APRIL REVIEWS
                Neal Asher       DARK INTELLIGENCE
 
 

ASHER, NEAL

DARK INTELLIGENCE      (2015)

This book revolves around the rogue AI, Penny Royal, who has been the cause of much death and destruction. It is also responsible for the confused memories of resurrected soldier Thorvald Spear and the physical transformation of criminal Isobel Satomi. Both of these individuals intend to destroy the AI at their earliest convenience.

Father - Captain Sverl, one of a number of Prador unhappy with the Prador Kingdom's decision to stop the war with humanity, also has an interest in Penny Royal. He too is undergoing a transformation that his fellow Prador find abhorrent.

The planet Masada, recently liberated and now protected by the Polity, is central to the story. Hooders and Gabbleduck show themselves in what is, once again, a very entertaining tale. I'm very happy Asher has returned us to this Universe.

Very Good      (9)

(April 2015)

 MARCH REVIEWS
                M. R. Carey       THE GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS
 
 

CAREY, M.R.

THE GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS     (2014)

I saw that this book was listed as one of the best horror novels of 2014. I didnít know any more than that. On reading, I wasnít sure what was going on but I was intrigued. The story moves along at a quick pace, helped by the author writing small chapters. Eventually, it becomes obvious what type of story it is, but it isnít what youíd expect.

Spoiler alert: Melanie is one of a number of small children who are being kept imprisoned under very strict conditions. Miss Justineau teaches the children a few times a week, but is discouraged from forming attachments with the children. Thatís because the kids are zombies. High functioning zombies that can turn if given the right situation.

The story centres on the relationship between Melanie and Miss Justineau. Yes, there is a little gore and eating, but the focus is on the people and the situations they find themselves in. I havenít enjoyed a book as much in a while. Highly recommended.

Excellent      (10)

(March 2015)

 JUNE REVIEWS
                Neal Asher       JUPITER WAR
 
 

ASHER, NEAL

JUPITER WAR     (2014)

The third instalment of the Owner series sees all loose ends tied up, but didn't really add anything to the story. The first book was the best while those that followed seemed to milk the initial idea. I long for a stand-alone novel that begins and ends in one volume.

Good      (7)

(June 2014)

 AUGUST REVIEWS
                Nancy Kress       STEAL ACROSS THE SKY
 
 

KRESS, NANCY

STEAL ACROSS THE SKY     (2009)

Mysterious aliens visit Earth and recruit a small number of humans to travel interstellar space to visit planets inhabited by the descendants of Earth. These descendants were kidnapped by the aliens thousands of years in the past. The recruits are told that they need to act as witnesses as the aliens wish to atone for their crimes against humanity.

A very enjoyable book that would be well received by non sf readers. I'm happy to say it doesn't appear to be the first in a series.

Very Good      (9)

(August 2012)

 MAY REVIEWS
                Alastair Reynolds       BLUE REMEMBERED EARTH
 
 

REYNOLDS, ALASTAIR

BLUE REMEMBERED EARTH     (2012)

Set in the 22nd century, we follow the journey of Geoffrey and Sunday Akinya, grandchildren of Eunice, the founder of the family empire. Eunice had lived in seclusion for the past 60 years in orbit about the Moon. On her death, the grandchildren find themselves following clues Eunice left behind on the Moon, Mars and the depths of the solar system.

We have space travel, a family feud, an African elephant herd, merpeople, artificial intelligence and evidence of aliens in what is a very enjoyable tale which is apparently the first in a trilogy. The ending didnít quite hit the mark, which can be a problem when the author wants to stretch out the story. It would be nice to read a book that has a start and end in the one volume.

Very Good      (9)

(May 2012)

 FEBRUARY REVIEWS
                Neal Asher                   THE DEPARTURE

                Paolo Bacigalupi                 THE WINDUP GIRL
 
 

ASHER, NEAL

THE DEPARTURE       (2011)

This is the first book in Asher's Owner trilogy. Earth is overpopulated, under resourced and ruled by a world-wide dictatorship. The ruling elite have been experimenting on its people and one has escaped. Much destruction soon follows.

A small space colony has been established on Mars, but due to the crisis on Earth, any support for it is about to be stopped.

I enjoyed the story, but wouldn't rate it as one of Asher's best.

Good      (7.5)

(January 2012)


BACIGALUPI, PAOLO

THE WINDUP GIRL      (2009)

Set in a future Bangkok that is surrounded by a sea wall that has kept out the rising sea level caused by climate change.

Fossils fuels are no longer used. Computers a hooked up to treadmills to keep them running. Genetic modification of foods has led to plagues that have destroyed crops as well as infected humans.

The Japanese suffer with low birth numbers and have built New People to help manage. They have been genetically modified and are used as servants. One such has ended up in Bangkok where she is made to work in a brothel.

Very enjoyable from the outset. Different setting to a lot that I have read recently. Coincidental that, as I write, Bangkok is suffering heavy flooding. The degradation that the Windup Girl suffers is atrocious and can be heavy going Ė not recommended for younger readers.

