Outliers: 2016: Volume 1 (Outliers Saga)

Outliers 2016 Cover

This book was a collaboration between Jonathan Ward, Alec McQuay, James Fadeley, Robbie MacNiven, A.R. Aston, Manuel Mesones. For me the biggest downside to this book was that there were not more graphical elements like the luscious cover art. I’d loved to have seen a picture of Meld in New York. That would have been epic. If you haven’t read Outliers: The Shape Of Things To Come I highly recommend it. The format for this book was a lot more traditional than the primer and that could have spoiled this book for me, but it didn’t. I did find the odd memo and email worked well in this book but would have liked a couple more.

In some ways reading this felt a bit like watching Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D but there was a more gritty and realistic feel to it. I liked the fact that there wasn’t a binary confrontation. The different factions twisting and bumping together really added a depth to the story and had me itching to see how alliances and confrontations would change the balance of power.

It wasn’t until near the end it twigged that Snapshot was the character binding everything together. He was an unusual character and not at all the character I thought I’d be following. I was really impressed by how the characters developed seamlessly across the stories by different authors without appearing to compromise the voices of the individual authors.

I enjoyed this book and am looking forward to the next installment.

 

 

The House of Shattered Wings by Aliette de Bodard

Book Cover House of Shattered Wings

Although I’m a fan of Aliette de Bodard I didn’t plan to buy this book.  I’ve never really been a fan of Paradise Lost and the plethora of fallen angel stories it has been inspired. Then I watched a video of the author being interviewed at Eurocon by Ian Whates and I knew I had to read it anyway.

As with everything Aliette de Bodard does this book took a simple and well used premise and twisted it until as the reader I forgot all about the premise. Sometimes after reading a book I’ll go and do some research about one thing or another, but one of the things that really made this book stand out for me was that at least a couple of times I stopped reading to go research something. The one that stood out for me was the symbolism of the Banyan tree. I now have an unhealthy fascination with looking at old and gnarly fig trees.

I have always been fascinated by food and food in fiction  when done well can be amazing. There was one line about the small of jasmine rice that evoked really strong memories for me. These references seem quite subtle as you read them but seem to have a massive effect.

This book could easily have come across as a clash of cultures and a battle of superiority not of the protagonists but on one religious tradition over another. It didn’t. I loved the way I was left feeling that regardless of your background we’re all doomed with that inkling of hope and redemption there to keep us sane.

As usual Aliette de Bodard has nail-gunned this one straight in to my brain and it is going to take me a while to get parts of this book and the ideas it has raised out of my head, and that is a great thing.

How to Be Dull: Standing Out Next to Genius by Mr Basil Morley Esq.

How To Be Dull Cover

Damn this book for making me spend a lunch time learning and bob and wheel poetry only to learn that I didn’t understand strophes. I think this book was quite possibly the single largest piece of sarcasm outside the comments section of my dissertation. A chapter later I found myself on a website reading Prick Of Conscience (way too old for copyright worries and always will be unless Disney pay more money than exists).

A tedious and dull thing I learned in this book was that when the author used the word osculating in reference to Prick I thought it was a joke to do with curves and tangents. It turned out to be much simpler and meant kissing. Oh how we laughed at the club about that. Perhaps the dullest and most frustrating thing about this book is the constant mention of the author’s agent. I know it was deliberate to wind me up but damn it worked well.

AAAAARGGGGHHHHHHH! Taupe! AAARRGGGGHH!

I did feel at times some of the frustrations of a Professor having marked countless papers came through a little too clearly. Having worked with academics for over twenty years this gave me a sadistic pleasure.

The use of “impactful” as a word is one of my pet hates so it was nice to see it being addressed clearly and correctly here. The section talking about meetings was pure genius and had me giggling until I realize that wasn’t a very dull thing to do. One of my favourite lines in this book that summed up our modern society quite nicely and goes as follows “people love to buy things and imagine they have consumed them and thus bettered themselves somehow”.

I read Mending Wall by Robert Frost because of this book and I am now re-evaluating my entire outlook on life as I clearly have much work to do before I can be considered truly dull. There were plenty of quotes and anecdotes in this book that I could bookmark to repeat ad nauseum towards anybody at work and social gatherings both.

This book has lifted me to the nirvana of dullness and I am at peace.

