Brian's Book Blog

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

Kill Order / Vendetta

Kill Order / Vendetta - Jack McSporran Introduces Maggie Black, an agent with The Unit, which takes on tasks the government wants to keep hidden.

In Kill Order, Maggie is framed for killing the Mayor of London, and has to discover who is really behind it.
Vendetta is a prequel story, looking in more detail at one of the events mentioned in the first book.

There's nothing unique or original in either story (both are slightly predictable), but they move along at a good pace and there's always something happening.

Bit repetitive in places - whenever Maggie and her boyfriend are about to get down to some "snuggle time", it always tells how she bites his lip, and he moans. (Probably he's trying to tell her to stop biting his lip).

Kill Order was better than Vendetta (in my opinion), due to a wider range of characters on both sides.

Into a Dark Realm

Into a Dark Realm - Raymond E. Feist 3.5 stars

There's nothing on this book to say it's part 2 of a new trilogy (if you pick it at random from a bookshop shelf), so takes a bit of getting used to what is essentially a whole new lot of characters than what you'd expect.
You're thrown in at the deep end as you work out whose who and what is going on.

Once past that, this is a good story with lots going on. More rifts are opening up on Midkemia and Pug and his friends and family have to work out what threat may be coming their way this time.

Characters are well written, and the places they have to go to are all unique.
Nothing is really achieved by the end of the book, other than everyone being in their places for the finale.

Haven Of Lost Souls (Hawk And Fisher)

Haven Of Lost Souls (Hawk And Fisher) - Simon R. Green Introduces Captains Hawk & Fisher of the Haven city guard.
Renowned for being honest and brutal in equal measure, they come across a selection of low and high society during their cases.

The stories are told well, being a mix of police work with fantasy/magic trappings added on to them.

Most of the stories are a bit predictable in places, but they have well written characters and keep going at a good pace.


Papillon - Henri Charrière, Patrick O'Brian There's some dispute over whether this is 100% factual, but even so it's a good read.
Henri Charriere is sent to the French penal colonies after being set up.
Tells of his time on the islands and various escape attempts.
It's told in an engaging style, and he brings other characters to life. Some of his choices seem self-defeating, and even wanting revenge doesn't always answer why he gives up a good life he is making.

He lays things on a bit thickly when he explains the inherent decency of all the other convicts or natives he runs across.

Overall, it's a well told tale of being given a bad deal and making something good out of it.

The Builders

The Builders - Daniel Polansky There's a lot of other reviews comparing this to the Redwall series by Brian Jacques, but apart from anthropomorphic animals there's not a lot of similarities. If anything, it put me more in mind of Rango with the settings and characters.

This isn't necessarily a book for kids. It's more Magnificent Seven (and Seven Samurai by association) done with animals.

The Captain (a mouse) gets his old crew together to go and settle some old scores in an old West backdrop.
A short and bloody read, the characters are well written and the pacing is just right.

The Red Sword

The Red Sword - Michael  Wallace 3.5 Stars - this is a decent start to a trilogy.
This book is mostly setting the scene and world building, introducing the main characters.
There was quite a lot going on, mainly focussing on the four main wizards apprentice characters and their strengths and weaknesses.

Don't let "wizards apprentice" put you off - this isn't some YA teen wizarding adventure. One of the apprentices is 30 years old and may still have a while to go, and the others are similar ages.

Will be interesting to see where this story goes.

Moving Pictures (Discworld, #10)

Moving Pictures (Discworld, #10) - Terry Pratchett Pratchett's take on the entertainment industry taking a leap into the Century of the Fruitbat on the Discworld.

Mostly it's obvious puns and re-imagining Hollywood classics, but the characters are done well and it keeps moving at a good pace.
Introduces a few characters who go on to larger roles in other books, so is good to see where they started.

There's quite a few more footnotes than usual, may make it a bit tricky on e-books.

Black Rift

Black Rift - Joshua   Reynolds Even though it reads like an extended battle report, with people getting all their toys on the table, this is a good fantasy novel set in Games Workshop's new Age of Sigmar setting.

