Reviews

Conan the Barbarian by Robert E Howard

August 26, 2011

Conan spawned a hundred imitators or more. Find out why with tales such as 'The Tower of the Elephant' and 'Beyond the Black River' in Robert E Howard's Conan the Barbarian (Gollancz '7.99); REH's greatest creation cuts a bloody swathe through the history of Hyborea. This collection of classic short fiction, 350 pages of epic action, is selected by both the makers of the new film and Robert E Howard scholars.

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Absorption by John Meaney — book review

August 26, 2011

Absorption by John Meaney. Gollancz '8.99

Reviewed by Pauline Morgan

John Meaney is a clever and complex writer weaving seemingly unrelated stories together to make a greater whole. Here there are at least five strands scattered throughout time, each with their separate characters.

Ulfr is a warrior of a Northern clan in 777AD. He perceives the travelling bard Stigr as touched by darkness even though his oratory entrances the rest of the tribe. Gavriela Wolf, a German Jew and a physicist in the 1920s sees the same phenomenon when she spies on a local meeting and observes Hitler entrancing the crowd.

In 2146, Rekka Chandri is the member of the human exploration team that makes contact with the sentient natives on an unnamed planet. Further in the future in 2603, Roger Blackstone is just starting college on Fulgor.

Roger, Gavriela and Ulfr each dream that they inhabit crystal bodies in some far future place. They occasionally get waking visions of each other. Most of the action takes place on Fulgor as one of the hierarchy, the Luculenti, discovers an artefact buried on her estate. When she opens it, she is infected by a vampire code which eats its way into her neural paths.

By the end of this volume, the first of three, it is possible to see loose connections between the disaster played out on Fulgor and the characters in the past. The links are not yet strong enough to see the true pattern emerging. Possibly Meaney has introduced too many stands, too quickly, to do the overall shape full justice.

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A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness — book review

August 26, 2011

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness. Headline '14.99

Reviewed by Matthew Johns

Deborah Harkness's first novel begins an epic trilogy of witches, vampires and daemons living mostly unnoticed amongst humans in the present day. As the story unfolds, it tells of a forbidden love, magic spells, a conspiracy and the shadowy organisation trying to keep star crossed lovers apart.

Recently picked up by Warner Brothers to be developed as a movie, A Discovery of Witches, grabbed me from the moment I opened it and kept me engrossed until the cliffhanger ending. Based mainly around Oxford University and the city itself, the rich narrative that Harkness weaves really does bring the place and characters to life, fully immersing the reader into the tale.

The main protagonist, Dr Diana Bishop, is a witch, who represses her powers, and an historian. Diana is studying various alchemical texts in the Bodleian Library, going about her day-to-day non-magical business, until one particular manuscript grabs the attention of various vampires, daemons and witches that are all desperate to get hold of it. She soon meets and falls in love with a vampire named Matthew, and begins a journey to understand her own powers, the history of the three magical species and the mysterious manuscript.

Despite the rather daunting size of the book (594 pages), it is exceptionally easy to read and highly enjoyable. Deborah Harkness has set herself the unenviable task of having to live up to an excellent first novel, but I believe that it is one that she is more than up to. I will keep my eyes firmly peeled for her second and third novels ' Deborah Harkness is definitely an author to watch closely over the coming years.

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Bloodshot by Cherie Priest — book review

August 26, 2011

Bloodshot: Cheshire Red Reports Book1 by Cherie Priest. Titan Books '7.99

Reviewed by Jan Edwards

First in a new series in which the Queen of Steampunk moves into vampire territory. And Priest's vampire, Raylene Pendle, is neither weary soul searcher or rapid animal. Her vampire is very, very cool, a professional 'finder' who acquires (steals) works of art, jewels etc, and occasionally papers and documents, to order. And it is secret papers logging experiments carried on vampires that she is looking for this time around, and it isn't long before the men in black are hunting her down. Raylene is a kickass vampire with a refreshingly cool persona. No angst, no hang-ups, she just wants to go quietly about her business with as little fuss as possible, the way she has been doing for almost 100 years. This kind of trouble she does not need. Fast and furious with enormous quantities of wit and style, I can quite see Raylene as the next big TV vampire. Bloodshot is great fun; I'm looking forward to the next volume, Hellbent, which is due out very soon.

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Recent and forthcoming books

August 26, 2011

  • Reviews should appear on the BFS website in due course...

