Category Archives: Books

The Dark Tower official trailer

I wrote relatively recently about the Dark Tower book and how good it was. As I said in my review, the Gunslinger was damned enjoyable and I wanted to read it before the film came out. I’ll be honest though, I thought it was going to be a series of films but now it just looks like a one-off movie. Which is a shame but what are you going to do? The casting is great though –  I am a big fan of both Elba and McConaughey and can easily imagine them in the roles. I seriously doubt that I will read the next six books in the Dark Tower series before this comes out in August, so the film had better be good.

I think the Dark Tower official trailer looks great but then trailers nearly always do these days. See what you think…

Babylon’s Ashes: Book 6 of the Expanse

This review of Babylon’s Ashes: book 6 of the Expanse will only be of interest if you have read the first five Expanse novels. Which is an obvious thing to say but you may have stumbled here by accident.

I love the Expanse, the books as well as the TV show. Again, this should be apparent given that I am now eagerly awaiting book 7. Babylon’s Ashes continues telling the story of the crew of the Rocinante and increasingly, the story of a shitload of other people. The cast is seriously ballooning, which is generally a good thing although it can be hard to follow if, like me, you have time away from the series.

I read somewhere that the series is supposed to be 9 books – 3 duologies and a final trilogy. Babylon’s Ashes was a great read but it did read a little like a “book 6” (if you know what I mean) while at the same time wrapping up the events of book 5. I do find the Free Navy, (and to a lesser extent the OPA,) a bit like an angry teenager banging on about stuff not being fair. This book deals with the Free Navy a lot. In the last book they trashed the Earth, in this one, they mostly act petulant and try to fight a lot.  There are some great set pieces though and a load of awesome space battles. There are also some other more mysterious alien elements developing in the background, in case you forgot.

So while Babylon’s Ashes is a great story, it deals more with the OPA/Free Navy and less with stuff I want to read about – aliens, the rings, the new planets, Miller, etc. There is a feeling that it is finishing off some storylines and setting the scene for the epic final trilogy. As such, it wasn’t one of my favourite entries in the Expanse series but I still enjoyed it and I am totally on board for what will hopefully follow. Go Expanse!

The Dark Tower 1: The Gunslinger

I am a bit late to the party with Stephen King’s Dark Tower series. So late in fact, that he finished the series and then went back and rewrote book one – The Gunslinger – to make it fit in better.

The Gunslinger and the whole Dark Tower series is set in a post apocalyptic world. It is also, as you may have guessed from the title, the cover, and everything ever mentioned about it, a Western. But with magic and weird shit going on. The setting is pretty unique and with a lot of scope for adventure and shenanigans.

The first book is basically the story of the eponymous Gunslinger as he chases a magic man across a desert and through some hills. In fact the story can be summed up by the awesome opening line:

“The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.”

Obviously more happens than this or it would be a tad dull. Which It most definitely is not. The characters, especially Roland Deschain (the gunslinger), are pretty cool. I did find they lacked a bit of depth but this is possibly to create mystery and allow for revelation later on. King described the series as a mixture of Sergio Leone’s ‘Man with no name’ trilogy mixed with Lord of the Rings and Arthurian legends. Which is a damn fine mix.

As you can see from the picture above and may have read in the news, this is soon going to be a movie with Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey – which is a superb bit of casting although I had Clint Eastwood in my head when I read it, for obvious reasons. Elba will be great in the role though.

I have waffled enough! I liked the Gunslinger a lot and have already bought the next one in the series. Stephen King has finished the series and they all got good reviews, so there is none of the concern you may get when launching into an epic series that is still underway (I’m looking at you, Game of Thrones). Enjoy.

You can get it on Amazon here:

The Expanse season 2 starts February 1st

The Expanse season 2 is due to kick off with a double episode premiere on the 1st of February. I am currently reading Babylon’s Ashes: Book six of the Expanse, so I am clearly a bit of a fan.