Very Good      (8.5)

(January 2012)

 SEPTEMBER REVIEWS
                Greg Bear       MOVING MARS
 
 

BEAR, GREG

MOVING MARS      (1993)

I could only read 180 pages of the book. I'd read a review that said it got better after the first 100 pages, which centred on the relationship between the two central characters. The next 80 pages focussed on the political situation between Earth and Mars. I wasn't enjoying it.

Average      (4)

(September 2011)

 JANUARY REVIEWS
                Neal Asher       THE TECHNICIAN
 
 

ASHER, NEAL

THE TECHNICIAN      (2009)

The Theocracy that ruled the planet Masada has fallen and the Polity is helping to establish order. They also have an interest in Jeremiah Tombs, a Proctor for the Theocracy who is the only survivor of a Hooder attack. The Technician is the name of the Hooder that consumed Tombs, stripped him of his face and flesh and implanted something inside his brain. For 20 years the Polity has waited for the information which they believe will provide insight into the extinct Atheter race.

A must read for those who've read Asher's previous works. In ORBUS we learn more about the Jain, now it's the turn of the Atheter.

Excellent      (9)

(January 2011)

 DECEMBER REVIEWS
                Neal Asher       ORBUS
 
 

ASHER, NEAL

ORBUS      (2009)

Orbus is an Old Captain infected with the Spatterjay virus and a survivor of the equally infected Prador Vrell. He has been hired to travel with Polity drones Sniper and Thirteen to retrieve an item from the Graveyard, the no-mans-land between Human and Prador territory.

Vrell has escaped Spatterjay and is intent on extracting vengeance on Vrost and any other Prador who want him dead.

A highly entertaining read full of excitement. Plenty of Prador action with both King Oberon and the Golgoloth making themselves known to all. The Jain become involved and pose a threat to both Prador and Human survival.

Excellent      (10)

(December 2010)

 OCTOBER REVIEWS
                Alastair Reynolds       TERMINAL WORLD
 
 

REYNOLDS, ALASTAIR

TERMINAL WORLD      (2009)

It took me quite a while to finish this book. As a result, I can't give it an excellent rating. I, however, wanted to finish it and it was worth the effort.

Set on a world where resources are scarce and people are resticted to zones which, if they leave, will result in illness and possibly death. In fact, technology in one zone may not function in another.

One inhabitant must flee the city, crossing many zones, if he is to survive.

Good      (7)

(October 2010)

 DECEMBER REVIEWS
                Robert J. Sawyer       WWW : WAKE
 
 

SAWYER, ROBERT J.

WWW : WAKE      (2009)

Caitlin is a 15 year old blind girl who is given a chance to see for the first time using new technology developed by a Japanese researcher. As a result, she begins to see not the world as we see it, but the internet and something that dwells within it.

This book is the first in a trilogy and once again Sawyer doesn't disappoint this reader. After reading it, I found myself researching some of the science mentioned within the book. Sawyer rekindled in me an interest in science that I thank him for.

Excellent      (10)

(December 2009)

 FEBRUARY REVIEWS
                Neal Asher       LINE WAR
 
 

ASHER, NEAL

LINE WAR      (2008)

Rogue AI's are at war with the Polity.

Orlandine further develops her skill with Jain tech and forms an alliance with a group of forgotten Polity war drones.

Cormac continues to distrust Earth Central.

Dragon takes Mika to the origin of Jain tech.

Mr. Crane is one of the good guys.

A must read, but only after reading the previous Cormac novels.

Excellent      (10)

(April 2009)

 FEBRUARY REVIEWS
                Neal Asher       POLITY AGENT
 
 

ASHER, NEAL

POLITY AGENT      (2006)

Skellor is no more, but there are others who may potentially take his place. Someone or something is distributing Jain nodes in the hope of destroying the Polity.

In this outing, Asher explores the origins of Horace Blegg, reunites two Dragon spheres and details the plans of rogue AI's.

While not as good as BRASS MAN, this book is a worthy sequel that picked up the pace in the later quarter.

Very Good      (8.5)

(February 2009)

 JANUARY REVIEWS
                Neal Asher       BRASS MAN
 
 

ASHER, NEAL

BRASS MAN      (2005)

Skellor still lives. Ian Cormac and the Polity AIís set out to destroy him once and for all.

Skellor believes Dragon may hold some answers to controlling the Jain tech that is trying to consume him. After resurrecting Mr Crane, the brass man, he sets out to find it, reeking havoc as he goes.

I can always count on Asher reigniting my desire to read. Thanks Neal.

Excellent      (10)

(January 2009)

 NOVEMBER REVIEWS
                Margaret Atwood       ORYX AND CRAKE
 
 

ATWOOD, MARGARET

ORYX AND CRAKE      (2003)

Similar story to I AM LEGEND where one man seems to have survived the extinction of mankind. Snowman is the last of his kind. He lives near a group of genetically modified people who have had a lot of their 'humanity' spliced out of their code.

