Wednesday, 30 November 2011

The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood

Title: The Handmaid's Tale
Author: Margaret Atwood
Genre: Sci-Fi
Published: 1985
Formats: Hardback/Paperback/Ebook

Available at:
The Book Depository
Amazon UK

"The Handmaid's Tale" by Margaret Atwood was chosen as the November read for the Women of Science Fiction Book Club. I was a little bit unsure about this at first as to be honest, I knew Margaret Atwood was the author of one of my wife's books and to be honest, her books aren't always my cup of tea.

The story is set within a bleak and totalitarian, Christian fundamentalist, dystopian Northern United States. Any opposition to the regime or failure to follow the strict rules is punishable by death or deportation to the labour colonies. In this society, most people have been given specific regimented roles that no one can venture away from. None more so that the "Handmaids" who are women seen as being fertile who, due to plummeting birth rates are enslaved as breeding machines for the political leaders of the nation. The story follows one of these "Handmaids" and lets the reader witness the oppression and fears she must endure just to stay alive.

To be honest, the plot is rather standard for a dystopian novel but I did find it interesting enough and Atwood has created a society that truly is chilling and depressing. She has taken so many of the negative aspects of our world and utilised them in some great world development. What she created when she wrote this back in the 1980's is something that feels eerily similar to the stories and reports that come out about some totalitarian Islamic societies today. Personally though, I have to admit that I did find it a little bit unbelievable that the US society could have degraded as quickly and badly as it did in this manner, but as this is a speculative fiction novel I was willing to just accept the premise anyway.

The novel is written in the present tense, purely from the point of view of the main character, Offred with the overall plot being interspersed with various flashbacks of her life. At times I found this to be very interesting as it teased out some of the back story, but at other times it just irritated me as some of the flashbacks were "inaccurate" due to Offred's distorted memories. I understand that these distortions in some of flashbacks were probably there to let the reader understand the state that Offred had now fallen to, but I just got a little bit bored of the repetition of the same type of thing. In addition I have to admit that I found the transitions between present and these flashbacks weren't always the best or easiest to follow which could at times interrupt the flow of the novel.

In regards to the pace, this book really does crawl along; I am actually quite impressed I managed to finish it in as quick a period as I actually did. But this is probably because at its heart the book does have a rather interesting and meaningful story that I was willing to follow although it was a struggle at times. In addition, I think Atwood has maybe intentionally utilised a slow pace to highlight how tedious and relentless Offred's existence actually was. Basically, I wouldn't advise anyone to pick this up as a light read for the beach or train journey as it really needs some dedication in my opinion.

The writing style itself wasn't really for me to be honest; it is too full of metaphors, similes and some strangely constructed prose. In particular, I couldn't stand the lack of speech marks; it just made the book harder to read in my opinion, especially considering it is a rather deep book to try and follow anyway. There is a reason I dropped English Literature & Language classes at 16 and that is because I read to be entertained, not to marvel in the complexities of the English Language. I suspect my wife would probably love it but I can't say this experience of Atwood's style has persuaded me to pick up any of her other novels at the moment.

Overall, I felt that "The Handmaid's Tale" was a reasonable novel if a little slow going. Personally, I have to say that whilst I found the book to be enjoyable enough, I think it has a reputation way beyond what I think it deserves, however we all have our own opinions and mine may just be at odds with the majority due to my own various likes and dislikes. I will say that due to its reputation, I think that think anyone interested in dystopian novels should pick this up and give it a read. In addition I think it would also probably appeal to those who like contemporary fiction with deeper meanings and complex, novel use of the English language.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books on my TBR list for Winter

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish which I am taking part in. 

It has been quite a while since I did a Top Ten Tuesday but decided this was a nice one to join in on and read the other blogs for some more reading ideas. Anyway, the Top Ten Books on my TBR list for winter are below:

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
I just read The Hunger Games last week so this book has moved up high on my TBR list now, I just hope I  enjoy this book as much.

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
Yes, I enjoyed The Hunger Games so much that I know the third book will also be easily read this Winter.

The Expanse by J.M. Dillard
This is the next novel in my Star Trek reading challenge and I am looking forward to read it and push on towards at least completing the Enterprise novels sooner rather than later.

City of Pearl by Karen Traviss
This is the last book in the Women of Sci-Fi Book challenge that I have been reading over 2011 and I am looking forward to it. I just hope some of the challenges I join in 2012 reveal some other interesting reads.

The Two Faces of Tomorrow by James P. Hogan
This is actually the first book I am reading in the 2012 Sci-Fi challenge I have joined and I am excited about what it could hold. This is supposedly quite a hard sci-fi novel which is a sub-genre I haven't read in a while.

