Book Review: Pale Boundaries

Well, here’s something different. Though this review may end up being shorter than some of my poems…

Pale Boundaries by Scott Cleveland is a good book. (Is that enough? No? Okay then…)

Pale Boundaries is a sci-fi thriller that has the requsite fights and chases and all the rest, but also comes with its own set of 3 dimensional characters.

Terson Reilly has had his fair share of trouble with the law but he travells to Nivea to try to go straight. This obviously doesn’t work when trouble comes looking for him in the form of a criminal organisation in the midst of its own internal dispute. We get to know some of the criminals (on both sides of the law) and a parole officer to keep us in the story from all side.

The character are good, but they get a lot of help from the setting– both the natural world and the political/social construct that has grown on it.  A lot of thought has gone into the details and it all works together nicely.

Typos and like are fairly minor and Cleveland isn’t Shakespeare but he does know how to put a sentence together.

The end doesn’t even pretend to be a stand alone book, so there is that, but I have already bought the follow up, Embustero.

So, Pale Boundaries by Scott Cleveland is a good book. Go buy it here.

Review: The Company by KJ Parker

The Company is about 5 legendary war veterans (the survivors of A Company) moving to an island to live as simple farmers. The war did things to all of them (and they did things to the war) that has left them scarred both physically and emotionally. They have secrets and old wounds eating away at them. And that’s not to mention the wives and ‘servants’ they organise to go with them.

The story has a bit of a slow build up and moves between the past (the war) and the present, offering snippets that build layer upon layer.

What can I say. There is the fabulous writing; the deep, conflicted, morally ambiguous characters; the interesting setting; fabulous dialog; and all round attention to detail. The tension on the island builds palpably as we find out more about the characters and the things they have done in the past. Nothing is simple and nothing is as it seems.

I think I may have described the last KJ Parker book I read, The Folding Knife, as a bit of a disappointment, but only in comparison  to her (I’m going to say her though nobody knows for sure– well, obviously someone does, but it isn’t the world at large) other stuff.

The Company was definitely a step up, putting it along side The Hammer, though still not nearly as good as The Engineer Trilogy or the Fencer Trilogy. It is still a great book for those looking for something a bit different to the usual fantasy fare.

4 Stars (on the KJ Parker scale)

5 Stars on any other scale

A really short review– The Folding Knife by KJ Parker

I believe I may have noted previously that I’m a big fan of KJ Parker. I will blindly buy anything s/he has written. The Folding Knife hasn’t changed that but…

A lot of the things I’ve come to expect can be found in this novel. The wit and stylish writing and the interesting characters in interesting situations. But this one lacked a bit in the way of plot. I mean, stuff happens, but it isn’t until 2/3 of the way through (or something like that) that we actually get to the point of what’s happening. Not even that, it’s 2/3 of the way before there is a point. Up until then it’s a story about The First Citizen of a city state and his efforts to stay in power and become even more rich. The trouble is there’s no driving force. There’s just this stuff happening.

Would I recommend this book? Yes, for the reasons stated above. But I certainly don’t think it is one of Parker’s better works.

Review- Scat by Jim Graham

It’s been a while since I read Scat, so I thought it was about time I did the review. So here it is.

c27b522ba7031bbbd0bd45be720982b0dde793c3-thumbScat is Sebastian Scatkiewicz. At the start of the book he is a Marine, on Earth fighting for resources. This sets up his character as a basically honest, no-nonsense, take no shit type of guy. It’s exactly these characteristics that threaten to get him into trouble so he quits, gains some new qualifications and moves out into space to find his fortune.

And of course, he just finds more trouble even though he does all he can to stay clear.

The universe of Scat is very well thought out with the idea that corporations are the ones who led the way to the stars. And once they got there the governments on Earth couldn’t do a whole heap to control them. So the corporations got bigger, supplying the resources that had all but disappeared from Earth. And of course, all that money and control of the resources gave them more power on Earth.

The story is essentially about a revolution with a wide range of characters coming t it from different angles– military and political. The characters and settings are well developed. History, politics, money and resources have all been taken into account though none of it comes across as forced.

The bad things? I did enter a bit of a lull at one point in the book, but I’m not sure if that was actually the story or my life at the time. Sorry, I can’t really clear that up. I also felt that the part o the plot revolving around an alien artifact seemed an unnecessary addition. The story moves away from the rebellion in the last quarter or so to concentrate on developments in that area but I felt as if that was really part of the sequel.

Overall, I really enjoyed the story and will be reading the others in the series. Birdie Down is already available (I think it covers part of the revolution that is skimmed over in Scat– which supports my case that artifact part of the first story really belongs in another book and Birdie Down should have been in there instead, but anyway.)  The links above lead to Smashwords where both books can be downloaded for free. Well worth the price.

4 stars.

Review- Voidhawk

Here’s another quick review.

Voidhawk

Voidhawk, by Jason Halstead.

Well, this book certainly isn’t Shakespeare.

