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 UK

“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 UK

“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:
The Book Depository
Amazon UK

“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:
The Book Depository
Amazon UK

“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.