Raising Steam. Book Review(0)
Doubleday, h/b, 384 pp, £20
Reviewed by Rebekah Lunt
I was luckier than an Ankh-Morporkian who has survived consumption of the culinary delight that is CMOT Dibbler’s sausage inna bun to receive the new Discworld novel for review. If you got the reference there, and are fully aware that Raising Steam is the 40th Discworld novel and that it is the 30th anniversary year of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld, you really don’t need to read this review do you? Just get along and read it already! You will find everything you expect and more.
For anyone else, read on… And then rush out to buy this and potentially all the 39 other novels…
Raising Steam is the story of how the age of steam came to the Discworld; of the first and best train; of its reet gradely creator and genius in harnessing steam, of the first fat controller, and the burgeoning business around steam-powered travel; and yes, of the first train-spotters too.
Running on parallel tracks are the satire and political wit regular readers will have come to know and love; of the tyrant Vetinari and his management of politics and peace, not just in Ankh-Morpork but in all of Discworld; of a civil war between dwarfs, some of whose fundamentalist stances threaten the development of this brave new world; of goblins and their gradual acceptance as people, alongside the humans, trolls, dwarfs, werewolves, vampires and zombies of Ankh-Morpork’s melting pot; and of the life and times of one Moist con Lipwig, nearly-respectable crook and general greaser of life’s wheels.
As always with anything written by Terry Pratchett, this is a fantastically entertaining story. In all honesty, as with most of the other 39 novels, you could probably read this one as a stand-alone story. However, having recently started reading them all again from the very first novel – The Colour of Magic, I can’t imagine why you would want to do yourself out of the pleasure of full immersion in this world. One of the extremely pleasurable aspects of this story in the 30th anniversary year is to revisit familiar characters and places alongside the new ones, and look out for all the name checks and in-jokes.
An extra treat, and the real beauty of the book, is the way in which it expresses and translates the emotional power of steam trains for converts and non-believers alike. I love steam trains anyway but this book made me feel a little of what I imagine first experiences of steam trains must have been like.
I must admit that, despite this, I approached the book with a little trepidation – being ever aware of Sir Terry’s health condition means that fans can be forgiven for wishing for an all too sadly unrealistic fairytale ending for him. At times it can feel that the rules and all caution are being thrown to the wind as we race through the world he created, wishing for more, more, more, endlessly. I must make clear though, that these are my own feelings and thoughts being read into the work of one of my favourite writers – there is still present an abundance of Pratchett’s continued mischievous wit and cheery abandon. In fact, if there are melancholy notes, these are soon chugged along in the steam of nostalgia, shared history and all those memories. This is summed up in no better way than in a quiet moment between crises when Moist gets to dance on the roof of a moving train. Sheer bliss!
I genuinely cannot recommend this book highly enough. Pratchett could be forgiven for resting on his laurels at any point in his career, especially this far along. Instead, he gives fans a beautifully imagined and constructed anniversary gift, and another new wonder for first-time visitors to the Discworld to experience.
My Amityville Horror. Film Review(0)
DIRECTOR: Eric Walter
STARRING: Daniel Lutz, Laura DiDio, Neme Alperstein
RUNNING TIME: 85mins
CERTIFICATE: 15 mins
Reviewed by Guy Adams
When did I stop believing in the supernatural? God knows. Naturally, as we’re no longer on speaking terms either he’s not telling.
I spent most of my young life believing in something. Devout Christian, then New Age convert, reading Tarot cards for a living and luxuriating in the company of mediums and psychics.
At some point in my late twenties — perhaps, not entirely coincidentally, around the time I started writing about such things as fiction — I became a rationalist and skeptic. There was no single event that changed my way of thinking, it was more a natural progression. I believe we all settle into these things, shuffling our philosophies until we find the one that fits. The world view that best makes sense of the world in which we live. The one that makes us comfortable.
Daniel Lutz is not comfortable.
One of the three children dragged into infamy by the book (and endless movie adaptations) The Amityville Horror, this documentary allows him to take centre stage, talking for the first time about his experiences in the allegedly haunted house.