Snowman recounts his life before the catastrophe and his time with Oryx and Crake, his best friends.

Found the ending a little disappointing. Rather than end, it stopped.

Good      (7)

(November 2008)

 OCTOBER REVIEWS
                Robert Charles Wilson       SPIN
 
 

WILSON, ROBERT CHARLES

SPIN      (2005)

Story told in two parts, one present the other near future.

Tyler Dupree grew up with twins Jason and Diane Lawton. One day the stars went out. The Earth was enclosed in a shell which slowed time on Earth relative to the Universe outside. Panic set in, people fearing the end of the world. Religious cults formed that anticipated the end of all things.

Tyler , by association with Jason, finds himself at the heart of the mystery.

This book took the longest time to read of any that I can remember. I enjoyed the story, but didnít find myself eager to continue.

Hugo winner 2006

Good      (7)

(October 2008)

 AUGUST REVIEWS
                Alastair Reynolds              HOUSE OF SUNS
 
 

REYNOLDS, ALASTAIR

HOUSE OF SUNS          (2008)

Set in the far future, but not part of Reynolds REVELATION SPACE universe, this is the story of a 'family' of clones that travel around the Galaxy. Millions of planetary years pass while they travel at near light speed. Civilisations rise and fall while they travel between the stars.

Every so often, members of the 'family' reunite to share experiences, but an attack occurs that threatens their future existence.

Refuges from the attack regroup but find themselves in peril and facing a greater threat that may extinguish all of mankind.
 
While not as good as Reynold's earlier work, this is still a good read and worth the time.

Very Good        (8.5)

(August 2008)


 JUNE REVIEWS

                Ian McDonald                   BRASYL
                Alastair Reynolds              GALACTIC NORTH
 
 


McDONALD, IAN

BRASYL          (2007)

This book was nominated for the Hugo Award so I thought Iíd check it out before the presentations. It got some very good reviews on the net and I have enjoyed McDonaldís earlier work. The reviews I read said the book takes a while to get going and eventually takes off with a bang. Unfortunately I couldnít get to that point having read 180 of the 396 pages. The story left me flat. It is told in 3 strands, in the past, present and future. It is set in South America and seems to revolve around the idea of quantum computing. The use of Portuguese terminology did not enhance my reading, only confusing it.

When I stopped trying to read this story, I went straight to Alastair Reynolds' GALACTIC NORTH. I was immediately engaged in it which contrasted quite clearly with the difficulty I experienced reading BRASYL.

Average        (5)

(June 2008)


REYNOLDS, ALASTAIR

GALACTIC NORTH          (2006)

This is a short story collection set in the same universe as Reynolds' REVELATION SPACE etc. From the very first pages this was a joy to read. You know a short story works when you donít want it to end. This is how I felt after the first story.

If youíve read any of Reynolds' work you will thoroughly enjoy these stories.


Excellent        (10)

(June 2008)

 MAY REVIEWS
                Neal Asher       THE LINE OF POLITY
               

ASHER, NEAL

THE LINE OF POLITY      (2003)

Set in the same Universe as Asher's GRIDLINKED, Ian Cormac, Scar, Gant et al are back to first liberate a planet ruled by religious nutters and then to stop a madman using alien biotechnology that threatens humanity. They end up at the planet Masada. An inhospitable place populated by monsters such as hooders, one of which caused havoc in GRIDLINKED.

The team also crosses paths with Dragon, or one of its siblings.

This is another very entertaining story that helps keep Asher on my must read list.

Very Good      (9)

(May 2008)

 APRIL REVIEWS
                Dan Simmons       OLYMPOS
               

SIMMONS, DAN

OLYMPOS      (2005)

This is a very good conclusion to the story begun in ILIUM. In this outing we see all out war between the gods and a voyage back to Earth to try to save humanity. If youíve read ILIUM, you should read this story.

Very Good      (9)

(April 2008)

 FEBRUARY REVIEWS
                Robert Sawyer       ILLEGAL ALIEN
                Dan Simmons          ILIUM
 
 

SAWYER, ROBERT

ILLEGAL ALIEN   (1998)

Aliens from Alpha Centauri land on Earth seeking help after their ship was damaged entering the solar system. Humans agree to help repair the vessel in exchange for new technology, but a human is found murdered and the main suspect is an alien.

What follows is the court case and while it is entertaining, this book lacks the character development usually found in Sawyerís work.

Good      (8)

(Feb 2008)


SIMMONS, DAN

ILIUM       (2003)

In the far future, Earth is inhabited by a small population of Ďold-styleí humans who have little knowledge of their past. Some 1500 years ago, post humans left the planet for places unknown, but have ensured those that remain will be cared for. After 100 years of life, each Ďold styleí will join the posts off-planet and Earthís population is restricted to a manageable number.

