Archive for trilogy

THE SUICIDE EXHIBITION By Justin Richards – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 4, 2015 by stanleyriiks

Hmmmm…. Where do I start with this? Should I start with the title, which is good and what drew me to buy the book but is barely mentioned? Do I start with the fact that this is the first part of a series and barely has enough of a story for one episode? Do I start with the potential this series has, but that it fails at the first instalment?

This book makes me angry. The first half of the book is pretty slow and boring as the various characters are introduced. If these were great characters, if we were given some insight into them, if the background of the second world war was convincingly portrayed, you might forgive a slow start.

The second half does ramp up the action a bit. We have a secret government organisation usurping Foreign Office officials, army personnel, Bletchley Park code-crackers, and American female pilots, attempting to infiltrate a secret Nazi conspiracy to use ancient burial grounds and UFOs against the British. The first half merely hints at this and introduces the characters, the second half of the four hundred page novel (it seems like so much more!) sees our intrepid team venturing into enemy territory and making some headway in their investigation into the Nazis’ obsessions.

Just as everything starts getting exciting, there a reasonably entertaining climax, left open-ended obviously, and we’re expected to stump up the cash for the second instalment.

I’m afraid I won’t be there. I’m assuming this will be a trilogy, but there’s not enough of a story in the first book to fill the whole of it. Pretty much the first two hundred pages of this book could have been covered in a quite interesting prologue.

Barely memorable characters, a half-baked plot, and loads of potential do not make for a good read. This took me a month to finish because I was just so bored of it. Towards the end I was reading loads just to get it out of the way.

Another failed attempt at a world war two alternative world series. I wish someone would just write a damn one-off novel for once. I don’t want to have to read three books to get a single story.

Unimpressed and disappointed.

BITTER SEEDS By Ian Tregillis – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 20, 2015 by stanleyriiks

Such promise: English Warlocks and Nazi Psychics battle it out during World War Two. Such potential. A shame it hardly lives up to it.

The English side of the battle is the real damp squib, it’s much more about the terrible mental and physical struggle of the English team and their warlocks. The best they can manage is to create some bad weather.

The Nazi psychics are also tortured by their leader to imbue them with their mysterious powers, and treated like weapons. But they manage to get fully into the action, what little there is of it. A couple of episodes of action are all that we are party to, the rest of the book is set-up and background.

This feels like the vague first part of a trilogy, and as such Tregillis doesn’t want to blow his load too fast by giving us an epic battle between the warlords and the psychics. Which is exactly what we want.

I’m assuming the second book in the series will lead into an amazing third book, but I’m afraid I won’t be sticking around to find out.

Authors need to realise we want to be massively entertained throughout the series and every page and chapter should have something to keep us gripped.

Tregillis has produced an interesting book, which shows potential, but which ultimately fails. I’m sure the third book in the series will finally live up to the promise, but it’s too little too late.

KING OF THORNS By Mark Lawrence – Reviewed

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Spoiler alert, if you haven’t read the first book in the trilogy (Prince of Thorns) then go and do it now and then come back and read this review. The first book is the series is a glorious, action thriller of a fantasy, brutal, inventive, original and compelling. Read it and come back, the review will still be here!

 

Jorg Ancrath, now King after killing his uncle is about to be attacked. The King of Arrow, a man who is prophesied to become emperor of the hundred kingdoms, is on his way with an army of thousands. Jorg isn’t the type to stay behind locked gates and hope for the best, even when outnumbered twenty to one there is only one thing (ok, may be two things) he can do, get married and attack.

With a similar structure to the first book the present takes place on Jorg’s wedding day as he plans to attack the King of Arrow and his advancing hordes, meanwhile there are flashbacks to four years past where we discover what brought Jorg to this deadly and final moment.

Whilst some of the flashbacks are exciting and integral to the story, others act to slow the fast pace of the present battle and towards the later stages of the book become a little irritating. I just wanted to get on with reading about the exciting fighting.

Lawrence writes with a style that lends itself to action, and this is a very slightly slower book than the first (a rip-roaring thunderball of action!), but still has a passion and imagination that goes well beyond your standard fantasy.

Absolutely amazing fantasy adventure, truly relentless, and at times exasperating, this second book in the trilogy moves the story on and will have you begging for more, exactly like the first book. I can’t wait to see how Jorg’s story ends, and if the past two books are any indication the third book in the trilogy is going to end with a massively exciting bang.

Can’t wait for the third installment, intelligent, brilliant fantasy.

LEGION By Dan Abnett – Reviewed

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The action writer who started off the Horus Heresy series returns to familiar ground in this, another novel of the expansion of the Heresy “Universe”. While the first three novels is the series set up the Heresy, this and the previous novel in the series (Descent of Angels) set up/explore other parts of the unsuspecting human empire in which the terror of the Heresy will take place.

In this novel, for the first time we are focussed on the Imperial Army rather than the Space Marine Astartes. Soneka and Bronzi are het (kinds of sergeants) in the Imperial war effort on Nurth, a lost planet, one previously colonised by Terra, but lost over time. The army has invaded and fights against the resistance to get the world of Nurth to comply. Matters are complicated by a spy called Konig Heniker, but is he a double agent? And what are the mysterious Alpha Legion keeping secret, apart from their presence? And who are this strange Cabal that is pulling the strings in private?

This is an intriguing novel, more double-crossing, spies and secrets, than action and violence. Of course, there is some action and violence, but a bit more rather than the politics and intrigue might have been nice.

I understand why Gamesworkshop and The Black Library are expanding this incredibly successful series into an entire universe of books, but I would like them to focus more on the pivotal characters within the Heresy Horus: the Emperor and the Primarchs.

