Wolfy's wanderings with the written word (2019 edition)
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Another year goes by and a new one begins. I hope the old one was good for you but the new one gets even better. No longer having a job (made redundant in July) has given me more reading time so some good came out of the bad and at least I didn't have to move to Warwick (nothing against the place just avoiding the unpleasantness of moving). Whether the employment situation changes or not is something to be decided at a later date. I'm not in the need to rush a decision on that score and am enjoying the time for myself so we'll see how things go. So having more reading time means I'm also returning to the Category challenge so apologies for the post duplication in advance to those who follow that group along with this.
Quick links to previous year's reading adventures just in case I (or anyone else) want to look back.
As usual, comments, discussion, recommendations and general ramblings all welcomed.
List of books I've read in 2019.
1. Lord of the Flies by William Golding (Msg03 02/01/19) 3★'s
2. The Lathe of Heaven by Ursula K. Le Guin (Msg07 07/01/19) 4★'s
3. Those Above by Daniel Polansky (Msg15 17/01/19) 4★'s
4. The Ghost Riders of Ordebec by Fred Vargas (Msg18 24/01/19) 4½★'s
5. Those Below by Daniel Polansky (Msg19 29/01/19) 4½★'s
6. Hombre by Elmore Leonard (Msg20 31/01/19) 3½★'s
7. Cibola Burn by James S. A. Corey (Msg23 06/02/19) 4★'s
8. Rot and Ruin by Jonathan Maberry (Msg24 09/02/19) 4★'s
9. Bloodsucking Fiends by Christopher Moore (Msg25 13/02/19) 3½★'s
10. Eleanor Rigby by Douglas Coupland (Msg26 16/02/19) 4★'s
11. Rilke on Black by Ken Bruen (Msg28 20/02/19) 3½★'s
12. One Fine Day in the Middle of the Night by Christopher Brookmyre (Msg28 22/02/19) 5★'s
13. To Your Scattered Bodies Go by Philip Jose Farmer (Msg29 28/02/19) 3½★'s
14. Rule 34 by Charles Stross (Msg50 10/03/19) 3½★'s
15. Gnomon by Nick Harkaway (Msg66 27/03/19) 5★'s
16. The White Trilogy by Ken Bruen (Msg67 29/03/19) 3½★'s
17. The Heroes by Joe Abercrombie (Msg71 07/04/19) 4★'s
18. Dark Matter by Blake Crouch (Msg77 14/04/19) 4★'s
19. Thank You for Smoking by Christopher Buckley (Msg80 26/04/19) 4★'s
20. Buffy the Vampire Slayer 1 by John Vornholt (Msg82 29/04/19) 3★'s
21. Richer Than God by David Conn (Msg83 03/05/19) 3½★'s
22. All You Need is Kill by Hiroshi Sakurazaka (Msg88 05/05/19) 4★'s
Lord of the Flies by William Golding
A group of schoolboys of various ages survive a plane crash only to find themselves stuck on a remote island with no grown-ups to care for them. Selecting a leader who prioritises shelter and a fire to create smoke to signal any passing ships events quickly spiral into anarchy when another boy thinks he would make a better chief. Who will win out in the battle for supremacy and will the chosen one lead them to rescue or not?
This classic story takes a look into the nature of humanity when all forms of law and order are lost. Is our leaning towards civilisation only skin deep? Would we too also descend into savagery if we didn’t have rules to follow? It’s a fairly quick and easy read with a very abrupt ending. I’m sure a reader could dig a lot of meanings and symbolism from this work if so desired. Me, I just wanted to read the story. 3★'s
Happy New Year - may you enjoy your reading this year and may the rest of your year treat you kindly.
>1 AHS-Wolfy: Happy new year! I look forward to following your thread for another year. :)
Happy new year! I hope it is a good one for you in books and in real life.
The Lathe of Heaven by Ursula K. Le Guin
George Orr has a problem with his dreams. When he has what he terms an 'effective dream' it changes reality to match. What a cool ability to possess you might think? George's problem is that he has no control over what he dreams so he has tried all sorts of things to stop them from occurring. His current method is drugs but he's having to borrow other people's Pharmacy Card's so they're not all allocated to him and this leads to discovery and referral to a therapist as part of the Voluntary Therapeutic Treatment. Dr. William Haber, the psychiatrist Orr gets assigned to, soon realises that he can make use of this talent and improve the lot of mankind as well as helping himself along in the process. Unfortunately for Haber and the rest of the world, Orr doesn't always dream what Haber actually suggests and perceived results could have unforeseen consequences. Will the doctor find a way to get better results or perhaps even give his patient what he wants: to be cured of effective dreaming once and for all.
