Category Archives: Books

Retribution Falls by Chris Wooding

I have never been that excited by steampunk and its related genres but have recently read two of them and thoroughly enjoyed myself. The first was The Wonder by James Devo and more recently, Retribution Falls by Chris Wooding. I recommend them both.

I stumbled across the book by accident. I had read an article about a science fiction book called Dark Run that reviewers had compared to Firefly (one of the best shows ever) and the Adventures of Ketty Jay. Intrigued, I looked up the latter, and moments later Retribution Falls: Book 1 of the Adventures of the Ketty Jay was on my selection of shiny reading devices. I love the modern world.

Review of Retribution Falls

The story revolves around a ragtag, unlikely collection of motley down-at-luck characters having adventures. So quite like a lot of things really, including Firefly. This sort of grouping is always at risk of colossal cliche but if done well, it can be bloody great.

The story: The charismatic captain of the Ketty Jay needs a bit of cash and takes on a job that seems too good to be true. Predictably it is and suddenly they are in a world of trouble. This is a pretty cool world however, with flying airships, pirates, knights, demonologists, war golems, and more.

Did I like it? (I know I recommended it already but bear with me.) At the start, to be honest, I was a bit wary. The characters are not immediately the nicest or easiest to bond with but as the story goes on, things rapidly improve. Soon they are having incredibly exciting adventures and each character has a very satisfying story arc. The story is well plotted, the action is top notch, and this review is now full overused expressions. Basically, it’s damned exciting, good characters, and an intriguing tale.

I will keep this review pretty short. If you want an exciting read about freebooters and airships and Machiavellian plots, then you will like Retribution Falls. It isn’t necessarily an intriguing new take on anything but it is great fun and I have immediately bought book 2. Which says it all. Recommended.

New Hitchhiker’s Radio Show for BBC

And Another Thing... by Eoin Colfer

And Another Thing… by Eoin Colfer

Froody news!The BBC has just given the go ahead for a new Hitchhiker’s radio show. Which is just superb news as the radio shows were just brilliant. If you haven’t heard them you are hugely, colossally missing out and my life has, by dint of this one fact, been better than yours. Obviously you can rectify that. They are different from the book after a certain bit, but then the BBC also did radio versions of all the books with the original cast. If this is confusing, google it.

The new series will be based on And another thing… by Eion Colfer. Which will worry some people. I quite liked the book as an episode of Hitchhiker’s although I didn’t feel that it lived up to the original. As you can see by clicking on this. It was fun though.

The great news is that it is being directed by Dirk Maggs who was in charge of the original, and consequent, series. Also, the original cast are going to be back. I’m excited. Here is more information from the British Comedy Guide.

From British Comedy Guide: (click here)

The new series is being organised by Dirk Maggs, the director who has overseen previous series of Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, alongside David Morley from Perfectly Normal Productions.

Plans are currently at a very early stage of development, with a six episode run provisionally ordered. Speaking to BCG, Maggs confirmed: “A series has been commissioned but plans are still being put together – what precise form it will all take and who exactly will be involved is all yet to be confirmed.”

Contrary to other press reports, no actors have been signed up to the project yet, however the show is likely to star many of the original cast. Maggs confirmed to British Comedy Guide: “I wouldn’t dream of doing it without approaching the original cast, but it’s way too early to do that yet.”

Simon Jones who plays Arthur Dent, Geoffrey McGivern (Ford Prefect), Mark Wing-Davey (Zaphod Beeblebrox), and Stephen Moore (Marvin) last reunited with Maggs in 2014 to record a special one-off live transmission for Radio 4, The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy Live. The episode also saw Susan Sheridan reprise her role as Trillian. It would prove to be her last time playing the character, as she died in August 2015.

Series 6 of the show is expected to air in 2017. Maggs says: “I am very happy to be returning, it will be great to get ‘the band back together’ – for what will probably be the last time.”

