Archive for SF

CONAN THE FREELANCE By Steve Perry – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 25, 2018 by stanleyriiks

Our hero is once again dragged into helping a damsel in distress, although this one is no shrinking violet. When Conan rescues her in the desert he is invited to her forest and tree-city. While enjoying himself and making friends, he becomes embroiled in a three-way tussle for a magical seed. Fighting, battles, trickery, betrayal and love all follow, with Conan at the centre of it all through no fault of his own…

Some interesting characters, and, chasing chasing and more chasing, are enough to raise it above the standard Conan fair. Things are still pretty predictable, and this is good old fashioned sword and sorcery at its best.
Perry isn’t the best writer to have worked on this set of novels, but the story has plenty of action and enough going on to keep you interested.

Good stuff, despite the lack of originality and surprises.

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THE FIRST HERETIC By Aaron Dembski-Bowden – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 30, 2018 by stanleyriiks

Another instalment in the epic saga of the 30th century greatest tragedy, the Horus Heresy. In this volume we follow the tale of Lorgar and the Word Bearers, loyal warriors who were shamed many years before the Heresy by the Emperor, who castigates them as worshippers. What follows is a tale of treachery and chaos, as daemons falls upon the shamed legion, tricking them and manipulating them. The simple tale of father against son, of rebellion and treachery, are no simple matters. The battles of brother verses brother, writ large across the galaxy, start here…

The Heresy becomes more and more complex as we find out about the background events to lead up to the greatest tragedy the universe has ever witnessed.

It’s nice to see such a powerful individual as a Primarch, the leader of the Space Marine legions, playing such a pivotal part in the story. This time-spanning novel feels a little disjointed, as the time periods cut this into three distinct (linked) sections.

This book, much more than the previous instalment, Nemesis, does feel like an essential part of the Heresy story, but it still feels like we are only moving forward slightly. It gives us a much greater insight into the chaos daemons, and their manipulative nature, but only hints at their scariness.

This brings us a bit closer to the date of the Isstvan V battle, and gives a great battle scene with Primarch against Primarch. But for some reason it still left me wanting more.

NEMESIS By James Swallow – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 31, 2018 by stanleyriiks

A band of assassins is put together, the very best of the best, and sent to kill the arch-traitor Horus. The leader of the rebellion against the almighty emperor…

The first half of the book is taken up with the collection of the varied and talented assassins, giving us an insight into their personalities and how they work. Unfortunately there are a few too many of them and there is little characterisation, apart from their physical bearings, to separate them easily.

The second half of the book quickly ramps up the pace and sees our anti-heroes on a world struggling with the Horus Heresy (the split of the human empire), the governors siding with the rebellious Primarch Horus and the people of the world imperials to the core, fighting their corner despite heavy losses. The assassins decide to help out the imperial guerrillas.

Meanwhile a savage killer is making its way across the universe, heading for its own ultimate goal…
What happens when a band of assassins intent on killing the enemy of the Imperium clash with the universe’s most expert murderer…

And we have the Nemesis of the title.

It takes a little while to get into the book, but the second half more than makes up for it. Brilliantly gory and intelligent – although not necessarily an important part of the Heresy story – it is interesting to see how things progress from the Imperial perspective outside of the Space Marines.

The later parts of the book reminded me slightly of Dan Simmons’ Hyperion Cantos.

A new view of the Heresy, and some interesting new characters and viewpoints of this pivotal moment in Imperial history. A great jumping on point for this epic series.

A THOUSAND SONS By Graham McNeill – Reviewed

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

The Horus Heresy is about to begin. The traitor hasn’t yet shown his true colours.

The Thousand Sons are the most advanced warriors when it comes to using the Great Ocean, what will come to be known as the Warp. Magnus the Red, their fearless one-eyed leader, is desperate to warn the Emperor of the impending chaos that is coming when he learns of it through his powers.

But others are plotting to put a stop to the Thousand Sons and their use of the knowledge of the warp, calling it sorcery.
There will be a judgement on the planet of Nikaea that will have repercussions across the universe.

While it’s always good to see the stories of the people and the warriors of the massively epic Heresy, this is part of it that truly resonates across the galaxy. The Thousand Sons will become chaos-infested monsters in the future of the 40K universe, but here they are fiercely loyal warriors of the Emperor.

Their destiny is to be corrupted and this is the first step towards their destruction.

The judgement at Nikaea is a pivotal moment in the conflict that is yet to come.

This book has all the action and excitement we’ve come to expect from the 40K universe, and the Black Library. But, it also has well crafted characters, a deep back story, true conflict, and, what is normally lacking in SF novels, a heart.

McNeill has managed to create a quietly astounding novel in the Horus Heresy series. Ok, so it appears to have been cut in half and we have to wait for the other book to fully see the destruction of an entire Astartes legion, but this is still brother verses brother in an epic battle for the universe.

Great stuff from McNeill again, the Horus Heresy doesn’t get much better than this.

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.

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.