Archive for alien

OUT OF THE DARK By David Weber – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 10, 2017 by stanleyriiks

How do I review this book without ruining the surprise ending that lets it all down? Ok, let’s start off with the good, there’ll be plenty of time for the bad in a minute.

Aliens decide to invade Earth.

This is an ensemble piece, following not only several human characters but also the aliens, giving us an insight into the politics of the Shongairi (a dog-like race) and their Hegemony (universe-wide coalition). The problem is that there is a little too much going on and none of the characters are well developed, or even developed a little bit.

Straight to the bad stuff. The characters are merely cardboard cut-outs. The world is half-destroyed by the alien race but who gives a shit, there is nothing in this book that really presents this as a bad thing and certainly nothing to make us care about it. For an “advanced” race the Shongairi are pretty stupid, and when they invade they are ill-prepared and equipment for infantry warfare, which is explained easily enough, but not entirely convincingly. Then we have Weber’s obsession with weaponry. Now this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, except when it overpowers the story. Instead of being told how a something grain bullet travels faster in one weapon than another, how about telling us why we should care about the marine in Romania, or the rednecks in the hills, or anyone in this book.

Ok, now for the spoiler alert: The Earth and whatever is left of humanity is saved from the alien invasion by Dracula about twenty pages towards the end, with no signposting or anything to make me believe this is in anyway real. I can accept alien races invading Earth, that’s fine, I can suspend disbelief because the author has sold me that story and I’ll willing to buy it. What I’m not willing to buy is a writer throwing in a deus ex machina. I feel robbed.

Not the story I was looking for, not the writer I was looking for. Disappointing on all fronts.

LEGION OF THE DAMNED By William C. Dietz – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 18, 2015 by stanleyriiks

Set in a far flung future where the Human Empire has colonised a number of planets, including the Legion’s adopted home planet of Algeron, and lives in a cosy and comfortable peace. Until the war-like Hudatha race obliterate an entire planet, the first in their deadly space-bound march towards Earth, intent on destroying every human being on their way.

Baldwin is a traitorous human guiding the enemy’s hand in his lust for vengeance; Booly is a Legionnaire injured on Algeron and left for dead but really a prisoner of war captured by the indigenous population; Chu Chien is a rich merchant intent on bringing his son home safe from one of the rim planets soon to be hit by the Hudatha’s deadly swathe; Scolari is the head of the Navy, hoping to persuade the Emporer to pull his troops back to defend Earth against invasion…

So Dietz provides various political intrigues and power-plays to go along with the more meaty action of the fighting and battles. Well, when I say more meaty, I mean more interesting, but Dietz spends a little too much time developing the machinations of not only the human powers but also those of the Hudathan, and the Naa (the natives of Algeron).

But the Legion and its history is much more in keeping with this book of battle, and really helps with backstory and characterisation (of which there is little). There is a lot going on and the lack of decent characters to grasp on to mean you can flounder around wondering who is what for the majority of the novel. Having characters called Booly and Baldwin doesn’t help, how about characters with names beginning with a different letter for a start.

If anything this book is a little too ambitious. Likely it is the set-up book for a possibly long-running series, and Deitz wanted to get as much in and introduce as many characters as possible in the first book. But ultimately there is too much in here, and it feels crammed in, and a little crammed down your throat, and it makes it a little hard to chew.

There are good bits, particularly the Legion’s history, and the story builds nicely but to a climax that takes just a couple of pages and feels a bit of a let-down.

It’s such a shame, I was so looking forward to this book, and it failed to enthral me, although it did marginally entertain it. I won’t be back for any more.

THE DARWIN ELEVATOR By Jason M. Hough – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 30, 2014 by stanleyriiks

Set a couple of hundred years into the future the world has been ravished by a murderous disease that has wiped out most of the planet’s inhabitants. In Darwin, Australia, the sole human habitation on planet earth leads a dirty and struggling existence. In the shadow of a mysterious elevator built by aliens that leads to massive human-built space farms and habitations outside of Earth’s orbit, and surrounded by subhumans (those infected with the disease), people survive hand to mouth if at all.

Skyler Luiken and his small crew are immunes, rare humans who don’t catch the disease immediately upon leaving the few kilometres from the bottom of the elevator that are not infected. They are scavengers, climbing the elevator and flying out from it above orbit to stop in the desolated cities of old earth, and taking what they can find before the subs attack.

But is the elevator failing? The climbers that take air and water up and bring food down keep losing power. And the man is charge of the fortress that surrounds the base of the elevator will do whatever it takes to increase his power.

