One of Our Thursdays is Missing by Jasper Fforde. Hodder and Stoughton (2011) '16.99
Reviewed by Matthew Johns
The cover of One of Our Thursdays is Missing bears a quote stating that this book is 'true literary comic genius' and describes the author as 'madcap', so I opened the book with some trepidation dreading another dismal Terry Pratchett knockoff. I couldn't have been further from the truth ' this cleverly written, intelligent and witty book had me captivated from the first line. Despite being the fifth book in the series, I was able to read and enjoy this on its own merits with no prior knowledge.
The Thursday that is missing is the renowned detective Thursday Next. Her exploits are legendary, and immortalised in fiction. In the Book World, where literary characters live and re-enact the tales that they live in for readers, the written Thursday Next starts to investigate the disappearance of her illustrious namesake.
Travelling through the various lands of Book World (each a separate genre: fiction, thriller, non-fiction, etc.) and even making a trip into the Real World, the written Thursday pieces together the clues in her search for the real Thursday Next, interacting with characters such as 'Loser Gatsby', sister to 'Mediocre Gatsby', and their elder brother 'The Great Gatsby'.
The author is clearly highly intelligent, well-educated and very well read. The book is peppered with clever literary jokes, puns and references to other works. It feels at times as though the author is channelling the spirit of the late, great Douglas Adams throughout the novel. If Eoin Colfer ever gives up working on the Douglas Adams sequels, Jasper Fforde would be a fine replacement.[...]
The Heroes by Joe Abercrombie. Gollancz (2011)
Reviewed by Jim Mcleod
2011 kicked of in spectacular fashion, with the release of Abercrombie's The Heroes. This was, for me anyway, one of the most anticipated fantasy releases of the year. Set in the same world as his First Law novels, the basic premise of the story is simple: there is going to be a battle at some standing stones known as The Heroes, the battle takes place and we see the aftermath.
Pretty simple plot, yes? But this is where Abercrombie's masterful, and intelligent story telling comes into play. The Heroes, in the hands of a less talented author could easily have slipped into seriously B movie realms, all action with zero substance. However, Abercrombie infuses the novel with humour, wit, action and blood loss, yes lots of blood loss. The battle scenes are so intense and well realised that we can almost hear the roar of the battle and smell the rivers of blood flowing throw the battlefield. By creating very believable characters, Abercrombie manages to touch on themes like the futility of war, and what is a hero? Without ever sounding preachy or clich'd.
An extremely well written, thought provoking blockbuster of a novel. This is an excellent book; I highly recommend it.[...]
Conan's Brethren by Robert E Howard. Gollancz (2011) '20.00
Reviewed by Peter Coleborn
If you own Gollancz's previous Howard collection ' The Complete Chronicles of Conan ' (and if you don't, shame) you'll want this companion volume. Both are handsome productions, a credit to a mainstream publisher. And both are edited by Stephen Jones.
Conan's Brethren is a massive 700 page tome full of stories that flowed from Howard's typewriter. Here are the tales of King Kull, Bran Mak Morn and, of course, Solomon Kane. At FantasyCon 2010 a panel discussion came to an unanimous agreement: Kane was everyone's favourite REH character.
Howard's writing may seem dated to the modern reader. It's flowery and melodramatic. At times you wish he'd just get on with it. Howard's characters are reflections of each other, bringing a similarity to the stories. And yet it does not matter because, in the main, the stories swirl along at a blistering pace. Howard has been described as a natural-born story teller. You can imagine him strutting around a room regaling an audience with his outrageous yarns, the audience lapping up every word. Reading this book I was fondly reminded of tales first read 30 years ago, such as 'Worms of the Earth', 'Skulls in the Stars' and 'The Frost King's Daughter' (later rewritten as a Conan yarn ' swapping Giant for King).
In the Lancer editions published in the 1970s, many REH's stories were completed by the likes of Lin Carter and L Sprague de Camp. Here, all you get is Howard ' except for the detailed afterword by Stephen Jones that charts the publishing history of many of these stories. Howard was prolific! In his brief life he produced a huge canon of work that influenced many fantasy writers over the decades. To discover more about Howard's life and relationships check out One Who Walked Alone by Novalyne Price [filmed as The Whole Wide World].
If you have any interest in the roots of modern fantasy and horror (for Howard's stories were steeped in both) get this book. (Note: although the copyright page says ' 2009 the book has just appeared in 2011 ' something to do with trademarks.)[...]