This is a blog with spoiler free reviews. Most will be Fantasy, Science Fiction, and Horror, but there will be some books in other genres, including the occasional Non-Fiction review. There is an ongoing series of Cover Reveal Round-Ups, and sometimes I'll write an article on something that interests me.

20 December, 2013



ISBN: 978-1-44814-184-5
Pages: 49
Publisher: BBC Books/Ebury Publishing
Published: 5 December 2013

On the cover:

Something odd is going on at the Fetch Brothers Golf Spa Hotel. Receptionist Bryony Mailer has noticed a definite tendency towards disappearance amongst the guests. She’s tried talking to the manager, she’s even tried talking to the owner who lives in one of the best cottages in the grounds, but to no avail. And then a tall, loping remarkably energetic guest (wearing a fetching scarf and floppy hat) appears. The Fourth Doctor thinks he’s in Chicago. He knows he’s in 1978. And he also knows that if he doesn’t do something very clever very soon, matters will get very, very out of hand.

   I was very excited when I got approved for this on NetGalley. I've only ever read one Doctor Who story in my life. In the Doctor Who Magazine, in 1988 I think. (I may have that issue somewhere still.) My Doctor Who experience started when I watched the Tom Baker episodes on Super Channel back in the late '80s. And despite watching all the New Who, he's still my Doctor in the sense most Brits use that expression. So that this novella starred the Fourth Doctor just made it even better for me. The risk of having the kind of anticipation I did is that you can be disappointed, but fortunately that didn't happen.

   When it starts out, it quickly becomes clear what the story's monster is doing. This is a Doctor Who monster story after all. The monster works in a way that I thought was very cool, and it certainly managed to grab my interest right off the bat. It doesn't get lots of development through the story, but that isn't a problem, because that's not really what the story is about.
   What is much more central to this story is the characters. There's the Doctor, of course, and he is his jolly old self. (So much so that I wanted to drop everything to rewatch one of the old Tom Baker episodes when I'd finished reading this.) But more important is the person who is really the main character in this story, Bryony Mailer.

   Bryony comes off as a strong character straight from the beginning. Her thoughts make her out as something more than the others. But it still feels a bit vague because several characters are introduce d at the beginning. When the Doctor shows up though, things instantly become clearer. And his appearance make it even more clear that Bryony is central to what is going to happen. She's really an interesting character too, and for me she more or less carried this on her own. She's there with the Doctor all the time, and although we go inside the Doctor's head she is very much the centre.
   There are a couple of other characters that are in the thick of things, but I don't want to spoil anything by talking too much about them. It suffices to say that they have distinct personalities. They are certainly not given as much depth as Bryony, but in a story this short it simply isn't needed and it would take away from the action.

   The storyline is quite full of events. After the introductory pages there is actually some build-up to things kicking off, but when it does it never lets up. This is a story that is written to be read in one go, and it really makes it hard to do anything else either. There's a bit of a mystery surrounding the monster. That is handled well, and the way things are kept back worked perfectly for me. 
   What there is of action is also splendid. There's no real fighting as such, but anyone who has experience with Doctor Who will recognise the type of action Kennedy gives us. It will come as no surprise that there is some running around, at this stage it feels like it is obligatory for any story of Doctor Who, but it has purpose here and leads us on in the story.
   The only thing that I had some problems with was the ending. It felt a bit rushed, a bit too simple after an excellent build up. Not that it was bad, it just didn't feel like it made it quite up to what the story deserved.

   All in all though this is a very good standalone Doctor Who story. The storyline is a good one, and the monster is interesting. The Forth Doctor works very well here, and Bryony is a very nice to be acquainted with, and I hope she'll show up later.
   This isn't a gamechanger in the Whoniverse, but it is a good addition to it. It will give fans a nice story, and for me it was a great introduction to written Doctor Who - as I am sure it would be for anyone who hasn't read Doctor Who before. It has made me want to check out more of the Doctor's written adventures.
   One sentence review: A short and fun adventure for the Fourth Doctor that is lifted by a supporting character that has great potential.

NOTE: I got an e-ARC of this from the publisher/NetGalley.

19 December, 2013


   So, there'll be a new Stephen King novel coming in June 2014. This cover is for the US edition coming from Simon & Schuster. Although it's a pretty plain cover, it is very evocative. Looks like we are in for a blood-dripper from King. It's a good cover for a book that would probably sell just as much with just the authors name and the title on it.

   "Marky" Mark Lawrence has a new trilogy coming from Ace 3 June 2014, with a cover by Chris McGrath. It's not exactly a groundbreaking Fantasy cover, but as I've said many times before I like the traditional Fantasy covers. This is a really good one, and it makes me interested in picking up the novel.

