Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Edge of the World by Kevin J. Anderson

The Edge of the World
Book One of Terra Incognita
Kevin J. Anderson
Publisher: Orbit
ISBN: 978-1-84149-663-4
574 pages

This is a big book. Roughly 140,000 words, and it is the first book in Kevin J. Anderson’s Terra Incognita series. As with Epic Fantasy’s there are a host of characters (thankfully all names are pronounceable--unlike a lot of fantasy books I have read), so many that there is an eight page glossary in the back.

With so many characters it could be easy to get lost, correct? Nope. All up there are only a few main characters: Criston Vora and Adrea Vora (his wife), Prester Hannes, Aldo (chartsman), Princess Anjine Korastine and her childhood friend, Mateo Bornan.

The story revolves around the aforementioned characters with a lot of extras that add weight to the plot and help head the book in the direction it is intended. In Edge of the World, there are two nations trying to live in peace, but an unfortunate death of an officials son and a fire that burns down a main city, sparks a war that both sides fear they cannot win.

For 13 years the two nations take pot-shots at one another, attacking small villages and ports. The two nations: Uraba and Tierra follow the same god: Ondun. The Aidenists (Terraians) are blamed for the fire in Ishalem (though it wasn’t them) and when the Aidenists return to Ishalem they are murdered by Urecari (Urabaians). There is no turning back. Each side starts preparation for the war to come, they build ships, they build armies, the Urecari kidnap children for a special project, that in the end pushes the war forward.

What’s special about this book are the characters. You will come to be addicted while reading about them and the lives they lead during the 13 year build up for war, and the changes they all go through, some are major, some are minor but they all work to form strong characters with a distinct voice.

Although I did not like the style of writing at first (the ‘show don’t tell’ ratio doesn’t match), it slowly grew on me and once several of the characters had been formed, I was flying through this book.


Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Gladiatrix by Rhonda Roberts

ISBN: 9780732288556 ISBN10: 073228855X;
On Sale: 1/05/2009
Format: Paperback
Trimsize: 181 x 113 x 37 mm
Pages: 592; $20.99

From HarperCollins: Book Description

When time travel was invented, everyone thought it would solve their problems.
But for 22-year-old Kannon, it′s about to turn her life upside down.

Left for dead in the Blue Mountains when she was just a baby, Kannon has now discovered that an American Time Marshal, Victoria Dupree, could be her real mother. But Victoria has gone missing in ancient Rome while investigating the Hierophant, the mysterious leader of the Isis cult.Kannon desperately wants to find Victoria, but the US National Time Administration is standing in her way...

Not exactly the type of book I would pick up, but in my quest to discover new writers and fresh takes on tired ideas, I read this new release.

Gladiatrix is an interesting book. Old, overused idea with a fresh take. That sums up this book in a few words. But, I liked it. Kannon is 22, when she was a kid, she was kidnapped and taken to Australia, where she nearly died but was stumbled upon by a Japanese tourist, Yuki, who in the end became her adoptive guardian and taught her to be strong via martial arts.

The book opens explosively with a confrontation that (in-between paragraphs) explains a lot of background. Very well done and a great opening scene, it shows Kannon and her martial arts skills and tells us, she can handle herself very well.

There is an assortment of characters that all seem pretty real, like someone I know. I especially liked Des, a retired copper who sees an International news item and notices a resemblance between a Time Marshal (a time machine was built in the 60's, it's common knowledge in this reality) and Kannon. A very strong resemblance. And he tells Kannon and in the end she flies from Australia to the USA, to check whether this woman is her mother.

This book has a great idea regarding time travel, one can only go into the past, not the future. When one returns from the past, the past warps back to its original form as if the Time Marshal had never been there. Extremely fantastic idea, I had never considered until now.

Having convinced the National Time Administration of who she is, Kannon is granted an opportunity to speak with Victoria Dupree (but only if the Time Marshal allows it). She is waiting in Victoria's office when a group of armed extremists attack the centre and start smashing the time machine. They capture Kannon and she is thrown into the time machine and sent back to Rome 8AD.

This is a neat Rome, very real-life like where life is cheap and people are stabbed for being in the way, the poor sectors are exactly that--poor, and Gladiator sport is booming.

Kannon has a translator machine in the form of jewellery. Very Star Trek.

