Friday, September 16, 2016

Book review: Revenger by Alastair Reynolds


Title: Revenger
Author: Alastair Reynolds
Release date: 15th September 2016
Publisher: Gollancz
Genre: Science Fiction
Source: Review copy from publisher

Blurb: The galaxy has seen great empires rise and fall. Planets have shattered and been remade. Amongst the ruins of alien civilisations, building our own from the rubble, humanity still thrives. And there are vast fortunes to be made, if you know where to find them …

Captain Rackamore and his crew do. It’s their business to find the tiny, enigmatic worlds which have been hidden away, booby-trapped, surrounded with layers of protection – and to crack them open for the ancient relics and barely-remembered technologies inside. But while they ply their risky trade with integrity, not everyone is so scrupulous.

Adrana and Fura Ness are the newest members of Rackamore’s crew, signed on to save their family from bankruptcy. Only Rackamore has enemies, and there might be more waiting for them in space than adventure and fortune: the fabled and feared Bosa Sennen in particular.

My thoughts: I don't read much sci-fi but when I do it's usually space opera and I love it. I was excited to read about Revenger and never having read an Alastair Reynolds book it seemed like a good place to start. Revenger is narrated by Fura Ness, who is on the verge of adulthood when the story begins. I definitely felt like there was a YA turn to this book for the first section but having finished, I think it's a clever reflection of who Fura was then, and her innocence, and gives another way for Alastair Reynolds to show how she changes over the course of the story.

This is not a happy story. To start with, there's some adventure, some tension, but it's still quite fun. Then things get dark, and they stay pretty dark and tense for the whole story. To avoid spoilers, I'll just say that something happens with the crew of Rackamore's ship and it sets Fura on a path to seek revenge. She becomes very determined, to the point of being single-minded, in that pursuit. I found that as the book went on, I worried more and more for Fura and who she was becoming, as well as finding her less likeable. 

I agree with what Sarah says about Revenger in her review: a lot happens in the book and I would have liked it to slow down in some places and focus more on some big events. With fitting in so much to the story, some parts felt rushed. 

If I sound negative here, I don't mean to - it was an incredibly action-packed book that I could hardly put down, as my co-workers will attest. I really enjoyed the story and was on the edge of my seat on many occasions, waiting to see if characters would get through the next scrape. The writing was very good, as you'd expect from someone with Alastair Reynolds' experience and I'll definitely be reading more of his work in future. I feel like there might be a sequel down the line as the ending definitely left lots of potential for a continuation of the story but the main conflicts of Revenger did all get wrapped up. This was a nail-biting adventure through space with all the danger and wonder you would hope for in a space opera. I'm giving it 8 out of 10, and I definitely recommend it to sci-fi fans. 

-Ailsa

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Book review: The Hatching, by Ezekiel Boone


Title: The Hatching
Author: Ezekiel Boone
Genre: Horror
Publication date: 5 July 2016
Publisher: Gollancz
Source: Won (from Blackwell's)

Description: Deep in the jungle of Peru, a black, skittering mass devours an American tourist whole. Thousands of miles away, an FBI agent investigates a fatal plane crash in Minneapolis and makes a gruesome discovery. Unusual seismic patterns register in a Kanpur, India earthquake lab, confounding the scientists there. During the same week, the Chinese government “accidentally” drops a nuclear bomb in an isolated region of its own country. As these incidents begin to sweep the globe, a mysterious package from South America arrives at a Washington, D.C. laboratory. Something wants out.

My thoughts: I'm not a horror movie (or book) fan at all, and thinking about spiders makes me a little bit twitchy & paranoid but for some reason I had to know what happened. I'm so glad I gave it a go because I ended up loving this book.

It's a classic horror movie in book form. You know pretty much by reading the blurb what's going to happen. You know very early on that there are going to be killer spiders spreading around the world, especially as characters do really dumb things which the reader/audience can clearly spot. And there are the classic horror film protagonists: a scientist (actually several) with issues in her personal life; an FBI agent who only has occasional visitation rights with his young daughter; a newly engaged couple in a rural location. Will the scientist(s) save the world or make things worse? (A bit of both.) Will the father crack the case and also build a much closer relationship with his daughter? (Not sure yet, we'll have to see how book 2 goes.) Will the couple manage to survive in their quiet location or will one die while tragically trying to save the other? (Again, we're waiting for the sequel, but this is a sweet couple in a horror story... I don't fancy their odds.)

There's nothing too complicated about The Hatching which is partly what I loved about it. I knew a lot of what was going to happen but at the same time I had to keep reading to see how it happened, and whether anyone would figure out how to stop the spider before it was all too late [dun dun DUUNN]. There is a sequel, called Skitter, which is due out in the spring next year. If you're a fan of horror films, or just want an easy read, I definitely recommend this. I read it in one sitting on a 4 hour train ride and really enjoyed it.

Overall I'm giving The Hatching 7 stars.
~Ailsa
 

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