Sunday, 26 February 2017

A Woman Named Sellers (Witches of Pendle Book 2) - Sarah L King



Title: A Woman Named Sellers (Witches of Pendle Book 2)
Author: Sarah L King
Genre: Historical-Fiction
Published: 2016
Formats: Paperback/Ebook

Available at:
Amazon
Amazon UK

Review:
“A Woman Named Sellers” is the 2nd novel in Sarah L King’s historical fiction series entitled “The Witches of Pendle” although it can quite easily be enjoyed as a standalone novel. As with my review of the previous novel, I shall start by informing you all that the author is my wife and I was involved in some of the initial edits of the book. Of course, I am still trying to be fair and honest in this review but I think it is only right that people know about my relationship with the author.

The story is set 22 years after the infamous 1612 Pendle Witch trials and the events of the previous novel, “The Gisburn Witch”. The main protagonist is a young woman named Jennet Sellers who is forced to move in with relatives in the village of Barley, Lancashire after the death of her father. Jennet harbours a dark secret which has left her guilt-ridden and unable to accept any form of real happiness in her life. Despite this, she soon finds herself falling in love with William, a stonemason from Cumberland. Yet, just as she begins to accept the chance of a real future with William, her secret is revealed to the world and a series of events unfold which leaves her facing a very familiar and dangerous situation from her childhood which may result in her losing her life.

The pacing seems exactly right here, with the story starting off at a much better pace than the previous novel with this pacing then ramping up along with the tension as the story progresses. In addition, this novel covers a shorter time period which meant there was both a better flow and a greater opportunity to grow the characters. Simply put, whilst I felt King did a great job with her structure of “The Gisburn Witch”, I felt it was even better this time.

In regards to the characters, well they all felt genuine and this time around I actually felt some real sympathy for the main protagonist. At times her constant self-recrimination could get a little bit irritating but I could understand why she ended up like that considering every bit of happiness seemed to be followed by disaster which she would blame herself for. I ended up feeling some real empathy for Jennet and William, the man she falls in love with. In all honesty, it got to the point that the various forms of suffering they endured left me in tears.

Overall, this is another excellent Historical Fiction novel and I think it is better than the previous novel, “The Gisburn Witch”. Whilst you don’t need to have read that previous novel, there are quite a few little Easter eggs related to it around the novel which did leave me smiling when I noticed them. If you have read the first novel, then you should pick this one up as well. If you haven’t read either then I would recommend you give them a go if you are looking for some engaging, Historical Fiction novels.

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Star Trek: The Klingon Gambit - Robert E. Vardeman



Title: The Klingon Gambit
Author: Robert E. Vardeman
Genre: Science-Fiction
Published: 1981
Formats: Hardback/Paperback/Ebook

Available at:
Amazon
Amazon UK

Review:
“The Klingon Gambit” by Robert E. Vardeman is an Original Series Star Trek novel which is set firmly during the first 5 year mission period. The story follows the Enterprise as it is ordered to Alnath II where a Klingon ship is suspected of murdering the crew of a Vulcan science ship. Meanwhile an Archaeological team down on the planet refuse to leave despite the continued threat of the Klingons. Before long both the crews of the Enterprise and Klingons being to act irrationally and the risk of a major interstellar incident looms.

The first thing I noted was how short this novel is, at only around 160 pages long it isn’t the most in-depth or extravagant story. It feels more like one of the Bantam Star Trek novels which isn’t surprising when you realise that this was only the third Star Trek story released by Pocket Books. The issue with the short length however means that the book doesn’t always flow very well and issues with the passage of time abound. An example of this is that when Kirk asks for a Security Team to be assembled it seems to happen almost instantly. The author is basically racing through the story and not thinking about how to show at least some level of passing time.

Another problem with the book is that the characters are all over the place. I will admit that part of this is due to the interference of an outside force but the various out-of-character actions are still rather irritating. Unless, the plot of a Trek novel is clever, well-crafted and paced correctly, I think removing that ability to understand and appreciate the characters we all know well diminishes the book. In the case of “The Klingon Gambit” I didn’t think the story was good enough and therefore losing the characters I know reduced my enjoyment quite substantially.