During mankindís exploration of the solar system, sentient robots were sent to the outer planets and after many years have become self sufficient. When unusually high levels of quantum activity is noticed occurring on Mars, a small team of robots is sent to investigate and ,if necessary, stop this activity as it may potentially destroy large sections of the solar system..

The Greek gods of Olympus are watching over the battle of Troy and to help in this they have reconstituted scholars from late 20th Century Earth. These scholars have been given special equipment that helps to conceal their true identities from the ancients and to travel between Earth and Olympus. One scholar, Hockenberry, an expert on Homerís Iliad, which details the battle, has been given special powers by one god so that he may murder another.

This was another Simmons effort that I found difficult to put down. The description of battle scenes around Troy were particularly gruesome and realistic. The three storylines came together beautifully at the end of the book. Simmons did overdo the naming of all warriors and their lineage at times and I found myself skimming these parts. Iím straight onto the sequel, OLYMPOS.

Excellent      (10)

(Feb 2008)

 FEBRUARY ('07) REVIEWS
               Ken Grimwood                  REPLAY
                Elizabeth Moon                  THE SPEED OF DARK
 
 

GRIMWOOD, KEN

REPLAY          (1987)

Jeff Winston has reached his 40ís and is not particularly happy. When he dies and finds himself back in college, he has a chance to make things right.

This is one of those rare books that I have no hesitation recommending to non - sf/fantasy readers. A great work of fiction. Itís similar to the movie GROUNDHOG DAY (which came after this book), but oh so much better!.

 

Excellent and highly recommended        (10)

(April 2007)


MOON, ELIZABETH

THE SPEED OF DARK          (2003)

Lou is a high functioning, adult who is autistic. He works with other autists who each have skills that their company values. Louís talent is in pattern and code recognition. When a new manager arrives, he plans to reduce expenditure on his autistic workers by forcing them to undergo an experimental treatment that may Ďnormaliseí them.

I enjoyed this book initially, but found myself hoping for a speedy conclusion. Not particularly sf nor fantasy.

 

Good        (7)

(April 2007)

 JANUARY REVIEWS

                Orson Scott Card                    SHADOW OF THE HEGEMON
                Neal Asher                              THE VOYAGE OF THE SABLE KEECH
 
 


CARD, ORSON SCOTT

SHADOW OF THE HEGEMON          (2000)

In this book, Card explores the fate of the battle school children once they have returned to Earth. Their expertise is a very valuable commodity and one individual, the insane Archilles who was expelled from battle school, has plans for Bean and Petra in particular.

I didnít enjoy this book as much as the others in the series. It read more like a political thriller than sf and I had considered not finishing the book, but I persisted and it ended up OK.

Good        (7)

(January 2007)


ASHER, NEAL

THE VOYAGE OF THE SABLE KEECH          (2006)

This book returns us to the planet of Spatterjay ten years after the events written of in The Skinner. After the resurrection of Keech, pilgrims travel to the planet to try and emulate his success. One reification, Taylor Bloc, has a massive ship built in Keechís honour in which he plans to transport others of his kind to the Little Flint. Bloc will do almost anything to achieve his aims, including using Prador thrall technology.

Vrell manages to find his way back to his fatherís spaceship and begins to prepare for his return to his home planet. Spatterjay leaves its mark on him however and his kind is not ready to welcome him back

While not as good as the original THE SKINNER, this is still a very good sequel.

Very Good        (8)

(January 2007)

 AUGUST REVIEWS

                Neal Asher                             THE SKINNER
                Alastair Reynolds                  PUSHING ICE
 
 


ASHER, NEAL

THE SKINNER          (2000)

I started this book after reading Reynolds PUSHING ICE and was worried that the joy experienced with that work would be hard to replicate. I was wrong. THE SKINNER is a fantastic read.

Three travellers arrive at the planet Spatterjay, each with a hidden agenda. Erlin is a former inhabitant of the planet, returning after a long absence to reconnect with a former lover. Janer was formerly indentured to a Hive mind Ė hornets turned out to be the other major intelligence on Earth Ė but now he works for them by choice. The last of the three is Keech, who is seven hundred years old, but has been dead for most of this time, who hopes to conclude a search that has lasted all this time.

Spatterjay is a mostly aquatic planet, teaming with hostile native fauna. If bitten by one of its many leeches, you become infected with a virus that keeps you alive no matter what damage befalls you. The leeches want to keep their food supply around for as long as possible.

If he wasnít before, he is now on my must read list. In fact I picked up his latest book, THE VOYAGE OF THE SABLE KEECH, before finishing THE SKINNER. Canít wait to get into it!

PS. Iím listing to THE BLACK KEYS ďRubber FactoryĒ while writing this review and itís great stuff!

 

Excellent        (10)

(August 2006)


REYNOLDS, ALASTAIR

PUSHING ICE          (2005)

To tell you anything about this story would be to tell you too much. It does involve space exploration, mysterious alien artefacts and aliens, political intrigue and deception and relationships between leading female characters.