Touching on many of the big questions such as the nature of humanity and with social and political themes abounding even touching on environmental concerns and over-population which, for 1971 when this work was first published, is quite something. The story never meanders though and stays fixed within its main tenets which means it's a fairly quick read weighing in at under 200 pages. In lesser hands this story could get terribly confusing but I'm glad to say that wasn't the case here. It's a really enjoyable read and I'll certainly be looking for more of her work having only read some of the Earthsea stories previously. 4★'s
>7 AHS-Wolfy: I really enjoyed The lathe of heaven when we read it as a group a few years ago. It was far more similar to Philip K. Dick's work than to the rest of her own output, in my opinion. I do recommend the stories collected in The wind's twelve quarters and The compass rose, which are conveniently now available in one Masterworks volume.
>9 clamairy: Yes, I think it was one of Morphy's group reads. The links to the spoiler and non-spoiler threads are in the Conversations section on the work page.
Today is my 13th Thingaversary. Having been out today and picked up a couple from the Waterstones sales bins I've placed an order to fulfill my obligations for the other 12 even though my tbr shelves are already bulging and overflow piles are starting to appear. Details as follows:
The Heroes by Joe Abercrombie (*)
Meddling Kids by Edgar Cantero (?)
Miles Errant by Lois McMaster Bujold (*)
Mockingbird by Chuck Wendig (*)
He Died With His Eyes Open by Derek Raymond (****)
We by Yevgeny Zamyatin (***)
The Aeronaut's Windlass by Jim Butcher (**)
Cibola Burn by James S. A. Corey (*)
The House of War and Witness by M. R. Carey (**)
The Half-Made World by Felix Gilman (***)
Rule 34 by Charles Stross (*)
The Severed Streets by Paul Cornell (*)
The Ghost Riders of Ordebec by Fred Vargas (*)
Mallory's Oracle by Carol O'Connell (****)
Lots of next in series books (*), a couple by favourite authors (**), a couple recommended a while ago on LT that I've wanted to get to for ages (***), a couple that I've selected from Jack Taylor's reading list (****) and one I'm taking a chance with (?) but how bad can a Scooby-Doo pastiche be?
>13 pgmcc: Thanks Peter, We is probably the selection I have most trepidation for out of this bunch but we'll see how it goes when I get around to actually reading it.
>14 Busifer: Halting State was the first of the author's works I'd read and definitely looking forward to reading more. Already had a couple of others sat on the tbr shelves but feel more like continuing with a series than starting a new one as I liked the premise of the first book a lot and it will be interesting to see where he takes it knowing what rule 34 actually refers to.
Those Above by Daniel Polansky
Those Above have sat on the top most rung of the Roost and have ruled humanity for three thousand years. Squashing any hint of rebellion like a human would step on an ant. But down on the lowest, poverty stricken rung and out in the human cities there is once again dissatisfaction brewing about the mighty overlords. The story builds around four very different people from very different walks of life. Bas is a general in the Aelerian army currently engaged in pacifying and increasing the borders of this commonwealth nation and who also holds the distinction of being the only man to defeat one of Those Above in single combat. Twenty five years ago Eudokia lost her husband in the last human uprising and has been building her power base back in the Aelerian capital and is almost ready to finalise her plan that will offer up the opportunity for revenge on those responsible for her loss. Thistle is little more than a boy playing at being a man on the fifth rung of the Roost who leads his small crew of other youths in battles against others of his like from neighbouring districts before going on to join one of the Brotherhood's gangs that really run things at this level. Finally we also follow Calla who is a seneschal to The Aubade. Serving her master in anyway she can while living at his demesne, the Red Keep, up on the first rung.
As this is the first of a duology it is very much just half a story in setting up what is to come in the second. Don't expect too much in the way of revelations or resolutions from this one. The world building and character set-ups are excellent though and the story itself is never less than satisfying. There's not a huge amount of action as this is a tale based more around the political machinations and manoeuvrings of various pieces for what is hopefully a huge payoff to come. While not full-on grimdark it's certainly heading towards the gritty end of the fantasy spectrum so those looking for a lighter read should probably pick something else. Personally, I enjoyed part one of this story and don't think it will be too long before I pick up the continuation. 4★'s
The Ghost Riders of Ordebec by Fred Vargas
A wealthy industrialist has been found dead inside the burnt out remains of his car and everyone seems intent on pinning the murder on a well-known arsonist known as Momo. Commissaire Jean-Baptiste Adamsberg believes Momo's plea of innocence and after a particularly rash act sets out to prove it and find the guilty party. Meanwhile a woman from Ordebec has also accosted Adamsberg and insists she needs his help to prevent a catastrophe in her town located in Normandy. Her daughter has had a vision of the ghostly host of hunters known locally as Hellequin's Horde that contained three local men and a fourth unidentified person. Legend has it that those seen with the horde will end up dead as punishment for past crimes that remain unpunished. The first of these men is now missing and the gendarmes of the area won't lift a finger to investigate his disappearance. Can Adamsberg and his team of misfits get to the bottom of these two cases and find out who is actually responsible or will the Commissaire be riding off into the sunset if his superiors find out what he's done?