 

Neil Gaiman to adapt TV version of ‘Good Omens’

imageExciting news! The other day at a memorial event for Terry Pratchett, Gaiman confirmed that he would be personally adapting the Good Omens novel, which he co-wrote in collaboration with Pratchett. Initially, he always said that he wouldn’t produce anything Good Omens related unless his long time friend Pratchett was involved – for example there was a recent radio adaptation featuring cameos from Gaiman and Pratchett.

But then, and this is really bloody touching, Terry Pratchett wrote a letter to be opened after his death, which asked Gaiman to personally write an adaptation for TV. At which point he agreed. Or as Gaiman said at the memorial event – “At that point, I think I said, ‘You bastard, yes.'” He also revealed that the Good Omens TV show would be a six parter.

By the way, if you haven’t read the book, you should. It’s brilliant. It’s about the end of the world and a demon and an angel team up to deal with the anti-christ. Who happens to be an English school-kid.

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Good Omens has long been the subject of attempts to bring it to the screen, big or small, but it finally looks like it might happen. In other purely Pratchett news, there may well be a film based on Mort – which is also superb and is basically a story about Death taking on an apprentice. Even more exciting and more vague and unlikely to happen, is a TV show based on the Watch. Which would be absolutely brilliant.

I love Gaiman and Pratchett and am very excited about seeing Good Omens. I have been putting it off but am finally reading ‘Raising Steam’. I feel sad to be reading one of the last Pratchett books ever and had been delaying it for weird psychological reasons. I have read every one of his books since his first book came out and it has been a yearly treat. Having said that, it has been 30 years since I started reading him, so maybe I have forgotten enough to go through them all again.

If you haven’t read Gaiman or Pratchett or Good Omens – you are in for a treat.

For more info on this awesome fantastic news, read a more informed Guardian article here.

Best Served Cold by Joe Abercrombie

best-served-cold-us-pbBest Served Cold is the 4th book set in the world of the First Law. Books 1 to 3 were a trilogy and were brilliant. Best Served Cold is a standalone novel set in a part of the world called Styria and is also brilliant.

Here is the synopsis:

Monza Murcatto is mercenary who leads an army of mercenaries called the 1000 swords. There have been 19 years of warfare on the continent and Monza and her brother Benna are great at what they do. A little too great in fact, and their employer, Duke Orso, grows concerned that they might try and take over. So he has them both stabbed a lot and thrown off a balcony and down a cliff. Unfortunately for the seven people involved in this literal backstabbing party, Benna dies but Monza lives. So she sets out to get revenge. It is basically a fantasy version of Kill Bill.

Everything I like and slightly dislike about Abercrombie is present in Best Served Cold. What I like far outweighs what I don’t.

What I like: It is exciting, well written and violent, with superb characters. Some of these characters are from (or at least mentioned) in the First Law trilogy, some are new. It doesn’t really matter though. They all have pretty satisfying story arcs and are believable. The story is told in shifting third person POV and not one of them are dull. To alleviate the often brutal happenings in the book, there is quite a lot of Abercrombie’s dark humour. While each revenge is a bit episodic, there is a satisfying arc to the whole tale. Also each episode is great – like a series of incredibly violent capers.

What I didn’t like: It is all pretty bleak, which isn’t a bad thing I guess, but don’t read Game of Thrones then this or you might get a bit down. There is a lot humour though, so it is lifted somewhat. Most of the characters have a pretty shit time of it, which I suppose is to be expected, but I hoped for a slightly happier arc for some of them.

On the whole though, I bloody loved Best Served Cold. It is probably not quite as good as the First Law trilogy, but if you enjoyed that, you will like this.

In summary then – GREAT BOOK. I LOVED IT. BUY!

Cooperworld by Jason R Ward

I recently wrote a long short story called Cooperworld. Or a short novella. Whatever. It is 17,000 words. If you have a shiny new kindle or tablet, here is something to put on it. My gift to you. Except you have to pay a few pennies, so it is also a gift to me. It is science fiction, but it is more philosophical than a lot of my stuff.

Cooperworld

Screen Shot 2015-12-15 at 3.25.49 PMThis is a 17,000 word short story. Which is quite a long short story, I’ll grant you.

Here 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.

