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This has been sitting on my shelf for some time and I’ve been eager to read it but for all the review titles I get sent (though I’m definitely not complaining). However, I couldn’t leave it any longer and now I’m desperate to get hold of the last book in this exceptional trilogy. I reviewed Promise of Blood here and can safely say, The Crimson Campaign is just as exciting and just as epic.

Once again, the majority of the action centres around Field Marshal Tamas, his son Taniel Two-Shot and Inspector Adamat. Tamas is trying to combat the Kez army from invading Adro but is battling an enemy who have the power and wrath of an injured god backing them. Taniel, after surviving the devastating battle of South Pike, finds himself back on the frontline along with his companion Ka-Poel, an enigmatic young women. Adamat, having confessed his forced treachery to Tamas, is desperate to find his family and is in the hunt for his enemy, Lord Vetas.

Each plot line intertwines and affects the other brilliantly. Tamas is caught behind enemy lines and must fight his way back to Adro against all odds. Taniel finds himself fighting against a military command who thinks his father dead and retreat as the only option. Adamat, caught in a game of cat and mouse, must capture a villain more cunning and vile than he’s ever encountered before. Each has a protagonist to better, obstacles to overcome and help from unlikely places. Ka-Poel, especially, is revealed to be more powerful than anyone, including Taniel, could imagine.

The book, at nearly 600 pages, burns along at a terrific pace, each plot line building and keeping interest. This is proper epic fantasy, helped all the more by the stunning worldbuilding, excellent characters and all-out action adventure. There’s tales of vengeance woven throughout; of heroism and bravery. Yet, there is also the political machinations of Tamas’s post-revolution at play in the background witnessed by Adamat. Equally, Taniel discovers more than just cowardice behind the retreating Adro army. Finally, there is Nila – a seemingly peripheral figure at first – who is revealed to be more than just a laundress.

There’s a lot going on in this second instalment and I’ve hardly touched on a number of things. That said, there’s no extra fat. It’s all flintlock fire-fights, magic and mages, gods and powerful politicians and it’s awesome.

My Copy
Published by Orbit

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I’ve come across numerous recommendations for Armor, many of them stating that it was underrated, perhaps even a little obscure. Yet, all offering up praise for its bold and unique take on military science fiction ideas and great story. I’m going to wholeheartedly agree with the latter of those statements. To me, John Steakley’s novel is a must read if you enjoy science fiction with a military emphasis. Who doesn’t like their fiction filled with power armour, space aliens and brutal warfare?

Published in 1984, the book, however retains a poignant and very modern message regarding the futility and horror of battle. Rather than glorifying combat, Steakley reveals the terror and desperation, the adrenaline and addiction, and the all consuming cost that war can have on the human psyche. It is also a gripping and brilliantly conceived book that hooked me from the outset.

Told from two perspectives, the first quarter of the book follows Felix, a new Fleet recruit in the Antwar, who is suddenly thrust into battle. Unprepared and against all odds he survives – again and again as he fights massive, mindless ‘ant’ monsters on the planet Banshee. The dislocating fear, coupled with his need to survive brings into being ‘the engine’; his coping mechanism and his other self. A self that is cold and murderous. We are then introduced to Jack Crow, a space pirate fleeing prison. His story takes him to the planet Sanction, where he becomes embroiled in the politics and machinations of a pirate intent on taking the planet for his own, destroying the Fleet science base and removing the owner, a drunk named Lewis. The ruse Crow employs to get himself into the science base is an old set of power armour that he offers to the director of the base.

That armour turns out to have been owned by Felix and the rest of his story is then told through the eyes of Crow and the scientist as they watch his battles, his injuries, his descent into the hell that is Banshee as ‘the engine’ takes over. It’s a powerful tool to explain the horror that is war but also the mindlessness of the bureaucracy that runs it. They literally watch the craziness unfold and we see how it affects them, even at such a remove. Eventually, we are returned to the perspective of Felix and certain motives are explained though I’m not going to say more for fear of spoiling the novel.

