Friday, 29 June 2012

'Bad Blood' - Chuck Wendig

Chuck Wendig, writer and master of profanities, is back with a new Coburn novel. Bad Blood is the second book starring my new favourite bad ass vampire, who thankfully never sparkles, and his sidekick, Creampuff, the doggie. I'm happy coming back for a second helping of Coburn. Double Dead had a lot more depth to it than I expected, it was a story of a man who could only cope with being a monster by fully embracing it, and letting go of humanity. Thank you Abaddon Books for the review copy of Bad Blood.

Bad Blood is a very quick read, not only because is's short, it is really short, but for being as action packed as Double Dead, with no chance of catching your breath. The team is just Coburn, Gil and Creampuff, and they are still trying to deliver the cure to a lab, or at least find a group of survivors who are not cannibals or complete psychopaths. Obviously, it won't be that easy, and there might be a bunch of cannibals, demented humans, zombies, and hunters between them and salvation.

Funnily enough, Coburn did not learn anything from Double Dead, so he still vastly overestimates his own abilities and manages to get captured and tortured as usual. I have to say this is turning into a pattern for Chuck Wendig, but I still think it works. Having said that, for a third instalment he has to be a bit more innovative for his plot obstacles.

Bad Blood works well for me, I really like Chuck Wendig's tongue in cheek cussing and his punchy dialogue. It's a refreshing read, and a book that stands out amongst its vampire genre brethren for its reckless pace and innovative use of profanities. A great take on the survivor genre. When can we have the third part Mr Wendig?

Bad Blood weighs in at 108 pages, and is published by Abaddon Books.

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

'Champion of Mars' - Guy Haley

Champion of Mars was another easy reading choice. Guy Haley is one of my favourite new authors, and his Richard and Klein Investigations series is simply brilliant. Champion of Mars is set in the same universe as his previous books, but is supposedly very different. When I first saw the cover in a newsletter from Solaris Books, I knew straight away I wanted to read it. Thank you Solaris Books for providing me with a review copy of Champion of Mars.

In my review of Reality 36 I said it was a interesting take on the rise of AI in society, and how it would effect modern society. Champion of Mars takes this to the next level and beyond with some truly stunning world building.

It's also a story about Mars, the red planet, which has always been a favourite for SF writers as the first planet to colonise. This is also the case in Champion of Mars, where it all starts with the arrival of a new scientist. We are off to a rather exciting start, the colonising has already started with several bases, by various nations, already in existence. It's a little bit of an arms race at this point of who gets to do what, not so bad as a full out conflict, more of a professional competition between the different nations. What's exciting there is life on Mars, deep down under the surface of Mars, we finally learn we are not alone, even if it's just a question of microorganisms. Our scientist is on place to evaluate how Mars can be terraformed without impacting the existing ecosystem.

Guy Haley treats us to a vivid tale of the exploration of the Martian cave, and although there are no The Descent monsters present, the naturally hostile environment of Mars makes it exciting enough. It's also surprisingly beautiful, which anyone who has ever been in a cave full of stalactites can attest to, but this cave also has colourful microorganism. Wish I could be there. Champion of Mars is however not a BBC documentary narrated by Sir David Attenborough, it's a science fiction novel written by Guy Haley. The shit is about to hit the fan, and it does. They find a lot more than they bargained for.

I really like how Guy Haley choose to layout his story, and how he lets us follow Mars from its early days of colonisation to millennia later, where AIs and human live integrated, and even as life companions, sharing both a real and virtual existence. No one really dies, everyone is stored to be reborn later, maybe next year or in a hundred. It's as if Guy Haley has a complete scan of Mars' history, and then composed Champion of Mars by putting the most important 'slices' together into a book.

Let's talk about the golden man on the cover, Yoechakenon, Champion of Mars. Bred for war, armed with a living suit of armour, he is death incarnate. Alone, he is capable of levelling a city, but his hardest fight is ahead of him. In the background on the cover stands his companion, Kaibeli, a machine spirit. The two have been together even longer than they can remember, and now they fight for the future of Mars.

It's, content wise, very different from his Richards and Klein Investigations novels, with a far more high tech environment, but also with a more serious attitude. Gone, are the MMO influenced realities, replaced by a far more gritty and deadly environment. Again, Guy Haley is spot on with the action, making Champion of Mars one hell of a read. You can definitely see the influence by Neal Asher, but Guy Haley of course has his own unique voice.

Even though the Champion of Mars is set in the same universe as his Richards and Klein Investigations series, you don't need to have read them. The immense time span of Champion of Mars makes it both a prequel and sequel to his other books, which is a bonus if you have read them. Familiarity is always good.

