Friday, 26 December 2014

Challenge Complete - 2014 Eclectic Reader Challenge


Objective:
To continue the journey I started in 2013 of trying to expand my reading experiences into genres and styles I may normally have avoided. Check out my pre challenge post here!

Aim:
Read 12 Novels that fulfil the requirements defined in a list of sub-genre detailed on the host blog.

Result:
I did it, and I have once again loved every minute of the journey!

I've read-

Award Winning
True Crime (Non Fiction)
Romantic Comedy
Alternative History
Graphic Novel
Cosy Mystery Fiction
Gothic Fiction
War/Military Fiction
Anthology
Medical Thriller Fiction
Travel (Non Fiction)
Published in 2014


As with last year I really enjoyed the extensive variety of books involved in this challenge. I was much less apprehensive this year which helped me relax enough to fully appreciate what I was reading. I was particulary pleased to see how much I smiled whilst reading the Cosy Mystery novel and am sure I will try out a few more books in this genre.
 
Summary:
Once again this was the only challenge I took part in this year and I enjoyed the different styles and genre that it introduced to me. 

Monday, 22 December 2014

Star Trek: Demands of Honor (Errand of Fury Book 2) - Kevin Ryan



Title: Demands of Honor (Errand of Fury Book 2)
Author: Kevin Ryan
Genre: Science Fiction
Published: 2007
Formats: Paperback/Ebook

Available at:
Amazon
The Book Depository
Amazon UK

Review:
"Demands of Honor" is the second novel in Kevin Ryan’s “Errand of Fury” trilogy which continues to explore the build up to a Klingon-Federation War briefly ignited in the Original Series episode “Errand of Mercy”. In this novel we get to see Kirk and the Enterprise being sent back to System 7348, a world inside Federation Space that is home to a lost Klingon colony. Their aim is to oversee a diplomatic mission from the Klingon Empire who are determined to reach out to their newly discovered brothers in the hope of claiming a key system inside Federation space and gaining access to the Dilithium present there.

I particularly enjoyed this middle book in the trilogy as we got to discover more about the Klingons living in System 7348. The primitive culture created by Ryan is very well written and there is action a plenty as would be expected when Klingons are involved. There is also a sense of danger because this society is new to Star Trek lore and therefore I had no idea if some of these wonderful characters may actually perish in amongst the action. It is actually quite nice to read a Star Trek novel where there is a real sense of not knowing in regards to characters that are actually reasonably prominent.

The “lower deck” characters from the previous novels continue to be the main focus of the novel however and I have now grown to like Michael Fuller, the new “redshirt” character introduced in the previous novel. His drive, motivation and background have now been built up to the point that I found myself really engaging in his journey which is full of twists, turns and a few heartfelt surprises.

One thing I did note is that the main crew members felt even more pushed into the background with this novel. They are there and get some important roles in the story but I found they were even less prominent than they have been in Ryan’s other novels of this series.

Overall, this is a thoroughly enjoyable novel which captures more of the feeling from the previous trilogy that its predecessor “Seeds of Rage” did. If you have read the previous novels you will not be disappointed and I am anticipating Ryan’s final novel in the series with great hope.

Friday, 19 December 2014

Shipstar (Bowl of Heaven Book 2) - Gregory Benford & Larry Niven



Title: Shipstar (Bowl of Heaven Book 2)
Author: Gregory Benford & Larry Niven
Genre: Science Fiction
Published: 2014
Formats: Hardback/Paperback/Ebook

Available at:
Amazon
The Book Depository
Amazon UK

Review:
“Shipstar” by Gregory Benford & Larry Niven is the sequel to Hard Science Fiction novel, “Bowl of Heaven”. I had planned to read this book anyway but it also met the “Published in 2014” requirements of the 2014 Eclectic Reader challenge so it ended up higher up my TBR pile than it originally would have been.

It continues the story of two groups of humans who at the end of the previous book were currently stranded on the Bowl, a huge object that is slowly travelling across space and is populated by various alien species. The humans traverse the Bowl, trying to find each other and a way back to their ship, “The Sunseeker” whose remaining crew is trying to work out what they can do to help.

I quite enjoyed the previous novel but this sequel didn’t provide me with the same level of enjoyment. There is very little forward momentum of the plot and the novel’s main focus appears to be explaining the true origin of the Bowl and hinting at something intriguing for the future in regards to their end destination, the planet Glory. This weakening of the plot is further enhanced by the fact that most of this rather long novel is full of detailed and complex descriptions of the bowl and its alien inhabitants to the point that the story itself feels almost secondary.

This level of complexity is interesting enough and it really does showcase some of the author’s hard science fiction skills but on its own this isn’t enough to make this is truly enjoyable book. What was new and intriguing in the first novel just becomes a bit mind-numbing here; if there are had been some real emotion and character building included then this may have helped but the characters just felt like they were being used to explain the various engineering and scientific sights on their journey.

To be honest, this review all sounds very negative but I want to make it clear that I didn’t hate the book; I more found it to be just plain average and something which feels more like a travel book of the Bowl rather than an engaging Science Fiction novel. Overall, I am still engaged enough with the series storyline that I will read the follow up book which must surely follow but I hope we see some real progress in actual story next time.

Monday, 15 December 2014

Star Trek: Seeds of Rage (Errand of Fury Book 1) - Kevin Ryan



Title: Seeds of Rage (Errand of Fury Book 1)
Author: Kevin Ryan
Genre: Science Fiction
Published: 2005
Formats: Paperback/Ebook

Available at:
Amazon
The Book Depository
Amazon UK

Review:
“Seeds of Rage” is the first novel in Kevin Ryan’s “Errand of Fury” trilogy which is a sequel trilogy to the incredibly enjoyable “Errand of Vengeance” trilogy. As with the previous trilogy Ryan continues to explore the build up to the Klingon – Federation War that briefly occurs in the Original Series episode “Errand of Mercy”. Of course the original star of the first trilogy, the Klingon spy Jonathan Anderson is dead but Ryan continues to explore the lives of the people he was involved with such as his brother, Karel & Enterprise security officer, Leslie Parrish.

The story itself is fast paced, exciting and action packed. In other words, it feels a lot like the final novel in the “Errand of Vengeance” trilogy. Personally, I actually preferred the slower pacing of the earlier novels in that previous trilogy as this did a better job at bringing out the suspense, political intrigue and character development. Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoyed this book but I do feel that the overall development of the people and intricate politics appears to have stalled a little.

In regards to the characters, I really appreciated that Ryan once again tries to tell the majority of the story from the view point of “lower deck” characters. So those of you who, like me, fell in love with these other characters can breathe easy knowing that you will get to see more from them. In addition, I also enjoy how Ryan still manages to take standard Trek lore and events from the various Original Series episodes and builds on it to enhance both my appreciation of the novel and what I had previous seen on the TV screen.

