Friday 30 December 2011

Catching Fire (The Hunger Games Trilogy Book 2) - Suzanne Collins

Title: Catching Fire  (The Hunger Games Trilogy Book 2)
Author: Suzanne Collins
Genre: Sci-Fi
Published: 2009
Formats: Hardback/Paperback/Ebook

Available at:
The Book Depository
Amazon UK

"Catching Fire" by Suzanne Collins is the 2nd book in her "The Hunger Games" trilogy which was started by the novel of the same name, "The Hunger Games" which I previous reviewed here.

The story itself follows on a short period after the end of "The Hunger Games" with Katniss now living in the Victor's Village with her family. However, life is still not really peaceful for Katniss as her actions during the Hunger Games have drawn the unhappy attention of the government and in particular, President Snow who believes that Katniss' actions in the Hunger Games have resulted in talk of rebellion and uprisings. The story then follows her attempts to try and show the nation that she acted as she did at the Hunger Games out of love and not for any lofty goals. She therefore now has to attempt and persuade the nation and the government that her love for Peeta is real and it was for that reason alone that she acted the way she did during the Games.

This entry in the trilogy is full of suspense, thrills and the odd shock just like its forerunner, but whilst it was still incredibly enjoyable to read, it just didn't seem to engross me to the same extent. The main reason why I think this happened is that I could really see where most things were going and there is nothing much new there to really wow the reader. It was just a little bit too similar at times to "The Hunger Games".

The book does also start off a little bit slowly although the pace does at least pick up as the story progresses. The later half of the book is really stuffed full of action, adventure and some really thrilling moments that keeps you going right to the very end. However, the ending itself isn't really as successful as the previous book in my opinion because it doesn't complete the story and instead it just leaves the reader on a massive cliff-hanger. Basically, it has fallen into the usual trap of many other middle books in that the ending has been designed to set up the finale rather than to actually complete the novel as a semi stand-alone piece.

There isn't really that much to say about the characters in that they are all very similar to what was seen in "The Hunger Games". I found that Peeta is still as nice and kind as always whilst Katniss continues to be her usual rather irritating self with an astounding inability to see obvious things that are right in front of her. I have to admit that Collins has done a superb job in creating someone in Katniss who irritates me no end and yet also makes me feel for her at times and will her on to succeed.

However, the biggest issue I had with the book is probably more due to a personal dislike. I hate love triangles and in this book Collins has brought a love triangle more into the story thereby forcing me to hold down my irritation as I read. I just wish Katniss would just pick one of the guys and thereby end this stupid fawning and sulking that goes on intermittently throughout the novel. Honestly, I really wish this current fad of love triangles would die off and never rear its ugly annoying head again.

It may look from my review as if I disliked this book but in all honesty I didn't. The story was still exciting and fun to read and I will be defiantly reading the follow-up. However, I think that it just fell into the rut that nearly every other middle book in a trilogy falls into with the lack of anything really new and an ending that just leaves you irritated and wanting more. If you have read and enjoyed "The Hunger Games" then you need to go and pick this book up as I am sure you will love it, just don't expect it to capture you in the same way.

Monday 26 December 2011

Monster Story - McCarty Griffin

Title: Monster Story
Author: McCarty Griffin
Genre: Horror
Published: 2010
Formats: Ebook

Available at:
Amazon UK

"Monster Story" by McCarty Griffin is a rather enjoyable horror suspense novel. This type of story is something I rarely pick up these days even though in my youth this genre was almost all I read. This novel like many I read in my youth was light and easy read which I felt really captured the feel of many made for TV early evening horror movies.

The story follows a young woman named Christy who has travelled back to her hillbilly hometown in West Virginia due to the death of her Grandmother. Unfortunately she has returned at the same time as vicious deaths start occurring in the woods and the police force can't be sure if it is some wild animal or even a savage serial killer. Christy and her friends soon find themselves caught up in the danger and must find a way to face this terror that is now stalking them.

I found that the story moved at a reasonable pace although in the earlier stages I felt that it did sometimes meander a little bit between different scenes without any obvious connections. The story was full of light hearted drama, suspense and at times a little bit of humour that helped really lighten the entire story beyond being a dark and savage horror tale. I particularly loved the back woods hillbilly style that the author has captured and used to bring out some of the humour in the story.