Donít read the blurb on the back of the book, just read the book.

 

Excellent        (10)

(August 2006)

 JUNE REVIEWS

                Jonathan Carroll             WHITE APPLES
                Robert Reed                  MARROW
 
 


CARROLL, JONATHAN

WHITE APPLES          (2002)

This is the story of a man, brought back from the dead, to help fulfil a greater purpose while trying to avoid being sent back by Death. If youíre a fan of Carrollís then it is a fine addition to his catalogue, but it is not up to the standard of THE WOODEN SEA nor FROM THE TEETH OF ANGELS.

 

Very Good        (8)

(June 2005)


REED, ROBERT

MARROW          (2000)

An enormous spaceship is found drifting through space, empty of life but ready to accept it. Humanity is first to colonise the vessel and over time they allow other species to live inside of it. A long time passes before some of the crew manage to find the secret heart of the vessel and the hidden purpose of the ship is slowly revealed, but not before life on the ship is turned upside down.

Reed has written a very good story which kept me entertained throughout. Iím looking forward to more of his work.

 

Very Good        (9)

(June 2005)

 JANUARY REVIEWS

                Iain M. Banks               THE ALGEBRAIST
 


BANKS, IAIN M.

THE ALGEBRAIST          (2004)

Humanity has spread throughout the Galaxy which it shares with a number of intelligent, alien species. Travel over vast distances has been made possible by wormhole technology. Over the ages, wars have been fought and lost and one easy target has been wormhole portals which when destroyed leave systems cut off for hundreds of years. Fasin Taak lives in one such system and it has just been discovered that his system will face invasion within the year.

Fassin is a seer whose job is to communicate with the Dwellers, inhabitants of the nearby gas giant. Dwellers are the longest lived species in the Galaxy and it appears that they, with Fassinís help may hold the key to surviving the coming invasion.

Another big, enjoyable space opera from Banks that tended to drag in the middle, but finished with a very satisfying conclusion.

 

Very Good        (9)

(January 2006)

 NOVEMBER REVIEWS

                Audrey Niffenegger               THE TIME TRAVELERíS WIFE
                Neal Stephenson                  THE DIAMOND AGE
 
 


NIFFENEGGER, AUDREY

THE TIME TRAVELERíS WIFE          (2002)

This is the story of Henry and his wife Clare who meet when he is 30 and she 6 years of age. Henry is a time traveler, but he canít control when and where he travels. His travels do seem to be centred around his own life and he is able to visit his life and himself at various stages. We follow their relationship over the years from each characters point of view.

I didnít finish this story as the science fiction took backstage to the romance and while the book was entertaining, I couldnít see it becoming the type of story Iíd like to finish.
 

Good        (6)

(November 2005)


STEPHENSON, NEAL

THE DIAMOND AGE             (1995)

John Hackworth is a nanotechnologist who has been commissioned to create a book, ďA Young Ladyís Illustrated PrimerĒ, for a wealthy manís granddaughter. The Primer is an interactive, educational high tech book/computer that will adapt its story to suit the current life of its owner. Once begun the book will only work for its first reader.

Hackworth makes an illegal copy which he plans to give to his own daughter to improve her chances in life. The book is stolen and a small girl, Nell, becomes its owner and is given the opportunity to escape her squalid, violent life.

We follow Nellís adventures both in real time and story time. Winner of the 1996 Hugo award, this is a very entertaining story that is well worth the effort and the award, which is not always the case.
 

Excellent        (9.5)

(November 2005)

 SEPTEMBER REVIEWS

                Charles Stross               SINGULARITY SKY
 


STROSS, CHARLES

SINGULARITY SKY          (20030)

Mankind has been scattered throughout the galaxy by the mysterious Eschaton some time after the majority of Earthís population transcended. These colonies have been left to develop as they see fit and one particular cluster of planets have formed the New Republic, which follows a doctrine which is viewed by some as oppressive and anti-technological.

Rochardís World is a member of the New Republic and when it is visited by the Festival, which gives the people anything and everything they wish for, the Republic sends warships to defend their sovereignty. These ships are going to attempt to travel far into the future by means of faster than light travel and then loop back to arrive at Rochardís World only a short time after the invasion. This manipulation of time is prohibited by the Eschaton which has been extremely harsh on those who try.

I read this book with much anticipation given the reviews Iíd read, but while good, it didnít deliver. There is a sequel, IRON SUNRISE, but I donít think Iíll bother.

 

Good        (7)

(September 2005)

 AUGUST REVIEWS

                Alastair Reynolds               ABSOLUTION GAP
 


REYNOLDS, ALASTAIR

ABSOLUTION GAP          (2003)

This is the third book in Reynolds Inhibitor series and once again this is a book that will not disappoint. Clavain and Scorpio are on the planet Ararat, but the threat of the Inhibitors has roused them into action after some 20 years. While war rages in local space, a mysterious capsule has landed on the planet which is destined to influence the outcome of the battle.