The Amityville Horror (a phrase trademarked by Daniel’s stepfather in 2002) is a case that never really goes away, despite so many of the details and claimed events having been questioned over the years. Indeed, a number of the people involved in the release of the original “true” account as a bestselling book have gone on record admitting the whole thing was a hoax. The Lutz family never did. They insisted that, while exaggerated, the essential details of the terrible few weeks they spent in the building were true.
Daniel Lutz clings to this view and perhaps that is where the real horror lies.
I don’t want to get into the nitty gritty of the case, this is a review not an essay, but there is no doubt that Daniel Lutz is a very mixed-up, bitter and angry man. Naturally, given my skeptical credentials, I am likely to err on the side of disbelief. I don’t believe the house was haunted. I don’t believe the experiences he claims to have had within its four walls are quite what he claims them to be. That’s my extremely subjective opinion.
That’s not to say I think he’s a liar. I don’t know what he is. I suspect he doesn’t either. He strikes me as someone who has mythologised his early life — perhaps, as suggested here, in an attempt to address the difficulties of living with his stepfather, a man who doesn’t come out of this documentary very well — and he’s no longer quite sure what’s true or not. Certainly some of his stories contradict themselves, though all are recounted with such conviction, such frustration and anger, that its hard to view them as conscious fabrications.
For the first hour or so, Walter’s documentary seems to err on the side of the supernatural. The presentation and discussion is extremely biased towards those who are convinced the building is haunted. This is something of an error, not simply because it goes against my skepticism but because balance is important in any documentary. The last half an hour redresses this somewhat, as we seem to veer towards the assumption that its subject is a tortured and confused man rather than a genuine witness to the supernatural.
As a piece of documentary filmmaking it’s uneven and patchy. As an opportunity to hear a man discuss his personal slant on one of the most famous modern supernatural cases, it’s a worthwhile watch. Anyone with an interest in the subject (and that should include any fan of horror fiction) it’s a documentary that’s well worth hunting down, if only because it asks more questions than it answers, something that can’t fail to intrigue.
Fyre. Book Review(0)
Bloomsbury, h/b, 528pp, £12.99
Reviewed by Matthew Johns
The finale in the Septimus Heap Wizard Apprentice series sees Septimus apprenticed to the ExtraOrdinary Wizard, Marcia Overstrand, trying to destroy a magical ring containing two evil wizards before they escape.
This ring, the “Two Faced Ring” (so called as it has the faces of the two trapped Darke Wizards on it) can only be destroyed by being held in an Alchemical Fyre. The only issue is that this Fyre hasn’t been lit for hundreds of years, and all things Alchemical are treated with an innate suspicion by all Wizards.
After the Darke Wizards escape the confines of the ring, Septimus must, with the help of his friends and family, recommit them to the ring and ensure its destruction to save all that they know.
Sage’s writing is easy to absorb – even to a reader new to the Septimus Heap series. Her easy-going humour rolls off the page, and the irreverence with which she treats her world helps to further engage readers. While primarily targeted at older children/young adults, this is just as at home in the hands of those young at heart fantasy fans.
Rebellion. Book Review(0)
Orbit, p/b, 656pp, £9.99
Reviewed by Elloise Hopkins
Rix is living surrounded by tragedy, guilt and shame, with only the servant girl, Glynnie, for company. Having suffered loss on many levels, and with his new physical encumbrance, Rix is ready to give up on it all. But Glynnie won’t let him. They must flee for their lives…. right now. Incredibly it seems treacherous Wil might be the one to lead them to safety.
The most dangerous people of the realm have discovered the secret of Tali’s blood, and now she is a prisoner of the cruel chancellor and desperately hoping that he does not discover her other secret. The wrythen, Lyf, is still searching for her for that very reason, but through a magical connection to him, Tali knows his is also searching for something else – a key. But to what?
As a series The Tainted Realm was fairly slow to really get stuck into the action, but Rebellion takes off from where book one left off with good speed. Though the book is long and the narrative detailed and intricate, and at times languid as we have perhaps come to expect of Irvine’s work, it is in no way lacking in emotional content or tension.
