Thursday, 31 December 2009

Ender in Exile by Orson Scott Card

I've spent the last week reading Ender in Exile by Orson Scott Card.

I "discovered" card 20 years ago (!) when I bought his novel of James Cameron's move The Abyss. It was far from the run-of-the-mill novelisations and was a good novel in it's own right. I was an instant fan and hunted out anything else he had written.

Of course Card's "must read" novel is Ender's Game, featuring kids being sent to Battle School in order to learn how to defeat aliens that mankind is waging war with. A strong thread though the book and it's sequels is the humanity that Ender retains despite all that is done to him and all that he does.

Ender's Game was followed up by the Speaker for the Dead trilogy dealing with the character later in life as an adult. Later Card would also write the Ender's Shadow Quartet as a sort of "sidequel". Ender in Exile is the first true sequel to Ender's game and if you are a fan of the earlier books it's well worth a look.

My Ian Fleming/James Bond Website

I've spent much of the last day working on my sadly neglected Ian Fleming/James Bond website. I've had this site on the go since at least 1999 and it was high time for an update.

The site mainly features the paperback cover art from the various UK editions of the books. It's by no means a complete set of covers but a lot of my favourites are there and I'll add more as time goes on.

I've also changed the font to Century Gothic as it's the one used on the Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace movie posters. We'll see how long it takes for me to grow tired of it.

I've also scanned in a selection of my Ian Fleming paperback collection and here are a few covers.

You can find the new, improved, lovely site at the following link:

I'm trying out that new host. Hopefully it will work ok and the advertising will not be too obtrusive. Feedback is always gratefully received!

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Some books for 2010

First of all, it's almost 2010. How did that happen! I remember reading Arthur C Clarke's novel 2010 Odyssey Two back in 1985 and thinking how far off that future was and how much older I'd be...

Anyway here are a few books due out in 2010 that have caught my eye.

Hitler's War by Harry Turtledove due out in paperback on 21 Jan 2010. I read all ten volumes of turtledove's alternate history following the Great War and WW2 fought between the USA and Confederates. Hitler's War starts a new series asking what would have happened if Neville Chamberlain had gone to war with Germany a year early in 1938.

Eye of the Red Tsar caught my eye as I like thrillers set in Russia. It deals with a policeman released from the gulags in order to find out what happened to the Tsar's treasure. It's due out on 21 Jan 2010.

Here's three new books by Clive Cussler. Actually they are written by other authors in collaboration with Cussler. Spartan Gold (7 Jan 2010) is part of a new "Fargo" series, The Silent Sea (4 March 2010) is part of the "Oregon" series and of biggest interest to me The Spy (June 2010) is the third Issac Bell novel and is written by Justin Scott. That one does not have a UK cover yet so I have included the US cover that shows an early model German submarine in what I assume is New York. The Issac Bell novels are set in the first decade of the 1900s so that intrigues me.

Two new novels by Stephen Leather. I first read his book The Chinaman in 1993 and bought his new books as they came out over the following years. Lately he has been concentrating on his Dan Shepard character (who has the very unfortunate nickname "Spider") and Rough Justice is the latest of these (due out 22 July 2010). The other novel Nightfall marks a bit of a departure for the author as it is a thriller with a supernatural twist (due out 21 Jan 2010).

I've mentioned before how much I have enjoyed some of Stephen Hunt's alternative steampunk-style adventures. His fourth, Secrets of the Fire Sea, is due out on 4 Feb 2010.

I ready my first Stephen Coonts novel, Final Flight, 20 years ago. I read a lot of his books since but not the most recent ones. The Disciple has caught my eye due to it's eye-catching action-packed cover. (I didn't know they did these covers any more. Lately some of the UK editions of his novels have had Da Vinci Code style "arches" for some reason.) Anyway, this one features Tommy Carmellini and Jake Grafton investigating Iran's covert nuclear programme. Topical! it's due out on 4 Feb 2010.

