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.