Throneworld by Guy Haley

Cover Throneworld by Guy Haley

I bought the audiobook version of this series. I miss my e-reader and wanted to try reading a series through this medium rather than physical books. This had an unexpected benefit this holiday. Unlike my eldest son who falls asleep on every form of transport instantly my nine year old is a terrible traveler. He fidgets, whines and generally makes journeys feel a LOT longer than they are. A seven hour drive North was turning in to one of those fun times. In desperation I let him borrow my phone and listen to it. FOUR HOURS OF SILENCE. We then had a nice discussion about the things he didn’t understand. Some of them were because he hadn’t read the previous novels but most were interesting questions about the story. That alone made this worth buying for me.

For me this novel works really well. It stands up as a story in itself but it really does pull a lot of things together in creative ways. I especially enjoyed the addition of the Eldar and how they are perceived as enigmatic guardians of the old ways before the Age of Imperium and yet still want to help “guide” mankind. This part of the book opens up so much scope for the following books that I was thinking about the possibilities for days.

In the previous books the politics at the heart of Terra sees the threat levels for the Highlords themselves being almost non-existent. This book changes everything. Nobody is safe, no plans are not being delved in to by others. All of this happens with the perfect amount of physical battles.

Needless to say I’ve already started reading the next book in the series. In fact the only good thing about returning to work is listening to it as I trudge along my commute.

 

 

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Notes: Writing Prose in Pleasure of the Park by Kyle J. Knapp

Book Cover - Notes: Writing Prose in Pleasure of the Park by Kyle J. Knapp

I’ve been in a bit of a reading funk this year. I keep starting books and not feeling like finishing them. The editor for Knapp’s work is his uncle who just so happens to be a really underrated editor and publisher. I remember when he sent me a copy of Knapp’s first book and I was nervous about reading it. I needed have worried, it hit me somewhere inside and my emotional late teens came flooding back. Since then I’ve been a fan. When I heard this book was coming out I said no to a review copy because I wanted to pay for it. I needed to express my admiration for Knapp’s work in the only meaningful way I knew. I paid for it.

It would be easy to say that this collection is about the natural world and how we look at it when we slow ourselves down and really see it. For me though there was something else. An undercurrent of love for another person, maybe unrequited and maybe not.  The struggle of human contact and emotional attachments hit me and my own struggles really hard.

The simple structure and the far from simple words combined to paint vistas in my mind. The way this book is put together with a smattering of notes and an interview interspersed through the work made this feel more like a journal that I was guiltily reading without the owner knowing.

I have always found it difficult to be objective about poetry and this publication was no exception. I became emotionally attached not just to the work but also the life of Kyle J. Knapp. I’d have loved to sit in the pub garden having a long chat about ephemera over a jar of warm beer.

What a great way for me to be enthused about books again. I may have just ordered a book on Sufi poetry because of this book.

 

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.