Shastrix Books

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Off the Rails

Off the Rails

7th July 2018

Bryant & May’s eighth adventure takes an interesting twist on the series, being the first novel that is a direct sequel to the preceding one. The continuing case of The Fox, who having escaped custody appears to have begun a new killing spree, and the detectives are once again given an absurdly short deadline to complete the case or be shut down.

While it’s a good mystery story, I felt that this one had lost a little of what earlier novels had. The crimes aren’t particularly peculiar in their nature - they are fairly ordinary as crimes go - and the character developments that have been at the forefront of previous stories seem to have been back-burnered in favour of plot.

The narrative is however quite amusing, in a relaxed way. There are a few in jokes, at the author and characters’ expense, as well as a number of moments of humour and particularly strong and witty dialogue. This I think was what held the book together and made me race through the pages, rather than anything with the plot itself.

A good mystery overall, with some interesting twists and turns, and a satisfying resolution.

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Restless

Restless

7th July 2018

Restless is my third William Boyd novel, and continues the trend of being a period spy story - this time with two parallel storylines set some 40 years apart, one the daughter in the 1970s, the other her mother in the 1930s and ‘40s. In a surprise revelation, the mother announces she isn’t who her daughter always thought, and piece by piece explains her true backstory.

I really enjoyed the story, though the writing fees denser than much of my usual fare, and thus it felt like I was able to read less per session. The setting is painted in realistic colours of the era, and it’s really easy to get into the heads of the two protagonists.

Boyd’s approach to the storytelling is excellent - I really liked he way he drip feeds information to the reader in a way that feels like it’s part of the plot, rather than feeling like the author is artificially withholding details. I was also impressed by the narration - which despite being written in the third person felt like it was being told by the characters from a first-person perspective, to the extent that I would be surprised on starting a new chapter to find it in third person again.

An excellent story, excellently told. I’m glad I picked up more of Boyd’s novels and expect I will slowly continue my way through his works.

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Head On

Head On

7th July 2018

The sequel to Lock In, this novel continues the adventures of FBI agent Chris, a ‘Hayden’, who is one of many people with locked in syndrome who carry out their daily lives by controlling Android-like avatars over the Internet.

Scalzi has built-out the world in a new and interesting direction by looking to the arena of sport. This makes for a fascinating bit of world-building and suggests an author who puts a fair amount of thought into the repercussions of his storytelling choices.

One of the key elements of interest in the first novel was that Chris’ gender remains unrivalled throughout. This continues in this sequel, but unlike the first book, I aware of it in advance. I’m not sure how much difference it makes to my experience of reading - I’d hope little, but I’m not sure if that’s because my brain is just defaulting to male regardless, or if I truly am thinking of the character with no regard for gender.

It’s a really enjoyable story, and I’m glad there is a sequel. I hope that Scalzi chooses to write more of these stories and can continue to build out this world and see what other changes his fictional disease might cause in the global culture.

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Macbeth

Macbeth

26th May 2018

I bought this book under the false belief that it was a new story in the Harry Hole series. It certainly is not. Having discovered that it is actually a relatively-modern retelling of the Shakespeare classic, I thought that sounded interesting, and proceeded to read.

The setting is vaguely defined as somewhere in Scotland, sometime in the recent past - in a slightly lawless city with little contact with the outside world, ruled over by rival drug gangs, the police and mayor pretty interchangeably. Macbeth himself is cast as a senior police officer with an ambitious lady friend and a dubious array of acquaintances.

It just didn’t work for me. I couldn’t get into the characters - they felt two dimensional and false, and the setting’s darkness and vagueness didn’t draw me in. It was weird vaguely knowing what was coming (because of course I am familiar with the original) - and I imagine the enjoyment is intended to come from learning how Nesbo has re-imagined it, but I didn’t experience this.

I’m afraid to say I gave up halfway - it wasn’t inspiring me, and I was choosing not to read at allover reading it.

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Architects of Infinity

Architects of Infinity

26th May 2018

The latest in Kirsten Beyer’s continuation novels for Star Trek: Voyager is a little more of a stand-alone story, as the crews of the Full Circle fleet discover a new planet, and a new element, and decide to take some shore leave. As is typical with Starfleet shore leave, it’s not as relaxing as might have been hoped.

It’s actually one of my favourite of the Voyager novels of the past few years. I think I like that it’s an enclosed story with little of the continuing narrative, which I struggle to remember well enough when episodes are months or years apart. I also appreciated the spread of characters, ranging across those we know from the TV series (which finished, somehow, 17 years ago) and the new characters introduced in the novels.

As with much of Beyer’s writing, this story has a strong family element. When she started writing the Voyager continuation series this used to annoy me - I found it a bit ‘soppy’ and not what I was expecting. But as I’ve matured and grown older, I’ve come to appreciate it more, and find myself feeling much more sympathetic to this part of the characters’ lives.

A good Voyager novel, and one that keeps me encouraged to continue reading, despite the reduced publication speed while Beyer is busy making other Star Trek.

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The Core

The Core

26th May 2018

The grand finale of the Demon Cycle brings us back to a world infested by demons who rise from the ground each night to terrorise the human population.

We’ve gradually been introduced to a lot of characters over the course of this series, and I must admit I struggled a little to remember each of their backgrounds as they play their part in this story.

What struck me the most as I read further and further through was how close I was getting to the end of the book, and yet there was little sign of a resolution to the story in sight. And yet of course, as I knew, this is the last book of the series (excepting spin-offs) and the resolution did arrive. And yet despite this the conclusion did not feel rushed - it was perfectly paced and wrapped up the story of these characters in a satisfying manner.

I’ve really enjoyed this series, and hope that Brett goes on to create more worlds and more characters for me to read in the future.

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The Hanging in the Hotel

The Hanging in the Hotel

26th May 2018

The fifth Fethering Mystery finds amateur sleuths Carole and Jude embroiled in a hotel-based death during an ego-trip event by a group of local do-gooders.

Compared to the previous novels, it’s very much in the same vein. There’s perhaps a little less of the dynamic between the two main characters than I’d have liked, but each of them gets amusing moments as they proceeded with their meddlesome investigation.

It’s a satisfying mystery with a range of dodgy suspects, although one in particular was an uncomfortable one to read about. Overall an enjoyable diversion.

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Elephants Can Remember

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