Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Jezebel's Ladder (Jezebel's Ladder Book 1) - Scott Rhine


Title: Jezebel's Ladder (Jezebel's Ladder Book 1)
Author: Scott Rhine
Genre: Science-Fiction
Published: 2011
Formats: Paperback/Ebook

Available at:
Amazon
Amazon UK

Review:
“Jezebel's Ladder” is the first book in a sci-fi series written by Scott Rhine which spans a total of 5 novels. In this novel we are introduced to an ex-magician's assistant named Jezebel who reads an alien artefact, resulting in her being recruited into a corporation run by millionaire Elias Fortune who has been tracking down these artefacts. The artefacts seem to imbue those who read them with almost magical abilities which of course means that many governments and corporations are willing to kill to get their hands on them Therefore, working for Elias Fortune is full of risk but Jezebel is determined to stick it out and the novel charts her rise through the corporation whose final ambition is to head into space and meet the mysterious alien intelligence who seeded Earth with the artefacts.

This novel is pure Scott Rhine in that it is incredibly fast paced and doesn’t slow up at any point. It is like you have been strapped onto a rocket and blasted through a story full of twists, turns and action galore. If I had one issue with the style and structure of the book it would be that the pacing means it is easy to lose track of the details. There is so much going on at such a high pace, some people may quite simply struggle to keep up at times.

The plot itself is interesting, consistent and internally logical and was a fun journey from start to finish. A minor niggle would have to be that it did at times feel a little bit like an exercise in wish-fulfilment with Jezebel becoming almost superhuman in her ability to solve any problem without any real effort. Luckily Jezebel herself was a likeable character full of wit, loyalty and the odd flaw which meant most readers won’t begrudge her easy rise to becoming so powerful.

An interesting aspect of the novel is that the 2nd half is actually a re-working of Rhine’s novella “The Icarus Transformation”. I had actually already read the novella before but it was still interesting to see how he had managed to link this story with Jezebel’s. Unfortunately, to me the incorporation of this novella meant that the book felt like it was just two separate stories in Jezebel’s life which had been stuck together. It just don’t think it flowed very well and the movement between the two parts felt quite jarring.

Overall, this was an enjoyable, fast paced sci-fi adventure story which keeps you hooked right until the end. Most of the minor flaws probably all fallout from the break-neck pace that is utilised, but luckily you get carried along so quickly that you tend to forget any of the minor issues as quickly as you noticed them.

Monday, 8 June 2015

Star Trek: Enterprise: Rise of the Federation: Uncertain Logic - Christopher L. Bennett


Title: Rise of the Federation: Uncertain Logic
Author: Christopher L. Bennett
Genre: Science-Fiction
Published: 2015
Formats: Paperback/Ebook

Available at:
Amazon
The Book Depository
Amazon UK

Review:
“Uncertain Logic” by Christopher L. Bennett is the third novel in the “Birth of the Federation” series which continues the adventures of the crew from Star Trek Enterprise. I have been thoroughly enjoying this series of novels and wasn’t surprised when I found myself appreciating this novel just as much as the others.

The story follows three simultaneous narratives, the first of which follows Archer and T’Pol as they work with the leaders of Vulcan after a shocking revelation is made about some of the planet’s new beliefs which could lead to a civil war. Then there is the crew of the USS Pioneer, captained by Malcolm Reed who are exploring an area of space dominated by some highly-advanced automated technology called the “Ware” which was first seen in the episode “Dead Stop.” The final story is that of the USS Essex (From TNG's "Power Play") which travels to the planet Delta IV where the locals turn out to be extremely hazardous to the ship’s crew

As I have come to expect with Bennett, the stories are all told exceedingly well and his skill at taking some rather disparate elements of continuity and moulding them into a cohesive story is nicely showcased again. My favourite storyline of the three had to be the Vulcan one which explores the Vulcan people and the rift that is forming in their civilisation. The way in which we see various Vulcan’s interpret and apply logic in their own unique ways made them feel like a real people, with individual ideas and opinions. The view that can sometimes be had of them being a rather homogeneous society when it comes to logic is well and truly shown up for the fallacy it is and I loved seeing that. Quite simply, I actually feel like I have a greater understanding of the common Vulcan citizen than I have before and I really appreciate this.