Overall this was a very competent and entertaining continuation of Ryan’s Klingon-Federation Cold War series. The more intricate development of the characters and some plot points do appear to have come to a halt but the main plot is still moving forward and if you like the more action orientated novel then this book should appeal. Despite my own minor issues I still enjoyed the novel and am looking forward to reading the next book in the series.

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Batman: Year One - Frank Miller & David Mazzucchelli


Title: Batman: Year One
Author: Frank Miller & David Mazzucchelli
Genre: Fantasy (Superhero)
Published: 1987
Formats: Hardback/Paperback/Ebook

Available at:
Amazon
The Book Depository
Amazon UK

Review:
I picked up “Batman: Year One” by Frank Miller & David Mazzucchelli in order to meet the graphic novel requirement of the 2014 Eclectic Reader Challenge. I will admit that I don’t normally read graphic novels however as a fan of superhero films etc. I have constantly heard of “Batman: Year One” as being the real basis for how we view Batman nowadays. Therefore I decided that this book would be the one I read to complete this element of the challenge.

The novel chronicles both the emergence of Batman and the rise of Jim Gordon through the ranks of law enforcement. The whole thing is very melodramatic and it feels like an 80’s action movie as our hero gets shot, beaten up and hurt in various ways but fights through the pain to get things done. Batman in this novel is a “real man” who goes out and gets thing done then goes on a skiing holiday to recuperate.

It is also definitely aimed at mature audience and it is not something for a young child to read. Miller is more than happy to show us the underbelly of Gotham with violence and prostitution being brought to the fore. However, I found this was undermined a bit by the rather dated 80’s styled images which did tend to undo any grittiness that the story was trying to portray.

In regards to the characters, I actually found Batman to be rather uninteresting to be honest, yes his weaknesses and inexperience showed him to be human but he feels very one dimensional. It is actually Gordon who comes across as a multifaceted character and draws you into the story. He is a good cop trying to do his job in the face of corruption in the police and the city itself. His attempts to maintain his integrity in the fact of vast challenges endears him to the reader.

Overall, I did find this to be an enjoyable novel even if Batman himself was rather uninspiring. It was also interesting to follow the story which actually created the modern Batman genesis mythos.

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Wastelands: Stories of the Apocalypse - Edited by John Joseph Adams



Title: Wastelands: Stories of the Apocalypse
Author: Various (Edited by John Joseph Adams)
Genre: Science Fiction
Published: 2007
Formats: Paperback/Ebook

Available at:
Amazon
The Book Depository
Amazon UK

Review:
As a big fan of post-apocalyptic fiction I have contemplated picking up “Wastelands: Stories of the Apocalypse” many times. However, when the 2014 eclectic reader challenge required me to read an anthology I decided that the time was right to finally procure it.

The book contains quite a varied cross-section of the apocalyptic sub-genre although they all lean towards a more “realistic” science fiction basis. Therefore there are no stories in the collection involving zombies, alien invasions, vampires or any other fantastical events. Personally, I tend to prefer the more plausible scenarios in my apocalyptic fiction but I still think it would have been nice for John Joseph Adams to have included at least a sample of this side of the sub-genre.

As with all anthologies there were some books I really enjoyed, some I found okay and other that just didn’t work for me. My favourite had to be “Speech Sounds" by Octavia Butler which takes places in a world where people have lost the ability to communicate. So people find they can no longer understand each other and so violence and chaos ensues. I found myself really getting drawn into this story and I appreciated the fact that the ending actually contained an element of hope. At the opposite side of the spectrum to this was “Salvage” by Orson Scott Card which I quite simply found rather boring. I just couldn’t engage with the story although I suspect part of this was because at times it felt like it was leaning too much towards being a form of minor propaganda for the Mormon Church which did put me off.

One minor issue that came up when I read the novel is that is fundamentally quite a downer to read. Reading one apocalyptic novel can be quite depressing but working through several stories as part of a collection like this just kicks the feeling into overdrive. In all honesty it wasn’t easy to read through so much loss, bleakness and tragedy and I would really advise people to try and spread the collection across many weeks.

Overall, if you like post-apocalyptic fiction then you probably want to give this anthology a try unless you are the type of person who prefers zombie or alien invasion styled end of the word scenarios as these are not present. Personally, I do have to say that I probably found an equal amount of stories I enjoyed compared to those I didn’t so for me the entire collection falls slap bang into the average category.

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Star Trek: The Joy Machine - James Gunn & Theodore Sturgeon



Title: The Joy Machine
Author: James Gunn & Theodore Sturgeon
Genre: Science Fiction
Published: 1996
Formats: Paperback/Ebook

Available at:
Amazon
Amazon UK

Review:
“The Joy Machine” is a Star Trek Original Series novel written by James Gunn based on a story outline written by Theodore Sturgeon. Whilst two of Sturgeon’s outlines got converted into actual episodes, namely “Amok Time” & “Shore Leave” this one didn’t make it and therefore this novel is the only way to actually discover the story.

The story follows the crew of the Enterprise who have been sent to the vacation planet Timshel to find out why the planet has quarantined itself & why two previous Federation investigative teams stopped communicating. Upon arrival, Kirk discovers that the people are under the control of a machine known as the Joy Machine which allows the residents to experience pure pleasure as payment for conducting various mundane tasks. This results in a form of severe social stagnation and the crew of the Enterprise soon realise that if this spreads beyond the planet it could spell the end for the Federation.

This plot is actually rather interesting and does feel like a classic TOS episode with it taking a look at how a perfect world for humans actually results in the loss of drive and exploration which could lead to stagnation and potentially worse. However it is probably stretched out a little bit too much in novel form and I do feel it would have worked much better as an hour long TV episode. I found myself getting a little bit bored at times as it felt a little bit padded which resulted in a rather slow pace. I actually think this may have worked better as a short story as the limited length may have helped to make it feel more like the TV episode it was originally planned to be.

The novel is also very Kirk centric which I actually didn’t mind as most of the other Star Trek novels I have read recently weren’t in this mould. If you are a lover of Kirk then I am sure you will thoroughly enjoy this but you shouldn’t expect to see much from the other characters who tend to fade into the background, especially the original ones who I found to be very underwhelming.

Overall this is a rather average Trek novel which does a good job in capturing the mood of the original series although it does feel a little bit bloated by the conversion from Episode outline to full blown novel. It was quite fun to visualise what could have been if the story had become an episode but beyond that I don’t think it was anything special. In addition the Kirk centric nature of the story could put some people off. However, if you can’t get enough everyone’s favourite Starship captain then I think you will enjoy this novel despite the minor issues I have mentioned.