However, this book is still a horror story at its core and therefore there is violence and horror involved. However, whilst there are some graphic descriptions that some people may dislike, I felt that the author handled it all very well. There is no gore porn here and every detail utilised seems to have its place and reasoning for being there.

What I particularly liked though were the main characters, Christy and her group of friends are a superb eclectic mix of people who's wonderful and varied interactions as the suspense and danger drives them together were one of the main reasons I struggled at times to put the book down. The only issue I had was that there were also so many characters within the novel beyond the main core group. It could get a little bit confusing trying to remember who everyone was and some of them were used so little that they came across a little flat and at times seemed a little bit surplus to requirements.

Overall, I found this to be a fun and light read with some rather engrossing moments of horror, drama and suspense. I think that if you are the type of person that enjoys made for TV horror films full of thrilling build ups, interesting eclectic groups of characters and a little bit of humour then I suspect you will love this novel.

Wednesday 21 December 2011

City of Pearl (The Wess'har Wars Book 1) - Karen Traviss

Title: City of Pearl (The Wess'har Wars Book 1)
Author: Karen Traviss
Genre: Sci-Fi
Published: 2004
Formats: Paperback/Ebook

Available at:
The Book Depository
Amazon UK

"City of Pearl" by Karen Traviss is the first book in her "The Wess'har Wars" series of Science Fiction novels and was the December read for Women of Science Fiction Book Club. As with many of the other books I have read as part of this book club, I had never actually heard of this one before. At least this time the author was also known to me via her Gears of War novels although I have to admit that I have never read them either.

The story is set at a time when various governments have merged together in an attempt to combat the growing powers of corporations. The main protagonist, Shan Frankland is a police officer for one of these governments who is preparing to retire from her duties in Environmental Hazards unit. However, when a government minister then offers her the chance to visit another world she decides to take on one more job. Her team of scientists and marines are heading out to the only habitable planet known to Earth in an attempt to find out what happened to the colonist who headed there many years earlier. When they arrive, to their surprise they find that the colony has survived, however they also discover that the planet is hot spot between three other sentient alien species that all have their own agendas and ideas of what could be defined as right and wrong.

The first comment I will make about the story is that it doesn't paint a pretty picture of humanity. The author seems to take as many negative aspects about our species as she can and crams them all in to such an extent that I wonder if she even actually likes being human. Whilst, I am more than happy for novels to portray people in a more realistic way, it did all seem a little bit too negative for me. In particular I couldn't believe the way that the scientists involved in the novel have been portrayed, I don't think I have ever seen such an obnoxious, selfish, unethical group of thoroughly un-likeable people as them and I just don't believe that they would really all act in this rather self-obsessed manner.

I suspect that Traviss is trying to make a point in the novel about how we as a species act and treat our environment but I just found it all a little bit too preachy. The worst aspect of this was in regards to the way that one of the alien species seemed to be so horrified at humans eating meat or other animal products. Honestly, if there was one thing that got my back up in this book it was some of these almost blatant attempts at promoting a Vegan diet.

However, if I ignore the almost over the top negativity about humanity and some of the preachy tendencies then I am more than willing to state that this is actually a well written and interesting, character driven science fiction novel. The plot is well-paced and whilst it is quite light on the action front, there was enough there to keep the story entertaining. It really explores ecology and the way in which humanity and others can interact and affect each other without truly understanding the differing consequences for each group.

One element I really think Traviss has excelled at is in her portrayal of the different alien species. She has developed them to a level that the reader can visualise and understand some of their actions without getting bogged down in excessive descriptions. Each species has their own foibles and cultural elements that really highlight the differences between both humanity and each of them.