As with all the books in this series there is not much of the procedural about this story with Adamsberg and his team all employing their various quirks to help solve the cases. I've said before that it's the characters that make these books so enjoyable but the setting and the underlying elements of the mystery really enhance this one adding in an almost supernatural feel to proceedings. While the story meanders as much as Adamsberg thought processes it never wanders far enough for the reader to lose interest. Any author that can get you to care about the fate of a pigeon (aka a flying rat) must be doing something right. I'd also like to make a special note for another seamless translation by Sian Reynolds. A worthy co-winner* of the 2013 CWA International Dagger award. 4½★'s.
*along with another favourite French author of mine, Pierre Lemaitre for Alex
Those Below by Daniel Polansky
The concluding part of The Empty Throne duology continues with the same 4 voices guiding us through this dark fantasy tale of uprising and rebellion. Perhaps two years have passed since the ending of the first book, Those Above (see Msg15), and Eudokia's plans are in full swing. Currently residing in the uppermost reaches of the Roost, in part to present the tithe to the Others but also to answer for Aeleria's continued war efforts in Salucia and the amassing of the largest army the world has ever seen and for which Bas still plays a prominent part. Here she will get to match her wits against the Aubade,
While I mentioned that the first book wasn’t quite full-on grimdark, this one most assuredly is. With the rebellion heating up and the inevitability of war just around the corner there really isn’t much time for levity although there are some moments of humour, albeit of the darkened variety, dotted throughout the tale. The story moves along briskly and this is helped by the action set pieces but it's still very much a character driven narrative. All of the people involved have their own distinct voices so distinguishing between them isn’t difficult and with an excellent supporting cast this is a very good read. I'll definitely be on the lookout for the author's other work. 4½★'s.
Hombre by Elmore Leonard
John Russell was raised as an Apache and is generally treated as such by the townsfolk near where he lives and works as a horse wrangler. He has a business matter to settle a few towns over and so joins the passengers on the last stagecoach due out before the station closes down. The passengers are an eclectic bunch consisting of the former clerk of the station who’s off to look for a job elsewhere, the Indian Agent from a nearby reservation along with his wife, a young girl recently rescued who just wants to get back home and a thug of a man who bullied his way into the final place for the trip. When the others find out who Russell is they don’t want him riding inside the coach with them but this is a decision they may come to regret when they are held up by a bunch of outlaws who leave them in the middle of nowhere without horses or much water. After the way they treated him will he help them or leave them to the mercy of the outlaws who are about to return to finish them off?
With themes of survival and prejudice this is a fairly simple tale of the old west where the rule of the gun was the only law. It’s the first of the author’s westerns that I’ve read being more familiar with his thrillers but this still retains the snappy dialogue and fast pace that is synonymous with his work. While there are some very good action sequences that’s not all there is to this book as we get to examine the characters and ethical decisions they make through the eyes of the clerk as our narrator for this tale. A quick and enjoyable read. 3½★'s.
>20 AHS-Wolfy: Hi. How closely did the Paul Newman film of the same name follow the book?
>21 -pilgrim-: My memories of the film have been obliterated by time. Been far too long since I've seen it. From other reviews it seems to at least follow the basic premise of the book but does have some differences with more characters featuring in the movie version. Maybe I'll have to see if I can dig up a copy so as to refresh the details.
Cibola Burn by James S. A. Corey
The gates have been opened, probes sent through and thousands of worlds have been discovered just ready and waiting to be colonised. The Edward Israel is a colony ship under contract to Royal Charter Energy with a mandate to survey and explore what is being referred to as New Terra. But a ship that escaped the destruction of Ganymede has beaten them there and is in no mood to let the newcomers encroach on what they feel is already their territory and sets about trying to dissuade them from even landing. When violence results and deaths accrue those back home decide a mediator is required to broker a peace between the two sides and there’s only one man that fits the bill so far as impartiality goes and also with a reputation for not hiding things. Step forward James Holden and the rest of the crew of the Rocinante to see if they can work out a solution and maybe set the template for all future colonisation attempts. It’s not like he can make matters too much worse, right?