Meanwhile, the Conjoiners send Quaiche on a mission to search for alien artefacts in remote star systems and what he finds will change the rest of his life.
 

Very Good        (9)

(August 2005)

 JULY REVIEWS

                Ken Macleod                NEWTON'S WAKE
 


MACLEOD, KEN

NEWTON'S WAKE          (2004)

A war between the USA and the rest of the world ended up with artificial intelligence absorbing mankind, plague-like, into transcendence. A few escaped the change and travelled away from infected Earth, but evidence of post-human activity exists and when a group of wormhole travellers disturb an ancient relic on a far away planet, deadly war machines are awakened to once again threaten the existence of man.

I tried to like this book, but in the end would have to say it was somewhat of a disappointment. None of the characters were particularly likeable (nor dislikeable for that matter) and so it was hard to care what happened to them.

Good        (6.5)

(July 2005)

 JUNE REVIEWS

                Alastair Reynolds               CENTURY RAIN
 


REYNOLDS, ALASTAIR

CENTURY RAIN           (2004)

Mankind has been banished to space after the nano-machines it seeded the Earth with ran amok, devouring all life and leaving the planet uninhabitable. This catastrophe split humanity into two camps, the Threshers who have turned their back on nanotechnology, and the Slashers who have embraced nanotechnology with a measure of caution. Hundreds of years after losing Earth, these two groups are fighting over its control.

The Threshers have recently taken control of Phobos, one of the moons of Mars. Buried within it is an ancient alien portal that can take them to a world that offers hope to mankind. The origins of the portal are a mystery, as is the hyperweb, a series of space bound portals that permit travel across the vast reaches of space.

Part murder mystery, part space opera, Century Rain is further proof of Reynolds talent which has yet to disappoint this reader.
 

Excellent        (10)

(June 2005)

 MAY REVIEWS

                Robert Charles Wilson         BLIND LAKE
 
 


WILSON, ROBERT CHARLES

BLIND LAKE            (2003)

Blind Lake is a top-secret research facility that is using quantum computers to observe the far reaches of our Galaxy using a technique that is beyond the understanding of all who work there. Some believe that the images produced are nothing more than the dreams of intelligent machines. The current focus at Blind Lake is a strange being nicknamed the lobster. The quantum computers have Ďhimí under surveillance day and night.

Without warning the facility is cut off from the outside world. No one may enter nor leave and no explanation is provided. It is thought that a catastrophe may have occurred at a similar nearby facility scaring the authorities into a lockdown in order to avoid a reoccurrence.

This story took a while to get going and I did think about giving up on it. However, I did persist, given my liking for the author, and things got to the point where I couldnít wait to find out what was happening and going to happen.
 

Very Good        (9.5)

(May 2005)

 APRIL REVIEWS
                Jonathan Carroll             THE WOODEN SEA
                Nancy Kress                  CRUCIBLE
 
 

CARROLL, JONATHAN

THE WOODEN SEA                 (2000)

Frannie McCabe is the Chief of Police in the town of Craneís View, New York. In his youth he was a rebel who was always in trouble, but now he has the respect of the town and is happy with his lot. When he decides to be kind to a stray dog, weird things begin happening to him.

To tell you any of the strange things that happen would be to spoil for you what is a wonderful story that continues to astound the reader from beginning to end. The story has elements of sf with time travel and alien visitation, but overall Iíd classify this as a mainstream work of fiction with doses of weirdness. Read it and enjoy.
 

Excellent and highly recommended        (10)

(April 2005)


KRESS, NANCY

CRUCIBLE             (2004)

Man has inhabited the planet Greentrees for fifty years and most have forgotten the conflict with the Furs and the Vines. The colonyís complacency is about to be tested as a space ship enters orbit around the planet.

I enjoyed this sequel more than the original Crossfire. Kress takes us to the Vines planet where we discover their true nature. The colonists end up fighting amongst themselves before being thrust into a struggle with Furs and Vines in a battle for control of Greentrees.
 

Very Good        (9)

(April 2005)

 MARCH REVIEWS
                Neal Asher              COWL
 

ASHER, NEAL

COWL        (2004)

Polly is a teenage prostitute living in the not too distant future. When the brother of a friend gives her a small Ďgiftí she finds herself hunted by a group of well-armed government agents who will stop at nothing to get what they want.

One of these agents, Tack, unwittingly finds himself drawn out of this conflict and into another which could ultimately determine the future survival of the human race. Both he and Polly have become part of an experiment designed by a preterhuman known as Cowl, who is collecting people from different time periods to determine the progress of his time manipulation. Cowl uses a Ďpetí to choose experimental subjects. This pet (actually monster) devours everything in its path before making its choice of time subject.

Cowl is the product of extreme genetic manipulation performed by a member of future humanity, a humanity which itself is superior to our own due to its own genetic modification. These superhumans have split into two groups, Heliothane and Umbrathane, which wage war on each other while the Umbrathane have thrown their support behind Cowl.