The characters in the story both impressed me and yet also depressed me for differing reasons. When I considered the two main characters, Shan and her alien friend Aras, I found them to have been wonderfully developed. I felt that I could really understand the various reasons for their thoughts, ideas and actions as the story progressed. In particular, I found Aras to be superb, his loneliness was palpable and the manner in which his association with humanity was affecting his personality and choices was engrossing to read. However, the supporting characters are a different thing entirely; most of them seemed nothing more than cardboard cut-outs put in place as something for Shan and Aras to complain about in some way. As I said earlier in the review, the scientists were nothing more than obnoxious nasty people, but the Marines were also on the whole nothing more than names that just followed orders. It was a shame really as the few characters that Traviss did at least provide a little development on such as a marine called Ade and a journalist called Eddie seemed like they could be thoroughly interesting to understand further. I just hope that in the future novels we get a little bit more development into them in particular.

In summary, this was an interesting and enjoyable novel that was probably slightly let down by what I saw as an over the top attempt at preaching to the reader about how bad we all are. I think this book will appeal to anyone who enjoys character driven and thought provoking Science Fiction. The way the plot has been written in my opinion also offers a lot of growth for the future and I look forward with anticipation to the prospect of future books incorporating some action and adventure to go alongside the character driven elements showcased in this novel.

Monday 19 December 2011

Classic Fantasy Challenge

YA Challenge

Runs from January 1, 2012 - December 31, 2012
Hosted by Lurv a la Mode

To be honest the rules of this challenge are rather open in that the host hasn't actually got any rules. Therefore I am going to make up a couple of my own rules that I will follow for this challenge.

1. Classic Fantasy Books must all have been initially published prior to 1981 (My Birth Year)
2. I will only count a book against this challenge if it is a stand-a-lone or the first in a series.

My Quota
My overall aim in this challenge is to read 12 books in 2012 that meet my own rules above and those from the hosting blog itself.

You can track my progress on my 2012 Challenge Page.

Saturday 17 December 2011

Reboot - Carl Rauscher

Title: Reboot
Author: Carl Rauscher
Genre: Sci-Fi
Published: 2011
Formats: Ebook

Available at:
Amazon UK

"Reboot" by Carl Rauscher is an entertaining post-apocalyptic Sci-Fi novel that I managed to complete within a couple of days. The basic premise of the story is that an electromagnetic event known as "The Pulse" was set off in order to wipe out a dangerous computer virus. The result of this was that all micro-processors were destroyed, from those in high end super computers right down to those that were running elevators and doing other mundane task. Now, several years later the majority of America is utilising very low levels of technology and there is barely any communication between different areas of the country. Into this world is thrown Oscar, a man who has been sent out by the government to try and inject some more technology into various communities in an attempt help improve the lives of the people there. However, when Oscar arrives at a small town after being beaten and shot, he spends the winter trying to both help the there and deal with those who had attacked him.

I will start by saying that I really enjoyed the novel and I found the reason for the demise of civilization to be a little bit more original than some other post-apocalyptic stories. In a genre that can become a bit "samey" it was nice to read something that didn't head down in the usual dictatorial government or zombie route. The author has also put a lot of consideration into the story and has detailed quite thoroughly the issues and problems that would face people when the basic items we take for granted today are no longer available.

The plot itself moves at a reasonable pace and there is ample adventure, mystery, humour and drama to keep most readers entertained. The characters all seemed to be believable and well developed which meant that I actually found myself caring what would happen to them all as the story progressed. The only weak character would probably be the "bad guy" of the story who seems to hide and avoid the townspeople even though he could easily do what he wanted without being stopped. I still don't really understand what he was doing or why he was doing it, considering the position of importance and safety he found himself.

One negative aspect I did observe is that the plot became distracted by the fact that a fair bit of the novel is told from the perspective of a young girl called Rabbit instead of Oscar himself. In my opinion, it just meant that parts of the story become bogged down in rather mundane and uninteresting aspects like how much she liked a toy that Oscar had made for her. I just felt that there was so much more I would have loved to know about Oscar and his past but there was little time to investigate this in the novel due to the elements involving Rabbit and other side characters.

In summary, I really enjoyed this book and it was actually nice to read a post-apocalyptic novel that ended up with some real hope and a government that was trying to actually do the right thing. I read this book very quickly once I started and I really hope that there is more novels in the future that will continue Oscar's journey. If you enjoy post-apocalyptic novels that don't go into mutations, magic powers or zombies then go ahead and pick this up as it is an interesting read.