Port of Errors by Steve V Cypert
This is a book that I have been asked to review that looks rather interesting. This adventure novel set around pirates and the seas should hopefully keep me hooked.

Containment by Christian Cantrell 
I won this book in a competition and picked it because it was the highest selling low value Sci-Fi ebook on Amazon at the time. It sounded like I might enjoy it and hopefully there was a good reason why it was selling well on the charts at the times.

Project Ultra by James Michael White
This is another book I have been asked to review but this one sounded like it might be an enjoyable paranormal thriller. Set in the 1940's it follows the intelligence agencies using psychics to combat each other.

The Last Man on Earth Club by Paul R. Hardy
This book sounded very interesting in that it follows the last people alive being rescued from parallel worlds where an apocalypse has occured. I just don't know how well this will work but I look forward to finding out.

Monster Story by McCarty Griffin
This will probably be the next book I actually read and as I haven't read a good horror story in ages I hope that I will enjoy this. There is nothing in the dark cold nights than curling up with a good scary book. As long as my wife is also there to help keep me warm!!

Anyway, is there anything interesting in your own TBR list for Winter? Anything I should maybe check out? Let me know!

Sunday, 27 November 2011

The Game of Pawns (Darkness Series Book 3) - Leonard D Hilley II

Title: The Game of Pawns (Darkness Series Book 3)
Author: Leonard D Hilley II
Genre: Sci-Fi
Published: 2010
Formats: Paperback/Ebook

Available at:
The Book Depository
Amazon UK

"The Game of Pawns" by Leonard D. Hilley II is the third book in his excellent Darkness series which follows the previous novels; Predators of Darkness and Beyond the Darkness, both of which I have previously reviewed here & here. I do have to say that whilst I enjoyed this book immensely, I don't think I enjoyed it as much as the first two books. I just don't think that the multiple plot lines came together as well as they did in the previous novels.

The story itself is set mainly around Kat Gaddis who was introduced as a minor character in the last book and Lucian the clone. They are investigating a series of murders in Newark, New Jersey after they discovered that several of the victims worked for a Biotech company called GenTech. The strangest aspect of the crimes is that a red pawn is left on each of the bodies as a signature. When a body then appears with a black pawn, Kat and Lucian get dragged into an explosive secret war being fought between two companies who are using genetically engineered clones and cybernetic killing machines.

Whilst I don't think it was as good as the previous books, this was still an exciting, action packed thriller than I struggled to put down. The pace moves along at a breath taking speed right from the first chapter until the very end. I did feel that in this novel, Hilley has tried to delve even more into the emotions of his characters with even more emphasis being placed on the various relationships involved which was quite nice to see.

In regards to the characters, most of the previous main ones do show their faces but this book does mainly concentrate on the newer or those that previously only had minor roles. I have to admit that I didn't really love these newer characters as much as I had the original ones and those very same original characters didn't feel quite "right" when compared to what was seen in the earlier novels. In addition I found that all these new characters on top of the quite large collection of previous ones did further complicate the multiple plots which did make the novel a bit unwieldy at times.

One thing about the novel though that I really did love was the vast amount of humour that filled the story. Morton the cat once again steals the show when it comes to witty one liners, but in addition there are now some talking rats that have some brilliant scenes that ensured the novel never became over burdened with gloom and seriousness.

Overall, I have to say that the "Game of Pawns" is another great Sci-Fi Thriller from a talented author that really knows how to get the reader hooked. If you have read the other novels in the series then I doubt I need to recommend you go out and pick this one up as you probably already have. If you haven't read this series then I recommend that you do so, it is a thrilling adventure that really deserves to be read by more people than I expect it has been. For myself, I now have to wait and hope that the little teaser at the end of the book actually leads on to another book in this brilliant series.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Star Trek Enterprise: Surak's Soul - J.M. Dillard

Title: Surak's Soul
Author: J.M. Dillard
Genre: Sci-Fi
Published: 2003
Formats: Paperback/Ebook

Available at:
Apple iBookstore US
Amazon UK
Apple iBookstore UK

"Surak's Soul" by J.M. Dillard is the latest book in my ongoing saga to read every Star Trek book in chronological order as per my Star Trek Reading Challenge. Whilst it is a reasonably well written original Star Trek story, the overall plot isn't that complex, deep or really anything we haven't seen before. It actually reminded me of the type of plot we would have seen on the original series. In fact, I could easily visualise the talking alien energy life form, present within the story, in Technicolor glory like we would have seen on the TV show! It also wasn't helped by the fact that, as with the previous Star Trek books I have read during this challenge, I was able to figure out what had happened very quickly thereby destroying any suspense that may have been built up.

