Category Archives: Books

The Circuit: Executor Rising by Rhett C. Bruno

circuit-cover-final-versionFive hundred years after Earth has become a barren, unpleasant wasteland, humanity is scattered throughout the solar system. A religious sect known as the New Earth Tribunal is pretty much in charge and it reigns from New Earth – which is on Mars. There are a few voices of dissent however, most notably from the mining colonies near Ceres. When several Tribune ships are hijacked and their precious cargo of Gravitum are stolen, the Tribune is forced to call in the genius ex-Tribune Cassius Vale. Unfortunately for them, it is Vale who is responsible for the hijackings (along with a double-hard android). The Tribune also has highly trained assassins at their disposal, so they dispatch one of them – a hot female assassin called Sage Volus – to infiltrate the Ceresians and see if she can find anything out. She soon finds herself as part of a crew led by a charismatic ex-mercenary called Talon Rayne.

I won’t lie, I was a bit nervous about reading The Circuit: Executor Rising by Rhett C. Bruno. I always am with new authors that I have never previously heard of. Thankfully, the anxiety was misplaced. It was a thoroughly enjoyable read. If you read a lot of science fiction then there will be nothing all that new but there are still some pretty cool ideas and it is well executed. The story moves at a cracking pace with some great set action pieces. When things kick off, Bruno writes excitingly with plenty of bullets, bloodshed and bad-assery.

The characters in The Circuit: Executor Rising are particularly good in a slightly morally ambiguous kind of way. Cassius Vale and his robot ADIM are the antagonists but they are believable. Vale is an advocate of ‘the ends justify the means’ and he wants to take down the Tribune no matter how many people die. He also has a strange father/son thing going on with ADIM which adds an extra element to the story. Sage Volus is a pretty awesome hot female assassin with a bionic arm. At first she is a bit too religious to be fully likeable but she develops throughout the novel and has her own set of issues. Talon Rayne is immediately likeable even though a slightly murkier past is hinted at. Think the characters of Firefly and you will be pretty close. Likeable-rogue type of fellows.

There are enough fun ideas and well executed settings to make Rhett C Bruno’s book a highly entertaining read. Couple that with a fast paced plot and some great characters and you have thoroughly enjoyable space opera on your hands. I look forward to more in the series.

You can buy The Circuit: Executor Rising by Rhett C. Bruno for your shiny kindle here:

Cibola Burn by James S A Cory review

Cibola Burn by James SA Corey

Cibola Burn by James SA Corey

Cibola Burn (The Expanse Book 4)
by James SA Corey is another addition to The Expanse series. It is also a rollicking good read. I personally didn’t think it quite on par with the first couple of books, but it is still bloody good.

After the events of the previous book, the ring system is now open and a 1000 planets are ready for colonisation. Consequently, some people who have been having a pretty shit time of it rush through and start a colony on one of the planets. Technically they had no right to do so and when a corporate colony ship arrives, things getting unpleasant in a shooting and exploding kind of way. With tensions high between the corporate lot and the colonists, it’s decided that a mediator is needed. So James Holden and the crew of the Rocinante are called in. Then things go mental.

As I said earlier – Cibola Burn is a rollicking good read. It is different from the previous three in that it is set almost entirely on the disputed planet of Illus rather than leaping about the solar system. This is both a plus and a minus. The plus is that the story feels a bit more rounded and complete. The minus is that at times things slowed down a bit and there was no chance that the narrative was going to leap to another part of the solar system where something exciting was kicking off. While the story slows down a bit around a third of the way in, it does consequently kick into high gear and then things are brilliant again.

The crew of the Rocinante are back and if you have read the series this far then you will probably like them. There are a few new characters – some are good, one is bad. There is a scientist lady who basically just needs to get laid but then becomes more interesting. Another is a miner/settler who is a great and likeable character despite how he starts the book. A third is a security chief who also changes and develops as things kick off. But is is the bad guy who I felt let things down a bit. He was a bit too cut-out baddie. He doesn’t change in any way at any point. I guess that was just his personality and there are people like that in the real world, but I found his personality a bit annoying and slightly unrealistic.

Don’t get me wrong though, I thoroughly enjoyed Cibola Burn and can’t wait for the next one. The world that the James Corey duo are making gets more interesting with each book and there are intriguing developments with the protomolecule and Miller to make this more than just an ‘episode’.

My review is probably redundant anyway. If you have read books one to three then you are going to read book four. While I found Cibola Burn slightly weaker than the others, it is still a great read.

The Expanse series can be found here!

