Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Book Reviews

Divergent
Veronica Roth
HarperCollins UK
Available from Tuesday 3rd May - £9.99 (Paperback)
Review by Rob Wade

One choice can transform you. Pass initiation. In sixteen-year-old Beatrice Prior's world, society is divided into five factions - Abnegation (the selfless), Candor (the honest), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent) - each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue, in the attempt to form a "perfect society." At the age of sixteen, teens must choose the faction to which they will devote their lives. On her Choosing Day, Beatrice renames herself Tris, rejects her family's group, and chooses another faction. After surviving a brutal initiation, Tris finds romance, but also discovers unrest and growing conflict in their seemingly "perfect society." To survive and save those they love, they must use their strengths to uncover the truths about their identities, their families, and the order of their society itself.

Veronica Roth is a new author who wrote her debut novel while she was studying a degree in creative writing. In a way, this is very apparent in the novel, which has elements of great dystopia movies and subterfuge plots, while at the same time retaining the accessibility of something like Harry Potter or more family-friendly workings. Indeed, nothing in the book would fail to translate to the big screen, although the film would probably have to be a 12A for various reasons, least of all because the plot is too clever for young people.

From the beginning, the parts of the story which deal with Beatrice’s day to day life are slow, but purposeful, and lead into her induction into her new faction, the majority of which is handled with a considerable increase in speed which is incredibly effective. Once you start understanding the inner workings of the factions, then all becomes clearer and this is where the story is at its strongest. The pacing is outstanding in its final third, and the ramp up in importance comes just at the right time, when you start to think that the story might be at risk of flagging and getting bogged down. The characters are written pretty well, even if they do go a little high-school at times – they are that age, to be fair, so that’s understandable to an extent.

As a novel, this stands on its own, but the strength of it from here will be whether this becomes a franchise. If so, this could be a really strong series which would only improve now that the groundwork has been laid.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
Violence: Lots of fistfights and shooting.
Sex/Nudity: None, all kissing and PG stuff.
Swearing: None, which I found surprising.
Summary: A really strong debut, and the start of a really engaging franchise. 8/10
Code Lightfall and the Robot King
Daniel H. Wilson
Bloomsbury UK
Available Now - £5.99 (Paperback)
Review by Rob Wade

When young Code falls down a hole while following a mysterious robotic insect, he lands in a world that defies imagination. Everything in Mekhos is made from metal and circuitry, including the inhabitants. Code immediately sets out to find his way home, but first he'll have to cross Mekhos's bizarre and dangerous landscape to reach the Beam Stalk. There, the legendary Robonomicon - a guide to all robot wisdom - is being by the evil Immortalis, who has plans to destroy Mekhos and invade the human world above. Can Code free the Robonomicon, save the robots of Mekhos from impending doom ...and still get home in time to catch the bus from school? With its dazzling array of robots and futuristic gadgets, this rollicking story will hold special appeal for budding techno-lovers everywhere.

As a character, Code suffers from probably one of the stupidest names in the history of literature. However, this novel is totally worth a read for a couple of reasons. Firstly, and hopefully most obviously to everyone out there, robots are awesome, and entirely underrated. Being as Wilson’s works to date include How to survive a Robot Uprising, it’s a fairly safe bet that he’s a fan as well. Ultimately, if you can get past the kid-friendly appeal, you have a story that shows an undoubtedly high amount of promise as a series. The premise is clever, with a decent amount of thought clearly having gone into it. In addition, the characters are amusing enough and don’t suffer from the traditional issues of adults reading it being pissed off by clearly kid-friendly characters. There’s only one scenario where it’s a little kid-heavy, but even that is so short that you’ll be hard pushed to be annoyed by it.

It’s not a perfect book, by any stretch, and personally my main gripe with it was how much was left out in terms of explanation. For instance, Code finds himself in a robot’s kitchen and eats some stuff that’s made up of circuit boards. What it doesn’t explain is how he does that without, you know…dying. It’s a glib example, but for me it’s little things like that that stop it from being completely accepted by any other than a more youthful crowd.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
Violence: Nothing stellar, a few scraps between robots.
Sex/Nudity: None.
Swearing: None.
Summary: Enjoyable enough, but ultimately will probably not appeal to everyone. 7/10

Comics Corner

2000 AD #1731
Available from Wednesday 27th April
Review by Brad Harmer

It's a very strong issue this week - which is something I'd have liked to have been able to say about 2000 AD more often, recently. Glad to see it's getting back on form.

The new Judge Dredd series, California Babylon, looks like it could be a the big story that was hinted at last week. Dredd is setting out into the Cursed Earth, and there's muties, missing Tek, and kidnapped Judges involved. This looks like it could be a really good one.

Flesh seems to have gotten really good this issue, focusing more on the characters and their relationships to each other than just running from various dinosaurs. I don't believe that old Gore-Head is down for the count, though.

The Red Seas is continuing, and there are a couple of new characters thrown in who look like they could be spicing things up.

There's also an extra-long comic (by 2000 AD standards, anyway) thrown in: The Memoirs of Nikolai Dante. Dante's on his way back, so we're trated to this refresher/flashback comic, that manages to cram in all of the backstory so far. It's got me excited about the new series, so I guess it managed its job.

A really strong issue this week, and well worth your money. 9/10

THE VIKINGS GIVEAWAY

"Wealth dies, kinsmen die, a man himself must likewise die. Only fame never dies." (From the Edda 'Havamal)

Between the 8th and 11th centuries Vikings stormed out of their Scandinavian homelands to raid and loot along the coasts of Europe. In old Norse to 'go viking' meant to take to sea in a long ship for an adventure. Sometimes this was a trading trip, sometimes a piratical raid. Often it was both. Explorers and traders, warriors and poets, they ranged between Byzantium in the south and ventured as far as Iceland and even North America. Their fame lives on.

This entertaining and informative account was written especially for Naxos AudioBooks by David Angus, author of Great Explorers of the World, Great Inventors and other spoken word histories.

Thanks to our friends at Naxos Audiobooks, we've got three downloads of The Vikings to give away! For your chance of winning, send your name to emotionally14@hotmail.co.uk before midday on Tuesday 3rd May, making sure to put "The Vikings" as the subject. The first three entries out of the electronic hat after the competition closes will receive a free copy!

Don't forget to put "The Vikings" in the subject line. Incorrectly labelled or blank entries will be discarded.

Entries limited to one per household. Offer open only to postal addresses in the UK and Ireland.

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