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Hearts and Minds

Hearts and Minds

19th July 2017

A new entry in the Next Generation continuation series, this follows a long line of novels taking the story of the Enterprise and her crew forward several years from the last time we saw them on screen. Despite that, this does serve as a pretty stand-alone story in the classic style.

The Enterprise is exploring and comes across a planet that nobody’s made contact with before, but then strange orders arrive from Starfleet Command, and Picard is left to investigate without really understanding.

It’s a great mystery thriller, with a new premise that harkens back to some of the classic tropes of the series. It’s also the third entry in the author’s pseudo-trilogy featuring callbacks to the 20th & 21st Centuries - though having not read the first two (they are Original Series novels which I generally don’t read) I can’t comment on how it fits into that.

An enjoyable adventure, and one that mostly stands alone. But if you are reading everything, I’d recommend this is read after David Mack’s ‘Control’, as there are some references.

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The Way of Kings (part one)

The Way of Kings (part one)

19th July 2017

After many years of waiting on my bookcase, I have finally picked up this first book in the Stormlight Archive series, by one of my favourite authors. I’ve only been putting it off while I read through pretty much the entire rest of his output, as this series is one that is ongoing and I didn’t want to feel I would have too long to wait for additional entries.

My paperback copies of The Way of Kings are split into two volumes, and as with previous novels where this has been the case, I’ve chosen only to read the first half, then take a break and read some other things before returning to part two.

I found the story a little harder than expected to get into - it feels a little more formal and grandiose than some of Sanderson’s other work, and I’m not sure if this is a deliberate style choice (likely, as he does like to plan these things) or a side effect of this being his masterpiece and him subconsciously changing the style). The reader is dropped in quite quickly to several different characters and understanding and becoming used to them takes a while.

Once in though, this is another great book. The characters are rich, deep and rewarding. Their backgrounds and personalities varied and fascinating, with hints of more to be revealed, and it doesn’t take long to fall in love with them and want to follow their stories forever.

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Buy book: UK
Camino Island

Camino Island

16th July 2017

Another of Grisham’s novels that fall outside the legal genre, and while not quite literary, fall much closer to it. This one tells the story of an audacious heist, and a woman who finds herself thrown into the investigation quite unexpectedly.

The plot is almost secondary in this work to the character, setting, relationships, and occasional set piece. The story is divided into clear acts, although these are more obvious near the start. It’s a strong opening, but it sets a pace that isn’t really reflected in the rest of the narrative and may give misleading expectations.

I think my favourite aspect of this novel is that it’s set around a background of books. The characters include author and a bookseller, and this is clearly an industry that Grisham has something of an insight into, and so it paints a vivid and amusing picture of how the literary world works, with sufficient tongue in cheek to remind me of Agatha Christie’s self-parody in the character of Ariadne Oliver

Overall, a happy diversion. An enjoyable story, told in the classic Grisham manner of straight laced facts.

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The Thirst

The Thirst

16th July 2017

Jo Nesbo returns to his regular character, former detective Harry Hole, in this eleventh adventure. When a new and shocking series of murders hits Oslo, Harry struggles not to be drawn back into his old life.

And they really are quite surprisingly brutal murders in this one, more so than I’d come to expect from this series. Otherwise though, and especially once the plot gets moving, it’s very similar to what’s come before it, being a mix of criminal investigation story and dive into the psychology of the main character.

I think ultimately I was a bit disappointed - I’m not sure there needed to be another Harry Hole novel, and I don’t feel like it added much to the series that the earlier books didn’t have. I didn’t appreciate the more brutal violence (maybe I’m getting old) and while it’s not a bad book, it just feels like retreading old ground.

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Red Nemesis

Red Nemesis

18th June 2017

The fourth (and apparently final) novel in Steve Cole's set of Young Bond novels follows the teenager as he learns more about the accident which killed his parents. A chance discovery leads to him joining forces with an MI6 agent to attempt to uncover a Soviet plot.

It's an entertaining if slightly unbelievable adventure, which very much puts it into the Bond world. Cole has done a good job of moving Bond from the character that was left at the end of Higson's original Young Bond series towards where he needs to be pointed to turn him into the post-war character of the Ian Fleming novels. Each book makes clear steps toward this, and this one feels like the ti[[ing point. It seems appropriate that this is the last novel, as going back to the mundanity of school doesn't really feel like the next step in Bond's life.

The locations, the twists, and the characters are all very Bondian. It's a well-crafted narrative that follows a recognisable Bond structure. But there are moments where I had to put in effort to pay attention and follow exactly what was happening without my eyes skipping down the page, and I kind of missed some of the asepcts of the earlier novels in this series that are now missing.

A good finale, but I still feel like there's some more stories to be told to fill the gap between this story and Casino Royale in the character's life.

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Dark Sun

Dark Sun

17th June 2017

A novella in the Cherub series, with two small, simple plots following two of the secondary characters from the main series. Rat is on a mission, and Lauren back at headquarters getting in trouble.

It's straightforward but covers two of the most interesting and exciting aspects of the Cherub books - the training that the child agents go through, and their missions in progress.

It's a great quick read and could serve as an easy introduction to the series if someone was considering diving in to the whole thing.

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Bond on Bond

Bond on Bond

17th June 2017

This book is a fascinating insight into the Bond movies from someone on the inside - Roger Moore, the third actor to play tha main character in the Eon Productions series of films. I was given the book as a present a few years ago, and inspired to read it by the recent death of the author.

It's interesting that this is a book documenting the whole of the Bond film series, including those not part of the Eon cannon, and so covers the full history from the 1950s up to 2012's Skyfall. It's by a bond actor but the twist is that he's writing about the whole thing, not just his own involvement.

The tone of the prose is something I have mixed feelings about. It is written in a casual manner, as if Moroe were telling anecdotes to you rather than documenting something in seriousness. He is happy to make jokes, but there's a fine line between taking the mickey out of oneself and coming across as egotistical, and in some places it feels like he's falling on the wrong side of this line.

Moore's personal insights, memories and anecdotes make this a pleasure to read. Most of the details I already knew from watching the films many times and reading other tomes, but this presentation certainly made for an entertaining weekend's read.

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Buy book: UK
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