Sci-Fi/Fantasy

 

Near Enemy

Available now from Headline.

Source: Bookbridgr

‘Anyone who still lives in Manhattan and has anything of real value to protect does it with a shotgun, not a deadbolt. So the problem isn’t getting in, it’s getting out.’
When New York was hit by a dirty bomb, the city became a burnt-out shell and only the wealthy were able to escape, to a virtual reality quite different from the world around them. Former garbage man, Spademan, lost his wife and his livelihood – in a city comprised entirely of garbage, there’s little one man can do. So he became a hit man, clearing up in a whole new way.
But now the virtual world is under threat from elite terrorists operating from somewhere in New York and Spademan is tasked with tracking them down. He’s not used to having enemies – his foes usually end up dead pretty quickly – but he’s about to find out just how close they are, and how dangerous they can be…

Ok, so firstly, I’m a little late on the Sternbergh train,  I didn’t realise that this was a sequel but it works very well as a stand-alone.

So our hero, Spademan, is a hitman in a post-(almost)-apocalyptic New York; where real-life is one big suck, so most people ‘tap-in’ to the ‘limn’ – a kind ofMatrix-like scenario where you can safely and limitlessly live out your dreams in virtual reality. Only, Spademan’s current target has uncovered a serious glitch in the limn, one that means it really isn’t as safe as everyone believes. Spademan is recruited – nay given an ultimatum – into investigating, and is set off on a dangerous path uncovering murder, terrorism, corruption, and conspiracy along the way.

The big award for this book goes to Sternbergh’s fantastic creation; Spademan. I LOVED this guy! His tough, no-nonsense narrative is very dry, witty and often absolutely hilarious. I’m still going through my Jack Bauer fan-girl phase, so the lovable tough guys really win me over. On page 1 of this book I knew it was a ‘nothing-else-is-getting-done-today’ kind of read. And I didn’t even care whether the story would be up to par or not – I could have ‘listened’ to Spademan all day. For instance;

So I pull out the lock-picking tools I keep hidden in my hair –

Kidding.

Heft a twelve-pound sledge from my duffel bag.

The prose is hard-hitting, no-nonsense, abrupt. It forces you to pay attention, and much like the characters, it doesn’t have time for niceties.

Luckily the story was also thoroughly enjoyable; with a good few twists, a bucket-load of intrigue, and non-stop action at every turn. And all characters were very cleverly created – you just don’t know which side anyone is on. I do think though that when you want to shock reader’s with a ‘who is the real bad guy’ plot twist, then you really need to get those characters to win the hearts of the readers completely in order to get that twist to pack an extra punch. As it turned out I couldn’t trust any of the characters, (apart from my beloved Spademan, obviously!) so a couple of these reveals got a ‘Ah. Ok. Cool.’ from me rather than an ‘Oh my bloody God. Wow!’ But I’m being fussy now.

Overall, this is an excellent read. Intriguing, action-packed, multiple twists… Oh, and did I mention I love Spademan?!

Many thanks to the publisher for providing this book for review.

Happy reading x


 

CHIMES

Published by Sceptre

Source: Bookbridgr

A boy stands by the roadside on his way to London, alone in the rain.

No memories, beyond what he can hold in his hands at any given moment.

No directions, as written words have long since been forbidden.

No parents – just a melody that tugs at him, a thread to follow. A song that says if he can just get to the capital, he may find some answers about what happened to them.

The world around Simon sings, each movement a pulse of rhythm, each object weaving its own melody, music ringing in every drop of air.

Welcome to the world of The Chimes. Here, life is orchestrated by a vast musical instrument that renders people unable to form new memories. The past is a mystery, each new day feels the same as the last, and before is blasphony.

