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.

Monday, 29 August 2016

Dark Fire (Matthew Shardlake Book 1) - C.J. Sansom



Title: Dark Lake (Matthew Shardlake Book 2)
Author: C.J. Sansom
Genre: Historical Mystery
Published: 2004
Formats: Hardback/Paperback/Ebook

Available at:
Amazon
The Book Depository
Amazon UK

Review:
“Dark Fire” by C.J. Sansom is the 2nd novel in his “Matthew Shardlake” series of historical mystery novels. In this novel, the hunchback lawyer, Matthew Shardlake is asked to defend a young lady who is accused of murdering her cousin. The case is difficult enough but his client is also refusing to speak and if she doesn’t make a plea at court, she will be forced to face the “Press” which is a rather unpleasant torture device. However, he is soon offered a reprieve and is given two weeks to investigate the case on the proviso that he carries out a job for Lord Cromwell. Unfortunately, no job for Cromwell is without its own risks.

As with “Dissolution”, the previous book in the series I found this novel to be written in an intelligent and competent manner. The pace starts off quite slowly but as the story progresses the pacing picks up and it becomes harder and harder to put the book down. The description of 16th century London is also exquisite and I could easily envisage the Tudor world, both in look and culture. But what really worked here is that Sansom manages to showcase this period without getting distracted from the actual art of storytelling. It never feels dry or boring; I was quite simply entertained from start to finish.

The characters themselves are realistic and varied, with a level of depth that it is quite impressive. Shardlake himself has mellowed somewhat since the events of the first novel and despite some of his viewpoints still being outside the norm for a contemporary person, his intelligence, modesty and honesty will still endear him to the reader, especially when you consider the world in which he inhabits appears to be lacking in these values. I also loved his new acquaintance, John Barak, a brash young man who works for Cromwell and provides a wonderful partner for Shardlake. I really hope to see more of Barak in future novels as I look forward to seeing how his relationship with Shardlake develops.

Overall, I found this to be another enjoyable and interesting mystery novel that provides both an entertaining plotline and a vivid image of Tudor London. I can’t wait to read the next book in the series as I expect it to be just as entertaining as the previous two novels, but also because I am beginning to really love the characters of Shardlake and Barak and want to see how they further develop.

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Star Trek: Captain to Captain (Legacies Book 1) - Greg Cox



Title: Captain to Captain
Author: Greg Cox
Genre: Science-Fiction
Published: 2016
Formats: Paperback/Ebook

Available at:
Amazon
The Book Depository
Amazon UK

Review:
“Captain To Captain” is the first book in the “Legacies” series of novels which are being written to mark the 50th anniversary of Star Trek. The novel is split across two time periods, in 2267 Captain Una (aka Number One from the pilot episode The Cage) visits the Enterprise on a supposedly social call, but soon steals an artefact known as “The Key” in order to complete a personal mission. The reason for this mission is explained by a flashback to 2249 in which the Enterprise, under the command of Captain Robert April discovers a race of creatures known as the Jatohr who have come from an alternate universe via the Key technology. Una and her away team are forced to find a way to deal with the Jatohr before they can use their technology against the Federation and the entire Universe.

The story is well written and nicely paced with overall drama of the story being complemented by a few entertaining action scenes. What I liked about the 2249 period is that beyond Una and Captain April themselves I had no idea who would live or die from the Enterprise’s crew which added to the drama. I also felt that Cox has done well in capturing the characters and in particular I found the adjustment of Number One's name to "Una" to be quite plausible.

One thing which was a bit surprising to me is that so much of the book was focused on Una (Number One) rather than the regular main characters. Whilst I was more than happy to learn a bit more about that enigmatic character, it wasn’t really what I would have expected from a book celebrating 50 years of Star Trek. Yes, many Trek fans will probably like this exploration of character that was cast aside after the first pilot episode, but for the more casual fans I suspect it would have better to create a story that gave more of a central role to Kirk, Spock and McCoy.

The ending itself was also a little bit disappointing as it didn’t really close any of the open plot points. I understand it is a series but the new twist revealed at the end would have been enough of a cliff-hanger to keep people wanting to read more. Instead I am a bit annoyed that there are new plot lines being brought into the story even when we still have plenty of others ones left open.

Overall, despite my minor issues, this was still an enjoyable and entertaining Star Trek novel. From my point of view, I enjoyed learning more about Number One although I do understand that for some fans the side-lining of Kirk et al won’t be popular. The lack of closure evident at the ending was irritating but the additional twist revealed has nicely set up the next novel in the series “Best Defense”.