A post-apocalyptic world, a thrilling plot, great characters. Hough’s first novel is immensely entertaining. The first in a series, the book set up the crumbling world incredibly well, Skylar is fleshed out nicely as are some of the other characters, and it all moves along as a nice pace, with plenty of action that doesn’t overwhelm the story telling.

A remarkable debut, that ends on an amazing cliff-hanger that will have you begging for the second book.

THE COLD COMMANDS By Richard Morgan – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 22, 2013 by stanleyriiks

I read the first book in this series around two years ago, and you know what, I can barely remember any of it. I remember the three main characters (after my memory is jogged reading about them again), who are all here, present and correct. I vaguely remember feeling like the book ended on a cliff-hanger and feeling a little bit cheated, but I still enjoyed it enough to put the second book in the series (trilogy?) on my Christmas list for Santa to buy me. So in amongst my stacks of drugs and porn and alcohol (ok, so it was pretty much all books that Santa brought me!), I found this SF/fantasy novel (and it’s got a nice cover which always draws me in) and sat down to read it.

Ringil Eskiath is a true antihero, although we find him rescuing slaves after his cousin was imprisoned by a slave-trader. He’s a tough, no-nonsense S.O.B. who demands your attention, a mean man with a massive alien sword.

Archeth is a half-alien female who works for the new emperor, a paranoid young man intent on ridding his empire of enemies by having them flayed alive by octopi.

Egar the Dragonbane is having an affair with the wife of a war hero, but his adventures into a religious fortress will bring the three old friends back together, whether they like it or not, with magic, death, and betrayal to get in their way.

This book (I think like the first, my memory is not what it once was!) takes a long time to gather speed, there are almost three hundred pages of build-up as the story meanders along, setting everything up for the inevitable climax. When it does comes there’s plenty of action and intrigue, although Ringal is a little too superheroic and never appears in danger of being hurt, let alone losing a fight. He’s a bit too invincible, like Judge Dredd with a sword.

Morgan’s writing is good, he manages to draw you in without you realising, the atmosphere and world are vividly portrayed, but there’s a lingering sense of missing something. Perhaps it’s been too long between instalments, but I felt like I missed the oft-referred to war (did it appear in the first book?).

Despite confusing the hell out of me, the grey lands are strange and mysterious and make everything seem a bit too easy at the end. I couldn’t help but enjoy Egar’s tough steppe barbarian, Archeth’s frustrated diplomat and Ringal’s menacing killer. The characters are really what make this book, and Morgan has done a first rate job with them. I’ll be back for more despite my misgivings, fantasy doesn’t get much more original or compelling than this.

Remakes

Posted in Morpheus Tales Magazine, Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 2, 2012 by stanleyriiks

This blog is written in response to Simon Marshall-Jones column in the latest issue of the FREE Morpheus Tales Supplement: http://issuu.com/morpheustales/docs/18reviews

 

Too many remakes he says, and I can’t whole-heartedly disagree. In fact, in the main I agreed completely. Hollywood (and they are not alone in this) seem driven to re-hash, remake and ruin all of my favourite films. I would suggest, however, that the “magic” Simon talked about in his ramblings is actually a much more personal matter than the gods-aligning. The “magic” happens when you grow up with a film, when it becomes a part of your life, of your history and background, and it speaks to you at a time, on a level, that nothing else does.

In my mid-teens I watched a film called Total Recall, with that unappreciated thespian Arnold Schwarzenegger. Arnie was never a great actor, but I’d grown up watching his films, and this action-romp was (apart from Star Wars) one of my first introductions to SF (despite being a die-hard fantasy and horror only fan, apart from Star Wars!). I loved the over-the-top action, that Arnie’s wife was so hot (Sharon Stone before Basic Instinct), the incredible effects, there was even an alien with three boobs (this was my mid-teens remember)! The film spoke to me, it was great. But now, Sony in their infinite wisdom, have decided to remake it. Why? Because Total Recall (1990) is now over twenty years old, and apart from the money (I’m sure that’s the main reason), they want their film to speak to a new generation.