   This one is out 1 April 2014 from Strange Chemistry. The art is by Steve Stone. First, lovely dress, and I'm not kidding. Secondly, it really is great art. Very good cover. ( first thought was "Bhelliom", something I suspect is a thought that must have gone through the head of the book's editor too.)

   You may recognise the style of this cover for the first book in a series. It's by Joey Hi-Fi for a book coming 29 April 2014 from Angry Robot Books. As always Hi-Fi has made a great cover. I especially like that the city in the background gives a feeling of the 1950s or '60s Science Fiction covers. This is one I'm looking forward to reading.

   Coming 4 March 2014 from Strange Chemistry we have the first one in a series. The cover is by Chris Moore. I like this one a lot. That could be because it reminds me of the forest where we used to play when I was a kid. But it doesn't really matter, the cover definitely catches my attention.

   Amazing 15 has made this cover for a novel out from Angry Robot Books 27 May 2014. It's the first in a series. This one is really a bit WTF!, in a very good way. It's both creepy and cool...and I really need to get this one based by the cover alone.

   From Gollancz, coming June 2014. With art by Edward Bettison. This one is very subdues compared to most of the SFF covers you see. But that works to its advantage, it stands out among the covers in this reveal. I also like this style of cover, and it certainly makes me curious enough to check out the book.

   Paul Young has made this cover for a 4 February release from Strange Chemistry. I'm a bit late with this cover, and I'm not sure how I missed it. I actually became aware of it when I got the e-ARC. I really like this cover, it's really a great image. And I'll make sure to get this one read before it's released.

   I have no info on who made the images for these two. The titles are Sea of Sorrows for book two (, release 22 July 2014,) and River of Rain for book three (, release 18 November 2014), from Titan Books. -As for if I like them or not? I have one tattoo, on my arm, it's done from a picture of the xenomorph from the first movie.
   The first book is out 28 January, and here is the cover for that.

18 December, 2013


Cover art: Paul Kidby
Cover design and image manipulation: Claire Ward


ISBN: 978-0-857-52227-6
Pages: 374
Publisher: Doubleday (Transworld Publishers)
Published: 7 November 2013

On the cover:

To the consternation of the patrician, Lord Vetinari, a new invention has arrived in Ankh-Morpork – a great clanging monster of a machine that harnesses the power of all of the elements: earth, air, fire and water. This being Ankh-Morpork, it's soon drawing astonished crowds, some of whom caught the zeitgeist early and arrive armed with notepads and very sensible rainwear.

Moist von Lipwig is not a man who enjoys hard work. As master of the Post Office, the Mint and the Royal Bank his input is, of course, vital... but largely dependent on words, which are fortunately not very heavy and don't always need greasing. However, he does enjoy being alive, which makes a new job offer from Vetinari hard to refuse.

Steam is rising over Discworld, driven by Mister Simnel, the man wi' t'flat cap and sliding rule who has an interesting arrangement with the sine and cosine. Moist will have to grapple with gallons of grease, goblins, a fat controller with a history of throwing employees down the stairs and some very angry dwarfs if he's going to stop it all going off the rails...

   Discworld has in many ways become the gateway to SFF for many people in the last 30 years, but it has changed quite a bit over the years. It has moved a long way from the parody of the first two books, but you can still see the seeds that lead to this fortieth volume in those books.
   As usual this is a standalone, but I would say that it makes much more sense as the third of the, series-within-a-series, Moist von Lipwig books. And I would advice anyone who isn't planning to read this only because they love (steam) trains to start at the first of those books, Going Postal.
   There's so many elements here, like Commander Vimes and Lord Vetinari, that come with all the baggage from earlier books, that actually reading this on its own would lessen the readers experience to a significant extent in my opinion. And that is also something I see as a problem for the later Discworld books in general, it has become much more of a series than it was. In fact it seems to be almost taken over by Commander Vimes, a character whose story really should have ended with 2002's Night Watch, and he crops up again in a much too big role here.
   Well, that is a bit of context, on to the review of this novel:

   It's obvious that this story is about steam power, or the railway...Except that is only one of three story threads here. There is one about how the goblins, golems, and other such creatures fit into life on the Discworld now that they have gotten recognition. That one is pretty slight here, and is something that has being going on in Discworld books for a long time.  We get a bit more of it here, and it works well as an update into an ongoing concern. But as I wrote about in the previous paragraph, this is another of the elements that has a lot of previous history to it. Although to be fair, this one works pretty well without familiarity with previous Discworld books.
   The second storyline concerns the dwarfs, specifically the conflicts between the orthodox members of the species and those that are open to change. This ties in very much with the railway, that stands as a symbol for progress. And they sort of fit together nicely. I say sort of, there's a problem with the dwarf part being its own thing. For that part of the story the railway is incidental, and it could have been anything. In fact, as it turns out in the end, it's something a bit more important than technical progress that is at the heart of the dwarf side of things. And I feel that this whole side of the story could have been better served by giving it a whole book of its own. Preferably one that wasn't hampered by having a previous leading character at the centre. I just think this story thread has more importance than being relegated to being one of two plot threads gives it.