Asher has written a non-stop thriller that transports the reader through different periods of time culminating in a frenetic battle that may determine the existence of life itself.
 

Very Good        (9)

(March 2005)

 FEBRUARY REVIEWS
                M. John Harrison           LIGHT
 

HARRISON, M. JOHN

LIGHT          (2002)

Michael Kearney is a very strange man living at the turn of the twentieth century who is haunted by a vision he names the Shrander. In an effort to escape it, his life takes a very dark and disturbing path. Kearney is also a mathematician working with Brian Tate on quantum computing.

Ed Chianese and Seria Maui live in a time when mankind has spread to the far corners of the Galaxy. Ancient alien races, no longer in evidence, left many artefacts which are now sought and fought over by those species travelling between the stars. Ed lives planetside spending most of his time avoiding reality. Seria has been transformed into a barely human pilot of an advanced alien ship.

Three separate storylines unfold that held my interest with equal force until the conclusion where all plots come together. LIGHT is a space opera filled with murder, mystery and the unknown. Harrison has been around for a while and based on this effort I will endeavour to read more of his work. Read it.
 

Excellent and highly recommended        (10)

(February 2005)

 JANUARY REVIEWS
                Laurel K. Hamilton          GUILTY PLEASURES
                W. K. Jeter                          MORLOCK NIGHT
 

HAMILTON, LAUREL
GUILTY PLEASURES            (2002)

Anita Blake inhabits a world of vampires, werewolves, zombies and ghouls. One of her skills is the ability to reanimate the dead. A helpful tool when the authorities wish to solve a murder. While the general human populace has accepted vampires, she doesnít trust them and as a result, when someone begins slaying master vampires, Anita comes under suspicion.

She soon finds herself working for the surviving masters, who threaten to kill her best friend if she doesnít produce quick results.

This is the first book in a series that follows the pursuits of a vampire slayer. While it was enjoyable I wont be rushing to the next story. Iíd rather watch an episode of Buffy, which is similar in content but with more humour.
 

Good      (7.5)

(January 2005)
 


JETER, W. K.

MORLOCK NIGHT          (2002)

This story follows on from H. G. Wellsí THE TIME MACHINE, shortly after the traveller recounts his tale. Walking home from this gathering, Edwin Hocker and Dr. Ambrose discuss the eveningís events. Hocker soon becomes convinced the doctor is insane and someone to be avoided.

I was looking forward to this story as I enjoyed the original very much and the sequel by Baxter, THE TIME SHIPS, is another favourite. Jeter has written in a style that captures the feel of Wellsí classic and the story did hold early promise. I started to have doubts when Jeter threw in both Merlin and King Arthur and the story began to feel more fantasy than sf. When I stopped at about half way, Merlin was attempting to get Arthur to lead the fight against invading Morlocks who have stolen the time machine.
 

Average        (5)

(January 2005)

 DECEMBER REVIEWS
                Nancy Kress           PROBABILITY SPACE
               
 

KRESS, NANCY
PROBABILITY SPACE           (2002)

Humanity is divided over how the artefact should be used. Some believe it should be used to protect our solar system from Faller attack while others believe we should use it to destroy the Faller home system.

Tom Capelo is kidnapped and his oldest daughter Amanda witnesses the act and flees, not knowing who to trust.

Lyle Kaufmann and Marbet Grant want to travel back to World to see if they can help what is expected to be a civilisation in ruin.

As I began reading this book, I was feeling that it was going to be the weakest of the trilogy, but as the story progressed any doubts I held were soon gone. A bit of time was spent on mankindís political instability, but once the focus shifts to Amandaís perils which combine with Lyle and Marbetís journey, the story barrels to a very satisfying conclusion.
 

Very Good      (9)

(December 2004)
 

 NOVEMBER REVIEWS
                Nancy Kress         PROBABILITY MOON
                Nancy Kress         PROBABILITY SUN
 

KRESS, NANCY

PROBABILITY MOON           (2000)

Humanity is at war with the Fallers, an alien race intent on monopolising both interstellar territory and advanced alien technology left behind by an unknown species. This technology is in the form of space tunnels that permit travel over vast distances.

A new type of alien artefact has been discovered and humans are the first to find it. It may be a weapon that could help turn the war in their favour. While one team investigates the artefact, another is sent to a nearby inhabited planet, World, which is the source of some strange, very localised radiation.

This is the first part of a trilogy and on completing this instalment I am eager to continue the story. The story shifts between the two investigating groups and each journey is as compelling as the other. The mystery surrounding the artefact and the odd culture on World make for an exciting read.
 

Excellent      (9.5)

(November 2004)
 


KRESS, NANCY

PROBABILITY SUN            (2001)

The second novel in the PROBABILITY trilogy sees the return of a manned expedition to World to investigate the strange radiation emanating from the Neury Mountains. The special team includes physicist Tom Capelo and Sensitive, Marbet Grant, who is able to interpret thoughts by observing behaviour and expressions.

