On his website Now Read This!, comics writer (and past chairman of the Comics Creators Guild) Win Wiacek has reviewed Fictional Alignment by Mike French, the sequel to An Android Awakes. You may remember that Win was very complimentary about An Android Awakes (a “captivating and fascinating tome”), and he is no less enthused about Fictional Alignment. He describes the new book as a “mind-bending Scientific Romance” which offers a “challenging odyssey through the theocracy of thought and depicts a trenchant guerrilla war between What Is, What Might and What Should be…”. He suggests it will appeal to devotees of Michael Moorcock, Brian Aldiss, J. G. Ballard, Thomas M. Disch among others. High praise! Thanks Win.
On Risingshadow.net, Seregil of Rhiminee has reviewed Cursed on the Prairies, the final volume in the Sacred Land Stories from Tanya Reimer. Seregil starts by commenting that Cursed on the Prairies brings the trans-generational story to a satisfyingly “poignant and rewarding ending”. He says that he “was impressed by the harrowing grittiness of the story arc. It’s great that the author avoids easy resolutions and delivers scenes that are not forced, but achingly realistic despite their occasionally fantastical and speculative nature. The author has a masterful control of elements related to past happenings, secrets and destinies, because she writes about them in a gripping way without preaching. This means a lot in the long run, because it creates a sense of realism that acts as an important counterbalance to the speculative fiction elements.” He continues by complimenting the quality of Tanya’s characterisations, story-telling and ability to tackle difficult subjects, “harsh realism”, in a way that does not feel artificial.
You can read Seregil’s full review on Risingshadow here.
On Risingshadow.net, Seregil of Rhiminee has recently reviewed The Wages of Sin by Zoë Sumra – the second book in her Underside series. Having enjoyed the first book Sailor to a Siren, Seregil was pleased that this book was “just as entertaining and epic”. In fact Seregil writes: “I’m glad to say that, in this novel, the author fulfills the promise that she showed in her debut novel and delivers a rewarding, satisfyingly complex and action-packed story that feels wonderfully fresh and exciting. I was positively surprised by it, because it exceeded all of my expectations.” Seregeil expands on this later: “Just like Sailor to a Siren, The Wages of Sin is a prime example of how to write compelling, fast-paced and gritty space opera for adult readers who want to be entertained by a good story. There aren’t any boring or stale moments in this novel, because the author makes sure that there’s always something going on to satisfy the needs of readers who enjoy action scenes.”
You can read the whole of Seregil’s review on Risingshadow here.
Seregil of Rhiminee recently reviewed Ira Nayman’s latest Multiverse novel The Multiverse is a Nice Place to Visit, But I Wouldn’t Want to Live There, the fifth book in the Multiverse (aka Transdimensional Authority) series. Seregil starts by writing “Ah, Ira Nayman has done it again!” and goes on to say that although this is the fifth book in the series “it is still as amusing, fresh and highly entertaining as the previous novels (to be totally honest, in certain ways this novel is even better than its predecessors).” Later Seregil writes that he finds Ira’s ability to parody popular culture absolutely brilliant and he was “once again amazed at his shameless way of writing genuinely funny and thought-provoking satire about TV series etc. Just like the previous novels, this novel has quite an amazing amount of references to popular culture, which is one of the reasons why I enjoyed reading it.” As he adds, “Virtually nobody and nothing is safe from his quirky humour and that’s an extremely good thing.” Seregil concludes his review with a plea to Ira: “More, please!”.
Read the whole of Seregil’s review on Risingshadow.net here.
Lisa writes that Ira’s novel “blends the elements of a police procedural with madcap humor and imaginative characters and locales” and the reader is “treated to humor that leaves no stone unturned” where “everything and everyone is fair game for Nayman’s wit” including employing “absurdity to good effect” and “a knack for giving old expressions a new twist”.
The book is liberally sprinkled with references to popular culture and Lisa specifically picks out the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Star Trek, Mel Blanc, Jack Ryan and Canadian icons such as Margaret Atwood, Celine Dion and Tim Hortons. Aliens are also fair game for Ira’s fun, ranging from sparkling word play to slapstick humour. While some of the humour is purely for entertainment, some is intended to “pack a satirical bite based on Nayman’s observation of human nature” and “politics” as well as “observations about relationships, workplace dynamics, and our interface with technology that hit close to home”.
Lisa found the book to be “an enjoyable read, although I found myself reading carefully rather than quickly so as not to miss any of the sometimes-subtle humor”. It was, Lisa says, “entertaining, and the variety of types of humor and original turns of phrase kept things fresh”, there are “strong female as well as male characters, inventive and creative scene-setting, and some dead-on satire”.