Able One (2 Feb 2010) is a thriller by SF author Ben Bova about a is a modified 747 fitted with a high-powered laser to knock out missiles in flight. A training flight with a skeleton crew becomes the real thing when they have to try to stop missiles launched by North Korea. Most of Bova's books deal with exploration of the solar system so that is an interesting change of material.

Saturday, 19 December 2009

The Collaborator paperback news

Amazon UK have put up a cover for the paperback edition of Gerald Seymour's new novel, The Collaborator. It's due for publication by Hodder paperbacks on 29 April 2010. The cover is similar to the hardback design with the main changes being a large black area below the title and the addition of colour to the figures at the top. Indeed they have added (I assume) Immacolata Borelli to the picture.

No word yet on his next book or if Hodder will be reprinting the back catalog.

Friday, 16 October 2009

Philip K Dick's The Adjustment Bureau to be filmed

This piece of news caught my eye on the Daily Mail site today:

Emily Blunt has had her pins en pointe preparing to play a ballerina who catches Matt Damon's eye.

The two star in The Adjustment Bureau, a movie based on a short story by Philip K. Dick. The London-born actress studied with the Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet, based down in the Chelsea district of Manhattan, and worked on several pieces of choreography to prepare for the part.

In the movie, Damon plays a politician who falls in love with the dancer. However, he gets the feeling that his romantic liaison is somehow being 'controlled' by otherworldly forces.

Read more:

I must dig out my PKD books and read that story again.

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Bernard Cornwell's Azincourt to be filmed

There was a story in the Times newspaper yesterday about a new movie being made about the battle of Agincourt. The book will apparently be based on Bernard Cornwell's novel Azincourt which was published a year ago.

Here's an extract from the article:

It was Cornwell’s novel, however, that unlocked a new way of interpreting medieval politics and warfare for a modern cinema audience.

“Cornwell made everyone sit up by using an archer as his chief character and seeing that world from the ground up rather than, as we usually do, from the point of view of kings and princes.”

The main character is Nicholas Hook, an English mercenary, who witnesses and dishes out unspeakable violence, rescues a damsel in distress and becomes a soldier in Henry V’s forces as they struggle, underfed and overstretched, through northern France towards their date with history.

You can read the whole article at

Filming is expected to start next year.

Bernard Cornwell is best known for his Richard Sharpe series. I've read some of those plus his Grail Quest series and the first three of his King Alfred books. Azincourt is yet another of the books waiting for me to read it.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Robert Ludlum reissues for 2010

A while back I noticed that Amazon UK was listing new editions of Robert Ludlum's novels for publication through 2010. No cover images were displayed so I was curious as to what the cover designs would be like. Frankly I think the current UK covers are hideous so I figured that anything would be an improvement.

Today I found some of the new covers on Amazon and while they are not as good as the colourful David Scutt covers from the early 1990s thankfully they are not too bad.

First of all here are covers for three of his later books, two of which were published posthumously.

And now here are three of Eric Van Lustbader's Bourne continuation novels.

And finally here's one of the "Covert One" subset that Ludlum didn't write.

Secrets of the Fire Sea by Stephen Hunt

A quick visit to Amazon UK today gave me the first sight of the new Stephen Hunt novel, due for publication on 4 February 2010. I'm very glad to see HarperCollins have retained the wonderful retro cover design from the three earlier books in the series.

The "blurb" from the site follows below...

A tale of high adventure and derring-do set in the same Victorian-style world as the acclaimed The Court of the Air and The Rise of the Iron Moon.

The isolated island of Jago is the only place Hannah Conquest has ever known as home. Encircled by the magma ocean of the Fire Sea, it was once the last bastion of freedom when the world struggled under the tyranny of the Chimecan Empire during the age-long winter of the cold-time. But now this once-shining jewel of civilization faces an uncertain future as its inhabitants emigrate to greener climes, leaving the basalt plains and raging steam storms far behind them. For Hannah and her few friends, the streets of the island's last occupied underground city form a vast, near-deserted playground.

