Archive for pirates

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!

RETRIBUTION FALLS By Chris Wooding – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 26, 2015 by stanleyriiks

Don’t be fooled by the cowboy on the cover, this is pure pirate SF.  Frey is a crook, a poor captain, and not a particularly nice man. He’s also the owner and captain of the Ketty Jay, a hunk of a ship, but his one and only love. Frey and his crew take on a simple smash and grab job that will earn them enough to retire, but something goes wrong, and Frey and his crew become target number one for the Navy and bounty hunters, both sides of the law want to kill them! They have to try to come together as a team and find out what the hell went wrong and why…

Pirates and SF, you can’t really go wrong, or can you?

Wooding’s bunch of disparate characters actually grow together quite nicely, and despite them generally being quite a rag-tag bunch, he manages to imbue them with enough humanity that you want to find out what will happen to them next. They do seem to find themselves in terrible situations organically, the plot doesn’t feel planned (it’s rather directionless), and that means it lacks a bit of pace and action for the most part. This is not the rip-roaring ride I’d expected, but after reading a Richard Kadrey novel everything is likely to feel a little slow to start.

The world the book is set in is interesting and exciting enough, but some of the later parts of the book, the better parts, feel like missed opportunities. Much more could have been made of them.

A solid and entertaining read, but ultimately not as good as expected. The book doesn’t quite live up to the cover, and with so many other options on offer I think I’ll give the rest of the series a miss. May be an author to come back to in the future. We’ll see.

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 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.