Tuesday, 23 April 2013
Title: The Black-Eyed Susan (On Dark Shores Prequel)
Author: J.A. Clement
“The Black-Eyed Susan” is a short story that serves as a prequel to JA Clement’s “On Dark Shores” series (for the review of book 1 in the series please click here). I decided to read this short story as I have enjoyed the series so far and I did have some time to waste as I wait for the 3rd book in the series to be written.
The story is set ten years prior to the events contained within the first book in the series and it details the meeting between the Captain of a ship called the Black-Eyed Susan and a moneylender known as Copeland. Basically, Copeland has set up events to ensure that the Captain would be unable to repay his debts and would therefore forfeit the ship and this short story details the initial outcomes of this.
This really is a very short piece of fiction and therefore for someone new to the series I am not sure there is enough time to really detail the characters that will go on to influence the series of novels. However, the basics fundamental morals of the characters are there to see which should pique the interest of any reader. In addition, the writing is concise, descriptive and formatted well which is of course a good advert for the series as a whole.
To be honest, I believe that this book will appeal most to those who have already started reading the series and are familiar with the characters and rich setting. It really does fill out some of the key characters and further explains some of the motives for their future actions. However, there is still be enough here for new readers to gain a nice quick introduction to what is a varied and interesting world. So I can only advise that people go and pick this up, especially as it can usually be found for free on various websites.
Thursday, 18 April 2013
Title: The Children of Kings
Author: David Stern
The Book Depository
“The Children of Kings” by Dave Stern is the latest book in my challenge to try and read all the Star Trek novels in chronological order. To be honest, I am not that sure if I read this novel in exactly the correct place as it more or less lives in its own continuity. Either way though, the story does offer the reader a rare insight into Pike’s era as Captain of the Enterprise.
The story follows Captain Pike and his crew as they investigate a remote Federation base that appears to have been attacked and destroyed by Klingons. Whilst most of the crew are quick to condemn the Klingons, a few of them suspect there is something else afoot and begin to question some of the findings. Things get even worse however when they pick up a distress call from an Orion ship and their attempt to assist results in several of the crew being captured and the apparent death of Pike himself. Before long, tensions begin to escalate and the risk of war between the Federation and the Klingon Empire is a real possibility.
I found the whole novel to be an enjoyable adventure that really did capture the cowboy diplomacy style of Star Trek’s original series. Yes this did mean at times the story was a little formulaic, but it was still fun to follow and I really appreciated the chance to learn a little more about the Orion’s culture and some characters that we know little about. One weak point in the story though was the lack of real tension. The reader always knows that Pike can’t really be dead and any potential surprises are lost by the fact you get to follow both the crew on board the Enterprise and those that have been captured.
As I mentioned earlier in the review, the book does appear to be in its own continuity which did at times cause a little bit of confusion as I read it. There are various inconsistencies with canon and for some reason the author’s note stating that the story is set as prequel to the 2009 JJ Abrams movie doesn’t appear until the end of the novel. Even with this clarification, I was still a little perplexed when I put the book down as during the move it is stated that we were witnessing the maiden voyage of the Enterprise so couldn’t understand how I was seeing earlier voyages. However, since finishing this book I have started to read the graphic novel series that serves as a prequel to the 2nd JJ Abrams movie and those stories contain information that there was a previous ship called the Enterprise previously captained by Robert April so I have just assumed that this story was set on that ship.
It is just unfortunate that the author’s note about which universe the book is set appears at the beginning of the story as it could have stopped some of the confusion about things that didn’t fit right with standard canon. Also, it would have been nice to see a form of clarification that this wasn’t the same Enterprise as seen in the movie assuming that I am right in my belief that it didn’t. In addition, the cover itself appears to show the prime universe Pike & Spock which really doesn’t help with a reader trying to understand the overall setting.
Overall, this was a fun and enjoyable Star Trek adventure although I can imagine that some of the canon inconsistencies could irritate some readers even with the caveat that the story is set in the JJ Abrams universe.