The Race by Joan De La Haye

The Race by Joan De La Haye

When I first saw this cover I didn’t like it. I’ve never been a fan of scantily clad female warriors (stop laughing) in fiction. In this case it made sense in some ways. This story was very much Running Man meets Xena with more than a little new world order conspiracy theory thrown in.

Like most of the author’s work there was a definite South African feel to this book. The slight differences from the usual British or American viewpoints has captured my attention yet again. This was a short fast-paced story that was effortless to read. There were no complications to get in the way of the pacing that I thought was vital to the feel of The Race.

I enjoyed this book. It was a great way to escape the daily grind and at the end I was left wondering ‘what if?’, and for me that has always been the hallmark of a successful book.

Outliers: The Shape of Things to Come (Outliers Saga Primers Book 1)

Book Cover Outliers

It would have been easy to view this as a trailer or an advert, because it was. There was much more to this than a simple advert though. This “book” had a wonderful look and feel. Why did I put bunny ear quotes around the word book? It didn’t feel like a book. It felt like a dossier. A collection of seemingly disparate materials brought together by a subtle thread. I could almost see the papers spread out across my desk. As an old role-playing gamer (I’m both old and played them for a long time) this felt like a particularly intriguing background section of a game. If you’ve ever played Achtung! Cthulhu the layout is similar but the artworks does seem crisper in this. The artwork really begs the reader to buy a paper copy or use a high quality screen to read it on. The different textures on the different letters and documentation worked really well to section things without obvious chapter headings. I liked that as it flowed really well.

This was more than a shiny bauble. For A Fistful Of Diamonds in particular was a particularly enjoyable read. It had vivid characters, a story that made sense and some twists on morality to get my head around. This story added punch and a feeling that it mattered. I really cared by the end of this. I’d have bought this just to read that story.

I finished this taster wanting more, much more. If this group of writers manage to pull together a lot of content at this level as coherently as they did here then it could be something spectacular.

 

 

The Gift Of Joy by Ian Whates

Book Cover The Gift Of Joy by Ian Whates

This book was part of the EdgeLit 2016 goodie bag.I thought it was an interesting choice. I’d heard of Whates but never read one of his books. This was is a collection of unrelated short stories. Whilst all science fiction these stories embodied the wealth of different ways that the genre has provided a diverse variety of settings and ways to tell a story.

Whilst I enjoyed all the stories in this book the most enjoyable bit of the book for me wasn’t in the stories, it was between the stories. No that wasn’t wasn’t me attempting to be clever I actually meant the spaces between the stories. After each story the author talks about the story. Whether it be that he wanted to write something based on that part of London or whether it was a particular type of dystopia that he’d always wanted to try there was something different after each story. This could have been a disaster but wasn’t. Partly from the endearing honesty and passion that comes across but mainly because every time I read the anecdote after a story I knew exactly why Whates had written the story. For me this added a new layer of interaction and feeling of being involved in the story. I loved that and would love to see this done again.

I enjoyed this book more than I thought I would and only part of that is due to the anecdotes. I’d recommend buying this book just for them but the stories are well worth a read too.

Torn and Frayed by David Cranmer

Torn and Frayed Book Cover

The seventh book in the Drifter Detective series sees Jack Laramie wandering in to yet another new town.  This story felt different from some of the other Drifter books. It felt like Laramie was going to settle down and this was going finish the series with a nice and neat ending. I was wrong. Fans of clean endings may find this one frustrating. I really liked the ending or as some may have thought the lack of one. For me the entire series has been about Laramie never really getting closure for his issues and that was emphasized nicely in this story.

In this story Laramie finds himself embroiled in a long running bitter feud that could not have ended well for anybody. As usual the gains from this adventure are at best minimal and Laramie continues his hand-to-mouth tour of America with redemption still beyond the horizon.

I enjoyed this book but I have to admit that I preferred the bonus story at the end. Missing was a Cash Laramie and Gideon Miles story set in The Old West. I’ve been a fan of these characters for a while and it wasn’t a surprise that I enjoyed it. My one  criticism was that having sat with my thumbs on the triggers I had trouble understanding how anybody could describe the Maxim as a large pistol. For me  it has always been a weapon apart. That said the use of the gun in the story worked really well and was an interesting way to show that time of the gunslinger was at risk from modern weaponry.