Anyway, in regards to the story, it follows the Enterprise responding to a distress signal that leads them to a civilization on the brink of extinction due to a mysterious illness. As the crew explores the planet, T'Pol is forced to kill the last remaining survivor to ensure the survival of Hoshi. This leads to a type of identity crisis for T'Pol as she begins to suspect that spending her time with humans was leading her to go against the teachings of Surak regarding non-violence.

As T'Pol tries to get to grips with her thoughts and choices, the Enterprise remains to investigate what happened to the planet's inhabitants. As the investigation progresses, a mysterious energy based life form known as the Wanderer turns up and offers to assist, which is greatly appreciated by the crew. Especially when they also begin to fall foul of the same illness that claimed the inhabitants on the planet below.

My biggest disappointment with the story though was actually the very little attention actually given to T'Pol and her inner struggle to come to terms with what she did and if is really against Surak's teachings. She just seems to meditate once and then decide that she is going to give up all violence, even if it would save a member of the crew. It was a big let down as the book synopsis had left me thinking it would be a good character driven story exploring T'Pol's character and the guilt she was suffering which it really wasn't.

The little bit that did focus on T'Pol's thoughts was something that I did actually enjoy and it was quite nice to see her comparisons between Surak & Gandhi. However, besides this comparison there is nothing really in this book about Surak at all. It really appears to me that, with this and what I highlighted in the last paragraph, this book should be 'done' for false advertising! Or maybe it was my own fault for reading too much into the title and synopsis.

Now that I have got my disappointments out of the way I will talk about some of the merits. The story does move at a good pace and whilst the story isn't anything special it is entertaining enough. I also think that the author's characterizations were probably the best I have seen so far in an Enterprise novel although I would expect this to be the case as it is currently the latest one that I have read.

Overall "Surak's Soul" was another reasonable Star Trek Enterprise novel that won't win any awards but kept me entertained enough. It was especially nice to see an author really capture the characters form the show well. It is a shame that the book didn't really live up to what I was expecting in regards to really going into T'Pol's soul searching or give us some more information on Surak as I think that I would have really loved the book had this been the case.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

2012 Free Reads Challenge

Runs from January 1, 2012 - December 31, 2012
Hosted by Bookish Ardour

What It’s All About
Are you one of those book lovers who receive lots of books for presents? Have unread books lying around that you won in giveaways, received as ARCs, were given second hand, or even found lying around in the street! Then you might want to join in this challenge because we’re aiming to read all those unread books received as freebies in some form.

The Deets
  • The Main Rule: Read books you’ve received without purchasing, gifts, ARCs, prizes (not library books), that you haven’t read yet.
  • Running Dates: 1st of January – 31st of December 2012
  • When Can I Sign Up: All the way up to the last two weeks of December!
  • Crossover Genres: Anything! As long as they were free when you got them, it doesn’t matter..
  • Mr Linky: To use the Mr Linky you’ll need to click on the graphic held at the hosting site then enter your link. These will be updated and posted into the host page every couple of weeks or so.
  • Further Details: Crossover challenges are fine, you can change levels at any time, this is eBook, short story, and graphic novel friendly, and you don’t need a blog to join in (read further for details).
The How To
  • Choose Your Level: These are listed further down and you can change levels at any time.
  • Grab The Badge: Place it somewhere on your blog, profile, or in a signature where possible and link back (main host site or the hosting challenge page, it’s up to you).
  • Sign Up Post: Create a post on your blog, in a group, or on a forum (only if allowed) to let others see what you’re aiming for (a predefined list of books is optional).
  • Link Up: Grab the direct URL to your sign up post, not your blog, click the Mr Linky graphic on the hosting site challenge page and enter your link!
  • Blogless? Don’t worry, you can sign up with your social network profile (YouTube, Twitter, GoodReads, Shelfari included), just make sure you link to your review list, shelf, tweet, or category. If you don’t have any of those feel free to comment!
  • Your Reviews: Reviewing is optional! But if you do review we’d love for you to share them by submitting them on the hosting site Review Page (including social networks).
  • Finished: When you’re done it’s completion post time and you can share these on the hosting site Completion Post page!
Challenge Levels
  • For Me? – Choose 5 books to read
  • On The Cheap – Choose 15 books to read
  • Bargain – Choose 30 books to read
  • Presents – Choose 50 books to read
  • So Free – Choose 75 books to read
  • Gift Addict – Choose between 76-135 books to read
  • Speechless – Choose between 136-200 books to read
Extra Challenges
If you feel like that extra kick to your reading challenges here’s a couple you can choose from.
  • World: Choose a country as your theme, reading only books from that country or where it’s the setting. For how high you go you can choose more than one country;
  • Level For Me? and On The Cheap: Choose one country
  • Level Bargain and Presents: Choose two countries
  • Level So Free to end of Gift Addict: Choose three countries
  • Level Speechless: Choose four countries.