I have been quite prepared in the past to watch remakes, and give them a go as I would any other films. Unfortunately my past experience hasn’t always been pleasant, remakes of Halloween (rubbish, an extra forty minutes of pants and then a remake tacked on to the end), The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (not too bad, not that I can remember any of it), King Kong (not terrible), A Nightmare on Elm Street I am just too scared to watch in case it’s crap. But sequels are the same, and yet lack the stigma of being another version of the original. I happily sat and watched the X-Men movies, Spiderman trilogy, all the Halloween films, A Nightmare on Elm Street (up to number 6), and even saw the Star Wars prequels at the cinema (rubbish, not bad, and ok, respectively [come on Disney, time to do something great with this franchise!]). Yet we don’t have the same disdain for sequels, which are (or can be) equally derivative. Like all films, or books, the first one is usually the best and the rest that follow (be they remakes or sequels) mere imitations.

So what about the book of the film, or, more likely, the film of the book? I like the first one best. Whether it’s the book or the film, the first time I discover the story is almost always my favourite. With Harry Potter it’s the books, although the films were also pretty damn good. The James Bond books are so very different from the films it’s difficult to make a direct comparison, the same with Holmes’ adventures. Guy Richie’s new Sherlock films, although I grew up with much older versions, are great fun. Stephen King’s adapted films, except perhaps for the excellent Shawshank Redemption and Stand By Me, are far better in written form. No, despite Stand By Me being one of my favourites of all time, the original story (“The Body”) is even better.

In my early years (before the age of ten, although I couldn’t narrow it down any more than that), I watched Conan The Barbarian. Classic Arnie action flick. Not the greatest film ever made, in fact, on re-watching it’s fairly tired and out-dated, but it’s still Arnie and it’s still Conan, and it’s still the original and it’s still the best. I’ve read the book too, and you’ve gotta love a Conan book. I watched the remake last year, and was pleasantly surprised. Plenty of action, well-muscled barbarian, buxom wenches, and swordplay. This is not a bad remake except for one small thing they seemed to have forgotten. Conan has blue eyes. How the hell can you make a mistake like that! It’s like taking Judge Dredd’s helmet off! (Oh yeah, they did that too). Can’t wait for that remake of Dredd though, Sly Stallone is no Judge Dredd.

Remake, sequel, adaptation, whatever the hell they do, they need to make it authentic. That’s what remakes generally lack. And that is what gets our goat. That’s what reins all those remakes, and sequels and adaptations.

But remakes are not for us. They are not made for the people who enjoyed the first version, or the second or third. They are for the new people, these films are meant to speak to them and make them feel how we first felt when we watched them. Yes, of course there should be more originality, but you can say that about publishing and TV too. Sequels galore, derivative are us, is there anyone unafraid of originality? Who will take a risk and put their money where their mouth is? Independents, small presses… If they are lucky their original work will be remade with a big budget by a soulless corporation…

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!

THE SKINNER By Neal Asher – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 18, 2011 by stanleyriiks

Three strangers meet on the way to the planet’s surface. That planet, which has little serviceable surface, is Spatterjay, a mostly water-filled world. And the seas of Spatterjay are filled with all manner of creatures all ready and willing to eat you and anything else that invades their watery home: including the strange leeches, whose bite, if not fatal, will change your body chemistry until you are immortal, or near as damnit.

One of the party of three is Sable Keech, several hundreds of years old, and finally returning to Spatterjay to complete his mission: to find the remaining survivors of Jay Hoop’s crew and execute them. They were an ancient gang who sold cored-human slaves to the alien Prador’s during the war. Despite the war now being over a Prador adult and adolescent have arrived on the planet in secret with one of Hoop’s old crew, intent on causing problems.

Another of the three is Janer, part of a hive mind that may have secret plans to colonize the planet.

Throw into this mix semi-immortal pirates; a monster that skins people alive; the various fauna that occupies most of the planet and is intent on eating everything else; an AI overseer that acts as the planet’s police and army; and a War Drone; and you get a massive amount of story, huge back-stories, and a huge amount of information that fortunately doesn’t slow down the plot too much.

It takes a little while to get into the book because of the sheer volume of stuff you need to know, but it’s so full of great ideas that you can’t help but keep reading. The book builds nicely, we have enough action and enough ideas to not only keep you entertained but make you want to discover more. Fortunately Asher’s produced not only more Spatterjay novels, but also Polity novels (based on the more organised part of the universe that only make a brief appearance here). Asher’s universe is massively detailed and cleverly put together, and the novel is the same. What it lacks in pace to begin with is swiftly made up for in the later stages, and you can forgive this because of the amount of detail expounded.

Full of great ideas, with a good solid story and plenty of twists and turns, this first book of Spatterjay is the ideal entry into this virgin territory, and I have high hopes for the other books in the series, which I will most definitely be seeking out.