But Hannah's carefree existence comes to an abrupt halt when her guardian, Archbishop Alice Gray, is brutally murdered in her own cathedral. Someone desperately wants to suppress a secret kept by the archbishop, and if the attempts on Hannah's own life are any indication, the killer believes that Alice passed the knowledge of it onto her ward before her saintly head was separated from her neck.

But it soon becomes clear that there is more at stake than the life of one orphan. A deadly power struggle is brewing on Jago, involving rival factions in the senate and the island's most powerful trading partner. And it's beginning to look as if the deaths of Hannah's archaeologist parents shortly after her birth were very far from accidental. Soon the race is on for Hannah and her friends to unravel a chain of hidden riddles and follow them back to their source to save not just her own life, but her island home itself.

Hmm. That description was a bit unwieldy and after reading it I'm really not sure what the book is about. But if it is half as entertaining as The Kingdom Beyond the Waves then it'll be a good read.

Sunday, 11 October 2009

The Collaborator by Gerald Seymour

I've been reading Gerald Seymour's novels since 1987 and each new novel is a highlight of my year's reading. This year sees the publication of his 26th novel, The Collaborator.

In this one he retreats from his usual look at terrorism and focuses on organised crime. He did this before, most notably in Killing Ground, The Untouchable and to some degree in Rat Run.

The main character is Eddie Deacon, a young English teacher who meets and falls in love with an Italian girl called Immacolata Borelli whom he immediately calls "Mac".

Unknown to him she is part of a Camorra clan, one of the organised crime families in Naples who run protection rackets with impunity. She is in London with her brother who is on the run from the Italian authorities. When she secretly travels back to Italy to attend the funeral of a friend she is met with hostility and is humiliated by her friend's parents. It turns out that her friends death was partly the fault of the Borelli family. Immacolata resolves to collaborate with the prosecutors and give evidence against her family.

When "Mac" vanishes off the face of the earth Eddie decides to follow her. He heads to Naples to find her and falls into the clutches of her hideous grandparents and their enforcer who want to use him as leverage against her. Eddie finds himself held prisoner and he has to discover if he has the strength that will let him endure and escape.

The other main character is Lukas, an American formerly of the FBI who now travels to troublespots around the world when his expertise is needed to help release hostages.

This is another excellent entry into my Seymour collection. The book is a slight departure from the norm as there is very little British involvement. Usually we get a glimpse of the workings of MI5 and MI6. In this book they are notable by their absence. The vast majority of the book is set in Italy, principally Naples. Seymour does a good job describing Naples as a dangerous place, in particular the bits the tourists don't get to see.

Friday, 2 October 2009

The Rise of the Iron Moon by Stephen Hunt

Again, this post was adapted from one on my other blog thing.

Earlier this year I read The Rise of the Iron Moon, the third in a sequence of novels by Stephen Hunt. Last year I read the previous book, The Kingdom Beyond the Waves, and enjoyed it very much.

As before the novel is set in the alternate/far-future steampunk world of the Kingdom of Jackals. Steamman Coppertracks informs a gathering of distinguished scientists that he believes there is life on the red planet of Kaliban but is laughed off stage.

Later it turns out that he was quite right. A comet (the "Iron Moon" of the title) changes course and returns to earth and is used as a base for an invasion. An nearly invincible Army of Shadows attacks and quickly destroys the armed forces in the countries neighbouring Jackals. It's clearly The War of the Worlds time.

Fear not, for the Kingdom of Jackals has the finest fleet of airships in the world. Unfortunately the Army of Shadows makes quick work of the Royal Aerostatical Navy as well.

It's up to Molly Templar, Commodore Black and Coppertracks to come to the rescue, riding a spaceship fired from a cannon to Kaliban where they will get a weapon that can destroy the invading forces....