  • Gender Battle: Read books only by female or male authors. Another alternative is to read equal amounts of both.

My Quota
I have decided to target the Bargain level as I am pretty sure I can manage 30 books considering the number of review books I get sent from indie authors. I may actually be able to meet the next level but I do like to try and read books I bought ever so often so won't try and aim to high.

You can track my progress on my 2012 Challenge Page.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Beyond The Darkness (Darkness Series Book 2) - Leonard D Hilley II

Title: Beyond The Darkness (Darkness Series Book 2)
Author: Leonard D Hilley II
Genre: Sci-Fi
Published: 2008
Formats: Paperback/Ebook

Available at:
The Book Depository
Amazon UK

"Beyond The Darkness" by Leonard D. Hilley II is the 2nd book in his "Darkness Series" and it is set a few years after the events of "Predators of Darkness" which I have previously reviewed here. I am happy to say that just like the first book, this one is stuffed full of action, thrills and a fast paced plot that never seems to let up. However, it is also a little different in regards to its sub-genre; basically the first novel was very much a dystopian horror novel whilst I found "Beyond The Darkness" to be more of a futuristic thriller.

The story itself follows the lives of the survivors from the first book and how they are dealing with the trauma. Daniel, them main character from "Predators of Darkness" for one is having nightmares about his time in Pittsburgh and can't shake the feeling that something else is still to come. Then, out of the blue his friend Lucas is caught on camera killing a senator, but when Lucas calls Daniel from police custody and informs him that it must have been his clone, Daniel realises that there is something sinister at work again. Before he knows it, Daniel and the other survivors are all drawn into a nefarious scheme that once again puts all their lives in danger.

I will admit that I really wasn't sure where this story would go at first; I felt the ending to "Predators of Darkness" was pretty solid and couldn't easily see how much could be made of any loose ends. However, I quickly found that those odd loose ends grew into a superb thriller with various inter-linked plot lines that both intrigued and entertained. The pace was also once again superbly balanced, with the exciting action and various plot twists keeping me hooked right up to the end.

The characters from the previous book have grown and adapted to their new lives and this has helped enhance them into really interesting, dynamic, multi-faceted characters. It really felt like they had learned something in the past and were now acting in a way to avoid the same mistakes. Even some of the characters I wasn't that bothered about in the previous novel really began to shine in this book; Lydia & Johanna being two of the characters that spring to mind. The best character though had to be Morton; this shape shifting cat really stole the show with his wits, charm and loyalty to his new family. Even if the darkest parts of the story his humorous comments ensured that I still had a wry smile on my face.

Overall, this has been another enjoyable book in what is really turning out to be a great series. The superb characters, enjoyably twisting and multi-faceted plotlines and great pace have been brought together well to create a book that should appeal to anyone who has already read the first book. For myself, I am now looking forward to where the sequel "Game of Pawns" will take the series and already had it sitting on my Kindle waiting to be read.

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Star Trek Enterprise: Shockwave - Paul Ruditis

Title: Shockwave
Author: Paul Ruditis
Genre: Sci-Fi
Published: 2002
Formats: Hardback/Paperback/Ebook

Available at:
Apple iBookstore US
The Book Depository
Amazon UK
Apple iBookstore UK

"Shockwave" by Paul Ruditis is the latest book in my Star Trek Reading Challenge and it is a novelization of two Star Trek episodes; namely the Season 1 Finale and the Season 2 premier. I have to admit that I found Shockwave to be one of the better stories in the initial few seasons of the show so I was looking forward to refreshing my memory with this novel.

The basic premise of the story is that the Enterprise manages to vaporise several thousand people in a major accident whilst visiting a planet. Then, as the Enterprise prepares to be recalled back to Earth, Captain Archer is visited by a time traveller who explains that history had never recorded this incident and it is all part of the temporal cold war that was previously mentioned in the first Enterprise novel; Broken Bow. Thus begins an adventure through time, ranging from several months back to thousands of years in the future as the crew tries to unravel what has occurred and why.