Monday, 1 December 2014

The Boy Next Door - Meg Cabot



Title: The Boy Next Door
Author: Meg Cabot
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Published: 2002
Formats: Paperback/Ebook

Available at:
Amazon
The Book Depository
Amazon UK

Review:
“The Boy Next Door” by Mel Fuller is a book I picked up to meet the Romantic Comedy requirements of the 2014 Eclectic Reader Challenge. Romantic Comedy is not something that I would normally read but I have read some such as the Bridget Jones novels so I wasn’t worried about reading this genre for the challenge. I actually ended up picking this novel as it was told completely via emails between the characters which sounded rather interesting.

The story follows Melissa Fuller, a gossip columnist for the New York Journal whose elderly neighbour has an “accident” which results in Mel having to take care of her pets whilst she lies in a coma. The neighbour’s only living relative is a self-centred photographer called Max who is too busy vacationing with a supermodel to bother coming back to New York for his Aunt. So he calls in a favour from his old friend, John. John is coerced into impersonating Max until the Aunt recovers, thus securing Max's inheritance. However when John moves in next door to Mel, they quickly fall for each other and soon John is left trying to work out how to tell Mel the truth.

This book isn’t complex, deep or heavy but it is a fun and easy read that had me smiling in several places. It is without doubt the quintessential beach read, something you can lie back in the sun and read without having to strain the synapses. I also laughed multiple times throughout the book as the interactions between the characters are at times quite hilarious. I especially loved the interactions between John and his sister-in-law Stacy.

The fact that story is told via emails was actually quite intriguing and amusing to see although I suspect that if I read another book in the same style it wouldn’t interest me as much as the novelty would be gone. The only real issue I had with the format is that at times it felt a little bit silly to me in that they said so much via email rather than talking face to face but if they did this we would of course have lost half the story. A final interesting point I noted in regards to using technology like this to tell the story is that it highlights the age of the novel. As it was written in 2002 the characters are using dial-up and can’t talk at the same time as emailing each other which did make me smile as I remembered the “good old days”.

The only real issue I had with the story is that the characters on the whole seemed to act in a rather silly and childish manner. They are meant to be young professionals with jobs, experience and intellect yet most of the time they come across as either immature or just plain stupid. I have since discovered that Meg Cabot has written a lot of YA novels so maybe this use of childish characters stems from this although I think even teenagers would behave in a more grown up manner that what we see with these characters.

Overall, this was an amusing story which I found incredibly easy to read. Some people may find the email format of the narrative rather annoying but I enjoyed the novelty of it. The real weakness of the story is the characters who were all rather immature but their at times quite hilarious interactions did ensure that I still enjoyed the novel. So if you are looking for a light, fun romantic comedy in the same vein as Bridget Jones then I think you might quite enjoy this novel.

Monday, 3 November 2014

Star Trek: Web of the Romulans - M.S. Murdock



Title: Web of the Romulans
Author: M.S. Murdock
Genre: Science Fiction
Published: 1983
Formats: Paperback/Ebook

Available at:
Amazon
Amazon UK

Review:
“Web of the Romulans” by M.S. Murdock is a Star Trek Original Series novel set early in the Enterprise’s 5 year mission and is the only Star Trek novel that Murdock wrote. The story is based around the Federation’s response to the peculiar actions of Romulan Empire which are leading some people within Starfleet command to believe that an invasion may be immanent. The Enterprise is dispatched to the Neutral Zone to monitor the situation and soon the crew find themselves face to face with a Romulan ship whose commander is willing to do anything he can to ensure the completion of his secret mission.

The main aspects of the story regarding Kirk’s face off against the Romulan commander were very reminiscent of the TV episode “Balance of Terror”. Whilst the end result of the face-off is rather different I still found that it made the book feel rather un-original due to this being the core action elements of the novel. This all exacerbated by some rather bad pacing. It takes quite a while before the book actually gets on to any of the action scenes and then when they do occur they are interrupted by the narrative jumping to some of the other slower paced sub-plots.

An additional thing that I noted is that the portrayal of women isn’t the best and I am sure some people could easily classify it as being slightly misogynist. For example, Uhura’s main role in the novel is to look “fragile” in her bathrobe and then there is the loyal centurion on the Romulan ship who it turns out may only be loyal because she actually loves her commander. Yes, I have seen much worse in other books but the portrayal of women here wasn’t the greatest and I haven’t even touched on the computer who was given a female persona and then fell in love with Kirk and started to act like a 12 year old girl.

There are of course some positives within the novel such as the very fact that it does take an interesting look at the Romulan Empirs. I found the moments spent on the intrigue within the Preator’s court or the way in which the Romulan Commander interacted with his crew to be rather enjoyable if a bit limited in scope. I do wish that Murdoch had maybe tried to spend more time exploring the political and cultural side of the Romulan Empire in more depth.

Overall, this wasn’t really the best of Star Trek. Whilst the close look at the Romulan Empire was interesting the bad pacing and rather un-original aspects of the plot let it down. If you are a fan of the Romulans then I would advise you to still give the book a read but if you are just interested in general Star Trek fare then there are much better novels out there.

Monday, 27 October 2014

Happy Like Murderers - Gordon Brown



Title: Happy Like Murderers
Author: Gordon Brown
Genre: True Crime
Published: 1998
Formats: Hardback/Paperback/Ebook

Available at:
Amazon
The Book Depository
Amazon UK

Review:
As part of the 2014 Eclectic Reader Challenge I was required to read something from the true crime genre and the book I picked was “Happy Like Murderers” by Gordon Burn. This book details the abuse and murders carried out by Rose and Fred West to numerous children and young people across several decades at 25 Cromwell Street, Gloucester and various other locations around Gloucestershire.

I vividly remember the ghastly discoveries at Cromwell Street when they occurred and whilst I knew a fair bit about the murders this book has highlighted other elements of the complete story. In particular I was really shocked and horrified to discover what the Wests’ children went through and as a parent myself I really struggled to understand how someone could do the things that they did to their children.

It really is a hard book to read due to the vast amount of unsettling events that are recorded and detailed. It highlights in grim detail how vile humans can be and I found myself having to put the book down at multiple occasions. These self-imposed pauses and the vast amount of information that is packed into the pages meant that this wasn’t a quick read that I could pick up and finish in just a couple of days.

Whilst the book does a good job in detailing a lot of what actually happened, I do feel that the writing itself was rather disappointing. The whole thing feels very disorganised as the narrative constantly jumps backwards and forwards in time. I have read some commentary that this was Burns’ attempt at trying to capture Fred West's circular thought and speech patterns but for personally I just found it irritating. Then there was Burns’ tendency to repeat the same facts multiple times which just increased the irritation factor.