This is another instalment that feels a little like padding.

There’s plenty of story still to take place from the main characters in the Heresy, the central protagonists, so why are we getting a story like this? Are these characters going to be playing a part in the conspiracy at a later stage? If they are then fine, but can’t it be as part of a shorter series, like a trilogy of books, like the first three books in the Heresy series.

I can’t help but think the story is being expanded to fill the wallets of Gamesworkshop rather than to tell the story that needs to be told, the story of the actual Heresy.

Am I being impatient? I am over-reacting?

Possibly. This is good stuff from Abnett, who is always good value. It’s not his best work, Horus Rising or the Eisenhorn novels are excellent, with tons more action, adventure and excitement.

I hope that this novel of secrecy and intrigue is an integral part of the tale of the Heresy, otherwise I’m going to feel a little bit cheated.

THE DAYLIGHT WAR By Peter V. Brett – Reviewed

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I’ve been busy the past few weeks working my way through this massive book, so apologies for the delay in posting.

The third volume in The Painted Man series, I thought this would end the trilogy. In some ways I’m sad it’s not, I was looking forward to finding out what would happen, but in some ways I’m glad this epic and brilliant story continues.

For those of you who have not read the first two books in the series, this is not the place to start. The first two books are equally epic and amazing. If you like your fantasy huge, filled to the rafters with brilliant ideas, great characters, intensity, action packed, and filled with mysterious magic, demons and loads more, then you’ll absolutely love these books.

In the first book we discover this world in which every night humans must hide behind warded protection from the corlings (demons) who appear out of the earth. Arlen Bales is a young boy when we first meet him, but Arlen becomes a messenger, a dangerous but privileged position, learning the wards for protection as he must strike out across the townships taking the post with him, his life on the line ever night. Eventually Arlen meets Jardir, the leaders of a tribe in the deep south, a tribe that fights the demons every night, using mysterious new wards, while their women and children hide in an underground city. The two become firm friends until the discovery of an ancient city thought lost, and a magical warded spear.

The second book in the series gives us a full history of Jardir and how he achieved his position. Then how he brings the tribes together and launches a brutal attack on the northern cities.

Of course there more to it than that, but you really really need to read the first two books in the series.

In the third book we see history from the other side, Jardir’s powerful wife, Inevera, was behind many of his decisions and in this book we discover her history. And we see the two sides preparing for the night battle of the “waning” when the most powerful corlings come to the surface to fight. The time when the two sides, the united tribes of the south, and the northern cities, will battle draws ever closer. The characters relationships proving more and more problematic because of it. The daylight war is coming…

The books are not focused on a single character, although sometimes it does seem that way. There are several other characters, all important to the story, and too many to list. The books thus far have given us a massive history, we watch the characters grow and develop, and this is the key to drawing you in. This feels more like watching a life, rather than following a plot.

The people are waiting for The Deliverer to battle the corlings and free them from their constant nightly struggle, but is it Arlen or Jardir? Both of them are building armies, the various characters aligning with one or another of them. Friendship, politics, love and intrigue all fight for dominance.

This is a massive book, and I was conflicted. I wanted to read it quickly and get to the end to find out what happens next (probably the best cliff-hanger in the history of fantasy, giving Andy Remic’s Kell’s Legend a run for its money!), and savouring every single page of brilliance.

Brett is an artist and the page his tapestry. He has woven a tale of magnificence. I can’t wait for the next volume, I need to know what happens next.

THE DEPARTURE By Neal Asher – Reviewed

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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 COLD COMMANDS By Richard Morgan – Reviewed

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I read the first book in this series around two years ago, and you know what, I can barely remember any of it. I remember the three main characters (after my memory is jogged reading about them again), who are all here, present and correct. I vaguely remember feeling like the book ended on a cliff-hanger and feeling a little bit cheated, but I still enjoyed it enough to put the second book in the series (trilogy?) on my Christmas list for Santa to buy me. So in amongst my stacks of drugs and porn and alcohol (ok, so it was pretty much all books that Santa brought me!), I found this SF/fantasy novel (and it’s got a nice cover which always draws me in) and sat down to read it.

Ringil Eskiath is a true antihero, although we find him rescuing slaves after his cousin was imprisoned by a slave-trader. He’s a tough, no-nonsense S.O.B. who demands your attention, a mean man with a massive alien sword.

Archeth is a half-alien female who works for the new emperor, a paranoid young man intent on ridding his empire of enemies by having them flayed alive by octopi.

Egar the Dragonbane is having an affair with the wife of a war hero, but his adventures into a religious fortress will bring the three old friends back together, whether they like it or not, with magic, death, and betrayal to get in their way.

This book (I think like the first, my memory is not what it once was!) takes a long time to gather speed, there are almost three hundred pages of build-up as the story meanders along, setting everything up for the inevitable climax. When it does comes there’s plenty of action and intrigue, although Ringal is a little too superheroic and never appears in danger of being hurt, let alone losing a fight. He’s a bit too invincible, like Judge Dredd with a sword.

Morgan’s writing is good, he manages to draw you in without you realising, the atmosphere and world are vividly portrayed, but there’s a lingering sense of missing something. Perhaps it’s been too long between instalments, but I felt like I missed the oft-referred to war (did it appear in the first book?).

Despite confusing the hell out of me, the grey lands are strange and mysterious and make everything seem a bit too easy at the end. I couldn’t help but enjoy Egar’s tough steppe barbarian, Archeth’s frustrated diplomat and Ringal’s menacing killer. The characters are really what make this book, and Morgan has done a first rate job with them. I’ll be back for more despite my misgivings, fantasy doesn’t get much more original or compelling than this.