Temptress Legacy. Book 3 of the True Jane Novels by Nicole Peeler. Orbit '7.99. Paranormal

Blood Rights by Kristen Painter. Orbit '7.99. Vampires

Hounded by Kevin Hearne. Orbit '7.99. Urban fantasy, third in series

Darkness Unbound. Dark Angel Book 1 by Keri Arthur. Piatkus '7.99. Paranormal fantasy

The Black Prism. Lightbringer Book 1 by Brent Weeks. Orbit '7.99. Heroic fantasy

The Business Of Death by Trent Jamiesen. Orbit '8.99. Urban fantasy

Fated by S.G. Browne. Piatkus '7.99. Comic fantasy

Cold Fire. Spiritwalker Book 2 by Kate Elliot. Orbit '13.99. Victorian fantasy with dragons

The Measure Of Magic. Legends Of Shannara Book 2 by Terry Brooks. Orbit '18.99. Heroic fantasy

Conan the Barbarian by Robert E Howard. Gollancz '7.99. Short story collection (classic fantasy)

Of Men and Monsters by William Tenn. Gollancz '7.99. SF Masterworks series

The Sookie Stackhouse Novels. Trueblood Omnibus III by Charlaine Harris. Gollancz '16.99. Three Sookie novels in one volume

Kiss of Snow by Nalini Singh. Gollancz '12.99. Psy-changeling novel ' vampires

Elantris by Brandon Sanderson. Gollancz '8.99. High fantasy

The Japanese Deil Fish Girl & Other Supernatural Attractions by Robert Rankin. Gollancz '7.99. Comic fantasy

Many Bloody Returns edited by Charlaine Harris & Toni Kelner. Gollancz '14.99. Short fiction anthology

Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson. Gollancz '18.99. Heroic fantasy

By Light Alone by Adam Roberts, Gollancz '12.99. Science fiction

Shadow's Lure. Shadow Volume 2 by Jon Sprunk. Gollancz '12.99. Fantasy

Bringer Of Light by Jaine Fenn. Gollancz '12.99. SF/fantasy

A Long Sleep by Anna Sheehan. Gollancz '9.99. YA fantasy

Supernatural: Coyote's Kiss by Christa Faust. Titan '6.99. TV tie-in

Beyond The Frontier:Deadnaught. Lost Fleet Series by Jack Campbell. Titan '7.99. Military SF

Star Wars ' The Jedi Path. A Manual For Students Of The Force by Daniel Wallace. Titan '12.99. Spoof training manual

Doctor Who. The Complete Guide by Mark Campbell. Robinson '6.99. Dr Who episode guide.

Deeper Than Midnight by Lara Adrian. Robinson '7.99. Vampires

Witness by Cath Staincliffe. Robinson '18.99. Crime/horror

Mammoth Book of Best British Crime edited by Maxim Jakubowski. Robinson '7.99. Crime anthology

Little Star by John Ajvide Lindqvist. Quercus '17.99/'12.99. Horror

Johnny Mackintosh. Battle for Earth by Keith Mansfield. Quercus '6.99. YA SF/fantasy adventure

The Lost Angels. Avenger's Angel by Heather Killough-Walden. Headline '6.99. Paranormal fantasy

Johanned Cabal. The Fear Institute by Jonathan L Howard. Headline '19.99. Dark comic fantasy

Succubus Revealed by Richelle Mead. Bantam '6.99. Vampire series

Everyone's Just So So Special by Robert Shearman. Big Finish '14.95. Short story collection

The Third Section: Russia 1835. Danilov Quintet Part 3 by Jasper Kent. Bantam Press '12.99. Heroic/historic fantasy

Black Light: Don't Look Too Deep by Patrick Melton, Marcus Dunstan & Stephen Romano. Hodder/Mulholland '12.99. Horror

Red Gloves. Volumes 1 & 2 (in one book) by Christopher Fowler. PS Publishing '19.99. Short story collection

Nested Scrolls: A Writer's Life by Rudy Rucker. PS Publishing 19.99. Autobiography

Redlaw by James Lovegrove. Solaris '7.99. Vampires

House Of Fear edited by Jonathan Oliver. Solaris '7.99. Horror anthology

Darkness Falling by Peter Crowther. Angry Robot '7.99. Horror

Son Of Heaven. Chung Kuo Volume 1 by David Wingrove. Corvus '7.99. Apocalyptic oriental SF

Alt-Dead edited by Peter Mark May. Hersham Horror. Horror fiction anthology

The Eighth Black Book of Horror edited by Charles Black. Mortbury Press. Horror anthology

Mrs Darcy Versus The Aliens by Jonathan Pinnock. Proxima Classics '8.99. Mash up horror/fantasy

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Recent book reviews

August 23, 2011

The following reviews have been added to the BFS website.

Rule 34 by Charles Stross. Orbit

Stands a Shadow by Col Buchanan

The Ridge by Michael Koryta, Hodder and Stoughton

The Necklace of the Gods by Alison Goodman. Bantam Press

Cowboys & Aliens by Joan D Vinge. Tor

Rip Tide by Stella Rimington. Bloomsbury

The Nosferatu Scroll by James Becker. Bantam Press

Roil: The Nightbound Land by Trent Jamieson. Angry Robot

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Book reviews in the Journal

August 23, 2011

Reviews of the following books are lined up to appear in the Autumn issue of the BFS Journal ' due at the end of September:

The Thing on the Shore by Tom Fletcher. Quercus

Nightmare Movies: Horror on Screen Since the 1960s by Kim Newman. Bloomsbury

Songs of the Earth by Elspeth Cooper. Gollancz

Veteran by Gavin Smith. Gollancz

Horns by Joe Hill. Gollancz

Fugue For A Darkening Island by Christopher Priest. Gollancz

The Black Lung Captain by Chris Wooding. Gollancz

The Thief-Taker's Apprentice by Stephen Deas. Gollancz

The Shadow of the Soul by Sarah Pinborough. Orion.

