Brian's Book Blog

Mostly sci-fi & fantasy books, with an ecclectic mix of others thrown in.

From First to Last

From First to Last - Damon Runyon A collection of short stories, looking at the low-lifes and high-rollers along Broadway, with side trips to Kentucky, Florida and other parts.
The stories are character driven, with each given a back story to spin a yarn. They all have their own unique voice and fill the pages with the slang of the day.

Although set in the depression, everyone is trying to scrape enough together for that sure thing they know is coming their way, but not being depressed about it.

There's an element of pathos in some of the stories but most are upbeat and humorous.

Soul Music

Soul Music - Terry Pratchett Not laugh-out-loud funny, but good in its way. A suitably odd look at music causing the youth (and not so youthful) of Ankh-Morpork to get a bit carried away.

A good selection of characters, with some nice in-jokes.

The Bane of the Black Sword

The Bane of the Black Sword - Michael Moorcock A collection of short stories. Elric and Moonglum come up against Theleb Kaarna again.
Elric finds a degree of peace after he gets married, but has to take up Stormbringer once again.
Finishes with a Rackhir the Red Archer story as Tanelorn comes under threat from Chaos.

The stories are well written and move along at a good pace. Elric seems less tortured than usual, so there's less of the philosophical discussions.

Dr. No

Dr. No - Ian Fleming Decent Bond story.
Sent off to Jamaica to investigate a missing agent, which "M" thinks will be a lazy holiday for Bond, he soon finds himself fighting for his life.

A Painted Goddess (A Fire Beneath the Skin Book 3)

A Painted Goddess (A Fire Beneath the Skin Book 3) - Victor Gischler The final book in the "A Fire Beneath the Skin" trilogy.
It wraps up the series well enough, although the ending seemed a bit rushed.
I'd have to say book 1 was my favourite of the series, but this book does show what happens to the main characters after events settle down.

The Tattooed Duchess (Kindle Serial) (A Fire Beneath the Skin Book 2)

The Tattooed Duchess (Kindle Serial) (A Fire Beneath the Skin Book 2) - Victor Gischler Following directly on from [b:Ink Mage|20791887|Ink Mage (A Fire Beneath the Skin, #1)|Victor Gischler||26039264], this sees Rina and her companions trying to hold her duchy together while more potent forces are stirring in the wider world.
Everything appears to be happening to get them to book 3, so the ending is really a bunch of loose ends.
Otherwise, the characters are still well written; introduces a few more but doesn't break up the original dynamic.

Ink Mage

Ink Mage - Victor Gischler Fairly standard fantasy story of invaders killing a duke, only his daughter saved and vowing revenge etc.

The part that lifts it up is the magic - rather than learning spells in books, some people can have it tattooed into their skin. Finding the people who can do it is part of the quest that Rina finds herself on.

Good characters and the chapters always leave you wanting to find out what happens next.

Andromeda's Fall

Andromeda's Fall  - William C. Dietz Princess Ophelia makes herself Queen by killing the current ruler.
She then starts a purge of anyone who may still be loyal to her recently departed brother.

Catherine "Cat" Carletto is one of those on the hit-list. Being a wealthy party girl, she's forced on the run as one of the purges is taking place.
She finds herself at a recruiting station for the Legion - a combination of human and robotised troopers. An updated French Foreign Legion, they take people with no questions asked and allow them to choose any name they want.

The story is part of Dietz' [b:Legion of the Damned|722434|Legion of the Damned (Legion, #1)|William C. Dietz||708671] series, but you don't need to have read them to get into this book.

There's plenty of action both before and after Cat joins up, plus the new Queen sets up a special unit to track down anyone still on her list of undesirables.
The characters are well written, and there are plenty of tense moments from boot camp, being tracked and having to fight in an ongoing war.

Willful Child

Willful Child - Steven Erikson Parody of all the Star Trek tropes.
Interesting idea, but tries too hard to be funny.
The last few chapters suddenly turn serious (up to a point) as an explanation is given to say why everything is happening.

Kal Jerico: Blood Royal (Necromunda)

Kal Jerico: Blood Royal (Necromunda) - Gordon Rennie, Will McDermott Good sci-fi set in the Necromunda part of the 40K universe.
Takes a more humorous approach to the underbelly of the Imperium, as bounty hunter Kal Jerico has to retrieve secrets that could destroy the ruling house.