Wednesday 14 December 2011

The Hunger Games (The Hunger Games Trilogy Book 1) - Suzanne Collins

Title: The Hunger Games (The Hunger Games Trilogy Book 1)
Author: Suzanne Collins
Genre: Sci-Fi
Published: 2008
Formats: Hardback/Paperback/Ebook

Available at:
The Book Depository
Amazon UK

"The Hunger Games" by Suzanne Collins is a novel that prior to starting my book blog I had never heard of. However, I have seen it praised across multiple blogs and review sites, therefore I decided that I should finally pick it up and give it a read. What I discovered was a thoroughly enjoyable young adult novel full of action, thrills and some superb suspense.

The story itself is set in a dystopian North America that has been divided into 12 districts and is ruled by an oppressive government situated in an area known simply as the Capitol. As a reminder of the power of the Capitol, the 12 districts are ordered to provide both a boy and a girl between the ages of 12 and 18 to participate in the annual Hunger Games. Theses games are set in a large dangerous arena and involve the 24 children fighting to the death whilst the entire event is being shown live across the nation.

The story is focused on Katniss Everdeen, a 16-year-old girl from District 12, who volunteers to fight in the games so that her 12 year old sister will be spared having to take part. Upon arrival at the Capitol, Katniss' team formulate a plan to try and tug the heartstrings of the audience to increase her chances of survival. However, in the end, Katniss must use her own wits, courage and intellect to try and survive the games.

I have to admit that when I read the synopsis the first thing that came to my head was "Battle Royale" which is another novel that follows a future government sending children to fight to the death in a dangerous wild arena. The plot is very similar, however after having watched the movie adaptation of "Battle Royale" I would have to say that it is much more violent and bloody and is aimed much more at adults whereas "The Hunger Games" is a little lighter on the violence front and does at times focus more on the various relationships between the central characters as you would expect from a YA novel.

Either way, the plot in "The Hunger Games" is riveting and I couldn't put it down as Katniss battles both the competitors and the arena itself with hunger, thirst and fire proving to be almost as deadly as the other children. The thrills and action scenes come quickly and often once the games themselves get underway and this section moved along at a quick pace. Some of the more violent action scenes can be a little disturbing when you consider the age of the characters involved but I felt that the author doesn't go into any unneeded details. I suspect however that some people may find the premise itself enough to put them off reading no matter how much the author may hold back on the savagery. However, the book is more than just this as some of the best parts of the novel in my opinion are the strategies, battle of wills and manipulation of the game viewers that goes on.

The main characters in the story, Katniss herself and the boy from District 12, Peeta are both likeable enough people. They are both on the whole "good" in how they act and the author has developed them into deep enough people although I have to admit that I did begin to wonder if Katniss could actually do anything badly or wrong at times. However, she did turn out to have at least one flaw in that she was as dense as a rock when it came to understanding some of the more complex emotional aspects relationships. Whilst this did lead to some rather amusing scenes it also irritated me a little bit as I couldn't believe anyone could really be that blind to what was staring them in the face.

In addition to these two main characters, Collins has also created an interesting mix of varied and engaging support characters. I specifically thoroughly enjoyed watching the drunken Haymitch alter as he realised that maybe this time he wouldn't have to just sit and watch those he was helping die without a chance.

The biggest thing lacking for me in the story was a little bit more information on the world itself and its history. The reader does get little titbits of information throughout the novel but nothing really in-depth or meaty that helps build up a good picture. It doesn't cause any issues with following the plot or enjoying the novel but I just think there is a great world here and wish that I could have found out more about it.

One other little issue I did have is that I thought it was a bit obvious how the story and Hunger Games would end although I will admit that Collins did throw a little curveball that had me thinking the book could actually go somewhere else for a few pages. I also felt the ending itself was a little bit too sudden and abrupt, it does lead well into the sequel but it isn't a very satisfying conclusion for the book itself.

