Archive for climax

THE TECHNICIAN By Neal Asher – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 14, 2015 by stanleyriiks

This is the book that got me reading Asher’s books. Jon Sullivan’s cover of the titular beast is incredible, and his other covers for Asher’s other books are pretty damn good too. Can you pick a book by its cover?

Although this book is set in Asher’s familiar Polity world it is a stand-alone novel and can be read independently. But, if you have read some of his other novels this will inform the backstory of some familiar characters.

Masada is home to the hooders, a set of deadly creatures, the Theocracy (a strictly religious group who have enslaved some of the populous), the gaggleducks, and the Technician, a near mythical creature who not only attacks humans but turns their bodies into works of art.

When the Technician allows one of its victims to live, Jeremiah Tombs, a member of the Theocracy, it changes him in ways that even the advanced technology of the Polity cannot determine.

Twenty years later the Theocracy is no more, Tombs escapes his Polity captors and goes in search of the truth, a band of rebels called the Tidy Squad are out to kill him, and the Technicians is still out hunting…

Apart from that there are war drones, a dragon and his ancestors, a modified human studying the Technician, and alien races that have destroyed themselves to muddy the waters further.

There’s a lot going on here, as there is with most of Asher’s novels. His intricate plots draw you gradually deeper into his worlds. The characters are barely memorable, but it is the story, the plot and the incredibly well crafted world that really drive this novel.

Asher writes proper SF, intelligent, insightful, and passionate. The world he has created in this novel and the other Polity books (and the Scatteray series) are incredibly complex and detailed and yet don’t overwhelm the intense and sometimes complicated plots. The story drives along swiftly, there are multiple layers, and everything comes together in a riveting but mildly disappointing climax. Can any ending really live up to the rest of the novel?

Asher is the master of intelligent SF. The Technician is a great novel to start your Polity education: jump straight in, the water is thrilling.

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 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.

The Quantum Thief By Hannu Rajaniemi – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 29, 2012 by stanleyriiks

Jean le Flambeur is a legendary thief, who is broken out of prison by the alien Mieli and her sentient starship Perhonen. Jean is a post-human, his body was taken from him, his mind was imprisoned and mental torture took place during his incarceration. Now he has a new body, but his memories are not intact, and to do what Mieli asks of him he has to rediscover who he used to be.

What follows is an intricate spider-web of intrigues, layer upon layer of deception and politics.

Difficult is not a word I use often to describe a novel, but I found this one a challenge. There is a deep and complex world here, and Rajaniemi doesn’t make it as easy as it could be. This book written by Peter F. Hamilton would be another six hundred pages long, but would make a great deal more sense.

The climax the story builds towards seems to fade out before actually happening, but the complexity and intricacies of the plot had me floundering at times. On the surface this is a simple crime-thriller, but deeper it is a massively detailed political siege drama.

There are a lot of complex and excellent ideas, the gevulot privacy system, sharing memories, and post-humanity are clever. The fact that nothing is described, information is given only as part of the story, and sometimes details and explanations can be lost, or simply not explored enough, create a sense of confusion in the reader (in this reader anyway).

The failure of the climax (did I miss it?) is just as annoying as the lack of clarity.

For those willing and able to re-read a book this is likely to be one of those books that grows on you with a second or third reading, but I want to enjoy a book on the first read, and don’t want to have to give myself a headache concentrating and working out what every idea is before moving on with the plot. An appendix with explanations might be been a helpful addition.

This book shows massive potential, but feels like an unedited manuscript in need of more explanation. Great cover though, and I’ll likely pick up the second book in the trilogy when it comes out later this year, in the hope that some knowledge of the first book will help.

THE DRAGON FACTORY By Jonathan Maberry – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 14, 2012 by stanleyriiks

When a colleague asked me what I was reading I had to describe this book as an action-thriller with SF overtones. But that’s like describing the Boeing A380 as a big plane. It barely scratches the surface of this taut sci-fi action thriller.

