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Legion: Skin Deep

Legion: Skin Deep

5th October 2015

Looking back on my notes from the original Legion novella, I quite enjoyed it and its exploration of Stephen Leeds - a man whose various personality 'aspects' manifesto themselves as imaginary people who travel through life with him. Skin Deep continues the exploration of the character in a little more depth as he faces a new adventure.

I didn't re-read the original story before this one, and was struck by how much goes unexplained here, and wondered if I should have gone back first and read them back-to-back. However I've been told by someone who did this that it didn't help and that there are still references that don't mean anything to the reader.

The plot is an interesting idea, although really plays second fiddle to the situation of the character - often something I would praise in a Sanderson novel, but in this case something that's a little frustrating. I struggled in places to keep a track of which aspect was which and to understand the consistency of what they did in the character's imagination. Generally I didn't find it easy to read.

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Sight Unseen

Sight Unseen

5th October 2015

The latest novel in the Titan series follows the crew of the starship and Admiral Riker as he continues to get used to his new role. Dispatched to a new frontier, the crew receives a distress call from a friendly vessel and heads off to help.

The book starts like many Trek novels and also follows the recent convention of telling sequels to episodes of the TV series. The first half moves along at a reasonable pace but feels like it's lacking something and didn't grip me as much as I had hoped. There were moments where I phased out and had to take a step back a page to catch back up with myself.

The second half though was excellent. The pace ups and we get a strong blend of action, intrigue and a range of characters having interesting moments. I really like how Swallow takes some of the newer characters and gross them through the novel to the point where it feels like you've known them forever - a trick that would be beneficial to some of the other recent Trek tie-in novels.

That said, some of the other characters that we've been exposed to for a while seemed to get much less attention and two of the subplots felt shoehorned awkwardly in to reshuffle things in a way that didn't have much bearing on the plot of this book.

Overall though the second half really impressed and entertained me, and it was definitely worth reading the first half to get there. An excellent adventure and well used characters. I hope for many more books by Swallow in the years to come.

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Make Me

Make Me

28th September 2015

The twentieth novel in the Jack Reacher series sees the title character - a former military police officer - arrive in a small violists with an unusual name, which nobody will explain to him.

As always, it's an interesting plot that keeps getting deeper with every twist. However it's much slower than usual to find out what is going on, and unlike some of the earlier books it feels like some of the motivation is a little forced to keep the story moving rather than being organic.

I'm not sure whether it's just me, but I felt there has been a shift in the narrative, with action scenes seeming to switch into an incredibly detailed slow motion description, rather than being quick and blunt. I'm not entirely sure how I feel about that - in places it meant I had to pause and step back to really take something in.

That said, Lee Child introduces some interesting new elements of the plot which may indicate an interesting new direction for the series, and may flow through into subsequent novels, which will certainly be interesting to see.

Another excellent thriller from a real master of the genre. A good balance of character, mystery and action.

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The Returned part three

The Returned part three

24th September 2015

The final part of this new New Frontier adventure follows up on everything we've seen in parts one and two. There are several vaguely interconnected threads that tie the characters together and demonstrate that Peter David still has what it takes to produce a solid, funny Trek adventure.

As always, the story is filled with imaginative twists, unexpected events (some very surprising!) and humorous moments that made the early New Frontier stories fantastic.

I'm pleased with how David has closed things in a little, focussing back on the original characters and enabling new readers to be drawn in (and old ones to remember). The trilogy as a whole has really impressed me - I'd been scared that it would be terrible, but actually really enjoyed it and hope that there will be more to come.

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The Secret Adversary

The Secret Adversary

24th September 2015

I picked up this first novel in Agatha Christie's Tommy and Tuppence series much earlier than I'd planned - partly inspired by the recent TV series (despite not having watched it), but mainly because we agreed for it to be the first book we read in our small new book club.

The story opens with quite formal language, which was a little surprising, as we meet the characters and they dive into some exposition to introduce themselves. Abruptly switching tack, they become the best of friends and set out on an adventure.

The writing style reminded me a lot of Wodehouse, and the narrative is particularly dialogue driven - much of the action being summed up in flashback from one character to another. There are a lot of light-hearted moments, and it was certainly an enjoyable tale.

Of the main characters, Tuppence is well defined from the start, but Tommy seemed quite bland and generic until about halfway through where he is described by another character - and from that moment on he seems to obtain that persona. The other characters are varied, and a few are explored well while others feel like wallpaper.

The adventure itself is as convoluted as one would expect from Christie, and while there is one big give away moment, the reader needs to carefully follow the twisting plot and drip-fed clues to work out what's really going on. All the necessary information is there - but still Christie managed to catch me out.

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Trigger Mortis

Trigger Mortis

22nd September 2015

After writing the Alex Rider series of young adult spy stories, clearly modelled on Bond, Anthony Horowitz has finally graduated to the main programme and been invited to write the novel he's been lining himself up for.

Set shortly after Goldfinger, Bond finds himself caught up in both the repercussions of that mission and a new one where he travels to Germany to thwart a Russian plot. A fair chunk of the early part of the story is based on an outline Ian Fleming produced for a potential Bond TV series, and it's fascinating to see how Horowotz has blended in this original material into his narrative and expanded it into a full and rich story.

While much of the novel is written in passable Fleming style, the separation into two halves - one European and one American - goes against the Fleming tradition of alternating book settings, and there is limited overlap between the two parts which feels a little disconnected. The first half seems far more memorable, but that may be because my copy reinforced that with the Fleming script as an appendix.

Despite Horowitz's excellent writing and a solid and entertaining plot, I don't think that this will be remembered as a classic of the continuation novels (actually I'm not sure there is such a thing). It doesn't take any risks with the material, and as such does nothing to make it stand out.

Still, one of the best of the recent bunch of one-off Bond authors and I would have no objection to Horowitz getting the gig for a few episodes - perhaps with the remaining unpublished Fleming texts as inspiration. His grasp of the originals is strong and he's clearly done his research without becoming an obsessive fanboy.

If you enjoy the originals, this is probably the one to read now.

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The Sinister Signpost

The Sinister Signpost

, &

22nd September 2015

The fifteenth book in the original Hardy Boys series, and the point where I ran out of steam in my massive re-read. My copy is the 1960s re-draft, and sees the Hardys brought I. To investigate the possible theft of a new design of engine.

It's not a book I remember from reading when I was younger, and I wonder whether the word 'sinister' in the title put me off it then? I know there are books in the Three Investigators series that I wouldn't re-read at the same age because they were too creepy. However it's not sinister at all. The 'suspicious' signpost might have been a more precise title for the book I read.

I did park the book for a few months at about chapter fifteen, so it clearly didn't grip me. It's surprisingly sci-fi in some respects, and didn't particularly fit with the other books earlier, which felt much more dated.

Nothing special here then, as the series goes, and not one I'd pick out as a must-read.

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