Shastrix Books

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Seconds Away

Seconds Away

22nd April 2016

The second young-adult story about Mickey Bollitar, teenage nephew of the author's long-running thriller character Myron, follows on immediately from the end of the previous story and makes a lot of references back to the events depicted therein.

Thinking back, I'm not sure it's possible to easily describe the plot - it containing so many elements that don't really add up into a single whole. In fact, the lack of a strong resolution to the storylines makes it somewhat more frustrating than satisfying, and I hope that the third, and so-far final, novel in the series wrap poss things up neatly or I'll be quite irritated.

The secondary characters are still interesting, although I'm not sure there's enough done with them that's different to what we had before, and some of the new developments that do occur feel wedged in and more to provide what the plot requires rather than a natural extension of the characters we had met before.

Overall, a quick read that didn't do anything special for me.

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Live By The Code

Live By The Code

20th April 2016

Christopher L Bennett's fourth book in the Rise of the Federation series, telling the missing history between the end of Enterprise and the start of The Original Series, follows the various crews off the fledgling Starfleet as they discover the need (again?) for some kind of non-interference directive.

Like some of the best episodes, the story features an A- and a B-plot featuring different groups of characters to ensure all get some page-time. One of the plots works nicely as a stand-alone tale, but the other is a direct follow-up to earlier books in the series and I felt my reading experience would have benefited from having a fresher memory of what came before.

One of the themes of this book is relationships, both in the obvious sense between cultures, and between individuals, and Bennett seems to use the opportunity of revisiting Denobula to throw in some other relationships that fill out the Trek universe and add some much needed diversity.

Overall, I wouldn't group it with my favourite Trek novels, but it certainly stands up well and tells a good story. I'm enjoying following the adventures of this group of characters beyond the short lifespan they received on television, and I hope Bennett is able to continue and that his work won't be contradicted by forthcoming additions to the Trek cannon.

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Not Dead Yet

Not Dead Yet

19th April 2016

Book eight in the Roy Grace series (a series which I strongly recommend be read in strict chronological order) sees the now Detective Superintendent called in when a body is found without arms, legs or head in the waste product produced by a chicken shed. Simultaneously, his bosses challenge him to manage security arrangements for a major Hollywood star making her new movie on his patch.

As usual, it's a great complex plot with a rich number if threads to follow that give the reader just enough information to be tantalising close to piecing everything together, but still being one step away until the final moment.

The character work continues to be fascinating as well, spinning out a little into some of the minor characters and exploring their lives as they become more prominent parts of the plot. There are also some new events in the ongoing storyline that ties the books together that surprised me, and pointed to more interesting things to come.

I think my favourite thing though about the book is its pacing. The use of lots of very short chapters means you never get bogged down while reading and always feel like continuing, and reading just one more before your train pulls in.

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White Corridor

White Corridor

19th April 2016

I find the timeline of the Bryant and May novels somewhat baffling given that they aren't in chronological order, but this one has mobile telephones so I'm fairly convinced that it's set in the modern day. It's an interesting if slightly bizarre story that follows the main police officers as they head to Plymouth for a spiritualist convention, their team as they investigate a death that's a little close to home, and a mother and son running away.

Somehow this all comes together in an entertaining plot that all makes perfect sense at the end of the day. The story moves at a good pace, surprising really given that it feels like it should be slow as there's not a massive amount of action, and as usual includes various unexpected twists and loose threads that are left dangling for future stories.

One of the nice things about this story was spending some time with the junior officers, and getting to know them better rather than sticking with the main characters, who in my head have now settled down into the images of Mainwaring and Wilson from Dad's Army.

Overall a really good mix of plotlines that I enjoyed reading. I love that I can't know what to expect with each book in this series and that they can continue to surprise and delight me, and I look forward to more of the same.

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Power Hungry

Power Hungry

19th April 2016

A fairly run of the mill Next Generation novel set during the second season, in which Picard and his crew find themselves in a tricky prime directive situation when escorting aid to a planet suffering from extreme climate change.

It's clearly an epistle from the author on the threat that the world faces from a changing climate as a result of human activity, and though this fits with the traditional Trek ethos of pointing a mirror in the direction of the twentieth century, it's delivered with such a lack of grace that it feels like the message is being hammered home at the expense of a thrilling plot.

The author makes some attempt to introduce some new elements of characterisation amongst the crew, but largely this falls flat by virtue of it not being able to be picked up on in any later stories, instead feeling like it's just been dropped in because he felt he had to use all the characters even if they weren't necessary to his plot.

It's not an awful book, but it certainly didn't grip me or excite me about where the story was going, and rather than inspire me to think more about the issues brought up, it's kind of saddening that we still haven't done anything to rectify our own situation some 25 years later.

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Time and Time Again

Time and Time Again

25th March 2016

It's years since I read a Ben Elton novel, and although I was recommended this by a friend and bought a copy quite a long time ago I've only just got around to picking it up to read. This is a story of a military man from 2024, recruited by a secret organisation to head back in time and make a single change to save the world. And it's great.

Elton's earlier works that I've read were mostly about the humour, and I don't recall picking up anything deeper (although on reflection it was probably there), but this is a much more grounded novel that for the most part takes itself very seriously, yet still had the occasional moment of levity.

I found the whole setup very compelling and read through the whole story in just a couple of days, racing to find out what was going to happen. I felt that some aspects of the narrative moved much more quickly than I was expecting, but it becomes clear later that this is so that the later elements become more notable.

There are some great twists, although some of them are obvious from very early on and I was just waiting from page to page for them to come along. In the other hand though some twists that I thought were obvious never materialised. Some of the narrative however felt quite clumsily written. Some exposition felt rushed and as if it were just being told by the narrator rather than being revealed by the story, and I felt this cheapened some key moments.

Overall though a brilliant read and one I'd be tempted to revisit again with knowledge of the end to try to catch anything I missed earlier in the tale. Makes me tempted to look out for some more of the authors output.

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Headhunters

Headhunters

25th March 2016

I've put off reading his standalone Jo Nesbo novel for some time. However having finished the Harry Hole series and being up to date on his latest releases it came to picking this up. I really enjoyed it.

Headhunters is the tail of a recruitment specialist who is known for always getting the right person for the job. But there's more to him than that, things that not even his wife knows about. It's an excellent story about an interesting character that goes from a fascinating look at a mans life to a hilarious adventure that keeps the reader gripped.

Okay, so there was a point at which I felt like the author had spoiled the good thing he had going with one of the twists, and I felt that the story was moving dramatically from something I'd been loving into a different type of story, but then everything became a step more awesome and I got sucked right back in.

Nesbo has a real talent for creating characters with shades of grey that really engage and deAw you in as a reader, and I'd have no qualms about recommending this book.

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Reading soon

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