The next issue I had with the novel relates to the time in which it was written. The Klingon’s themselves are missing a lot of the nuances and enhancements which were introduced in later series and novels. They are basically all brutes, who only operate for their on self-gain and are clearly just bad! In addition to this issue, some of the writing itself feels rather racist, sexist and xenophobic. It isn’t always the most comfortable of reads for a modern reader but as long as you can understand the context of when it was written, it can be ignored.

My review has been very negative so far and in simple terms I have to say that this wasn’t a very good Trek novel. However, in an attempt to highlight some positives I will say that there is a decent idea within the plot which I did find interesting at times and I still managed to finish it. Unless you are desperate to read every Trek novel I wouldn’t necessarily bother with this one.

Friday, 20 January 2017

On Basilisk Station (Honor Harrington Book 1) - David Weber



Title: On Basilisk Station (Honor Harrington Book 1)
Author: David Weber
Genre: Science-Fictiony
Published: 1992
Formats: Hardback/Paperback/Ebook

Available at:
Amazon
The Book Depository
Amazon UK

Review:
“On Basilisk Station” by David Weber is the first book in the Honor Harrington series. This series is in the military science-fiction genre, although it does probably fit the space opera mould as well. I have to admit that I only actually read the book because it was being given away for free on Amazon and the series as a whole did seem to be reasonably well respected.

The story follows Honor Harrington who has recently been made captain of the spaceship HMS Fearless, a light cruiser in the Manticoran Navy. Honor faces some resentment issues with her crew however which is only exacerbated when a new weapons policy from the admiralty doesn’t work consistently and they are “punished” for this failure by sending them to Basilisk Station, a well-known dead end assignment. However with a threat to Manticore looming in the form of the People’s Republic of Haven, Basilisk Station could be much more important than anyone could ever have imagined.

This was an enjoyable space adventure with an interesting and engaging plot which takes the reader on a bit of a thrill ride. In addition, the lack of any gender bias was quite impressive to see, it really didn’t matter if someone was female or male in this world as there was no difference between them when it came to their role, be that military or civilian. The world in which Weber has created is superbly detailed, with corrupt officers, interest laden politicians, and incompetent leaders aplenty. He has clearly thought through all the various political situations and technologies which would be utilised in this far off future.

Honor Harrington herself is an interesting enough character and I do like how Weber has created a female lead but has avoided sexualising her or bogging her done in a romantic sub-plot. Instead, we get a ship captain, who is resourceful, determined, well skilled in tactics and just so happens to be female. However, she is a little bit too perfect for my liking. The way in which she seems to succeed at everything and has pretty much no character flaws resulted in my eyes rolling a few times throughout the novel. It doesn’t help that everyone seems to fawn over her and the characters who quite clearly dislike her are also quite clearly “bad” people.

The main issue with the novel however is in regards to the various info dumps that Weber likes to drop. He just seems to enjoy dropping lots of technical information on the reader and this resulted in me skimming over multiple pages of missile ranges and physics explanations. It basically got a little bit dry and boring at times to the point were in sections it felt like a text book. I would much rather have seen this information dropped on the reader in slower time via the characters themselves. It doesn’t help that some of the pacing in the battle sections which should be the most exciting part of the novel is affected by these info dumps.

A final comment of mine is in regards to the treecats, an aboriginal lifeform who come from Sphinx, one of the planets of the Manticore system. Basically, Honor has one with her called “Nimitz” who seems to be some form of companion. I really do have no idea what the point in this creature was though. Honestly, it just felt like it was just some way to differentiate Honor from everyone else.

Overall, despite my issues with the tendency to info dump and the fact that Honor is a bit too perfect; the book was still an enjoyable experience. If you are looking for some fun military based Space Opera then you should probably consider picking up this book, especially as I think you can still get it for free from the publisher.

