Saturday 24 October 2009

Book Reviews

Neil Cross
Simon & Schuster

Available Now - £6.99
Review by Brad Harmer

Nathan has never been able to forget the worst night of his life: the party that led to the sudden, shocking death of a young woman.

Only he and Bob, an untrustworthy old acquaintance, know what really happened and they have resolved to keep it that way. But one rainy night, years later, Bob appears at Nathan’s door with terrifying news, they’re going to build over the site of their crime...and they need to move the body.

Burial is a crime novel with a twist – rather than following the detective, and their attempts to solve the crime, we’re following the perpetrators, and their attempt to keep the deed hidden. But Burial is also so much more than that. It’s tracking of Nathan’s descent into darkness makes this a character study in guilt that is tense from start to finish.

There are a couple of flaws. Frequently the dialogue splits into a non stop sequence, almost script like, and it gets difficult to keep track of who is speaking at times. Also, it’s a very short story, and even though it only clocks in at 304 pages, it feel more like a novella stretched to novel length – and there are lots of internal thought pages, with nothing really happening.

With that said, the things Burial does well, it does very well indeed. Fans of both high literature and crime fiction would do well to check it out.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Several scuffles.
Sex/Nudity: At least one lengthy and detailed sex-scene.
Swearing: A realistic amount.
Summary: An excellent character study novel, with a great storyline. Some flaws in the writing style do mar what could otherwise have been a great book. 8/10

Gears of War: Jacinto's Remnant
Karen Traviss

Available now - £7.99
Review by Blake Harmer

Whilst not being the biggest reader of books out there, I do consider myself to be a fairly hardcore gamer, hence why I chose to play through Star Wars: The Force Unleashed rather than bothering to read the novel. Hence why I have been given a novel that acts as a follow on story to the highly successful video game franchise Gears of War.

Jacinto’s Remnant follows on from the end of Gears of War with the flooding of Jacinto, the last surviving city and also filled with the remainder of the human race, in order to wipe out the Locust Horde, a species of monsters that have come out of the ground with the intent of war on humanity. The book looks at the main cast trying to get over their ordeals from the war and now cope with the survival of the refugees and getting them to a safe haven especially as they have few resources and winter is setting in soon.

As seen in her contributions to the Star Wars Expanded Universe, Karen Traviss nails the gritty side of war and dealing with the consequences with it brilliantly. She also captures the essence of the characters from the game perfectly, such as Marcus’s quiet but forceful way he makes himself present and the way they always get the job done quickly and efficiently, whilst being able to pull the odd wisecrack at the same time.

However, my problem with this book is the inaccessibility of it. The book is clearly targeted at fans of the computer game, but doesn’t invite newcomers who haven’t experienced the game to try it out and enjoy it as well. This book is good, but only if you know enough about the universe already that you are comfortable getting immersed in it.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Lots of death via shooting and cutting things with chainsaw guns. But then again that’s what you should expect from Gears of War.
Sex/Nudity: None.
Swearing: Lots, Traviss seems to catch the feel of the game and army life perfectly by having them swear pretty much every other word.
Summary: An enjoyable read and I certainly recommend it to the big fans of the series, however, if you’ve never played Gears of War then you will find little or no enjoyment from this. Especially as it relies on you already having a knowledge of the characters and the events that occurred previously in the game. This is definitely one for the fans. 7/10

In the Dark of the Night
John Saul
Pan Books

Available Now - £6.99
Review by Brad Harmer

The rambling lakeside house called Pinecrest has lain empty since its last owner went missing seven years ago. But for the Brewster family it will be this year’s holiday retreat, and for the kids Eric and Marci it’s the perfect place to spend a lazy summer exploring.

Which is how Eric and his teenage friends discover a curious collection of discarded objects stowed in a hidden room in the carriage house. The bladeless hacksaws, shade-less lamps, tables with missing legs, a headless axe handle – these unremarkable items add up to a pile of junk. Yet someone once took the trouble to list each worthless relic in a cryptic ledger, thus provoking a great mystery that is now whispering, coaxing, demanding to be solved. The more the boys devote themselves to piecing together the puzzle, the more their fascination deepens into obsession. Soon their days are consumed with this weird collection, while their nights become plagued by ever more ghastly nightmares.

In the Dark of the Night is far from groundbreaking in any way, but what it does, it does well. The scares are good, the characters are all believable and the story interesting. It does stray into the realm of cliché a little too often to be highly recommended, but if you’re looking for a horror book for a read this Hallowe’en, you could certainly do a lot worse that this one.

The novel’s greatest weakness is where it crosses over into fact – with particular regard to real-life serial killers being mentioned. If you’re going to do that, at least do your research properly. Getting type of knife that Jack the Ripper used completely wrong, was more than a little irritating for me, as a cursory glance at any source would disprove it. Of course, such things may not bother you.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Several grisly murders and animal mutilations.
Sex/Nudity: Some teenage “make-out” sequences.
Swearing: A mild amount.
Summary: An interesting idea that never really seems to shine beneath its Hollywood Horror veneer. A fun read, but forgettable. 6/10

The Company
K.J. Parker
Little, Brown Book Group

Available Now - £7.99
Review by Brad Harmer

Hoping for a better life, five war veterans colonize an abandoned island. They take with them everything they could possibly need - food, clothes, tools, weapons, even wives. The colonists feel sure that their friendship will keep them together, but an unanticipated discovery shatters their dream and replaces it with a very different one. Only then do they begin to realize that they've brought with them rather more than they bargained for.

For one of them, it seems, has been hiding a terrible secret from the rest of the company. And when the truth begins to emerge, it soon becomes clear that the war is far from over...

The Company is a book that I tried very hard to like, but unfortunately, I could never really sink my teeth into it. The characters are hurtled into the narrative, with long, unpronounceable fantasy names, and with very little to separate their personality until about a third of the way in. This makes for a very slow start, as I constantly found myself flicking back to the first chapter so that I could keep track of who was who.

Once the story gets going though, it really is well written. The description is suitably epic, and the dialogue fluid and easy to read. Unfortunately, the novel as a whole is lacking any real hook. From start to finish I felt as though I was observing, rather that involved in the narrative – it felt like the difference between watching a movie and watching a documentary.

It’s not a bad book, but I don’t think it’s a great book, either. If you’re into fantasy, it would be worth picking up at a discount price, or a borrow from the library – but there’s just not enough substance to justify forking full price over for it.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Several scenes of murder, and flashbacks to full-scale battles, with vivid descriptions.
Sex/Nudity: Some implied scenes of the “curtains blowing in the wind” variety
Swearing: Several instances of fucks and shits.
Summary: A well-written Viking style fantasy piece that never really grabs the reader. Worth a read if someone lends it to you, but otherwise, there are much better books out there. 6/10

1 comment:

  1. Blake... read... a... book?

    What fresh Hell is this?