Archive for October, 2016

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Another first for me as I review both the book and the audiobook of Revenger by Alastair Reynolds. Check out the blurb below..

The galaxy has seen great empires rise and fall. Planets have shattered and been remade. Amongst the ruins of alien civilisations, building our own from the rubble, humanity still thrives. And there are vast fortunes to be made, if you know where to find them…

Captain Rackamore and his crew do. It’s their business to find the tiny, enigmatic worlds which have been hidden away, booby-trapped, surrounded with layers of protection – and to crack them open for the ancient relics and barely-remembered technologies inside. But while they ply their risky trade with integrity, not everyone is so scrupulous.

Adrana and Fura Ness are the newest members of Rackamore’s crew, signed on to save their family from bankruptcy. Only Rackamore has enemies, and there might be more waiting for them in space than adventure and fortune…

This has been billed as a Young Adult science fiction novel and, whilst it isn’t the usual hard sci-fi of Alastair Reynolds, that takes nothing away from story. It’s still brilliant, big idea stuff and, as ever with Reynolds, the worldbuilding is wonderful, creating a universe both far futuristic and alien with equal measure. Hints and ideas come together to form a fantastical picture, mixing space ships and pirate lore to produce an engrossing setting.

Written as an account of events by the younger sister Fura Ness this is a tale that will engage readers of all ages. Signing on board the ‘Monetta’s Mourn’ in an attempt to change the fortunes of their family, the siblings are soon caught up in all manner of trouble. Whilst the crew they’ve joined are a hardened bunch, there’s a difference between expeditioners and pirates and Fura gets to see the truth of it first hand.

Her sister taken hostage and herself left on a broken ship with only dead crew mates for company, Fura begins a transformation that will see her put everything aside to seek her vengeance. There’s something that harks back to Treasure Island here but there’s also something darker and edgier at its heart.

The cadence of the story, the slang and colloquial language, the hints of a much greater conspiracy and the immediate threats all combine into a gripping page-turner. Fura is an uncompromising character but it isn’t until the final chapters that things really become clear. Revenger is a tale of retribution and in no short measure; the idea so cleverly woven into Fura’s narrative is how that desire for vengeance warps a person in ways that make them closer to their enemy, closer to the dark, than they ever expected to be.

Alastair Reynolds is a fantastic novelist and his first foray into YA fiction is nothing short of incredible.

Audio book review

This is the first audio book I’ve listened to and it was an interesting exercise. The narrator chosen is clearly skilled at acting as she gives voice to the numerous characters that Fura encounters. Though some sounded different to how I imagined them, I’m positive this is only an issue as I chose to read Revenger first.

Listening to the book offers a different perspective on the story – a slower, more considered one. The ensemble of actors come to the fore slightly more yet the pace of the tale remains, slowly dragging you deeper into Revenger with each chapter.

Personally, I felt that the audio version didn’t do enough justice to the change within Fura that felt so obvious in the book. This is a tale of revenge; of total and absolute vengeance. Fura does everything it takes to find her sister, including some fairly extreme measures. From the teenage girl she was, at the end of the story she has become furious, unhinged to some degree and unwilling to give any quarter, reshaped mentally and physically to the point that her own sister struggled to recognise her. That is what makes Revenger such a fantastic read. In the end, Fura is closer to her enemies than she’d like to admit yet it isn’t something she’d change. Audio version or book, the last chapter of Revenger is a bombshell of a conclusion.

Review copy
Published by Gollancz

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Penguin Random House imprint Century are publishing Star Wars: Catalyst by James Luceno. Having finally watched the latest in the series, I’m really excited about this book release. Check out the blurb below…

War is tearing the galaxy apart. For years the Republic and the Separatists have battled across the stars, each building more and more deadly technology in an attempt to win the war. As a member of Chancellor Palpatine’s top secret Death Star project, Orson Krennic is determined to develop a superweapon before their enemies can. And an old friend of Krennic’s, the brilliant scientist Galen Erso, could be the key.

Galen’s energy-focused research has captured the attention of both Krennic and his foes, making the scientist a crucial pawn in the galactic conflict. But after Krennic rescues Galen, his wife, Lyra, and their young daughter, Jyn, from Separatist kidnappers, the Erso family is deeply in Krennic’s debt. Krennic then offers Galen an extraordinary opportunity: to continue his scientific studies with every resource put utterly at his disposal. While Galen and Lyra believe that his energy research will be used purely in altruistic ways, Krennic has other plans that will finally make the Death Star a reality. Trapped in their benefactor’s tightening grasp, the Ersos must untangle Krennic’s web of deception to save themselves and the galaxy itself.

Star Wars: Catalyst: A Rogue One Story by James Luceno will be released on 17th November.

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I’ve not read any of the Hooded Man books in the Afterblight universe but, if Paul Kane’s contribution to this collection is anything to go by, I really should. Flaming Arrow is quite a different prospect from the other stories collected in End of the End. Rather than the insidious psychosis that resides in Children of the Cull or the equally brutal and harsh landscape of a fractured Britain in Fall out, Kane spices his chapter in this shared-world series with the addition of magical mystery.

Drawing on the stories of Robin Hood and the legends surrounding the man, Kane infuses his post-apocalyptic tale with the idea that Sherwood Forest imbues certain figureheads with a supernatural power; to heal, to fight against evil and to help the downtrodden. In Flaming Arrow, we are introduced to this idea via an old man retelling the story of the ‘Hooded Man’ to a young scavenger.

It’s an interesting bookend that frames the narrative, one which offers an incomplete snapshot of a frightening scenario. In a way it feels like the set-up to a much larger novel – one which I hope gets written. Because, though it gives no conclusions, it suggests so much. Under the guidance of the Hooded Man, the Rangers have made Britain a safer place yet there are still threats at home and abroad eager to strike.

It’s a slow burn to start with but Flaming Arrow culminates in a monstrous showdown – one that implies a very serious ending to this harsh end times.

Review copy
Published by Abbadon Books