Overall this is without doubt one of the most disturbing books I have ever read and the knowledge that what I was reading about actually happened really enhances the horror of it all. The writing itself did let the book down due to the non-linear narrative and constant repetition of facts but either way Burns has managed to capture the grim truth in a rather vivid way. I really can’t recommend this book for casual readers, if you have an interest in true crime novels then you may want to give it a go but be prepared for some quite sickening moments.

Monday, 13 October 2014

Star Trek: Heart of the Sun - Pamela Sargent & George Zebrowski



Title: Heart of the Sun
Author: Pamela Sargent & George Zebrowski
Genre: Science Fiction
Published: 1997
Formats: Paperback/Ebook

Available at:
Amazon
Amazon UK

Review:
“Heart of the Sun” by Pamela Sargent & George Zebrowski is an Original Series Star Trek Novel that takes place early on in the 5 Year Mission. My first comment about it is that it displayed the issue I have noticed recently with cover blurbs not matching what actually happens in the novel. Whilst the blurb details that the story is about the Enterprise trying to stop an asteroid hitting a planet it is actually about the Enterprise trying to stop an asteroid which contains some mysterious technology hitting the planet’s sun which in turn may affect the planet itself. It isn’t the biggest of differences to be honest but I still hate the way that this type of thing can make Star Trek books appear rather amateurish.

Anyway, the story we do get here is pretty standard Star Trek fare and isn’t anything special although it is solid enough. It is a reasonably smart and thoughtful novel that tries to put forward some interesting points on the issues of becoming an overly insular society. The authors also do a reasonable job with the characters as on the whole they acted in the manner I would have expected them to.

However there are some issues with the plot itself, for example the reason for the Enterprise being at the planet Tyrtaeus II did feel rather derived and unlikely. I just don’t believe that in the future an entire planet’s computer database wouldn’t have a proper back up system in place to protect it against viruses etc.

The real problem with the novel though is that it could at times get rather dull, there was a lot of contemplation and investigations going on with very little action or adventure. Now, this on its own wouldn’t have been much of an issue to me as but unfortunately towards the middle of the book the authors manage to repeat the same things over and over again. I don’t know how many times I had to read about the crew trying to move the asteroid or discuss the risks of Spock heading over there but it was too many. This continuous repetition of points just slowed the plot down and left me feeling rather bored.

Overall, this is a pretty standard Star Trek story with an interesting enough premise but told in a rather inefficient and at times rather dull manner. I did enjoy some aspects of the story but now that I have finished it I suspect it will quickly fade from my memory as it just hasn’t left any lasting impression.

Friday, 10 October 2014

Empress of Dreams (Temple of the Traveler Book 3) - Scott Rhine



Title: Empress of Dreams (Temple of the Traveler Book 3)
Author: Scott Rhine
Genre: Fantasy
Published: 2012
Formats: Paperback/Ebook

Available at:
Amazon
Smashwords
Amazon UK

Review:
“Empress of Dreams” is the third and final novel in Scott Rhine’s epic fantasy series, “The Tales of the Traveller”. It picks up from the ending of the 2nd novel although due to the nature of that ending I found that this book did have a different feel to the previous novel. In the end though it did close out the open plotlines in a satisfactory and enjoyable manner so is without doubt in my opinion a successful conclusion to the series.

In regards to the plot of this novel, Jotham, the priest of the Traveller who helped close that the final Door to Eternity is transformed by his actions into a new body complete with the six fingered hands of the Imperial race and a new name, Pagaose. His arrival at the heart of the Empire results in him being proclaimed Emperor and so begins a new adventure for this former priest. He must gain the acceptance as Emperor, find a wife and defeat the pretender to his new throne.

Again, we have an intelligent, complicated story that really delves down into the mythos and culture of the world which Rhine has created. Rhine has tried to tone down the pacing even more in this novel which ensures the reader can really digest and understand what is going on. Personally, I really hope Rhine continues to try and slow his stories down like this as it allows the reader to get immersed in the world he has created and appreciate the story that is being told.

In regards to characters, well I have two main points to make, the first of which is that the characters we have grown to know continue to evolve and mature in this novel. It was wonderful seeing Pinetto grow from student to teacher and Pagaose/Jotham really blossoms as he uses his knowledge, morality and experience to become a great Emperor. The second point is that the vast amount of characters Rhine had previously bamboozled us with is increased yet again. Luckily, I understood the original characters well enough and the new ones were different enough that I managed to avoid getting confused. This is a true ensemble story with multiple characters and multiple stories all being treated with equal importance. Basically, if you like books which concentrate on just a handful of characters then I think you may need to stay far away from this series.

Overall, I found this to be a great conclusion to the series and probably my favourite of them all. In part this is because by this point in the series I understood the characters and culture but it was also a very fun and enjoyable story. If you have read the other novels in the series then without doubt you need to go and pick this book up as it should leave you feeling very satisfied an the ending provided.

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

The Accidental Time Machine - Joe Haldeman



Title: The Accidental Time Machine
Author: Joe Haldeman
Genre: Science Fiction
Published: 2007
Formats: Hardback/Paperback/Ebook

Available at:
Amazon
The Book Depository
Amazon UK

Review:
“The Accidental Time Machine” is a Science Fiction novel written by Joe Haldeman, an author who is better known for another Science Fiction novel, “The Forever War”. In regards to this novel, well it follows a young graduate student at MIT, Matt Fuller, who as the title implies, accidentally creates a time machine. However, every time it is used it will jump forward in time with the time interval increasing each time. When he finally decides to physically use it himself he reappears almost a month later to find that he has been accused of murder. Forced to use his machine to escape, he embarks on an adventure moving further and further into the future hoping that at some point humanity will have invented a machine which would enable him to return to his own time.

So my first observation is that Haldeman obviously has some knowledge of physics as the science elements did have some semblance of realism. Authors can almost treat the technology and science in these books as magic but Haldeman does at try and at least make it feel vaguely plausible. I also loved how Matt actually experimented and analysed things before he physically used the machine himself. So often we see people in time travel stories just pressing a button in a gung ho fashion without thinking anything through but this time we got to see a character trying to actually assess the risks and possibilities which was nice to see.

The writing is also to a decent standard and I enjoyed the layers of humour that Haldeman has included in the story. In addition, it was interesting to see the many different types of society and how humanity appears to have altered in various ways to suit them. However, in a way this is also one of the issues with the novel. It actually jumps too often and explores to many places; I was just beginning to understand one society and the story would then jump to another. It was rather disconcerting and did at times make the book feel like it was almost an outline for some time travelling TV series where each jump in time would be a new episode.

However, the biggest weakness in the novel is the characterisation; Matt in particular as the protagonist is flat and uninteresting. He has no charisma, interesting attributes or personality at all which of course meant it was hard to feel any real connection. The supporting characters weren’t any better, there was no depth or development and they were just used as plot devices to move the story forwards.