Champion of Mars is his best book so far, an absolute gem. It is a must read for any fan of science fiction, not just those who are fans of action packed SF, Champion of Mars also offers suspense and some really cool world building.

Champion of Mars weighs in at 318 pages, and is published by Solaris Books.

Monday, 18 June 2012

'The Black Path' - Åsa Larsson

Åsa Larsson is back with a new Rebecka Martinsson crime thriller, The Black Path. Actually, this is part three in the series and Until thy Wrath be Past was part four. For some reason, which I should look into, Quercus has decided to publish them in reverse chronological order. Anyway, as I enjoyed the part four I'm in debted to Quercus Books for providing me with a review copy of The Black Path as well. Not indebted enough to be lenient, obviously.

Let's start with some info dumping on ice fishing in north of Sweden. It can get pretty damn cold out there, and even though being fond of mother nature is almost a requirement for living in north of Sweden, Swedes do like their comfort. Imagine a normal garden shed, put a pair of huge skis, or skates, under the shed. Bring forth the power tools to make a hole in the floor with a nice lid. Push shed out on ice, open lid, drill hole in ice. Turn on heater, fetch beer from fridge, fish.

This is exactly what one of the locals is doing, but a gust of wind robs him of his shed when nature calls. With only minutes to survive in the cold he finds his neighbouring shed and smashes a window. What he did not expect to find is the dead body of a woman.

Martinsson, is recovering in a mental hospital from whatever horrors she endured in part two, The Blood Spilt. When she has to leave the hospital, she realises she can no longer stay in the busy capital, but needs the tranquility which can only be find in the north where she grew up.

When she is giving a opportunity to bury herself in work by the local prosecutor she takes it. This is how she starts doing research favours for Anna-Maria Mella, the cop investigating the murder. The dead woman is a successful businesswoman working for a mining corporation, and the two woman quickly realises something is not right.

What makes The Black Path such a refreshing read is Åsa Larsson's characters. Although the series is called The Rebecka Martinsson Investigations, the book is as much about almost everyone involved. Åsa Larsson not only tells what the characters are doing now, but also what they did in their past to end up in their current situation. This often goes as far back as their childhood. It's effective, makes you feel you know the characters quite intimately. All these flashbacks to the past does slow down the story, but Åsa Larsson does get the balance right, maintaining the momentum of the plot. Having said that, I'm glad not every writer shares so much of the past of every character.

Speaking of the plot, in Until thy Wrath be Past the actual murder plot was a little too easy to solve, with a very small pool of suspects. In The Black Path, things are more complicated, with a international conspiracy, and a far more interesting motive. Again, Åsa Larsson introduces a character with an unusual ability, a young woman who can see the future, adding another layer of complexity, and mystery, to the plot.

Once again I find myself enjoying an Åsa Larsson book, not only because it's a good book, but also because it is set so close to home. Luckily, I will be going home to Sweden in a couple of days.

The Black Path weighs in at 400 pages, and is published by Quercus Books.

Thursday, 14 June 2012

'2 Guns' - Steven Grant

2 Guns is my latest read for MomGamerWriter's comic book challenge. You can see the contributions from other bloggers here. The script is by Steven Grant and illustrations by Mat Santolouco. I found this bad boy while following an intricate web of recommendations on the Amazon website. The graphic novel was compared to Ocean's Eleven and the Italian Job, which was a hook I quite happily swallowed. I want to thank the ever so generous myself for splashing out for a copy of 2 Guns.

Trench and Steadman, our two protagonists, work well together, just like oil and water. Considering how they met, this is perhaps not surprising. Being undercover agents, you don't really know who to trust, and this is especially true in 2 Guns.

Trench is a DEA agent, who thinks he has made contact with another criminal, but this is just Steadman operating under an alias. Steadman is a Naval Intelligence Officer, who is just following orders. Steadman suggests robbing a bank, one which Trench is familiar with. Supposedly, the bank is up to something but the DEA have never been able to prove anything. This could be their chance. Obviously, Trench is not planning on really robbing the bank, or at least until a gangster threatens to set him up by paying $50,000 into his account. This convinces Trench he needs an out card, let's say 50 million outs.

This is just some of what goes down in the first chapter. Clearly, 2 Guns is fast and furious and it's far from a simple plot. Whereas, I like the relentless pace and the action I did struggle with the plot. Steven Grant is no where near to convincing me a DEA agent is so easy to setup, if all a gangsta needed was $50,000 to get rid of one, we'd have none left. There are a more than one occasion where the writer takes the easy way out, forcing a character into a situation by making an unlikely decision.