The forces of chaos are over running the world of Klaxus, and the Stormbound forces of Orius are all that stand in their way.

Individual battle scenes are well written, and both forces are a bit more fleshed out than in other novels.

The Emperor of the Eight Islands

The Emperor of the Eight Islands - Lian Hearn Set in a fantastical/mythical Japanese background, following the fortunes of a disparate group of people.
After the emperor is killed, his son is forced into hiding as a court favourite is placed on the throne instead. A nephew escapes his uncles attempt on his life and finds refuge in the forest.

There's quite a few threads woven into this tale, each chapter focuses on one main character which helps keep track of things. Occasionally you notice as one person advances the overall timeline of the story and you then go back a short time to catch up with the next character from where they were left off.

A good mix of natural and supernatural, suspenseful in places, with well written characters.

Kill Hitler - Operation Valkyrie 1944

Kill Hitler - Operation Valkyrie 1944 - Neil Short Starts briefly with a look at other attempts, but the main focus of the book is events on 20 July 1944 when a group of officers tried to assassinate Hitler.

As usual with Osprey books, this is a concise version that details key personnel, places and how things unfolded.

Well illustrated with photographs of the scenes (both present and at the time), maps, and a few "dramatic reconstruction" illustrations.

The author has done a good job of encapsulating relevant details into a small page count.

Rise of the Ranger (Echoes of Fate: Book 1)

Rise of the Ranger (Echoes of Fate: Book 1) - Philip C. Quaintrell I struggled with this book through the first two-thirds, then it picked up in the last third, hence the fact it took over a week to finish.
The story is fairly basic stuff, none of the characters particularly endeared themselves to me.

Could do with a bit of proof reading. "Drawer" became "draw", "taut" became "taught", and worst of all the author uses "of" instead of "have" in a few places. (Just one of those things that really grates with me).

This is the first book of a series, but I won't be going along for the rest of the journey.

The Third World War, August 1985: A Future History

The Third World War, August 1985: A Future History - John W. Hackett, John Strawson Written in the '70s, looks at what a nuclear war could be like in the far future of 1985.
Partly it's a gripe against cost & personnel cutting that was going on, other parts look at the sea, land and air forces and the role they would play.

It's an interesting book, obviously some of the predictions didn't happen as expected. It suffers from being really dry in its presentation. Lots of lists of the type of vehicles and weapons in use by the NATO and Warsaw Pact forces.

White Death

White Death - Clive Cussler, Paul Kemprecos Dirk Pitt Kurt Austin and his best friend Al Giordino Joe Zavala get involved with an anti-whaling group and a mad scientist in this piece of fan fiction which Cussler probably only put his name to in order to pick up some royalties.

Austin has the same quirky collection thing going on (old duelling pistols instead of cars), the same animal magnetism to any female in his vicinity, the same derring-do...basically, he's Dirk Pitt under another name.

The story in itself isn't bad (but predictable), the peripheral NUMA characters are all ones from previous Pitt novels, rahter than trying to introduce a whole new cast.

Death Count

Death Count - L.A. Graf Decent murder mystery set on the Enterprise as it is sent to try and calm things down on the Orion/Andorian border.

Mainly focuses on Sulu, Chekov and Uhura. Kirk and Spock get a few scenes.

Hearts of Chaos

Hearts of Chaos - Victor Milán Camacho's Caballeros get sent to look after various resources of their employer following rumours they will be attacked by rogue DCMS units.
Not a lot of mech action in this one, the majority of the book is discussions within the Caballeros and with the natives who don't think they should be there.

The Warlord of Mars

The Warlord of Mars  - Edgar Rice Burroughs After his wife Dejah Thoris was trapped in the Temple of the Sun at the end of book 2, John Carter tries to find a way to rescue her.

He ends up going all over Mars, finding friends and killing enemies along the way.

No real surprises in this book. Carter goes from one situation to the next, managing to overcome any obstacles in his path.

Currently reading

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