But slowly, inexplicably, Simon is beginning to remember. He emerges from sleep each morning with a pricking feeling, a sense there is something he urgently has to do. In the city Simon meets Lucien, who has a gift for hearing, some secrets of his own, and a theory about the danger lurking in Simon’s past

Well I can honestly say I have never read anything quite like this before. Set in a dystopian world that exceeds my imagination, where memory no longer exists and the written word is referred to as ancient code, and everything, I meaneverything is music. Music is not just the language, it is thought, it is emotion, it is life. This is initially quite difficult to grasp, and even more difficult to explain – not least because of the language in the book that is kind of brand new, and yet not – in fact it is almost an absence of language altogether. And it is simply captivating, and instils an urgent desire to find out just what the hell is going on?!!

We follow Simon, a boy who ventures into London following the death of his mother. Simon has nothing but a bag of objectmemories, items that an individual can attach their own memories to as they cannot be kept in the mind; and a song from his mother, a song that he has to find and follow in order to uncover a mystery that he does not yet know exists.

In London, Simon joins a gang of pactrunners, and is taken under the wing of the mysterious and intriguing Lucien, who tries to help Simon to do the most prohibited of all things; remember – and when this happens, they are both set on a path that will forever change the world.

THE CHIMES is simply gorgeous. Anna Smaill uses prose that is just exquisite, lyrical, and aptly melodic. There are just not enough eloquent superlatives to do this writing justice. It will draw you in and shake your core ideas of the world and spit you out again. And it really does spit you out; without giving too much away, I found myself furiously turning blank pages at the end of the book, looking to see if the final pages had somehow fallen out. It was over! And I’m still not quite sure if I was disappointed with the ending, or disappointed that it ended! I am most certainly mourning the words.

This is somewhat of a Marmite read – I think you really will either love it or hate it. It is not an easy-read. You cant read this on the train, or whilst cooking dinner, or whilst everyone else is watching TV. To fully appreciate this story and the beauty of its words the children must be in bed, the husband must be off doing something elsewhere. You must have silence, and calm. Only then can the full magic of THE CHIMES envelope you.

A captivating, ingenious, and awe-inspiring work of pure beauty. Let the music play!

My thanks to the publisher for providing this book for review.


 

written in the blood

Published by Headline

Source Bookbridgr

The new, enthralling supernatural thriller from Stephen Lloyd Jones, following his highly acclaimed debut THE STRING DIARIES.

High in the mountains of the Swiss Alps Leah Wilde is about to gamble her life to bring a powerful man an offer. A promise.

Leah has heard the dark stories about him and knows she is walking into the lion’s den. But her options are running out. Her rare lineage, kept secret for years, is under terrible threat. That is, unless Leah and her mother Hannah are prepared to join up with their once deadly enemies.

Should the prey ever trust the predator?

Ok, so here we have a fantasy thriller. Not a genre I would usually have much interest in, but I do like to broaden the old horizons and such, and the synopsis sounded very promising, so I gritted my teeth and jumped in…

Well, my teeth remained as expected for a fair while. I find a good read can become very disheartening when half the time is spent trying to pronounce unfamiliar (or possibly completely made-up) words; and here I had an awful lot of words with just far too many consonants for my liking!

‘Written in the Blood’ tells us the story of Leah Wilde, a young girl from the ‘thingymawhatsit’ race whose skills include being able to change their own features in order to look like absolutely anybody, as well as this whole super long lifespan thing. Unfortunately, Leah’s people are on the brink of extinction, and so she decides to embark on the extremely dangerous task of seeking out women from the ‘whatchamacallit’ people; those originally from the ‘thingymawhatsits’ but outcast due to not abiding by the laws in the ‘doobeychat-thingy’ book… Ok you see what I’m getting at here.

Anyway, all these whatsits and thingums and such meant that it took me roughly a week to get to Chapter 10. That is page 104! It was just such hard work, and I had no clue what they were talking about half the time! Now to be fair I appreciate that there are some people who would positively thrive on all this, those that care for your Eorlingas and Galadrims and Isildurs (Yes, yes I Googled those words!) But now please sympathise with me, because not only was I trying to read all of these fantasy-nonsense words; I was trying to read Hungarian fantasy-nonsense words! It was really quite painstaking.