Overall, this was an interesting and at times quite funny novel. The different societies visited during the journey into the future are varied and intriguing although it would have been nice to have spent a bit more time at each. The characters are a severe weakness however and it was a bit of a battle at times to enjoy the fun of the plot itself when the characters themselves were so flat and lifeless. Going forward I will probably give Haldeman’s “The Forever War” a read but if the characters are as lacking in that book then I will probably move on to other authors.

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Star Trek: The Original Series: River of Blood (Errand of Vengeance Book 3) - Kevin Ryan



Title: River of Blood (Errand of Vengeance Book 3)
Author: Kevin Ryan
Genre: Science Fiction
Published: 2002
Formats: Paperback/Ebook

Available at:
Amazon
Amazon UK

Review:
“River of Blood” is the final novel in Kevin Ryan’s “Errand of Vengeance” trilogy. The novel continues to follow the exploits of Kell aka Jon Anderson, a Klingon spy currently serving on the USS Enterprise. In particular the story is focussed on the defence of Starbase 42 against a Klingon attempt to obtain a large quantity of starship-grade dilithium crystals which are held on the planet below.

I have thoroughly enjoyed this series of novels, with particular interest deriving from the development of the various “lower deck” characters. Therefore it was a little bit disappointing to see that Ryan has changed tack with this book and has pushed the character elements of the story aside in order to create one big action packed finale. This different focus does result in a fast paced and thoroughly entertaining novel but it felt like it was missing something.

Another issue related to this different focus is that Kell himself is reduced to a very minor role. It feels to me like Ryan had maybe developed the character too quickly and was left with an entire novel in which he just had to give the character some sort of ending; an ending which I have to say was pretty predictable. I did note that this does allow Kirk and the main crew to take more of an active role in the story which will I am sure appeal to some people but I was a little bit disappointed as I had really enjoyed the freshness of concentrating on Kell and the other “minor” characters.

Whilst this review does appear a bit negative I do want to clarify that I did enjoy the book, it is a fun read and the characters acted and behaved in a manner I have come to expect. In addition, it was nice to see that whilst the character elements in the novel were diminished Ryan has tried to give all them at least one important moment with Admiral Justman in particular getting an exceptional finale.

Overall, this book is a decent finale to the series with entertaining action scenes aplenty but it was probably my least favourite due to the reduction in character elements and the loss of focus on Kell’s story. The series as a whole has been a wonderful adventure for me and I have really enjoyed its focus on the secondary characters which has given it a very fresh feeling. It is a bit of a shame that this experiment was abandoned and most books have gone back to following the main three crew members but either way I am now looking forward to reading Ryan’s follow up series “Errand of Fury” which continues the story of Klingon-Federation tensions right up until the events of the TV episode “Errand of Mercy”.

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Death of a Gossip (Hamish Macbeth Book 1) - M.C. Beaton



Title: Death of a Gossip (Hamish Macbeth Book 1)
Author: M.C. Beaton
Genre: Mystery
Published: 1985
Formats: Hardback/Paperback/Ebook

Available at:
Amazon
The Book Depository
Amazon UK

Review:
“Death of a Gossip” by M.C. Beaton is the first book in the long running Hamish Macbeth Mystery series. I picked up this book in order to meet the Cosy Mystery requirement of the 2014 Eclectic Reader Challenge. It was this book specifically that I chose because I recognised the Hamish Macbeth name from a 1990’s BBC TV show which was based on this series of novels although to be honest I never actually watched it.

The story is set in the quaint Scottish village of Lochdubh where local police constable Hamish Macbeth enjoys the quiet life. However when a guest at a local fly-fishing school is murdered his quiet life is turned upside down. Of course Hamish isn’t experienced in murder investigation and so a team of experienced professionals arrive in the village and effectively bar Hamish from participating. Hamish, however, ignores this and continues to investigate, slowly uncovering clues about the other members of the fly-fishing school in the hope that he can help solve the case.

I did enjoy reading this, yes it was incredibly lightweight at times and paced in a very leisurely manner but it just felt very pleasant to read. If you after a nice relaxing few hours of reading then this book will competently fit the bill. From the beginning it is obvious who the victim is going to be but Beaton uses this really well to build up the tension between her and the potential suspects. I did feel that the detection elements felt a bit clumsy but this didn’t really spoil my enjoyment.

I did have some issues with the characters however. Hamish himself is an engaging and likeable character who provides some real humour throughout the story but the supporting characters all felt very stereotypical. There were some brash Americans, a na├»ve working class woman and an egotistical upper class “gentleman” for her to obsess over. They were all so very uninteresting and some of the attitudes on display felt very dated, particularly the naivety of the young woman, Alice.

Overall, this was a nice and enjoyable read and I can fully appreciate why the Cosy Mystery tag applies here. Hamish is a very likeable character and I suspect that his humour and personality did help ensure I enjoyed the book as much as I actually did. I suspect I may give some more of these books a try and see how Hamish is developed throughout the series.

Monday, 15 September 2014

Star Trek: The Original Series: Killing Blow (Errand of Vengeance Book 2) - Kevin Ryan



Title: Killing Blow (Errand of Vengeance Book 2)
Author: Kevin Ryan
Genre: Science Fiction
Published: 2002
Formats: Paperback/Ebook

Available at:
Amazon
Amazon UK

Review:
“Killing Blow” is the 2nd Novel in Kevin Ryan’s “Errand of Vengeance” trilogy that takes a look at the tension between the Federation and Klingon Empire which results in war as seen in the Star Trek Original series episode “Errand of Mercy”. The main focus of the novel continues to be on Kell, the Klingon infiltrator who is current disguised as a human aboard the Enterprise. Kell has come to realise that the way in which the Empire portrays Kirk and humanity as a whole is not accurate, in fact his viewpoint has changed so much that he has ended up in a relationship with a human woman called Leslie Parrish. However, despite his reservations he is still determined to complete his mission and assassinate Kirk.

When I started reading this book I wasn’t expecting much as middle novels in trilogies do tend to be weakest of the three. However, Ryan has managed to continue the overall plotline adequately whilst also giving us an interesting and enjoyable story specific to this novel. There are of course still some elements of the novel dedicated to setting things up for the finale but the inclusion of a specific mission to follow that contains a start and finish ensures that the when you finish the novel you still feel satisfied with the conclusion.

In regards to the writing, the quick pacing and action packed storyline ensures the novel feels like an episode of the TV series with us never dwelling to long on any one area. Also, the loss of red shirted personnel left, right and centre really reinforces that Original series feeling. Probably the only element that really differs strongly from one of the TV episodes is that most of the viewpoints are from people outside the regular cast. These new characters introduced in the first novel continue to grow and provide a feeling of freshness to the Star Trek Universe.