Season 1 was great, although I understand why some people found it a bit slow to start off with. The book was a bit like that too but when it gets going it is great. The first season just dealt with the events of the first half of book one, so there is a lot of exciting stuff still to come. If you haven’t read the books or seen the first series, I highly recommend you do both. The whole Expanse series of books by James S.A. Corey are a cracking read and I hope they carry on for decades.

There are quite a few Expanse trailers around, including a bizarre recap of season one using cats (seriously). This trailer came out a month ago but is bloody superb and should whet your appetite. I will be doing all I can to publicise the show because if another Firefly scenario happens, I don’t think I can recover. I’m officially very excited.

Cooperworld

I wrote a long short story called Cooperworld. Or a short novella. Whatever. It is 17,000 words. I haven’t promoted my stuff for ages and is a new year, so why the hell not, I have had a lot of new readers recently. It is science fiction, but it is more philosophical than a lot of my stuff and it deals with life and reality and deep things of that nature. It is also a bit of a laugh. (I think.)

Cooperworld

Screen Shot 2015-12-15 at 3.25.49 PMHere is the blurb:

In the near future, AI research is strictly controlled by paranoid governments. When a renowned Artificial Intelligence expert illegally decides to create digital life in an simulated universe, he doesn’t at first realise the implications of what he has done. Implications not just for him, but for everyone.
In this short story, journalist and writer Jason R. Ward has a light-hearted but fairly philosophical look at what constitutes consciousness and has a good hard look at how we perceive reality.

 

So there you go, exciting huh? It is also cheap. Thank you in advance. If you do buy it, and read it, and like it, please leave a review, it really, really helps.

For US customers:

For UK customers:

Under a Tell Tale Sky by R.E. McDermott

img_0069Under a Tell Tale Sky by RE McDermott is a Post Apocalyptic novel from someone who normally writes thrillers. In fact, he seems almost apologetic about the fact that it is scifi. The tale recounts a scenario that might happen if a massive EMP pulse hit the Earth and fucked the electric grid. This is book one of a trilogy and the man has done his research in regards to the USA and probably most of the developed world. The conclusion is pretty dire and highly believable.

You would think that a colossal blackout would involve a few more candles and some tinned food, which would suck a bit but not too bad. On the plus side there will be massively fewer twats taking selfies, photographing their food and blocking pavements because they are looking at their phones the whole sodding time. So no power would seem a net plus right? Sadly no. As McDermott logically and realistically shows, society would break down pretty quickly. Modern Western society is held together by hope, a desire to not be harmed by others and live in a safe society, and some pretty flimsy string. (The latter is a metaphor for something or other.) As rioters frequently show, it is actually harder to control an unruly populace than you’d suppose – even if you shoot shit at them. Without power, things fast become post apolcalyptic.

Under a Tell Tale Sky is set in America, so any apocypse or societal breakdown is going to include an arseload of guns. The story revolves around numerous characters but the principle protagonists are all based around a huge cargo ship and a container port. There are quite a few characters and sub-plots but they are all well done and believable. The story is exciting and develops well. No ground breaking philosophical questions going on here, just decent action and good fun.

I really enjoyed Under a Tell Tale Sky and immediately bought the sequel once I finished it. It is part of a series called ‘The Disruption’. I recommend it for scifi and non-scifi fans alike.

Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie

img_0068This has been on my ‘to read’ list for ages. Thankfully I bought it on kindle – Amazon warns you if you have already bought a book and I have almost accidentally bought Ancillary Justice several times now.

A bit of background. Ann Leckie’s tale is set in the far future where a human species called the Radchai are aggressively expanding through space. They are ruled by someone called Anaandar Mianaai, who has thousands of gentetically linked bodies. Their modus operandi is to continually expand by conquering a planet, winning over all the important nobility types and suppressing everyone else. Anyone who resists is either killed or turned into a kind of corpse soldier.