I enjoyed the book, but I have to admit not as much as Kingdom. Iron Moon seems a little less polished, a little more rushed. In particular the narrative jumps in various places. Just as we are getting to an exciting escape or battle the scene switches to later on and the action is dealt with in a few sentences. Perhaps Kingdom was just too damn good!

Having said that Iron Moon is crammed full of ideas, almost too many for one book. The true identity of the Masters of the Army of Shadows is quite clever. And the author does not hold back from practically wiping whole armies, countries and populations off the map.

Despite my misgivings with this instalment Stephen Hunt is writing some of the most enjoyable books I have read in a long time. I look forward to volume four and in the meantime I still have The Court of the Air to read.

Note to publisher, don't dare change the wonderful retro cover designs for these books!

The Kingdom Beyond the Waves by Stephen Hunt

This post is adapted from one I made on my other blog thing.

One of my three favourite books from 2008 was The Kingdom Beyond the Waves and by Stephen Hunt.

The book defies easy description. It's a science fiction/fantasy/steampunk/alternative history novel that may be set in the distant past or the distant future. The action starts in the state of Jackals which seems to be based on a 19th Century Britain, only with computers called "transaction engines" and instead of the Royal Navy or Royal Air Force we have the RAN - the Royal Aerostatical Navy which uses giant airships to keep military superiority.

Except those are just side details. The novel deals with the quest to find the missing mythical city of Camlantis, a city that thousands of years before disappeared into the sky during the last dark age. Professor Amelia Harsh joins the mercenary crew of a u-boat to venture down a dangerous river in Heart of Darkness fashion to search for the city. Danger lurks outside the u-boat and inside it as well because some characters have their own agenda.

I don't want to say too much as discovering the details is as much part of the fun as the overall story. The novel is a long one at 556 pages but fairly rattles along packed with incident and cliffhangers aplenty.

Stephen Hunt has written a previous book set in the same world called The Court of the Air and earlier this year the third book, The Rise of the Iron Moon, was published.

Robert Harris reissues

Every time a new Robert Harris book comes out it's a bit of an event for his publishers because they always reissue his previous books with new covers. Lustrum, the second of his Roman "trilogy", is just out in hardback so the previous novels have all received a make-over.

This time the paperbacks have also been increased to the larger format that is now prevalent and the cover design matches the "silhouette" design on the paperback of his last novel, The Ghost.

Here are the covers of the six paperbacks. Notice how little silhouette men find their way into the book titles!

And here is the hardback cover of Lustrum. Notice that there are no little silhouette Romans on that cover.

I think I like the cover of Enigma best.

And here are my quick thoughts on some of the books.

Fatherland was an excellent "what if" novel about life in Nazi German in the 1960s.

Enigma was one of the best WW2 novels I have read.

Archangel was an entertaining look at post-Soviet Russia and was made into a BBC drama featuring a pre-Bond Daniel Craig.

The Ghost has been in the news lately due to the incarceration of the film adaptation's director, Roman Polanski. The movie was due out next year.

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

The Wrecker by Clive Cussler "with" Justin Scott

Just published this week is yet another Clive Cussler novel. Actually I suspect he didn't write very much of it as it's one of those books credited to "Clive Cussler with ..."

This one is of particular interest to me because the "with" in question is Justin Scott. I've read a number of his books over the years and enjoyed them very much. Some of my favourites are The man Who Loved the Normandie (aka Normande Triangle), A Pride of Kings (aka A Pride of Royals), The Shipkiller and The Empty Eye of the Sea.

This book marks a departure for him as up to now I think he only wrote his own books, and not anyone else's.

The Wrecker is a sequel to Cussler's The Chase (no "with" on that one) which featured a private eye character chasing a master criminal across the railways of the US in the early years of the 20th century. The Wrecker features the same detective tracking down a railroad saboteur in 1907.

I think the hardback will be half-price in Tescos on Thursday so I'll look for my copy there.