Tuesday, 16 April 2013
Title: FlidderbugsAuthor: Jonathan Gould
“Flidderbugs” by Jonathan Gould is an enjoyable novella that on the surface appears to be a fun little children’s story. However, underneath this there is a satirical element that should appeal to most adults as it pokes holes in both the democratic process and the rather arrogant ivory tower of academia. Without doubt, this really is a book that can be read to your children and enjoyed by them and yourself.
The story itself follows Kriffle, an insect who is heir to his father as potential leader of the Triplifer tribe. As leader of his tribe, his main job would be to debate with the leader of the Quadrigon tribe about if the leaves on the tree they inhabit have either three or four points. This is the fundamental question that governs their lives and decides who is in power via elections. Kriffle finds it hard to understand how the Quadrigons could disbelieve the evidence that is before their very eyes and therefore undertakes an adventure to investigate and prove that there really are only three points on a leaf.
The plot itself is simple, but the way in which Gould uses it to explore and satirise various elements of our society was highly entertaining and at times quite clever. I thoroughly enjoyed seeing the political process in the novel at work as it really highlighted some of the rather “sad” aspects of our own democratic party based systems. In addition, here were various university professors that Kriffle meets on his journey who have spent years debating the philosophy of leaves etc. during their academic lives but couldn’t actually tell him any real facts.
The writing itself is concise, entertaining and incredibly well paced which was needed due to the story being contained within a novella rather than a full length novel. I was impressed to see that Gould managed to include a fair number of encounters and adventures as Kriffle explores his society without having to cut out any of the required detail. Don’t get me wrong, there are some elements of the society the reader learns very little amount but there is enough there to ensure it all makes sense and is believable on some level.
In regards to the characters, it was nice to see that the Flidderbugs all had such distinct and fleshed out personalities. I could understand very quickly what the various individuals were all about which was vitally important when the story is being told in the form of a novella.
Overall, I found this to a quick and fun political satire that provided me with a hopeful ending rather than the usual depressing finales seen in many other novels that touch on the same satirical subject matter. If you enjoy satire then I suspect you will like this novella, I know that I was happy to find myself laughing at myself when I realised that I had fallen into some of the same traps as the Flidderbugs.
Saturday, 6 April 2013
Title: Cassie Scot: ParaNormal Detective (Cassie Scot Book 1)
Author: Christine Amsden
Genre: Urban Fantasy
When Christine Amsden first spoke to me about reviewing “Cassie Scot: ParaNormal Detective” she warned me that it might not be my cup of tea as the novel was a paranormal mystery novel with a hint of romance thrown in. However I decided to give it a go anyway as I loved her earlier novel, “The Immortality Virus” which I previously reviewed here and was willing to gamble that I would enjoy this one as well.
The story itself follows Cassie Scot, the oldest daughter in a family of powerful sorcerers. Unfortunately Cassie herself has no magical gift and has been forced to find a place for herself earning a regular living like everyone else. Alas, her attempt at becoming a private investigator is not working out as she planned with very little business coming her way. However, when the first real case hits her desk, she finds herself drawn into an investigation involving spells, potions and vampires that results in her finally having to decide if she truly wishes to live in either the magical or the more mundane world.
My first comment on the novel has to be that I really did enjoy the story and am now looking forward to the promised sequel. The mystery itself was entertaining to follow and whilst I did work out the “bad guy” before the official reveal it wasn't blatantly obvious and didn’t affect my appreciation for the story in any real way. In addition, there is an interesting overall mystery that has been begun in this novel regarding Cassie, her family and other members of the magical community that has me well and truly hooked.
The characters all seemed to have their own vivid personalities although I am not sure the reader learns much in depth about any of them beyond Cassie herself. In regards to Cassie, I found her to be engaging and fun to follow with her insecurities and issues really adding to the realistic feeling that surrounds her. I just have to assume and hope that the other characters will be developed in greater detail as the series progresses.
