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Exile

Exile

15th December 2018

Marc Dane’s second adventure begins with the blacklisted ex-spy-support-staffer working in a European backwater, as an analyst on loan to a grumpy boss who has no interest in following up on any of the interesting leads he finds, despite the world-changing implications.

I really enjoyed Nomad, the first novel in this series, and the same is true of Exile (though perhaps not quite as much). The plot is a well-threaded web of characters whose paths cross in interesting places, the pace is high throughout and keeps the reader on the edge of their seat, and the action feels realistic and well-researched without turning into a boringly explosive techno-thriller like some I’ve read.

One of the things I appreciate about this series is that it feels like Swallow has put some effort into his baddies - they aren’t cardboard cut-out terrorist stereotypes - but instead have complex and relatable backstories and motivations, and are from a range of geographical, cultural and social backgrounds, which adds a level of humanity. This contrasts really well with a lot of thriller writers who only really care about the explosions and don’t put effort into painting a wider picture.

Probably the thrillers that I’m most motivated to read at the moment - I look forward to picking up the future books in the series.

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Poirot's Early Cases

Poirot's Early Cases

15th December 2018

As I approach the end of my decade-long read-through of the Hercule Poirot series, I come to this collection of short stories. The stories are all from early in Poirot’s career, before he was an internationally renowned detective, and were originally published relatively early in Christie’s career, although not collected like this until the end.

It’s a nice dip of the toe into the world of Poirot, but generally I found it frustrating that each of the stories was so short - they don’t contain the depth that I’ve come to expect from the mystery, and there’s not really any opportunity to work it out for yourself as a reader, given the very limited page count.

The beauty of Christie’s writing, to me, is in her ability to feed me clues at just the right pace that I can work it out at the perfect speed along with the narrative - and in these cases I don’t have the chance to do that.

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Early Riser

Early Riser

15th December 2018

Jasper Fforde’s new novel, seemingly a stand-alone tale, explores the question “What if humans hibernated?” through an exploration of a complex world from the point of view of a young novice who is enlisted to remain awake through the winter to help look after society during the frozen months.

There’s a lot of reminiscences of Fforde’s previous novels - the dystopia is milder than in Shades of Grey, and the fantasy milder than in the Dragonslayer series, but all have a common feel and this makes the narrative a comfortable one to slip into.

The characters are fascinating and compelling, with some very novel ideas added into the mix. The world is incredibly rich and I love how much thought Fforde has clearly put into exploring how a society might have evolved differently given a seemingly small change in its starting conditions.

Shades of Grey remains my favourite Fforde novel, but this makes its way into second place. I don’t know why everyone isn’t reading it.

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Snapshot

Snapshot

15th December 2018

This standalone novella from Brandon Sanderson has a similar feel to his Reckoners series, despite the content being very different. It’s an incredibly complex short tale, focussing on two police officers who investigate crimes in Snapshot - a way of seeing back in time, enabling them to investigate crimes before or as they are happening - with some caveats.

It’s a great idea, with some reminiscences of Philip K Dick, and the story is told well with intriguing main characters and a compelling set of twists, turns and reveals. Somewhat outside my preferred reading from Sanderson, which is his epic fantasies, but totally worth reading.

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A Foreign Country

A Foreign Country

15th December 2018

I’m not entirely sure where I picked up this, the first novel by Charles Cumming that I’ve read, but I’m very glad I did.

Thomas Kell is a recently excommunicated intelligence agent, struggling to find his place in the outside world, when the opportunity comes to find his way back in, when a case comes up that nobody on the inside can be trusted with.

I’ve got back into spy novels over the past few years, and I really loved this one. The character of Kell feels very real and relatable, and spending time with him was a pleasure. The plot is similarly enticing,

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Unlocked

Unlocked

15th December 2018

This is a fascinating work of fiction. Set in the world of Scalzi’s novel Locked In (and subsequent sequel Head On), this book gives a lot of the background to the illness which prompts the main plots.

It’s told from an in universe point of view as a journalistic work, based on interviews with dozens of characters, each of whom tells part of the story of how the illness began, spread, and affected the world.

It’s a really interesting take on a novel, and a great companion piece to the original - and i would definitely recommend reading the novel first.

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The Midnight Front

The Midnight Front

15th December 2018

David Mack is a prolific and well-regarded author of tie-in fiction, particularly in the Star Trek universe, which is where I have previously encountered him, so I was intrigued when I learned that he was writing an original novel.

The story begins in the early days of the Second World War, our main character a student at a top university. Following a failed evacuation attempt, he discovers he is a wizard and is dragged off to a castle in Scotland to be educated in magical ways.

It’s possible to pitch it so this novel sounds just like Harry Potter, but it really isn’t. Unfortunately for me the educational aspects of the plot are glossed over in favour of a swift move into action, and it never really managed to capture my attention. The characters failed to compel, the plot failed to attract.

I’m afraid to say I didn’t finish, and will most likely stick to reading Mack’s Star Trek works in future.

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Darius the Great is Not Okay

Reading soon

  1. Tao Zero
  2. White Sand volume two
  3. Lethal White
  4. The Moscow Sleepers
  5. Barren
  6. Lies of the Beholder
  7. Past Tense
  8. The Reckoning
  9. Rin, Tongue and Dorner
  10. The Naming of the Dead