Overall this was an enjoyable continuation of the Errand of Vengeance trilogy which continues to highlight and develop the lives of the “regular” people aboard the Enterprise. In addition, Kell’s personal struggles are well portrayed and whilst we know that Kirk won’t be killed, how Kell’s journey will conclude does remain a mystery and I am eager to see how this will be resolved.

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Dodger - Terry Pratchett



Title: Dodger
Author: Terry Pratchett
Genre: Historic Fiction
Published: 2012
Formats: Hardback/Paperback/Ebook

Available at:
Amazon
The Book Depository
Amazon UK

Review:
“Dodger” is a novel by Terry Pratchett which explores Dickensian London rather than his usual haunt of Ankh-Morpork within the fantasy world of Discworld. As a big fan of Pratchett I was looking forward to reading this novel although I have to be honest and say that I do tend to prefer his Discworld novels as they allow him a bit more freedom.

Anyway, the plot follows Dodger, a loveable rogue who earns a living as a Tosher, a scavenger who prowls the sewers of London hunting out coins and other lost items amongst the sewage. When he rescues a young woman in distress one night he has no idea that it will lead to a series of events which results in his exposure to the public and various important people such as Benjamin Disraeli, Sir Robert Peel and Charles Dickens.

I will start by saying that the humour and wit I have come to expect from Pratchett are there in abundance. At its heart this is a light hearted journey into old London but yet there are some interesting dark undertones as well. Pratchett isn’t scared to touch on the poverty, class issues and rather bleak existence that existed then. Then there is a really clever and sensitive treatment of the Sweeny Todd story which really is one of the big plus points in the novels. However, despite these interesting elements I found the plot to be rather weak and uninspiring. Quite simply there was no spark, it was lacking any real surprises and I could see what was coming a mile away.

Then there are the characters that were probably my least favourite aspect of the story which is hard for me to say as normally the characters really shine in Pratchett novels. For example, Dodger himself is just too much of a super hero that seems to survive and prosper at everything. He manages to go through an odd makeover or two and become accepted by high society, fights off trained assassins at will, wins the heart of a princess he hardly says more than a few words to and becomes accepted as a national hero who is showered with coins by a thankful public. I just found it all a bit too much; he seemed unable to lose at anything which meant he felt too unreal and I was unable to connect with him. In the end I could probably have accepted this if the supporting characters had varied and well developed personalities. However, I found most of them to be wooden and rather lifeless. I don’t know if this is because Pratchett used a lot of historical people in the novel and didn’t want to paint any of them in a bad light but they all just felt like cardboard cut-outs.

Overall, I did smile and grin at parts of the novel and it there was some interesting elements but the weak overall plot and characters meant the whole thing just felt average. This is probably the most disappointed I have been in Pratchett for quite a while but in the end it was still an enjoyable enough diversion even if it wasn’t his best.

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Star Trek: The Original Series: The Edge of the Sword (Errand of Vengeance Book 1) - Kevin Ryan



Title: The Edge of the Sword (Errand of Vengeance Book 1)
Author: Kevin Ryan
Genre: Science Fiction
Published: 2002
Formats: Paperback/Ebook

Available at:
Amazon
Amazon UK

Review:
“The Edge of the Sword” by Kevin Ryan is the first in a trilogy of Star Trek novels known as the “Errand of Vengeance” trilogy that revolves around the slow build up to war between the Federation & the Klingon Empire as seen in the TV episode, “Errand of Mercy”. This novel mainly follows the actions of a Klingon infiltrator who has been sent to the Enterprise to assassinate Kirk. However we also get to see what is happening to the spy’s brother who is on-board a Klingon ship, witness the events as they unfold at Starfleet Command and finally we get to see what is happening with the main Enterprise crew itself.

First off I have to say that I really enjoyed the book, I specifically appreciated seeing life on-board the Enterprise from the viewpoint of the red shirts within Security. In the TV series they were treated as throwaway characters but here we get to see a group of professional and proud people who understand and acknowledge the high mortality rate but are determined to do their job. This slightly different viewpoint also give the novel a fresh and interesting feeling which was highly appreciated by me as I try and read through the entire Star Trek collection.

In regards to the plot, well it was well-written, exciting and action packed but to me it felt secondary to the exploration of the life of a red shirt and Ryan’s attempts to link various TV episodes and events into his overall Klingon-Federation story arc. This attempt at trying to resolve aspects of the Original Series’ very episodic format into a coherent flow was impressive and worked very well.

As for the characters, well the new ones are all lovingly crafted by Ryan and I found myself quickly coming to like them all. They really do take over the narrative of the story so if you are a big fan of Kirk, Spock and McCoy then you may be disappointed as they felt rather side-lined. Personally, I liked this diversion from standard Star Trek formula, especially as the new characters are all interesting and well developed but there may be some out there who don’t.

One of the weakest aspects of the novel in my opinion however was the way in which the Klingon seems to resolve his feelings on Kirk. I appreciated how he slowly came to accept his fellow Security officers as he worked and fought alongside them but with Kirk it all felt a little bit too rushed and easy. I found it hard to believe that he would suddenly flip his viewpoint in the way he does. In my opinion it would have been nicer and more realistic to see a much more drawn out process.

Overall, this was an enjoyable first book in the trilogy and it was wonderfully utilised to set up the new characters and viewpoint from the Security team. The new viewpoints used by Ryan have resulted in a much more action packed Star Trek novel than I am used but this just helped to increase the feeling of freshness around the entire thing. I am now really looking forward to seeing where Ryan is going to take the characters and the story next.

Monday, 1 September 2014

The Fisherman's Son (The Fisherman's Son Book 1) - Marilyn Peake



Title: The Fisherman's Son (The Fisherman's Son Book 1)
Author: Marilyn Peake
Genre: Fantasy
Published: 2002
Formats: Paperback/Ebook

Available at:
Amazon
Amazon UK

Review:
“The Fisherman’s Son” by Marilyn Peake is the first novel in a fantasy series aimed at a young audience. The story follows Wiley, a boy from a poor family whose mother dies from a disease that has infected his village. His drunk father isn’t around and so Wiley is forced to travel to the next village to find a priest so that his mother’s body is properly cared for. However, on the journey he encounters a mysterious woman who sets him off on an adventure that will lead to him to see wondrous things and also teach him the history the very land on which he lives.

I need to start by saying that I am clearly not the target audience for this book so perhaps some of my comments here are a bit unfair. Anyway, I struggled to read this story to be honest, yes the plot is interesting and quite unique but at times I couldn’t understand why anything was occurring or why things were linked. Seriously, I still don’t get what the magic cups, giant bears or talking dolphins have to do with a long dead civilisation or why the young lad Wiley was dragged into it all.

