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.