Shastrix Books

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Holy Cow

Holy Cow

29th April 2018

David Duchovny, best known for acting in a 90s sci-fi TV series, tells the tale of a cow who discovers the truth about her existence, and sets out to decide her own fate.

The narrative is a lark, and necessitates total suspension of disbelief. In this way it’s good fun. The story is also a parable, indeed almost a lecture, from Duchovny on the way that animals are treated in food production, and in this way it comes across a bit too preachy.

The weirdest moment for me was early in the book. I had just finished reading ‘The Ocean at the End of the Lane’, by Neil Gaiman, which similarly is presented in the first person. As such, my head started reading in the wrong voice - the voice of a middle aged man - and I was then befuddled by the sudden occurrence of a milking.

It’s a bit of fun, which I probably wouldn’t have picked up were it not for the famous author, and which I don’t think I’ll read again.

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The Ocean at the End of the Lane

The Ocean at the End of the Lane

29th April 2018

This is the fourth Neil Gaiman novel I’m read, and I’m slightly surprised that I bothered after struggling to get into two of the earlier ones. This novel tells the tale of a recollected childhood incident stepping into a fantasy world.

It’s a kind of fantasy horror that’s appropriate for younger readers, and yet still slightly unsettling and creepy to adult audiences. Not really my kind of book, and although the story is well structured, and the characters well formed, it didn’t entertain me as much as I had hoped.

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Russian Roulette

Russian Roulette

29th April 2018

The ‘final’ novel in the Alex Rider series (because it turns out that another book has now been published) is one I’ve been looking for for some time. It’s an interesting twist on the series, which typically focuses on the titular teenager recruited into MI6 - instead this novel telling the surprisingly parallel story of his arch nemesis, a freelance assassin.

It’s actually a really compelling story, and was a real surprise as I hadn’t appreciated the difference from the rest of the series before starting reading. That said, it does make for a slightly disappointing finale, because it doesn’t wrap up our main character’s storyline, but instead fills in some of the gaps across the series as a whole.

Ultimately it’s just another boy spy, and they’ve become fairly commonplace in literature, but the opposing viewpoint makes it an interesting approach that’s worth reading if you are into the series.

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The Hanging Tree

The Hanging Tree

25th March 2018

The sixth Rivers of London novel continues the adventures of magical policeman Peter Grant, investigating slightly paranormal crimes in contemporary London. This time when a teenager dies of an apparent overdose, he’s summoned by his girlfriend’s sister to keep her daughter out of the investigation, which as can be expected doesn’t turn out to be straightforward.

I don’t know if it’s too long since I read the previous book, but I got the impression that I’d missed something, as the characters kept referring back to events that I couldn’t remember, or whether this is intended by the author to hint that some time has passed and that other cases have come and gone in the meantime. I also struggled a little with some aspects of the ongoing plot that runs through the series, as some of the events are a bit hazy in my memory. It’s possible this is the type of series that benefits from occasional re-read-throughs to defamiliarise the reader.

I really love this series, and reading this book has kicked me back into a bit of a reading binge. The only annoyance is that I’ve caught up now with the publication of the Peter Grant books (apart from a novella which I’ll soon devour, probably in one sitting).

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Drastic Measures

Drastic Measures

25th March 2018

The second novel based on the new Star Trek television series, Discovery, is set some ten years before the series and gives an insight into the backstory of two of the secondary character - Philippa Georgiou and Gabriel Lorca. Serving in Starfleet as Commander and Lt. Commander respectively, the two officers’ paths cross when a (later infamous) famine breaks out on a distant colony world after crops are infected by a deadly fungus.

I think this is a really good story, better than the previous novel, using these side characters really well to tell a tale that provides extra context, but not interfere with the direction that the television series is taking. It also of course provides an opportunity to tie elements of Discovery in with events mentioned in other series.

It’s hard to say a lot about the plot itself without dropping in spoilers for this novel or the first season of the television series (the book is intended to be read after season one, I think, through after episode 12 should be fine). My memory of some of the elements referenced was a little rusty, which I think helped build some tension as I couldn’t remember what had been established in canon, though also distracted as there were elements I had mis-remembered.

A good novel to tide me over until there’s some more Discovery on TV.

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The Midnight Line

The Midnight Line

25th March 2018

The twenty-second novel in the Jack Reacher series continues the loosely flowing narrative of the last few ‘modern day’ novels, though only briefly, around a new plot triggered when Reacher happens upon a West Point ring in a pawn shop.

The story follows the standard pattern of Reacher getting mixed up in something random, interfering a bit, and meeting a variety of new people along the way. This one feels a bit more chaotic than usual in how the different strands come together and does feel like a little more suspension of disbelief than some.

One f the things that comes across in the series, but particularly in this novel, is how big the US actually is, and how far apart people can be - the plot wouldn’t work in the UK because there would be witnesses to everything, but in the states it’s believable that things could just be the way they are described.

Not one of the best Reacher stories, I didn’t think, but good enough to keep my interest and keep me looking out for the next book later in the year.

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The Rooster Bar

The Rooster Bar

23rd March 2018

Somehow, John Grisham has come up with a new twist on the Legal Thriller - following a friend's suicide, three law students decide to give up college and just practice without licences. And then their adventures really begins.

It's interesting to have a novel from Grisham where his main characters suffer a major trauma at the start, but it still feels like he hasn’t quite got a grip on communicating emotion, as they still come across quite robotic even while suffering grief.

I'm actually getting a little irritated by the cleanness of Grisham's writing style, it's very perfunctory and action based rather than worrying too much about emotion or character. It's almost dry enough to be a formal report of events that occurred.

Ultimately this book was a bit disappointing. The ideas were novel and intriguing, but the execution almost felt like some sort of weird morality tale rather than entertainment.

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  1. The Core
  2. S. N. U. F. F.
  3. The Crossing Places
  4. A Foreign Country
  5. Tao Zero
  6. Solitude Creek
  7. Proxmia
  8. Sleeping Late On Judgment Day
  9. Prince of Thorns
  10. Fire With Fire
  11. White Sand volume two
  12. The Midnight Front
  13. Architects of Infinity
  14. A is for Alibi
  15. Dèjá Dead
  16. The Name of the Wind
  17. Fearless
  18. Dissolution
  19. Postmortem
  20. Girl Missing
  21. The Last Don
  22. Divergent
  23. Labyrinth
  24. The Left Hand of God
  25. The Murder Bag
  26. Death is Forever
  27. The Maze Runner
  28. Research
  29. The Whole Truth
  30. The Disappearing Spoon
  31. Oh Dear Silvia
  32. Alcatraz Versus the Shattered Lens
  33. Surely You're Joking Mr Feynman
  34. The Listerdale Mystery
  35. The Wheel of Time Companion
  36. Seven Up
  37. Jeeves and the Wedding Bells
  38. Gallows View
  39. The House of Silk
  40. The Road to Mars
  41. Staked
  42. The Atrocity Archives