Then there are the problems with the writing itself which was quite uninspiring. Everything is described to a level beyond what is really needed and there are several logical inconsistences with the story. For example, I can’t imagine anyone finding strawberries in the frozen cold and not thinking that there is something odd there. Then there is the rather strange section in which is drinks himself full on milk and 5 minutes later is starving and fights some chickens for some food.

Overall, I found the entire book quite an unsatisfying experience, what could be an interesting plot is let down by how it is actually being told. I suspect its target audience of younger children would potentially still enjoy it as they are more likely to ignore the logical failings etc. but it just doesn’t work as a book which can reach other age groups. For myself, I can’t see myself picking up the other books in the series.

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Dreams of the Fallen (Temple of the Traveler Book 2) - Scott Rhine



Title: Dreams of the Fallen (Temple of the Traveler Book 2)
Author: Scott Rhine
Genre: Fantasy
Published: 2012
Formats: Paperback/Ebook

Available at:
Amazon
Samshwords
Amazon UK

Review:
“Dreams of the Fallen” by Scott Rhine is the 2nd book in his epic fantasy series, “The Tales of the Traveller”. This book follows on from the 1st novel and really develops the story and characters further. The plot continues to be complex and varied and due to this I think you really need to have read the previous novel to ensure you get some enjoyment out of this one.

I won’t really detail that much about the plot here as it is hard not to spoil things but we get to see Tashi and Jotham’s quest continue with both of them facing some tough challenges along the way. They even have to face the Gods themselves, some of who have no real interest in seeing them succeed.

The story Rhine is telling here is intelligent, complex and fascinating. He has continued to develop a world and characters that are unique and thoroughly interesting to follow. This time however the pacing is much better as the primary mythos of the world has already been explained in the previous book. This enables Rhine to really delve into the action and adventure that he seems to love filling his novels with. As I read this book I realised that the effort and concentration I had spent in getting through and understanding what was going on in the first novel is paid back in dividends with this book.

Don’t get me wrong the problems I had with the first book are still present to some extent in that the story can get confusing at times as it jumps between the vast array of characters. This is compounded by Rhine’s decision to add even more characters into the mix to increase what was already quite a large cast. However, it was much less distracting this time as the main characters were all well known to me now and I understood the basic principles of the world itself. In addition, one of the new characters, Sarajah was actually a very interesting and enjoyable character to follow as she transforms from an evil person through to picking up the pieces or her life after an encounter with our heroes and then into a real force to be reckoned with.

Overall, this is a thoroughly enjoyable chapter in the “Temple of the Traveler” series. Rhine has used the world and plot building of the first novel incredibly well in this sequel to ensure it is an enjoyable romp with characters that we have grown to like and understand. If you enjoy Fantasy novels then this series shouldn’t disappoint.

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Star Trek 11 - James Blish


Title: Star Trek 11
Author: James Blish
Genre: Science Fiction
Published: 1975
Formats: Paperback

Available at:
Amazon
Amazon UK

Review:
“Star Trek 11” by James Blish is another of his collections of Original Series scripts adapted into short story form. The seven stories included in this collection are all from season one and are as follows:

What Are Little Girls Made of?
The Squire of Gothos
Wink Of an Eye
Bread and Circuses
Day of the Dove
Plato's Stepchildren

As seems to be the norm with Blish’s adaptations, they tend to succeed or fail to the same extent as the episodes themselves did. For example “The Squire of Gothos” was an episode I really enjoyed on the TV screen and I also found myself enjoying it here in this collection. Whereas “Bread and Circuses” rather silly Roman theme irritated me when I saw I first saw it and I quickly found myself feeling the exact same irritation here.

I won’t really go anymore into the various stories as most of you will know them anyway but my enjoyment of this collection was rather mixed. This probably shouldn’t be a surprise as several of these stories were taken from the rather weak third season. One positive is that Blish does capture all the episodes very well and I could easily visualise them all. Although this wasn’t really a surprise to me as his adaptations have always been competent and as this was his 11th collection he was fairly experienced at writing up the episodes and characters.

Overall, I do find myself repeating myself a lot when reviewing Blish’s collections but what is true for one of them is pretty much true for them all. Quite simply this novel was another competent attempt at capturing the Star Trek episodes that should appeal to anyone wanting to enjoy a quick and painless reminder of the Original series stories.

Friday, 15 August 2014

Down Under - Bill Bryson



Title: Down Under
Author: Bill Bryson
Genre: Travel
Published: 2000
Formats: Hardback/Paperback/Ebook

Available at:
Amazon
The Book Depository
Amazon UK

Review:
“Down Under” (known as "In a Sunburned Country" in the US) by Bill Bryson is a travel book and I read it not because I was planning on heading to Australia but because the genre was a requirement in the 2014 Eclectic Reader Challenge. I decided on this book because I had heard that Bryson is a humorous and clever writer and I decided I wanted to read about a place I had never been before.

Anyway this book is a travelogue of a journey across the incredibly diverse country of Australia. It really is a humorous romp that had me grinning at multiple places, Bryson has a very self-deprecating way of expressing his thoughts and observations that appeals to my Scottish sense of humour.

Whilst the humour is a very big part of the book, there is still also a fair amount of interesting information present about Australia itself and the various attractions that Bryson visits. One thing he really pushes in the book is how big and varied Australia really is. He covers a fair chunk of it from the vast empty desert to the various cosmopolitan cities. But it isn’t just the landscape and places which are highlighted, he also covers the flora and fauna which are abundant, diverse and very specific to Australia itself. I am honestly not sure I fully appreciate the scale and variety of Australia before but I definitely do now.

Bryson doesn’t just stick to humorous commentary and highlighting the various local features, he also provides the reader with historical information and stories about the places he is visiting. This was actually a very interesting addition and it helped me gain a better understanding of why some of the places where the way they were. It also didn’t try and hide things either which meant at times it was quite eye opening with the attitudes to the Aboriginals in particular being quite saddening to read about.

One minor niggle with the book is that I am reading it about 15 years after he wrote and therefore it can at times seem a little dated. I suspect this would be even more obvious to people who live in or have visited Australia recently as any local differences would be much more noticeable to them. It isn’t a major issue but it does make me wonder how much of it is all still relevant.

Overall I loved this book; the writing is witty, clever and well-paced with the alternating narrative of facts, stories and humour ensuring I was thoroughly entertained. Reading the book has definitely increased my interesting in heading to Australia myself. As far as I am concerned any travel book that attracts you to the place it is describing is quite simply a success.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Harmful Intent - Robin Cook



Title: Harmful Intent
Author: Robin Cook
Genre: Medical Thriller
Published: 1990
Formats: Hardback/Paperback/Ebook

Available at:
Amazon
The Book Depository
Amazon UK

Review:
“Harmful Intent” by Robin Cook is a novel I picked up in order to fulfil the Medical Thriller objective on the 2014 Eclectic Reader Challenge. I don’t normally read this type of book beyond some of the contagious disease themed ones which can drift into Science-Fiction realms. Therefore, this was an interesting experience for me which happily was one I enjoyed as the novel I picked turned out to be a light and entertaining read.

