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David Law (UK)
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Gunpowder
Gunpowder
by Joe Hill
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A lean, but packed novella, 22 Mar. 2010
This review is from: Gunpowder (Hardcover)
Welcome to R2, a hostile planet where the deserts where at least a third sulphur and sodium nitrate, the ingredients of Gunpowder. It is home to thirty special boys and Elaine, their handler, who they call Mom.
All the boys, apart from Charley, have a Talent for changing the world so it can provide food for worlds. It is what they're created for, so what happens when they have ideas of their own, or the military want them to create a weapons supply planet because of a terror attack?

In Gunpowder, Joe Hill has created a lean, fat-free, entertaining story with themes that echoes the 9/11 attacks, and growing up with the notion that you can create anything with your life - an idea instilled from a young age -this time literally:
"Jackson said the skyboats had been hijacked by solar extremists... They had grievances. They said what had happened to Killian was holy and just and was only the beginning."
"Their powers were engineered to burnout in their twenties, a harrowing passage that would kill several of them..."
There are more subtle musings on the nature of love, bonds between people, as well as cruelty, and destructiveness.

At age fourteen, the boys are starting to come into their own. Their creations are wondrous, but dangerous too. Jake has just created grass in the desert, with each blade literally being blades sharp enough to cut through leather.
If there is something I wonder about, it is how the boys learned swear words, or even think of dangerous things, but I suppose a full education is the best way to fuel imagination.

Verdict: The main cast of characters had distinct natures, and behaved believably like children, and their mother, and the novella has some of the best action sequences, and imagery I've imagined (probably helped along by the wonderful cover, even though the Gunpowder in my mind looked different). The length of the story ensured that it doesn't have any excess, but runs a wide spectrum, and lives up to the maxim: Always leave them wanting more.


The Plague (Penguin Modern Classics)
The Plague (Penguin Modern Classics)
by Albert Camus
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.99

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Thought provoking novel about humanity, 13 Mar. 2010
People often associate The Plague with the occupation of France by Germany in world war two, but to me the book has a wider message about people. The boundaries between them, the way people deal with those boundaries, and the distance between them.

I like how Camus made the cause of the quarantine faceless, it is not the Germans but a natural phenomenon in this reality. This makes the isolation of the people of Oran feel like an allegory for human nature. Additionally, the way people treat the infected despite being in a similar circumstance and splintering further into factions is terrible but honest.

Underpinning the drudgery and bleakness is hope. Dr Rieux is not a hero, but he and his team (including someone who wanted to escape, but decided to stay and help) shows the good side of humanity, but ultimately the book is ambiguous because of the (eventually revealed) identity of the narrator.

Although at times it can be too slow or too abstract, I think in The Plague Camus captures an aspect of humanity and through words alone, recreated the slow moving uncertain nature of isolation and being powerless, yet there is enough of an undercurrent where enough of the characters take responsibility, that it stops the story from being completely without hope. I don't always understand the structuring, or pace of the story, but I enjoyed it.


The Demon King (The Seven Realms Series, Book 1)
The Demon King (The Seven Realms Series, Book 1)
by Cinda Williams Chima
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Does what it's supposed to..., 4 Mar. 2010
What gripped me most and what I hope is expanded on in the sequels is the consequences of a story. The world the author created is a result of the legend surrounding the Demon King and the warrior-queen Helena. He was a powerful wizard who almost destroyed the world and she defeated him, so to make sure this doesn't happen again rules were put in place. Because of those rules certain political circumstances emerged: The queendoms royal line runs through the females, who can't marry wizards. The clan people, who make the magical artefacts wizards rely on, began making shoddier amulets which have to be replaced. That's not to say wizards are the under-class, in fact they can hold titles like Lord Bayar does.
He is a slimy character who is simultaneously sycophantic and manipulative, with the beliefs that the legend was made up and some old artefacts he slithers his way through the story. Micah Bayar shares the belief, but is more charming than his father and more openly defiant without being recklessly so, except when out of sight. Micah stole one of his father's amulets which turned out to be one of the old artefacts, and it belonged to the Demon King. However, he is not the hero of this story.

Han Alister ends up with the amulet when he and his friend, Dancer, discover Micah and his cousins setting magical fires near the Vale--where wizards are forbidden, given the proximity to a clan camp--and takes it. The consequences are the backbone of the novel, but not the driving force as the rules the Fellsmarch people live under as fact and fiction.