   That being said, this is actually a really good story. Pacing-wise it is a really fast one, at times reminiscent of an Action Thriller. There is a lot happening, the book is really bursting at the seams with story. (Which can be a problem, as I have already mentioned.) Pratchett has put in quite a bit of good action scenes here, and there s some suspense involved. Although to be fair, it's mostly suspense as to how things are going to happen instead of what is going to happen. It does really pull you along towards the end though. I read to the end through the night, and finished in the morning, I didn't really want to put this down before I'd turned the last page.
   There is a nice build to this story. It starts out rather slow, introducing the railway and the players behind it. Once it gets going though there's a crescendo like building in the events surrounding this new technology. This is done extremely well, and it puts up a very good mirror to our world in that regard. Almost everyone reading the novel can remember events from their lifetime that happened in similar ways that the railways introduction to the Discworld. And as Pratchett has shown us many times before, he is very good at putting things in our world in perspective by using the Discworld.
   Of course that isn't completely problem free. New inventions cropping up has became a sort of Discworld cliche. We saw it in Moving Pictures and Soul Music, and this is the third such outing for Moist van Lipwig. And to be perfectly frank it is starting to feel a bit stale. Mind you, it is still very well done.

   On to the characters, the central one is Moist von Lipwig, a former con man who has become the man who fronts Ankh-Morpork’s forays into modernisation. I’ve liked him as a character before, and I still do to some extent, but he’s getting a bit stale. However, the problem here is that he isn’t really needed. You see, the characters of Dick Simnel, Harry King, and Lord Vetinari's secretary Drumknott actually fill all the needs of the story. They are certainly interesting people, but we only get a glimpse of that, because we have Moist von Lipwig running around doing stuff. Granted, he's a good person to go around giving the reader a glimpse of what's happening. But he's in some ways just fulfilling the role Rincewind had in the earlier books here by running around to show the reader things.
   I already mentioned the problems I had with Commander Vimes showing up. And there is some sense here that he does so only because of his popularity, the same can be said for Lord Vetinari. But they do fulfill their roles when they show up, and so does the rest of the cast. There's just no real new character development here. Dick Simnel, who is very central, doesn't really get to be much more than a stereotypical mechanical inventor/tinkerer.
   All of these characters are actually good, they just lack the depth we have gotten from Pratchett's characters before. They are really more like scenery to the story here, so well drawn and complex characters aren't really this books strength. With something of an exception for the Low King of the dwarf. But as the storyline of the dwarfs get a bit of a short shift here, so does their king. Hopefully we'll see more of the king's story at a later date.

   As a summation, I'll say that this is very much what you'd come to expect from recent Discworld books. The laughs are mostly gone, but there's plenty of smiles. The story is good, and it talks about important issues and shows us our world in a new light. For those who have read Pratchett all along there is a certain disappointment about the lack of something new though. It's a bit stale, and at the same time it feels a bit like there's a rush to get to the "end point" of the Discworld's development before it's too late.

   This is still a very good read though, and one I have no hesitation with recommending. Read it as a Steampunk-inventor novel building to a fast paced Action Thriller towards the end, and I think you will pretty much follow along with what the story is, in my opinion. The social commentary, and the mirroring of our world is still very well done, and is worth picking this up for if you like those kind of elements on your SFF.
   All in all this is good Fantasy, that just lacks that little bit to make the grade into great.

REVIEWS: I Shall Wear Midnight  The Long Earth

LINKS: Terry Pratchett  Transworld Books

03 December, 2013



ISBN: 978-1-48043-819-4
Pages: 410
Publisher: Open Road Media
First published: 15 September 2005
This edition published: 17 September 2013

On the cover:
 (From the publisher's website.)

