Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Way of Kings

Not content with spending his time completing Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series Brandon Sanderson has started his own called The Stormlight Archive. The first book has now been released and it is called The Way of Kings.
And it's a big book. Sanderson is from the 'sweeping detail', 'large cast' school of fantasy writing, but because this is the first book in the series things start of small, (relatively speaking). We are introduced to three main characters who obviously will have a part to play in the unfolding story.

Sanderson is a great writer and knows how to create a believable world, but this book is too long. It's as if Sanderson had all these things he wanted in his story and decided to cram them in to the first volume. As much as I enjoyed reading this, it did become a chore towards the end. (Sometimes authors need an editor who isn't afraid to tell them to make cuts to their baby.) If each book in the series is this long then it is in danger of drowning under the weight of words it will produce.

And lets not mention the cover. Really Golanz you thought this cover would make people buy the book? Lucky that Sanderson is such a great writer, if someone isn't put off by the cover. Hopefully book two is a little shorter, and a new cover art style is used.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Fantasy Saga

Adrian Tchaikovsky is one of the hardest working men in fantasy fiction. How he is able to produce such high quality books is beyond me. No sooner have you finished the current book in the Shadow of the Apt series than a new one is ready and waiting for you to begin.
The Scarab Path is book five in the series and a lot has happened since it began. The war with the Wasp Empire has ended in a unsatisfying stalemate with implications for both sides. On the Wasp side the first ever Empress is trying to consolidate her [power, while on the other side political machinations look to over-through everything they were fighting for. As well both sides find themselves looking for the forgotten city of Khanaphes which may hold answers to their problems.

This is another great entry in what is becoming a genre-leading series. Tchaikovsky's characters are strong and well written and possess believable motives. As usual there is action, intrigue and enough mystery to ensure that the next volume can't get here quick enough.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Giant Squid

China Mieville's latest book Kraken revolves around the body of a giant squid or kraken kept in the Natural History Museum in London. But things start to get strange for curator Billy Harrow when the massive creature is stolen.
Harrow finds himself hunted by strange cults that rule the dark places of London because the kraken is seen as a god and some very different groups want the body for their own purposes. And because Harrow worked on the body he is seen as a prophet with a special connection to this god.

Mieville has once again written an astonishing novel. Full of ideas and wonderful concepts Kraken flies along at a cracking pace. From ageless assassins, to origamists who can fold solid objects into letters, to a speaking tattoo Mieville never lets the pace or strangeness slacken for a moment. A great read, and hopefully Mieville will write some more urban fantasy.

The Crimson Fists

The Crimson Fists are a proud chapter of Space Marines. They have defended humanity from all sorts of dangers. But in Rynn's World we read about the disaster that nearly destroyed them, and left them facing complete destruction.
Rynn's World is the home base of the Crimson Fist Chapter, but becomes the front line when Ork Warlord Snargrod, Arch Arsonist of Charadon lands his massive army to assault the Crimson Fists in their backyard. Chapter Master Pedro Kantor has to dig deep to lead his forces to victory and overcome this terrifying event, while the losses mount as the Chapter waits for relief from Imperial forces.

Steve Parker has written an exciting tale of action and brutality that focuses on the heroic actions of the Space Marines as their backs are against the wall in the worst day of the Chapter's history. Warhammer 40k fans will find inspiration for their battles in this book as well.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

A Merciless Place

I must confess upfront that this book covered a subject I knew little about. Once I had finished however that was far from true. Emma Christopher has written a book called A Merciless Place, and it deals with the British Empire’s attempt to send convicts to West Africa before Australia was colonised.
After the American Revolution, Britain needed somewhere to send its convicts and it settled on West Africa as the place. But the inhospitable terrain and weather, coupled with awful conditions and soldiers and convicts working in the slave-trade, led to disaster.
This is a story of bad decisions and some truly awful human beings leading to even worse outcomes. A Merciless Place chronicles a dark chapter in the history of colonisation, and also sheds new light onto the eventual colonisation of Australia.
Overall this is a great book that is well worth reading. It will shock in places but it will also make you feel pity for the individuals who had no choice but to be caught up in this experiment.

