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The Long Utopia

The Long Utopia

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27th June 2015

The fourth (and possibly final) book in Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter's Long Earth series gripped me in a way that the first four failed to. In fact, I'd almost given up on reading the series after the third book, but given recent events wanted to grab the final pages of Pratchett, and was pleasantly surprised.

The story follows the main characters from previous books as they are aging and (in some cases) settling down after a life of adventure, until they discover something uncomfortably wrong with one of the worlds.

There's plenty to follow up from events of previous books, and I particularly enjoyed the different take on one aspect. The plot actually felt linear and fairly self contained, which I appreciated, although I thought that there was a lot of set up first before getting to the most engaging chapters.

There are touches of humour that I hadn't noticed as much in previous novels - places where (what I assume is) Pratchett's wit shines through the cracks - especially in the dialogue between characters, and this I particularly enjoyed.

I felt that this book rounded things off well (though I have read on one website that there is a fifth book coming - but this may have been an error), and left things in a fit state to leave the series. It's been a mixed bag throughout, but I definitely enjoyed this epic conclusion.

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Dead Souls

Dead Souls

27th June 2015

The tenth novel is the Rebus series is surprisingly dark, and features a number of intertwining plots that I'm still not quite sure I followed all the way to their conclusions.

The 'main' thread, if you can call it that, sees Rebus assigned to keeping an eye on a recently released murderer who has returned to Edinburgh from the US, and the journalist that he's palled up with.

As with many of this series, the focus I think is really on the character himself, and we get to explore an element from his backstory here that fills us in a bit on some of his motivations, as well as exploring alternative routes his life could have taken - something which I think almost everyone engages in from time to time.

I enjoyed reading this book, and think the complexity of the story really grounds it in a level of realism that I appreciate. I always look forward to reading another novel from this series, and am happy that there are plenty more for me to get to.

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Moon Over Soho

Moon Over Soho

27th June 2015

The second book in the Peter Grant series, about a trainee wizard policeman in London, is just as good as, if not better than, the first.

There are two cases on the cards for the young constable, one involving the inexplicable death of a jazz musician, and the other a rather brutal attack on a gentleman's parts by some sort of magical creature.

On top of a compelling and fast-moving plot, the repercussions from the first book surround Grant, and I really enjoyed these character moments which really aid the idea that events in this story will have consequences for the characters.

There's also more effort in fleshing out the world, which is something I always enjoy discovering as I read a series of books, and the author gradually feeds the reader parts of a wider backstory that feel like they will continue building towards events to come.

Definitely enjoyable, and definitely a series I will continue to read.

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The Sleepwalker

The Sleepwalker

27th June 2015

A surprisingly graphic and violence-filled entry in this series which is definitely not aimed at children of parents who want to wrap them in cotton wool and not let them know that there's a real world outside their windows. Muchamore doesn't do anything to get away from realism - if real life would see a fight, there's a fight, and similarly with death, disaster and sex.

This book is a slight departure from earlier ones, in that we focus on Lauren rather than James, as she goes on an undercover mission. Meanwhile James gets caught up in the more domestic aspects of being at the older end of childhood.

It's a good adventure story filled with typical teenage drama, as well as the typical fodder of a spy novel. The plot is fast paced as usual and moves through scenarios that keep the reader utterly gripped.

The character development is surprisingly good quality - some series try to keep things static to retain their audience who want more of the same, but it's clear that Muchamore's characters are aging and maturing and changing through the series.

A really really good entry in a really really good series which is just the thing for young readers - just not precious snowflakes who might mind some guts and destruction.

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Cursed

Cursed

27th June 2015

The second Alex Verus novel sees the London-based mage investigate the death of a magical creature, as well as attempt to protect a beautiful women who arrives through his window one night.

While I enjoyed the book, I do find it to be derivative of some of the US urban fantasy I've been reading (in some cases this is even acknowledged) such as Jim Butcher's Dresden Files and Kevin Hearne's Iron Druid Chronicles - although it does have new elements that make it stand apart. Perhaps it's just that I'm reading too much from this genre at the moment.

I felt that this book was an improvement over the first, with less backstory to rely on and more focus on the events as they occur. The magic system is interesting, but I do wonder whether the main character's powers are too great and often found myself wondering whether everything had been adequately thought through.

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Armageddon's Arrow

Armageddon's Arrow

20th June 2015

The Enterprise E returns to regular missions after the novel continuity's recent upsets, and this does feel a lot like some of the older novels - much like an episode of the series rather than part of the ongoing story, and that's really great.

While investigating a potential first contact, the Enterprise comes across a drifting spaceship with a mysterious provenance, and the crew have to deal with the repercussions of this discovery on the local planets.

It's great to spend some time exploring something new, and Ward has created a fascinating scenario that allows him to plant a number of references to various of the TV series, follow up on a few of the new and old characters, and provides some real tension and intrigue.

As much as I love the ongoing arcs that flow through these books, it is nice to have one that's mostly stand-alone, and I'm glad that Ward had the chance to deliver this one. It's good to see one of my favourite crews back on the road again and I enjoyed travelling with them.

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News From the Clouds

News From the Clouds

20th June 2015

The third and final book in Robert Llewelyn's trilogy exploring possible futures. Following his two trips to different future utopias, this time Gavin lands in a distopian vision where the world is barely habitable.

As well as presenting a third view of things, this book spends some time wrapping things up and providing a nice bookend to the series which, while unexpected, was welcome, and certainly left me with a few things to think about.

Llewelyn manages to leave the reader wanting more - I was a little disappointed we didn't get to see more of the world of the 'clouds' (but then I'm a sucker for good world building) - and this is a good decision, not overburdening the reader but giving them, and the character, enough to be drawn in.

A really interesting trilogy overall which I'm glad I took the time to read. The writing style and the story itself may not be right to appeal to a mass audience, but I certainly found it fascinating and will keep an eye on the author's future projects.

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Sacraments of Fire

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