Overall, "The Hunger Games" was a brilliant read that kept me entertained from start to finish with a turely riveting plot. In my opinion the violence and premise make the novel more suited at the older side of the YA market and adults than to young teens but it really does depend on what other works of fiction the child may normally read or watch. I am now looking forward to reading the sequel and hope that I will learn more about the world itself and some of its history that has only been briefly touched upon in "The Hunger Games".

Sunday 11 December 2011

Laughing Dog - D.C. Burns

Title: Laughing Dog
Author: D.C. Burns
Genre: General Fiction
Published: 2011
Formats: Ebook

Available at:
Amazon UK

"Laughing Dog" by D.C. Burns is a rather quirky little story that follows the life of a woman named Lauren as she tries to recover from a debilitating illness. Along the way she receives help and advice from a ghost, God and her rather eccentric little dog called O'Poo.

There is quite a large amount of the novel that is based around the relationship between Lauren and O'Poo and I have to admit that early on this almost caused me to give up on the book. I am not much of a dog fan and don't really understand the relationships that some people seem to build between themselves and their dog. So after the first few chapters that seemed to mainly concentrate on this type of a relationship I found myself struggling to keep reading. However, I did keep at it and the amount of plot and story that was heavily based on the interaction between Lauren and O'Poo decreased to a level that I found easier to follow.

Besides that, I found it to be an interesting and in the end, quite a heart-warming story. The reader follows Lauren through all her traumas and problems from a woman that can barely walk into a woman who works on a ranch and has her own child. The writing was also competent enough and the story was amusingly quirky at times, I found myself smiling when some rather random events occurred such as when a Scottish ghost appeared and spoke with Lauren.

The novel does suffer a little from its short length though in that it does seem to jump very quickly from one important aspect in Lauren's life to the next. This was a shame really as it would have been nice to really see some more development of the characters and relationships that were built up around her. I specifically found that whilst the relationship between Lauren and her dog is well defined and both of them are well developed, the other characters in the novel seemed quite light.

Overall, I found this to be an interesting and quirky story that could easily have been expanded further into a longer novel. I suspect that if you are a dog lover then some aspects of this novel will really appeal to you and I would therefore advise you to give this book a read for the dog sections alone. However, if you are like me and don't "do" dogs then you may find it a little hard going at times but there is still a nice little story there for you to read and enjoy.

Thursday 8 December 2011

2012 Speculative Fiction Challenge

Runs from January 1, 2012 - December 31, 2012
Hosted by Adventures of 2.0

Speculative fiction is my love with a particular fondness for Science Fiction so I am looking forward to this challenge.

Anyway, there are only a few basic rules for this Challenge which I have taken straight from the hosting site:

Sign Up

Anyone can join, blog or not, you just need somewhere to post your reviews to share with the world. If you have a blog, a post about the challenge would be nice! Just add your details to the linky below to sign up.

I’ve made a couple of buttons and have modified the traditional challenge button for this year. Feel free to put them in your sidebar and use them in your review posts! Just save the image of your choice to your computer first please!

Timeline: 01 Jan 2012 - 31 Dec 2012. You can sign up from now right up until 31 Nov 2012.

Rules: The levels are back this year! Just pick your level and declare it in your post or in the comments below:

• Nosey: 3 novels
• Excited: 6 novels
• Content: 12 novels
• In Nirvana: 24 novels
• Obsessed: 48 novels

There is no need to list your books now (unless you are like me and love making lists), just pick as you go along and have fun! Books can most definitely be counted towards other challenges.

I will post a monthly link up for you to share your reviews. There are no prizes other that a sense of satisfaction at reaching your goal (*interpretation* We are broke college students with no sneakily awesome publishing contacts).

Any book format (ebook, print, audio) counts!

And because it can sometimes get a bit confusing (from Carolyns original post), Genres:

• Science Fiction: hard/soft SF, cyberpunk, time travel, alternative history, space opera
• Fantasy Fiction: dark fantasy, urban fantasy, magic realism, quest, mythical fantasy, steampunk
• Horror Fiction: paranormal, gothic literature, splatterpunk
• Supernatural Fiction
• Superhero Fiction
• Utopian and Dystopian Fiction
• Apocalyptic and Post-Apocalyptic Fiction

My Quota
Well, I have decided to go out with this challenge and have targeted the Obsessed level of 48 books.

