thrillers, there are better books, better characters, better plots, but you won’t get authenticity much better than this. For purists and fans only, the bloke is a true hero, but he’s not a novelist.

NEKROPOLIS By Tim Waggoner – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 26, 2010 by stanleyriiks

On the cover SF Site says this is an “exciting mystery”, well, I’m not sure what book they were reading, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t this one. This isn’t so much a mystery as a travelogue or an adventure.

Mathew Richter is a zombie, he’s a dead detective who followed a serial killer and warlock to the dark world of Nekropolis, the underworld where all manner of creatures live and non-live. Nekropolis is an amazing land, filled with vampires, were-creatures, witches and warlocks, talking insects, and the aforementioned zombies and other creatures of the dead. It’s a riot of Tim Burton-esque touches that will appeal to any horror and fantasy fan. A kind of really dark Harry Potter world, Diagon Alley after Voldemort takes over!

Anyways, back to the story. Mathew is contacted by a hot blond half-vampire who is in charge of her father’s – one of the five dark lords who rules Necropolis – collection of rare magical artefacts. One of the items in the collection is a powerful magical crystal capable of destroying the entire city, and today just happens to be Decension Day, when the five dark lords and Father Dis (the god and creator of Nekropolis), join forces to re-energise Umbriel, the dark moon that lights the city. And the artefact has gone missing.

So the meagre plot involves Mathew and his half-vampire friend searching the city of Nekropolis to find the artefact. But this is not about plot, it’s much more about exploring the amazing world of Nekropolis. Our protagonist is really the city, and whilst Richter and his squeeze are fairly well developed, there’s not really much to any of the other characters, and many of the citizens only make a brief appearance.

The book fails on many levels, the plot not the least as our hero goes round the entire city meeting up with someone to ask a few questions and then moving on to the next clue, and working his way round the city. The trail of clues (if you can call it that, some are tenuous to say the least!) is fairly easy to follow, or the next trip just takes them to another unexplored section of the city, seemingly at random. There isn’t really a mystery, and there’s no overall tension apart from the situational type as Richter finds himself in some sticky situations during his investigation.

But it’s still so much fun to discover the city. It’s like entering the world of nightmare, which since this book was originally written, has been explored by Tim Burton, Harry Potter and Hellboy. But this manages to be just a little darker than all of those and is all the better for it.

With a decent plot and some new material this book could be scarily good! Well, the good news is that the second and third books have been commissioned! Excellent.

Despite its failures this is still a bloody good book, and you’re unlikely to read anything else like it. It will make you grin with delight and make you want to visit the strange world of Nekropolis. It’s the perfect travel-guide, it’s just not the best novel.