Friday, 25 September 2009

The Gate House by Nelson Demille

Got another book for the ever-expanding collection today. I spotted The Gate House by Nelson DeMille, just out in paperback, and as it was half-price I grabbed a copy.

DeMille is one of those authors whose back catalog I want to read. Actually I have read some of his earlier books such as By the Rivers of Babylon and Cathedral. But most of his recent stuff remains on my to-do list.

The Gate House is a sequel to his 1990 novel Gold Coast and features "old money" and the mafia on Long Island.

Here's the cover. I have to say it's a bit uninspiring when compared to the Gino d'Achille cover for By the Rivers of Babylon. But then most book covers are uninspiring these days.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Hyperion and The Fall of Hyperion by Dan Simmons

I've been neglecting the book blog thing lately. Well, it's not because I'm not reading anything.

Lately I've finally got around to reading Dan Simmons' books Hyperion and The Fall of Hyperion. These books were first published back around 1989 and 1990 but I have only become aware of Simmons recently. Last year I read his historical book The Terror about the ill-fated 19th Century Franklin expedition to find the North-West Passage. That book was simply stunning and was one of my three favourite novels that I read in 2008. (If you want to know the other two i can always post about them here.)

Anyway, back to Hyperion. The story is told across two books and you really need to read both to get the full story. I feel that calling The Fall of Hyperion a sequel is a bit inaccurate as it's actually where the real action happens after the sceen-setting in book 1.

The books have been compared to Dune. When I read that I got all sniffy as Dune is my favourite novel, but as it turns out it is the only appropriate comparison I can think of to describe the world-building of Simmons.

The books are set in the far future where the Hegemony of mankind is living a comfortable existence. Citizens are able to "farcast" across the "web", travelling light years in moments through star-gate type devices. Earth was abandoned centuries before after the Big Mistake, an accident with an artificial black hole. Sentient AIs reside in the mysterious TechnoCore and assist the humans when it suits them. And the Ousters are coming... They are an offshoot of humanity that have shunned the Hegemony and TechnoCore and have proved unbeatable in war.

Still with me?

The key to all this is the strange planet of Hyperion, a world that contains the "time tombs" which apparently move backwards in time. Also on the planet is the Shrike, a four-armed spiky killing machine that can move in the blink of an eye.

The first book deals with a number of pilgrims all going to Hyperion. At the start of the book they are all strangers and each takes his or her turn to tell the story of why they are going there. By the end of the book the reader has got to know these characters intimately and will have to go straight to book 2 to find out what happens next. (The fate of Rachel in particular had me on the edge of the seat chewing my nails and biting my lip at the same time.)

Book 2 then picks up the story and it's a full-on adventure space-opera with multiple viewpoints and shocks aplenty including the real face of the Ousters and the TechnoCore. Planets are burned to cinders and the CEO of the Hegemony has a difficult choice to make... You'll see!

Along the way we get discussions on the nature of God and meet the reincarnated 19th century poet John Keats.

Indeed it seems that much of the sequence, including the titles, are inspired by Keats.


If you like SF you have to read these books. And if you don't like SF read them anyway.

Endymion and The Rise of Endymion complete the story.

And a movie of the first two books is apparently in the works. Good luck to them!

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Kingfisher by Gerald Seymour

I first read Kingfisher back in 1987 or 1988. (I can't be exactly sure of the date except to say that I read all Seymour's books to date in a short period in late-'87 and early-'88. I liked him and I wanted to read them all!) Recently I have reread it.

Kingfisher is probably my favourite of his earlier books. By now his trademark template was established with multiple shades of gray colouring everything that happens.

The book was written and is set in 1977 when the Soviet Union was still a monolith a long way from crumbling. The story concerns a number of Jewish students in the Ukraine who have grown tired of the repression and decide to takes things into their own hands. They botch the shooting of a policeman and one of their number gets captured. The three remaining students decide to hijack a plane in the naive belief that the West will welcome them with open arms and let them go to Israel.