While Tomís task is to try to crack the science of the alien artefact, Marbetís job is to attempt communication with the only Faller captured alive.

This is a worthy follow-up to PROBABILITY MOON and on its strength I have already begun the final story in the trilogy.
 

Very Good       (9)

(November 2004)

 OCTOBER REVIEWS
                Stephen Baxter       VACUUM DIAGRAMS
                Greg Bear              DEAD LINES
 
 

BAXTER, STEPHEN

VACUUM DIAGRAMS      (1997)

Once youíve finished reading Baxterís novels set in the Xeelee Universe, then you must read this collection of short stories. We learn more about mankindís enemies, the Squeem and the Qax, and the workings of the all-powerful Xeelee. Iíve said it before, but these are the kind of stories that attracted me to Baxter in the first place.

Excellent      (9.5)

(October 2004)


BEAR, GREG

DEAD LINES       (2004)

This may be Greg Bearís first horror novel, Iím not sure as I havenít looked into it, and based on this effort I think he should stick to SF. A new type of phone system has awakened spirits who begin haunting the general public. Throw in a mass murderer, the death of a child, a broken marriage and youíve got the major elements of the story. Bear had a habit of repeating himself throughout the story which became quite annoying. In Bearís favour, I did finish the story and wanted to see what transpired, but when compared to other horror authors, this work is left for dead.

Good      (7.5)

(October 2004)

 SEPTEMBER REVIEWS
                Greg Egan                   DISTRESS
               
 
 

EGAN, GREG

DISTRESS      (1995)

What a disappointment this story was for me. After the first few pages I thought that this was going to be more of the great fiction Iíve come to expect from Egan. It begins with an operation where a fresh corpse is reanimated to obtain details of its murder and later we find there is an infectious disease known as ĎDistressí that is causing worldwide concern. Unfortunately, the story quickly changes direction and we end up at a science conference in the middle of the ocean. Here the story bogged down and although I persisted, the story did not develop enough to warrant my continued patronage. If youíve read it and the story takes off after the first half, let me know and Iíll try again.

Average      (5)

(September 2004)

 AUGUST REVIEWS
                Arthur C. Clarke                THE CITY AND THE STARS
                Samuel R. Delany              BABEL-17
 
 

CLARKE, ARTHUR C.

THE CITY AND THE STARS      (1956)

Alvin lives in the city of Diaspar, the last refuge of Man after being driven from the Galactic Empire it had established by the mysterious Invaders. For a thousand million years the city of Diaspar has, under the control of the all powerful Central Computer, maintained a standard of living far surpassing that of earlier generations. Alvin, however, is different from the rest of his kind, as he wants to leave the city and explore. Others have had that desire bred out of them.

Alvinís efforts concern his superiors and bring them to an important choice as to the future direction of mankind.

Only a short story, some 170 pages, but it kept my interest until the final page and Iíd recommend this as a quick, well written piece of fiction which still stands up after almost 50 years.

Very Good      (8.5)

(August 2004)


DELANY, SAMUEL R.

BABEL-17      (1966)

Mankind is as war with the Invaders. Rydra Wong is a famous poet who has an uncanny ability to work with different languages. She is given the job of deciphering a strange new language, Babel-17, which seems connected to recent attacks.

She assembles a crew and sets out to find the source and meaning of the code.

This book is a part of the ďGollancz Classic SFĒ range and like another from its catalogue, Rogue Moon, is a little dated and disappointing. The inside cover blurb says itís a ďdazzlingly flamboyant yet strangely movingĒ story Ė donít you believe it!.

Good      (7)

(August 2004)

 JULY REVIEWS
                Greg Bear                   BLOOD MUSIC
                Nancy Kress              CROSSFIRE
 
 

BEAR, GREG

BLOOD MUSIC      (1985)

I remember reading the Hugo Award winning short story years ago, but enjoyed the novel much more.

Vergil Ulam is a scientist working at Genetron and has been caught carrying out some illegal/unauthorised experiments on the side. When he is given his marching orders he ingests his experimental cells, hoping to retrieve them at a later date and continue his work.

His body begins to undergo changes that concern both him and those he meets.

Very Good      (9)

(July 2004)


KRESS, NANCY

CROSSFIRE      (2003)

The first human colony has just landed on the planet of Greentrees and they soon discover that contrary to earlier reports, the planet is not uninhabited. Small settlements of aliens, who become known as Furs, are found scattered about the planet. Their behaviour, when first contact is made, surprises and troubles the humans.

The colonists soon find themselves in the middle of an alien war that has been going on for a thousand years. Unsure of which side to believe in, they are eventually placed in a situation that may determine the survival of their own species as well as the aliens.

Kress has written an entertaining and enjoyable book that rarely lost a beat.

Very Good      (8.5)

(July 2004)

 

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