This fourth book in the Expanse series once again has multiple characters to follow as the story unfolds. As well as Holden we get three new voices this time around. Basia is one of the existing colonists, Elvi (an exobiologist) is on the first shuttle down from the new arrivals and Havelock who’s left in charge of security on the Edward Israel when the rest of the security team go planetside. With the exception of Holden these are probably my least favourite POV characters in the series so far and when teamed with the power-tripping villain of the piece it makes for a potential letdown from what has come before. So it’s fortunate that the setting and overall story makes this another fine entry in the sequence. The threat of the unknown from the alien technology and the mystery of what happened to them helps pull this story along nicely so even with weaker storytellers it doesn’t detract too much from the enjoyment value. There’s promise that we will return to more familiar people in the next book so I even have that to look forward to. 4★'s.
Rot and Ruin by Jonathan Maberry
Having just turned fifteen, Benny Imura needs a job. If he doesn't get one soon his ration allowance will get halved. So after multiple unsuccessful attempts (a good way to introduce the setting) he reluctantly accepts he might have to go into the family business and apprentice to his detestable older brother Tom. Benny's earliest memory is of Tom grabbing him and running leaving their mom to her fate after his dad had turned into a zombie. What a coward like Tom is now doing as a zombie killer seems inconceivable to Benny especially when compared to the other bounty hunters who he actually looks up to. After going out with his brother for the first time, Benny is forced to reassess everything he thought he knew, not just about his brother but the others and the very town where he lives. Maybe the real evil out in the Ruin aren’t the zombies after all.
Set firmly within the YA spectrum this book takes a whiny fifteen-year-old boy and crushes his naïve worldview with some hammer blows and sets him on his path to hero status with the help of those around him. After a slow start with the world-building the action heats up nicely and is quite gripping and the story is quite thought provoking in parts, particularly how zombies are perceived. While there’s no real surprises this is an entertaining read and provides a set up for the next book which I do intend to pick up at some point. 4★'s.
Bloodsucking Fiends by Christopher Moore
Aspiring writer Tommy arrives in San Francisco to gain some life experience but needs a job to pay the rent. With help from the Emperor he is quickly set up as night manager at a Safeway and this is where he encounters Jody, a newly turned vampire. She’s going to need someone to do the daytime things that need doing seeing as sunlight has a deleterious effect on her complexion and Tommy seems an ideal candidate. Tommy’s never had a girlfriend before and the sex is great so he doesn’t even mind a bit of biting if that’s what she’s into. Problems start arising for the pair when bodies start turning up near to where they’re living that are drained of blood. Jody knows she hasn’t killed anyone yet so is the vampire who made her playing some sort of game with her?
This is a fun, light-hearted take on the vampire mythos. I already know I like the author’s style having enjoyed several of his books previously and this one proves no exception. It was also good to run into a couple of familiar characters who help fill out the cast in this one. It’s a quick, fast-paced read and while the story is self-contained it still leaves it open enough for a sequel. I liked the characters and story enough to want to spend more time with them (though not immediately) and it’s a good job as I already have the other 2 books in the trilogy sitting on the tbr shelves already. 3½★'s.
Eleanor Rigby by Douglas Coupland
Liz Dunn is one of the lonely people. The only others she interacts with on a regular basis are work colleagues and her family consisting of her mother, her brother William and her sister Leslie. But that's all about to change when she gets a phone call from the hospital to say they've admitted a patient who had no identification other than a MedicAlert bracelet which had Liz down as the person to be contacted. Arriving at the hospital she finds a young man named Jeremy
The novel switches back and forth between when Liz meets Jeremy and several years later with reminiscences from her past including finding a dead body and a school trip to Rome for Liz and her classmates. While it touches on some dark subjects such as loneliness and death the tone of the book never becomes bleak and is often imbued with touches of humour and even descends into farce at one point. Despite the constant time shifts this story is easy to follow and works really well in getting to know the main character. A very quick and enjoyable read. 4★'s.
>27 haydninvienna: I've liked pretty much all the Christopher Moore books that I've read so far and am planning on catching up with a few more throughout the year. But I do sometimes like to go a bit darker in my reading too, as evinced by my next reads:
Rilke on Black by Ken Bruen
Nick is a bouncer in a London club and it’s while working that he meets Lisa who soon becomes a fixture in his life. Providing him with a steady stream of sex and drugs it’s not long before the latter has an effect on his employment when he is let go for not performing his duties properly. As Nick has become accustomed to always having some cash on hand he eventually succumbs to Lisa’s suggestion to get some quick money. Her proposition is to kidnap and ransom a local businessman who now owns a string of establishments similar to the one Nick was recently fired from. He also travels around without any bodyguards for protection so it should be a simple job. To accomplish the job they’ll need one more person so they enlist Nick’s neighbour and friend Dex to assist. When they proceed with the kidnapping each of the three does so for a very different reason. Can they work together to get what they want or will their differences impact their chances of success and will their poetry espousing victim be compliant enough to pull it off?
