Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Book Reviews

Star Wars - Clone Wars Gambit: Siege
Karen Miller
Century

Available Now - £18.99 (Hardback)
Review by Brad Harmer

Star Wars - Clone Wars Gambit: Siege is the second instalment of a two-book Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker adventure set against the backdrop of the Clone Wars, following on from Star Wars – Clone Wars Gambit: Stealth.

Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker are trapped on the Separatist controlled planet Lanteeb, on the run from General Lok Durd and his droid army. After being forced to abandon their jerry-rigged groundcar they continue on foot, hunted, as they try to find a safe place to hide and regroup before escaping the planet altogether. Eventually they seek shelter in a remote Lanteeban village, but the Separatists track them down. Now they're under siege...and the little time they've bought themselves is running out.

The segue from the cliffhanger ending of ...Stealth is hardly smooth. For a while it’s hard to tell exactly what has happened – and it’s hard to believe that it’s intentional. The tension begins to rack up straight away, though. The progression through the events is slow – adding weight to my theory that you can only write a book about a siege if you’re David Gemmell – but all in all Miller is a good writer. Certainly the best addition to the Star Wars line-up in recent memory.

There’s a rather interesting angle shown on the relationship between Darth Sidious and Darth Tyranus, but all in all this is another one of those Star Wars duologies that really should have been one 600 page novel, rather than two 400 page ones.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Violence:
Frequent blaster and lightsaber combat. Some explosions.
Sex/Nudity: Some kissing.
Swearing: “Stang” seems to be the fashionable Star Wars swearword at the moment. This is better than “kriff”, and not as good as “kark”. What’s the point in doing this, anyway? “Blast” works well enough in the movies.
Summary: The good outweighs the bad in this latest novel, but the whole thing feels rather oddly paced – especially for Star Wars. Fans will be satisfied, but it’s not a good starting point for newcomers. 7/10

No Man's Land: Black Hand Gang
Pat Kelleher
2000AD/Abaddon Books/Rebellion

Available Now - £7.99 (Paperback)
Review by Blake Harmer

It has only struck me, whilst reading Black Hand Gang, that there isn’t a lot of fiction based around World War I, when you can probably find thousands of comics and novels based around a World War II setting. So it is brilliantly refreshing that Black Hand Gang takes an actual mystery of how such a large crater was created on the battlefield of World War I, and have used it to create a science fiction story.

The plot goes like this: On November 1st 1916, during a assault on the German front line, the nine-hundred men of the 13th Battalion if The Pennine Fusiliers vanished without a trace along with a large patch of the battlefield, only to find themselves stranded on an alien planet. Will they learn to survive in their new frightening and hostile environment, and will they discover what sent them there in the first place?

The story is great not only for its originality, but also for the design of some of the alien life forms and how they react to their new visitors. There are giant carnivorous dog like creatures, giant worms that like to feast on the dead on their battlefield and insect-like humanoid creatures, all of which seem to have a unique way of acting, and even act as you would expect them to act. Even some of the carnivorous plant life have great and unique methods of catching their dinners.

The best thing about the book as a whole though has to be the violence and there is plenty of that to keep most E14 readers happy for a long time. Monsters and soldiers alike are disembowelled, burnt, shot, cut into pieces and impaled. In a word, this book is awesome.

My only criticism of Black Hand Gang is that I found it quite slow to get going in terms of the main bulk of it’s storyline. However, once it gets going. It never really lets up in terms of enjoyable action set pieces.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Violence:
Black Hand Gang is filled to the brim with meaty violence and shows insight into the many ways another alien life form could tear our puny bodies to pieces.
Sex/Nudity: None.
Swearing: Lots of swearing, as is always a good thing here on E14
Summary: Black Hand Gang is a thoroughly enjoyable read and will keep you entertained if you like you’re sci-fi action stories, which also gives you some insight into World War One army life. A unique and interesting story that will have you waiting for the next book with anticipation. 8/10

To Do or Die
Max Adams
Pan MacMillan

Available Now - £6.99 (Paperback)
Review by Brad Harmer

As Hitler's armies march into Europe, Eddie Dawson, an explosives expert and somewhat reluctant lance-corporal in the Royal Engineers, is sent to France on an assessment mission that seems straight-forward enough. His task completed, he anticipates an early return to Britain, but instead he's sent to the Saarland region, where the French have launched an ill-advised invasion into German territory.

Dawson's demolition skills are needed to clear a way through a minefield. Within hours everything goes wrong and Dawson and a fellow sapper are caught on the wrong side of the front line. Their obvious escape route blocked, they head north, but their troubles have only just begun...

Taking its cue more from Commando and Battle comics than hard historical fiction, To Do or Die is a action and explosion packed novel that moves from battle to skirmish to explosion without ever letting up. It’s a very easy read to get into, and Eddie and Dave (our lead characters) are both likable “everyman” heroes.

It’s hard not to feel like an eleven year-old kid again: the Nazis are bad guys because they’re bad guys, we’re the good guys because we’re British, and the French are arseholes because, well, because they’re French.