If I was going take any issue with the novel then it is probably that I think three storylines is maybe a little bit too much, especially when none of them are really connected with each other. The best way I can find to describe the book is that it felt more like an anthology of novella’s than a single novel. This was compounded by the fact that whilst I appreciated getting to see humanities first real contact with the Deltans and the introduction of the USS Essex, I honestly wasn’t that interested in what eventually turned into another Orion Pirate storyline. Compared to the incredibly engaging and interesting Vulcan storyline it just felt rather weak and un-needed.

Overall, this is another entertaining novel in the Rise of the Federation series. Bennett’s writing as always is top notch and I enjoy the way in which he manages to continue the story of Star Trek Enterprise and build on some of the smaller elements in Star Trek continuity. Yes it doesn’t feel like a single novel, but the Vulcan storyline alone is enough to mitigate this as I just treat the additional two stories as a bonus to be enjoyed beyond this core element.

Monday, 25 May 2015

The Gisburn Witch - Sarah L King


Title: The Gisburn Witch
Author: Sarah L King
Genre: Historical Fiction
Published: 2015
Formats: Paperback/Ebook

Available at:
Amazon
Amazon UK
Smashwords
Kobo

Review:
"The Gisburn Witch" is a historical fiction novel written by debut author Sarah L King. In the interest of upfront honesty, I want to start by informing you all that the author is my wife and I was involved in some of the initial edits of the book. I am still trying to write a fair review but wanted to make sure everyone knows about the relationship I have with the book as I doubt I can keep it completely bias free.

Anyway, the novel itself is based around the events that led up to the infamous witch trials of Pendle in Lancashire, England during the early 17th Century. The specific story we follow in this book is that of Jennet Preston, a woman who was from the village of Gisburn which is in the neighbouring county of Yorkshire. Scandalised as a young woman after being accused of seducing Tom Lister, a gentleman’s son, her life is soon filled with shame and hardship. As an outcast in her own village she befriends the Device family in Blacko and is quickly embroiled in their world of folk magic, superstition, old family feuds and dangerous reputations. When fate intervenes to reunite her with Tom, Jennet risks everything for love and happiness, but when tragedy strikes Jennet finds that she is vulnerable to accusations for which she could pay the ultimate price.

So my first comment on the novel is in regards to the pacing, the novel does start off relatively slowly as King attempts to introduce the reader to Jennet herself and the society she lives within. However, as the story progresses the pace gradually increases until the final part of the novel more or less flies by as the tension builds and the drama unfolds. I pretty much read the final quarter of the novel in one sitting as I really wanted to know how this obvious tragedy was going to unfold. Other than that, the writing was very competent and it had a heavy descriptive element which really helped to bring out the obvious love felt by the author for the Lancashire countryside and climate.

In regards to the characters, I found myself quite split as there is basically nobody in this book who you could define as being a classical "good guy"; even Jennet herself acts and behaves in a manner which I didn't always like. I actually found myself moving from an initial feeling of pity for Jennet, to frustration with her, to mild anger and then back to feeling a sense of pity for her again. King has basically tried to create people with flaws and defects in an attempt at providing an element of realism within the novel which is commendable but at times it did lead to me wondering if I would end up caring about any of them by the end. Thankfully, as mentioned above, I did feel sorry again for Jennet by the end and I especially felt a sense of empathy for her husband, William who had suffered a lot throughout the novel.

Overall, I did really enjoy the book, it isn't a genre I read regularly but I think it was a well written, successful attempt at trying to bring to life a real historical tragedy with people full of their own hopes, weaknesses and flaws. As said, I am probably biased as my wife wrote it but during the editing process she altered parts of the story I had issues with so the final product was probably always going to please me. If you are interested in exploring a Historical Fiction novel that takes a look at some of the lives of the common people within English 16th/17th century society rather than royalty etc. then I think you should give this book a try.