Dexter finds a derelict spaceship (like, really a ship, with timber decks and sails and all that kind of thing) and, with the help of his dwarf friend, makes it space-worthy. They then set off on a series of adventures.

There isn’t any real point to the story, they just move from one situation to another. And a lot of these situations seem to bring another member into the crew of strange characters.

There are a few inconsistencies with dialog. Situations are sometimes a bit convenient. And, though it’s a fantasy as much as science fiction, it still bother’s me that asteroids have moons.

There are also a few typos and grammatical errors.

But luckily enough, it isn’t supposed to be Shakespeare. It’s a good, fun read that doesn’t tax the brain too much. There’s action and romance and some fun characters. It’s also free as the author is trying to suck you into the rest of the series. So definitely worth the money :). I’ll probably get the next one at some point.

I give Voidhawk 4 stars.

Review– Clown

Another review. Yay.

Before I write this one I will just let you know that the author of Clown, Paul Montgomery,  did a review of The Brightest Light, which can be found here. So you can make up your own mind as to whether I’m being nice to Paul because he was nice to me, or overly harsh because I don’t want to been seen “returning favours”, or if I’m sitting on the fence.

Clown is a big book about a man, named Clown, journeying through a world of myths and legends. It’s got a whole Odyssey thing (not that I’ve read the Odyssey, but, you know…) going on with the hero meeting strange people and even stranger creatures and visiting strange lands as he searches for something.

The good…

A lot of those strange things are really interesting and live in interesting places. Some of them are great characters. (I especially like the Perigold Araghum and would love to hear more about Dean Burton and the Raggedy Man.)

The story itself is filled with amazing ideas and there are also some passages where I was blown away by the writing (I didn’t keep notes, so I can’t quote any).

It has a great, sprawling feel to it, like the world it inhabits. The sections in the circuses are really good. Jack’s house is a nice interlude. The love story.

The bad?

I felt that the story lacked a bit of focus. This might have been to do with the story Paul was trying to tell. We were given different stories from all sorts of people. The story pulled up on the side of the road while we went off on history lessons or back story or given stuff from all manner of points of view. A lot of it was really interesting, but I think I would rather it had been worked into the story more, instead of taking over as it occasionally did. It slows things down  too much, I felt. I don’t mind a slow story, but it felt as if I was getting a dozen stories.

This lack of focus was in part due to a lack of narrative drive. The main character himself, at about 55% through the book, comments that he hasn’t really been doing anything in particular, just wondering around where events pushed him. This is in fact part of the story as well, but that knowledge, gained near the end of the book, doesn’t help. (Well, it didn’t make me feel any better about it). That’s why, up above, I said the main character was looking for something– because even at the end of the book we don’t really find out.

I mean, his journeys are explained but…

One thing that writing books and teachers talk a lot about is there being two parts of a story. (This may be more from film books, I’m not sure. Anyway…) Firstly,  is what the character is looking for, or what they want, or what they are trying to achieve. This is what drives the story forward. ( eg, the millionaire is building an orphanage as a tax write off.) The second part of the story is what the character really wants, without actually realising it at the start. (The millionaire really building the orphanage because he felt that, though his parents were around, he was abandoned as a child as well. Ok, that one’s pretty obvious, but you get the picture.)

I think this type of layering could have worked well in Clown. (With a slight difference that I can’t really tell you about.)

As it is, Clown (the character) has no purpose. He could be looking for his parents, but nothing is ever really made of that. He could be looking for acceptance, but again… There are major mysteries left unsolved.

Paul also made some choices that seemed very strange at the time of reading (watching Clown meet a mythical creature from a third character’s perspective was very strange and missed some great opportunities). The choices were explained by the end of the book but that didn’t help with my reading at the time. Not sure how he might have done that differently.

So, maybe sitting on a 3 star fence. There’s a lot of great stuff in there– ideas, writing, characters. There’s just, maybe a bit tomuch of some of them. Making the changes would change the feel of Clown, which might not be a good thing– but we couldn’t know that until after the fact.

So, there you have it. Clown, by Paul Montgomery. 3 stars.

Review- Days of Iron

My second review, and before I’ve even written I’ve decided that I’m not very good at this, but anyway, here goes.

Days of Iron by Russel Proctor is set in a sci-fi future where two extra human races have been genetically engineered to fill some needs. The helots are slaves and the sirians who live in the harsh conditions of the Sirus star system. The Sapes, homo sapians, are in charge, though some are more in charge than others.

So, some of the helots don’t like being slaves, as you would expect and set about fixing the situation.  Throw in a sirian and a sape and you have what could be  micorcosm of the greater universe.

Except nothing is really made of that. They are just three characters who, for me, didn’t really represent the three races.

The story itself is good. The writing is good. The action keeps coming. But for me, the characters were a bit lacking. Their motivations seemed unsure. Their growth sporadic. But they did have motivations and growth, so even that isn’t all bad.

Overall, Days of Iron was a good read and certainly worth the $2.99 I paid for the kindle version. Give it a shot. 4 Stars