Friday, 28 September 2012

What I'm Reading Next

Good news everyone! A box of goodies from Black Library arrived. That's at least good news for me, but I'm sure you can share my joy. Here is a picture to show you the highlights.

That's right, what you see is Dan Abnett's latest novel, Pariah. The blurb just makes me want to drop what I'm reading and start reading Pariah straight away. I shall try and resist, and I am going to Brighton tomorrow, so don't want to lug around too many physical books.

The Emperor's Might: Warriors of the Imperium is a art collection packed full of gorgeous images of space marines. I might browse through that one while my partner watched Downton Abbey. I think a full bodied red wine will go well with it.

Dark Vengeance, by G Z Dunn, is a tie in novel to the table top game with the same name. Slim enough to go into the bag I'm packing for FantasyCon.


I just finished reading Zero Point by Neal Asher, and just started Caliban's War by James S A Corey.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

'Blue Remembered Earth' - Alastair Reynolds

As a fanboy I don't like change, so I felt both excitement and fear when Alastair Reynold's new book, Blue Remembered Earth, was announced. The Revelation Space universe was about to step aside for a new creation and a new beginning. It took me quite a while before I summoned enough courage to purchase a copy. I'm glad I did though.

In Blue Remembered Earth global warming has caused some dramatic changes, and the world we know today is no more. From the ruins of the old empires, new super powers arose. From Africa, a woman born at the end of the conflict, carved her name into the history books through sheer determination and ruthlessness. Now, she has passed away and left her empire to her squabbling relatives, but she also left them a mystery. Not everyone is happy about this, and the family is divided into those who wants to bury it, and those who wish to see what final message their venerable matriarch left them.

At first I was a worried Alastair Reynolds would tone down all the awesome technology I grew to love in Revelation Space, and while Blue Remembered Earth is low tech in comparison, it's still sufficiently techie to scratch that itch. The colonisation of space has started, and AIs exist, but have been outlawed.

It turns out space is not the final frontier, the oceans on earth are ripe for exploration as well, and a faction has made them their home. In Revelation Space humans had since long abandoned the need to look human, and the first stumbling steps have been made in Blue Remembered Earth. They are however of a more practical nature, mostly related to surviving in different environments, specifically underwater.

Unlike Alastair Reynolds' previous novels the protagonists in Blue Remembered Earth are pretty ordinary people, lacking military background and completely without any, out of the ordinary, enhancing implants. You see, on Earth, crime is something of the past. All humans are implanted with a thought monitoring device which detects thoughts of violence, and when that happens the individual is disabled, and will if necessary receive therapy. The Mechanism overseeing this is the ultimate big brother. But, back to our protagonists, Geoffrey and Sunday, were born into one of the richest families, but choose to pursuit their own interest instead of the family business. Geoffrey is researching elephant cognition, with the ultimate goal of doing a Vulcan mind meld with the matriarch of the herd. His sister, Sunday, is a half decent artists, who ekes out a living on the moon. The moon is outside of the reach of the Mechanism, and she is part of a subculture who wants the freedom, to do wrong. It's not a rebellion, see them more as hippies.

Together, they have to unravel the mystery their grandmother left behind her. The trail of breadcrumbs they follow is a historic one, the same path travelled by their grandmother when she lay the foundation for their family's riches. It's an absolute delight to read, as it manages to be both interesting, almost like a documentary, but also full of excitement and wonder. This is after all Alastair Reynolds, and we all know what he is capable of. It's all there, the suspense, the fantastic world building, and characters who are so easy to sympathise with you can feel the emotions behind their dialogue. Even the elephants are well rounded characters! Any worries I had about the change of scenery were swiftly abandoned, Alastair Reynolds' has without a shadow of a doubt pulled off his reboot. Although his new universe has a lot less tech in it, there is still more than enough to grab your attention, and a writer with his skill does not require a technological plague or super powered suits to create suspense. I'm once again blown away by the master of British SF, and I can't wait for the next part.

Blue Remembered Earth weighs in at 512 pages, and is published by Gollancz.

Monday, 24 September 2012

Who Won? Seven Wonders

I am done moving from one flat to another, and have found the time to draw a winner out of my virtual hat of names. The very lucky winner is:

Emily King from Cornwall!

