Monthly Archives: September 2013

Doctor Sleep – Stephen King Book Review

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‘Stay away from the woman in the hat, Honeybear.’

‘She’s the Queen bitch of Castle Hell. If you mess with her, she’ll eat you alive.’

If you have read my earlier post, leading up to the release of Doctor Sleep, you know that while I was looking forward to reading, macabre maestro, Stephen King’s latest offering, I wasn’t as excited as I normally am for one of his new books. I’ve been a “Constant reader” for the last ten years and, while he is one of my favourite authors, betting on a winning horse just isn’t quite the same as the discovery of a hidden gem. It’s must be a similar feeling to supporting a team who constantly wins, but after finishing book 64, there isn’t anything quite like THIS winning horse. There’s nobody that can touch a nerve like Stephen King.

Doctor Sleep picks up with the now middle aged Danny Torrance following in the footsteps of his father…an alcoholic. Like father, like son. Dan’s justification is that the booze suppresses his “Shining”, his supernatural abilities that plague his everyday life and rules his nightmares. The drink holds back the ghosts of The Overlook.

Dan eventually lands in rural New Hampshire and begins working in a hospice where, with the help of the hospice cat Azzie, he helps the elderly pass on with his ‘Shining’ ability. This earns him the nickname Doctor Sleep and with regular AA meetings and good people around him, Dan finally has all he really wants.

On highways across America, a tribe of people called The True Knot travel in search of sustenance. They look harmless – mostly old and married to their RVs. The True Knot are quasi-immortal, living off the ‘steam’ that children with the ‘shining’ produce when they are slowly tortured to death.

Dan meets Abra Stone, and it is her spectacular gift, the brightest shining he’s ever seen, that reignites Dan’s own demons and summons him to a battle for Abra’s soul and survival.

A few things make this book great, King’s own battle against drug and alcohol addiction makes Dan’s AA scenes completely believable, as are Dan’s thoughts towards the drink and himself. King books are known for giving nods towards his other works but even though they’re still there, the biggest nod goes to his son’s fantastic horror novel NOS4R2, which sent a shiver up my spine.

King is, and probably will always be, my favourite author. His characters breathe the same air we do and even though most of their road blocks are based in supernatural settings, the ways in which they have to deal with them are entirely human.

This book will attract some negativity because The Shining is so well loved, but Doctor Sleep is a brilliant sequel. The author is a completely different person to the drug filled alcoholic who sat down to write about Jack and the Outlook Hotel as are his constant readers and the thought of King evolving his style and outlook on the craft excites this constant reader

Doctor Sleep is published by Hodder and Stoughton and is available now.

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The Darwin Elevator – Jason M Hough

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Titan is really starting to grab my attention. With authors such as John Birmingham, Steven L Kent, Cory Doctorow and Jack Campbell, they’re increasing their market share in the genre and adding Jason M Hough and “The Dire Earth Cycle” to that list, it’s hard to find better military/psychological SF at the moment.

In the year 2283, the last habitable place on Earth is Darwin, Australia after aliens constructed an elevator from Darwin, into space. A global plague has turned all but a small percentage of humans into crazed “Sub-human’s”. Darwin is safe from the plague because the space elevator emits an aura that protects the area around it but the origin coincides with the human interaction with it as they established orbital colonies along the elevator’s cord. Was the plague also left behind by the alien builders?

Skyler Luiken and his fellow immune scavenger crew are struggling. Skyler is finding leadership tough and the crew are borderline mutinous. When he leads a mission into the dangerous wastelands beyond the aura’s edge; he has to learn to lead quickly because the fate of Darwin could depend on it.

At the top of the Space Elevator, a battle for control begins. Neil Platz and his groomed assistant Dr Tania Sharma are trying to find a pattern in the appearances of the builders, but Neil knows more then he’s letting on and this keeps him a few steps ahead of the ones trying to claim control of all he built. When the master manipulator sends Tania along on Skyler’s mission, he becomes the catalyst of Earth’s next phase.

