Thursday, 21 July 2016

New Pompeii by Daniel Godfrey - A Review

Part Science Fiction, Part Fantasy, part Thriller, this all adds up to one heck of a ride. The fact that this is the author's first novel makes it even more impressive.

The general gist of the story is that NovusPart, a large energy company have discovered a new technology that allows them to bring matter from the past to 'the now'. They have started by bringing citizens from Pompeii (hey, it's not a spoiler, the clue is in the title) forward and housing them in the replica New Pompeii. They do not know they have left 'original' Pompeii but some are starting to guess something is not quite right. Into the mix comes our hero Nick Houghton, research ,student, who is brought in as NovusPart's Historical Advisor. His actual recruitment seems a tad shady but he is just happy to be a part of something this big.

As a second story strand Kirsten Chapman 'wakes' in her bath only to discover she has been murdered.

As a general rule I am not a big fan of 'Michael Chrichtonesque' Sci-Fi Thrillers but New Pompeii certainly changed my mind on that. The way the author described both New Pompeii and it's occupants felt believable. It felt very much like seeing it through Nick's eyes which, for this reviewer is just how it should be.

The 'Kirsten' chapters added a lot of mystery to the proceedings. It is obvious her 'death' had a big part to play in the storyline but right up to the reveal I wasn't sure just what it would be.

If I had to find a downside to things it would just be my ignorance of historical terms, which I had to look up sometimes (but, hey, I've learnt stuff now so not that much of a downside really)

As for the characters - Nick was nerdish, Kirsten puzzled and the big chiefs of NovusPart just the right shade of 'big business sinister'. They all worked well for me.

I enjoyed this book a heck of a lot and wouldn't be surprised to see it on beaches and in airports all summer. Will it be filmed? Of that I have no idea but somebody, somewhere should take a chance on it (Oh, if only Mr. Spielberg read my blog)

Full marks to Daniel Godfrey for a very interesting and fun read - V/V stars

Sunday, 10 July 2016

Oddjobs by Heide Goody and Iain Grant - A Review

The Apocalypse, the end of the world as we know it, is coming............

It will happen this Friday.........

In Birmingham (UK)

(unless new girl Morag Murray and colleagues can prevent it)

That is the general premise in this latest comedy horror/crime novel, the first in a new series, from Clovenhoof creators Goody and Grant. There is a secret government agency whose job is keeping the general populace unaware of the threat by the other-worldly Venislarn and Morag is starting her first day with them having been transferred from the Edinburgh branch after an 'incident'

As with the Clovenhoof books (of which I am a big fan) there is a lot going on in this book - wannabe amphibian gangster chavs, telepathic curry, an upstairs neighbour with way too many cats, fish porn, Ancient Gods and that aforementioned Apocalypse (due Friday) but it 'doesn't feel like a busy book. Considering all that is happening the story is well paced and holds together really well. The Venislarn are all kinds and varieties of grotesque, Morag and her colleagues range from cute and slightly ditzy to super serious and the side characters are a comedic delight. Also, as a setting, the city of Birmingham works really well

How would I describe the style of the book? Let's just say that if Tom Holt and Robert Rankin sat down to discuss writing a book with H P Lovecraft I think they would be more than happy to come up with something half as good as this. I hope Oddjobs brings Goody and Grant the success they deserve and look forward to more in this series.

Oddjobs was an absolute delight - 10/10

Saturday, 2 July 2016

You Were Never Really Here by Jonathan Ames - A Review

This novella (94 pages) dropped through my letter box yesterday morning. As is usually the case with Pushkin Vertigo books, the blurb made it sound really promising. It is now 5 hours or so since I finished it and I still don't quite know how I feel about it.

The story is a fairly straightforward one - the daughter of a senator has been taken and put into the sex trade, he has a lead and hires Joe, ex Marine, ex FBI to get her back. The thing is, Joe has seen things that have left him damaged. He is the typical 'hero type', loner, broken, violent and his back story explains the reasoning behind his ways quite well. I think the problem I had was that the story was too short and could have been easily expanded a little. Also, Joe, as flawed as he is, comes across as a bit of a psychopath at times and by his final actions here seems to be on a darker path that probably will not end well for him, but we may never know as the story ends with the job only half done.

Good points - punchy prose, brutal violence and a lead character that could carry a series (apparently it is soon to be a feature film starring Joaquin Phoenix).

Bad points - the story felt too short and ended too abruptly with the job only partly done, almost as if this is just a teaser trailer for the main event to come

3/5* - I enjoyed it enough but felt slightly cheated at the final page

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

A Family War by Stewart Hotston - A Review

This was an interesting read. For me Science Fiction can go two ways - tech heavy (which usually turns me away) or tech light (which I tend to quite enjoy). Thankfully, although there is a good bit of future technology in 'A Family War' it is not at the expense of a story well told.

The set up is a future Earth where business rules and the technologically enhanced Oligarchs are the top of the tree. The Oligarchs are scientifically enhanced humans with almost Godlike powers and our heroine, Helena, is one of them. The world is on the verge of a new World War and the only hope of preventing a possible genocide is a small child, which Helena must find.

Where the story really comes alive here is the world in which the reader is taken, obviously future earth but still close enough that the possibilities are plausible. The rich get all they can afford while those without struggle on. The differences in class are notable but Helena may have to overcome these differences if the world is to survive.

I will say that not all character motives are clear (which is a good thing) but once things start to drop into place the reader may need to re-evaluate the way they thought the story was going.

