Archive for prison

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.

DEATH’S HEAD By David Gunn – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 7, 2011 by stanleyriiks

Amazon suggested this book to me because of a previous purchase of one of Andy Remic’s books. Andy Remic writes the kind of fast-paced, action-packed SF and fantasy stories that thrill and entertain in equal measure, so I was looking forward to this one.

For once amazon got it pretty much spot on.

Sven is an ex-sergeant Legionnaire who is about to be lashed to death for insubordination, until a group of Ferox (unfriendly Wookie-type creatures) attack the out-post he’s stationed at, killing everyone but him. One of the massive alien beasts talks to Sven using telepathy and Sven is taken back to their camp where he lives with them as a kind of pet.

This is the beginning of Sven’s adventures.

When the cave system the Ferox live in is attacked and Sven is saved, he becomes a tool of the General, given mission where the army needs deniability. Sven’s unique abilities and his tougher than shit attitude not only get him into trouble, but also out of it, as he tackles prison, treason, war and command.

Ok, so Sven’s adventures feel very much organic, the plotting for the novel seems to have happened during the writing process and each episode doesn’t connect too much with what follows or what came before other than occasional details, but that doesn’t matter.

The haphazard plotting makes it feel like a real adventure, and you can’t help but enjoy Sven’s “fuck you” attitude. This guys got huge balls and isn’t afraid to display them for all to see. You want Sven to win, whatever it is he’s doing. He’s one of those grumpy bastards, like Kell, Conan and Druss, that we’re used to seeing in fantasy fiction, but a lot less so in SF. Here we have a true hero, who knows the difference between right and wrong, but does things he own ways, whether it gets him into trouble or not.

So the aliens involved in the final battle all become a bit confused, and you’re not sure quite who’s fighting who, but who cares!

Sven is what carries the story on, and Gunn gives us a great helping of action to keep things speeding along nicely so we don’t get too worried about the details. Great fun, the kind of book that puts a grin on your face. A boy’s own adventure in space.

CIMARRON ROSE By James Lee Burke – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 19, 2010 by stanleyriiks

Lucas Smothers is arrested for murder, except he was unconscious at the time. He’s put in prison between two hardened criminals, both murderers, one of whom brags about how he killed an old woman, the other escapes killing a guard in the process.

Billy Bob Holland is a pain in the ass according to most of the people who know him, that’s what makes him a great lawyer, and when Vernon, Lucas’ father, asks him for help, Billy Bob can’t refuse. You see, Lucas is in all likelihood his own son.

Add into this a whole lot of Texas mess, a massive back-story, DEA, outback mob, rich kids gone bad, and shake in some other family dramas and you have a Southern American crime novel the likes of which you’ll be familiar with if you’d read any of Burke’s novels before. Burke has a unique voice that’s compelling, his stories are riveting and his characters have such a back-story it’s hard to believe he just thought them up.

American crime thrillers don’t get much better than this.

CUBA LIBRE By Elmore Leonard – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 13, 2010 by stanleyriiks

Cuba, just before the Spanish/US war.

Ben Tyler’s friend asks him for some help taking some horses to Cuba to sell. Except Ben finds out that horses are not all they are selling, and the guns they are smuggling into the country are for the insurgents to fight the Spanish, and before he knows what’s happening, Ben is in prison for shooting a Spanish soldier who pulled a gun on him and being accused of espionage.

Factor in a wealthy American land-owner out to steal the horses, an evil Guardias, a beautiful woman, a police-force filled with insurgents, and an impending American-Spanish war and in a nutshell you have Cuba Libre.

This is an epic personal story of the struggles of Cuba, the beauty of the country and its people, and the inhumanity of its invaded and rulers. This is a side of Cuba not often seen, the pre-Castro era Cuba, but not the playground of the US.

Tyler’s struggles to survive in primitive conditions whilst in prison and later when hiding as he is tracked by a former slave-hunter, all the while falling in love with the beautiful Amelia, is expertly played out by Leonard. This book shows that Leonard is a splendid writer, with a talent far beyond his crime-novels.

Hot, dusty, and beautiful, Cuba Libre is a sentiment and an experience, expertly captured by a great fiction writer.