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The Desert Spear

The Desert Spear

11th April 2015

If anything, the second book in Peter V Brett's The Demon Cycle is even better than the first. It took me a little while to get back into the swing of the story, particularly as this doesn't pick up from where the first left off, instead using a good chunk to dive into another part of the world and expand the story into new characters and new points of view, before starting to pull the threads together again.

Brett's ability to take the reader on a journey into a parallel culture in only the second book of the series shows he has confidence, and he does it really well. I found myself bouncing around in how I felt about the characters, and my shifting views helped keep me solidly attached to the pages. I love good fantasy world building, and this is some of the best - there are elements that reflect the real world, there's plenty of variation and diversity, and yet there's an internal consistency that hints of deeper things to come.

Having said this, I did feel that some of the characters, particularly those that featured heavily in the first book, weren't as well represented in these pages. The new characters were rounded and we saw them from many points of view, but those we returned to seemed to be seen much more from the outside, and I missed being aligned with them in the same way I was for considerable quantities of the previous episode.

Overall it's a really good novel in an excellent fantasy world that I'm desparate to return to and explore in even more depth. Fortunately the next two books are already out and I don't have too long to wait until I'll allow myself to pick them up and race through.

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Dead Like You

Dead Like You

5th April 2015

The sixth Roy Grace novel returns us to Brighton, where the characters personal life continues to move on in a nice bit of added realism. There's some new colleagues making his work life easier too, and the only problem is the rapist that seems to have reappeared after a fourteen year absence, who Grace is tasked with tracking down.

As crimes go, it's as good as any from earlier in the series and has a perfect balance of viewpoints, character interaction and growth, and enough of a mystery to keep the reader guessing along with the characters, which makes it a more enjoyable read than some of the earlier novels. I really liked seeing into the minds of the various suspects while still not knowing which of them was the guilty party, and finding out about each of their backstories and what possible motivations they might have.

James is a master of the thrilling crime novel at the top of his game. The short chapters that have irritated me in the past were perfectly formed this time and didn't bother me one bit. A really good read with parts that I hope continue to foreshadow things to come in later novels.

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Seventy-Seven Clocks

Seventy-Seven Clocks

5th April 2015

The third book in the Bryant & May series of slightly unusual crime investigations spins back to the 1970s and an investigation by the newly formed unit lead by the two detectives. The non-linear ordering of the stories in this series confused me slightly, and I get lost sometimes about which character is which and what I'm meant to know about them.

This time there have been a number of murders and the team are trying to track down the reason and the connection between the deaths in order to prevent more before their boss decides to shut them down. It's actually an interesting story and I found one of the guest characters particularly compelling to read, but there were several aspects which I found slow and repetitive and frustrated me slightly as I read.

Overall I'm a bit unsure of how I feel about the novel. My memory now (several weeks later as I write this) is one of enjoying the book, but I also have a memory of thinking at the time that I wasn't enjoying it and wondering whether I should abandon the series. On balance I'll continue, and see how I feel about book four.

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Survivors

Survivors

5th April 2015

Survivors is novel number four in the original Star Trek: The Next Generation line, and is set somewhere in the middle of the first season, between 'The Arsenal of Freedom' (which it references) and before 'Skin of Evil' (which is also referenced and foreshadowed). The author having had the benefit of knowing what happens in 'Skin of Evil' has made this into a fantastic character exploration and backstory reveal for one of the least served main characters of TNG - Tasha Yar.

In fact it also deals with Data very well too - getting his character much more accurately representing the one in the first season than some of the earlier books, which would have been drafted before the series aired. This makes the novel feel an authentic part of TNG storyline rather than a side tale in a parallel universe and I really enjoyed getting to read it.

The plot is also a strong one, though one that since has become something of a template for science fiction and Star Trek's prime directive stories. It makes good use of the characters to inform the story though, and uses quality science fiction fare to create a tale to put the characters in. The story flows well, and although its clear what some of the twists are going to be, it's so obvious as to be clear that you're meant to be expecting it and so doesn't feel like bad foreshadowing.

A really great early novel that's pleasantly surprised me again - when I started this re-read I was expecting the early novels to be dire and I have been proved wrong again and again. This should be one for any fan of the early years of TNG, and Tasha Yar in particular, to read.

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Shaman's Crossing

Shaman's Crossing

5th April 2015

I've enjoyed everything I've read by Robin Hobb (including some short works under her alternative name - Megan Lindholm), and so when a friend said that she'd found the Soldier Son trilogy hard going I was unconvinced. However after giving up a fair chunk of time to it I'm afraid I've had to (at least temporarily) admit defeat after only a couple of hundred pages.

The story focussed on a young boy - the second son of a newly created noble, and therefore destined to become a soldier. We follow his life through some key formative experiences and as he travels off to begin his military training. It sounds lil there's promise, and a little similar to Fitz in the author's other trilogies, but I was unable to become gripped by character or narrative and it felt bland and shallow in comparison to Hobb's other work.

Often I found that I was unable to focus on the words on the page and my mind would drift even while my eyes continued to scan the page and my hands continued to turn them, such that when it came back into focus I would have to turn back several pages to find out what was happening. Ultimately this was why I felt the need to stop reading and move on to another book - my reading time is precious (especially so for the first few months of this year) and I've decided to be quite brutal about dropping books that don't grip me sufficiently.

I will try to go back and have another go at this series later, but for now I've set it aside.

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Hatchet Job

Hatchet Job

5th April 2015

This is the second of Mark Kermode's books I've read (though I am a regular listener to his podcast), which is unusual for me as I usually try to read them in order (but my copy of 'The Good, The Bad and The Multiplex' is off in a box somewhere so I skipped ahead). The first book was autobiographical, and I understand the second is about the current state of cinema - this time Kermode writes about film criticism itself.

While the book gave ample opportunity for some of the author's frequent anecdotage, I found it had to pick out a real theme for the book and to understand what the journey was that it was trying to take me on. There didn't seem to be an overriding message to the manuscript and I found myself several times getting lost and having to back up a few pages to understand what point was trying to be made.

Going in, I had expected something a bit more ranty - much of the focus of the comment I heard/read after the book was published was about sockpuppettery (posting of fake reviews - positive for one's own product or negative for a competitor's), however this was only a small fraction of the book.

The book didn't really generate enough of an emotion in me to commit to a final statement - perhaps just that it was a bit bland?

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A Most Wanted Man

A Most Wanted Man

5th April 2015

Continuing my slightly unusual new habit of reading John Le Carré's novels in reverse publication order, I've come to this story about an immigrant arriving in Germany to claim an inheritance. It has recently been made into a film (which I haven't seen), which surprised me slightly as I didn't feel it was as compelling as some of the other le Carré books I've recently read.

The most interesting story, to me, was the point of view of Annabel, and if this had been a John Grisham novel then she would have been the star. As it is, the focus is split between multiple characters, none of the rest of whom I found really compelling, and I wasn't able to generate a real interest in whether they succeeded in their goals.

Of particular note were a group of characters that I felt were added to the mix fairly late on. There were a lot of them, and I found it hard to distinguish between them, or understand their motives or goals. Perhaps this was part of a deliberate obfuscation, but I found it an irritant.

I've always been slightly dubious about reading le Carré, I think from a disappointing experience with an early novel when I was a teenager, but I'd been buoyed by recently reading 'Our Kind of Traitor' and 'A Delicate Truth', both of which were much more enjoyable than this.

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Uncertain Logic

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