Sunday, 27 March 2011

Maelstrom by Porter Watts

Starfish, Peter Watts brooding novel about a bunch of misfits living and working under the deep ocean could have worked as a standalone novel but it is actually the beginning of a trilogy and Maelstrom is the follow up episode.

With the main characters released from the ocean depths the claustrophobic psychological drama gives way to adventure story. It is a good one though and Watts still manages to keep you thinking about the characters and their roles. The main plot is about an ancient life form from the bottom of the ocean that threatens to destroy humanity and everything we know. Watts is quite ambiguous though about who his heroes are. Is it the controlling agencies who are fighting against the infection but who routinely sacrifice every human right of their subjects "for the greater good"? Is it the psychologically scarred heroine who deliberately spreads the doomsday bug as a form of twisted revenge? Is it the various misguided individuals who worship this Typhoid Mary and help her macabre quest? Is it the artificial intelligences who become entangled in the plot for their own motivations? Read this excellent thought provoking novel and decide for yourself.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

"The Gathering Storm" by Robert Jordan with Brandon Sanderson

If I had to pick a defining theme of the Wheel of Time saga then I would have to say arrogance. The arrogance of the Dark One and his forsaken, the arrogance of the Aes Sedai, the arrogance of the Seanchan, the arrogance of the Wise Women, and even the arrogance of Rand himself are all central to the plot and its many twists and turns. Think of all the times you groaned in frustration when the arrogant pigheadedness of the heroes prevented them from listening to people who could actually help them. Remember also the delicious moments when the most arrogant are finally pulled down to size.

"The Gathering Storm" is the first book finished by Brandon Sanderson after Robert Jordan's untimely death. I put off reading it for some time but my recent enjoyment of Sanderson's Mist-born trilogy reassured me that he could write and I finally took the plunge. I am delighted to report that not only can Sanderson write well but he has also done a masterful job of preserving the feel of the series and his depiction of good old WoT arrogance is central to this.

I am once again enthused but Wheel of time and very much looking forward to the remaining two books.

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Delver Magic, Book 1, The Inner Sanctum by Jeff Inlo

To the best of my knowledge Jeff Inlo has never had a publishing contract. Yet he has written many novels and makes them widely available on the internet. This immediately raises my suspicions. Surely if he was any good some publisher would have picked him up and he wouldn't be reduced to "vanity" publishing his books on the internet?

Well I am happy to report that contrary to my initial prejudice Jeff can actually write and this novel the first of a trilogy is actually a pretty good fantasy Yarn. The plot is set in a world long purged of magic where only a few believers still remember it's existence. Strange things start to happen when the magic starts to leak back due to the machinations of a malevolent force and humans are once more confronted with long forgotten creatures such as Elves, Dwarves, Goblins and Vampires. The good aligned races must overcome their own prejudices and work together in order to breach the inner sanctum where this malevolence waits.

While this is all fairly standard stuff the book's main protagonist is a Delver, a race of Inlo's own creation. Delvers are gifted with a curiosity for all things and they have extremely keen senses combined with an agility and physical endurance that makes them well suited to any job that requires investigation. Ryson Acumen our hero is just such a Delver and Inlo has drawn him well creating a likeable and interesting character who held my attention to the end of the book.

Although this is the first of a trilogy the story is complete in itself. I liked the book well enough that I will probably read the other books later but I don't feel the need to look for them straight away.

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Halo by Tom Maddox

Maddox's first novel from all the way back in 1991 explores the emergence of machine conciousness in a near future world scenario. As the machine intelligences take their first steps towards independent conciousness the humans who interact with them are forced to consider the meaning of their own consciousness.  Maddox's prose is quite literary for a sci fi novel but his plot tends to wander a bit. There is a bit too much mysticism and a bit too little explanation for my liking.