I shall inform my angry robot overlords at once, and a robot minion will deliver a copy of Seven Wonders to her doorstep.

Happy reading Emily!

Friday, 21 September 2012

Excuses, excuses

Dear readers,

I'm in the middle of a house move, but the winners of the Seven Wonders giveaway will be announced in the next couple of days. Also, you have a review of Blue Remembered Earth to look forward to.

Friday, 14 September 2012

Book giveaway: Seven Wonders

It's been a while since my last giveaway, so I wanted something special for this one. We can all agree that Seven Wonders by Adam Christopher is that special book. Quick, start sending me those emails!

This competition is sponsored by Angry Robot Books and is open to anyone in US/CAN or UK/EU. 

1) Send an email to winabook NOSPAM at iwillreadbooks dot com (but remove the NOSPAM).
2) Make the title for your email Seven Wonders
3) Don't forget to include your address, or I wont be able to send you the book, unless you want a eBook
4) Do this before Friday the 21st of September 2012

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

'Seven Wonders' - Adam Christopher

Seven Wonders, Adam Christopher's second novel, is a bit of a rarity. It's a super hero novel. Not something you see every day, but I wish there were a few more out there. After his success with Empire State it's safe to say my expectations have reached a new high. As always, a big thanks to Angry Robot Books for providing me with a review copy of Seven Wonders.

I did not have to turn many pages before Seven Wonders reminded my of Kurt Busiek's master piece, Astro City. It's a similar setup with a city where spandex clad supermen, and women, are a part of every day life. What made Astro City so special to me was how for the first time the heroes felt like real people, with real problems. I love it how the citizens of both cities can take it in their stride when supermen, and women, bring destruction and mayhem to their lives. Dodging the impact of invulnerable super heroes on your way into work is not much different from dodging a pack of pigeons as they fertilise the area they fly over. Seven Wonders also has the same amazing mixture of different heroes, and often we don't even get to know anything about them apart from their name, which is all I need to get my imagination going. The Gin Fairy, need I say more?

I'd better talk a little bit about the plot before I forget and just talk about how it compares to my favourite graphic novel. You really need to read Astro City though.

Tony is what you could call a loser, stuck in a dead beat job, pretending otherwise to his parents, and he is terrified of the city he lives in. Being constantly frightened and without much money makes it harder to attract attention from the fairer sex. Then it happens, that thing that only happens in fiction written by men, a smoking hot member of that fairer sex does notice Tony. Notice is a understatement, it's more of a home run than first base as well. Not a bad confidence boost for our frightened rabbit, but then our delicate little mammal wakes up one day with super powers.

Tony is not the only one with super powers though, the city is protected by the super hero team called Seven Wonders. They are in a stalemate with the only super villain left in the world, The Cowl. The world's last super villain really is super, his powers range from invulnerability to psychic abilities which can boil a man's brain in an instant, and not even the combined might of the Seven Wonders is enough to take him down. The Seven Wonders are not exactly kittens themselves, their leader draws is power directly from the sun, and their weapons and armours are forged by an ancient god.
While Tony is having his 'Chronicle' like experience playing with his new powers, The Cowl is plotting to strike a final blow to the Seven Wonders.

One of the things I loved the most with Empire State was Adam Christopher's ability to keep surprising me with the twist and turn of the story arcs, which is sadly not the case in Seven Wonders. An attempt is made, but the result feels rather disconnected from the rest of the story, and a little bit too sudden to really fit it. Luckily, it does not in anyway ruin the experience, but it's definitely a a bump you can feel. The biggest problem in Seven Wonders is how some of the characters have rather drastic personality changes. These are even more sudden and really quite unexpected, at least in Chronicle you could see it coming. In Seven Wonders it even happens more than once. Sadly, this takes away a lot of the credibility of the characters, and in most other books it would have made it a poor reading choice. While Adam Christopher might have missed the mark with some of the characters, the atmosphere, and the world building, is spot on. The super powered fighting also has the right comic book feel to them, but with a more adult touch to them, where there is actual bloodshed. Adam Christopher has once again brought something new to a old genre.

You'd be a super fool if you didn't read Seven Wonders.

Seven Wonders weighs in at 416 pages and is published by Angry Robot Books.