This is classic noir albeit set in London and written by an Irishman. It’s harsh and brutal (probably more so than his Jack Taylor books) with not much in the way of light relief. There’s a bit of sex and a lot of violence to accompany the snappy dialogue. It’s a short nove, weighing in at just 150 pages and a quick read. It is one of the author’s early novels and while not as accomplished as his later ones it definitely shows signs of promise to come. Not one I’d recommend as a starter for his work but for those looking for a quick Bruen fix without the entanglements a series brings then this might just fit the bill. 3½★'s.
I've also finished a re-read of one of my favourite books by Christopher Brookmyre, One Fine Day in the Middle of the Night. I described it as Die Hard set on a converted oil rig via way of a school reunion and gave it a 5★ rating. This was one he wrote when there was still a comedic/farcical element to his capers that just resonates well with my sense of humour.
Not really in a reviewing kind of mood over the last few days due to being busy with family health issues. Spending some time visiting someone in hospital as well as with my mum as she comes to terms with what’s happening. Her partner of 16 years had some difficulty breathing recently and after being fobbed off by local doctors he finally had a scan after the antibiotics they gave him did nothing to alleviate the problem. The scan showed a huge build up of fluid in a lung (over 3 litres was eventually drained in total) but revealed he also had cancer. Because of his age, he will not be able to undergo chemo or radiotherapy due to risks of liver and heart failure. He was discharged from the hospital last night as now the fluid is gone he might as well be more comfortable at home. There’s a meeting scheduled for those involved with his care to discuss how to proceed so that’s what we’re waiting for now.
So onto the book I finished at the end of last month.
To Your Scattered Bodies Go by Philip Jose Farmer
Richard Francis Burton finds himself resurrected along with the rest of humanity in a strange alien place. Brought back in the prime of life he awakes on the banks of a mighty river. After settling nearby with a group of others, which include Alice Hargreaves, Burton gets the desire to go find the source of the river and explore some more to see if he can discover why they’ve been brought back.
I wasn’t really aware who the main character was prior to reading this book, which is the first of the Riverworld series, but that didn’t hinder as you learn of some of his previous exploits from other people. The story moves along at quite a fast pace but this detracts somewhat from the development of subsidiary characters with the reader only really getting to know Burton. I enjoyed the premise of the story and the examination of humanity but this book is very much of its time and allowances for that are needed. 3½★'s.
>29 AHS-Wolfy: I've been there, and I know what it's like. Best wishes and strength from me and mine.
>29 AHS-Wolfy: Difficult times indeed. Best wishes and lots of strength sent across the North Sea.
>29 AHS-Wolfy: I am sorry to hear that indeed. I wish strength to you and yours.
>Sorry to hear about your family's health issues, best wishes to all of you.
I've always enjoyed To Your Scattered Bodies Go but it has been a while since I've re-read it. I also wondered if it wasn't partially the inspiration for The Matrix.
>29 AHS-Wolfy: Sorry to hear the bad news. Sending you and your family my very best wishes.
Thank you all for your kind thoughts and wishes. They are greatly appreciated.
Sorry to hear about your mother's partner. Wishing you and your mother strength for this painful time.
Just to provide an update on the family health issues mentioned in >29 AHS-Wolfy:: They had the meeting today and confirmed that, as expected, there is basically nothing they can do to treat the cancer. It had already reached stage 4 and is still progressing. The only slight bit of positive news was that there have been no further complications from the fluid build-up which was drained so there's at least that and he's looking a damn sight better than when I went to see him in hospital. Just wish it could have been arranged for any other day than today with it being my mum's birthday.
Yes, dreadful timing, but then there never is a good time for that kind of news.
Terrible timing, indeed. Not that any time is a good time for those kind of tidings.
Very sorry to hear the sad news. I hope you can make the most of your time together.
Once again, my thanks to everyone.
Rule 34 by Charles Stross
Liz Kavanaugh is now heading up the Innovative Crime Investigation Unit (commonly referred to as the Rule 34 squad) that looks into offences that fall under the weird banner and often involve some sort of sexual deviancy. Punishment duty for the events related in Halting State. There’s been a suspicious death and the attending officer wants a 2nd opinion from a detective inspector so Liz gets the call. Turns out to be a little more than just suspicious though and pretty soon she’s handing the case over to CID as a homicide. When a couple of cases from other parts of the world get reported with similar circumstances though Liz is back on the investigation but she’ll be reporting to the jerk who got the job that was meant for her before her career hit the skids and neither of them are pleased with this outcome.
Told from multiple viewpoints using second person narrative but switches begin with a new chapter with heading for whose segment it is. There are three main characters but a few more do pop up as needed in order to follow the necessary storyline. While this is a self-contained story I’d not recommend reading without first picking up Halting State as there’s not a lot of explanation for the background tools being used by the police especially so you might not pick up on the technological aspects in play. Also this one isn’t quite as good as its predecessor and it’s hard to work out why. The setting is the same (near-future Edinburgh) and the plot is intriguing even if it does take a while to set up so I think it must be that the characters are a little lacking this time around. Still a decent enough read and I’m looking forward to sampling more from the author. 3½★'s.