Rebellion begins with a brief but incredibly useful summary of the key events of book one and also contains a glossary, which helps with the various characters, powers and key items that the story revolves around. This is necessity with a novel of this length and a series of this complexity, and Irvine delivers it all leaving the reader wanting nothing but the next chapter.
The second book in the series continues Tali’s plight with great determination and a further depth into the strange magics and sciences that keep this world and its different inhabitations running. Rebellion grasps the reader all the way through and builds up to a monumental climax delivering the kind of ending that makes your breath catch in your throat and has you helplessly turning the pages looking for the rest of the story.
A Memory of Light. Book Review(0)
Orbit Books, h/b, 912pp, £25.00
Reviewed by Matthew Johns
This, the final book in Jordan’s Wheel of Time series, can only be described as epic in every sense of the word. A massive 909 pages, this piece of beautifully crafted prose brings the story of Rand al’Thor and his friends, including Matrim Cauthron and Perrin Aybara to a final close.
Rand al’Thor, the Dragon Reborn, calls the forces of Light together to join him in The Last Battle to face the Dark One’s armies.
Brandon Sanderson produced this based on notes and partial text left by Jordan after his death in 2007, and after consulting with Jordan’s widow, who edited all of Jordan’s books. It looks like Robert Jordan’s work; it reads like Robert Jordan’s work, and thanks to Sanderson’s hard work, fans of The Wheel of Time can finally see the epic laid to rest.
Gripping from start to finish, the politics are intricately detailed, and the battles leap off the page. This is truly a deserving and majestic climax to the story of the Dragon Reborn and his comrades.
The Republic of Thieves. Book Review(0)
Gollancz, h/b, 608pp, £14.99
Reviewed by Elloise Hopkins
Lashain, the great city where anything is for sale, even nobility and knighthoods. Lock and Jean pretended to be Lashani during at least one of their schemes. Now they are there for real and Jean is rubbing shoulders with every one of the dark characters, pompous nobles and alchemists he can find. Why? Because Locke Lamora is dying.
The poison administered to him during his last adventure, which sent that cunning scheme spiralling sideways and beyond, has finally revealed itself. Once again it is Jean’s turn to bear the burdens of their situation and see if he can once again release the Thorn of Camorr from the clutches of The Lady of the Long Silence. Unfortunately for the Gentleman Bastards, it seems they may have worn out their welcome in Lashain all too soon.
The third instalment of The Gentleman Bastard Sequence takes us right back to the beginning. Locke’s beginning, in fact, where as a young boy he is about to wreak havoc on the orphans of Camorr and the Thiefmaker. He is also about to fall in love in the hardest way, and boy will it mark his cards for a long, heady time.
In The Republic of Thieves we finally we get to meet the one who has tortured Locke’s heart throughout the previous books and watch the only female Gentleman Bastard, Sabetha Belacoros, step into the forefront in all her wily, redheaded glory, to tease, scheme, and add to Locke’s sorrow and longing a little more.
This volume fills in some of the unseen parts of Locke’s past as well as supplying some that the reader would never have envisioned. In some aspects more light is shed on our hero, and this goes a fair way to explaining why he is the way he is and why he became the man he did, but in other ways it just poses more questions and mysteries than ever before. There are several more books to come in the series and readers are in for another wait for more pieces of the puzzle to be placed.
There is a marked difference in the pace and tone of this book, which is not surprising given the time lapse between the releases as well as the time lapsed since Locke last saw Sabetha. The shift in bringing a new character into such a prominent position also makes this book different to its predecessors, although Sabetha’s own point of view is kept rather minimal so the reader really only gets to know her and sees her mostly from Locke’s rose-tinted perspective.
While the overall feel of the book is different, Locke Lamora is still very much the love-scorned Locke Lamora we have loved over the years, and his scheming mind and his steadfast relationship with Jean is as full of banter, frustration and unshakeable friendship as ever before. There is a great sense of satisfaction at seeing the pair in action once again and fans will not be disappointed that the essence of this series is still very much intact.