You can track my progress on my 2012 Challenge Page.

Wednesday 7 December 2011

A Life of Death - Weston Kincade

Title: A life of Death
Author: Weston Kincade
Genre: Paranormal
Published: 2011
Formats: Paperback/Ebook

Available at:
The Book Depository
Amazon UK

"A Life of Death" by Weston Kincade is an intriguing coming of age drama with a paranormal twist. However, there is more to the novel than just this as mystery, suspense and even a little romance help to make this a really memorable read.

The novel's plot is set around Alex Drummand re-telling part of his life to his son, specifically a period when he was a teenager that changed his life forever. In this period of his life, Alex has lost his father to a drunk driver and now lives with his mother and alcoholic step father who beats on him. He has become an outcast at school and his step-siblings are nothing more than an annoyance. However, one day he suddenly develops an ability that allows him to touch objects and re-live the deaths of the various people who were touching the same object when they died. Using these visions, he sets out on a mission to try and help those who had died in any manner he can, especially when one vision uncovers a possible threat to his new family.

The story is quite simply, absolutely superb and once I started reading I couldn't put the book down as it has some great intense scenes and an interesting tight plot. In addition, the tension has been conveyed amazingly well. The characters are also well-developed and realistic which really helps bring the story to life and illicit some great emotion in the reader. I have to admit that at one point the emotions raised within me almost had me in tears but as I am a "tough guy" I held them in!

Overall, I loved this book, it was an emotional and entertaining journey that had me hooked very early own. I have to say that this book is in my opinion, probably one of the best written indie books I have been asked to review. If you enjoy paranormal mystery of suspense novels then I think you would be mad to miss up the chance to read this. Personally, I hope that Weston Kincade decides to write some more mystery stories set in the world of Alex Drummand as I would be sure to pick them up.

Tuesday 6 December 2011

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Childhood Favourites

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish which I am taking part in. 

This week's top ten is my top ten childhood favourites which I have taken to mean anything I read prior to turning 13 and becoming a dreaded teenager.

The Famous Five Series by Enid Blyton
My mother had a huge omnibus edition of these stories and I remember loving getting a few chapters read to me and my sister every night.

Help! I'm a Prisoner in a Toothpaste Factory by John Antrobus
I loved this amusing book when I was a child, the title itself was just plain superb.

Anything by Roald Dahl
Roald Dahl seemed to be everywhere when I was at Primary School as all my friends seemed to read them. I don't think there was a single one I didn't enjoy although my favourite has to be George's Marvellous Medicine.

The Nome Trilogy by Terry Pratchett
My first ever experience of Terry Pratchett and I remember laughing like never before when I read them. After reading these I became obsessed with his Discworld novels.

Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
I was made to read this one at Primary School but I still loved it. When I read this it was probably the only time in my life that I actually thought spiders were nice.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
This is a beautiful book full of vivid colours that I am sure many children have experienced. My daughter actually has her very own copy although she has pulled out half the pop up bits....

Winnie the Pooh by A.A Milne
Another book that I suspect many children will have read and loved over the years. I have even asked Santa Clausto bring my daughter a copy this year. I actually think my parents may still even have my own copy sitting in their house somewhere.

The Worst Witch by Jill Murphy
These books were the talk of the other children at Primary School and once I managed to get a hold of a copy I understood why. They had the ability to really make me laugh.

The Lifeguard by Richie Tankersley Cusick
My first taste of Point Horror novels and it was a reasonable experience that persuaded me to continue robbing them out of my sister's bedroom.

Monster by Christopher Pike
I have mentioned this book in many other top tens as this was the book that really got me hooked on reading. I thank you Christopher Pike for ensuring that just before I became a dreaded teenager this book was there for me.

So what was everyone else’s top ten books as a child?