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Fear (Gone Book 5) - Michael Grant


Title: Fear (Gone Book 5)
Author: Michael Grant
Genre: Science-Fiction
Published: 2012
Formats: Hardback/Paperback/Ebook

Available at:
Amazon
The Book Depository
Amazon UK

Review:
“Fear” by Michael Grant is the 5th and penultimate Book in the Gone series. I was looking forward to reading this book as the Gone series has been some of the best dark, dystopian novels I have encountered in recent years. The book follows on from the event of “Plague” with Sam now working with others to run a settlement out by the lake whilst Caine rules over his own settlement in Perdido Beach as a King. The tenuous peace that now endures is threatened when the dome around them begins to blacken cutting out all light which threatens to finally finish off everyone within the FAYZ.

As with the other novels in the series, the book is a wonderfully well written, adrenaline packed adventure that had me hooked from the first page to the last. The story structure is very similar to what we have seen before, with Sam being central to the plot and the teenagers having to face off against each other in addition to some form of enemy sent by the gaiaphage. However, the main driving force behind this novel to me was character development. Grant really begins to delve into the psyche of the surviving characters who all appear to be suffering from various forms of post-traumatic stress. As we move towards the final novel it appears that Grant is determined to ensure the reader really knows each character and understands who they are, even those without special powers.

A really interesting addition to this novel is that Grant decides to finally let the readers glimpse a view from outside the FAYZ. The reader gets to follow things from an adult’s viewpoint which is a nice counterpoint to that of the teenage centric story we have had so far. This adds an enjoyable and fresh feeling to the novel as we get to see how the various parents and the military have been responding to the situation as it has unfolded.

In summary, this is another enjoyable novel in this exciting series. With this novel I specifically appreciated that Grant has tried to give us something new with the view of outside in addition to the further development of the characters. There is not much more to say other that next up in the series is “Light” which is the finale and I really can’t wait!

Monday, 20 April 2015

Star Trek: First Strike (Invasion! Book 1) - Diane Carey


Title: First Strike (Invasion! Book 1)
Author: Diane Carey
Genre:Science Fiction
Published:1996
Formats: Paperback/Ebook

Available at:
Amazon
Amazon UK

Review:
“First Strike" by Diane Carey is the first novel in a series of four novels which span the multiple different lines of Star Trek fiction from the Original Series to Voyager. The novel starts with a Klingon battlegroup encountering a ship full of creatures that appear to resemble the demons of Klingon folklore. So upset by what he sees, the Klingon General decides to contact Starfleet for help in addition to his own High Command. Starfleet sends Kirk who is determined to try and understand these visitors rather than just destroy them as the Klingons wish.

Whilst the book is part of a series it still works very well as a standalone novel. The ending does hint at the sequel to come but it still provides a satisfying enough conclusion that there is no need to read the next book unless you really want to. I particularly appreciated this as I am reading all the Star Trek books in Chronological order and therefore won’t get to the sequel for quite a while.

It is also a thoroughly enjoyable story with a structure and pace that keeps the reader entertained right until the end. In addition the plot explores several interesting points with a particular plus point for me being the premise that our myths are based on vaguely remembered facts that have left us with some ingrained prejudices. The attempt to overcome those prejudices then compliments the conflict between scientific thought and religious zeal that is also present within the novel.

The characters are all well-written with the main focus being on Kirk, McCoy and Spock. However, what we do see of the other characters is more than adequate and Carey has tried to develop the Furies beyond just being a token alien-of-the-week which was nice to see. One particular thing I noted was that Kirk is well portrayed, we get to see in all his glory as both a leader and a friend, but also as someone who is still in the end just a human with all the flaws and weaknesses that this can entail.

Overall, the plot is interesting, the characters come across in the manner we would expect and the pacing feels right. Basically, it is an enjoyable Star Trek story which works well as both a standalone novel and as an entry into the overall “Invasion!” series.

