Sunday, 26 June 2011

In Her Name: Empire by Michael Hicks

The first book of Michael Hicks Fantasy/Space Opera Hybrid is a free download for anyone who registers on his website. While you might have initial reservations about a self published work this one is actually pretty good. Humanity are fighting a war for survival against an ancient race of blue skinned humanoids who live only to fight for the honour and glory of their empress. A young human boy is captured by these Kreelans and brought back to their home planet to determine whether or not he has a soul. Over time the boy learns the many of the Kreelan's mysteries and even comes to respect their martial code of honour but will he ultimately betray his humanity? 

Aside: Self Publishing is very much in the news this week with the news that J. K. Rowling is planning to self publish and distribute her own ebooks from her website. Of course Hicks' motivations and Rowling's motivations are entirely different. Hicks self publishes because he couldn't get a publisher. Rowling will self publish because she doesn't need a publisher. Nevertheless these two authors taken from the two extremes of the book market indicate just how much ebooks can challenge traditional publishing models.

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Surface Detail by Ian M Banks

With virtual realities offering a form of immortality to the races of the galaxy some groups are not satisfied with ever lasting paradise for all. They have created virtual hells in order to keep people on the straight and narrow for fear of eternal punishment. Their neighbours are so upset by this cruelty that war has broken out. The Culture gets involved in its own bumbling way with the help of an escaped slave girl.

Another great read set in Banks' Culture universe.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

The Name of The Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

This book has gotten more gushingly positive reviews than any fantasy novel in recent memory and yet it took four years for Rothfuss to break through to the wider public conciousness. Perhaps that is just the time lag between the USA and Europe. Perhaps it is that grown up fantasy was very much hidden behind all those teen vampire novels when it was released back in 2007. Whatever the reason for the delay Rothfuss is here in a big way now and he is getting top billing from book stores to coincide with the release of the follow up novel.

I really don't need to add much to all of those glowing reviews. It is very well written. It does break new ground with its use of parallel timelines, its mocking of so many genre conventions and its strong characterisation. It is a nuanced book that would probably reward re-reading with new insights and understandings.

That said, I don't particularly like the main character Kvothe - the gifted scholar,  renowned hero, arcane magic wielder and Kingslayer who has retired to a quiet life as an unknown innkeeper in a  far away town. Given that the whole point of the series is the story of Kvothes life as recounted by himself over a three day period this is a bit of a problem for me.

Ah well. I'll read the books none the less. Perhaps he will reveal a more sympathetic side in the follow up episodes.