Friday, August 13, 2010

The Big Book of Awesome

I've just finished looking at the most awesome book ever. It is the Lego Star Wars Visual Dictionary by the good people at DK.
It's Lego and Star Wars. For a geek like me it can't fail. It also just goes to show how many Lego Star Wars kits there are as well. The centrepiece is the Collector's Edition Millennium Falcon which contains 5,195 pieces and is 84cm long. WOW. I want one, though who knows were I'd put it. But that's just a minor detail that can be fixed later.
The pictures are gorgeous and show of the models and minifigs in all there glory. A must for all kids who like Star Wars, even us big ones ...

Short Reviews

  • David Wellington - Monster Island The world has been taken over by zombies. Join a UN Weapons Inspector and a team of heavily armed Somalian school girls as they take on the zombie horde in New York City. A great, fun read that flies along. Full of gore, violence and zombie mayhem.
  • Erich von Manstein - Lost Victories The memoirs of one of Nazi Germany's greatest Field Marshal's. Well written and focuses on the military decisions made by von Manstein. Interesting for what it includes, discussions about Hitler as military leader, and what it leaves out, Manstein's Jewish background and his support for extermination orders in Russia.
  • Peter H Wilson - Europe's Tragedy. A History of the Thirty Years War Wilson has written a very comprehensive history that shows a depth of scholarship and interest in the subject. This tome is full of detail and can be a little overwhelming in parts. All up though I found it to be an interesting read on a subject I didn't know much about.
  • Batman: The Wrath This great little series deals with Batman as he fights his opposite self. A cop-killer who is as calculating and well trained as Batman himself, a man known as the Wrath. Great writing and art combine to make this a fine read.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010


Diarmaid MacCulloch has undertaken a massive task, which is to write a history of Christianity. The result is the large (all 1,161 pages of it) A History of Christianity. While the title may be unimaginative the book itself is very readable.
Like it or not, the history of the Christian Church is the history of the Western World and MacCulloch shows there is a lot to discuss. Especially when your book puts itself forward as a global history of Christianity. MacCulloch discusses the big events in Europe but also looks at Orthodox Christianity, the Church in Africa, the Americas and Asia.

There is a lot to get through in this book but anyone interested in the subject will find a well written book that is a comprehensive look at Christianity. Just don't expect a book that you can just pick up and skim through, the subject and the size does require some effort from the reader.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Short Reviews

  • White King and Red Queen - Daniel Johnson. An interesting history of the Cold War played out at international chess tournaments. Looks at how chess became important to the USSR which meant that the USA then had to be good at it as well, international prestige was on the line!
  • Battle Cry of Freedom - James M McPherson. A great one volume history of the American Civil War. Something of a classic now and highly recommended. Weaves together political, military and economic history.
  • Nekropolis - Tim Waggoner. Matt Richter is a private eye in the city of Nekropolis. He's also a zombie and the town is run by vampires. While this owes a debt to Simon R Green's Nightside series, there is enough humour and atmosphere to set it apart. Looking forward to reading the next book in the series.
  • The Folding Knife - K J Parker. This is the story of a mistake. A mistake made by a great man Bassiano Severus. Parker is a wonderful writer and this story just enforces that fact. Well worth reading.
  • Senna versus Prost - Malcolm Folley. An interesting look at an intense sporting rivalry. As a kid I loved watching Senna drive and I really enjoyed this behind-the-scenes look at these two very different, yet also quite similar, men. For fans of motor sport.
  • Bad Science - Ben Goldacre. I urge everyone to read this book. Goldacre looks at fads, health scares and pharmaceutical companies. Along the way you will learn a lot about running a proper scientific trial and Goldacre will give you the tools and knowledge to spot bad science for yourself.
  • Rommel's Desert War - Martin Kitchen. A detailed account of Rommel's campaigns in North Africa in World War II. Marred by the authors problem with the postwar perception of Rommel as a 'military genius'. Goes out of his way to run Rommel down, without taking into account that hindsight is a wonderful thing. Heavily researched and overall well written.
  • Hannibal - Theodore Agault Dodge. Recounts the Second Punic War between Rome and Carthage. Written in 1891 by a veteran of the American Civil War. Fun read even if it is hagiography. Lots of maps and line drawings.