Unfortunately the end came much sooner than anyone anticipated. He passed away in the early hours of Wednesday morning. Short term the family is hurting but in the long run it is better for all concerned that it's happened so suddenly as the only thing left in his future was pain. Most of the arrangements have now been made without too much emotional outbursts occurring that can cause family rifts so at least there's that. Just a final few things to sort tomorrow with the funeral being arranged for Monday week.
On the reading front I've managed to make a large dent in Gnomon from Nick Harkaway and hope to finish that in the coming days. Don't know when I'll be up to posting my thoughts on this one though but I've been devouring it in chunks when time has permitted and have been really drawn in to its world. It's a densely packed 700+ page tome but the ending is not too distant for me now and hoping it does the rest of the book justice.
>52 AHS-Wolfy: I am very sorry indeed to read your news. A swift passing is the more devastating when it happens, but in the future you will all be able to look back on good memories, without them being overcast by recollections of protracted suffering.
>52 AHS-Wolfy: Very sorry to hear this. You're probably right that faster is better than slow for his sake, but it's never easy.
I am sorry to hear your news. Even when such an event is expected it is still a shock when it happens. My condolences to you and your mother and family.
>52 AHS-Wolfy: Strength to you and yours. Swift is always better, at least for the one hurting, but can still feel like a shock.
Very sorry to hear your news. Thinking of you and your family at this sad time.
What a lovely bunch of people you all are. Thank you so much. Managed to do my duty as pallbearer without dropping him and the funeral service was lovely with the celebrant doing a wonderful job in providing some laughter to go with the tears.
Time to move on in this thread now to happier things I think.
A little bit of serendipity today. I've had a gift card to the value of £15 since Christmas so thought I'd nip into that particular shop today and take a look and see what I could find. There was a selection of clearance books and I managed to pick 3 that are in series that I've already started or have the 1st book from already. Total value was exactly £15 and a saving from the RRP of £13. Here's what I grabbed:
Dog Will Have His Day by Fred Vargas
Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie
The Dark Defiles by Richard Morgan
Still have a couple of reviews to write up for books I've finished recently but they'll come when they come.
Finally got around to writing up those reviews so here's the first of them:
Gnomon by Nick Harkaway
In a near-future Britain surveillance is not only tolerated but embraced and as part of the System is embedded into a democratic process where everyone has a say. Diana Hunter was a woman who wanted to live life on her own terms and turned her house into a shielded environment where the System wasn’t welcome. For this reason she was brought in for interrogation as a suspected subversive. She died while under interrogation so her neural recordings of memories and thoughts are fed to Inspector Mielikki Neith to find out who Diana Hunter was and if her death was an accident or something more malicious.
Nick Harkaway’s releases have been getting better with each subsequent release and this one continues on that trend. Considering I liked his first book quite a bit then that’s an impressive feat. It’s a look at how technology fits into a modern political future that at some times doesn’t seem that distant. Throw in steganography, some Greek mythology and a great big shark and you end up with a monster of a book weighing in at almost 700 glorious pages. Yes it does get a bit twisty and rambles at times but for me it was entirely worth every one of them. Best book I’ve read in the last couple of years. 5★'s.
And the second
The White Trilogy by Ken Bruen
This omnibus edition contains the first 3 books of the Inspector Brant series. It’s a world where the cops are probably just as bad if not worse than the criminals they are trying to catch. Detective Sergeant Brant is not averse to taking protection money from local shopkeepers and running up tabs he has no intention of ever paying off and these are just some of his good qualities. The first book, A White Arrest, sets the tone and introduces the cast of characters whom we get to spend just as much time with as DS Brant. There are two cases for them to tackle in this one: Someone’s threatened to kill the England cricket team and is only taken seriously when the first body turns up. The second involves a vigilante group who are knocking off some other small-time crooks but in ways that compete for headline space with the other killer. Taming the Alien and The McDead follow along in similar vein offering up casual violence and brutality in almost every page.
The author’s short, punchy dialogue keeps the pace and readability high and will be familiar in style to those who’ve read Bruen’s other more celebrated series featuring Jack Taylor. I would say that these fit in with the more traditional noir genre and the author himself comments that he wanted to try something along the lines of Ed McBain’s 87th Precinct sequence of books but when he asked Scotland Yard for assistance in researching and they refused then these books were the result. I like the author’s style so while these books don’t quite hit the heights of the others I will still at some point continue with this series. 3½★'s.