The good points - fast paced story, believable and not too complicated technology, good and vivid world building populated with interesting characters

The bad points - my only real gripe comes back to the technology, it did get slightly repetitive at times but that wasn't to the detriment of the story so I'm happy to let that slide.

As a first book in a series 'A Family War' sets things up nicely for further volumes (which I will certainly be looking out for) and the fact that this is a debut novel, well, that leaves me quite excited for Mr Hotston's future. The Big Time beckons (and please, somebody, make a movie of this)

4.3/5

Monday, 20 June 2016

Portmanteau by Paul Beardow - A Review

Portmanteau, by Sheffield author Paul Beardow , is not going to be an easy book to review - but don't worry, it's for all the right reasons. The thing is, there are so many twists and turns, so many WTF just happened moments and I don't want to spoil a single one of them.

The story revolves around Psychic Investigator Harry Macadam and his team at the Portmanteau Investigations Agency and a missing person case. Each member of Portmanteau has a different kind of 'Psychic Ability'. You've got a hacker who can find anything on any computer, a guy that can 'wind back time, like a film to see what happened at certain points and others that you will come across as the story progresses. As often happens the missing person case links to a dead body pulled from a river and links that Harry and co. discover lead back to a truly despicable underworld trafficking ring. When you throw Harry's personal/home life into the mix you get a good depth of story and a decent feel for believable characters.

I must say I found this a remarkable story. I was drawn in from the start (I finished it in a couple of days) and from early on there was a sense of something being 'not quite right'. When the twists, turns, revelations came however they were certainly not what I expected. Many times I found myself backtracking as I thought 'if that just happened then that earlier thing could not have just happened' - but thanks to the clever writing and planning by the author I was proved wrong. He even pulled off one death scene (I'm trying not to spoilerise things, but, 'hey, it's a thriller, people die in it' isn't totally unexpected) that many authors would not have managed. Harry's is a crazy world that makes a lot of sense.

For me, the sign of a good story is something that keeps you thinking long after the final page and a week after I finished I'm still on the 'did he really just do that?' track

This is a novel of layers and I believe it will benefit from a reread before the second Harry Macadam story comes out later this year.

I've thought long and hard about the star rating and have decided.............(Drum Roll)............

4.3 out of 5 stars - An interesting, puzzling 'onion' of a book from a first time author with a lot of promise. I look forward to reading more from Mr. Beardow

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Deep Magic (Issue 50, June 2016)

Deep Magic is (was) a magazine of 'clean' fiction in the fantasy genre from 2002 to 2006. It shut down after 49 issues but now, 10 years later, it is back in electronic form with a bumper 50th issue.

Just to clarify here, 'clean' fiction is stories without sex, gratuitous violence or strong language. This does not affect the quality of the stories here though. The lack of the aforementioned sex, violence and strong language does not detract from the quality of the stories provided for your entertainment (in fact, if anything, it felt quite refreshing at times). The whole description of 'clean' may make you think 'Young Adult' but Deep Magic is not a 'YA' magazine (not that I'm saying there is anything wrong with 'YA')

So, what do you get in Deep Magic? Five short stories, all of which I enjoyed and by authors I will be looking out for again. They cover fantasy/ magic settings in the main but there is also the SF tinged 'The Perfect Specimen' (which, although not a bad story was probably my least favourite). Added to this, you get the first 6 chapters of Charlie N. Holmberg's new novel, 'Magic Bitter, Magic Sweet' (which is certainly going on my 'To Read' list)

That is not all though.........within these pages there is an article by bestselling author Anthony Ryan ('How I Edit a Novel' - as someone quite new to the editing scene I found this both useful and interesting), Harper Voyager US Executive Editor David Pomerico (Returning To The Light) and interviews with cover artist Eamon O'Donoghue (who did the absolutely gorgeous cover for this edition, trust me, have a look, it is stunning), and a chap you may have heard of......



Brandon Sanderson.


This e-magazine has been sat on my kindle as bedtime reading for the last couple of weeks and I must say I have got a lot of enjoyment out of it. It is just the thing for that end of the day wind down. Will I be reading further editions - most certainly.

A high quality return for Deep Magic and if the standard remains this high I can see only good times ahead for them

4.5/5*

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

The Tiger and The Wolf by Adrian Tchaikovsky - A Review

Adrian Tchaikovsky, author of the 10 book 'Shadows of the Apt' series has kicked off a new series and this time, instead of humans with insect attributes he gives us tribes of shape shifters........and does it well.

Maniye is the Wolf Clan Chieftain's daughter and, like all her tribe can shift to Wolf form. Her mother though was Queen of the enemy Tiger Tribe and because of this she is also able to take Tiger form. The problems this causes lead her to run away but her father needs her as he plans to use her in his plans to take over the north. He sends Broken Axe, one of his warriors to fetch her back.......the chase is on.

As with SotA Adrian's world building really brings this book to life. The cold north is a believable place as are the people who populate it. The first time I read a character shifting to Wolf form was a real 'goosebumps' moment - and this is coming from someone who isn't a massive fan of Werewolf fiction.

This door stop of a book is an excellent start to the series and the future volumes are only going to get better. If you haven't got a copy yet go get one now, and, if possible, go for the physical copy - the cover art is gorgeous.

Often I don't give a first book in a series full star rating as I like to leave room to rate upwards in later volumes but this time I have to - it really is storytelling of the highest order

5/5 stars