Monday, May 17, 2010


Reading first hand accounts of battles is a two edged sword. On the one hand the author has a unique insight into what went on, but on the other can get bogged down in the minutiae of what they did. Robert Leckie in Challenge For The Pacific. The Bloody Six-Month Battle of Guadalcanal never falls into the second of these problems.
As a marine of the First Marine Division Leckie was in the thick of the fighting on Guadalcanal, but he never lets that overpower his enthralling description of the campaign. Leckie gives equal time to Japanese and American Admirals as well as marines and Japanese infantrymen as he builds his detailed picture of what happened in this crucial campaign of the Pacific War.

Overall this book was an amazing read. Leckie has a deft hand and is able to let the facts speak for themselves but is also not afraid to let a dry humour come through as well. After finishing this book I felt that I had learnt a lot about the battle and now realise why it was such a big deal.

(On a separate note viewers of The Pacific may recognise the name Robert Leckie, or 'Lucky' as he was called by his squad mates, as being one of the main point of view characters in the series.)

Star Wars

I know what it's like to be a collector. Comics, games, toys, books the list goes on. Though I've always been limited by space and income, but I understand the urge and attraction to needing the latest thing in your collection. Sometimes though you are given access to a collection that just blows your mind. The collection in question is Stephen J Sansweet's Star Wars collection, which part of is shown in the book Star Wars. 1,000 Collectibles, Memorabilia and Stories From a Galaxy Far, Far Away.
Sansweet has the largest private collection of Star Wars collectibles in the world that he houses in a five thousand foot square converted hen house. At the start of 2009 his collection manager, Anne Neumann, had catalogued 55,352 individual items into the database they are creating, but no one knows what percentage of the collection this represents. (Sansweet thinks its less than half.) WOW! Now that's a collection. The book itself is a series of photos of items in Sansweet's collection with stories to do with how he collected them and sometimes stories about expensive items that got away.

On a personal note it's fun to see items like those I owned as a kid in his collection. Things that came in cereal boxes in Australia as well as action figures and the like. This is a fun book to flick through and just realise how much Star Wars merchandise there really is.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The Ambassador's Mission

Please don’t be put off by the cover of this book. It’s actually a lot better than the generic fantasy painting of a man-in-a-hooded-cloak would suggest. This is the first book in a new trilogy from Trudi Canavan and takes place after the events of The Black Magicians Trilogy. The story itself is interesting, even if you are not totally familiar with the earlier series, and will keep you turning the pages as the tension mounts and the story unfolds. Expect conspiracies, daring-do, and magic. Canavan is good at pacing her stories and makes sure that the story unfolds while still leaving you wanting more. Also Canavan’s writing style means that the reader is never bombarded by words or events, and the reader is never left drowning beneath pointless descriptions and minute detail. All in all I enjoyed reading this and look forward to the rest of the series.
One for genre fans, I just wish Orbit had put a better cover on it.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Jesus Hates Zombies!

Stephen Lindsay has written a great series that is a headlong rush of action and historical figures. Jesus Hates Zombies featuring Lincoln Hates Werewolves is over-the-top fun in a small package.
The basic premise of the story is this. Jesus is on Earth battling zombies unleashed by Zombie-Gabriel. Jesus is joined by axe wielding Abe Lincoln who has been sent forward in time. Along the way Jesus is joined by shotgun wielding Elvis, foul mouthed Mother Teresa, and the General Lee from The Dukes of Hazard amongst others.

