Archive for dragon

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.

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.

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.

DOCTOR NO By Ian Fleming – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 27, 2009 by stanleyriiks

It’s difficult to read a James Bond book and think about it critically. Bond is a character I grew up with, and still want to emulate! I couldn’t help but watch the true James Bond (Roger Moore, come on people!) seducing women, killing baddies and quipping while they die, an eyebrow raised mischievously. Having grown up with the films, in the same way I grew up with the Conan novels, I can’t help but cherish them and know that no matter how life changes, they will always have a place in my heart.

I’ve probably seen the Doctor No film, or at least bits of it, dozens of times. Some of the scenes are so familiar they are instantly recognisable, although I’m pretty sure I’ve never actually watched Ursula Andreas walk up the beach in her bikini.

But the books are slightly different, as you would expect. Moonraker bares little if any resemblance to the original novel.

I can’t remember the film enough to do a critique of the development of novel into film and I’d prefer not to. People with too much time on their hands can do that while I simply offer my opinion on a book that cleverly encompasses the extremes and thrills of the pulp era, whilst nodding towards the realism and action of the modern thriller. That’s what sets the Bond novels apart from many of their contemporaries, such as Chandler. There’s still a healthy dose of nostalgia for earlier times, a retro pulp action-thriller feel to the novels.

When two secret agents go missing in Jamaica, Bond is sent in to investigate, with the help of Quarrel Bond finds himself on an isolated island owned by the mysterious Doctor No, who protects his privacy by murdering all trespassers. Bond meets up with a young innocent girl, Honeychile, who turns up naked on the beach searching for shells in the area. Unfortunately Doctor No’s troops are alerted to their presence and set out to find them, and the poor girl is dragged into a cat and mouse chase across the island, until they are eventually caught by a dragon!

The pulp tradition is strong in this novel, our hero is tortured by the mad genius, and must go through a series of hideously painful challenges, which even include fighting a giant squid. But where Bond moves the genre forward is the level of detail and the general realism that Fleming uses to describe his hero and the situations he faces, and his weapons.

Bond is the essence of the modern pulp hero, he’s courageous, he’s strong and intelligent, and despite the backing of the British Secret Service, he’s on his own fighting all manner of super villains. In the same way that Batman or The Spider fight crime, with his hands, his ingenuity and his weapons, Bond is also a superhero in the same league, having no special powers (apart from his own God-given abilities) and fighting crime simply because it’s wrong and must be stopped.

Fleming’s original books have dated, just as the original Batman comics and the adventures of The Spider, Fu Manchu and Charlie Chan have also dated, but they were a product of their time, and that’s what still makes them so powerful. Because back then there was hope that one man could make a difference, and that’s why I find these pulp characters so appealing. There’s no modern cynicism to get in the way of the innocent enjoyment of the books and comics and films.

Bond lives forever, unstoppable, in the hearts of his fans, and that’s why he continues to live on through his many different incarnations, but the original books will also live on forever.