Thanks for the review Lisa, we’re very happy that you enjoyed Ira’s book.
Earlier this week Seregil of Rhiminee reviewed Cold Fire, the latest book from Peter R. Ellis (I would have mentioned it sooner but I’ve been laid up with flu for a few days). The book is the first of a series of standalone novels recounting the continuing adventures of September Weekes, the heroine of Peter’s Evil Above the Stars series.
Seregil starts by saying that it was a pleasure to read about September Weekes again because she’s an interesting and fascinating protagonist. He says that it is “just as good and interesting” as the Evil Above the Stars series, and points out that it is perfectly possible to read Cold Fire without having read the original series, adding that it is a suitable “entry point to the world of September Weekes” and although it has much “in common with the previous novels, it’s a whole new adventure and newcomers will be able to enjoy it”. He describes Cold Fire as “a well-told fantasy story that will intrigue adult and young adults readers alike” in which readers will find themselves immersed in the story as it unfolds.
Seregil compliments Peter’s good characterisation, and fluent writing. The “characters are resourceful and remind me a bit of the characters found in Enid Blyton’s novels” he says. He admits that even September’s nemesis, the Malevolence, has fascinated him since the beginning of the original trilogy – Peter has “created an ultimate evil entity, because it consumes everything it comes in contact with and leaves destruction in its wake”.
Seregil says that Cold Fire “combines elements of fantasy and science fiction in an entertaining way”, with Peter writing “intriguingly” about the alternative version of our world with creatures such as mermaids, unicorns and dragons (although they avoid men). Peter’s writing about the impact of human population growth on these other creatures and their ultimate fate has a “bittersweetness” says Seregil, revealing hidden wisdom beneath the story on the themes of extinction, indifference and fear of the unknown.
Seregil also enjoyed the descriptions of alchemy and how phosphorus and its qualities fascinated scientists. Peter manages to “convey the enthusiasm involved in the experiments to his readers in a splendid way”, which he thinks is a result of Peter’s background as a teacher “because you get a feeling that he knows what he is writing about”.
Summarising, Seregil says that what he likes most about Cold Fire and the previous trilogy is that they are intriguing and different. He is glad that the “Welsh elements – history, mythology, names etc – that readers have come to love in the previous novels can also be found in this novel. They’re an important part of the fascination and originality of the story, because they make this novel stand out among other fantasy novels.”
Seregil concludes by saying that Cold Fire is a “charming and delightfully old-fashioned yet intriguingly modern fantasy novel” that “combines the charm of classic fantasy books with modern storytelling in a successful way”.
On her blog Axes’n’Yarn, Pen Tynan has just written a very thoughtful (and thought-provoking) article, which is partially a review of SmartYellow™ by JA Christy but also a commentary on the current welfare state in the UK. SmartYellow™ is set in contemporary Britain, although when we read it we hope that it is an alternative reality and not ours!
I am not going to try to précis Pen’s article, nor do I want to attempt to reduce it to merely a review of SmartYellow™ as it is so much more. I will say that Pen finished reading SmartYellow™ a month ago and says it is still haunting her. The description of life in a council estate, Pen says, is meticulous and painfully familiar. The science alluded to, that enables the inhabitants to be monitored and ultimately controlled, probably does not exist (says Pen) but that doesn’t mean we can’t imagine those who have control using more mundane methods for achieving the same goals.
Pen concludes by saying that the “real thing that left me shaken and melancholy from reading SmartYellow was a real, deep and darkly certain feeling not that this could happen, but that it already is happening.” She says that she desperately wants to recommend this book to people but with the warning that it might affect the reader (or as she puts it “it might leave you feeling like shit”). I’m going to interpret that as a positive recommendation!
You should read, and think about Pen’s article (click here to read it), whether or not you have read or might read SmartYellow™. Of course we hope you will read the book too.
On Risingshadow, Seregil of Rhiminee has reviewed Rebecca Hall’s latest novel, Instrument of War, the second book in the Symphony of the Cursed trilogy following on from Instrument of Peace. Seregil enjoyed Instrument of Peace (see his review here) and says he was excited to read Instrument of War. So it’s just as well that it is “just as good” and is an entertaining read for those who love “exciting and fast-paced YA fantasy fiction”. In fact he says it not only lives up to the first book but “even surpasses it”.
The book is a “well written sequel” and he says that those who have read Instrument of Peace will feel immediately at home with the story and “be delighted to immerse themselves in it, because the author delivers a good story”, adding that she “wonderfully maintains tension and excitement in this novel and goes boldly forward with the story”. This book “deepens the story arc” offering exciting and thrilling moments because Rebecca “keeps on building upon what she created in the first novel”.