The Heroes by Joe Abercrombie
The Union have decided it’s time to secure and expand their northern border and have sent a rather large army to do just that. Black Dow, leader of the Northmen has other ideas and after retreating from initial skirmishes decides it’s time to make a stand around The Heroes, a massive ring of stones dominating a hilltop that offers a commanding view of the surrounding valley. With different viewpoints from among the combatants on both sides, from commanding officers right down to the grunts on the front line, the narrative offers up heroism, cowardice, bravery and stupidity in about equal measure.
This gritty story charts the progress of the battles and immediate aftermath over a 4-day period. It displays the futility of war that you don’t often get in a fantasy novel with participants forgetting what it is that they’re fighting for and only hoping to survive the next encounter. It’s not all harsh and bleak though as there are some moments of real humour thrown in at just the right times and there are plenty of wonderful characters to spend these four days with. While this is part of a loose series of books attached to his earlier trilogy it’s not necessary to have read those prior to this one as it can be read as a stand-alone book if desired. 4★'s.
>71 AHS-Wolfy: I’m glad you enjoyed this. I liked it quite a bit also. I read it about 3.5 years ago and the story hasn’t stuck with me very well, but I do remember enjoying how there were characters I liked on both sides of the conflict and it wasn’t all about the good characters vs the bad characters.
>71 AHS-Wolfy: I thought this one was an unfortunate end to the series. Instead of being character driven, by the others, it seemed more driven by the author's determination to write about a really big, really futile battle.
>73 Karlstar: Did you read Red Country which was published a year later? I liked that the best of the standalones, although the original trilogy was still my favorite. The first book in his second First Law trilogy, A Little Hatred, is due out in September of this year. I won’t read it until the trilogy is finished, if then, but I’m looking forward to seeing what people think of it once it’s out.
>74 YouKneeK: No, I have not, Heroes kind of put me off that series. I really enjoyed the first couple of books. P.S. It is now on my wishlist thank you!
Dark Matter by Blake Crouch
While returning home from a celebratory drink with an old student who has been awarded a prestigious science award, Jason Dessen is abducted and forced at gunpoint to drive to an abandoned warehouse by a masked assailant. Fearing the worst he is injected with a mystery substance and is surprised when he wakes up on a gurney surrounded by strange people he’s never met before but who all seem to know him. It soon becomes apparent that he has awoken in an alternate version of his world where instead of marrying his pregnant girlfriend and starting a family he chose to continue his scientific research instead. All he wants now is to return to the family he’s lost.
This is a very readable and exciting thriller of the “what if…?” variety. Using quantum theory to gain access to a multiverse of your life where each choice you make creates a different version of you. What would you do if you have the chance to live a life that you could have had? The scientific principles are handled in a very accessible way and the story is driven on ramping the tension up as it goes until the final climactic scenes. Some decent action scenes also help to keep the pace at a speedy clip and you can tell that this as written with a movie adaptation in mind. But don’t let that put you off as it’s still a pretty good read. 4★'s
>77 AHS-Wolfy: I had plausibility issues with that one. I agree it seems to be a treatment for a movie.
Thank You for Smoking by Christopher Buckley
Nick Naylor works as a lobbyist in Washington for The Academy of Tobacco Studies in the late 1990’s where legislation is making his job so much harder. Adding to his woes is his new boss who doesn’t like him and wants to install his girlfriend in Nick’s position. Knowing he’s fighting a losing battle, Nick decides to go down fighting and takes some swipes at the other guests lined up against him on the Oprah show. This earns him some rare good press and also the admiration of the head of the industry that decides to take him under his wing. It also earns him some death threats to go along with the regular hate mail he usually receives. Surely they can’t be serious?
This is a black comedy and satirical look at the lobbyist industry of American politics that makes a sympathetic character out of somebody who shouldn’t really be one. Even though he’s basically pedalling death the reader really wants him to succeed and genuinely roots for him during his travails. There are some great bits of humour to be had during this read while having a go at the big industry, the whole political lobbyist movement and the press corps too. I have yet to see the movie that’s based on this book so can’t compare but I’m not averse to finding out at some point in the future. 4★'s
>80 AHS-Wolfy: My son made me watch the movie, I did not hate the experience. It is so wrong, but so funny, and makes for a good devil's advocate story.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer 1 by John Vornholt, Arthur Byron Cover & Alice Henderson
A collection of three stories et in the early timeline centred on Buffy and the Scoobies as they once more battle the forces of evil in their own inimitable way. The first of these was Coyote Moon which sees a carnival arrive in town staffed with suspiciously attractive young men and women with the exception of one grizzled old veteran. Coincidentally at around the same time a pack of coyote’s are hunting and killing pets in the surrounding local area. With both Willow and Xander being caught up with the carnies, Buffy decides some investigation is in order. A poor story with bad characterisation and if I never see the word werecrocodiles again it’ll still be too soon.
