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31st July 2018

The latest Myron Bollitar adventure is, in some ways, a return to the relaxed but violent writing style of the earlier novels in the series. On the other hand though, it brings with it some new 21st Century attitudes and the additional characters introduced in its young adult spinoff trilogy.

It’s an enjoyable story, following the classic model of a family friend in need, and an attempt against the odds at a rescue mission. There are some new twists - first person narrative from an unexpected character included, which threw me a little at first.

It’s interesting to see that Coben’s characters are moving with the times as well, and he goes to an effort in several places to have characters reflect on places that their previous behaviour was, on reflection, not acceptable or appropriate behaviour in a number of fields, and the characters are depicted having a mature and grown-up reaction to their changed understanding. I feel like a lot of respect is due to Coben on this front - not defending his creations but giving them time to grow with the world.

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The Atrocity Archives

The Atrocity Archives

31st July 2018

This book, the first in the Laundry Files series, has been sitting on my shelf for some time, and I’ve been eyeing the series up in bookshops for even longer. I was attracted by the bright covers, interesting descriptions, and quotes on the covers from authors I like.

The book contains two separate stories - the first of which introduces Bob as he becomes a field agent for the Laundry - a secret part of the British establishment dealing with the occult issues brought to the fore by modern technology. It’s a really interesting idea, and the narratives of both stories really nicely blend the edges of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror.

I was offput a little at the start of the novel by the introduction describing it as a bit Lovecraftian. I haven’t had the best of experiences with Lovecraft (admittedly my introduction to his works was in an unusual medium). However, clearly the elements of Lovecraft that Stross has chosen to replicate aren’t the ones that I found offputting - and the narrative flows really cleanly around visitations by mysterious beings and their descriptions aren’t inconsiderately lacking in detail.

I wasn’t gripped as much as I had hoped to be, but I enjoyed it sufficiently that I’ll be looking out for the second book in the near future.

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Buy book: UK
S. N. U. F. F.

S. N. U. F. F.

31st July 2018

I picked up SNUFF cheap on the basis that the cover stood out a bit. I think I’ve seen it in shops before, but low cost books tend to lead to greater bravery. This time however it wasn’t a winner for me - I set it aside after 50 pages and didn’t feel any urge to go back.

The story takes place in a post-apocalyptic future where mass media controls everything, and our main character is a film-maker who goes around inciting wars. He tells the story in from an unapologetic first person point of view that really alienated me as a reader.

The choice of language didn’t help. I’m not sure whether the author deliberately decided to make it hard to read, or if this is a side effect of the translation process. I struggle to absorb narratives that don’t have a good natural flow to them, and this didn’t, which really slows down my reading speed and thus my enjoyment of the story, which becomes plodding, awkward and a slow.

So this was a failed attempt at reading something new for me. I’m sure it won’t put me off though.

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Fear Itself

Fear Itself

31st July 2018

The third novel set in the time of Star Trek: Discovery, the latest television series in the Trek universe. In this story James Swallow writes about Saru during his time serving on the USS Shenzhou patrolling the Tholian border.

It’s a fascinating exploration of Saru’s character that takes what we’ve learned about him in the TV programme and expands upon it - showing a step in his journey towards what the events of the show force him to become.

The plot feels like a fairly standard Star Trek novel, which of it had featured any other series’ characters might have been a little mundane. The addition of the Discovery characters though gives it the extra dimension it needs to tell an engaging story that makes the reader believe in and understand the characters in more depth.

Another enjoyable Disco novel. I hope that there are more on the way, perhaps continuing the trend of exploring a different character each time.

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Secret Army

Secret Army

29th July 2018

The third book in the Henderson’s Boys series (which itself served as a prequel to the author’s modern-day Cherub series), and the one where the story catches up to where I had expected it to start two books earlier. Having successfully escaped France with the aid of a group of children, Charles Henderson has set up a training camp to bring the children up to the level of full spies so that they can join the country’s efforts to win WW2.

The book starts brutally. I was actually shocked by the levels of violence depicted in the opening chapters - and I’ve read all the author’s previous novels so was aware he didn’t shy away from realism. I think this was particularly bad though because of the historical setting and the attitudes of the time, as well as because it was directed at children. I suspect that this may be tough reading for more than just me.

Once that’s over and done with however, the plot becomes much more what I’d expected. A group of plucky youngsters fighting to prove their worthiness against the odds and against the expectations of adults. It’s a fun, tense and exciting adventure with a healthy dose of real emotion and fully believable characters from a range of backgrounds. The 1940s setting is well used, and while using the real attitudes of the time manages to show them in a disparaging light and twist some more ‘enlightened’ viewpoints into the narrative to put it into perspective.

Possibly the best action series for teenage readers I’ve ever come across. I’m totally on course to read all the rest.

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Buy book: UK
The Furthest Station

The Furthest Station

29th July 2018

A novella in the Rivers of London series, this book follows pretty much the same pattern as the full-length novels, just in abbreviated form. I almost wonder if it was conceived as a possible idea for a full novel, but turned out to not quite have the legs. All for the best really if so, as it makes an excellent novella.

I’m not entirely clear quite where it fits into the timeline of the stories - I’ve recently read the sixth book, but it felt like this story referred back much more to elements from one of the earlier novels. That said, there wasn’t anything that needed explaining too much to me, and I was along for the ride pretty quickly.

I very much enjoyed dipping my toe back into this world and watching Peter and his friends and colleagues investigating a little stand-alone mystery, with each chapter introducing some new colour. It’s a format I very much approve of for this series, and I hope that more novellas will follow.

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Fleshmarket Close

Fleshmarket Close

29th July 2018

It’s hard to believe I’m fifteen books into the Rebus series - however by this point he and his stories have become like old friends. It’s so easy to dip back in and continue to follow the lives of Rebus and his colleagues as they go about solving the crimes of Edinburgh.

In this book, a series of bodies are uncovered, and one of the key aims is to identify who they were. While the plot is compelling, it’s often other aspects of this series that I enjoy the most, and that’s true again.

In this novel, Rankin makes some quite bold moral statements - although the subject matter of detention centres for immigrants is likely striking a chord with me because of current events in the news, and because I’ve watched a related film in the same week. There’s a lot of stuff to make the reader think, and characters to represent multiple points of view appear through the narrative. To balance this, it also feels like one of the most humour-laden Rebus novels, and I think that certainly helps.

The most telling evidence that I was really enjoying reading this book was that I broke my habit of TV before bed for it - taking it to read outside my normal commuting reading hours. That, at the moment, is the sign of a good book.

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