Posts Tagged ‘Sci-Fi and Fantasy’

Time Shards by Dana Fredsti and David Fitzgerald

March 23, 2018 - 7:16 pm No Comments

Time Shards by Dana Fredsti and David Fitzgerald

Published by Titan Books on 30th January 2018

442 pages

Reviewed by Chris Stocks

Imagine that spacetime, rather than being continuous, is like a stack of jigsaw puzzles, with each puzzle being an instant in time. Imagine further, as per the premise of this SF thriller, that some unknown temporal Event breaks up these jigsaws into random pieces and stitches the world together again. The result is a patchwork landscape consisting of pieces of varying shape and size, all in the right place geographically, but torn from a random era of history, from the Silurian to the present – and possibly beyond.

Initially the narrative is as fractured as the landscape, told from the viewpoints of a variety of people, some of whom are historical figures, including George Washington, Julius Caesar and Neil Armstrong. However, after these brief episodes illustrating the scope and effects of the Event, the action is then mostly confined to south-east England as seen through the eyes of a smaller cast of characters including Amber, a feisty present-day Californian, currently living in Essex; Blake, a grizzled World War II and ex-SAS veteran from the 1950s; Cam, a young Celtic warrior from pre-Roman Britannia, and Alex Brice, a policewoman from 1985.

Together with a small group of other survivors, they navigate the post-apocalyptic landscape, struggling against fearsome prehistoric predators – from carnivorous dinosaurs to dire wolves and giant scorpions. But, as so often happens in such scenarios, their most dangerous foes are not these creatures but other humans. Here it is a group of Roundhead soldiers, who, mistakenly believing that they caused the Event, want to burn them at the stake as witches and warlocks.

The group rescues ‘Merlin’, a mysterious, catatonic character from these Roundheads. Recovering from an apparently fatal headwound, he reveals himself as a near-future astronomer. He also claims to know something about the cause of the temporal Event – and maybe a way to reverse it…

This is the first book in a trilogy by Dana Fredsti and David Fitzgerald. It is an exciting, fast-moving story with an interesting set of characters, an unusual setting and plenty of monsters – both animal and human. There are a few technical inaccuracies – for example, George Washington could not have identified a herd of elephant-like creatures as Mastodons in 1789, as this term was not coined by Cuvier until 1806 (thanks, Wikipedia!) – but this doesn’t really matter. This is not a work of hard-SF, but a rollicking adventure – and as an adventure story it works superbly. The protaganists are interesting and (mostly) sympathetic, and I enjoyed both the surrealistically patchwork setting and the break-neck pace of the plot. Time Shards ends on a suitably suspenseful cliff-hanger and I look forward to seeing where the adventure leads in the second volume. In summary, a fast-paced read and a thoroughly enjoyable piece of escapism.

The Night Lies Bleeding by MD Lachlan

February 26, 2018 - 10:20 pm No Comments

The Night Lies Bleeding by MD Lachlan
Published by Gollancz on 22nd February 2018
447 pages
Reviewed by Yvonne Davies

When countries are at war there are plenty of casualties, but when bodies are turning up with strange markings, the London police are baffled. Calling in an expert who has his own secrets, can they find out who is behind it.
Whilst the murders are happening in London, in Germany Dr Max Voller has applied to join the SS. What started out as a bit of a laugh soon got serious when he was accepted to prove his psychic theory.
Craw and Dr Voller’s stories at the start are told separately but as the story continues they soon intertwine. Craw was constantly fighting his inner wolf, whilst also trying to help the police. Plagued with memories of his former lives he was slowly cracking up. Adding to his pressure was Professor Harbard who had his own agenda. Dr Voller was an idealist, Even though he was Nazi, he did not wish to be part of the conflict, but after entering the SS, his was forced to change his way of life. Mixed in with their stories was the history of the Ancient Norse gods and the part they played in the war.
As Craws and Voller’s stories were running parallel it was easy to follow the story. However there were parts that I found heavy going and this did slow me down with my reading. The experiments that Dr Voller did were graphic, but this was what happened in the war and whilst distressing, it did help explain the paranormal fascination that Himmler and Hitler had. The action was full on and the final scenes were a page turner. Whilst I had not read any other stories in this series I did not feel that I missed out as the story could be read as a stand alone. For my first introduction to Craw I really liked him as a character and I am interested in reading his previous stories.

Unknown by Phil Price

December 17, 2017 - 9:07 am No Comments

Unknown by Phil Price
Published 1st July 2015
400 pages
Reviewed by Yvonne Davies

What if there are other worlds and the only way to go there is by portal? Jake a former Police officer now a PI gets embroiled in a paranormal investigation which takes him to places he could never imagine. The start sets the scene to the story, two vampiric brothers battle to the death and their supporters are using any means to revive them to finally win the battle. Confronting vampires, and getting help from the most unlikely of creatures, a simple missing person case just got complicated.
We first meet Jake when he was grieving, this helped his decision to give up his career and work for himself. He was a likable character, a man of principles who gave 100% with everything he did. Throughout the story, I could not believe how much bad luck he had, but this just made him focused to get the answers.
Kathleen was sweet natured and can be only described as a home maker. Still, she quickly adapts to everything she confronted to. I enjoyed reading her reactions to things we take for granted i.e. having a shower, drinking a bottle of wine.
At the beginning I was a bit confused as the story jumped from place to place, however, stick with it as these scenes set the story for a great read. The style of writing makes the story a page turner and you will not want to put it down. The use of portals enables the author to use his imagination to create descriptive worlds and some great characters, one of my favourites was Uncle Wilf, an aged man who always stepped up to the challenge. As a fellow Brummie, it was great to read about places in Birmingham and it is not often you read about Dogpool lane. Due to my reading speed, I did have to re-read one scene again as I misread it and was shocked when Jake took Kathleen to Next and handed over a £20. I was going to let the author know that you could not even buy a jumper for £20 let a lone a complete wardrobe, then I realised Jake had tipped the £20 to the cashier to help Kathleen pick her clothes.
If you like your traditional vampires, then pick up this book. Whilst it is paranormal, it has a thriller feel to it which makes it an exciting read. Although it has no cliff-hanger, it leads nicely into book 2. As a first book this is a great read and I could see it being adapted into a TV series, with Jake using the portals to investigate paranormal events.