The DMS (Department of Military Sciences) is the secretist secret government agency there is, and the Vice-President of the United States is tricked into trying to close it down in the belief that the head of the DMS is blackmailing the President (who is currently enduring heart-bypass surgery, leaving the VP in charge). Homeland Security are raiding DMS headquarters across the country and picking up agents.

Joe Ledger, former cop, and DMS agent, is at the grave of his former girlfriend when the agents turn up to collect him. But Joe doesn’t plan on going quietly.

The Jakoby twins are rich and powerful geneticists, turning nature on its head to create their rich customers unique pets, ultimate soldiers and legendary creatures (unicorn, dragons, etc) to hunt.

Cyrus Jakoby, the twins’ father, is also working on a large-scale project. A secretive scheme behind the twins’ backs, adapting existing diseases and blights for use in his Extinction Wave that will wipe out seven eighths of the world’s population. Everything is in place, the one hundred hour clock begins its countdown. Is it too late for anyone to stop it?

This book is just so much fun! Ledger is a broken hero, insightfully fragmented in his reality, in love with his colleague and running hell for leather from crisis to crisis in his attempts to find out what’s going on and stop the murder of several billion people.

The action is intense, half way through the book the climax begins to build with wave after wave of attacks against larger and nastier opponents.

The science is used incredibly well. Maberry makes you believe this could happen.

His first book Patient Zero was a rip-roaring zombie-fest with a brilliant science-based twist that made you believe, and was massively readable, edge of the seat stuff, that I thought would be difficult to follow-up. But Maberry has done us proud, creating another SF-twisted reality that’s equally (and scarily) plausible.

Brilliant devised, intelligently written. A book that you sweeps you up in its evil and twisted reality.


Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 6, 2012 by stanleyriiks

This is the second book in the Spatterjay series, and sees us returning to the water-filled planet where the Hoopers or Old Captains (near indestructible, near immortal, super-strength men) run the planet, alongside the sentient sails they use for their ships. The waters of Spatterjay are filled with all manner of dangerous fauna, including virus-wielding leeches which burrow into their victims but pass on the virus which causing the superhuman strength and longevity.

It is ten years since the first book ended by riotous climax, and not a great deal has changed. Those familiar with the first novel will find this one remarkably similar, the same characters, the same style, the same snippets to let you know about the wildlife that inhabits the planet, virtually the same plot! The riotous finale where everything all comes together is lacking, as the various plots are this time individually wrapped-up, leaving the reader with an unsatisfactory bump in the excitement, rather than a mountain.

The Sable Keech is a massive ship aiming to re-run the epic journey of its name-sake as he ventured to the place where he was brought back to life using the virus. Bloc, the reification (a kind of technologically undead) in charge of the voyage, employs the old Captains to help out and a Golum sail (a crazy one intent on destroying death) to lead them. But there are also aliens and the deadly creatures of the deep intent on stopping them.

The first two hundred pages of the novel seem to go nowhere, feel like padding and could quiet easily be removed without any ill effect. The final hundred pages see almost a re-run of the climax of the first novel, but spread out so that there is little impact.

The ways in which this novel goes wrong are many: it is too similar to the first book, but fails where the first book succeeded. This isn’t a rubbish book by any means. It’s still pretty good, and only really falls down when compared with The Skinner, the first book in the series. Asher can write, the world of Spatterjay is epically explorable, and the old Captains are like cosmic super-pirates. But this doesn’t have the danger or the anger of The Skinner, despite similar plotting, and we’ve already visited this world. For those who haven’t read The Skinner you’ll enjoy this a great deal more than fans familiar with the first book.

Let’s hope Asher can redeem himself with the third book in the series.


Posted in Morpheus Tales Magazine, Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 9, 2011 by stanleyriiks

This review is printed with the permissions of Morpheus Tales Publishing. The review originally appears in the April issue of the Morpheus Tales Supplement.

