The Beast Must Die by Gav Thorpe

Cover The Beast Must Die by Gav Thorpe

This was the eighth book in the Beast Arises series. I know some people thought there has been too much politics in the previous few books (not me) but this book broke that trend in a big way.  This book seemed like it was one continuous battle, something that not many people could have pulled off. Don’t panic if you’re one of the politics fans because this book sets things up nicely for the next.

There was a sense that this was it. The big battle, the culmination of everything that had come before. Then came the twist, or more accurately the grinding of the skulls beneath giant hobnailed boots. I had to reset everything I thought would happen in the series after reading this book. In short and without spoilers everything was in a lot worse state than I’d thought.

In terms of action and a continuous battle scene this was probably one of my favourite Black Library titles. I don’t think it possible for anybody to have read this book and not instantly grabbed for the next volume.

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Besieged by Joan De La Haye

Cover Besieged by Joan De La Haye

I have to admit that the cover made me chuckle. Yes I’m a child and the word besieged across a bottom will always bring out that childishness. As you can probably see from the title this is the third in the series of The Race books. Although this book works perfectly well stand-alone given the price and time to read them I can’t really think of a reason not to read them first.

Fast readers will devour this in a lunchtime or maybe two for others. It was cheaper than a coffee and arguably better value. It wasn’t just the length of the book that made this such a quick read, the author’s pacing whilst going through the expected changes is generally quick and easy to read to begin with. There was nothing to take me out of the moment and it felt almost like a single moment. I liked that. Whilst not a plot heavy story there is enough to add some drama and intrigue.  At this point in the series it was possible to actually think that kidnapping women and making them fight to the death as superhuman warriors wasn’t entirely wrong.

This was a fun read and I’m looking forward to see how the story ends in a couple of books time.

The Ether by Garvey and Dizevez

Image from Matt Garvey's website go check it out (source page linked on image).

Image from Matt Garvey’s website go check it out (source page linked on image).

Before you read this take another look at that cover. Really look at it. I can’t articulate just how much I liked this cover. I’ve always loved it when I’m taken out of the narrative in a an interesting way.  This may not sound sane but there is a subtlety to the brash and obvious way the author subverts and older style of cover art. The first time I read the cover I missed a good portion of what was going on. Take another look, you know you want to. There was something  rather pleasing about the clarity of this cover, like the slap in the face I get when reading hard-boiled noir.

Inside the drawing style continued to describe a vigilante helps cops story. Taking a lead from this publication I’m going to break out of my review to talk about buying it. I visited MCM Comicon in London last Friday. Probably my favourite bit was wandering around the authors section. There was something fascinating about standing in front of a writer you’ve never heard of and them telling you about their labours of love and why you should buy them. In nearly every case I bought something but this was always going to be the one I read first.

…anyway, Garvey really does bang out the secret identity of the main character and a large part of their backstory in a remarkably short space. I loved that. It worked. I need to read the second one to see if the great pace continues. This was well worth a read.

Weird Ales: Last Orders Edited by Lynn M. Cochrane

Cover for Weird Ales

Have you ever walked in to a pub for the first time and everything stops and every single person turns as one to stare in silence at you? That’s what reading this book reminds me of. That uncomfortable feeling stayed with me throughout this book. The stories themselves were different and odd (in a good way) but they always felt like something I could relate to. I think that only added to my discomfort. I clearly spent too much time in dodgy pubs and social clubs when I was younger. The characters in this book seemed so familiar. The desperation and hopelessness coloured by the short-term highs and lows of ordinary people made a great backdrop for these stories.

If you are looking for creepy and disturbing stories set in the seething underbelly of pub culture then stop searching and pickup this anthology now. Stupidly good value at the price of a cup of tea too.

Training Days by Joan De La Haye

Training Days Cover

This book follows on from The Race. The story started pretty much directly after the first part but it was different. Whenever I’ve read anything buy De La Haye I’ve always felt it was South African. In this story though it felt like as the main protagonist changes and moves away from her roots so the writing changes. I found it fascinating to feel the voice change as the character does. It was only a slight shift but it really added something to the story.

There is a definite act two feel to this story and it really does build well upon the first book. I don’t think it works as well as a stand-alone book when compared to the first book but I think the writing is a lot better in terms of the characters. I re-read The Race before reading Training Days and I would highly recommend doing that if you can. I can’t wait for the third part so that some vengeance can be enacted.

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.