For US customers:

For UK customers:

The Wonder by James Devo

The Wonder Blood Red-AdvertI just finished this book on a long train journey, which is a perfect place to read it. The Wonder by James Devo is the sort of book you should, and probably will, read in big chunks. A primary reason for this is that it is pretty damned exciting and it is therefore annoyingly hard to find a spot to pause and do things necessary sustain your existence. Another reason is that it has a pretty large cast, and there is a tiny risk you will become confused with some of them. I say ‘tiny’ because the characters are strong and memorable and if I can remember who is who then most people should. Also a train feels pretty steampunk (especially in Thailand where I live and trains are old), so barring a handy nearby steam fair it was a good setting to read uninterrupted. But before I get ahead of myself, I had better mention what the book is about.

The Wonder is set in a fantasy/steampunk kind of world and it is a very believable and well thought-out one. People travel using huge vessels that glide along artificial ice. Ancient technologies abide, alongside new adapted versions of old school tech. Warriors fight with swords and magically enhanced guns, while science types create strange and wonderful new ways of killing people en masse. There are elves fighting giant steam powered robot/mechanoids and mind-controlled soldiers that self immolate when cornered. There are… a ton of pretty cool things. I really enjoyed the world that was created and it never becomes too much info to take on. I’ve read fantasy and scifi books where you can be halfway into it and still aren’t quite sure what the balls is happening. Then there are others that info-dump at the start and prove tedious. That doesn’t happen here, you learn in mid-action.

The eponymous ‘Wonder’ is what underpins everything in Devo’s world. It is basically like magic, except that it is a substance. It can be used for weapons or making entire cities work. (A bit like Uranium but without all the cancer.) I’m being simplistic though, it is actually a quite well thought out magic system with different types of wonder doing different functions, which is quite a refreshing take on these sorts of things. Red wonder powers everyday stuff like lights, transport, and handheld weaponry. Green affects the mind and the flesh. Blue is powerful and rare and does all sort of powerful and mystical stuff.

As I said earlier, the characters are great and varied. From gentleman adventurers to psychopaths – and those are the heroes – I found the people in the story great fun and occasionally slightly disturbing. Often at the same time. There were moments when there almost started to be a couple too many but it is handled well, the characters are great, and they all have a function and satisfying story arc. And I love a good arc. Also, Devo isn’t averse to killing a couple off every now and then, so you never feel too overwhelmed. Backstories, and most information, are told as the story goes on and they are normally a welcome pause in the action – although quite a few get pretty exciting themselves.

I feel I should stop here as I have gone on a bit. I tend to stick to straight fantasy or straight science fiction and rarely veer off into cyber/steam/diesel/bio/spunk- punk genres. (Ok, I made the last one up, but it sounds like a fun sub-genre.) I get sent a lot of things to review and normally stick to what I know. But I’m glad I gave The Wonder a go as it was truly great read. A rip-roaring one, even. To summarise all the above – I liked The Wonder a lot and you probably will too. Give it a go.

The Wonder: Book 1 – Blood Red by James Devo will be out on the 21st November, swiftly followed by Book 2 – Deep Blue. Keep an eye out.

Here is the trailer:

 

 

Bryan Singer to direct 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

20,000 leagues under the sea

20,000 leagues under the sea

A new film version of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea has been talked about for a while. I’m a bit shocked they haven’t ‘reimagined’ a gritty version for TV already, let alone spent a wad of cash on a CGI-filled summer spectacular action flick. Well, it looks like it might finally happen with Bryan Singer at the helm. (Like my nautical-speak there?)

This should be a good thing as Singer is generally pretty decent. The news came out on Twitter:

Screen Shot 2015-09-18 at 7.50.18 pm

I remember watching the James Mason version from the 50s when I was a kid and I loved it. I also reread the book by Jules Verne recently, so I am something of a fan. I am a bit curious about how they will do it. Will they stick to the original novel where Nemo is an Indian and is a kind of terrorist/scientist/angry-man-of-the-sea? He’s an awesome character in 20,000 Leagues and Mysterious Island.

Personally, I think they should keep it in the period of the book. I nearly always think that though as I I like the settings of Scifi classics and don’t see the need for modern updates (apart from budgetary needs I guess). I’m looking at you, War of the Worlds.