Jason M Hough’s debut is an ambitious one. It’s a mix of SF, mystery, corporate espionage and zombies. You wouldn’t be blamed for thinking Hough might have taken on too much for this book but as you race through the story, in a shower of bullets and debris, you realise that not only has Hough executed all of the above, he has taken on a whole lot more and pushed The Darwin Elevator to the front of modern SF. It’s incredibly fun but without being trashy, and I guarantee you won’t see the ending coming. It is great that such a relatively straightforward adventure story provokes so many questions. Hopefully this will show writers, new and old, that there can be more to Military SF.   There’s huge scope for the next two in the series so let hope Jason builds on this excellent start

4.5/5

Dire Earth Cycle are all published this year by Titan Books

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The Ace of Skulls by Chris Wooding. Book Review

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“All good things come to an end. And this is it: the last stand of the Ketty Jay and her intrepid crew. They’ve been shot down, set up, double-crossed and ripped off. They’ve stolen priceless treasures, destroyed a ten-thousand-year-old Azryx city and sort-of-accidentally blew up the son of the Archduke. Now they’ve gone and started a civil war. This time, they’re really in trouble.”

I’ve been following this series from the beginning. Retribution Falls was picked up on a whim because of its fantastic cover and I’ve been hooked on every word since. It’s not often I find a series as good as this one and every time I’ve picked up the latest on release day, it’s been like coming home. From the opening line I’m pulled back into Chris Wooding’s world and “The Ace of Skulls” was no different.

It’s hard to review the forth book in a series, because I don’t want to spoil anything for potential readers but I’ll try and keep it brief.

Darian Freye, Captain of the Ketty Jay, is good at starting fights, most of the time it’s purely accidental, and dragging his dysfunctional crew along for the ride but this time they started a civil war. They must decide which side they’re on before they’re caught in the cross fire. Frey’s choices have always been extreme and mostly selfish, whether it’s stealing from an orphanage or trying to save his own skin from Daemon’s like The Iron Jackal, but the crew follow him anyway.

As Vardia’s war rages, they find out Frey led them into danger to find the woman he loved and lost, the infamous Pirate Queen Trinica Dracken, and it threatens to tear them apart. As the story unfolds, Frey’s hold on the crew starts to slip but when Frey needs his crew the most, who will be left at his side?

The Ace of Skulls is fantastic with tonnes of action and heart pounding moments. The crew have come on so much since the first book without losing a step. I genuinely care about each of them and their individual plot lines. The dialogue between them can be hilarious at times but heart breaking at others and in this book it feels like Chris has really got into his stride.

These books really are incredible. It’s a mix of Firefly and Pirates of the Caribbean just without being cut short too soon and defiantly without Orlando Bloom. If you could somehow describe them in one word, it would be “fun” but they achieve this without ever becoming trashy. They include some really dark scenes which are quite hard to read. My particular favourite is Crake’s, a daemonist of high society, and his childlike but brutal Golum Bess. How they came to be aboard the ship is a constant theme throughout and their story runs even deeper in this one.

To experience everything The Ace of Skulls has to offer, you need to go back and read the first three first. Trust me the pay off is 100% worth it. The series goes

1 Retribution Falls

2 The Black Lung Capitan

3 The Iron Jackal

4 The Ace of Skulls

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I’ve heard that this could be the last of the Ketty Jay books. If it is, it’s a perfect bon voyage. I would love him to continue the series but I would rather Chris go out on his own terms rather than suffering through a dip in quality. I’ve had such a good time reading these books and I’m looking forward to what Chris produces next. So fill up those aerium tanks one more time. You in for a helluva ride, I promise.

So whether you’re new to the series or seasoned swashbucklers I’d love to hear how you get on, so get in touch on here or twitter @Europa_Outlaw

This book is published by Gollancz and is available now

http://www.waterstones.com/waterstonesweb/products/chris+wooding/the+ace+of+skulls/9595048/

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Competition – Signed Police by Jo Nesbo

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On Friday the 13th September, I had the privilege to attend both Jo Nesbo signings in Manchester. One at Waterstones Manchester Deansgate, as part of there Dead On Deansgate Crime festival and the other at Manchester Town Hall for the Manchester Literature Festival.

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The nice people at Harvill Secker and Random House, gave me a copy a signed copy of Police, just to give to you. Good luck and I hope it goes to a good home.

Just click on the link below

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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