Monday, 1 August 2016

The Stainless Steel Rat Wants You! (The Stainless Steel Rat Book 4) - Harry Harrison



Title: The Stainless Steel Rat Wants You! (The Stainless Steel Rat Book 4)
Author: Harry Harrison
Genre: Science-Fiction
Published: 1978
Formats: Hardback/Paperback/Ebook

Available at:
Amazon
Amazon UK

Review:
“The Stainless Steel Rat Wants You!” is the fourth instalment in Harry Harrison’s amusing and at times quite ridiculous science-fiction series entitled “The Stainless Steel Rat”. If you have read any of the other novels in the series, then you will know the drill by now. Slippery Jim DiGriz is a con artist who’s been forced to work undercover for the Special Corps, an intergalactic investigating agency. When his wife is kidnapped by the revenue service, Slippery Jim picks up his two teenage sons from their military boarding school (and penitentiary) to free their mother and wreak havoc on the tax bureau. As is often the case with his adventures, this escapade leads to Jim finding himself commandeered to save humanity from galaxy-wide destruction.

Up until this point, Harrison’s series has been devoid of aliens which is remedied in this novel. And by remedied, I mean he overwhelms the Universe with an invasion of countless different slimy, tentacled creatures, all improbably banded together against us, united in their hatred and disgust for just how ugly we look. Honestly, I think he tried to cover every B-movie alien he could; he really did make up for his previously human centric Universe!

In regards to the writing itself, well it is fast paced and full of many witty and humourous moments, just like the other novels in the series. At times it did feel a little bit like Harrison was running out of new ideas however as the basic frame work of the plot is very similar to the other novels. And don’t get me started on the use of time travel again; I seriously think this gimmick is getting overused. The resolution’s also a little convenient, but it is in keeping with the tone of the novel so it didn’t bother me that much.

Don’t get me wrong, it is still an enjoyable romp and I probably liked this one more than the previous novel “The Stainless Steel Rat Saves The World”. However, it is just more of the same and there is probably only so many times you can enjoy following these parodies of golden age sci-fi novels before beginning to get a little bored.

Overall, this is another entertaining novel in “The Stainless Steel Rat” series that should appeal to those of you have who have already read the previous novels. Yes, the books are beginning to feel a bit samey but Slippery Jim DiGriz continues to be an enjoyable and engaging character who keeps drawing me back into his world, even if the originality is now slightly lacking.

Saturday, 2 July 2016

Star Trek: Treaty's Law (Day of Honor Book 4) - Dean Wesley Smith & Kristine Kathryn Rusch



Title: Treaty's Law
Author: Dean Wesley Smith & Kristine Kathryn Rusch
Genre: Science-Fiction
Published: 1997
Formats: Paperback/Ebook

Available at:
Amazon
Amazon UK

Review:
“Treaty’s Law” by Dean Wesley Smith & Kristine Kathryn Rusch is the fourth book in the “Day of Honor” series, a collection of Klingon focussed cross-over Star Trek novels. Whilst it is the fourth book in the series, it is actually the first book chronologically and involves a standalone plot so there was no issue in regards to reading it out of series order.

The story is set during The Original series period on the planet Signi Beta, a planet ideal for farming which both the Klingons and Federation wish to claim. The Klingon’s have a stronger claim but Kirk really doesn’t want to lose it, especially when his old adversary, Commander Kor is involved. However, when the Klingon Colony is attacked by powerful, unknown aliens, it is up to the crew of the Enterprise to work alongside the Klingons in order to survive.

The story was well written and fast paced with a fair amount of action. It reminded me a bit of the usual Kirk centric action plots you would see on the TV series. This feeling I had was enhanced by the characters who are well captured and easily match what we know of them from the TV series. However, the authors also added in a few new characters such as the Klingon Kerdoch. He was a well-rounded character who was used well to add different views into the story without eclipsing the regular characters. In a way he reminded me of the usual “Guest Stars” you would have seen during the TV series, who have prominent roles but are used alongside the regular cast rather than instead of.

One disappointing aspect of the novel is in regards to Kor. He basically spends most of the novel injured and doesn’t really say that much. Therefore there is very little of the enjoyable verbal sparring that you would normally get to see between him and Kirk. It wasn’t a huge issue, but I would have enjoyed seeing a little bit more of him, especially considering he is quite prominent on the cover.

Overall this is an enjoyable original series novel although I don’t think it adds that much to my knowledge of Klingons. Still, if you are interested in Klingons you may as well still pick it up for a read as there are the odd interesting elements present. Like in regards to the non-warrior aspects of Klingon culture.