Friday, 20 March 2015

The Stainless Steel Rat (The Stainless Steel Rat Book 1) - Harry Harrison


Title: The Stainless Steel Rat (The Stainless Steel Rat Book 1)
Author: Harry Harrison
Genre: Science-Fiction
Published: 1961
Formats: Paperback/Ebook

Available at:
Amazon
The Book Depository
Amazon UK

Review:
“The Stainless Steel Rat” by Harry Harrison is a pulpy sci-fi adventure which was first published in 1961. The story follows James Bolivar diGriz, a.k.a. "Slippery Jim", a rogue who moves between worlds committing various crimes that he believes are victimless. However, his antics have attracted the attention of the mysterious Special Corps who want to recruit him as an agent to catch other criminal. His first assignment for the Special Corps soon pits him against a criminal for whom human life has no value and perhaps someone who could even outsmart Jim diGriz.

The first thing I noted is that book probably hasn’t aged that well. It really does feel like a product of the sixties with a slight misogynistic feel being quite obvious in the society that Harrison has created. In addition some of the technology we see is rather dated by today’s standards, although I do suspect that some of this such as a coal powered robot was there to add some humour rather than being a real imagination of what the future could entail.

Despite the aging of the novel, it is still a very fun and entertaining story to read. It is packed full of humour and action with a quick pacing that ensured I kept on reading. The writing itself isn’t anything special but it is competent enough and much better than the standard in seen in various other pulpy science-fiction.

The characters themselves were enjoyable enough, they are probably rather stereotypical but they are fun enough to follow. DiGriz in particular actually being a likeable character despite his criminal tendencies. This is probably because of two elements, the first being that his morality is actually a complex and interesting thing to see. He only commits crimes that he feels are victimless and he goes out of his way to ensure that no one is killed or injured as part of his activities. Then there is the humour and wit that diGriz brings to the novel, his sarcasm and one liners left me smiling throughout the story which just enhanced my appreciation for him.

Overall, this was an entertaining first novel in Harrison’s “Stainless Steel Rat” series. It isn’t a complex or high-brow story but if you are just looking for some light-hearted, fun science-fiction then this book will easily fulfil that requirement. It does have quite a pulpy style which may not appeal to some fans of contemporary science fiction but personally I still enjoyed it and I will probably read more books in the series.

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Star Trek: Ishmael - Barbara Hambly


Title: Ishmael
Author: Barbara Hambly
Genre:Science Fiction
Published:1985
Formats: Paperback/Ebook

Available at:
Amazon
Amazon UK

Review:
“Ishmael” by Barbara Hambly is a Star Trek novel that mainly follows the antics of Spock who is transported back to Earth in the 1800’s where he is found by a local of Seattle, Washington called Aaron Stemple. Unfortunately Spock has lost his memory and therefore Stemple, realising that this man is an alien decides to take him under his wing and introduces him to the community as his nephew, Ishmael. Spock is soon caught up in a rather peculiar scheme to find marriageable lads for a group of hopeful brides who were transported to the area from the Eastern United States.

One thing I didn’t realise when I first read this book is that the story about Aaron Stemple and the marriage scheme is actually taken from another TV series called “Here Comes the Brides”. Basically, this book is a crossover novel created to link these two distinct shows and I can only assume that Hambly must have been a fan of both. However, Hambly doesn’t stop with just this core crossover element, she also introduces characters from other TV series such as “Bonanza” and “Have Gun-Will Travel”. It is all a little bit silly but surprisingly enough, it was actually very entertaining to follow. This is mainly due to the fact that whilst it sounds like something you would normally see poorly written on a fan fiction website, it is actually an incredibly well written novel with all the right plotting elements and pacing to keep it an enjoyable and fund read.

In addition, I found the characters to be well-written and interesting to follow although outside of the Star Trek characters I wouldn’t know if they were portrayed in a manner similar to the way they were on their relevant TV shows. In regards to the Trek characters, well they did come across as I would expect and even Spock with his memory loss acted and behaved in a way I would expect as his core personality shone through.

Overall this is a fun story which I am sure would appeal hugely to fans who enjoyed both “Star Trek” and “Here Comes the Brides”. Most of the time it doesn’t feel much like a Trek novel as it is set in the 1800’s and Spock doesn’t know who he is but it was actually quite nice to read something which felt a little bit different. It isn’t something that I would probably want to read a lot of but it was still a fun little diversion from the norm that made me smile a lot.