As a young adult novel the characters have appropriate struggles or people that age:

Han is as torn as his many names suggest. He is Han to his sister and mother, his sister younger and can see no bad, but his mother doesn't believe he left his identity of Cuffs behind. As the streetlord of the Raggers he was called Cuffs, so named because of his cuffs that have always been attached and grew with him. He can't remove them, and he feels like he can't really start again until they're gone.
He is also known as Hunts Alone, by the clan. The Vale has always been a refuge for him. He puts on a cocky front, but is often plagued by a sense of indirection as his friends in the clan get to chose what they'll be on their nameday (I love that storyteller is totally vital in the clan culture), but there is no such ceremony in his life. Despite his life as Cuffs, Han is shown to be smart and rather book-ish--which I liked--and that is a vital part of him when he investigates the Hanalea legend.

Princess Raisa, is also torn. She will one day be queen and her mother seems in a rush to marry her off. But she also has clan blood from her father and she longs to be a warrior and looks to Hanalea as an example. She knows what identity she wants but is powerless to act on it at first, but she isn't one to follow rules as her secret romance with Micah demonstrates. But when her childhood friend Amon returns, she learns more about the world and decides to help. Her growing feelings for the changed yet familiar Amon, serves to complicate matters for the both of them in ways she can't imagine.
Her journey echoes many princesses, and her romances are awkward as most would be, but she is on the way to changing, and I hope she does because she needs to come into her own.

Verdict: I enjoyed the story, although at times I felt we were told about the characters more than was necessary, the conflicts were familiar but that is a wonderful thing to explore for younger readers, or even some older ones if they hadn't thought about it in a while. Sometimes I felt the adult characters needed a little more to them, but overall it was an entertaining read with a fully functioning world and a belief system that drives characters. At times the story felt padded, so I was glad I knew in advance it was part of a trilogy because while there was not a satisfactory ending, it did leave you wanting more and I hope some of my favourite themes are expanded upon!


Prayer For The Dying
Prayer For The Dying
by Stewart O'Nan
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Friendship is tested, 4 Mar. 2010
This review is from: Prayer For The Dying (Paperback)
Friendship is a town in Wisconsin, it is just after the civil war and diphtheria has the town in quarantine. Jacob Hansen is the town's sheriff, undertaker, and pastor; if that sounds hard, tough, because you are Jacob in this second-person novel.

Jacob, a civil war vet, wants to be a good man. He wants to do what is right and that isn't easy. On top of the quarantine, there is the fire heading towards Friendship. People are panicking, people are dying, and Jacob will go far to enforce the law, even if it goes against his spiritual side. He is a complex character, and is not always the most comfortable person to be inside of as he has make increasingly hard choices, and shoulder the responsibility for death in a way he tried to distance himself from, in order to keep others alive.

Written down, the circumstances seem unlikely: His jobs, the epidemic, and the fire. They serve to set the pace for this short novel, and the increasingly conflicting roles really test Jacob as he butts against the town as it falls into chaos.

Verdict: The story questions whether he is still good, does being good conflict with doing the right thing, and why was he so determined to be good anyway. Sometimes the second-person works better, but other times it draws attention to how different things are, but the writing is lyrical and as a character study it is effective and visceral as you often question yourself and what you did as Jacob.


Birds of Prey: Of Like Minds
Birds of Prey: Of Like Minds
by Gail Simone
Edition: Paperback

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A little bird told me..., 25 July 2004
Gail Simone is the main reason I got this TPB, it was her work on Deadpool and Agent X for Marvel that made me confident that this would be a worthwhile purchase despite knowing little about the characters.
The main thing about Deadpool and Agent X was the humour took priority whereas the plot,(good as it was)took second place. In Birds, it is the other way around and some of the jokes placed within the story seemed a little juvenile for these particular characters. That said, the plot here shows signs of the planning and execution that I loved about her earlier work and the verbal sparing was good enough for me.
The art was good solid work, although you get the feeling that the artist can only draw one female face or is in love with someone...
While the story is following rules for the genre, it is expected of a new writer to a series establishing a solid foundation for themself, but you just know that these foundations are going to be destroyed when the story continues. It is a good read, but don 't expect too many changes to happen just yet.


A Crow Left of the Murder... [CD + DVD]
A Crow Left of the Murder... [CD + DVD]
Offered by BUDGETPRICES
Price: £3.94

5.0 out of 5 stars Listen to that crow, 6 Feb. 2004
On the first listen I felt a little disappointed, but then again, I wasn't really listening.
After the album was over I felt there wasn't any stand out tracks. Then after a while I began thinking of a few songs that became stuck in my head, like in that short movie on the DVD staring Mike, which was pretty amusing.
Those songs were Agoraphobia, Talk show on mute, Southern Girl, Made for TV movie and Here in my room and I'm still growing to like the other tracks. Extra star just for the mere mention of Electronic sheep and 1984.


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