The writing style reminded me of Jack Kerouac or JD Salinger at times with it’s flowing inner dialogue. But it is the driving, relentlessness of both the main characters that forces the book along at a a staggering pace. Each protagonist exudes toughness but also an internal brokenness about them. Steakley captures it so well, forcing the characters to be both leaders and warriors whilst simultaneously questioning and reflecting on their situations.

In short, it’s a furious story about war, insectile aliens and pirates. In truth, it’s about the human psyche, motivations and morality. It came highly recommended and now I can pay it forward.

My copy
Published by DAW

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Having spent all weekend climbing up and down a 20ft ladder, fixing render and painting the house, not much reading or blogging was achieved. However, lucky me did get sent a number of great looking books to ease those aching legs and slightly frayed nerves (my son is teething, poor boy and poor wife).

I’ve not had the chance to read Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter’s previous collaborations – The Long Earth and The Long War but they sound great. More books to add to the list!

I have, however, read Stephanie Saulter’s first offering in her Revolution series and I’m really looking forward to Binary. Check out the blurb below.

Zavcka Klist has reinvented herself: no longer the ruthless gemtech enforcer determined to keep the gems they created enslaved, she’s now all about transparency and sharing the fruits of Bel’Natur’s research to help gems and norms alike.

Neither Aryel Morningstar nor Dr Eli Walker are convinced that Klist or Bel’Natur can have changed so dramatically, but the gems have problems that only a gemtech can solve. In exchange for their help, digital savant Herran agrees to work on Klist’s latest project: reviving the science that drove mankind to the brink of extinction.

Then confiscated genestock disappears from a secure government facility, and the more DI Varsi investigates, the closer she comes to the dark heart of Bel’Natur and what Zavcka Klist is really after – not to mention the secrets of Aryel Morningstar’s own past…

Another book that I’m eager to read is Ian McDonald’s Empress of the Sun. The third book in his Planesrunner series, I’d want to read it for the cover artwork alone.

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Finally, I was sent the first two books in Anna Thayer’s The Knight of Eldaran series. The blurb sounds interesting enough for me to add to the To Be Read pile….which is towering…

I’m still reading Sphinx by James Thornton and it’s definitely setting an interesting premise. Review should be up soon (as there is no way I’m going back up the ladder this week). What are you reading?

Books received

Posted: May 27, 2014 in Uncategorized
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I’m lucky enough to get sent a book now and then, and last week I received two interesting parcels in the post.


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Sphinx: The Second Coming by James Thornton comes with a big tag line, citing the author as ‘one of ten people who could change the world’. This is directed more at Thornton’s work as an environmental lawyer, but it speaks volumes about the man behind the book. I’m going to try to get a review up of this next week as the premise sounds intriguing.

The Sphinx presides over the desert while methane bubbles beneath the ocean’s beds. Catastrophe is coming. A team of westerners is set to unlock a code found deep in the fabric of the Great Pyramid. The puzzle goes beyond time – for secrets of Ancient Egypt are alive beneath modern Cairo. The puzzle stretches into the universe, where distant galaxies stay alert for the future of planet Earth. It’s enough to shake the Ancient Gods to action.

The second book I was sent is the Nebula Awards Showcase 2014 and is stacked with some big names in the sci-fi and fantasy genres. With the likes of Gene Wolfe, Kim Stanley Robinson and Neil Gaimen all featured, I’ll definitely be trying to find time to dip in to this book over the next week.

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The Nebula Awards Showcase volumes have been published annually since 1966, reprinting the winning and nominated stories in the Nebula Awards, voted on by the members of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America® . The editor selected by SFWA’s anthology committee (chaired by Mike Resnick) is American fantasy writer Kij Johnson, author of three novels and associate director of the Center for the Study of Science Fiction at the University of Kansas.

This year’s Nebula winners, and expected contributors, are Kim Stanley Robinson, Nancy Kress, Andy Duncan, and Aliette de Bodard, with E.C. Myers winning the Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy Book.