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Brokenclaw

Brokenclaw

25th May 2015

Bond returns in this novel from around 1990, in which continuation author John Gardner pits 007 against 'Brokenclaw' - a stereotypical Bond villain with unclear long-term plans, but quite traditional short-term plans (stolen ones he's selling to China).

There seems to be a lot that's derivative of Fleming's original stories here - so much that it almost starts to come off as parody - however it's not quite right, and there are places where Gardner's attempts to emulate Fleming feel unnaturally awkward, and in one place even seem to contradict what Fleming originally told us about the character. Fleming was basing the character on himself, so could write strongly held opinions about the mundanities of food and clothing, but Gardner clearly doesn't have the same basis for writing Bond's views, and so they come off as trite.

The plot follows the standard pattern, and it feels like Gardner is becoming disenfranchised by this point. I remember when I first read most of the Bond novels as a teenager feeling disappointed by some of them, and this one in particular stands out as one that I got from the local library then and didn't finish. There are some irritating loose threads left at the end that I can't imagine will ever be picked up on, and it just feels like a lazy novel.

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Dangerous Women part one

Dangerous Women part one

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25th May 2015

This collection of shortish stories is the first part of the longer collection that was published in hardback having been separated into three paperback volumes (and apparently completely re-ordered).

It kicks off with George R R Martin's own 35,000 word mini-epic telling part of the history of Westeros, the land featured in his 'A Song of Ice and Fire' series. The cover quote describes it as being like an outline for the prequel that never was - and that's true. Sadly in being outline-like it misses out on all the best bits of Martin's writing - the rich and complex characters and the entertaining dialogue. Instead. it just reads like a dry list of events from a history textbook.

Things then pick up with Carrie Vaughn's tale of a Russian fighter pilot from the Second World War, which is an interesting historical insight into something I've never thought of before - and only a tiny bit Bigglesy.

Nancy Kress contributes a story from a post-apocalyptic America where humans have formed packs and subjected women. I'm not really sure how I felt about this story - it was very readable and yet I found it an uncomfortable world to spend time imagining.

Story number four, by Lawrence Block, I found slightly annoying in how it twisted and turned. Initially it feels like a Lee Child story. but then morphs into something that again left an uncomfortable taste.

The theme of discomfort continues with Megan Abbott's story about a missing child, which feels like it bears a tad too much similarity to real life events that have been much covered in the news.

One of the most interesting stories, which on reflection felt like the deepest of the collection, is Joe R Lansdale's story about an old wrestler and his obsessions. It showed the affect that memories can have on our day to day lives and the hold they can have without us realising.

The book is rounded off by Brandon Sanderson's story, which follows a bounty hunter in a world populated by deadly shades. While the concept of the world reminded me of Peter V Brett's Demon Cycle, the writing is unmistakably Sanderson and fantastically absorbing, and I found myself wanting more from this world.

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Live Wire

Live Wire

25th May 2015

The final Myron Bollitar novel sees the fictional detective turn sports agent turned non-specific agent turned troubleshooter hunting for one of his clients, who has gone missing after seeing a suspicious post on a popular social media site.

It's interestingly different to some of the earlier books, in that Coben no longer seems to be writing stand-alines in this world and each book does have repercussions on the next, the lives of the characters are changing and they are growing - they've escaped what I originally described when reading the first book as 'Hardy Boys for grown-ups'.

That said, this story does seem to be more of a vehicle for setting the world up in a particular way for the future, rather than being mainly about its own plot - for while that's interesting to an extent and leads to a thrilling ride, it doesn't really add up and I'm still not entirely sure what was going on, who was the eventual bad guy, and how things were adequately resolved.

I've strangely enjoyed the entire Myron Bollitar series - it's a bit of escapism that doesn't take itself too seriously (most of the time) yet still manages to deliver strong character- and mystery-driven stories, and it's evolved throughout rather than retreading the same steps over and over.

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The High Lord

The High Lord

25th May 2015

The final book in the Black Magician trilogy continues the adventures of Sonea, a commoner who's defied expectations to become a novice at the magicians' guild. Canavan manages to twist the reader's expectations in fascinatingly natural new ways to produce an amazing tale which concludes the story spectacularly.

I was a little disappointed by some of the character development in this one, where some of what Sonea gets up to does seem to be a bit abrupt a change and doesn't feel like the same strong character that I'd read in the previous two books. However this is balanced by some of the other characters who are developed, though perhaps not as far as I would have liked.

It's interesting how this story pulls together threads from both of the first two books, and produces such a big finale. I did continue to think though that the writing is a little unpolished and that some of the other fantasy authors I read would have extended the world building and characters just that little bit more, which would have given me more enjoyment.

Overall I've really enjoyed this series and am certainly planning to pick up some of the authors other books, which include a prequel and sequel trilogy to this one.

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Look Who's Back

Look Who's Back

25th May 2015

I've been tempted by this book for some time since first seeing the cover in a little bookshop, and finally got a copy. I was not disappointed.

The story is that of Adolf Hitler, having woken up in the early 21st Century one day with no memory of the intervening period. He tells the story in the first person in the form of a memoir, as he makes contact with modern-day Berliners and learns about how the world has changed.

This is a comedic novel, and much of the humour comes from misunderstandings - both those of Hitler, who takes a lot of things at face value and makes bold assumptions, and of those around him, who believe him to be a very committed method actor/comedian.

I really enjoyed the book, and even felt I learnt a lot from it about Hitler's life and things that happened in Germany in the mid-20th Century. So long as you've got a reasonable sense of humour and won't be offended too much, I would definitely recommend it.

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The Ghost Brigades

The Ghost Brigades

25th May 2015

The sequel to 'Old Man's War', and therefore the second book in the series, while not continuing directly from the story of the first, expands the world in which elderly humans from Earth are recruited into the space military to defend human colonies from other species across the galaxy.

The novel begins with quite episodic chapters and it takes a while to get an idea where the story is taking you. Once is does though this becomes a very good book. It's nice to see a different take on the world these stories inhabit, and I hope that's something that the series continues with.

The characters are interesting, showing a variety of different perspectives and places for them in the world, and the story gradually reveals more about what's going on and really tempts the reader to continue to discover more. There is a little overlap with some of the characters and messages from other books I've read by John Scalzi from outside the series, but that doesn't detract.

Really enjoyable, and as I thought of 'Old Man's War', some of the best science fiction I've read. I'm very much looking forward to reading the rest of the series.

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Buy book: UK
Blood on Snow

Blood on Snow

25th May 2015

Blood on Snow is something new from Jo Nesbo, famous for the Harry Hole series of Oslo-based crime novels (and touted as 'the next Steig Larsson' though I don't see the similarity). It's a first-person tale, which I found surprisingly engaging, telling the story of a contract assassin in a modern-day city.

The point of view character is used really well to tell an interesting quick read - and it is quick; a much smaller novel than I was expecting in terms of page count, and with particularly large text. That shouldn't put you off though, because it's a really good story.

And as a bonus, there's a sequel coming in just a few months that I hope will continue the style and experience of this book, even though it's hard to guess where the story could go next.

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Reading soon

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  2. Warbreaker
  3. The Gunslinger
  4. Dèjá Dead
  5. The Name of the Wind
  6. Fearless
  7. Dissolution
  8. Postmortem
  9. Blind Fury
  10. Headhunters
  11. Strike Zone
  12. Girl Missing
  13. The Last Don
  14. Divergent
  15. Labyrinth
  16. The Left Hand of God
  17. The Sinister Signpost
  18. The Daylight War
  19. Dead Man's Grip
  20. The Murder Bag
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