Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Seeds of Earth by Michael Cobley

The human residents of Darien think they may be the only surviving remnants of humanity 150 years after they fled planet Earth as it succumbed to an alien onslaught. Their universe view gets turned upside down however when an envoy from Earth arrives with the news that humanity was saved from destruction by a major galactic player called the Hegemony. Things get a lot more complicated when it turns out that Darien is home to an ancient artefact of incredible power. The residents of Darien both human and indigenous are caught in the middle but can they do anything to survive the onslaught of powerful forces coming for their artefact? First book of a major space opera saga. I love this kind of stuff so don't expect an objective opinion. I think it is great.

Friday, 22 March 2013

The Icon by Frederick Forsyth

It is the late 1990's, the Russian economy has collapsed. An iconic new figure is likely to sweep the boards at the forthcoming elections but he and his party have an altogether more sinister agenda. A motley group of former spies know the truth and are going to try and stop him. This thriller is something of an oddity. It is a 1960's style spy thriller set in Russia in the late 1990's that strongly references Germany in the 1920's. There is not a mobile phone in sight and computers play a very minor role. This isn't one of Forsyth's better novels but it is still a cracking yarn written by a master story teller.

Saturday, 2 March 2013

Billy Connolly's Route 66

I am conscious that my reading tastes have become limited so I deliberately avoided the fantasy and Science fiction shelf on my last visit to the lending library and picked up this road trip account by a Scottish comedian instead. Connolly is a very funny man on stage so it was surprising to find that the book is rarely laugh out loud funny. It is really just a personal account of his trip along this once great but now sadly decaying road. The book is all about the characters he meets along the way such as the Amish craftsman who seems to have discovered the secret to a happy life. The book is a lightweight but enjoyable read. One of the most striking themes is the conflict between Connolly's genuine respect for the down to earth people he meets and his utter loathing of their middle American conservativism. He is literally incoherent at times, resorting to babble to describe some of the examples of conservatism he comes across. Yet he consciously avoids poking fun at people even where he vehemently disagrees with their views. This makes it quite a gentle book for a comedian to write. 

Tome of the Undergates by Sam Sykes

Enjoyable hack and slash fantasy from an author I haven't read before. This tale of a band of unsavoury adventurers who somehow take on the job of saving the world from demons is heavy on blood thirsty combat but not so big on world building.  It is the first book of the Aeon's Gate trilogy so perhaps the world will be described more completely in the sequels. One noteworthy point is how closely the characters stick to D&D conventions. There is a mage who needs uninterrupted concentration to cast his devastating spells and who must rest after casting a few of them. There is a cleric who heals. There is a rogue who hides in the shadows and stabs his foes in the back. Despite these and more obvious stereotypes Sykes fleshes out his characters well with their own individual traits and quirks. Most of these quirks are genuinely nasty by the way. Don't come looking for unfettered heroic goodness in this story.