Archive for SF

OUT OF THE DARK By David Weber – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 10, 2017 by stanleyriiks

How do I review this book without ruining the surprise ending that lets it all down? Ok, let’s start off with the good, there’ll be plenty of time for the bad in a minute.

Aliens decide to invade Earth.

This is an ensemble piece, following not only several human characters but also the aliens, giving us an insight into the politics of the Shongairi (a dog-like race) and their Hegemony (universe-wide coalition). The problem is that there is a little too much going on and none of the characters are well developed, or even developed a little bit.

Straight to the bad stuff. The characters are merely cardboard cut-outs. The world is half-destroyed by the alien race but who gives a shit, there is nothing in this book that really presents this as a bad thing and certainly nothing to make us care about it. For an “advanced” race the Shongairi are pretty stupid, and when they invade they are ill-prepared and equipment for infantry warfare, which is explained easily enough, but not entirely convincingly. Then we have Weber’s obsession with weaponry. Now this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, except when it overpowers the story. Instead of being told how a something grain bullet travels faster in one weapon than another, how about telling us why we should care about the marine in Romania, or the rednecks in the hills, or anyone in this book.

Ok, now for the spoiler alert: The Earth and whatever is left of humanity is saved from the alien invasion by Dracula about twenty pages towards the end, with no signposting or anything to make me believe this is in anyway real. I can accept alien races invading Earth, that’s fine, I can suspend disbelief because the author has sold me that story and I’ll willing to buy it. What I’m not willing to buy is a writer throwing in a deus ex machina. I feel robbed.

Not the story I was looking for, not the writer I was looking for. Disappointing on all fronts.

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MONSTER HUNTER INTERNATIONAL By Larry Correia – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 10, 2017 by stanleyriiks

I came across Correia’s name on social media in regard to the Puppies and the Nova awards. I didn’t particularly take much interest in the goings on, Correia may have had a point, but George RR Martin also wrote very eloquently about it. In the end I wasn’t bothered one way or another; that awards can be manipulated, or unfairly given to cronies isn’t a surprise to a former member of the British Fantasy Society.

Whatever politics were involved didn’t particularly interest me. I like to read lots of different types of books, different types of SF and fantasy, and I was looking for something action-packed and I remembered something I’d read about Correia’s novels and thought I’d give him a try.

This is the first book in the Monster Hunter International series, and here we meet Owen Zastava Pitt, a former bare-knuckle fighter and now accountant, whose life is turned upside down when his ass of a boss turns into a werewolf and tries to eat him.

As Owen recovers from his injuries, having managed to fight off and kill the werewolf, he’s offered a job as a mercenary monster hunter and that’s when the real fun begins. What follows is a quick boot-camp and then a race to save the world from a group of master vampires and a mysterious figure known only as the Old One…

If you like guns and action and urban fantasy set in a B-movie then you’ll love this. It’s straight-up action, no holds barred, but with decent characters, enough attention to detail to make it realistic, and a few twists and turns to keep things extra interesting. I liked this book. Is it likely to be award winning? In the same way that if it were a film it wouldn’t get an Oscar, no it’s not likely to win awards, but does it fulfil the role of entertainment, will it appeal to a mass market audience (like Fast and the Furious or Star Wars), damn it, yes it will!

Correia may be as well known for the wrong reasons, but try his books. Monster Hunter International is a powerhouse of a novel, it’s exciting, it’s intelligent, it’s fun.

Great stuff and I’ve already bought the second book in the series.

THE ABOMINABLE By Dan Simmons – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 7, 2017 by stanleyriiks

I thought this would be Simmons back to his roots with a horror novel featuring the Earthly form of the Wookie: the abominable snowman, the yeti. But the “baddie” here is pretty much the mountain, the mountain: Everest.

It’s the early thirties, and three climbers set out to climb the largest mountain in the world, the unconquerable Everest. They find funding, their excuse to go there being to recover the body of a former friend, but they must take his cousin with them. The mountain quickly proves treacherous, and when they find out the body is of a spy, and they are being chased by Germans intent on collecting the secrets his body carries, things go from dangerous to even worse…

As with all Simmons’ novels he manages to capture the essence of the place he’s writing about, in this case the wind-blown peaks of the Himalayas, the jagged rock-faces, and the desolate and airless ridges of ice and rock.

The build-up is slow and gradual, giving the reader the information necessary to respect the struggle that these early pioneers had to endure, and giving you essential knowledge about climbing and the primitive but revolutionary equipment they are using.

Sadly, although he manages to imbue the characters with the same sense of depth, for some reason there is just a lack of feeling towards any of them. I’m not entirely sure what’s missing, but something definitely is.

This is a long book, and takes a while to get into, it being book-ended with the set-up for the actual story.

Simmons is a craftsman, his books really do capture you and take you to someplace else. This one is no exception, it, like all his books, is exceptional.

TWILIGHT OF THE DRAGONS By Andy Remic – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 25, 2017 by stanleyriiks

Book two of the Blood Dragon Empire series sees our band of heroes, now freed from the torturous clutches of the dwarves, heading deeper into the mountain, following Lilith the witch as she divines their path to the ancient city of dragons, Wyrmblood, hunted by dwarves intent on their murder.