The Dragon's Path by Daniel Abraham. Orbit

Ghost Story by Jim Butcher . Orbit

Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey. Orbit

Ember And Ash by Pamela Freeman. Orbit

Desdaemona by Ben Macallan. Solaris

Dangerous Waters by Juliet E. Mckenna. Solaris

Dead of Veridon by Tim Akers. Solaris

Restoration by Guy Adams. Angry Robot

On The Third Day by Rhys Thomas. Doubleday

Greyglass by Tanith Lee. Immanion Press

Blood Oath by Christopher Farnsworth. Hodder & Stoughton

The Mammoth Book of Dracula edited by Stephen Jones. Robinson

Pax Britannia: Anno Frankenstein by Jonathan Green. Abaddon Books

The Ritual by Adam Nevill. Macmillan

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. Random House

The Book of Transformations by Mark Charan Newton. Tor

Family Portrait, The Pariah and Mirror, all by Graham Masterton. Hammer

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Roil: The Nightbound Land by Trent Jamieson — book review

August 23, 2011

Roil: The Nightbound Land by Trent Jamieson. Angry Robot '7.99

Reviewed by Elloise Hopkins

The land is under constant threat of the storm known as the Roil. It carries with it monsters and vicious infections as it rolls across Shale destroying cities and tearing lives apart. Margaret heads towards the Roil in search of her parents, seeking revenge for the loss of her home and everything she once knew.

David, hunted by the Council Vergers, orphaned and hindered by grief, guilt and the pains of drug dependency, finds himself in the power of the Old Man, Cadell, an ancient and powerful character whose motives are not always clear. Now, as the journey takes him closer to the Roil, David must discover what Cadell's friendship will cost him.

The tension had me almost yearning for the addictive drug Carnival myself as the story pressed on at a breakneck pace. Jamieson writes well, unhindered by much description, and focuses on tighter details, sketching out the trials and traumas of each character's journey. My only disappointment is that much of the strange Roil, its origins and intentions, are as yet unexplained in detail and I was left wanting more of a picture at times.

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The Nosferatu Scroll by James Becker — book review

August 23, 2011

The Nosferatu Scroll by James Becker. Bantam Press '12.99

Reviewed by Jim Mcleod

While on holiday in Venice our heroes Chris Bronson and Angela Lewis, discover a desecrated tomb containing a female skeleton and a diary that dates backs hundreds of years, a diary that promises to unlock the answer to an ancient secret. Soon the bodies of woman are being discovered throughout the city. They have all been killed in the same ritualistic manner. When Angela disappears, Chris must embark on a mission to find her before it's too late.

This is pure bubblegum fiction, albeit a rather well written piece of bubblegum fiction.  The action starts right away, and it doesn't let up right up to the cliff hanger ending; yes of course there is a cliff hanger. This is an enjoyable and fun read. It is clear that a lot of research has gone into this book; there is a lot given over to the building of the conspiracy. If you are looking for a thrilling summer beach read then this is the book for you. 

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Rip Tide by Stella Rimington — book review

August 23, 2011

Rip Tide by Stella Rimington. Bloomsbury '12.99

Reviewed by R A Bardy [@mangozoid]

If you're anything like me, you'll probably wonder why a book about MI5, secret services, British Muslims, and Somalian pirates would have any place in the review section of the BFS. Well, truth be told, there's not a single science fiction or fantasy icon of any description whatsoever in Rip Tide, but once I started reading this I simply didn't want to stop. It gripped me within the first couple of (very short) chapters and just pulled me along through every twist and turn, the pages flashing past in a blur ' certainly the sign of a cracking read in my book, if you'll excuse the pun.

It wasn't until halfway through that I actually bothered to read the short author biog on the dust jacket, and realised it's the Dame Stella Rimington, formerly the first female Director General of MI5. Well if nothing else she knows how to engage the reader, and although I guessed one of the key protagonists relatively early on, I was still happy to be swept along and carried by the fluidity of her prose through to the inevitable conclusion and 'not so big reveal'.

So 'twould seem Somalian pirates, Birmingham mosques, and some well defined and very strong secret service characters do indeed a good book make. An excellent read and a genuinely pleasant surprise to boot. I enjoyed this thoroughly, and the short chapter lengths definitely had their part to play in maintaining that 'just one more chapter' feel... Highly recommended.

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