The first thing I have to comment on is that it does stick very closely to the TV show and there isn't really anything new added in terms of the story or characters that you couldn't have gained by watching the show, but to be honest that is not a new issue when it comes to novelizations. I did note that various flashbacks to earlier episodes in season 1 have been added to the story. It is a nice way of ensuring that people who haven't seen the show will still understand aspects of the story. I actually appreciated it myself as it was many years ago that I watched the show and can only vaguely remember some of the episodes.

Paul Ruditis, has written the story well enough with his descriptions really bringing you into the centre of the story and the plot is well paced. Basically, I found the novel to be just as entertaining and interesting as I remembered the episodes were.

In summary, this book is a very faithful adaptation of a very enjoyable double episode. However, in a way this is its flaw as I still believe Star Trek books mainly appeal to those who have watched the TV show. Therefore, most people who pick this up will already know the story and it doesn't really add anything new to the experience. So, if you have already seen the Shockwave episodes, the only real reason to pick this up is to re-immerse yourself in this enjoyable story in another form which is perfectly reasonable. If you haven't seen the TV series then I think you will find this a fun and light Sci-Fi adventure book, although I would advise that you read Broken Arrow first as it does give some background and set-up for the overall plot.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Another 2012 E-Book Reading Challenge

Runs from January 1, 2012 - December 31, 2012
Hosted by Workaday Reads

Well, I had already signed up for another 2012 eBook reading challenge so though I may as well sign up to this one as well. Mainly because this one has allowed to me to target a higher number of books.

Challenge Guidelines:
  1. This challenge will run from Jan 1, 2012 - Dec 31, 2012.
  2. Anyone can join, you don't need to be a blogger. If you don't have a blog, feel free to sign-up in the comments. You can post reviews to any book site (i.e. Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, Goodreads, etc).
  3. Any genre or length of book counts, as long as it is in ebook format.
  4. You can list your books in advance or just put them in a wrap-up post. If you list them, feel free to change them as the mood takes you.
  5. When you sign up in the linky, put the direct link to your post about joining the E-Book Reading Challenge.
  6. You can move up levels, but no moving down.
  7. Sign-ups will be open until Dec 15, 2012, so feel free to join at any time throughout the year.
  1. Floppy disk - 5 ebooks
  2. CD - 10 ebooks
  3. DVD - 25 ebooks
  4. Memory stick - 50 ebooks
  5. Hard drive - 75 ebooks
  6. Server - 100 ebooks
  7. Human brain - 150 ebooks
At the beginning of each month there will be a roundup post for you to add your reviews for that month. If you forget, feel free to add your reviews in the following month. Any reviews submitted will be entered into the draw for that month.

Yes, there will be draws every month for participants. As long as you are signed up below, every review you add to the monthly roundups will get one entry into the giveaway for that month.

There will also be a grand giveaway at the end of the year for eveyone who achieves their goal level (or higher). There may be different prizes for different levels, but that is not decided yet. If you are an author and want to contribute to the monthly or grand prizes, please contact me.

My Quota
I have decided to target the Memory Stick level as I am pretty sure I can manage 50 ebooks this but the next level up may be pushing it a bit. Afterall, I do still read some paperbacks now and then.

You can track my progress on my 2012 Challenge Page.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

2012 Science Fiction Reader Challenge

Runs from January 1, 2012 - December 31, 2012
Hosted by Working for the Mandroid

I love Science Fiction so it was probably expected that sooner or later I would sign up for a 2012 Sci-Fi reading challenge sooner or later. And so, when I saw this challenge pop up I just had to sign up for it, especially as it seemed to offer a decent way to read a range of different categories within the Science Fiction genre.

Anyway, there are only a few basic rules for this Sci-Fi Challenge which I have taken straight from the hosting site:

1. The challenge begins January 1, 2012 and runs through December 31, 2012. Books started before January 1 don't count towards the challenge. Re-reads do count, but a new review must be written. Any format of book counts - hard copy, audiobook, e-book - we're not picky.

2. A review has to be written and posted for each book in the challenge. If you don't have a blog, they can be posted on Goodreads, LibraryThing, Amazon, Shelfari, Facebook, anywhere else book reviews are accepted and can be linked to.

3. Any books read for another challenge that fit into a category here can count towards this one. One book, however, cannot fill multiple categories in this challenge. For example, Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game technically fits into at least four of the categories. It can only count for one though.

4. A post will be set up on Working for the Mandroid beginning January 1 for participants to add their review links. I personally will put up a post at the end of each month to track my own progress. That's where you can comment, brag and/or complain about how impossible it is to get through Dune.