This fun little series is not for the easily offended, otherwise strap yourself in and enjoy the ride. One to look out for.

The Battle of Arnhem

The battle of Arnhem in 1944 was a bold attempt to end World War Two by Christmas. A carpet of paratroopers would capture major bridges at Eindhoven, Nijmegen and Arnhem while the tanks of XXX Corps linked up with them and drove into the Ruhr region of Germany. Unfortunately things did not go to plan and while the paratroopers did their part, XXX Corps could not get past Nijmegen and help the British paratroopers around Arnhem bridge.
The British paratroopers were led by General R E Urquhart who has written an amazing first hand account of the battle called Arnhem. Written with style, good humour and intelligence, Arnhem is a fascinating look at a battle from a major participants point of view. Urquhart describes what was going on around him with an easy to read prose, while also showing that he has thought about the battle by analyzing decisions he made, or incidents that could have gone differently. He is also quick to mention mistakes he made and highlight the bravery of the soldiers around him.

Arnhem is a great read and worth tracking down if you want to know more about this battle and what it was like fighting in it.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


Captain Marvel was a boring hero until Jim Starlin killed him. OK, that's not completely true. Starlin wrote big cosmic stories and Captain Marvel was in the middle of them battling Thanos for the Cosmic Cube, which Thanos wanted to impress his true love Death by killing all life in the universe. Yes it sounds completely ridiculous but Starlin made it work
Helping to sell the story was Starlin's impressive art work which played around with perspective and panel size, propelling the story forwards. But what really stood out was how Captain Marvel died. Heroes die glorious deaths fighting their nemesis if they die at all. Not so Captain Marvel. In the end cancer killed him. He did struggle heroically, and he did fight to the end, but he died in bed hooked up to a machine. The great superheroes of the Marvel Universe were unable to save him because the energy source that gave him his powers interfered with the treatment. Starlin showed that heroes can die in bed and still be brave and courageous, still go down swinging, still fight the good fight, still be heroes. And comics were better for having this story told in the way it was. It is also fitting that The Death of Captain Marvel was Marvel Comics first graphic novel.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Graphic Novels I've Enjoyed Recently: The Sequel

John Constantine Hellblazer: Freezes Over - w: Brian Azzarello a: various. Constantine is snowed in a roadside diner with three desperate criminals. Guess who leaves alive? It's fun watching Constantine manipulate all and sundry.

Afro Samurai 1 - w/a: Takashi Okazaki. A son sees his father killed and grows up seeking vengeance. Get ready for some kick-ass fight scenes.

Dark Entries - w: Ian Rankin a: Werther Dell'Edera. John Constantine in a reality television show set in a haunted mansion. Let the fun begin.

Filthy Rich - w: Brian Azzarello a: Victor Santos. A classic noir tale of lust, money, greed and bad choices. Wonderful atmosphere, and a well told story.

X-Men: Phoenix Endsong - w: Greg Pak a: Greg Land. Interesting story that tries to explain why the Phoenix Force keeps attacking the X-Men. Pak writes a good story but Land's artwork is overly posed and his characters look lifeless.

The Best of Wolverine Volume 1 - w/a: various. Some early Wolverine stories showing why he's the best at what he does.

Captain America: The Man With No Face - w: Ed Brubaker a: various. Bucky Barnes' past catches up with him as old enemies gather for revenge.

Star Wars Omnibus: Rise of the Sith - w/a: various. Stories set before The Phantom Menace involving Obi-Wan Kenobi, Qui-Gon Jinn, Ki-Adi-Mundi, Mace Windu, Aurra Sing and Darth Maul.

Star Wars Omnibus: Emissaries & Assassins - w/a: various. Stories set just after The Phantom Menace starring the usual suspects.

