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Mark Gelineau & Joe King Blog Interview

Mark Gelineau and Joe King very kindly agreed to do an interview for my blog! I have zero experience in this regard and have no clue wh...

Friday, 19 August 2016

Book Review: Heart of Granite by James Barclay

The world has become a battleground in a war which no side is winning. But for those determined to retain power, the prolonged stalemate cannot be tolerated so desperate measures must be taken.

Max Halloran has no idea. He's living the brief and glorious life of a hunter-killer pilot. He's an ace in the air, on his way up through the ranks, in love, and with his family's every need provided for in thanks for his service, Max has everything . . .

. . . right up until he hears something he shouldn't have, and refuses to let it go. Suddenly he's risking his life and the lives of all those he cares about for a secret which could expose corruption at the highest levels, and change the course of the war.

One man, one brief conversation . . . a whole world of trouble . . . 

When I read the phrase "hunter-killer pilot" I thought 'ooh some good old fashioned tie-fighter type action'. Aerial acrobatics, some dog fights, that kind of thing. Man and machine working as one in the sky. Only the things the pilots fly are not machines, not even close, no they're dragons. Yeah. that's right, dragons. Or drakes as they are known in this instance. Don't worry I not spoiling anything, you find all this stuff out in the first few pages. Its not mentioned anywhere in the blurb, not a peep, but I think its something that readers would like to know. If you are in the mood for some dragon carnage, look no further.

To give you an idea of what to expect, I'll give a brief backstory: A extraordinary discovery leads, unsurprisingly, to an arms race. War breaks out, countries are destroyed, borders are shifted, cities leveled. Fast forward a few decades or so, and the war is at a stalemate. None of the warring factions are gaining any ground. The conflict needs to be ended, quickly and decisively. 

The world is in a pretty bad state, fossil fuels are depleted, hence the lack of traditional aircraft, or any vehicle for that matter, instead they rely solely on genetically engineered lizards for all their transport needs. Now rather than training these giant lizards to do what they ask, they've purposely bred them, for lack of a better word, stupid. Easier to control, but they go one better, for extremely reliant lizard-piloting you merge thoughts with the lizard. Yes, a reptilian mind-meld. For the majority of the pilots this carries very little risk, but for the drake pilots, like our dear old Max (remember him from the blurb), this carries the danger of something known as 'the Fall'. Dum, dum, dum. 

Because the drakes are bred with stronger minds, they carry a greater risk, namely becoming a dribbling mess that screams a lot. They send these pilots to the Landfill. Dum, dum, dum. Where they live out their very short days pilled up. 

Ok, still with me? Our favourite cocky, loud mouthed, superstar pilot figures out some things don't quite add up. And then he gets himself into some trouble, and some more things don't add up. And then he's some serious throuble.

There are a few people that you will immediately identify as 'the bad guys', now they may well make morally questionable choices, but they are (mostly) for the greater good. The book invites no opinions on who is right, it only gives you the facts and lets you make up your own mind. Is it acceptable to sacrifice the lives of a few pilots (who will die soon anyway, and knew all along they would) in order to win a war that has dragged on and on for years. How many future lives would that save? Can you balance the lives of the few against the lives of many more in generations to come? These are the kinds of questions this story asks, and provides no answers. That's up to you, dear reader.

One thing that was lacking was an epilogue. In most cases, you get an idea of what happens after. Here you get an idea of what should happen, but judging by the people making these promises, I would have liked to have known what really happened after. I stuck with Max all the way hoping to see the outcome of his actions and then get nothing. Nowt (that's Geordie for nada). Vague promises and hints. 

Verdict: 7.5/10

*I received an e-copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Book review: Infernal by Mark de Jager

Stratus wakes alone, with no memory of his past. All he knows is his name and that he is not human. Possessing immense strength, powerful sorcery and an insatiable hunger, he sets out across a landscape torn apart by a war, as a dark magic drives the world to the brink of destruction.

Disoriented and pursued relentlessly by enemies, he will have to learn what he truly is, or risk bringing the world into ruin...

This is another one from one of my insane requesting sprees. Most normal people go on eBay and 'drunk-buy', I go on NetGally and request (too much) reading material in a caffeine induced state. Thrilling stuff. Weekends at my house are crazy.

First of all, you should probably not read this if you don't like the darker stuff. Stratus is not, by any means, a hero. So if you are offended by blood, guts, occasional religion bashing, violence, and a general disregard for human life, perhaps this is not the one for you. 

Secondly, I always try to have zero expectations, I know it sounds terrible, but I've found that I will enjoy a book more if I don't know much about it. So I was pleasantly surprised to discover that this is a first person PoV, I really love them. Especially the grimdarks. The darker, the better, because I'm fucked up like that. 

Third, and most important, this was awesome. I was hooked from the very first lines and I could not get enough. I'm devastated I can't afford to buy a HB this month. I need one, plus I want to support the author. Especially if his debut is this good. 

This was action packed, brilliantly paced, and quite funny in some parts. Stratus trying to make sense of humanisms is very entertaining!It was everything I expect from a exceptional grimdark and so much more.