The book moves at a decent pace, though I thought the descriptions were a little on the heavy side, everything was detailed, perhaps a little too much. But I was okay with that. What I was not okay with (and it ruined the book for me) was the translations with the working class. The translations would start off fine and then characters started using: Oi, Ya, 'e, shit like that. Oh, and shit, crap and fuck translated perfectly as well. I find it hard to believe that a translator would understand a slang term like fuck and translate it perfectly. I once saw a movie based in a similar time where a character called another "A Sponge" -- translating (in my head) to: "A Twat". I thought the translator should have translated: Oh for fuck's sake into: oh for sponge sake. There was a brief explanation of how it worked nurologically and I may have missed something.

Apart from that, this book is an excellent read and fun as well. Rhonda ties all the streams together very nicely, including the dog she has LOL. That was so neat, the book is well worth your time.

The book is large but I finished it in a week. The pages practically turn themselves.

Overall: 83%

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Anomalous Appetites -- John Irvine / Dave Freeman

When John asked me to review Anomalous Appetites, a SpecFic book of poetry, I had to pause and consider it. I have never reviewed poetry before. I have written it, had some published and occasionally enjoy hearing it, but this is the first time I've been asked to review it.

I accepted the challenge and the book arrived in the post four days later.

First off: It's a beautiful book, printed by Lulu. There are three introductions, first from Editor: John Irvine, then from art director: Dave Freeman and finally from Vlad Dracul (nice touch).

All the specFic poems inside the covers are good, some are exceptional and many are from people I know (on the net). I was surprised to say the least.

This book is amazing, the layout is second to none, some parts are like an Art Coffee Table book, with poems inside images, or surrounded by them. The art is just so well done, the layout is simple and easy to read, each author has there own section and each line echos SpecFic of a darker side. There are ghosts, vampires, werewolves, the ferryman, and a Goth girl with a snake tattoo.

My picks, in no particular order are:
All the work in this volume of Ken Head, especially Camera Lucida.
Cracking eggs by Maureen Irvine.
Jamaris Vu by Kurt Newton.
Disinfecting the tourist & Beadwork by Kristine Ong Muslim
Toll Call by Ken Goldman
Audition & Who's there by Guy Belleranti
Your love tears me apart & Axiomatic by Dave Freeman
Never to late to learn by Erin Mackay
Goth Girl & Shifter by Morgan Bloodaxe
The Sailor & Pale Dawning by John Irvine
Wood Shed & Harvest moon by Greg Schwartz

Those are my picks, you may like others. At 187 pages you're sure to mind several that will whet your appetite. The bios are also fun to read.


Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Cuts by Richard Laymon

Cuts by Richard Laymon
301 Pages
Leisure Fiction
This edition ©2008 March
Copyright 1999 © Richard Laymon
ISBN: 0-8439-5752-2

Richard Laymon does it again. This book rocks right from the outset. The story takes place in 1975 and is about Albert Prince a dude who likes to cut people. At the start he wants to get laid and thinks he is in with a chance until the girl asks for cash. Not having the money, he takes her home, but he’s not happy about it. Later he spots a puppy, “Here boy...” Classic situation, killers starting with animals and moving to humans, only Albert moves very quickly to humans.

This book is about Albert, how he started killing and the ride he had. It starts with a break-and-enter job to get some cash for the high school hooker (mentioned earlier), when the owners return home. So starts his run across the country, and his killing spree.

This book has several storylines. We meet Janet Arthur, a pregnant woman who has just broken up with her dork of a boyfriend after he tells her to abort the foetus. She refuses and moves in with her friend, Meg. Meg is a complex character, so I won’t bother trying to explain her, the book does a good enough job of painting her.

Then there’s Ian a college professor who writes books in his spare time. We are introduced to Helen, the Ice Queen and Royal bitch to her long suffering husband, Lester, and she’s cheating on him with a student and he wants to cheat on her and finally manages. And there is a host of secondary characters, mostly they die.

Richard expertly ties all the storylines together and logically points Albert in the direction that the plot requires. I like how he weaved them together.

I found the sections with Albert exciting and fantastic and the scenes with Lester and Ian, great reading, but I felt bored and tired with the exploits of Janet and Meg, though they are needed scenes and helped move the book along with the perfect way for Ian and Janet to meet up.

The ending is a bit of a shocker and I don’t understand Janet’s reasoning. Why she did what she did. So, the first ending was a surprise and I enjoyed it. That’s the end of part one. Part two is twenty years later and Albert is a free man. He has one place he wants to visit with his switchblade. This ending was kind of what I expected. Although Mr Laymon did cover it up very well. A couple of times I doubted my belief of events to transpire.

This is a fantastic book and along with Triage and Island and Funhouse, it ranks as one of my favourites in my Laymon collection.