The Big Book of Barry Ween Boy Genius - a/w: Judd Winick. This hilarious graphic novel follows the adventures of Barry and his friend Jeremy. Garth Ennis describes Barry Ween as "Calvin & Hobbes on PCP with a copy of Mein Kampf thrown into the mix." Laugh out loud jokes and pop culture references and a reluctant hero with a very bad mouth is a winning combination.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Quick Reviews

Here are some books I've enjoyed recently.

Retribution Falls - Chris Wooding. Join the crew of the Ketty Jay as they find themselves up to their eyebrows in trouble. One for Firefly Fans.

Killing Yourself to Live - Chuck Klosterman. Klosterman travels across America visiting the places where rock musicians have died for an article in Spin magazine. Along the way Klosterman tries to understand how a musician dying can be so powerful for people. (Best line in the book: 'as a rock critic, you make a living out of reviewing your mail.')

The Campaigns of Napoleon - David Chandler. This massive book is an amazing in-depth look at how Napoleon fought his battles. Lots of information and lots of maps make this a delight.

The Day of Battle - Rick Atkinson. A very detailed look at the Allied invasion of Italy during WWII. Well researched and well told.

Heart of Veridon - Tim Akers. A strange package leads disgraced pilot Jacob Burn into a mystery. An interesting novel that slowly draws you in and weaves a web around you. Great read.

Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell Conviction - David Michaels. Sure it's a book based on a computer game but it's a fun nights entertainment. Sam Fisher is going rogue, or is he?

The Naming of the Beasts - Mike Carey. I like Felix Castor even though he owes a lot to John Constantine. Castor has to exorcise a demon that is riding shotgun on his best friends soul. As usual Castor will be put through the wringer.

The Second World War - John Keegan. Well written and immensely readable history of WWII. Covers all the theatres of battle in just enough detail for a one volume history.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Winter 1152

David Petersen's amazing Mouse Guard series continues in Winter 1152, following on from Fall 1152. After the attack of Midnight's traitor mice the Mouse Territories are trying to survive a harsh winter. Mouse Guard patrols have been sent out to gather supplies and the story focuses on the exploits of one of these patrols.
Saxon, Kenzie, Lieam, Sadie and the old greyfur Celanawe find themselves under attack on the way back to Lockhaven carrying much needed medical supplies. We see our heroes separated as Lieam and Celanawe battle an owl, and Saxon, Kenzie and Sadie fight bats underground in an old weasel warren.

After much adventure they return to Lockhaven except for Celawane who falls fighting the owl. But this leads Lieam to find out more about himself as he makes a decision that will have a huge impact on his future.

David Petersen is an amazing artist and storyteller and Winter 1152 is such an atmospheric piece that I urge people to go out and find the Mouse Guard series and have a read for themselves. I can't recommend this any more highly.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Great Cover!

WOW! A fantasy novel that doesn't have a hooded mysterious fellow holding a sword. This is a great design and made me want to read the novel. And I have to say it lived up to the cover.

Monday, January 18, 2010


It's always great when you're on holidays to dive into a book and get lost in it. Having just finished Ken Scholes's Lamentation I found myself in just that situation. I was flying through it at top speed needing to read just a little bit more before putting it down.
When the city of Windwir is destroyed in a fiery cataclysm the Named Lands are heading for war. Rudolfo, Lord of the Ninefold Forest Houses and Gypsy King, finds himself at the centre of events. Opposing him is Sethbert the Overseer of the Entrolusian City States who wants to control the Named Lands. Plots develop as nations are drawn into the growing conflict. Alliances develop and collapse and hidden schemes come to light.

It is hard to believe such a great novel is a debut. Written with the assured hand of a veteran writer Scholes takes the reader on an exciting ride full of political scheming and battles. Be prepared for plots within plots and grand schemes that have been developing for centuries. I'm really looking forward to the rest of this series. Well worth finding and reading.