Above ground the freed dragons are on a rampage, attacking everyone and everything they can find. The Iron Wolves, another crack team of warriors from Vagandrak, from Remic’s previous books The Iron Wolves and The White Towers, find themselves on the receiving on Kranesh, the dragon queen’s, wrath. The axe-warrior is intent on giving as good as he gets and involves his crew in an epic battle on the ramparts of the walled city…

Anyway who hasn’t read at least the first book in this series should turn back now. Can you get away with not reading the first book? Sure you can, but it’s like watching a film by starting in the middle, and a football match from the second half.

To get the most out of this book I would also recommend the connected Iron Wolves books too, which will give you a nice back history of half the characters involved.

Having read a lot of fantasy I can pretty well predict where the author is going to go. I have a good idea of the plot, and how the characters will act. Not so with Remic. He manages to surprise me, a lot. What he is willing to do to his characters is… well, it’s quite horrible sometimes. And yet brilliant. His plots continue to surprise as well, just as I think this will be a nice Empire Strikes Back-type second book in a trilogy, adding depth and dimension to the story and moving it forward towards the inevitable conclusion, he throws in battles you expect him to save for the third book, he kills characters you expected to the trilogy’s heroes, and he blows your mind.

Remic surprises and delights in equal measure. He does something few writers seem to be able to, he makes you feel.

Remic is a fantasy genius. Twilight of the Dragons slides nicely into my Remic collection, and if you don’t have your own Remic collection you’re not reading the right fantasy.

DARK HARVEST By Norman Partridge – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 6, 2017 by stanleyriiks

I first discovered Partridge in a Cemetery Dance magazine probably in the mid-nineties, and his writing immediately drew me in. His short stories were compelling and unforgettable. It’s not often I remember the author of a short story as I read quite a few, but his name stuck and I eagerly awaited his novels. But that never happened. While I was expecting the new Richard Laymon to start writing a series of horror novels that would captivate and delight me, Partridge continued to write short stories and novellas. (While writing this review I found that Partridge has written at least 5 novels, but can’t find any trace of them on Amazon!)

This is Partridge’s version of Children of the Corn. Halloween, 1963, a small Midwestern town. The pumpkin-headed October Boy is out stalking his prey, as are all the boys between 16 and 19, who haven’t been fed for the past five days and must kill the October Boy before he kills them and before he reaches the church. They have until midnight…

What follows is fairly predictable. The “twists” are familiar to a seasoned horror reader, but Partridge still manages to imbue the story with a little bit of shock, and decent enough characters.

This isn’t the breakout book I had been expecting. There’s nothing new here, and while Partridge does a decent enough job, this fairly short book doesn’t pack much of a punch.

Ultimately unsatisfying, Dark Harvest is perhaps an indication why Partridge isn’t the new/next Richard Laymon. Not Partridge at his best.

LOOK TO WINDWARD By Iain M. Banks – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 18, 2017 by stanleyriiks

Set in the Culture universe where artificial intelligence rule much of the galaxy we find ourselves on Masaq’ orbital. Famous Chelgrian composer Ziller is working on his latest masterpiece, but when he hears that an emissary from his home planet is on his way Ziller is outraged, suspecting they will ask him to return to his home planet, and it may cause chaos for the planned festivities surrounding the inaugural rendition.

But beneath the various diplomatic shenanigans more disastrous activities are taking place…

To tell you more would ruin the surprise that Banks has in store.

This is such an easy book to read, and it’s only because of the writer’s hard work. You immediately know what’s going on, get hints of what is to come, and can easily realise how this galaxy-scanning empire works.

Brilliant characters, simple plot, but with depth you don’t often see outside of epic space operas. A nice, easy and intelligent read.

GEMINI CELL By Myke Cole – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 24, 2017 by stanleyriiks

The fourth book in the Shadow Ops series moves away from our regular cast of characters as this one is a prequel. Before Shadow Ops was established as the military’s de facto X-Men-like squad, they were experimenting with “gifted” individuals.

If you haven’t read one of Cole’s books before this is the perfect book to start. Imagine if the X-Men was run by a fairly ruthless military group rather than Prof. Xavier, and you pretty much have a good idea of what’s going on here.

Navy SEAL Jim is brutally killed by a crack assault team seeking revenge for his last op. His body is torn apart, but the military bring him back to life, a kind of life, except he has to share his body with another soul, one that has an uncontrollable blood lust, a demon. Can Jim control the creature he now shares his body with? Can he complete the missions the military expects of him? Can he get revenge for his murder and the murder of his family? Can he trust his handler?

As usual Cole serves up a great big helping of action, some nice moral questions, and a military conspiracy. This, like the other books in the series, is fast paced and action filled. The love story at its core seems like a side-plot. The characters aren’t as strong here as in the trilogy that set up this universe, but they serve their purpose.

Cole writes thrilling military SF and this is another really solid edition to his world.

I’ll be eagerly awaiting the next one.