5. At the end of the year, I will put all the people who signed up for the challenge and finished 6 of the 12 categories in a contest for a not yet determined prize. Those who finish all 12 of the categories will be entered into a different,better contest. Additional contests throughout the year might also become available depending on participation of readers and availability of prizes. Note: The more participants, the more likely I can get some science fiction friendly sponsors, the more contests.

There are twelve categories to this challenge, so essentially a book for each month.

The categories are:
  • Young Adult/Middle Grade Science Fiction title
  • Adult Science Fiction title
  • Hugo Winner
  • Pre-1950s Science Fiction Classic
  • Modern Science Fiction Classic (1951-1992)
  • Steampunk
  • Robots/Cyborgs/Androids
  • Spaceships/Aliens
  • Time Travel/Alternate History/Parallel Universe
  • Apocalyptic/Dystopian/Utopian
  • Cyberpunk
  • Mad Scientists/Genetic Testing/Environmental Disaster

If you aren't sure what one of the categories are, or can't thing of something to read for a category, just visit the host site, Working for the Mandroid for some inspiration! Under each category header on the main post for this challenge, there are links to lists of titles that will fulfil the requirements.

My Quota
Well, twelve books shouldn't be to much of a problem, the biggest issue was actually trying to decide what book to read for each category as there are so many interesting books out there. However, I settled on the following:

Young Adult/Middle Grade Science Fiction title:
Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
Adult Science Fiction title:
The Two Faces of Tomorrow by James P Hogan
Hugo Winner:
To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis
Pre-1950s Science Fiction Classic:
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
Modern Science Fiction Classic (1951-1992):
The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert Heinlein
Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne
Robopocalypse by Daniel H. Wilson
Star Trek Enterprise: The Expanse by J.M. Dillard
Time Travel/Alternate History/Parallel Universe:
The End of Eternity by Isaac Asimov
The Postman by David Brin
Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson
Mad Scientists/Genetic Testing/Environmental Disaster:
Soon I Will Be Invincible by Austin Grossman

You can track my progress on my 2012 Challenge Page.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Predators of Darkness (Darkness Series Book 1) - Leonard D Hilley II

Title: Predators of Darkness (Darkness Series Book 1)
Author: Leonard D Hilley II
Genre: Sci-Fi
Published: 2007
Formats: Paperback/Ebook

Available at:
The Book Depository
Amazon UK

When Leonard D. Hilley II sent me an email and asked me if I would like to read and review "Predators of Darkness" along with the next two in the series I wasn't sure at first if I should do it. This is because taking on three books from an author I hadn't read was a bit of a risk, but the synopsis and premise drew me in and in the end I was unable to say no. Now that I have finished this first book in the series I can honestly say that I am glad I took the risk as I loved the story and am happy to say that I am already 70% of the way through the sequel!

The story is set in 2073 in the city of Pittsburgh after it has been hit by a nuclear strike that has wiped out most of the city and its inhabitants. However, thanks to a well prepared scientist, several students and staff members have survived in an underground bunker beneath the University Campus. However, after several years when they leave their sanctuary to forage for more supplies they find strange and deadly creatures called Shifters now roaming the streets. These creatures heal quickly, can change their bodies and appearance, are savage killers and love to hunt down those humans that are still alive.

The story follows several of the survivors from the underground bunker in this world whose numbers have been diminishing due to the seemingly never ending, rapidly evolving Shifters. When the leader of the group Daniel finds some information out in the ruined city, he realises there may be a way to actually save the remnants of the group and finally live a decent live. He just now has to try and uncover a murderer in their group, understand the strange objectives of the scientist who originally saved all their lives and finally decide if his best friend is someone he can really trust.

As someone that loves dystopian sci-fi stories and horror it was probably no wonder that I really enjoyed this book. The plot is exciting, entertaining, fast paced and also interestingly complex with several great surprises thrown in along the way. There was also some great sub-plots and layers that seemed at times to be very random and insane but they all came together nicely in the end with a rather satisfying conclusion. The action is also quite constant with danger lurking around every corner which really keeps the suspense level up high. I would have to say that the book isn't for the faint hearted though as the author isn't afraid to detail the violence, blood, gore and downright savagery of the world he has created.

In regards to the characters, I found the main character Daniel to be rather engaging and easy to like. Even in the primitive society that has now evolved where the group's leaders were chosen and even paired off with women via physical violence, he is still a decent, yet haunted man who is trying his best for everyone. He and the other main characters were all well written and I found them all to be rather interesting if at times a little bit type cast. One issue I did have is that sometimes they did specific things that seemed rather stupid and unrealistic for people who had survived so much already and were blatantly just a way to move the plot on in a specific direction.

