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Hannibal: Enemy of Rome (Hannibal 1)
Hannibal: Enemy of Rome (Hannibal 1)
by Ben Kane
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good fun, with some problems...., 20 Mar. 2013
It's not often I bother to finish a book that I would rate as merely ok, as there are too many great authors to read, but something kept me at this one. The far fetched plot about the son of a Carthaginian noble sold into Roman slavery had me smiling at times- lots of convenient coincidences keep the plot afloat, such as when the slavers responsible just happen to stop by his home town for a drink and are overheard boasting about it -but I kept reading.

The cliches are everywhere. Enjoyable ones though- he has two brothers, one kind and generous of spirit, one a complete psychopath. Our hero befriends the teenage kids of his roman masters, and of course, the daughter falls for him. Lots of predictable conflicts arise- however the anticipation of them is quite enjoyable.

So, a slightly cheesy but good fun adventure. The problem lies in Kane's writing. He insists on using the same word more than once in a sentence- stuff like, "He was clothed in white clothes," or, "The shocking scene shocked him." I don't have a copy to quote from, so these aren't exact quotes, but you get the picture. A few synonyms would sort this out so easily. One gets the feeling the author is churning it out with dollar signs in front of his eyes, not taking the time to craft his sentences. Stock phrases like "in a nutshell' are way overused.

The other main hang-up is the viewpoints used to tell the tale. We simply get told told what's in everybody's head, rather than getting to see characters and events through a handful of select individuals. Viewpoint shifts several times per paragraph at times. The effect is clumsy.

Despite the dodgy style, its a rollicking adventure. The simple characters are caricatures, but that makes for light entertainment, and you won't lose track of who's who. The plot is crackers, but great fun. If you can overlook the bad style, this is easy reading that I suspect might turn into a guilty pleasure of mine.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 10, 2014 12:51 PM BST

A Dance With Dragons: Part 2 After the Feast (A Song of Ice and Fire, Book 5)
A Dance With Dragons: Part 2 After the Feast (A Song of Ice and Fire, Book 5)
by George R. R. Martin
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

47 of 56 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Right at the top of the list of great fantasy series..., 3 Aug. 2012
I delayed reading this series because of the negative reviews on amazon regarding this book and its predecessor, A Feast of Crows. I didn't want another unpleasant disappointment after the Wheel of Time, having enthralled me, plunged into dismal depths around book eight. With similar accusations leveled at Martin, I was wary.

After reading the whole lot back to back, I can only surmise that this is due to the lack of attention span of some readers. It was utterly riveting. Yes, the plot grows and grows, but allegations that Martin is losing track of his story are quite simply down to some readers inability to keep up. Tiny aspects of the first book turn out to have significance much later- there is no padding whatsoever, unless you consider richly detailed description to be such.

And despite the vast story and cast (the list of characters in the back of the book takes up dozens of pages by this volume) it's tremendously fast moving thanks to the author's formula of short POV chapters.

I suppose if you left gaps between reading books, you would probably lose track of things. Now I'm left to wait for book six I might end up doing so. But I'm sure if you google it, there'll be synopses somewhere on the net.

This really is a story to immerse yourself in. Utterly tremendous- full of intrigue, treachery, sex and violence, a dash of the supernatural, unpredictability, all wrapped up in a medievil realism and harshness that both enthralls and appalls. But Martin's greatest strength is in his characterization. Everyone is an individual in this book- some are hugely original, some are more traditional fantasy characters. And like all the best fantasy, there is no tedious, unbelievable good versus evil going on. No unfeasible Tolkienism. It's about people struggling through turbulent times. Some characters who commit atrocious acts early on end up earning your sympathy, and some you might like at first might lose your affections in time. And if you want 'goodies' to root for, look elsewhere. This as realistic as fantasy gets- the depth and scope is up there with Robin Hobb and Rothfuss.

It's damn near perfect.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 18, 2013 8:14 PM GMT

Martin 80/20 Bronze Lifespan Coated Acoustic Strings 11-52 Custom Lt
Martin 80/20 Bronze Lifespan Coated Acoustic Strings 11-52 Custom Lt
Offered by RST Music
Price: £10.65

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Shabby effort at entering the coated string market...., 10 Nov. 2011
Compared to the excellent elixir strings, the inventors of coated strings, these are well below par. Unlike the wonderfully smooth feel of elixirs, Martin's efforts are sticky and squeaky, almost unplayable in fact. They sound good as long as you don't move your fingers- what's the point of that? Useless.

The Algebraist
The Algebraist
by Iain M. Banks
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.19

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Banks' best book., 9 July 2011
This review is from: The Algebraist (Paperback)
Ian Banks has always been arguably the best author at inventing alien culture, physiology and habitat. With his beautifully alien gas giant dwellers in The Algebraist he has excelled himself. The attitudes and customs of this ponderous race, who live for millennia, are described in detail as the human Fassin Taak attempts to infiltrate them, propelling himself through their thick atmosphere in his tiny craft. There is a plot featuring a wonderfully sadistic baddy who tortures his enemies in high-tech ways: for instance, genetically engineering someone so his incisor teeth gradually grow up and round like tusks and eventually through his face, but it's the gas giant dwellers who steal the show.