Seregil says he consider Rebecca’s books to be excellent additions to the increasingly popular YA fantasy genre because she “uses classic elements in a fresh and modern way”. The cast of characters, he says, is “delightfully versatile” with good characterisation because Rebecca writes fluently about “the characters’ feelings, lives and abilities”. He especially likes Rebecca’s “more entertaining and original approach” to vampires, avoiding the common clichés that are often overused in YA faction. He thinks that many readers will like Rebecca’s “vision of vampires, because in her novels the vampires feel much fresher than in many other novels”. He also finds her approach to magic to be “intriguing” and effortless, as is her ability to combine various fantasy elements. He says “I liked it a lot in Instrument of Peace, but now I find it even more intriguing, because she doesn’t seem to hold back anything anymore, but delivers a fantastical story with plenty of excitement.”
Seregil says that, although many YA novels have been written about magic schools and angels, “this novel stands out due to its interesting story and exotic setting” adding that the backdrop of New Zealand locations “adds lots of freshness to it”.
In conclusion, Seregil says that Instrument of War is “one of those rare novels that will captivate younger readers from the very first chapter and will make them read it in one sitting, because the story is immersive”. He is now looking forward to reading the concluding novel Instrument of Chaos (which will be published early next year) because “the story arc is fascinating”.
His final verdict: Good, intriguing and well written YA fantasy that is exciting and fast-paced entertainment for readers of all ages.
Brian starts by pointing out that even a “diamond-hard writer” like John Gribbin who is “enthusiastic to write hard science fiction” and keen to keep the science real, sometimes has to “cheat a little with the science to make the stories work”. But as this is science fiction, Brian accepts that “scientific accuracy should always come second to the ‘fiction’ part”.
That aside, Brian says that this collection includes excellent stories, adding “I’m fond of short, sudden-twist-in-the-end stories, of which this collection includes some excellent examples.” One of his favourites was The Royal Visit, which “delivers a remarkable amount in just two and a half pages, including an enjoyably dark twist in the ending”. He says there are also longer stories that are “very enjoyable slower and more thoughtful pieces”, highlighting in particular The Best is Yet to Be and Something to Beef About. The Royal Visit… delivers a remarkable amount in just two and a half pages, including an enjoyably dark twist in the ending
Brian observes that many of the stories are in the style of classic science fiction from the 50s, and like classics some have aged better than others, especially where the science has moved on significantly in the intervening years. Nevertheless, overall there’s “plenty of good material here” and he concludes that it is a “meaty, classic collection”.
We’d like to thank Brian for his review. You can read it in its entirety on the Popular Science book review sitehere.
On her blog, All Things Jill-Elizabeth, Jill-Elizabeth recently reviewed The Janus Cycle and Dinnusos Rises by Tej Turner. The books were not her usual fare and she “found them a bit, well, grittier than my taste tends to run”. She freely admits that she decided not to finish reading either book, but felt compelled to write a review because to not do so wouldn’t “do justice to the author OR story … simply because I picked up a book outside of my comfort zone and it delivered what it promised, namely a story that I wasn’t exactly comfortable launching myself into.”
The Janus Cycle has multiple narrators (one per chapter) telling different aspects of the story from differing perspectives as they lead inevitably to the final event (that they all need to prevent). Jill comments that, as “the narrative progresses, you get glimpses of where you are and why you’re there, but there’s a certain amount of flexibility in the style that I struggled with a bit. I tend to prefer my novels in a more traditional format – I’m a bit old-school in that regard.” She adds “I like a slow-build, with lots of backstory and complicated, well-developed, characters. Janus has the latter in spades…” The stories that lead to the denouement are “told well” but unfortunately Jill couldn’t make it to the end.
Dinnusos Rises was, she says, “more my style”. However this too has multiple narrators and ultimately involved Jill feeling uncomfortable. As she says it “isn’t a comfort book, and I think stepping outside of my comfort zone is where I ran into issues with them. That’s me, not the books.” She found the characters “intriguing” and “colorfully presented without ever feeling either over- or under-done”. Tej, she says, “manages a tidy turn of phrase in his descriptions of people and their emotional baggage – there are some cleverly massaged psychological insights here, and those were fun to discover.” She adds “The writing is strong, as is the characterization”.
She concludes by saying that Tej is “a very talented individual”, describing his writing as “full-frontal, Gonzo storytelling”. Although they were quite far outside her usual reading taste, Jill says “they were very well crafted and the characters are deeply human for good and for ill. And on top of that, the cover illustrations are extremely cool, aren’t they?” As well as complimenting Tej’s writing and the covers of both books, Jill also described both Tej and Elsewhen Press as “exceedingly cool and easy to work with” – obviously a very discerning person!
You can, and should, read the whole of Jill’s review on her blog here.