Not quite sure where I stand on the illustrations, Mat Santolouco draws his characters with a lot of sharp angles. Most of them feel rather blocky, with chins sharp enough you to shave yourself with. Many of them are also very similar in appearance, especially Steadman seems to have been cloned. Funnily enough he reminds me of Josh Hopkins, who plays "Tiny Eyes" Grayson in Cougar Town.

2 Guns is far from a bad graphic novel, but I did expect a lot more from such an experienced writer as Steven Grant. If your diet is mainly action oriented 2 Guns might be more to your taste.

2 Guns weighs in at 128 pages, and is published by Boom Studios. According to IMDB 2 Guns the movie will be out in 2013.

Friday, 1 June 2012

What I'm Reading Next

Or rather, all the books I read so far without also writing a review. Once in a while I seem to hit a wall when it comes to writing reviews. It might be because it suddenly feels too much like a chore, or something in real life demands my attention, like Diablo 3. Whatever the reason, a writing debt is built up, and I have to stop reading more books.

Just thought I'd share my sins with you all:

Champion of Mars - Guy Haley

In the far future, Mars dies a second time. The Final War between man and the spirits is beginning. In a last bid for peace, disgraced champion Yoechakanon Val Mora and his spirit lover Cybele are set free to find the long-missing Libararian of Mars, the only hope to save the remnants of mankind.

In the near-future Dr Holland, a scientist running from a painful past, joins the Mars colonisation effort, cataloguing the remnants of Mars' biosphere before it is swept away by the terraformation programme. When an artefact is discovered deep in the caverns of the red planet, the actions of Holland and his team lead to tragedy, with profound consequences that ripple throughout time, affecting Holland's present, the distant days of Yoechakenon, and the eras that brige the aeons between.

2 Guns - Steven Grant

A pulp story about cops and thieves and the men that are something in between. Trench has targeted a local bank to rob, and asked Steadman in on the job. Trench figures it's a great way to score -- considering it's a cover for mob money. They'll be thieves ripping off thieves. But what Steadman doesn't know is that Trench is a DEA agent. And what Trench doesn't know is that Steadman's a Naval Intelligence officer. They're both cops! And neither one knows that they're not robbing the mob, they've been set up to steal $50 million from the CIA! A light-hearted crime romp in the vein of Ocean's Thirteen and The Italian Job from comics legend, Steven Grant!

The Black Path - Åsa Larsson

A grisly torture-murder, a haunting northern Sweden backdrop, and a dark drama of twisted sexuality collide memorably in Åsa Larsson’s masterpiece of suspense—a tale of menace, hope, longing, and darkness beyond imagining.

The dead woman was found on a frozen lake, her body riddled with evidence of torture. Instantly, Inspector Anna-Maria Mella knows she needs help. Because the dead woman—found in workout clothes with lacy underwear beneath them—was a key player in a mining company whose tentacles reach across the globe. Anna-Maria needs a lawyer to help explain some things—and she knows one of the best.

Attorney Rebecka Martinsson is desperate to get back to work, to feel alive again after a case that almost destroyed her. Soon Rebecka is prying into the affairs of the dead woman’s boss, the founder of Kallis Mining, whose relationship with his star employee was both complex and ominous. But what Rebecka and Anna-Maria are about to uncover—a tangled drama of secrets, perversion, and criminality—will lay bare a tale as shocking as it is sad…about a man’s obsession, a woman’s lonely death, and a killer’s cold, cold heart.

Wrath of Iron - Chris Wraight

After months spent in the service of the Chaos god Slaanesh, the ruling classes of the Contqual sub-sector have finally brought true damnation upon their people – innumerable hordes of foul and lascivious daemons swarm from a tear in the fabric of reality to embrace their mortal pawns and drive them on to ever more depraved acts of worship. It falls to the merciless Space Marines of the Iron Hands Chapter to cleanse these worlds of the warp’s unholy taint, and it is upon the surface of Shardenus that the fate of a billion lost souls will be decided.

The Gilded Edge - Danny Miller

London 1965, and Vince Treadwell investigates the seemingly unrelated murders of a playboy aristocrat from Belgravia and a young black nurse from the wrong side of town. It takes the detective to the illegal drinking dens of Notting Hill run by the self-styled Black Power leader, Michael X; the nightclubs of Soho owned by the legendary gangster, Billy Hill; and the exclusive gaming tables of the Montcler Club in Berkeley Square, where the blue bloods and power players of England gamble thousands on the turn of a card. But as Vince Treadwell digs deeper he finds himself not only embroiled with a beautiful society girl, Isabel Saxmore-Blaine, but a world of espionage and corruption where the underworld mixes easily with the aristocracy, and no one is innocent.