Tag Archives: Books

A literary update…

As detailed in previous posts, I have been devoting much of my leisure time to reading of late – games and films have taken a back seat (although I did play through the “Mass Effect 3” demo on 360 and loved it).

To bring you entirely up to date, this week I have somehow found time to read…

“Triumff – Her Majesty’s Hero” by Dan Abnett (Angry Robot books), “Nekropolis” by Tim Waggoner (Angry Robot) and “Changeless” by Gail Carriger (Orbit books).

Triumff - a swiss army knife of a book...

“Triumff” is best described as a ‘Blackadder’-like, alternate history swashbuckler with the titular hero inadvertently and grudgingly fighting a conspiracy to kill the Queen in a Britain where the Empire never quite ended, magic is very real and puns are as lethal as a good blade.

Dan Abnett knows swashbuckling and is – I would argue – without peer when it comes to large-scale action sequences.  He’s also genuinely funny and possessed of a gift for the pun which staggers the mind and emboldens the heart.  This is a great romp – in the very best sense of the word – and is highly recommended to you if you enjoy adventure, invention (there’s a prodigious hit rate of ideas and some very cool world building in this novel), comedy and character.

My limbs are falling off - your argument is invalid.

Tim Waggoner’s “Nekropolis” is the first in his series of supernatural detective novels featuring former human cop and reluctant zombie P.I., Matt Richter.

This is a book where the cover directed me to take a punt with it and I’m glad that I did – this is a really enjoyable tale of mystery, murder, drugs and mayhem in a world of the dead so off-kilter and matter-of-factly strange that it makes Tim Burton’s films look like an episode of “EastEnders”.

Richter inhabits the titular city of Nekropolis, where the dead, the undead, the uncanny and the archetypal creatures of the horror genre exist in an uneasy détente – everybody wants to rule the place, be it vampires, werewolves, ghosts or the otherwise living-impaired, but no one creature can gain full control.

If you like your horror fiction scary but not gross, your detective hard-boiled but essentially decent with it and your romantic lead to be steadily decomposing, you should think about giving this book a try.

If you have engineer's goggles, prepare to don them...

Finally this week, I read Gail Carriger‘s second instalment of her ‘Parasol Protectorate‘ series, “Changeless”.

When talking about the first novel in the series, “Soulless”, I did raise some minor misgivings that I had regarding the contemporary idioms used in the book, which I felt took me out of the otherwise delightful world that Ms Carriger has created.  Those issues still remain in the second book – would it kill the editors of the UK edition to replace the word ‘stoop’ with the word ‘step’ when a scene depicts somebody waiting outside a house? – but I was able to put them firmly to one side and concentrate on enjoying the second steampunk romantic adventure for Alexia Tarrabotti, the now Lady Maccon and erstwhile preternatural at large for Queen Victoria.

Some reviews of this book took issue with storytelling decisions which separate characters for large sections of the narrative and with an ending which left me feeling oddly bereft and exclaiming to the delightful Mrs Rolling Eyeballs “You can’t end a book like that!  That’s like the climax of  “The Empire Strikes Back”, that is!”.

I know why people feel like that – by this point, you don’t want anything too terrible to happen to Alexia, Ivy, Lord Maccon and the cast – but I feel that the decisions that Carriger made with her second novel were very much for the best and ultimately made it a far more compelling tale than the first book was.

Partly this could be because a large part of the action is set in Scotland, which I love dearly.  Partly it could be due to the fact that the steampunk elements in this book are really well-balanced and cleverly integrated into the story – there are gadgets and stylistic inclusions which add to the sense of the world being drawn before you and don’t detract from the story moving along.

And move along it does – this is a book which is pacy but never breathless and leaves you absolutely needing to start the next book in the series as soon as you put “Changeless” down.  I venture that for some folks this will absolutely be a ‘one-sitting’ read and no higher recommendation can I give it than that.

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A Reader Writes…

A cornucopia of reading materials.

As previously noted in a post last week, I went abso-blinking-lutely hatstand whilst on holiday and decided to read like a dervish whilst in Scotland.

Part of this disturbing and wholly regrettable chain of events was down to my participation in Good Reads“50 Books In A Year” challenge and needing to keep pace with the remorseless demands of that near-Herculean task, but much of my enthusiasm for it stems from the realisation that I spent a great amount of my youth reading and very little of my adult life has found time for books.

To me, this seems like a crime and a sad state of affairs best addressed by dipping not a toe but my whole, oversized foot into the cool, clear waters of literature before I end up devoting my waking hours entirely to games, blogging and not watching television (seriously, there’s so much nonsense masquerading as programming latterly that I probably consciously watch five hours of TV a week).

So, to the books.