Monday, 19 December 2016

Star Trek: The Rings of Tautee - Dean Wesley Smith & Kristine Kathryn Rusch



Title: The Rings of Tautee
Author: Dean Wesley Smith & Kristine Kathryn Rusch
Genre: Science-Fiction
Published: 1996
Formats: Paperback/Ebook

Available at:
Amazon
Amazon UK

Review:
“The Rings of Tautee” is an original series Star Trek novel written by Dean Wesley Smith and Kristine Kathryn Rusch. The story follows the crew of the USS Enterprise as it investigates a Solar System which appears to be disintegrating. Whilst the crew suspect this may be a new Klingon super weapon they are also focused on a pre-warp civilisation which will soon be wiped out. The Prime Directive limits their ability to assist this alien race, but if they don’t do something then this species and potentially the entire galaxy will be destroyed by an ever increasing wave of destruction.

This is a reasonably interesting novel which does a good job in its characterisations of the various original series characters. Considering the authors involved, I am not surprised by this as they are experienced Trek writers so know the characters well. The plot itself is entertaining enough and there are a few engaging emotional moments included, mainly related to the Tauteeans themselves.. However, I have to admit there were a few times that I rolled my eyes in disbelief at the number of issues which kept coming along.

My biggest issue though, was in regards to the way in which the novel interprets the Prime Directive. I have always hated the way in which Star Trek sometimes uses the Prime Directive as an excuse for not helping a doomed civilisation which is how it has been depicted here. In my mind, the Prime Directive should be used to ensure the Federation does not influence the growth or development of a civilisation. It shouldn’t be an excuse to stand back and allow an alien species to go extinct. As I said, Star Trek has used the Prime Directive in this way before but it always annoys me as it never feels right to me and I can’t believe that this really would be the aim.

Overall, this was an interesting enough story although nothing out right special. The application of the Prime Directive irritated me a bit but I could probably say the same about many other novels and episodes. It stands quite firmly in that middle of the road area of Star Trek novels so most readers should find it reasonably enjoyable.

Saturday, 19 November 2016

Tehanu (Earthsea Book 4) - Ursula K. Le Guin



Title: Tehanu (Earthsea Book 4)
Author: Ursula K. Le Guin
Genre: Fantasy
Published: 1990
Formats: Hardback/Paperback/Ebook

Available at:
Amazon
The Book Depository
Amazon UK

Review:
“Tehanu” by Ursula K. Le Guin is the fourth book in the Earthsea fantasy series. The story is returns the reader to the island of Gont and the woman Tenar who had been brought to the Island by Ged after he had rescued her in the previous novel “The Tombs of Atuan”. Years have passed since then and she is ow as a widow with her own grown-up children. However, her seemingly ordinary life soon changes when she opts to take in a severely abused child as a foster daughter.

The book was written several years after the original trilogy and it is therefore quite different from the previous books, in both style and substance. Le Guin has quite clearly picked up a stronger feminist viewpoint since the original trilogy and has used “Tehanu” as a novel in which she can call out the inequity between the sexes in both the fantasy genre and the world in general. Fundamentally, I don’t have an issue with this except for the fact that I think she takes it too far. Perhaps this is just a defensive viewpoint from a man, but at times it almost felt like every female character was somehow worthy and important whilst the men were portrayed as weak and flawed. In fact, the way in which Ged has been reduced to depressed individual who mopes around feeling sorry for himself felt rather inconsistent with the man we had come to know in the other novels.

Her writing of course is as skilful as always and overall plot itself was rather intriguing if not brimming with action or a fast pace. But to be honest, anyone who has read any of Le Guin’s other Earthsea books should be used to that by now. The ending itself was left a little bit open for my liking but I think this is intentional as it is being used to set up future books in the series.

Overall, I did enjoy this latest book in the Earthsea series but it wasn’t a favourite of mine. I found the stripping back of Ged’s dignity a bit sore to take and the in your face feminist slant just came across to strongly.