Night of the Living Rerun takes us back to the time of the Salem witch trials with Buffy, Giles and Xander all experiencing vivid dreams from various participants points of view. When three famous people with connections to the spirit world happen to converge on Sunnydale then there must be something amiss. Can Buffy and the gang find out what it is in time to prevent the Master from rising once again? Another story I was fairly indifferent to especially when the zombies appeared to turn it into a kind of Night of the Living Dead pastiche.
It’s a good job that the first two stories were short enough to plough through with enough energy to move on to the third which proved to be the most enjoyable of the three. Portal Through Time sees another attempt to prevent the Master’s demise at the hands of Buffy when Lucien, a vampire magician, finds a way to travel back in time. When initial plans to kill Buffy before she becomes the Slayer fail (twice) he is advised to prevent Buffy from ever becoming a Slayer by killing previous Slayers to alter the timeline so that she was never activated. Buffy and the gang have to follow Lucien through time and prevent his nefarious plans. First stop is off to see the Welsh Druids in 60 C.E. and then on to ancient Sumeria and get to meet Gilgamesh before a dangerous encounter during the American Civil War and finally to Paris during the French Revolution where Darla and Angelus happen to be while cutting a bloody swathe through Europe of their own. This entry probably recreates the characters, hi-jinks and pop culture references of the source material better than the other two so makes the book readable as a whole but doesn’t qualify it for greatness. 3★'s
Richer Than God: Manchester City, Modern Football and Growing Up by David Conn
Not only is this the story of the 2008 takeover of Manchester City FC by one of the richest men in the world but it also examines the wider implication of football’s change from what was regarded as the people’s game to that of a global business machine. All seen through the eyes of a long-time City fan turned investigative reporter who worked for some of this country’s biggest newspapers. It’s a very personal journey from choosing his team at the age of seven to finding out a few truths of how football in England was allowed to change from a game for the masses to a cash cow for a select few (City’s former owner, Thaksin “Frank” Shinawatra, making £90m in just one year of ownership for example). Various snippets of interviews pepper the history of the club but it’s not told in a linear way and this detracts the feel of the narrative slightly for me. There will be times when the author goes over the same ground in order to illustrate the current point he’s trying to make and I don’t think I needed to be told that Carlos Tevez (a star player of the time) earned £200k a week more than 3 times during this read. Overall this was an interesting look at how football has changed throughout the years but I was hoping for a little more detail on the takeover period itself so felt a little disappointed. 3½★'s
>82 AHS-Wolfy: I agree wholeheartedly with your review. These were disappointing, even by comparison to the mixed bag that is the Buffyverse fiction series. I have had good luck with ones written by Christopher Golden and Nancy Holder, but some of the other authors didn't work out so well for me.
Have you read The Book of Fours or the Gatekeeper trilogy?
>84 Darth-Heather: I enjoyed Golden and Holder's writing in the Companions to the Buffyverse, but I confess that I didn't care much for even the novels they wrote, so I never ventured further afield.
>84 Darth-Heather: the only other one that I found worth recommending is Pretty Maids All In A Row which is a stand-alone Spike and Drusilla story.
I've definitely run across quite a few lame ones, and several DNFs, so it's a mixed bag for sure, which has kinda deterred me from continuing to seek these. There are a lot more of them out there though, so I'm always looking for recommendations to help weed out the winners :)
All You Need is Kill by Hiroshi Sakurazaka
Keiji Kiriya is a raw recruit in the Japanese arm of the United Defence Force battling against the alien invasion and we join him on the eve of his first battle and stay with him until his death. Along the way he meets Rita Vrataski, aka Full Metal Bitch, most famous warrior on Earth but even she can’t save him as she’s only hanging around to recover his mech suit battery. Unlike most of the raw recruits who die in their opening encounter, Keiji’s death triggers a time-loop and he once again awakens on the eve of the fight. When it happens again he discounts his initial dream theory and sets about trying to learn what he can about what’s happening to him. Can Keiji break the loop and what’s Rita’s involvement in all of this?
The author acknowledges the inspiration of playing video games lies deeply at the core of this short military sci-fi novel. The main protagonist (Keiji) or player learns to get better in either of two main ways. Either by figuring out how the enemy react on each successive run through from his own experiences up to his death or by watching another player (Rita) who’s already mastered some of the techniques needed to survive and get to the next level. The development of the main character is handled well as is the timing for the interjection of Rita’s back-story. For those who’ve seen the movie Edge of Tomorrow that are wondering if it’s worth picking up the book then I would say there’s enough differences between the two, especially the ending, to justify giving it a go. Maybe just don’t read/watch them back-to back. 4★'s
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