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The Great Airport Mystery

The Great Airport Mystery

, &

19th November 2014

The ninth Hardy Boys adventure is the most violent so far in my re-read of the series, and this the updated 1965 edition that's meant to have removed less desirable content. As is typical, the boys are called in by their father to help out on a case, going undercover at a local factory to investigate platinum thefts, but things soon spiral into something much larger.

As plots go, this has been one of the least plausible of the series this far - the boys are constantly travelling both by plane and helicopter and it stretches my imagination when it fails to mention how this is funded. The boys seem to be brought in for something that the police could definitely have dealt with, and the combination of mysteries becomes overly coincidental.

Overall I felt a bit disappointed by this book, and if you're looking for a single book in the series (rather than being a completionist like me) then I'd suggest you give this one a miss.

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The Novice

The Novice

17th November 2014

The second book in the Black Magician trilogy continues the story of Sonea, a girl from the slums who has managed to break centuries of tradition by being accepted into the magical university. It's now effectively her first year of school, and I was worried that it might become derivative of other stories set in education establishments for the magically inclined - but it's not.

The school-based storyline is original and authentic - Sonea's actions and reactions are very believable and the twists throughout make for a fascinating tale. Similarly, the other strands of the plot following some of the more senior magicians are revealing, and in places I'm sure I've already picked up on hints of things to come in book three.

There are places in the narrative where the writing style still feels a little unpolished, as I said about the first book, but this doesn't detract from the tale, and even makes it feel a little more approachable. The plot really sucked me in, and it's one of the most addictive books I've read for a while.

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Lock In

Lock In

16th November 2014

John Scalzi is rapidly becoming one of my favourite science fiction authors. In this new novel he depicts a world after a massive flu epidemic, which leaves thousands of people with a type of locked-in syndrome. Industry quickly catches up, with mind-controlled robots becoming available for the locked-in to use to interact with the world. This is the story of a locked in FBI officer in his first week on the job.

The science fiction elements of the story are fascinating. It's a really clever idea to think about users of remote controlled avatars ad how their world would work, for example being able to rent a new body in a different place and jump straight there. There are aspects that really stand out, including the slang that's developed around the new situations. Scalzi also uses these elements of world building to feed the plot, rather than just to create somewhere for it to happen, and I really liked the complete integration of the whole story.

The characters are really interesting, although I didn't feel we explored them in as much depth as we could have. There area a good range of characters all of whom fit into the world that Scalzi has constructed and help to make the whole novel feel a single work of art. The story keeps you guessing, and fits the mould of a crime novel without compromise - making it one of the best pieces of cross-genre fiction I've read for some time.

An excellent novel that explores potentially real issues while remaining thoroughly entertaining. I'm really loving getting into John Scalzi's novels and will definitely be looking to fill out my collection of his back catalogue as I wait for the next one.

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The Mystery of Cabin Island

The Mystery of Cabin Island

, &

15th November 2014

The eighth book in the original Hardy Boys series (in my case the 1966 revised edition) sees the teenage investigators having a winter holiday as a reward following one of their earlier cases in an uncommon reference back to an earlier story (The Shore Road Mystery). As is emerging as a frequent occurrence as I re-read, there are two separate mysteries to challenge the boys.

This is an interesting entry in the series with a slightly different feel to hose that have gone before. There's less reliance on others to find a case, and it introduces some novel ideas around red herrings and some new local adversaries that seem to have potential to become recurring characters, making the boys feel more like real teenagers rather than the more adult characters that they tend to come across as.

Overall this is a good story and a strong mystery with a lot of twists to keep a young reader interested.

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Perfect People

Perfect People

8th November 2014

This is the first book by Peter James I've read outside of his Roy Grace series of detective novels, and I wasn't sure what to expect. It's the tale of a couple who find they are both carriers of a genetic disease, and their attempt to have a child that doesn't inherit those genes. It's an exploration of the concept of designer babies, and looks at some of the possible things that would arise.

It's one of the most interesting novels I've read in a while, despite really being more within the thriller genre that crime, and one of the few recently that I've found I wanted to keep reading when I got home in the evening rather than reserve just for my train journeys. The short chapters that James uses make for a very fast feeling plot and really keep the reader engaged.

There are some disturbing scenes - but I've come to expect that from a Peter James novel, and actually I'd predicted that something like that would be coming up, but it's still a bit shocking when it comes. I'm not really sure how the plot makes me feel over all, and I'm not sure either quite what moral the author was planning to put across, if indeed any - if the book was intended to change or challenge my own views on genetics though I'm afraid it didn't feel believable enough for that.

A very enjoyable, if dark, and interesting read throughout, which I'm glad I read. I'm still nervous though about picking up any more of Peter James' novels if they're going to be as intense as this.

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The Secret of the Caves

The Secret of the Caves

, &

8th November 2014

The seventh book in the original Hardy Boys series (actually, my copy is the Anglicised version of the 1964 rewrite) depicts the brother detectives helping their dad in another case and going hunting for treasure with their friend's new metal detector.

Although the plot feels quite coincidental in its structure, by this point the stories seem to be moulding themselves into more of a traditional detective story structure and the two boys are becoming more independent.

I enjoyed this mystery for the most part, although I thought it was very clear where some of the story had been dramatically updated for the 1960s version and probably didn't match the original.

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Disavowed

Disavowed

8th November 2014

Although labelled as a Section 31 novel, this isn't really part of the series of that name from some ten years ago, but rather a sequel to the recent 'The Fall' crossover series of novels, and follows Dr Bashir as he attempts to infiltrate the shadowy organisation that has been trying to recruit him since DS9's sixth season.

Like all the Star Trek novels I've read by David Mack, this is really good. He manages to write for the TV series characters perfectly and to continue to develop their characters in an authentic and believable manner, while bringing in new unfamiliar characters and building them up so that the reader has as much invested in them as the stars.

I was a bit nervous when I discovered that this book was taking a dive into the Mirror Universe, as I've always felt a bit of a disconnect from this and never read the MU series of novels and novellas from a few years ago, but having now read this I can report that I barely felt I'd missed out and Mack filled me in through the narrative on everything I needed to know about the setting and characters. I liked very much how he used the opportunity to use a range of familiar and new faces in the MU to add to its tapestry, and I'm almost inspired to go back and fill in some of the gaps in my past reading.

The plot is strong and solid, and a great adventure that I enjoyed taking alongside the characters. I can do little but look forward to more in the promised follow-up novel. Great once again, and could even provide a good entry point into the series for readers who've not kept up with the many strands of the post-Nemesis novel series.

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