I first read “Summer Knight” by Jim Butcher, which is the fourth book in his “Dresden Files” series of novels about modern-day wizard/P.I. Harry Dresden.  It was such fun that I promptly hopped on Amazon and bought “Storm Front”, the first Dresden novel and winced only slightly at the long list of Dresden Files novels that I should probably think about catching up on.

Gulp.

Thereafter, I raced through “Allison Hewitt Is Trapped” by Madeleine Roux, which is a very entertaining, page-turning tale of a post-zombie apocalypse journey made by the titular character across a United States beset by the walking mostly dead and human beings who are scarcely any better.  It’s told in blog format – the power/working wireless connection issue is promptly and convincingly dealt with – by a narrator who was a bookseller and now finds herself wielding an axe and trying to keep friends alive in the face of all-consuming horror.

Highly recommended if you enjoyed Mira Grant’s “Feed” or Max Brooks’ “World War Z”.

The only real downer in my reading week was Suzanne Collins’ much ballyhooed young adult dystopian fantasy, “The Hunger Games”, which failed to connect with me on any level.  I disliked the way that Collins went out of her way to riff on the ‘kids-fighting-kids’ plotline of “Battle Royale” and then didn’t have the courage to actually make Katniss Everdeen actually (OMG – SPOILERS!) really kill anybody hands-on (OMG – SPOILERS!) during the titular gladitorial contest.  It’s an unforgivable cheat, really, which reduces the emotionally charged notions at the heart of the plot to an anti-septic, at-arms-length episode of “Total Wipeout” with more dead pre-teens and intermittent fireballs.

That’s without even considering the absurd detour into Doctor Moreau territory which arrives – more or less from nowhere – towards the end of the novel.

Perhaps the film will find a way to fix the shortcomings in the book, but as I won’t be seeing it, you’ll have to advise me if the film makers manage that particular uphill battle.

I dipped into David Wellington’s “13 Bullets” but haven’t really continued with it since the end of last week – it hadn’t done enough to grip me by page 80, which I reached through a sense of duty as much as a desire to continue.  If you like your Vampires in the modern day and feral with it, you might enjoy it but I found it a bit dusty and oddly cliched – essentially like at DTV Steven Seagal flick with a decent budget.  To make up the numbers on my book challenge, I should probably see if it clicks with me a little more, but I have my doubts.

The book that I’m working through now is Charles Stross’ dizzying tale of near-future MMO heists and internet crime, “Halting State”.  Dude has 3,000 ideas a minute and the lion’s share of them are present in this book.  It’s almost guaranteed to blow your mind at least once or twice – Drone Cabs!  VR LARPing! Cops who LifeStream record everything! – and is itching (itching, I tells ye!) to be made into a high-end Channel 4 series or an uber-budget Chris Nolan flick.  I’m enjoying it quite a lot – can you tell?

More books and digressive thoughts thereon to follow – whether you like it or not…

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The 20 Most Beautiful Bookstores in the World

Flavorwire » The 20 Most Beautiful Bookstores in the World.

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More glorious centres of book worship at the link.  In related news, how much is a ticket to Maastricht?

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The Amazon tablet – out in November?

Slashgear have a story on one of the Autumn’s more geeky and eagerly awaited tech products – the Amazon tablet.

The upshot of which is that Amazon are holding an Apple-style press conference next week and not telling us yet just what they’re announcing.  So that means the much-rumoured Tablet is real and we’ll all get to see it for the first time next Wednesday. Probably.

via MacRumors.com

See.  It’s a thing.  A heavily re-purposed Android tablet, with Amazon branding and services integrated.  Sold at a loss to get to some of the punters who’d love an iPad but can’t afford (or don’t want to pay) the Apple Tax.  I guess that I’m in that latter group – I’d be happy to use a device purely for media, but I’m aware that it’s an absurd, first world luxury item and one that I don’t really need.  Would like to have, perhaps, but I don’t need it – the distinction there is key and is one that I don’t think a lot of people make.

As a bona-fide Amazon fan I confess to being eager to see what they come up with on Wednesday – I haven’t yet bought a Kindle as I still quite like the feel of a paperback and the physical media display impulse is strong within me (an arguable disorder not made any easier by the Black Library’s tendency to have neat illustrations on the spine of their paperbacks, each of which has a different chapter of Space Marines on it).

For example:

And, lo - did the Nerd Overlords at the Black Library figure out new ways to divest me of cash...

Physical Media still gets the job done in some respects – you can’t beat a good book jacket or a nice typeface. I can’t see myself making the jump to eBooks until the publishers figure out some way to provide ancillary benefits to the collector which induce them to collect in a digital format.

So, to sum up – Amazon are doing something or other on Wednesday and I’m a massive nerd.  I think that’s everything…

 

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