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Daniel Cann

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Truth and Fear: Book Two of The Wolfhound Century
Truth and Fear: Book Two of The Wolfhound Century
Price: 4.72

5.0 out of 5 stars Surpasses the original, 18 April 2014
This picks up directly from Wolfhound Century, seamlessly capturing the atmosphere and excitement that made Higgins’ first novel in the series so enjoyable.

Lom is enigmatic and hard-nosed, Maroussia Shaumian is feisty and determined; and Lavrentina Chazia is totally ruthless and self-serving. With the towering presence of Antoninu Florian added to this mix, as well as some new faces, this entry is not short on incident and action. Higgins navigates the twists and turns through his wonderfully conceived fantasy world with aplomb, where a totalitarian state coexists with a mythical world.

The focus is on a pursuit: taking the reader through murky streets and vast open countryside, where we see much more of the Vlast. Higgins is excellent at describing his world, making it seem so vivid, despite the more fantastical elements. If the first book was a little uneven and suffered from an abrupt ending, this one gripped me throughout, and the pacing is first rate.

What makes Truth and Fear such a triumph is that it can be read as thriller and fantasy. I cannot delve too deeply into the storyline without revealing too much, so all I can say is this is a rare thing: a sequel that surpasses its original.

The Liquidator
The Liquidator
Price: 0.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Original idea and highly enjoyable, 9 April 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: The Liquidator (Kindle Edition)
I read the John Gardner James Bond continuation novels as a teenager, so thought I would give this 'pre-Bond' effort a try. Well, despite being very much of its time (1960s), this was a lot of fun. Boysie Oakes is a very human and interesting central character. I enjoyed the twist that he was not all he initially appeared to be.

The action and plotting are first-rate, and this is packed with incident, femme fatales and shady characters. If you enjoy thrillers and want a change to the norm, then I highly recommend this.

The House on Poultney Road : based on a true ghost story
The House on Poultney Road : based on a true ghost story
Price: 1.84

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Failed completely on it's early promise, 9 April 2014
I had high hopes for this one, expecting something similar to the television dramas ‘Marchlands’ and ‘Lightfields.’ Despite the good set-up this just dragged. The characters had no depth, the conversation and dialogue was forced and unconvincing. I found it very hard to relate to any of the characters and for a ghost story (or any story) that is fatal.

There are a few decent chills along the way, but ultimately, this is un-engaging and painfully pedestrian. What should have been a thrilling ‘family in peril’ saga became a long-winded and plodding account of eighty years of much of the same. It’s a terrible pity and I hate to be so scathing, but this failed completely on its early promise.

The Quorum
The Quorum
Price: 5.31

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Exhibits all the ingredients that make a Newman novel so enjoyable, 14 Jan 2014
This review is from: The Quorum (Kindle Edition)
Kim Newman does Faust! Like most Newman novels, this takes on a well-known horror theme and gives it a twist. The Quorum does not disappoint, with its mischievous humour and satirical look at the 1970s through to the 1990s. Newman manages to capture the bleakness of the seventies, the greed and short-termism of the eighties, and the introspection and angst of the nineties.

The main protagonists that form the Quorum include Mark, Mickey, Michael and Neil. The three M's all enjoy success and good fortune as long as Neil suffers. The narrative jumps between the present day and the past as the story unfolds. Some will enjoy this technique, whilst others may find it a little jarring. Personally, I managed to follow the story and appreciated the obvious care and detail that Newman has put into this. He clearly relishes the minutiae of the world's he creates, and his knowledge of film, television and popular culture in general, are enviable.

The character of Sally Rhodes, the private investigator, is another inspired creation, joining the pantheon of strong heroines in Newman's catalogue. Through her we learn more, including some very unpalatable truths. As I read on, all I could keep thinking was "Poor Neil." He really does suffer while his so-called friends prosper.

This is a cautionary tale, told with the usual wit and creative flair of one of horror's best contemporary writers. For Newman fans this is a must read. It's not his best, but it exhibits all the ingredients that make a Newman novel so enjoyable and memorable.

On the Steel Breeze
On the Steel Breeze
by Alastair Reynolds
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 8.49

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars imaginative, intelligent, with stunning visuals, 8 Dec 2013
This review is from: On the Steel Breeze (Hardcover)
This is imaginative, ambitious and visual science fiction, with clones, robots and elephants (yes, elephants). It has an interesting and enigmatic central character in Chiku who is your typical strong, feisty heroine often found in space operas.