Their illusions are quickly shattered when various Western European airports prevent the plane from landing. Eventually they land in England low on fuel and demand that they are allowed to continue to Israel.

In the control tower is Charlie Webster of MI6's Soviet Desk. He's what passes for an expert on dissidents and has been summoned in order to advise his political masters and the police on the hijackers and their motives. What he observes only reinforces his cynicism and he's desperate to find a way for both the passengers and the hijackers to survive and avoid the inevitable bloodshed.

The book works particularly well because much of the story is told from the point of view of the hijackers. We discover that they are not evil people; rather they are misguided and ultimately find themselves as powerless as the passengers they have taken hostage.

Kingfisher is well worth a look.

Monday, 31 August 2009

Ken Follett WW2 novel reissues

Ken Follett is not really one of "my" authors but I've read some of his stuff in the past and there are a few books of his I've been meaning to read.

I noticed a new edition of his early bestseller The Eye of the Needle in Waterstones last week and it appears that Pan books are doing new editions of a number of his World War 2 era thrillers. The other two books that will follow are Hornet Flight and Jackdaws.

Here are the covers for the three books.

I particularly like the theme of using the various maps in the background. Follett also has a couple of other novels from this era, namely The Key to Rebecca and Night Over Water. Perhaps new editions of those books will follow.

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

The Man in the High Castle by Philip K Dick

Philip K Dick has been and remains one of my all-time favourite writers. He wrote novels that on the face of it were clearly science fiction, but on closer examination were clearly a genre of their own. He was most preoccupied with asking what it that makes us human and more to the point, what is reality anyway?

The Man in the High Castle is regarded as one of his best books and won the Hugo award when first published in 1962. It describes an alternate America that lost WW2. America is divided into three separate entities. The East cost is under German control, the West coast is under a more benevolent Japanese influence and in between are the Rocky Mountain States that are semi-autonomous.

Then there is a book within the book, a banned novel called The Grasshopper Lies Heavy which describes a world where Germany and Japan the war.

Most of the events in the book take place on the West coast and as normal with PKD concern the "little" people who are just trying to make ends meet and get on in life.

Last year Amazon UK put up the cover of a new "masterworks" edition for publication in 2010. I loved the artwork and emailed the artist Chris Moore (see to thank him for doing such a good job. I love the depiction of the German supersonic transport, much like Concorde but just different enough to clue you in to the alternate world.

At the moment the book has a publication date of 17 September 2009.

The Art of Star Trek - finally!

Normally when a big-budget Hollywood movie arrives in cinemas it is accompanied by numerous glossy tie-in books. This year alone there were a multiple "making of" and "art of" books accompanying movies such as Terminator Salvation and Watchmen.

Star Trek however didn't get a tie-in. I understand that (rightly or wrongly) the perception was that a Star Trek book wouldn't sell and booksellers wouldn't touch it with a barge pole.

Then the movie opened. And was a hit. A massive, massive (photon torpedo) hit. And I'm sure Paramount and various booksellers were feeling a bit annoyed that there was no glossy tie-in. so we should not be surprised that a glossy "art of" book will finally appear when the DVD comes out in November. It's written by Mark Cotta Vaz who has done a number of these kind of books before. Hopefully there will be lots of pre-production art and photos of the new Enterprise.

Star Trek: The Art of the Film will be published by Titan books in the UK and USA on 17 November 2009.

Monday, 17 August 2009

Final Alistair Maclean reissues

HarperCollins have been gradually releasing new editions of Alistair Maclean's thrillers and next month they get to his final five books. Cover images are now available for Partisans, Floodgate, San Andreas, The Lonely Sea and Santorini. They can be seen below and are very much in line with the cover designs featured on the books reissued earlier.

The Lonely Sea was Maclean's only collection of short stories and according to that cover image this edition will contain two new stories.

Maclean was out of print for a number of years so these are welcome reprints. May I humbly suggest HarperCollins reprint another author from their back catalog, namely Craig Thomas.