Tuesday 12 October 2010

Book Reviews

Surface Detail
Iain M. Banks
Little, Brown Book Group

Available Now - £15.99 (Audiobook Download), £18.58 (Digital Download), £18.99 (Hardback)
Review by Brad Harmer

It begins in the realm of the Real, where matter still matters. It begins with a murder. And it will not end until the Culture has gone to war with death itself.

Lededje Y'breq is one of the Intagliated, her body bearing witness to a family shame, her life belonging to a man whose lust for power is without limit. Prepared to risk everything for her freedom, her release comes at a price, and to put things right she will need the help of the Culture. The Culture can only do so much for any individual, though. With the assistance of one of its most powerful - and arguably deranged - warships, Lededje finds herself heading into a combat zone not even sure which side the Culture is really on.

A war is already raging within the digital realms that store the souls of the dead, and it's about to erupt into reality. It started in the realm of the Real and that is where it will end. It will touch countless lives and affect entire civilizations, but at the centre of it all is a young woman whose need for revenge masks another motive altogether.

Surface Detail has a lot going for it. The characters are all likable (or, in the case of the villains, unlikable), and the dialogue is excellent. It propels the story along, shows the reader the characters’ personalities, and if – like me – you haven’t read any of the other Culture novels, you can actually follows what’s happening just fine. For the most part, anyway.

When Surface Detail is good, it’s great. Unfortunately, it only manages to be good about fifty per cent of the time. When it’s clever, it’s clever. When it’s not, it comes off as pretentious and very, very annoying. At over six hundred pages, this is a novel that really could have done with a heavier editing job. It could afford to lose maybe even two-hundred pages of bollocks and be a better novel for it.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Frequent, bloody and realistic. Some spaceship combat that, granted, isn’t so realistic.
Sex/Nudity: Frequent female nudity, and some sex acts reference.
Swearing: Some swears, but nothing unusual or gratuitous.
Summary: With better editing, this could have been great. As it stands, it’s a good, slightly above-average revenge story that could have done with cutting down on the waffle. 6/10
Clive Barker’s The Thief of Always
Clive Barker, Gabriel Hernandez and Kris Oprisko
Idea and Design Works

Available Now - $12.99 (Trade Paperback)
Review by Brad Harmer

Mr Hood’s Holiday House has stood for a thousand years, welcoming countless children into its embrace. It is a place of miracles, a blissful round of treats and seasons, where every childhood whim may be satisfied...for a price!

The Thief of Always makes a really good adaptation to the comic book medium. It’s full of striking visuals that translate very well to the simultaneously nightmarish and dreamlike artwork in this version. The artwork holds well to the theme of the story, with the creepy inhabitant’s of Mr Hood’s Holiday House looking especially creepy, and the holiday activities coloured with suitably thematic palettes.

If you enjoyed Neil Gaiman’s Coraline, then you’re probably really going to like this, too.

The only real strike against it is its predictable ending. It’s not bad, per se, but when the rest of it has been so imaginative and creative, it just feels a bit of a let down by comparison.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Some scuffling.
Sex/Nudity: None. Weird, considering it’s a Clive Barker book. Actually, this and the Abarat novels may be the only Clive Barker novels not to feature a monster which is a thinly veiled allusion to an ejaculating penis.
Swearing: None.
Summary: A fun and engaging adaptation that would be great for older children or – indeed – and young at heart adults. 8/10
Star Trek: The Next Generation - Ghosts
Zander Cannon/Javier Aranda
Available Now - £14.99 (Trade Paperback)
Review by Rob Wade

Captain Picard and the crew of the Enterprise respond to a distress call and find a terribly wounded scientist aboard a marooned ship. While evaluating the planet below (and its two warring nations) for possible Federation membership, Picard discovers to his horror that the survivor of the disaster is foreseeing his death. Worse, Picard is rattled by being identified as one of the phantoms that haunts the seriously wounded researcher they rescued!

Ghosts is a very well-structured entry in the Star Trek: TNG canon, with the pacing and the arrangement making you feel very much like you’re viewing an episode of the show play itself out before you, which I suppose is the point. The characters are very much like their show counterparts, in that Troi pissed me off without more than five minutes of dialogue.

The artwork is superb in this novel, with bold colourful depictions of the main characters. The main story, involving the titular “Ghosts” experienced by the researcher, is quite intriguing as you go through, meaning that you keep reading as you go along. There is also a sub-plot involving the two warring factions on the planet, with one a more civilised society and the other a warrior caste. This plot, however, is not exactly Of all people, the Enterprise sends Worf to investigate the warrior people. Go figure, eh?

Overall, the adventures of the crew are engaging enough, but at the same time the story just lacks that particular spark that would push it into the realms of greatness.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating :
Violence : Sadly, mostly off-panel. A few scuffles though, mostly involving Worf – big surprise there!
Sex/Nudity : None.
Swearing : None.
Summary: Entertaining enough, but not an amazing title. 7/10
The Unsinkable Walker Bean
Aaron Renier
First Second
Available Now - £12.99 (Hardback)
Review by Rob Wade

Walker Bean never wanted to be a high-seas pirate waging a pitched battle against the forces of the deep. It just worked out that way.
Mild, meek, and a little geeky, Walker is always happiest in his grandfather’s workshop, messing around with his inventions. But when his beloved grandfather is struck by an ancient curse, it falls on Walker to return an accursed pearl skull to the witches who created it—and his path will be strewn with pirates, magical machines, ancient lore, and deadly peril.

What this blurb should actually read is “Mild, meek and a whining pussy bitch”. My God, it’s half the book of him just whining ‘Oh, my grandfather’s ill’. Don’t even get me started on the cover of this book. It looks like the kid’s a proper hero, but much like the famous bespectacled twat that waves the stick around and calls himself Potter, much of his so-called heroism is actually just bumbling around relying on other people to come up with ideas. Once he hears an idea, to his credit, he’s ingenious at executing it, but he certainly doesn’t feel like the traditional hero type.

Having said that, you’d be wrong if you said that I didn’t enjoy this book. I did.
The story is suitably grounded in a certain amount of realism while at the same time suitably fantastical in the same vein as something like Pirates of the Caribbean. Although I’m not 100% sold on the idea of pirates as the most awesome thing ever, the pirates in this book aren’t particularly over the top, and feel pretty realistic as you read along.

The artwork is absolutely great on this book, with the colours exceedingly well done in particular. The style is unique, and at the same time not freakishly annoying like some comics that try to go too far into unique territory. It’s not all great, as the story is at times a little slow, but the book is enjoyable enough for all ages.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating :
Violence : Swordfights and so on.
Sex/Nudity : None.
Swearing : None.
Summary: Ultimately, the book isn’t bad despite the lead character being a pansy. The artwork is superb, and the story is good enough. However, the problem with it is that it just doesn’t do enough to make itself stand out as a great work. 7/10


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