To some this may sound like scorn or derision, but not from me. If you’re looking for some brainless and fun explodey action, then definitely pick this up. You’ll have a blast.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Violence:
Several gory descriptions of battlefield injuries, and blood. A fuckton of: Military executions, explosions, gunfire, evisceration by anti-personnel landmine, tank warfare and Nazis.
Sex/Nudity: A woman in her slip.
Swearing: Frequent, and relatively strong for the genre.
Summary: An enjoyable action/adventure story. The WWII setting is little more than chrome, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing, as it lets the adrenaline shine through without being lost in the details. 9/10

Midnighters: The Secret Hour
Scott Westerfeld
Atom

Available Now - £5.99 (Paperback)
Review by Charlotte Barnes

As the new girl at Bixby High School, Jessica Day expected some unwelcome attention. What she didn't expect was to feel an instant connection to a stranger in the corridor ...Who is this boy dressed in black? And why can she feel his eyes following her wherever she goes? The answers will have to wait until the sun goes down, for here in Bixby, midnight is the time for secrets; secrets that Jessica is going to find out, whether she wants to or not.

Based on the synopsis above and the cover art of a woman who looks suspiciously like Bella Swann you would be forgiven to think that this book is one of those tragic Twilight rip-offs. Surprisingly, this book has bugger all to do with werewolves and vampires. In fact, it is a rather original story about a small group of young teenagers with various powers “midnight” can experience an extra hour of the day where evil monsters lurk. Jessica Day is new in town and she soon discovers that she is one of these rare “midnighters”, who seems to be the most powerful of them all. Of course as it is a book for teenagers there is a romantic interest, some hand holding and a small amount of snogging.

This is most definitely the sort of book I would have loved at the age of thirteen. It is quirky, exciting, romantic and of course paranormal. It is a really interesting concept. However I found the story quite bulky and at times a chore to get through. It seems to have a lack of focus that comes from its lack of detail, the novel would really benefit from it being more descriptive when it comes to the slithers (monsters) and their nature.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Violence:
Moderate, a few jumpy bits.
Sex/Nudity: None. Too prude for rumpy-pumpy.
Swearing: None
Summary: A fun, adolescent book. Definintely, worth a read and an original take on the paranormal genre. Hope fully the other two will pick up and build up on where this one left off. 6/10

The Great God Pan
Arthur Machen
Partian Books

Available Now - £8.99 (Paperback)
Review by Brad Harmer

Arthur Machen is admired by most – if not all – of the greatest horror writers of the past hundred years or so. His style has often been imitated, and alongside M.R. James and Sheridan Le Fanu, all but created Gothic Horror. This compilation of his three most famous stories: The Great God Pan, The White People and The Shining Pyramid.

Re-reading Machen now, it’s easy to see how big an influence he was, when it – rather tragically – all sounds so retro-derivative. Sure, he came first, but it’s impossible not to think of Robert E. Howard, H.P. Lovecraft or Clark Ashton Smith whilst reading this compilation.

The stories themselves are good horror stories, but there’s just not enough work put into it. The thing is, all of Machen’s stories are copyright free now, meaning that you can read them anywhere – and there are many copies available online. So, the prospect of paying for a hard copy is a little galling. There’s a nice foreword, but sorry...there’s just not enough production here to justify the cost.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Violence:
None detailed, but some Gothic horror.
Sex/Nudity: None.
Swearing: None.
Summary: A solid enough compilation of three great stories, but there’s just not enough extra polish here to make it worth parting with your money for. Nine quid for three sotries when they’re all available for free online? 6/10


AVATAR: SPECIAL EDITION – IN CINEMAS 27TH AUGUST

Return to Pandora and Re-Experience Cameron’s History-Making Epic, with more than Eight Minutes of Never Before Seen Footage



THQ ANNOUNCE RED FACTION: BATTLEGROUNDS

Mechs or tanks? The age-old debate will be settled on Mars as THQ yesterday announced the development of Red Faction: Battlegrounds, the first downloadable title in the history of the acclaimed Red Faction sci-fi/action franchise.

Scheduled to explode onto to Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network in 2011, Red Faction: Battlegrounds is a fast-paced multiplayer-focused vehicular combat game in which fast-attack vehicles, heavy tanks and combat walkers wreak havoc above ground and beneath the surface of Mars. Staying true to the Red Faction universe, players can demolish anything that stands in their way, from military compounds to enemy vehicles, using advance Martian artillery and explosives.

Developed by THQ Digital Studios UK and executive produced by Volition, Red Faction: Battlegrounds pits four players either locally or online in a variety of game modes, including Survival, Annihilate and Flag Frenzy. Players rank up and are rewarded with unique bonus content that will be playable in the upcoming Xbox 360, PS3 and PC game, Red Faction: Armageddon.

“The pick-up-and-play multiplayer action of Red Faction: Battlegrounds adds a completely new perspective to the acclaimed Red Faction franchise," said Kevin Kraff, Vice President of Global Brand Management, THQ. "Just as in other Red Faction games, you can pretty much blow up everything. Only this time, you do it with your friends using hulking mechs, armored tanks and combat walkers."


HELLCATS & HOCKEY STICKS GIVEAWAY

St Erisian's school for girls has stood for over a hundred years and survived war, plague, famine, demonic attack, strange explosions in the science block and countless attempts to get it closed by the government.

However, to be fair, not all of these disasters were the fault of the girls who study there.

As one of those schoolgirls, all manner of threats are lined up against you: criminals, school inspectors, zombies, demons and not least of all, the other girls.

However, you have the skills to fight back and the will to fight dirty. You also have the motto of the school to guide you -

"Teach it to them before they teach it to you!"

Thanks to our friends at Cubicle 7, we've got a copy of the awesome table-top RPG Hellcats & Hockey Sticks to give away! For your chance of winning, send us an e-mail to hellcatsgiveaway@yahoo.co.uk with your name and postal address before midday on Tuesday 24th August (UK time). The first name drawn out of the electronic hat will win a free copy!

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