Saturday 3 December 2011

Manhattan in Reverse - Peter F. Hamilton

Title: Manhattan in Reverse
Author: Peter F. Hamilton
Genre: Sci-Fi
Published: 2011
Formats: Hardback/Paperback/Ebook

Available at:
The Book Depository
Amazon UK

I will admit straight away that I love Peter Hamilton; I think the Epic Space Opera he creates is superb and I am always quick to try and pick up his books. So, when "Manhattan in Reverse" was released I made sure that it was right at the top of my reading pile. This is a collection of some of his short stories and as I haven't actually read any of his short stories before I was really looking forward to seeing what he could do in this format, especially considering he is an author who normally writes massive door stop style novels.

In regards to the stories, the first one called "Watching Trees Grow" is actually the longest. I found it rather interesting in that it traced a murder investigation across several centuries in an alternate version of Earth. Basically, in this world, the Romans never lost their empire and therefore technology continued to develop at a much faster pace than reality. As the years pass we follow the investigator utilise new technologies as they appear to ensure that the perpetrator of the murder is finally brought to justice.

The second story is "Footvote" which was quite a quick read, especially compared to the previous story, "Watching Trees Grow". It takes a slightly satirical look at the contemporary politics of the UK which did bring a little bit of a smile to my face at times. The story itself looks at how the Britain copes with a wormhole to a new planet being opened. The wormhole's creator has allowed a short period for people to immigrate and has implemented stringent regulations on who can and can't actually pass through. I did find it to be one of the more limited stories in the collection though, mainly due to the fact that the ending is based around a rather chance encounter. Either way though, out of everything in this collection, I think this is the story that I would most like to see expanded out into a full novel as there is a great basis here.

Following this we have "If at first..." which was probably my favorite story in the collection outside those that were based on the author's Commonwealth Universe. This is a rather amusing story in which we follow a Detective who accidentally ends up chasing a time traveler back in time, where he then tweaks history for his own benefit. Of course, this doesn't go as well as he hopes which leads on to an ending that I found to be rather clever and well fitted to the story.

"The Forever Kitten" is the forth story in the collection and it is incredibly short at only 1000 words long. It basically deals with the quest for 'forever youth' and involves a rather disturbing finale that I could see coming even though I hoped I would be wrong.

The next story in the collection is the first of those set in the Commonwealth Universe and it is a nice little story detailing some of the history of Inigo who was a character in the Void Trilogy. I would say that it doesn't really tell the reader much more than you would actually learn in the Void Trilogy but it was nice to see the Inigo's history fleshed out a little. It does still work as a standalone story but I think it is something that will really appeal more to those who have read the trilogy.

The final two stories in the collections follow another character from the Commonwealth Universe, namely Investigator Paula Myo who is the scourge of criminals everywhere. I will admit that I always found her to be an intriguing and enjoyable character to follow so these were probably the stories I was really looking forward to.

The first of these is "The Demon Trap" which is set prior to the events of "Pandora's Star" and follows Paula as she investigates the terrorist activities being conducted by a group trying to enable a planet to become Independent. The story really brings out how relentless Paula is in ensuring that justice is done and I really enjoyed the political intrigue that was brought out during the investigation. This was probably my favorite story in the entire collection, but this may have been biased by the fact that I am aware of aspects of Peter's other works which really enhance the enjoyment of this story.

The final story is "Manhattan in Reverse" which is a new story created for this collection and is set after the events of the Starflyer War in "Judas Unchained". However, I do not think having read the other books really makes any difference to this story as it is very standalone with only a few references to the other novels. In this story we follow Paula and she travels to another planet to investigate why a supposedly non sentient alien species has started attacking colonists. The story itself is rather enjoyable although I am not sure Paula really adds much to this story really and I think the real stars of the show are the alien creatures themselves.

Overall, I have to say that this is an enjoyable and varied collection of thought-provoking stories that showcase many of Hamilton's strengths and skill as an author. It does show that if he puts his mind to it he can create focused and intimate short stories that still capture some of the grand ideas he infuses into his larger novels. The one weakness is minor and it is that to really appreciate some of these stories you need to be aware of the other novels Hamilton has written. I think newcomers to his work probably won't gain the same level of enjoyment and interest from the stories as longer time fans may do. So, in conclusion I would say that any current fan of Peter Hamilton's works will probably love this collection, but there are probably better books for someone new to his writing to start with.