Hyperion by Dan Simmons

2011-03-29_image2In Dan Simmons’ classic scifi novel Hyperion, 28th Century mankind has spread across the galaxy but are still behaving pretty much the same as ever. Consequently, a war is approaching between the Hegemony – a civilisation who live on a ‘web’ of planets linked by portals and faster than light ships, and the Ousters – a group of nutters who live in the fringes of space. Add to this mix the Artificial Intelligences, who were created by man but then buggered off to live in a semi virtual place called the Technocore. They still pretty much run the Hegemony though and without them nothing will run. The AIs are up to all sort of mysterious things in the background and are almost god like in their knowledge.

Got that? Good. As the war heats up forces start to converge on a planet called Hyperion. The AIs select a group of seven pilgrims to travel to this mysterious world and a place called the Time Tombs. These tombs annoy the Technocore because even though they can predict nearly everything, the Time Tombs buck that trend by being baffling. Oh, and they are guarded by a psychopathic spiky metallic entity called The Shrike that kills everyone and may possibly be travelling backward through time to kill everything that ever lived.

While the pilgrims travel to the tombs they wonder why they have been selected for the trip and so begin to tell each other their stories. So it is basically like the Canterbury Tales in structure. There is a priest, a soldier, a scholar and so on, and they all have a unique voice and fascinating story.

Apologies for the long intro. I could have just said that Hyperion by Dan Simmons is like a Canterbury Tales in space and is superb. It is also fascinating and brilliantly written. Each story stands alone as a brilliant tale yet while gradually telling you about the universe the characters inhabit and the various mysteries that surround the Time Tombs and the uber violent Shrike.

What I have given you is a very brief overview of the setting and the structure of Hyperion. There is so much more and it is all good. It helps that all the stories are brilliant and completely different from each other while being linked by the over-arching narrative of the journey. I’ll cut to the quick – I loved this book and can’t wait to read the sequel Rise of Hyperion. It is a classic I had left on the shelf for too long and I now highly recommend.

Cibola Burn is out!

Life has been a bit mental recently but I still find time to read thanks to a regular commute and an even more regular bowel.

Hyperion by Dan Simmons

Hyperion by Dan Simmons

I am currently reading a book by an author I have been meaning to read for years. I am almost ashamed to say that I have quite a few Dan Simmons books on my shelf but have only just started to read one these epic tomes. I have now almost finished reading his space Canterbury Tales-esque novel – Hyperion – and will definitely be reading a hell of a lot more. It is absolutely superb and unless it has an awful ending (which is unlikely as it is the first part of an award winning series) I can recommend it already. I will review it soon.

Cibola Burn by James A Corey

Cibola Burn by James A Corey

This has put me in something of a quandary however, as I normally just plow on if I have started a series I like and I have book two – The Fall of Hyperion – sitting quietly on my kindle.  BUT the next instalment of  James A Corey’s equally brilliant Expanse series is out and is also now on my kindle screaming for attention. In case you haven’t read an of The Expanse series then I should point out that you are wasting your life. I would also suggest that you start with Leviathan Wakes right now. There are also rumours that the series may soon be a TV show, so get in quick if you want to be one of those annoying bastards like myself who always bleats on that “The books are better” to any poor sap that passes by.

I guess this entry is essentially saying – sorry I haven’t written much (I am moving house and country) but here are two books you can be getting on with in the meantime. Well, The Hyperion Cantos is 4 books and so far, so is The Expanse series. So here are eight books to be getting on with. That should be enough. Now if you will excuse me, my kindle and I have to catch the train home and then go to the toilet.

Hugo Award 2014 Nominees Announced

Hugo AwardThe nominees for the Hugo Award 2014 have been announced. If you read a lot of science fiction then this should be fairly exciting news. If nothing else, it should give you some ideas for your next bit of reading (some of which is free – see below).

There is a lot of good stuff here and I am pleased to say, what with my finger being on scifi’s throbbing pulse, I have quite a lot of this stuff on my kindle waiting to be read. With the exception of Vox Day as I don’t like him as a person and will never bother with anything he does (google him.)

Like the Oscars there are a lot of categories which can all be found on the official Hugo Award website. Listed below are the main Hugo Award nominees in the main categories I care most about. Excitingly all the stuff that was published by Tor.com is available for free download or can be read on their awesome website. Read the Tor.com stuff here.