Saturday, 8 September 2012

What I'm Reading Next

Due to a severe spell of League of Legends addiction my reviewing has dwindled into a trickle, if you can even call it that. I seem to broken my shackles, and even managed to post a review a wrote a month ago. I have still managed to read a few books, so hopefully there will be some more reviews in the next couple of days, or weeks. Just a little teaser of what is coming.

Blue Remembered Earth - Alistair Reynolds
Alistair Reynolds is starting anew with his Poseidon's Children trilogy. Supposedly, more optimistic than what he has written in the past. I'm a big fan so I'm surprised it took me this long to read it. It did not disappoint.

Seven Wonders - Adam Christopher
Adam's second novel for Angry Robot Books, which is a real super hero novel. Another great cover by the way, and it was just released.

Tomorrow the Killing - David Polansky
This is the second Low Town novel, and a book I was very much looking forward to reading. His first novel, The Straight Razor Cure (review), just blew me away. This one is even better.

Thursday, 6 September 2012

'The Dirty Streets of Heaven' - Tad Williams

Tad Williams returns with a new novel, The Dirty Streets of Heaven, which is the first book about angel private eye, Bobby Dollar. My first experience with Tad Williams was his Memory, Sorrow and Thorn series, but it was such a long time ago, all I can remember is the books were proper bricks. I've read a lot of urban fantasy in the past so I thought I'd give Bobby Dollar a chance, and not hold that name against him or the writer. Thank you Hodder for providing me with a review copy of The Dirty Streets of Heaven.

I often say how the protagonists in crime novels all share very similar traits, and this is even more true in urban fantasy. They are usually around average height, of a more sinewy build, but they do know how to throw a punch and excel at taking a beating. The last bit is essential as the key ingredient is a smart mouth, and you know werewolves, vampires and demons hit pretty hard. World weary and cynical goes without saying, and if you are not slightly depressed by their company after a few pages, something is wrong. Then there is that added spice, their knack for something which makes them special and interesting. Constantine has his magic, Matthew Swift is a frigging electric angel, and all Felix Castor got was a flute.

Bobby Dollar is an angel, no electricity involved, but the soul of a mortal who perished, and was lucky enough to end up in heaven. This processes is a lot more convoluted than I thought, it's not an instant process where your actions are weighed and the scales tipped into fiery oblivion or a heavenly paradise. No. A representative from both heaven and hell argues your case in front of a judge. Bobby Dollar is one such heavenly advocate. It's all pretty much business as usual for him until one day when the defendant does not turn up. This has never happened before and what happens with a soul after a person's death is clearly defined in the treaty signed by both sides after the big upset. A soul not showing up for its own trial is not part of that treaty and the two sides are quick to blame each other. You'd think heaven is a tight knitted group where everyone has each others' back, but you'd be wrong. At least according to Bobby Dollar who is worried he will somehow be the scapegoat for all this, so he decides to look into it on his own. The smoking hot demonic investigator sent by the opposition has nothing to do with this decision. The smoking hot, it's actually burning, demon might have something to do with it. Fear is a great motivator.

The Dirty Streets of Heaven is one of those books I was quite happy to pick up and get back into it, in spite of a few issues. Sometimes, the sum is greater than the parts. I do wish Tad Williams had equipped Bobby Dollar with a slightly less annoying personality. We all have that one friend who think they know everything, and sees it as their duty to educate everyone else. Even when chased by demons Bobby Dollar can't help himself from telling us about all the cool shit he knows about the neighbourhood he is running through. Still, he does have a certain world-weary charm so in the end he gets away with it.

I could never shake the feeling of having read it all before, but The Dirty Streets of Heaven is still a well written book packed to the brim with action adventure. The pace never slackens, and the urban fantasy hero's legendary ability to take a beating is stretched to the limit. Somehow, it all comes together in a conspiracy theory kind of way, and the awkward judging of souls is replaced with far more interesting lore and events. I'm not sure it's enough to make me read a second Bobby Dollar novel, but it was entertaining while it lasted.

If you like urban fantasy, and if you are a fan of Chris F Holm's Dead Harvest, I'm certain you will enjoy The Dirty Streets of Heaven as well.

The Dirty Streets of Heaven weighs in at 416 pages, and is published by Hodder.