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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.

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FORTRESS FRONTIER By Myke Cole – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 5, 2013 by stanleyriiks

A bit of context for those who haven’t read the first book yet: this is like the X-Men, but with magic instead of mutations. When people develop magical abilities, or come up “latent”, things develop swiftly, and they have to report to the Police, otherwise they will be arrested as “Selfers”. There are some prohibited types of magic too dangerous to be allowed in society, the government use these “probes” as part of a secret service in an alternative dimension called the Source, to fight the indigenous population of goblin-like creatures. This is where Oscar Britton is sent, for training and indoctrination, when he develops “probe” magic and accidentally kills his father. But things don’t work out quite as planned for Britton and the Shadow Coven…

The first book in the Shadow Ops series left the remaining renegade sorcerers of Shadow Coven surrounded by goblins after FOB (Forward Operating Base) Frontier was partially destroyed, the witch Scylla was freed, and a massive battle had taken place. If you’re expecting this book to pick up straight after that then you’ll be disappointed. For the most part this is the story of Colonel Alan Bookbinder, Pentagon administrator, who turns up latent, but his magical abilities fail to fully develop. Despite this, he is sent to Frontier, where he becomes the second in command. The timelines of this and the first book overlap, as Bookbinder arrives before Britton and the rest of Shadow Coven go rogue. But when that does happen we see the other side of the action, as the base is left devastated and with no contact or supplies from the home plane (Earth). With rapidly depleted stocks of ammo and food the base becomes desperate and the goblin attacks increase daily. Bookbinder and a small team head out into the wilderness to try to find an Indian base hundreds of kilometres away, their lives on the line, and they are the only hope of survival for those left in the partially destroyed base.

Britton and Shadow Coven do play a part in the story, we get an update about half-way through and then Britton and his team are involved towards the end of the book, tying everything nicely together and preparing the reader for the third book in the series.

This is an SF military action thriller with magic thrown in for good measure. Although it doesn’t have the new and shiny feel of the first book, and the lack of my favourite character Marty (A Dobby-like good goblin), mean this feels a little like the second book in the series (the necessary part between the beginning and the climax [is this a trilogy?], continuing the story and an integral part, but not really adding a great deal.

Those who enjoyed the first book, and that should be plenty, because it’s pretty bloody good, should come to this with an open-mind and they’ll enjoy this slightly different but linked second part. Those expecting the continued story of Britton and Shadow Coven may be a little disappointed by the new direction.

Good fun, but not as good as the first book. I still want to know what happens next, and expect at some point a full-scale war between the sorcerers and the military, and possibly civil war!

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.

BLACK FEATHERS By Joseph D’Lacey – Reviewed

Posted in Morpheus Tales Magazine, Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 2, 2013 by stanleyriiks

Printed with the kind permission of Morpheus Tales. This review will appear in the forthcoming (very soon!) Morpheus Tales Supplement!

Black Feathers is the first the first volume in the Black Dawn Duology. A story of an environmental apocalypse…

Gordon Black is born into a world that is starting to crumble. The very Earth is sick, its disease is humanity. Floods, solar flares, famine, financial crises, earthquakes, mudslides. The old saying that society is only 72 hours from falling apart is going to be tested.

The Black family can see what’s happening. They start saving tinned food, hoarding supplies, preparing for the worst. But they can’t prepare for The Ward (a multinational corporation, part police, part military, part government). The Ward takes control of a faltering nation. They “collect” people and their belongings, taking whatever they want or need. They are self-proclaimed saviours of humanity. Gordon’s family is collected and imprisoned by The Ward for hoarding supplies, but the teenage boy manages to escape with his life and sets off to find the mysterious figure called The Crowman: a figure that some say is Satan, and others say is the saviour. While The Ward chase Gordon down, he attempts to find The Crowman.

This is a story of discovery. Gordon and Megan Maurice (who also searches for The Crowman) set off into the wilderness to try to find answers although they don’t even know what questions they need answering. Both are at the mercy of a humanity shattered and broken, as well as rapists, murderers, liars, thieves. Both must discover the truth about the Earth, The Crowman, and what happened to the world.

D’Lacey paints a disturbing picture of the apocalypse, giving hints of the epic dangers and actions that took place, while focusing on the lives of our main characters and telling the story of these epic events through our protagonists. The horrors, instead of the numbing millions, are directly relatable to the terrors that both teenagers face. The human de-evolution due to the crisis is dangerously clear at every stage. Each new face they meet is a potential danger.