Nevertheless, I’m a stubborn mare and so I continued. And I must confess, once I decided to start thinking of everyone as the Smiths and the Jones’, it did pave the way for some rather beautiful storytelling. I mean, this book was just a sensory overload! Smells and sounds are given particular emphasis, I think because heightened senses may have been a ‘thingymajig’ power, but the author really was an artist with the descriptives. The prose, in the main, was poetic and majestic, as well as dark, creepy, and unsettling; and the imagery was captivating. And switching attention between Leah and her mission, and corresponding people and events elsewhere in the world, as well as a very intriguing back-story that pulls you back to Budapest in the 1800’s, was very well done and kept things fresh.

It did actually all get a bit exciting as we drew towards the climax. It was really action-packed and I could finally say I was enjoying the book – albeit there were a few things that were left either unexplained or not given enough attention, such as Leah’s not-as-scandalous-as-alluded-to bloodline, oh and her apparent OCD; the Éjszakai Sikolyok being the least dramatic genocide I have ever read of; and being given no real explanation for the lélek tolvajok other than that they are essentially the bogeyman – they’re going to kill you, end of.

Unfortunately I was left with just an overwhelming feeling of relief that I had actually managed to finish the book. Relief that turned into a rage that was accompanied by a whole manner of expletives when I turned the final page of the story… and found the bloody glossary!!!

In all fairness, I liked it enough to know that fans of the genre will love this book. I, as initially suspected, am not a fan of the genre.

My thanks to the publisher for providing this book for review.


 

Note to self

Published by Diversion Books

Source: NetGalley

In a world where technology controls everything, sometimes your own handwriting is the only thing you can trust.

Richard Henley is an ordinary man leading an ordinary life, but when he finds strange notes in his own handwriting warning that someone is trying to kill him, he is sent on a journey to places he never knew existed. With an ominous and all-powerful organisation on his trail, his only hope is to trust unexpected allies, take control of his life, and uncover the truth about what happened to the girl he loved twenty years ago. A darkly humorous commentary on our app-obsessed culture, if Richard can stay alive, his world will never be the same again.

Firstly, my thanks to Diversion Books for sending me this book to review.

“Richard Henley is an ordinary man leading an ordinary life, but when he finds strange notes in his own handwriting warning that someone is trying to kill him, he is sent on a journey to places he never knew existed….”

Ok, so that one line in the synopsis was enough to turn my head! I cant get enough of that weird thriller type stuff. So I got started, and very quickly got drawn right in.

This is another of those difficult ones where I have to skirt around much of the actual story for fear of ruining the whole thing for you. But it really got stuck in quite early on – I’m not such a fan of huge, long drawn out character background, scene setting, etc. and so really enjoyed the fast pace of this one.

Initially, I did find the lead character incredibly frustrating. It took him an awfully long time to figure out what was going on around him – I’d done so long before. In fact, I don’t think he even figured it out for himself – he was blatantly told by another character! He wasn’t particularly portrayed as an unintelligent man – so I can only assume that the author might think his readers as unintelligent?? However, I’m willing to let this slide, it didn’t ruin the reading experience, and it was the only main flaw I found…. besides, perhaps experiencing those sort of events would make you think a lot less clearly compared to when you are merely reading about them!

That aside, once the lead did know what was going on, it was actually a very enjoyable read. I thought the story was coming to an end around 3/4 of the way through, and when I realised there was still a fair way to go until the end, I worried about whether the whole thing might be dragged out and ruined. Luckily the author didn’t disappoint, the story carried on very nicely, with enough time for added action and breakthroughs and still enough time to neatly tie everything up – in fact, I then realised I would have been left wanting had it finished when I initially suspected, and I was happily satiated with what I found instead.

So there is my very vague review of what was in fact a very enjoyable read….if you want to know what on Earth I am banging on about, well then I suppose you will have to read it for yourself!

A very enjoyable read aside from a few frustrations.

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