Characters are well written, plenty of action keeps it moving along at a good pace.

Marine Cadet (The Human Legion Book 1)

Marine Cadet (The Human Legion Book 1) - Tim C. Taylor Humans have been turned into the lowest class of beings in the galaxy. They are now bred as cannon fodder, being taught to fight as Marines for their various overlords.

Arun McEwan is one of those marines, and the book is described from his point of view. A fair amount of bad luck seems to follow him around, losing the respect of his team mates but gaining allies in other places.

As hints and clues point him towards what is being done to the humans, he starts to think of a Human Legion, which fights for its own honour.

Similar to Starship Troopers or the Dirigent Mercenary Corps series by Rick Shelley (or just about any military sci fi/marines books), this starts at the boot camp level and explains the way things operate.
The background is interesting, and the chapters flow nicely to keep you turning the page. The characters are well done, their attitudes changing as their bodies and minds are adapted to change from cadets to full fledged marines.

The Bourne Supremacy. Robert Ludlum

The Bourne Supremacy. Robert Ludlum - Robert Ludlum David Webb, AKA Jason Bourne, is drawn into events in China and Hong Kong. Another assassin is being used to take out rival groups prior to the handover, and using his name.
The US trick Bourne into going after him, but it rapidly spirals out of their control.

There's a lot of tense moments as the government plays with Webb's/Bourne's mind to make him their assassin by putting at risk the things he cherishes.

There are several plot threads running through the book, and the characters are well written in each one.

The Small Texan

The Small Texan - J.T. Edson If you haven't read any of J.T. Edson's Floating Outfit books, then this is a good place to start.
Three connected short stories introduce Dusty Fog, Doc Leroy, Waco, the Ysabel Kid and Mark Counter and the things that set them apart from other denizens of the old west.

There's no long build ups, or looking at people's motivation. Baddies are bad and need good guys like the Floating Outfit to bring them down.

Reads like a good B-movie Western, with lots of action in a short book and plenty of lead flying around.

U.S.S. Enterprise Manual (Haynes Owners Workshop Manual)

U.S.S. Enterprise Manual (Haynes Owners Workshop Manual) - Ben Robinson;Marcus Riley;Michael Okuda A look at all the starships to bear the name Enterprise, from the NX-01, up to NCC-1701-E.

Each ship is well described, brilliantly illustrated with cutaway diagrams and detailed labelled pictures of all the main parts.
The history of each ship is then described and various parts of the ship will have a more in-depth write up.

The original NCC-1701 (original series) and Enterprise-D (from The Next Generation) seems to get the lion's share of the book compared to the others. Not an issue by itself, but would have been good to see the others get a bit more detail.

If it's just Enterprise-D you want to know about then [b:Star Trek The Next Generation: Technical Manual|3926173|Star Trek The Next Generation Technical Manual|Rick Sternbach||141022] is a lot more detailed.

Along the way there are also looks at parallel universes and how transporters work.

Battlecorps Anthology, Volume 1: The Corps

Battlecorps Anthology, Volume 1: The Corps - Loren L. Coleman Collection of short stories, mostly Civil War period but a few covering earlier eras.
Some of them seem to be "deleted scenes" from other novels, expanding on people and events in the original. If you've read the other classic Battletech books then you can work out where they fit in quite easily.

As with most collections, some stories stand up better than others, but there's no real weak ones.

A good selection of stories to scratch the Battletech itch.

Leviathan Wakes (Expanse #1)

Leviathan Wakes (Expanse #1) - James S.A. Corey Earth, Mars and the outer planets find themselves drawing battle lines as ships are being destroyed by one or the others forces.

A freighter discovers the first and finds itself being hunted for its information.

A cop is asked to find a rich kid whose turned her back on an influential family.

As the threads start coming together, they try to stop a war in their own ways.

This was a really good story, each chapter flicking between the two main characters. Holden is slightly naive, thinking that making everything public will mean everyone has all the information to make informed decisions. Miller is a slightly weary cop, more realistic, and not afraid to keep quiet until he has all the facts.

The other characters are well written, and it's tense right up until the end.

Currently reading

Ghost King (Sipstrassi: Stones of Power)
David Gemmell
The Complete Idiot's Guide to Astronomy
Christopher Gordon De Pree, Alan Axelrod