This first book sets up the scene nicely, gives us a lot of the background, and sets up a nice cliff-hanger ending that’s left me ready for more. D’Lacey gives us hints of the horrors of the apocalypse, making it a mystery for our protagonists to discover. The story is carefully laid out for the reader to interpret. This is intelligent and subtle, with life-threatening dangers on an individual scale, not an action-filled battle for Earth’s survival. Not yet at least; there may well be some of that in the second book in this duology (and from the author of MEAT, I’m really looking forward to that).

Black Feathers is an original and intelligent apocalypse story. It’s a myth-filled fable of the end of the world on an individual basis. It’s a coming-of-age story set on a cruel and broken Earth.

D’Lacey writes with a power and conviction that is scary. This could well be our future. Bring on volume two! Right now! I need to know what happens next!

www.angryrobotbooks.com

DESCENT OF ANGELS By Mitchel Scanlon – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 13, 2013 by stanleyriiks

This is not your normal Horus Heresy novel. It doesn’t read like a Horus Heresy novel at all, and by the end I was wondering how this fitted into the massive tale of betrayal and treachery. Having read all the other books in the series so far this came as a bit of a shock. I realise that since the original trilogy many of the books have told related but connected only marginally tales of the Heresy.

This book tells the tale of Caliban, a feudal-like world, and former Terra colony that has been out of touch with Earth for hundreds of years.

This feudal land is a dangerous place of deadly flora and fauna, and the knights of the orders that run the world have had enough and set out to rid the world of the beasts. Lion El’Jonson, a strange and mighty warrior, mysteriously found deep in the jungles of Caliban, takes charge of the largest order and sets his sights on removing the danger of the beasts.

Then the Imperial fleet arrives, after almost two hundred pages and the world of Caliban is gradually reconverted to the Empire, whether they like it or not.

This is a tale of friendship and brotherhood, and is a riveting. It shows a different side of the Empire we are familiar with. For the most part this doesn’t feel like an 40K universe book at all. The feudal world of Caliban is remarkably well portrayed, and two young trainee-knights are our protagonists, and we follow them as they struggled with becoming knights, and becoming men. It’s a quite fascinating tale, a fantasy that actually slides perfectly into the 40K universe. Brilliantly inventive for the series, but does it actually fit into the Horus Heresy sequence? And the next book in the series, Legion by Dan Abnett, doesn’t follow on the story of the Dark Angels either… It’s a perfectly good book, exciting, adventurous, cleverly plotted and inventive, and as a stand-alone novel is works well within the 40K universe and offers something different. My problems rests entirely on it’s fit into the Horus Heresy. Otherwise its one of the best 40K novels.

THE PAINTED MAN By Peter V. Brett – Reviewed

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 18, 2011 by stanleyriiks

I’ve been really getting into fast-paced, action packed SF recently, so it was a nice change to take on the more sedate pace of fantasy. Before I go any further I have to say I spent a great 544 pages with this book, this is the first book in a series that’s going to be absolutely epic. Almost the entire first book is an introduction, building up the three main characters of Arlan, Rojer, and Leesha as they grow from childhood to adulthood, dealing with their various separate dramas and are brought together (late in the book) by circumstance. You see the world they live in lives in fear of the dark. When the sun sets corelings (demons) come out of the earth and eat and kill humans, and have done for the past three hundred years. Only wards (ancient writing) learnt only by a precious few can be used to protect them, and only then if the wards are perfect. Any imperfection will be found by the demons.

The world in which the story is set is a tired, dangerous place, humans have mostly given up fighting, instead prepared to hide and live a small, simple life, without travel, without night, and with danger just outside their warded walls and doors. There’s so much to the world that Brett has created that it would take more space than we have here to describe it all, suffice to say, it is brilliantly realised, with a nicely tied-in religion, a wide range of characters, and purposeful travel throughout the known lands to give us a nice guide tour, with much opportunity for expansion.

The only problem is that most of the book feels like an introduction or prologue. We don’t get to meet the Painted Man, as such, of the title until near the end of the book. There’s so much information on the characters that they do stick with you, but at what cost? There’s some action, and the final battle is great, but it takes it’s time to get there.

This is a difficult book to review alone, as it’s obviously not meant to be read individually. This is most definitely the first part of a mammoth series, which will no doubt be spectacularly entertaining and brilliant, but without the next book it’s so difficult to tell. A very good first instalment in the series, but I find myself reserving judgement until more titles in the series are available, although I will definitely be ordering the second book in the series very soon. (The cliff-hanger ending is ridiculously exciting!)