VRES: Digital Quest by Zoe Adams

August 27, 2017 - 6:52 pm No Comments

VRES: Digital Quest by Zoe Adams

Released by Zombie Cupcake Press on 13th August 2017

150 pages

Reviewed by Yvonne Davies

I downloaded this on Kindle Unlimited.

 As technology progresses, many of us have heard of Virtual Reality or VR, a new way of playing a game where you feel that you are immersed in the game. Kamada-kun have created a brand-new game VRES a fantasy game, that no other game could compare to. Like all new games they required BETA testers, Felix and Erica both big gaming enthusiast both volunteer for an experience that would change their lives.

As the main character were gamers, they both had that need to conquer and win. Playing online you can be who you want to be and with Erica and Felix they were completely different. Felix in the real world was unemployed and a bit down in life and in the virtual world he was confident and adept with his fighting skills, but in both worlds, he was a really nice guy. Erica was in a nasty relationship in the real world and had lost all confidence, but when she put on that headset, she was like a woman possessed. Excellent blade skills, played dirty to get what she wanted. That was until she ran into Felix.

As a lover of gaming the minor details in the story really sold it to me. The problem of not having enough gold to upgrade your weapons, needing a health or stamina boost and it did have a touch of Skyrim about it. Throughout the story you follow the development of Erica and Felix’s relationship. This is a standalone story and it is well written, as it is only 150 pages I did read it in one sitting. I loved the idea that much of the story was set in the game.

I cannot wait to see where this author will take us next.   

THE HOUSE OF BINDING THORNS by Aliette de Bodard

August 20, 2017 - 7:17 am No Comments

THE HOUSE OF BINDING THORNS by Aliette de Bodard, Gollancz, £14.99 paperback, 351 pages. ISBN: 978-1-475-21260-2

Reviewed by Pauline Morgan.

So much literature, whether SF, fantasy or general fiction is set in an English-speaking world, or has its main characters coming from that background. A handful of writers are willing to step outside the box. Ian McDonald is one, having set novels on practically every continent with rarely a westerner in sight. Alastair Reynolds Blue Remembered Earth trilogy has the majority of characters originating from sub-Saharan Africa. From American authors, it is only the likes of Octavia Butler whose characters are non-white. Thus it is refreshing to have a novel set wholly in another country and whose characters do not speak English.

The House of Binding Thorns and the earlier novel The House of Shattered Wings, are set in a Paris devastated by a magical war. In this world, the Fallen were once angels and have immense power. In The House of Shattered Wings the conflict between the rival houses of Silverspires, headed by Lucifer Morningstar, and Hawthorn, headed by Asmodeus, ended with carnage and the diminution of Silverspires. The House of Binding Thorns centres on Hawthorn.

Asmodeus became the head of the house by staging a bloody coup twenty years previously. Now he reclaims Madelaine from Silverspires, where she took refuge at the height of the coup. As his dependent, she has his protection as long as she is loyal and useful. He sends her as part of a delegation to the Annamite, or dragon kingdom which lurks under the Seine. She has visited before but this time notices the decay and shabbiness. Too many of the inhabitants have become addicted to angel essence, a drug made from the bodies of the Fallen and which slowly destroys the user. Madelaine knows as she is an addict herself. Ngoc Bich, ruler of the underwater kingdom, is herself under siege from rebels and is willing to form an alliance with Hawthorn. To seal the pact, a marriage is to take place between Asmodeus and Thuan, prince of the dragons and former spy in Hawthorn, a factor which immediately produces tensions.

Threads from the past weave consequences that emerge in the complex situation. Ngoc Bich’s rebels are being aided by House Astragale. Ciseis, who should have been heir to Hawthorn except for the coup, has taken refuge there and gradually set plans in action to take back the house from Asmodeus.

Another consequence of the magical war amongst the Fallen was the need for workers. Many of these were conscripted in Vietnam, the original home of the dragons under the Seine. Many of them still live in Paris, many are Houseless (not under the protection of any of the Houses of the Fallen). They are poor, living amongst the ruins of the city. Among them is Berith, Fall-sister to Asmodeus. She lives alone – a House of one – with her lover Françoise (not her birth name as the Viet names are difficult to pronounce and they tend to adopt French ones). Françoise, like many of her compatriots, is able to use the magical khi currents that permeate the elements. She is also pregnant.

Phillipe is another Annamite who was once attached to Silverspires and who feels responsible for the death of the Fallen, Isobelle. He knows that the Fallen can be resurrected and has vowed to bring her back. Much of his part in this novel is directed towards this.

The plot is complex, weaving together a number of strands, most of which have their origin in politics and the inter-House conflicts. In the first novel, much of the focus was on Morningstar and the Fallen of House Silverspires. Here attention

gives a wider picture of this Paris, encompassing a different set of passions. It is beautifully constructed and written. The characters are multi-faceted but it is worth keeping in mind that the Fallen are dangerous and ruthless, but like the angel essence that can be made from their bodies, they are addictive. A worthy sequel to the award winning The House of Shattered Wings.