When a soul goes missing, an occult detective ventures into Hell to retrieve it

When the fourteen-year-old daughter of Singapore Three’s most prominent industrialist dies of anorexia, her parents assume that Pearl’s suffering has come to an end. But somewhere along the way to the Celestial Shores, Pearl’s soul is waylaid, lured by an unknown force to the gates of Hell. To save their daughter from eternal banishment, they come to Detective Inspector Wei Chen, whose jurisdiction lies between this world and the next.

A round-faced cop who is as serious as his beat is strange, Chen has a demon for a wife and a comfort with the supernatural that most mortals cannot match. But finding Pearl Tang will take him further into the abyss than ever before—to a mystifying place where he will have to cooperate with a demonic detective if he wants to survive. It’s easy, Chen will find, to get into Hell. The hard part is getting out.

   In some ways this book sits in the crossroads between several SFF subgenres. There's plenty of Urban Fantasy here, but there's a slight twist in that the "Urban" here doesn't necessarily signify a city on earth. You  could argue that this is Portal Fantasy, as there is extensive travelling in another realm - Hell to be precise. But it isn't really the kind of Fantasy that uses the Bible for inspiration. Hell here means Hell in the sense it is described in Chinese mythology. So the supernatural beings are not the ones you'd expect if you grew up in a society influenced by Old Testament culture. This means that the setting itself is quite different from what you would expect when you hear that you are dealing with demons.

   Williams has done a great job of making the setting come alive. You get a very good feel for the atmosphere of the earthly city of Singapore Three, a bustling Asian metropolis of the not too distant future. However that is not what I would call the main location here, although we spend a lot of time in it. The main location is without a doubt Hell.
   As I said above, this is Chinese Hell, which is a quite different place from the Christian one. It's actually a very interesting place, maybe even worth a visit if you are the adventurous type. There's lots of details about what goes on in this version of Hell, and it really comes alive in the pages of the novel. It's described in such a way that you can see it before you, and it doesn't feel any less real than the Earthly city the rest of the story takes place in.

   Storywise this starts out with what is really become a cliche, a women walks into a detective's office. But we have already been warned by the prologue that this isn't an ordinary Crime novel, and it's a matter of moments before everything takes a completely different turn. Once the supernatural elements are firmly introduced the story really gets going, and when it does it rarely lets up on the fast pace. 
   There is a lot of things happening, and there's several story threads to encompass them all. Although this means that we do jump around a bit in location and point of views, it doesn't mean that it feels disorganised or confusing. Williams manages to keep things going in the direction they are meant to be, and she seems very disciplined in how and when she introduces new viewpoints. There's no feeling of changes cluttering up the forward motion of the narrative.

   There are some of the elements of the Crime novel in the story, we get a central mystery that draws us in. This mystery build very nicely, and it twist and turns around satisfyingly. There are surprises coming at several points, and some cliffhangers will make it a necessity to keep reading. Sometimes the structure of the pacing will remind you of an Action-Adventure Thriller, although the novel stays in the Fantasy bookshelf throughout.
   There's some situations here that are quite humorous, but that doesn't mean the book is Humorous Fantasy, it stays well away from that. This is played straight. Although it must be stressed that this is a fun novel, with plenty of happenings that will bring a smile to your face.

    I always feel that the characters are important in this type of novel,. They are the ones we see the world through, and as such how they function is important to the readers experience. D.I. Chen is a very good character in that respect. He has a lot of depth to him, including the flaws that are so important to adding that third character dimension. Chen is in fact a very welcome acquaintance. He feels like a very natural supernatural detective, an "everyman" supernatural detective if you want. You're very much left with the feeling that this is how such a person would be. To put it very shortly; he feels real.
   Chen isn't alone in the book. He has the support of some very interesting characters. Especially his wife Inara and Zhu Irzh. The latter could almost be said to be the main character, and in some parts of the novel he steals the show. He is however subservient to Chen when it comes to getting this story told, but his importance is near the D.I.'s.
   There are other characters here too that have lesser roles than these three. And all of them are well drawn. Williams is very good at creating characters you can relate to on some level. Even some of the evil denizens of Hell comes across as interesting to know. (But perhaps not spend time visiting.)

   All in all this is very well written Urban Fantasy with a solid world behind it. The setting alone will give this a lot of freshness for those that read this kind of story. It isn't just decorating that sets this story in an Asian locale, the setting is very much integral to the story being told. And the story is a very entertaining one, it's a story that actually could justify the description "fun romp".
   I would recommend this to anyone who likes an action filled and fun Urban Fantasy story, and especially those that want stories set in a city outside Europe or North America. This is highly entertaining, and I for one will try to get hold of the other novels in the series.

NOTE: An e-ARC was provided to me by the publisher/NetGalley.

LINKS: Liz Williams  Open Road Media