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Empty Space: A Haunting
Empty Space: A Haunting
by M. John Harrison
Edition: Paperback
Price: £2.97

5.0 out of 5 stars a dance beneath the diamond sky, 15 Mar. 2013
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Completely awesome. Fantastic tying up of (some) loose ends from the earlier novels "Light" and "Nova Swing". Hard to describe. A collection of broken people stumble around the edge of something frighteningly Other and try not to fall in. Also: adventure, excitement and really wild things. Bonus points for sly references to Bob Dylan lyrics.


The Island of Death
The Island of Death
Price: £2.39

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pirate Aggro, 11 Jun. 2012
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This book is best described as relentless. Some swift scene setting - college buds, remote island, long lost pirate treasure - followed quickly by a full throttle tale of sex, mayhem and death.

The lead characters and their motivations are lightly sketched but believable; they act the way you expect real people would if they encountered similarly extreme circumstances. They're not larger than life movie heroes, they just want to survive. The bad guys are also refreshingly grounded, no stock standard moustache twirling pantomime villains but real beings with motivations and a simple, serious plan.

The locations and environmental challenges are well described, the plot rattles along with thrills and chills aplenty and the action scenes are fast, brutal and very much to the point. If you read one raunchy raucous pirate-treasure violence fest, then make it this one, and if there is a sequel, read that as well.


Altered Carbon
Altered Carbon
by Richard Morgan
Edition: Paperback

20 of 30 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Shockingly poor on so very many levels ..., 23 July 2008
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This review is from: Altered Carbon (Paperback)
A thin film of noirish standards stapled somewhat haphazardly over a deadening lump of science-fiction clichés.

The plot: Heavily and relentlessly signposted every step of the way; I found myself desperately wishing for misdirection, hoping it would turn out to be something a little more complicated and a lot less parochial than what it eventually, inevitably, turned out to be ... no luck there.

The characters: There aren't any. At worst, a few rough thumbnail sketches and some stage direction, and at best, stock actors playing traditional roles, on rails. The tough but fair but sexy lady cop. The mean and decadent rich man and his mean and decadent wife. The sleazy lawyer. The blast from the past. The one who changes sides right when you expect it. That sort of thing. The lead is no better, having no personality to speak of beyond a series of ticks and a few lines of half remembered poetry. Plus, he's often required to act like a complete and utter dolt for the purposes of moving the plot along, whilst at other points he is merely a receptacle into which passing helpful-stranger ciphers can either info-dump whatever he needs to know next, or just help him out with the heavy lifting.

'Envoy' training: This is a remarkably pointless feature of the novel, and consists of a highly specialised and tuned form of mental training and combat philosophy that enables lead character Kovacs to function in any environment, in any body to which his 'self' has been decanted. What this means in real terms is that Kovacs is exactly like every other protagonist who's ever appeared in an action/combat orientated book or film. He can take care of himself; he's good with a blade or a gun; he won't back down and he does what's necessary, whatever it takes. Yeah, this is called being the 'hero' of the narrative (this type of narrative, certainly). He's special forces, he's an emotionally stunted survivor type, he has a dark past. If this book had been out ten or fifteen years ago he'd most likely have been played by Steven Seagal in the B-movie.

Technology: Some of it seems wildly out of place. Hundreds of years in the future and we still have a clear dependence on projectile weapons and blades, not to mention security which for the most part relies on gathering around yourself a bunch of mooks with projectile weapons and blades ... whereas, in reality, at the first sign of trouble you'd be turning off the air in the corridors and filling the building with quick-set riot foam, or frying their brains with one of those invasive advertising gadgets. There are what appear to be ducted fan flying transports, but also gravity belts, which seems slightly ... wrong. All in all, none of the technological developments seem to have had the slightest impact on humanity or society, as everyone pretty much acts like it's the early 2000s.

Combat: I'm not sure exactly what it is about Morgan's style, but I find his fight scenes extremely pedestrian. Despite the talk of entrails and this 'and then her head exploded' business, they completely lack any sense of movement or energy or visceral impact. Much of this is due to the hero's dogged reliance on pistols, which for the most part tend to turn combat scenes into long paragraphs of 'and then I shot him the head ... and then I shot the other guy in the head'. Morgan's close up work, when he does it, isn't great, but at least it's not terrible. Of course it's fair to say that this disjointed, let's call it storyboarded, style of combat, as with much of the novel, will play better on the big screen with the thumping soundtrack and the rain-swept neon and the exploding heads.

What else: There was some irrelevant torture, indeed, there was a fairly unnecessary first hundred or so pages of wandering and scene-setting (rain, neon, sleaze). There was some light sneering at the Catholic Church, and I was really hoping that their particular sensibility would form a core of the plot, contrasting the actions and attitudes of a long-lived monolithic organisation against those of an individual, good and evil requiring the same outcomes for entirely different purposes, both sides willing to stop at nothing ... but no.

The warrior-zen thing was handled with more heart in Walter Jon Williams' "Voice of The Whirlwind", the role and place of functional immortals was better explored in Joe Haldeman's "The Long Habit of Living", and the rest of Altered Carbon merely reads like Bladerunner Lite, the movie pitch.

It's not all bad. "Sleeving" is an excellent word to describe an old-as-the-hills-of-mars science fiction concept. Plus, I liked the hotel. In fact, I'd like to see a connected set of short stories all about the hotel.
Comment Comments (7) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 3, 2012 5:47 PM GMT


Black Man (GOLLANCZ S.F.)
Black Man (GOLLANCZ S.F.)
by Richard Morgan
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.99

11 of 19 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Unthrilling Old Hat, 5 Jan. 2008
Imagine a relentless, unimaginative trawl through all the cyberpunk technoir tropes that were old hat twenty years ago, and you have this book in a nutshell. Tiresome cookie-cutter plot, wafer thin stereotypes in place of characters, cripplingly clunky chunks of exposition unloaded at random points, tedious one-note lectures delivered by multiple 'characters' in exactly the same voice.

It's trite, derivative, repetitive and so dull it makes my head ache. The main character could be a random lead from any noir or cyberpunk novel of the past hundred years. Stumbling from hunch to hunch muttering "I'm dead hard, me" to anyone who will listen. Every now and again a flash of interesting business - there was a fight scene on page 400 odd that was quite jaunty in places, for example; there was a spark of colourful prose in some of the descriptive work. Although things did tend to "detonate" in people's eyes too much for my liking.

Mostly though, this book says absolutely nothing, and does it at tedious length.


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