The plot revolves around Jeffrey Rhodes, an anaesthesiologist who ends up accused of second degree murder when a patient of his dies during child birth. As the court case goes against him he decides to conduct his own investigation in an attempt to prove his innocence. And so he embarks on a race against time that has him avoiding the police, bounty hunters and various criminals as he tries to avoid jail.

At its heart the book is a fast paced thrill ride that doesn’t let up with an entertaining mix of suspense, action and humour all keeping the reader glued to the story. The book is also full many twists and turns which kept me guessing throughout. To be honest at times it could all feel a little bit larger than life but as long as you could suspend some of your disbelief it was a fun read.

However, it wasn’t all perfect as there were some pacing issues caused by the medical jargon used throughout the book. This meant that it wasn’t always the easiest of books to understand which meant I had to spend time trying to work out what things meant. In the end though, this was probably only a minor quibble and it still felt like a light enough read that wouldn’t go wrong for the times you just want to lie back and enjoy a story.

In regards to the characters, I can’t say that they were anything special or original but they were all developed enough to keep me engaged. One character I did particularly like was Devlin who starts off as a rather unlikable guy but by the end of the book I actually didn’t mind him at all. I always enjoy reading books where the author manages to take the reader’s viewpoint of a character from one point to another.

Overall, this is a fun and quick read which kept me entertained from start to finish. It isn’t going to win any awards but it is enjoyable enough and at no point did I find myself getting bored. In regards to the genre itself, I can’t say I am going to rush out and buy another novel like this but I will be more than willing to check them out when I am at the bookstore.

Thursday, 31 July 2014

Star Trek: Shadow Lord - Laurence Yep



Title: Shadow Lord
Author: Laurence Yep
Genre: Science Fiction
Published: 1985
Formats: Hardback/Paperback

Available at:
Amazon
Amazon UK

Review:
“Shadow Lord” by Laurence Yep is a book which had me in two minds regarding how much I liked it. Basically, as a stand-alone sword and sorcery styled fantasy book it worked quite well but as a Star Trek novel it fails on several levels. The book was obviously not meant to be set within the Star Trek Universe and I can only assume that the author knew the Star Trek publishers were accepting submissions and therefore tried to get his story to fit.

Anyway, the plot itself is based around Prince Vikram who is being taken home to his native world of Angira by the Enterprise. Vikram has spent a fair amount of his youth living on Earth and is now meant to be bringing his knowledge of the Federation back to Angira to help his people. When Spock and Sulu escort him down to the planet they soon get caught up in a revolution led by conservative factions who dislike the way that Vikram’s father has been damaging their ancient traditions with his modernising programme. Vikram is soon the only royal left living and alongside the two Enterprise crewmembers he must fight by the sword in order to survive.

So my first issue with the story is in regards to the planet Angira itself which appears to be only just now entering the industrial age. As I read the book I couldn’t understand why the Federation would be involved in this planet at all, the population were being badly treated and the technology seemed obviously to be pre-warp. Surely the Prime Directive would have ensured that the Federation wasn’t allowed to get involved at all? This issue is further enhanced by some of the contradictions in regards to how the planet’s culture is treated. At one point Sulu is worried about the effect that his taking command of the Prince’s military forces could have but no one seems to mind that Spock was planning to modernise the planet’s star charts and that Vikram was going to share his knowledge of the Federation which could surely have more profound ramifications.

The next issue in regards to the characters as it appears that Yep didn’t even bother trying to learn about them. Spock in particular is terribly portrayed; he smiles, holds hands and basically doesn’t conform to the Spock we all know and love. Quite simply the characterisations shown in this novel are probably some of the worst I have seen to date. However, the secondary characters are a different thing entirely; free to do what he wanted in this regard, Yep has crafted some interesting and well developed characters. It is just a shame that they are overshadowed by the way in which he has failed to correctly capture the Enterprise crew.

Don’t get me wrong the story itself is actually quite fun and elements such as the sword fighting sequences and military engagements which were enjoyable and interesting to follow. However, as a Star Trek novel it fails quite badly with the terrible characterisations and lack of Prime Directive being two of the most obvious issues. To summarise, I think this story would have worked well as a stand-alone fantasy novel but it all feels completely out of place as a Star Trek adventure.

Monday, 28 July 2014

The Man in the High Castle - Phillip K. Dick



Title: The Man in the High Castle
Author: Phillip K. Dick
Genre: Alternate History
Published: 1962
Formats: Hardback/Paperback/Ebook

Available at:
Amazon
The Book Depository
Amazon UK

Review:
As part of the 2014 Eclectic Reader Challenge I was required to read a novel which fell under the category of Alternate History and so I decided it was time to finally read “The Man in the High Castle” by Philip K Dick which has been sitting on my book shelf for quite a while. The book is set in a world where the Axis forces managed to win WWII and have carved it up between themselves. The plot explores the lives several people living in 1962 United States which has been partitioned by the Germans and Japanese.

I have to start by saying that it is obvious to me that the aim of the book is just to explore the “What If?” question regarding WWII and show its effect on various people rather than giving us any specific narrative. This actually made it hard for me to review, because if you are looking for a story with a defined start and satisfying conclusion then this book is not going to be for you. However, if you are happy to follow an exploration of the individual in a totalitarian society told via a number of vaguely interlinked sub-plots then you will probably find this to be a clever and interesting novel.

Dick does a brilliant job in bringing this world to life, using a huge amount of detail and multiple sub-plots to highlight the various aspects of society. It was quite eye opening to read a book in which the author actually tries to go into the nuances of his world which is something that the more recent young adult focused dystopian novels fail to do.

The biggest issue for me in the novel had to the characters, none of whom I managed to engage with. There is a large mish-mash of individuals and the novel focuses too much on their lives within this new world rather than who they actually are which ensured I didn’t really care about them or what happened. When you add this in to the rather weak overall plotline it could at times feel like a very hard and intellectual read rather than being an enjoyable alternate history novel.

Overall, this is a very clever novel that quite deeply explores one of the world’s favourite “What If?” scenarios regarding a different WWII outcome. It can at times feel almost academic in its form due to the weak characters and rather unsatisfying overall plot but it is still incredibly interesting to follow. I don’t know if I have a read another alternate history novel which so determinedly tries to showcase the multiple facets and elements of the different world that has been created. I fully understand why this book is highly rated in literary circles.