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea is one of the books I can’t believe hasn’t been redone. I think Jules Verne and HG Wells need to be looked at again (Hollywood I’m talking to you). Stephen Baxter’s The Time Ships would be good too (official sequel to Time Machine and absolutely brilliant). Actually I could list books that need doing for pages. If any major Hollywood studios want suggestions my email is Scifiward@gmail.com. My fee is surprisingly cheap.

 

 

The Martian book review

The Martian by Andy Weir

The Martian by Andy Weir

I have had The Martian by Andy Weir on my kindle for a while now. I had heard it was good and that it was about an astronaut stranded on Mars but for some reason that hadn’t sounded as appealing as it should and was on my ‘I will eventually get round to that’ list. I don’t know why, I love science but I am incredibly complex. Then the first trailer came out for the movie and I thought it looked amazing. I put that out on this very website and a lot of friends I respect mentioned how great the book was.

So I gave it a go. The next day I was done and if I didn’t have a job, I would have been done sooner. The Martian is a brilliant  book. Absolutely superb. It has probably leapt onto my list of favourite books ever and I feel a bit of a dick for not having read it before.

Ok, here is a synopsis. A short one. Mark Watney is an astronaut and he gets stranded on Mars. That is all you need to know.

The characterisation is superb and the story is told in a mixture of 1st and 3rd person.

The Martian is one of the few books where you feel confident that the science is spot on, and shows you how important and incredible it can be. It is also one of the very few books that genuinely made me laugh out loud.

As you can tell, I loved it. The Martian by Andy Weir.

The future as predicted by science fiction authors

Apart from things like Alternate History, Star Wars, and science fiction written in the past about a date that was the future then, but in the past now, (like 1984,) and a ton of other exceptions, most scifi is set in the future. Sometimes the deep future. I saw this infographic the other day and it is plotted and designed well enough that I thought I would share. It also includes a surprising amount of stuff that I haven’t read.

There are quite a few things that I would include but maybe they are problematic. SPOILERS FOR TONS OF THINGS AHEAD… Obvious inclusions to me would be start with Battlestar Galactica (recent version) or some Stargate related mythology (there are books, so it counts). I would then end with Restaurant at the End of the Universe or even better, Moorcock’s Dancers at the End of Time (which kind of finishes beyond the end of the Universe). Also, some of Stephen Baxter‘s work ends with intelligences mining the last black holes after the end of stars and in Star Trek, Q has taken people to the extremes of time, although maybe not in books. Now I think about it, James Blish’s Cities in Flight ends with immortal humans checking out the end of the universe. Even Dune isn’t mentioned. But having nerded out on all that, the infographic is interesting.

So having complained a lot, enjoy…

futureevents_giorgialupi_large1

Fastest spaceship in the galaxy

Fastest ship in the Universe

Fastest ship in the Universe

Han Solo claimed the Millennium Falcon could do the Kessel Run in 12 parsecs. Which is presumably a speed race with the winner being the spaceship that can go the furthest distance in a specific time, as a parsec is a measurement of distance. But Han Solo lived ages ago. Plus, it is possible that he and the Falcon are fictional.

What about other space going vessels that may or may not be real? Which one of them is the fastest spaceship in the universe? I have literally fallen asleep pondering this.

The good people at Fat Wallet have come up with a handy chart, rating tons of known fiction/non-fiction space ships for speed. The first half are rated by how much G they pull on acceleration. Once the speeds go past that of light (at which point we are talking probable fiction), then they are rated by light seconds.

I should point out I disagree with a few of these. What about when navigators in Dune fold space, or popping into another dimension, or using wormholes? I’m thinking Skylark of Space, Babylon 5, DS9, Stargate (when a shuttle goes through a gate) and many more.

However, the fastest spaceship is unlikely but totally correct – you’ll see what I mean. I found this fun, so thought I would share.

(Thanks Fat Wallet http://www.fatwallet.com/blog/fastest-ship-in-the-universe/)

Fastest-Ship-in-the-Universe_IG