This isn't related to the Culture series; here interstellar travel is only achievable by wormhole, which the dwellers have the secret of. All in all it's magical, mind-expanding stuff, just what Sci-Fi should be.

The Name of the Wind (The Kingkiller Chronicle)
The Name of the Wind (The Kingkiller Chronicle)
by Patrick Rothfuss
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.29

5.0 out of 5 stars Perfection., 14 Mar. 2011
This was the first fantasy novel I'd picked up for years and got me hooked on the genre. It does start a little ponderously, despite my review title, but as soon as you're into the protagonist's life story it grips the reader like nothing else I'd read for ages.

Superbly written with great characterisation, plenty of mystery, magic, conflict, romance- every classic theme of a great adventure, Name of the Wind is also intelligent and thoughtful. The settings are brilliantly pictured, the pacing after the first few pages is perfect- in short, one of my favourite books of any genre.

Truly magnificent.

Lord Of Chaos: 6/12 (Wheel of Time)
Lord Of Chaos: 6/12 (Wheel of Time)
by Robert Jordan
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: £9.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Addictive epic..., 4 Mar. 2011
This is the first book in the WoT series to fail to grip the reader from the outset. It's a long one, over 1000 pages, and the first half of the book has the characters not doing a right lot; Rand's thread is occupied largely with the mundane details of running and maintaining his growing empire; Egwene, Elayne and co are sitting tight in Salidar; everyone natters away about what has gone before in a way that would be incredibly tedious had you not read the prior books in the series.

However, despite the initial slowness, I didn't have the objections that some reviewers here have. After spending five volumes getting to know these characters, spending a bit of time with them minus full-on action wasn't a problem. And the second half of 'Lord of Chaos' is every bit as brilliant as the preceding books. Characters separated for a long time are reunited, with great clashes resulting from the changes in each other. Mat, for instance, reunited with Egwene who remembers him as a layabout trouble-maker when now he commands an army, and Egwene... well, I won't give away what she becomes. And Rand's trying it on with the previously untouchable and revered Aes Sedai is great stuff, as is his struggle with staying sane what with a dead man gibbering in his head half the time.

It's the characters that drive this series for me, and I can't think of another series that gives its protagonists fourteen novels to develop across. I love it, despite its flaws- the prudish attitude to sex, the often annoying (perhaps even a tad misogynistic?) depiction of all women as thinking that men are useless lumps to be manipulated but then falling head over heals with one anyway.

The pacing is not an issue for me. Jordan's naivety sometimes is, but on the whole the pure enjoyment of character and world-building is top notch. I for one shall read on....

Orcs: Bodyguard of Lightning, Legion of Thunder, Warriors of the Tempest (Gollancz S.F.)
Orcs: Bodyguard of Lightning, Legion of Thunder, Warriors of the Tempest (Gollancz S.F.)
by Stan Nicholls
Edition: Paperback
Price: £14.94

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great fun., 31 Dec. 2010
A lot of reviews on here seem to concentrate on how the eponymous orcs are too human in their characterisation, showing empathy and compassion, cynicism, fear, comradeship and so on. They spare a human baby at one point, and allow innocents to live. Not very Tolkienesque, certainly; Tolkien's monsters were of course completely evil in every way.

Which, for me, is more of a failing with Tolkien than Nicholls. I love fantasy as a genre, but find the central concepts of Tolkien-style books to be often downright offensive to the intelligence, suggesting that an entire race can be evil without exception and that 'good' and 'evil' are somehow separate ideas rather than a huge moral grey area. Much more for me is the realistic character motivations of Hobb and Martin, Abercrombie and Gemmell. 'Orcs' lacks the depth of Hobb and co, but at least the central characters are not painted as simplistic goodies or baddies.

Mind you, the evil and perverted queen Jenesta is almost comically evil, but great fun to read about. And come to think of it, the kobold creatures are painted as nasties too...

Ah, well. The orcs are perhaps a little too human, a few more alien characteristics would have been nice, but all in all this is a light-hearted, hugely enjoyable adventure fantasy and I'm not surprised at all at its success.

If you're in the middle of an epic series (I'm currently on book seven of the 'Wheel of Time' series) and fancy a light-hearted easy-read for a bit of a break, Orcs is the book.

Assassin's Quest (The Farseer Trilogy - Book 3): 3/3
Assassin's Quest (The Farseer Trilogy - Book 3): 3/3
by Robin Hobb
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not for those with a short attention span..., 29 July 2010
How depressing to read the few bad reviews about this amazing series, criticising its descriptive depth and the way that Fitz is emotionally scarred by his experiences. The level of realism and depth of the characters, the ways they are manipulated into desperate and painful decisions by events, all this result in the finest and most believable fantasy series that I have thus far read.

Other, far more shallow and superficial works like Brent Weeks popular books leave me cold. If you haven't yet been brainwashed into the style over content, predictable, formulaic soundbite culture of modern media then the chances are you'll enjoy this absorbing, satisfying world.

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