Thrown into this scenario is a pretty interesting protagonist called Breq. Spaceships are controlled by AIs and these ships also have ancillary troops made up of the aforementioned corpse soldiers. These soldiers are also controlled by the the AI of the vessel they serve and all have modifications that make them pretty tough in a scrap.

For reasons we don’t know at the start, the AI of a vessel known as the Justice of Torren is now reduced to just being just one ancillary soldier – Breq. What happened to the ship and all the other ancillaries is a mystery. Breq is on a mission to kill Anaander Mianaai and there is clearly something wrong going on with the Radchai as a whole.

Ancillary Justice is a great read. I can see why it won so many awards – the Hugo, Nebula and Arthur C Clarke Awards, to be precise. The world, customs and characters are well thought out and the writing is good. I was worried at first that the constant use of the pronoun ‘she’ for everyone would get annoying. Breq doesn’t really understand gender and has trouble distinguishing male from female, so calls everyone she. But actually it’s fine.

My only real gripe with the book that it is quite unevenly paced. There are some pretty slow moments followed by scenes where a ton of exciting things go on. When things happen, it is superb but then there will be a period where people are just chilling and worrying about gloves and tea.

Having said that, the book is well paced enough that I read it in a couple of days and it has weirdly stuck in my head ever since. If you fancy a space opera that is a little different from the norm, then Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie is definitely worth a try. The next two books of the trilogy are already on my kindle.

 

Dark Run by Mike Brooks

darkrunI seem to be reading a lot of books featuring a crew of rag tag, Firefly-esque, semi criminal ne’er-do-wells on a ramshackle but lovable ship, headed by a charismatic roguish Captain. By a lot, I mean two series. The Tales of the Ketty Jay by Chris Wooding is a steampunk series (my review of Retribution Falls, book one, is here) and Dark Run by Mike Brooks, which is a rip-roaring space opera.

Both are great! Buy them. Review done.

Ok, a tiny bit more.

Brief Synopsis of Dark Run:

When Captain Ichabod Drift has someone from his past hire him for a ridiculously well paid caper – a “Dark Run” smuggling job – he has some reservations but it is not only a good deal, it is also a situation he can’t really refuse for a variety of *spoiler* reasons. When things inevitably work out differently from planned, he and his motley crew have to embark on a series of dangerous but terribly exciting exploits.

I won’t give anything else away.

I really enjoyed Dark Run, an impressive debut novel from Mike Brooks and look forward to the rest of the series. It must suck to constantly be compared to Firefly or even shows like Dark Matter, but I read an interview with Brooks and he fully admitted Firefly fandom, so it’s ok. The characters are great and the story is fun. If you like all the references I have been banging on about throughout this review, then you will like Dark Run. I did.

 

Kyle MacLachlan explains Dune with emojis

Someone on Twitter asked the legendary Kyle MacLachlan to explain Dune. I assume it was meant as a laugh because Twitter is somewhat limited when it comes to giving explanations or descriptions. MacLachlan is always good value in everything I have ever seen him in. When I was young, he was the character that interacts with a cast of weirder characters – which, given that he was in a lot of David Lynch stuff, was some real weirdness. I’m talking about stuff like Blue Velvet, Twin Peaks, and Dune.

Nowadays he plays the off-centre characters in things like How I Met Your Mother and Agents of SHIELD and is always fun. What I am trying to say is, I’m a MachLachlan fan. Now if you haven’t read the book of Dune, you should. It is superb and I reviewed it here. The film caught a lot of flack but I loved it. Possibly because I was on a lot of spice back then, or maybe I am just peculiar. If you have read the book or seen the movie, then you will appreciate the genius of what he did – you can really follow the story.

Here, in emoji, is Kyle MacLachlan’s Dune. I hope this becomes a new fad.

The story of Dune in emoji

The story of Dune in emoji, as told by MacLachlan