With an array of landscapes, terrain, life forms and obstacles to explore, there is plenty going on and going for this novel. It is at times quite hard to grasp, especially early, but the concerns and issues eventually raised in this universe are relevant to our own future. The characters here are facing tough decisions with far-reaching consequences.

I did find some of the jumps in the narrative a little jarring; the plot frequently moves several years ahead, and, despite the superb ideas and concepts shared, the novel could have done with some trimming. It really does drag in places, which is ironic as it is about people hurtling towards disaster!

On the whole, this is an intelligent novel, with strong dialogue and stunning visuals. It says much about the importance of tolerance in order to survive. It is though let down by its pacing and length. I am sure most fans of the genre will enjoy it, but I felt it could have been better.

by Stephen Baxter
Edition: Paperback
Price: 9.09

5.0 out of 5 stars Very entertaining and convincing sci-fi, 25 Nov 2013
This review is from: Proxima (Paperback)
I found this an ambitious science fiction novel which was both intriguing and thought provoking. With its strong opinionated characters, exotic planet, and healthy helping of mystery, this had me hooked.

Yuri in particular was an enjoyable anti-hero, the archetypal fish out of water, who nonetheless manages to cope in very trying circumstances.

What makes this all enjoyable, is the way author Stephen Baxter manages to contrast the human flaws and concerns against the backdrop of technology and science. He makes the reader understand how small and insignificant we all are.

He also contrasts the densely populated colonies of Mars and Mercury and an array of space stations with the desolate, remote natural world of Proxima.

Underlying everything is the very primal struggle for survival. The colonists stranded on the planet go through a terrific ordeal which Baxter never trivializes or glosses over. This is a group with very human needs and opinions on how they cope. The ensuing debates and internal conflicts all convince.

This is a riveting novel, and for all its many dramatic plot strands, it holds up well, achieving a high level of gravitas. The future Cold War between the super powers of the UN and China resonate, as does the territorialism and competitiveness. Baxter has managed to create a plausible future, in fact, like a lot of great sci-fi writers, he could in fact be talking about our current world as much as his imagined future one.

Noah's Ark
Noah's Ark

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars a strong début with a powerful and unexpected ending, 7 Nov 2013
This review is from: Noah's Ark (Kindle Edition)
I was given a free copy of this book in return for an honest review.

This is a dystopian novel that manages to convey confusion, fear and uncertainty as the threads of society unravel. Its main focus is on the characters of: Michael, Doctor Roberts and Alex. The stories narrative flips back and forth between Michael and Alex; both are united in looking for answers.

The author, Andrew J. Morgan, manages to sustain the suspense and tension well, particularly early on, as everything has an unsettling feel to it. Science, the military and technology are at the centre of what is going on, and Morgan cleverly plays on all the reader's fears of these things.

Part of the story takes place in virtual reality, and there are many layers and mysteries to uncover before finding the truth. "What is real?" is the main question that drives the whole story.

There is plenty of action, (which I found reminiscent of Twenty Eight Days Later and The Matrix) to support the sense of unease and ambiguity. The only let down is the jargon and info-dumps. Otherwise this is a strong début with a powerful and unexpected ending.

November Echo
November Echo
Price: 1.86

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Origins story for the Ice Man, 6 Nov 2013
This review is from: November Echo (Kindle Edition)
I was given an e-book copy from the author in return for an honest review.

This is an origins story for author James Houston Turner's no-nonsense action hero. Having read the contemporary set novels, where the tough and resourceful fifty something former KGB operative uses his wits as much as his fists, it was intriguing to see him as a twenty eight year old.

In November Echo, we meet a very different Talanov to the one we are used to. Brash, super-confident and living in the moment, he is a very different proposition to the cool, analytical chess player of the novels.

Teamed with the striking Sonia and on assignment in Spain, we join Talanov in a world with mullets, Ferrari's, the Cold War and 1980s excess. Turner effortlessly manages to capture the mood and era. He plays well on our fear of biological weapons, also pushing the reader's buttons to elicit moral outrage and moral indignation.