The secondary characters were rather weak and were nothing more than cardboard cut-outs with a few words here and there to describe who they were. In a way, this made it hard for you to really care about them and it didn't really provide you with a feeling of a close group fighting against adversity. Therefore, the best secondary characters in the book seem to be the Shifters themselves and these are more than adequately detailed. These intelligent, sexually deviant, savage and downright dangerous creatures are really the stuff of nightmares. I found them to be really impressive "monsters" and it was also nice to see them contrasted by a "good" Shifter that appears later in the story and adds a little bit of comic relief to the story.

In summary, this book is a cracking Sci-Fi Horror novel which takes an action packed end of the world scenario and mixes it with dangerous shape-shifting monsters, conspiracy and even the odd bit of romance. Basically, if you enjoy post apocalyptic horror and like to read books that don't take the safe and obvious route then I think you will love this novel.

Friday, 11 November 2011

Star Trek Enterprise: What Price Honor? - Dave Stern

Title: What Price Honor?
Author: Dave Stern
Genre: Sci-Fi
Published: 2002
Formats: Paperback/Ebook

Available at:
Apple iBookstore US
Amazon UK
Apple iBookstore UK

What Price Honor? by Dave Stern is the latest book in my Star Trek Reading Challenge and whilst it was not a novelization of an episode, it did feel like it could easily have been pulled from a mid-season episode from any of the Star Trek series.

The story is set around Armoury Officer Malcolm Reed who has recently killed Ensign Alana Hart when he tried to stop her attempts to sabotage the Enterprise. Malcolm is now riddled with guilt over what has happened and is trying to uncover why the Ensign acted in the manner she did. It soon transpires that an ongoing conflict between two civilisations may actually be linked to Ensign Hart's actions which results in the Enterprise and its crew getting dragged deeper and deeper into the conflict.

Fundamentally this novel is a rather conventional 'whodunit' Star Trek storyline and I managed to correctly guess within the first few chapters what had actually happened. It got so obvious at times that I wanted to slap the characters around because they were being that blind to the clues. Perhaps I have just seen too many Star Trek episodes before but it would have been nicer if the mystery had been a bit deeper and less obvious. In addition it really wasn't the easiest of stories to follow at times as a lot of the plot is brought out via various slightly muddled flashbacks. The reader therefore really needs to concentrate to ensure they understand when and what they are reading about.

What I did like is that the novel was focused on Malcolm Reed who was criminally underutilised in the TV series. I was happy to see some expansion of his character, in particular his relationship with Ensign Hart really helped to humanise him more and show that there was more to him that the strict and proper officer he could come across like.

A final comment I want to make is that I got a little bit confused at the beginning of the story as the dates referenced seemed to have put it prior to the actual launch of the Enterprise whilst the narrative states that it was a year into the exploration mission. This was a little bit annoying to see as it is such a basic error, especially considering I managed to find the fictional launch date for the Enterprise myself without any real difficulty. Star Trek fans can be quite particular about various "facts" and I think this type of thing may irritate quite a few of them.

In Summary this wasn't the best Star Trek novel in the world but it also wasn't the worst. I suspect if you are a fan of Malcolm Reed you may enjoy this book but anyone else may just get a little bit frustrated by the rather basic mystery plot.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

The Apocalypse Gene Giveaway Winner!

Well thanks to my friends at the results of the giveaway to win an ebook copy of The Apocalypse Gene by Suki Michelle & Carlyle Clark are in and I can now announce the winner.

So, a big congratulations to Madlen.

My commiserations to all the entrants who didn't win, but there is still another giveaway on my blog for the excellent legal drama, "The Accidental Activist" by Alon Shalev which is available here.

Monday, 7 November 2011

Paradise: A Divine Comedy - Glenn Myers

Title: Paradise - A Divine Comedy
Author: Glenn Myers
Genre: Comedy Fantasy
Published: 2010
Formats: Paperback/Ebook

Available at:
The Book Depository
Apple iBookstore US
Amazon UK
Apple iBookstore UK

Paradise - A Divine Comedy by Glenn Myers is a comic fantasy novel, written in a manner that is reminiscent of many British comic authors such as Robert Rankin, Terry Pratchett or Douglas Adams.

The story itself is set a round web designer Jamie and criminal lawyer Keziah who, after being involved in a car crash, end up heading to the afterlife together. Once there, they get captured by some spirits who seem intent on forcing them to live in an artificial paradise in an attempt to trial a new form of spiritual worship. The story follows Jamie and Keziah's experiences in this artificial paradise as they face off against each other and the spirits who are holding them captive.