It’s not often you finish a book sweating, panting and in need of a shower. Andy Remic writes such books, exhilarating thrill rides, the perfect combination of excitement and danger. Remic’s books are not read, they are experienced, and when you get out the other side you feel like you’ve just parachuted yourself out the back of a plane or ridden a motorbike at a hundred and twenty miles an hour down a motorway. It feels like you’ve just gone three five-minute rounds (MMA style) with a huge gorilla and you’re lucky to be alive. But in a good way!

Serial Killers Incorporated follows Callaghan, a hard drinking, hard smoking, hard fucking, hard living photo-journalist for a tabloid. When he and his partner get a tip-off of a hot story they don’t expect the skinned body of a woman with her legs cut off, but that’s what they find. And there is a note to Callaghan on the course. The police want to arrest them both and interrogate them despite the evidence proving their innocence, but then Callaghan has had some run-ins with the DI and they’re not exactly friends. Callaghan’s girlfriend is also proving a problem. Or rather her Romanian gun-runner husband is about to become a problem if he finds out Callaghan is fucking his wife. Then another tip-off sends them into a dark, desolate warehouse with another body awaiting them.

The first hundred or so pages set up the characters and the scenarios, but it’s once the action starts that this book really takes off. There’s plenty of action, including multiple murders, shootouts, fighting, and car-chases.

The warehouse scene is suitable frightening and will send chills down even the hardiest of spines. Even Callaghan becomes somewhat likeable, despite being a selfish bastard.

The climax is a bit… weird… But it works because Remic’s prose style punches you in the face until you submit. Here, unlike his Clockwork Vampire series, he seems even less inhibited and more in your face than normal, which is no bad thing, but does take some getting used to. There’s not the subtlety of the Clockwork Vampire series, this is stark and brutal, and works fine for a dark, noir crime-thriller.

There are a few niggling typos and a least one continuity issue, but with a book this size (400 plus pages) it’s hardly surprising, and all can be forgiven when a book is this much FUN!

Remic has produced another fine example of how to thrill a reader. This crime thriller is dark and nasty, and that’s what makes it so good. Remic is a no-holds-barred writer and Serial Killer Incorporated is a no-holds-barred novel; massively entertaining, scary, exciting, and brutally nasty. I defy you to read it and not have a grin on your face when you’re finished.

GOLDFINGER By Ian Fleming – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 4, 2011 by stanleyriiks

After the wasted introduction we get down to the nitty gritty of a classic Bond story, as our hero meets up with a man at an airport who needs his help. Bond is happy to help out when he finds the problem is to do with a card cheat.

Solving the problems only takes a few hours, but Bond gets to meet the eponymous Goldfinger, who is doing the cheating.

Bond’s encounters with Goldfinger continue as M sends him on a fact-finding mission for the Bank of England who suspect Goldfinger is smuggling gold of the country.

Eventually Bond falls foul in his dealing with Goldfinger, because of a girl, and is enlisted into his team, transported to the US and becomes secretary in the villian’s plan to steal all the gold in Fort Knox.

This is classic Bond territory, the card games, the women, the cars, the villain. The only problem is the lack of danger. More so than the previous novels we know that Bond will win, he is able to out-smart Goldfinger at their every encounter, despite the tension and the stakes getting higher each time. Goldfinger is a clever villain, one of the richest Bond has encountered, and yet his weakness, his failure to kill Bond, is silly.

Oddjob is a scary individual, but the final showdown between the Korean and Bond is woefully inadequate. In fact the climax is weak and too simply dealt with after the excellent build up.

An inadequate introduction starts this book off poorly, and doesn’t do the book justice. Despite the fact this is not the best of the Bond books, it still manages to entertain, feeling much like a more modern pulp thriller.

It’s hard to look at the Bond book with anything other than rose-tinted glasses. Bond is an integral cultural icon, and the Fleming books started it all, but this is not the best of the Bond novels.