The usual stamps of a Talanov adventure are all here: twists, action and suspense. The young KGB Colonel demonstrates why he is the master of misdirection: Just when you think you understand what is going on, things rapidly change!

This outing has more insights into Talanov and what made him. Noya, the fourteen year old he encounters, clearly has a deep rooted and life changing effect on him. We understand what drives and guides him, and it's not just the outlandish action and rapid dialogue that takes centre stage, this also has a lot of heart and, at times, is quite poignant.

I thoroughly enjoyed this story. I felt that I understood Talanov more by the end. Once again James Houston Turner has demonstrated his unique talent as a premier thriller writer.

The Ace of Skulls: A Tale of the Ketty Jay
The Ace of Skulls: A Tale of the Ketty Jay
Price: 4.68

4.0 out of 5 stars Great Steampunk thrills!, 3 Nov 2013
Being a newcomer to this series, I was immediately taken by this books strong setting and its well-conceived world. There is an immediacy and urgency to proceedings, and I was soon invested in each characters fate. I thoroughly enjoyed the way the crew interacted with each other, particularly the use of sardonic humour and squabbling.

Captain Frey is the archetypal anti-hero: ambiguous, scheming and self-serving. It made a refreshing change to have a central character behave, well, like on of us. Too often in fantasy literature we have people always doing the right thing and acting nobly; here, there is no book of ethics and no rules, just survival and lots of sharp-tongued banter.

The story boasts plenty of action and incident, with the pacing spot on. Ancient civilizations are nicely juxtaposed with technology, so too is the corporeal with the supernatural. Chris Wooding allows his imagination plenty of free rein, and is clearly having a lot of fun in the telling of his story.

Against the backdrop of a Steampunk world, we have romance, horror and a surrogate family in the form of the crew of the Ketty Jay. There really is a minefield for them to navigate, and thanks to the break-neck, desperation of the action there is never a dull moment. This epic final instalment makes it clear that a big game is finally being played out; there is no certainty who will be left standing at the end. There are consequences, loss, regret and remorse.

The Ace of Skulls is a soaring, good old-fashioned, rip-roaring adventure. Fans of Steampunk and fantasy in general, are sure to enjoy this; Wooding has demonstrated a fine grasp of what makes for solid adventure and thrills.

Chronicles of Ave
Chronicles of Ave
Price: 2.47

4.0 out of 5 stars a nice introduction for those unfamiliar with Ave, 21 Oct 2013
This review is from: Chronicles of Ave (Kindle Edition)
For those who already know, Stephen Zimmer is the author of `The Fires in Eden' series. Here is an updated collection of short stories from those published in 2011.

Into Glory Ride sees Marragesh a young Trogen warrior using ingenuity as well as courage to save his people in the face of an invading army of Elves.

We meet the Sea Wolf Clan and learn that one person can make a big difference. The story manages to convey fear and anticipation before hurtling into an adrenalin-fuelled aerial battle.

Land of Shadow has Godfrey, an Avanoran knight on an expedition through the Shadowlands, where fierce creatures and the supernatural lurk. Tension and menace are both conveyed in equal measure.

The band of mercenaries that Godfrey leads reminded me of the conquistadors in `Aguirre: Wrath of God'. This sets things up nicely for future adventures into uncharted areas.

Lion Heart introduces the Amazu. Sigananda is a young warrior who is on an important journey to prevent a war. This has wizards, magic and warriors. I felt this was the weakest in the collection of shorts; it just did not manage to grip me as much as the others.

A Touch of Serenity explores Chinese mythology with dragons, demons and peasants all thrown into the mix, despite the epic grandeur and supernatural elements, this story all hinged on the actions, courage and resolve of one average man, a theme that continues to crop up in the author's work.

Moonlight's Grace has a distinctly Celtic feel to it, where love and romance are explored. But in true Zimmer style the peace is soon disturbed by a horde of gatecrashing Vikings: The Midragardens.

Winter's Embrace sets Teutonic knights and warrior monks against a supernatural backdrop. The uncompromising tough action sees our characters tested spiritually as much as physically. This story is a good showcase of Zimmer's knowledge of the Crusades.

All of these short stories are a nice introduction for those unfamiliar with Zimmer's work. If you want to test the water before committing to the epic series of novels, then these offer a little background and insight. Conversely if you are already a fan, then these provide additional insight, as well as new characters and lands to explore.

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