The Eye With Which the Universe Beholds Itself. Book Review(1)
Whippleshield Books, limited h/back (signed and numbered), 78pp, £6.99
Reviewed by Alex Bardy (@mangozoid)
I would not describe myself as much of a ‘hard-science’ fan, but this second instalment of Ian’s Apollo Quartet proved a lot more accessible than expected, and having been fortunate enough to read the first part a good while ago (the Hugo Award-Winning Adrift on the Sea of Rains which I found similarly accessible), I can say with hand on heart that this novella is an easy read and an excellent way of trying Ian’s four-way celebration of the Apollo Missions for yourself. And then you can seek out your own copy of Adrift…
Despite first impressions, these books do not follow directly on from each other, and in this one we get to meet Brigadier General Bradley E. Elliott, a former member of the US Air Force who also happens to be the only man who has ever set foot on planet Mars. In the author’s alternative timeline, the Soviets beat NASA to the moon and a certain Neil Armstrong and co. were forced to abort the mission due to a persistent 1202 error during descent, and just three hundred feet above the lunar surface. Tut tut. The Soviets got there almost two weeks earlier…
Told in unique style and jumping between two different missions separated by twenty years, Elliott of course is the main man in both. The first one recounts his mission to Mars and the earth-shattering alien technology he found there, while the second has him heading for Phaeton Base, an extrasolar colony orbiting Gliese 876 that has suddenly gone quiet, and was only made possible in the first instance by the technology originally discovered on Mars.
To say more would give the game away, but the author has crafted two compelling tales, both of which feel very intimately crafted. Indeed, we’re allowed to accompany Elliott on his travels and share in the deep love (and heartache) he feels for his estranged wife after a failed marriage — a knotty union that is slowly unpicked and severed across the years, a sad reflection of what it means to have torn desires and an urge to explore, perhaps? This is all coupled with an attention to detail supported by Appendices, an extensive Glossary, ample Abbreviations list and an essential Coda (most of which is required reading to fully understand and appreciate the whole story, to be fair).
All in all, another excellent novella that isn’t at all difficult to heartily recommend.
A Dance of Cloaks. Book Review(0)
Orbit, p/b, 480pp, £7.99
Reviewed by Elloise Hopkins
Thren Felhorn, Master of the Spider Guild, has been poisoned by a blade. He was careless not to have gone with his instincts and killed his foe. He tried to avoid war. Now, the time for dealing with it all head on has come. The Trifect wants blood. No more bribes. He will give them what they want.
Thren has raised his sons to be as ruthless, strong and skilled as he. But when one shows a weakness it is Aaron’s turn to take shocking steps and become the thief’s heir. Young Aaron can never take back what he has done. His years of listening and learning have shaped him, and so will his latest deeds.
Kayla is not the best thief, nor the most skilled fighter. She is not the strongest, nor cleverest, nor the most proficient at anything, but perhaps there are some things more important than selling what she knows for the highest amount possible, and it won’t take much more than her encounter with Aaron to make her realise that.
A Dance of Cloaks is a pacy fantasy focused around thief guilds, double crossing, warring religions, and highly skilled warriors. Dalglish is skilled at writing fight scenes and portrays action in a frugal manner to deliver the necessary information and keep the story moving without sparing any time for detailed description or unnecessary padding. Violent content is handled well without sensationalism.
While the narrative moves at a fast pace, this book does frequently suffer from a roving point of view and as a result does not engage the reader as closely with the emotional content as a tighter viewpoint would; there is a slight level of separation between the immediate events being described and the reader experiencing them, which means a little impact is lost along the way.
Aside from that, anyone who enjoys action-driven fantasy in a gritty world where assassins, thieves and brutality are par for the course will enjoy this book. The story is far from predictable with some unexpected occurrences near to the end which set up book two to be a good continuation.
She Who Waits. Book Review(0)
Hodder & Stoughton, h/b, 416pp, £18.99
Reviewed by Elloise Hopkins
Low Town. Times are changing. Loyalties shifting. Drug dealers clashing. A new product on the market. A brutal murder. And once again Warden finds himself dragged into the middle of it all. Turns out this isn’t the first brutal and out of character murder of recent weeks, and unless someone with his proficiency connects the pieces it will be up to Warden to save the day, again.