Here are the four Hugo Award categories I am most interested in and the nominees:

Best Novel (1595 nominating ballots)

  • Ancillary Justice, Ann Leckie (Orbit US/Orbit UK)
  • Neptune’s Brood, Charles Stross (Ace / Orbit UK)
  • Parasite, Mira Grant (Orbit US/Orbit UK)
  • Warbound, Book III of the Grimnoir Chronicles, Larry Correia (Baen Books)
  • The Wheel of Time, Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson (Tor Books)

Best Novella (847 nominating ballots)

  • The Butcher of Khardov, Dan Wells (Privateer Press)
  • “The Chaplain’s Legacy”, Brad Torgersen (Analog, Jul-Aug 2013)
  • “Equoid”, Charles Stross (Tor.com, 09-2013)
  • Six-Gun Snow White, Catherynne M. Valente (Subterranean Press)
  • “Wakulla Springs”, Andy Duncan and Ellen Klages (Tor.com, 10-2013)

Best Novelette (728 nominating ballots)

  • “Opera Vita Aeterna”, Vox Day (The Last Witchking, Marcher Lord Hinterlands)
  • “The Exchange Officers”, Brad Torgersen (Analog, Jan-Feb 2013)
  • “The Lady Astronaut of Mars”, Mary Robinette Kowal (maryrobinettekowal.com/Tor.com, 09-2013)
  • “The Truth of Fact, the Truth of Feeling”, Ted Chiang (Subterranean, Fall 2013)
  • “The Waiting Stars”, Aliette de Bodard (The Other Half of the Sky, Candlemark & Gleam)

Best Short Story (865 nominating ballots)

  • “If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love”, Rachel Swirsky (Apex Magazine, Mar-2013)
  • “The Ink Readers of Doi Saket”, Thomas Olde Heuvelt (Tor.com, 04-2013)
  • “Selkie Stories Are for Losers”, Sofia Samatar (Strange Horizons, Jan-2013)
  • “The Water That Falls on You from Nowhere”, John Chu (Tor.com, 02-2013)

The winners are to be announced at Loncon3 in London on Sunday 17 August 2014. Read on!

James S.A. Corey’s Expanse series to be a Syfy TV show

The Expanse series

The Expanse series

Previously on this site I have highly recommended the James S.A. Corey Expanse series. Because it is fucking awesome. So far three of the books are out, with a fourth due this summer. Read my review of the first book here. The two books that follow are just as good, so you really have a treat in store if you haven’t discovered them yet.

Excitingly, Syfy have just confirmed that they are going to be making the Expanse series into a TV show with each book equalling 10 episodes, much like Game of Thrones. I know Syfy makes and produces some awful shite, like the stuff they do with Asylum movies (although they can be fun), but keep in mind that they also made Eureka, Alphas, and, much more importantly – the new version of Battlestar Galactica.

In Corey’s Expanse books no one zips about faster than light so they are all confined to the solar system. The solar system system is still epically massive though, and the series manages to be pretty exciting space opera with fleets of spaceships and exotic moon bases and so on, all while remaining in familiar, realistic surroundings. The Expanse setting is a believable one and consequently everyone lives in cramped, industrial type conditions while floating through the vast expanses of space. In other words, conditions like the ships in Battlestar. (Or Firefly.) So Syfy might do a good job here if you share my optimism that they will be more BSG and a lot less Sharknado.

Also, the writers – James S. A. Corey is actually two talented fellows called Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck – seem to be able to knock out one Expanse book a year (unlike other series I could mention), so this could run for a while. Quite frankly there aren’t enough decent Science Fiction shows on right now and this one is actually going to be in space! Recently I’ve been having to watch Firefly, BSG, Farscape, Stargate and Trek repeats just to get my space scifi fix.

Hopefully that will change. No pressure Syfy….

 

Blood Song: Book 1 of Raven’s Shadow by Anthony Ryan


I’ve been reading a lot of fantasy recently as I am, like thousands of others, writing a fantasy novel. Fantasy was one of my favourite genres throughout my teens (science fiction predictably being another). It was all sparked by a mixture of reading Conan the Barbarian books and comics and also by the fact that I grew up in the 80s and played a lot of Dungeons and Dragons. My childhood was awesome.

Apart from A Game of Thrones and Joe Abercrombie I haven’t really read many new fantasy authors as I have been reading a lot more scifi and historical fiction. So after perusing Amazon (sorry bookshops but your fantasy sections are usually lacking), I came across a new author that seemed to have ridiculously good reviews. His name is Anthony Ryan and the book was his debut novel Blood Song: Book 1 of Raven’s Shadow.

Blood Song revolves around a character called Vaelin al Sorna. The book begins with his dad dropping him off at a school that turns out to be the military wing of the Order. These guys are more than just soldiers though – they are the SAS of their particular Kingdom and Vaelin is the best of them.