The only real issue I had with the story was in regards to Cassie’s romantic relationships. For example, Cassie and her boyfriend have an open relationship, but suddenly out of the blue he seems to be giving up his other women and is proposing marriage because he is now moving away. Now I don’t pretend to understand the psychology behind open relationships but this didn’t feel right to me unless I just happened to miss something in the narrative. In all likelihood I am probably being a little bit picky but I found it hard to take the romantic elements to the story that seriously.
The final thing I want to include in this review is a question to any of you read this blog; “Can you tell me the difference between Paranormal and Urban Fantasy novels?” The reason I ask is that personally I would classify this novel as being urban fantasy and not paranormal which is how Amsden herself described it to me. I mean, a magical world living alongside the regular world in a partially secret manner sounds like most of the urban fantasy novels I have read. I think I have only classified a few stories as paranormal and these usually involve psychics and ghosts rather than magic and vampires.
Overall, this was an enjoyable novel that kept me interesting and entertained as the mystery unfolded. I really wasn’t that sure about the romantic elements within the novel but this didn’t really affect the story in any perceivable manner. If you enjoy urban fantasy/paranormal novels with a hint of mystery and crime then you should give this book a try as I am sure you will find something to appreciate.
ps. I feel that I have leave a comment on the cover which I think looks superb. As someone who had the book prior to the release of the cover I can easily say that it was well worth the wait.
Wednesday, 3 April 2013
Title: Gynocracy (The Phoenix Chronicles Book 4)
Author: K.J. Blaine
When I first agreed to read “Gynocracy” by K.J. Blaine I didn’t realise that this was actually the 4th novel in series known as “The Phoenix Chronicles”. However, despite a few issues related to this that I will get onto later, I still found the book to be perfectly readable as a standalone novel. So don’t worry to much if you haven’t read the other books as it isn’t required to enjoy this story.
In the story, a young man called Steve is kidnapped and taken to the Juno Colony on the moon where he is forced to sign himself into slavery. Juno Colony is quite unique in that men on the colony have no rights at all and are the property of whatever woman owns them. Of course some men are there by choice, especially those who appreciate the BDSM lifestyle, but others like Steve do not share that viewpoint. When his friends and colleagues aboard the spaceship Phoenix discover his predicament then soon put a plan into place to get to Juno undercover and find a way to get Steve back, all the while trying to avoid a diplomatic incident.
I was a little bit worried when I first started reading the book as the plot line sounded like it belonged in the mind of some teenage boy and the cover didn’t do much to dissuade me from that opinion either. However, despite my reservations I actually found the story to be an enjoyable light and easy going science fiction adventure. I was also happy to see that whilst the story did delve into BDSM it is not portrayed in a disturbing manner and there were no descriptions of sex at all. So don’t pick up this book expecting it to be the new “Fifty Shades of Grey” because this is definitely not an erotic novel.
Overall, the story flowed well although it did find it could stutter at times due to various references to events that I assume occurred in other books. I will admit that this does help to ensure a new reader has a vague understanding of why the characters may act in the way they do, but it does break the flow and I suspect someone who has read the previous would rather have seen this left out.
As I said earlier, there are a few issues with the novel in regards to it being the 4th in a series. These are mainly centred on the large quantity of characters present in the story. They are all introduced very quickly and I did find it quite hard to keep everyone straight in my mind. In addition Blaine also refers to them in different ways as the story progresses, at first it might be their first name, then their surname and sometimes also their stage name on the colony. This just added to my overall confusion as I tried to follow and understand who was doing what.
Despite this I still found the characters to be incredibly likeable with their honesty, loyalty and determination really shining through. It did feel like a tight knit family who would do whatever was necessary to save one of their own. I don’t think there was one character I disliked out of the “heroes” and I can’t remember the last time I ever said that about a book.
In summary this is a light and fun Science Fiction adventure that doesn’t try and come across as hard or serious. The range of characters can be a bit confusing for a reader that is new to the series but this is easily overlooked because they are all so likeable. Personally, I will probably now read the other books in the series just to see what other adventures that the crew of the phoenix get up to.