And on top of all that Warden has Wren, the former street urchin, to take care of. Three years on and Wren is still under the tutelage of Mazzie of the Stained Bone, a dangerous character, but a necessity to teach the boy how to control his power and keep his abilities concealed from Black House at the same time. He’s a fast learner but has outgrown both of them – Warden in height if not in street smarts, and Mazzie in the Art. Willingly or not, it is time for things to change.
With a powerful opening She Who Waits thrusts us straight back into Low Town, straight back into Warden’s dark humour and darker existence, and straight back into another grim murder. It is time for Warden to play investigator and all round troubleshooter once again. Any who doubted that the noir detective and high fantasy could blend so well are proven wrong with this series.
In this third volume we learn more about our anti-hero and get a deeper sense of how and why he keeps Low Town, his kingdom, running. We learn what life was like when he was a rising star in Black House and what put him back on the streets afterwards. We also meet some new but no less dubious and unsavoury characters from Warden’s day to day business, and unfortunately some from his past that had better stayed there.
Events become more personal to Warden this time, connecting the reader with him in his brightest and lowest moments. His recollections of love are particularly touching, and truthfully honest. This character, so conflicted in himself, feels so very real because of it. Polansky delivers another captivating and haunting narrative and a moving conclusion to Warden’s tale. We can only hope this is not the last we will see of Low Town.
Doctor Sleep. Book Review(0)
Hodder & Stoughton, h/b, 485 pp, £19.99
Reviewed by Rebekah Lunt
Thirty years after ‘The Shining’, Stephen King has done us the great service of writing a follow up to it in the form of ‘Doctor Sleep’. It’s been a while since I’ve read any fictional, novel-length work by King, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I’ve always been a fan of King’s writing as I believe he has a great hold on the human condition – critics who are dismissive of horror as a genre should pay more attention to books like the the ones written by Stephen King.
As I see it, he writes people and communities with searing acuity, and often touching compassion, coupled with tough and authentic understanding. The difference is, he also steps back, or sideways, through the gaps to hook out the slithery things and the creeping, gut-churning things at the corners of our vision.
Thankfully, King doesn’t disappoint with ‘Doctor Sleep’, not one bit. After a quick re-visit of the world-in-time of ‘The Shining’, he takes us back to here and now to see what has become of little Danny Torrance; who happens to be the eponymous Doctor Sleep.
A quick word of warning – King mentions in his afterword that he considers this book and ‘The Shining’ in book form to be the true history of the Torrance Family and the Outlook Hotel, rather than the film – I TOTALLY agree. He lists his reasons, with which I also agree, but we don’t need to get into that. My point is, if you want to get the most out of this book but have only seen the film of ‘The Shining’, you REALLY need to read the book. (Enjoy! With all the lights on!!!)
Anyway, back to this book. I love that we get to see Danny, rather than ‘Dan’ at first, and I’m glad that section isn’t malingering or sentimental in any way. As usual, King then picks up on a perfectly ordinary facet of American life – travellers who roam the US in their Winnebagos – and turns them into something you would now look twice at, or look back nervously over your shoulder as you sit in traffic ahead of them.
He also brings out some great new characters in Dan’s new life as he finally starts to settle and come to terms with the bogeyman that nearly got him as badly as his father – alcoholism. The journey through coming to terms with that side of his life has horrific moments to rival the fantastical side of the story, and are exposed with the brutal and knowing glare of hindsight.
To lift the story, as well as provide a co-protagonist for Dan, we are introduced to Abra – the girl who, like young Danny, showed a developing ‘Shining’ and is now becoming more powerful, and a singular glowing target for the ‘True Knot’ travellers.
King seamlessly weaves together the different groups of characters to build to several climaxes of tension, with some nifty twists thrown in during the quieter moments. I absolutely loved every aspect of this book – even the slightly kitsch B-movie villains of the True Knot. It felt like a ‘proper’ horror story running through a great story about people struggling with ‘moving on’, either in life and death; travel, drifting and settling in life; or in dealing with and facing down life’s bogeymen, or women…
But especially, for this fan girl at least, it gave me an authentic and satisfying answer to what happened after the Overlook. I’m glad Stephen King took the time to write it at the right time, and that this is the next ‘The End?’ to this iconic horror story.