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

Star Trek: Purgatory's Key (Legacies Book 3) - Dayton Ward & Kevin Dilmore



Title: Purgatory's Key
Author: Dayton Ward & Kevin Dilmore
Genre: Science-Fiction
Published: 2016
Formats: Paperback/Ebook

Available at:
Amazon
The Book Depository
Amazon UK

Review:
"Purgatory's Key" by Dayton Ward & Kevin Dilmore is the final book in the “Legacies” trilogy of novels which were written to mark the 50th anniversary of Star Trek. It picks up directly from the events that occurred at the end of the previous novel, Best Defense” with the Enterprise heading to the planet Usilde to see if they can actually rescue the various people now trapped in an alternate universe. Of course with the Klingon’s already holding the planet, it is not going to be an easy task. Meanwhile, in the alternate universe, Captain Una along with the recently arrived Sarek, Joanna McCoy & the Klingon Gorkon are trying to work out themselves if there is any chance to get home.

The authors have crafted a well-written novel that wraps up all the various loose ends. The writing is competent and the plot itself is enjoyable enough with some entertaining action sequences interspersed amongst the other more cerebral sections of the novel. In addition, the various main characters acted exactly as I would have expected, but considering the Treklit experience of the authors involved this didn’t surprise me.

However, the story did have various issues which detracted from my overall enjoyment. I suspect most of them however were related to the quantity of plot lines the authors had to get completed. Basically, we just seemed to skim the surface of the various story elements and there was pretty much zero development of the characters. The authors just didn’t seem to have the time to get deeper down into the plot lines and characters. This lack of depth was really highlighted to me in relation to the strange intermediate “ether” realm that existed between the two Universes. I have to admit that I got a little bit confused here as I couldn’t understand why or how this strange realm existed or how it actually worked. It almost felt more like Fantasy than Science-Fiction although I know the differences between these two genre can be rather blurred.

Overall, this is a competent enough conclusion to the series and if you have read the other novels then you will at least get some closure by reading "Purgatory's Key". I think in the end the best way to describe this book and the series as a whole is that they are reasonably enjoyable standard Star Trek novels. They aren’t bad but I just don’t think they lived up the 50th Anniversary hype.

Thursday, 29 September 2016

Star Trek: Best Defense (Legacies Book 2) - David Mack



Title: Best Defense
Author: David Mack
Genre: Science-Fiction
Published: 2016
Formats: Paperback/Ebook

Available at:
Amazon
The Book Depository
Amazon UK

Review:
“Best Defense” is the second book in the “Legacies” series of novels which are being written to mark the 50th anniversary of Star Trek. The story picks up several weeks after the previous book ended with the reveal that Captain Kirk's yeoman was a Romulan spy who had now stolen and alien artefact known as the Transfer Key. Whilst the crew of the Enterprise are trying to deal with this situation, Ambassador Sarek reaches out to the Enterprise to come to his aid in the peace talks which are taking place between the Federation and the Klingon Empire. If these peace talks fail that the Klingon Empire and Federation may both be doomed and therefore Kirk has no choice but to try and help Ambassador Sarek. In parallel to this, the reader also gets to follow Captain Una who is now in the Jatohr universe where she is determined to find her lost colleagues.

David Mack has done a decent job in building on the elements introduced in the first book, creating a fast paced adventure which nicely balances elements of intrigue, diplomacy and action. I quite simply struggled to put the book down and would probably say that I enjoyed it more than the first novel, “Captain to Captain”. There is also some decent progress being made in the storyline which was nice to see as 2nd novels in a trilogy can sometimes fall into the trap of being nothing more than filler which thankfully isn’t the case here.

The only real issue I have is in relation to the sections of the novel dedicated to Captain Una. Whilst in the previous novel I was surprised at how central she was to the story, this time it feels like she has been shunted off to the side with her sequences in the Jatohr universe coming across as being rather dull. I actually think that Mack has reduced her role a little bit too much and some more expansion of what was going on the Jatohr universe may have actually made these sequences more entertaining.

Overall this was a very satisfying and entertaining story which follows on neatly from the events seen in “Captain to Captain”. There may be a little bit too much included in the novel which does limit some sections such as those set in the Jatohr universe but this is a minor quibble. If you read the first book, then I really do recommend you pick up this novel as well. For myself, I am now looking forward to getting stuck into the finale of this entertaining trilogy.