The humour and wit that the author has used in the book is there to try and enhance and complement the serious themes being discussed and it does work to an extent. For example, the wit and banter that is present throughout the novel did make me smile and laugh, especially the discussions between Jamie and Caroline who was basically a self imagined version of his ex girlfriend. However, as the story progressed I have to admit that I began to find it harder to pick up the novel and finish it as the theological elements of the novel became more important to the plot which required me to really try and grasp the points being made. Then again this was probably my own fault as I read the final parts of the book after taking part in a 24 hour read-a-thon!

In regards to the characters, I found it quite hard to dislike Jamie even though he was self-absorbed, a coward and selfish. I think these traits actually increased the level at which the reader could be amused as they were utilised cleverly by the author to create entertaining scenes between him and the other characters. I actually don't think any of the other characters are really developed in as good a detail as him, even Keziah who is one of the other main characters. They all mainly seem to be there as different foils for Jamie to bounce his wits against.

Overall, this was a funny and amusing story and I did enjoy the humorous elements, however I struggled a little bit to keep going through the theological elements. Basically, I believe that this book will probably appeal to people that like the humour of Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett but also want to read something with a deeper underlying meaning.

Friday, 4 November 2011

The Accidental Activist - Alon Shalev (Review & Giveaway)

I have taken part in a blog tour this month that is being hosted by Premier Virtual Author Book Tours for "The Accidental Activist" by Alon Shalev. My post on this tour includes a review and giveaway but I hope you all visit some of the other sites in the tour for further guest posts, intereviews, reviews and giveaways.


Title: The Accidental Activist
Author: Alon Shalev
Genre: Legal Thriller
Published: 2010
Formats: Paperback/Ebook

Available at:
The Book Depository
Apple iBookstore US
Amazon UK
Apple iBookstore UK

The Accidental Activist by Alon Shalev is a novel that has been based on the so called "McLibel" case that took place in England in the 1990's. I was looking forward to reading this as I love legal TV dramas and I was hoping that a novel could interest and entertain me just as well. On the whole I have to say that this book did manage this; of course as it is based in part on reality and is set in England there is less flamboyance during the courtroom scenes compared with what may see on the fictional TV shows. However the story was still enjoyable and overall the book is a really good courtroom drama.

The story itself follows two activists who decide to take on a multinational corporation after it tries to silence them with threats of libel. Meanwhile a computer programmer who is the narrator of the story discovers the possibilities of the internet and sets up a website to help support the case as he has become involved in a relationship with one of the activists. The book takes us through the work done via the internet and various volunteers to collect information and create a strategy, before taking the reader through the actual court case itself and the results.

I found the actual legal case and courtroom drama to be thoroughly engrossing and it held my attention very well. The story flows well and I appreciated the manner in which the author had written it with the narrator varying between telling us factual information on the case and legal system in England before then detailing the various amusing and dynamic interactions between the characters. I felt that this ensured that you actually care for the characters and will them on to win in addition to understanding some of the intricacies of the court case itself.

As with any underdog story, it was quite inspirational to read about regular people fighting a huge corporation on something they felt was right. In addition it was superb to read about and remember the rise of the internet in the 1990's. The way the characters use the internet to help level the playing field between the individuals and the corporate machine was nice to see. It could make the story seem dated because we are now so used to the internet, but as long as the reader understands when the story has been set it shouldn't really cause an issue.

An issue I did have with the book is a possibly more a personal one and it is something I have seen many times that isn't limited to this book. Basically, there were several statements throughout the book referring to British law and specifically British Libel law. There is actually no such thing as British law; there is English law and Scots law which are independent of each other. I am not a law expert so perhaps both English and Scots law may be similar in the case of libel (although I have read that Scots law doesn't even differentiate between libel and slander), however it is factually incorrect to call something British law. It doesn't really affect the story in any way; it was just a minor irritation to me.

Overall, I found this to be an interesting and enjoyable story that should appeal to anyone interested in courtroom dramas and underdog stories. The whole story ignited my interest in the actual case the story was based on and I have enjoyed doing a little reading up on that. Any story that can persuade you to find out a little more about the facts and reality is good in my opinion.


The winner of this giveaway will recieve either an Ebook or Paperback copy of The Accidental Activist based on the following:

If the winner is from the U.S. or Canada, they will have the choice of paperback or ebook.
If the winner is International, they will receive the ebook.


The giveaway will finish at 23.59 GMT November 18.

Winners will be picked by and announced on November 19 by email & on this blog.

All entrants just need to leave a comment with their name and email address.

Good luck!

Learn more about The Accidental Activist at…
Goodreads | Author Website

Next stop on the blog tour: Bound & Determined to Find a Good Read