The first half of Blood Song is basically just Vaelin and his mates at school. Kind of like a violent Harry Potter. It well enough written that you want to keep going with it and by the second half it really starts to pay off. There are a lot of hints that there is more going on. Politically, the King might not be so great and his daughter might also be up to something (as she is hot and therefore suspicious). The Order itself might not be so great ethically and keeps its fair share of secrets. The element of magic is also slowly weaved into the narrative and there are hints of destiny and things going on that I can’t explain without giving too much away.

These added elements make what was feeling a bit of a ‘been there seen that before’ fantasy tale into something a bit deeper. I’m not necessarily saying deep, but by the end I was sufficiently satisfied that interesting things are afoot.

The characters are great and believable with a variety of individual needs and character arcs. The story is well told and written. The fact that the Faith of the Order is one that worships the spirits of the dead and believes that they are being guided and supported by them is an interesting twist because this allows them to justify killing infidels who believe in a deity.

If you like fantasy books you will very probably enjoy Blood Song. Anthony Ryan spins a good yarn which, although at first feels pretty similar and unoriginal slowly evolves into a pretty damn good story. It certainly had me hooked and I have preordered the sequel. Recommended.
Anthony Ryan’s Amazon US page
Anthony Ryan’s Amazon UK link
 

The Dancers at the End of Time by Michael Moorcock

The Dancers at the End of Time by Michael Moorcock

The Dancers at the End of Time by Michael Moorcock

Where to begin? The unique, bizarre, satirical novel, The Dancers at the End of Time is an experience that is hard to categorise or even explain.

Set millions of years in the future, the book opens with the protagonist, Jherek Carnelian, and his mother, The Iron Orchid, discussing the word “virtuous” on a beach of bleached bones on the shore of a crimson sea after just having had sex. So it is immediately established that the world has changed a fair amount. The characters inhabiting the End of Time are a decadent and dissolute bunch who are immortal and possess almost unlimited power. They amuse themselves by holding ever more elaborate parties in incredible settings. At one such party an alien lands and warns them all that the Earth is about to end along with the entire universe. This is pretty tedious news to the denizens of the distant future as the ‘End of it All’ has been prophesied for so long that it, along with space travel generally, is seen as passé and dull. The alien is consequently ignored.

Into this bizarre immoral society comes Mrs Amelia Underwood – a highly moralistic housewife from the 19th century Brockley. Jherek is fascinated by her and decides to fall in love with and limit himself to just having sex with one person. This is a novel and exciting idea to those from the future and, as it turns out, is quite a challenge.

The Dancers at the End of Time has aliens, time travel, robots, godlike beings, parallel universes and more. It is a tale of the last lovers in the universe and an insane discussion on morality. It is also a bit bonkers in a charming and erudite way with a host of characters and situations that seem almost normal when you are reading it, but sound insane when you are trying explain it to others.

It is actually an omnibus of three novels – An Alien Heat, The Hollow Lands, and The End of All Songs. Consequently, it is a tad long. In my humble opinion, however, that is a good thing. The Dancers at the End of Time is essentially a satirical look at the contrast of Victorian morality clashing with the utterly decadent world at the end of time. It is both funny and inventive. Humanity can now do anything, has done everything, and is just struggling to stay entertained. This results in a stagnant amoral species, that is strangely naive and pointless. By the end of the book you no longer see the opening scene as shocking, it is just the way things are.

I really enjoyed The Dancers at the End of Time but it probably isn’t for everyone. Which is a shame. It’s inventive and fun with some great characters. Recommended.

Game of Thrones Season 4: A Foreshadowing

Game of Thrones Season 4

Game of Thrones Season 4

In case you are into Game of Thrones and are up to date with the show, here is a treat to get you salivating about Season 4. If you aren’t up to date, you are probably wasting your life and should keep up with everyone else.

Game of Thrones: A Foreshadowing is basically a 15 minute feature that explains how things are going to be even more violent and epic than the previous three. Which is quite a feat. It is based on A Storm of Swords, which is the second part of the third book. I have read it and it’s bloody brilliant, and there is indeed quite a lot of action and general epic goings on. There is also a new trailer I have included below that, which was just released today. You’re welcome. Enjoy.


Now here is a second trailer that only came out today!

Dust by Hugh Howey

Dust by Hugh Howey

Dust by Hugh Howey

Dust is the final part of the Wool trilogy. Don’t read this without having read Wool and Shift first. Obviously. It’s a trilogy.

Dust follows on from the end of the previous two Wool trilogies – which sounds odd I know but if you have read the books, then you will know what I mean. It is difficult to review as the Wool series is full of mystery and questions and almost everything I could say would require a major spoiler alert.

So let’s just leave this as a quick review by saying that Dust nicely answers all the questions left over from the previous stories and satisfactorily ties up all the characters’ individual narratives. It is also bloody good and damned exciting. Enjoy.