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Dauntless

Dauntless

Jack Campbell

27th October 2019

Dauntless is the first book by Jack Campbell that I’ve read, and is the first book in the Final Empire series. It’s the tale of a war which has been raging for 100 years - and the return of a legendary Captain from the early days of the war, who finds himself somehow in command of a fleet on the back foot, attempting to return home.

It’s a great idea for a science fiction novel that marries a character out of time with a series of classic submarine-style space battles. The close alignment of the narrative with Captain Jack helps not only with exposition but with grounding the space stuff in a relatable character who ties the threads of the story together.

The world-building is well thought through, with lots of tantalising glimpses of more to come in the series - giving us just the amount we need to know for now while leaving the door open for lots more to explore in future novels - some of which I hope to pick up next week.

Probably the best military/space novel I’ve read - although my copy was littered with typos and other printing mistakes.

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The Secret Panel

The Secret Panel

Franklin W Dixon

27th October 2019

The twenty-fifth Hardy Boys novel sees the brothers encounter a dead man, sunken treasure, a mysterious key, a kidnapping, and much much more.

It’s a tale with interesting ideas, but not quite put together in the most compelling way. The narrative feels bitty - almost like there were too many good ideas and they all got mushed together into one story when they didn’t really need to be. I feel like the boys didn’t solve the mystery by being detectives, but just by living in a world of coincidences - which isn’t the Hardy Boys experience I remember.

Speaking of memory - I’m fairly sure this is one of the novels I didn’t read as a child - I certainly didn’t own a copy, and don’t recall the story (not that it’s one of the notable ones). Perhaps somehow it’s lack of interest led it to avoid my childhood hands.

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Waiting for Sunrise

Waiting for Sunrise

William Boyd

27th October 2019

Waiting for Sunshine is the fourth novel I’ve read by William Boyd - and although superficially similar, isn’t really anything like the others. It’s the tale of a man in the 1910s who seeks treatment for a medical condition.

I’m not entirely sure I understand what the book is really about - the plot seems fairly chaotic and unstructured and even having finished I’m not sure I really know what happened. It starts seemingly to be a period spy novel, but it never quite develops in that direction, and instead meanders through a number of plots without a clear goal.

The most interesting aspect of the novel is how the narrative is crafted. The book seamlessly weaves between the first and third person - so much so that I didn’t even notice it until several switches in. This is really cleverly done, and demonstrates a masterful command of the pen on Boyd’s part. Perhaps this is why I feel confused - because in some parts of the novel I have access to the mind of the character and some not - and so I feel I lacked insight in some parts of the plot.

I flirted with the idea of abandoning this book halfway, but I’m glad I didn’t - it continued to entertain just enough to keep me going, though I’m afraid I did enjoy the previous novels of the author’s which I have read.

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Ghost

Ghost

James Swallow

27th October 2019

Ghost is the third Marc Dane novel by James Swallow, and follows the character as he’s settled into his role as an operative working for a private secret agent operation defending the world against various nasties. This slightly more settled opening gives rise to a complex plot that takes his around the world in the style of the classic spy thriller.

The book didn’t quite meet my expectations based on its two predecessors. I felt that the plot was less gripping, less authentic, and the characters the opposed Dane felt like they were lacking slightly in realism. It’s possible that the specific nature of the threat felt a little unrealistic because I work in a tangentially related field, but it failed to absorb me, and so I found it hard to pick up and get into the narrative at the pace I usually like.

I’ve already got the fourth book, so expect I’ll be revisiting this world in a couple of months - I hope it picks up a bit again though as this novel didn’t live up to how much I enjoyed the first two.

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Children of Time

Children of Time

Adrian Tchaikovsky

27th October 2019

Children of Time is a hard sci-fi novel set in a future where space travel and genetic engineering are the norm, and scientists are starting to think about seeding terraformed planets with the seeds of intelligent life for purposes that are not particularly moral. The book was lent to me by a friend who found it unreadable due to the presence of giant spiders.

I came to really like the way the story evolves over time - following multiple plot lines that each move through time at different paces, yet still mirror each other in various aspects. The use of the spiders was slightly tricky to get my head around at first, but following the world building here was fascinating, and probably my favourite part of the story.

I enjoyed the book and will probably seek out the sequel sometime - although I had to tell my friend that they were correct not to read it.

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The Short-Wave Mystery

The Short-Wave Mystery

Franklin W Dixon, Leslie McFarlane & David Grambs

27th October 2019

Book 24 and I’m well into the run of the original Hardy Boys novels. I remember this one quite a lot from reading it as a child - or at least the opening chapters.

It’s a good mystery, involving a lot of clues that gradually unwind themselves. But it does almost feel like a marketing tool for radio sets - the Hardys have bought them for their home, car and boat, and use them all the time in this story - although despite that the connection to the plot only becomes clear very late on. I wondered a bit if this is a product of the 1960s/70s rewrite that changed things up a lot in some of the books.

So while the story has dated from the use of technology which no longer is used, the tale remains good - including a bunch of supporting characters who help to flesh things out, and the ever present new hobby for achey Morton. The narrative over uses the word ‘cinch’, which doesn’t feel like a word anyone uses in real life any more, and I wondered if new audiences would enjoy it less than I did.

Finally there almost seem to be hints of subtle feminism making their way into the plot, with Aunt Gertrude seemingly making a bit more of herself than she might first appear.

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The Enterprise War

The Enterprise War

John Jackson Miller

27th October 2019

The Discovery tie-in novels seem to be coming at a good pace now - and remain well crafted to serve as prequels and tell stories that are less likely to be contradicted by future TV (although one of them has suffered this fate a little). This time it’s the chance to find out what the Enterprise was up to during Discovery’s first season - it’s probably a spoiler, so best to watch to the end of Season Two before reading this if such things matter to you.

This feels like quite an epic - the story takes place over the course of a year or more - and that give plenty of time for several major events to occur, and for us as readers to get to know several of the main characters in more depth. It follows multiple threads of narrative, weaved together well, and explores some of the frustrations of a deep space mission as well as a variety of perilous scenarios.

I particularly enjoyed spending some time inside the head of Captain Pike, who has felt an underused character in the past, and is only now coming into his prime - and seeing things from his perspective in novel format really adds another layer of depth to his character.

A good prequel, and I hope they keep coming.

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Collateral Damage

Reading soon

  1. White Sand volume two
  2. The Guardians
  3. The Mystery of the Strange Messages