I sincerely hope there will be a book 2, it ends very suddenly on a cliffhanger, and I'm terribly excited to see what happens! 

Verdict: 9/10

*I received an e-copy from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. 

Infernal is out now!

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Book Review: Temeraire (Temeraire Book 1) by Naomi Novik

Captain Will Laurence has been at sea since he was just twelve years old; finding a warmer berth in Nelson's navy than any he enjoyed as the youngest, least important son of Lord Allendale. Rising on merit to captain his own vessel, Laurence has earned himself a beautiful fiancée, society's esteem and a golden future. But the war is not going well. It seems Britain can only wait as Napoleon plans to overrun her shores. After a skirmish with a French ship, Laurence finds himself in charge of a rare cargo: a dragon egg bound for the Emperor himself. Dragons are much prized: properly trained, they can mount a fearsome attack from the skies. One of Laurence's men must take the beast in hand and join the aviators' cause, thus relinquishing all hope of a normal life. But when the newly-hatched dragon ignores the young midshipman Laurence chose as its keeper and decides to imprint itself on the horrified captain instead, Laurence's world falls apart. Gone is his golden future: gone his social standing, and soon his beautiful fiancée, as he is consigned to be the constant companion and trainer of the fighting dragon Temeraire…

Overall good, but not excellent.

A buddy read with the Bookish Buddies.

First of all, this particular author has a habit of splitting the opinions of our members. Back in 2015 they read Uprooted, (I caught up a few months later) most enjoyed it, those that didn't, really didn't. I was one of the ones that was not a fan, it was just so... bland. Anyway, I won't turn this into an "over rated books" rant. But, seriously why Uprooted so loved? I just don't understand it. Ok, I'll stop now. The same happened with this book, again some enjoyed, others not so much.

A quick summary: Man finds dragon egg; dragon egg hatches, man has to give up his comfy life in the Navy to join the Aerial Corps because he has a Messiah Complex. Man finds his initial impressions were wrong and all the "pilots" are just ordinary chaps who happen to fly dragons. Man is an annoying prude.

The most enjoyable thing, by far is the relationship between dragon and Captain. Its almost akin to a parent-child situation. Temeraire is highly intelligent, but ultimately very naive about human society. He seems to grow at an alarming rate, and when I say alarming rate I mean he went from being the size of a large dog to too being able to carry Captain Laurence in just a week and a half, not quite sure I buy that totally. But, I can let that one slip.

Now to my biggest criticisms. Woman are treated as second rate citizens, yes I can sorta see that. We were, in some places still are. We don't like it, but that doesn't change the fact that it happens. Now, in the Corps there is a certain breed of dragon that will only accept a female Captain, ok fair enough. But since dragons are such an important part of culture for hundreds of years, surely attitudes would have begun to change long ago. And rippled out to other parts of society? It's almost as if the author took our own history and simply inserted dragons into it, without much thought of repercussions. They would have changed our entire culture. Our attitudes. Everything. The author almost gets around this by stating that the Aerial Corps live separate from everyone in their own compounds away from the more refined peoples, but I don't buy it. Not for a second.

Moving on to my next complaint. Why do the dragons allow themselves to be "harnessed" as they call it? Yes, some refuse to be and are kept for breeding. But what I mean is, why do they allow themselves to be dragged into a conflict that really they could just avoid with a few beats of their wings? Most of the dragons are highly intelligent, would they truly let themselves be shackled with illusions of duty? Duty to whom? The humans? Why? What if they decide they no longer want to fight? What if they decide they no longer enjoy the company of shortsighted apes? Who is going to stop them if they choose to revolt? What allegiance do they owe the humans anyway? 

Temeraire I can understand, he's quite naive about the world, but not the older dragons. Do they not reach a point after 80 or so years were it's no longer worth it? I can't imagine they enjoy watching their friends die. Don't they get disheartened by the futility of it all? Surely at some point they can't do it anymore or they have lingering effects, to the extent that they are a danger to people and other dragons. After so much exposure to violence and death it wouldn't surprise me at all. I find it a challenge to balance their natural intellect with their killer instinct. 

Lets take an example: Temeraire is hungry, so he eats a couple of cows. Yes, only natural. But does he feel guilty about eating them? Does he feel they should not have to die so he can live? His higher intelligence would cause me to think, at some point, he would feel bad about all these dead creatures that sustain him. Predators do not think about this kind of thing because its likely to cause a problem for their continued survival. Any kind of bad feelings towards prey died out with the creatures that felt it. All that is left is eat or die. Hence no vegetarian lions. They don't understand fully the affects of their actions. It's only dinner to them. So, do the dragons see themselves so far above other animals that they don't care how many have to die in order for them to live? In that case why do they listen to the humans? Surely we would be no more than talking food to them? Which takes me back to my earlier point: Why listen to humans?

So because of these issues I've had to lower my rating. This book is a lot of fun, but doesn't really stand up to any kind of scrutiny. Good as a quick distraction, but don't bother trying to look deeper, it only causes the illusion to collapse. 

Verdict: 6/10