Wednesday, 14 July 2010

The Mask of Troy

I got really excited when I saw that David Gibbins had released another book. Quite frankly, I was disappointed. There was little action, and while the discoveries were interesting enough, without the excitement of a race to find it first, or a determined bunch of artefact thieves to fend off, the book just wasn't that great. If I wanted to read something just about finding archaeological treasures, I'd much rather read something factual. That said, Jack Howard remains an interesting character, even if there aren't really any particularly new revelations about him, like there have been in past books. It did pick up towards the end, with some kidnapping and action, but not as much as in previous books. I'm glad I finished it, and it most definitely did (eventually) get better, but to be perfectly honest I wouldn't bother starting it in the first place. It was a disappointment compared to the excellent previous books, and had it not been by David Gibbins I probably would have given up long before the end.

I'm glad I didn't rush out and buy it like I nearly did, but I can't help but feel the series would've been better if it had finished at book four rather than have this addendum. However, if there are more books, on the basis that the first four were truly excellent (especially Atlantis and Crusader Gold) I'll probably still get them out the library, even if I won't be rereading this one. I recommend you read the others, I don't recommend you bother with this one. The interesting bit at the end doesn't outweigh the fact that it takes an awful long time to get even vaguely exciting.

Saturday, 10 July 2010

Map of Bones

I've practically read this series backwards, or at least, in no recognisable order. However, it has not detracted from the fact that the Sigma Force series is truly excellent.

Ever heard of m state gold? Me neither, but apparently it's possible to create a fine powder from gold, by doing stuff to it that makes every atom split from every other atom and sit on its own. This gold has incredible properties, and unfortunately, they can be used for incredibly deadly purposes. An intriguing thriller, based on real science, well explained and utterly gripping. The characters are great, from Commander Gray Pierce, through Seichan, Monk, Kat, Rachel, and a whole host of other characters. I think Pierce is probably my favourite, but Monk has to come a close second. The novel delivers an excellent mix of ancient (and more recent) history, fascinating recent scientific developments, and action.

A massacre in a church and the theft of the bones of the Magi who visited Jesus at his birth launches the novel, and the action doesn't let up til the end. Nor does the plot wear thin. Highly enjoyable, although you'll probably get more out of the series if you read it in order, simply because everyone doesn't always make it(!)

On a slight aside, James Rollins also writes fantasy novels under the name James Clemens. I've just managed to get hold of one for the first time. Shall let you know how that goes :).

Friday, 9 July 2010


Well, I managed up to part way through the first chapter. Which is more than it sounds like, because the prologue was ridiculously long and involved. I'm sure the same amount of background information could've been given in a much shorter period and with a bit more drama. And it seemed excessive to draw on what, four or five separate historical periods to chart the continuation of a secret society. Surely that sort of stuff could've been left to be discovered further on into the book. Instead, it seemed more like the author wanted to get all the historical stuff out the way before getting onto the 'real' story. Hmm. Then the first chapter started with more disparate accounts of various natural disasters, making the whole beginning feel rather fragmented. Getting close to fifty pages in, we finally meet what I assume from the blurb is to be the main characters, lying on a boat and drunk. By this point, I was pretty well fed up, and gave up just as they were about to go and confront some possible archaeological pirate type people with a single gun between the two main characters. Or something of the sort. Perhaps it picked up after that. But I was rather fed up by that point and took it back to the library. Maybe I shouldn't have done, maybe the story would have improved and got rather exciting, but to be quite frank, if a book hasn't grabbed my interest by the time I'm fifty odd pages in, I'm about ready to give up on it if it's not an author I've read before, no matter how good the blurb sounded.

So unless you fancy skipping the prologue (which is a pretty major piece of writing in itself, rather defying what I thought was the general consensus that a prologue will be fairly short), and it does pick up, I wouldn't bother. However, if you did get further, please correct me and I'll get it back out the library. Like I said, it did have the potential to be quite interesting, but I just got rather fed up.

Exit Wound

As promised, pretty much right after reading it. Okay, so maybe I didn't do quite so well with other books I've read recently, but it's a case of getting into a habit of blogging after reading.

Anyway, Exit Wound is brilliant. Fast paced action, featuring Nick Stone. It's the most recent thriller from Andy McNab, and it's well worth the read. I seem to have skipped out Brute Force, shall have to find that in the library. At the moment, I really cannot buy any more books. I have absolutely no space on any bookcase to fit them in, except slotted on top but that doesn't look very neat. I ramble. Nick Stone is a believable first person narrator, intriguing, not so shallow it may as well be third person, not so deep that you end up giving up because you can't understand the main character. Blunt, determined, authentic, Nick Stone narrates a gripping tale of espionage, dodgy dealings and revenge. The series just gets better and better. Unlike some thrillers you're not swamped with technology, terminology and acronyms. Instead, this highly readable book gives the bare bones of technical detail without being patronising, and allows the action and the plot to take centre stage. Up to date issues, realistic coverage of the war on terror, I guess this is what it felt like to read one of the 'classics' of the spy thriller genre when it first came out. Highly recommend it.

The Baa Baa Black Sheep Test

Ever wondered how jets are tested to be sure they'll stand up to stress? No, I can't say I have either. But apparently, the test is done by broadcasting baa baa black sheep and other nursery rhymes at high volume in a special test chamber. Why? Because one day, a technician got bored. It was originally done simply using a number of different frequencies, but after testing the aircraft fully, the technician decided to hook a microphone into the system. Testing testing worked just fine, but singing baa baa black sheep caused the wheel to fall off the jet. So now (according to my dad anyway, but he assures me that the person who told him this wasn't pulling his leg), the US military sings nursery rhymes to their jets to make sure they won't drop apart.

It's possible to make a computer crash... by rattling a plastic bag with coins in it over the keyboard.

On a Sunday afternoon, a bunch of air traffic controllers in Scotland managed to put their machine out of order for several months. They were having a competition to see who could push the most buttons at once.

Can you tell my dad's an engineer?

Thursday, 8 July 2010

Hunting Party

Fox hunting and sci fi? Well, Elizabeth Moon brings it off brilliantly, to the extent that you wonder why you never thought of that combination before. In a word: fascinating.

Heris Serrano was forced to resign from the military. Now she has found herself new employment, as the captain of a space yacht for an eccentric elderly lady. The problem? The previous captain was incompetent, and up to something distinctly dodgy. He was not fired because of that, but instead because he took far too long to travel between planets, meaning Lady Cecelia de Marktos has to take her nephew and a handful of friends away on her yacht now they're persona non grata on the planet they had been living on. Forced to adjust to life away from the military, Serrano is determined to sharpen up the crew on the yacht, and then discovers that all is not as it seems on the apparently luxurious yacht. The interior decorator might have done a good job (at least in the eyes of some people...) but the yacht's vital systems are distinctly under-maintained. An amusing and fascinating book, I thoroughly enjoyed it, and will definitely be keeping an eye out for the rest of the series.

Highly recommended.

A Traitor to Memory

Disappointing. I didn't finish it, I couldn't be bothered to plow through and was quite annoyed that I'd wasted so much time to get half way through when it became clear that the plot was being stretched way beyond reasonable limits. I admit, I don't often read crime books any more, but on the basis of the other Elizabeth George books I've read, and the Inspector Lynley TV series, I figured this was worth a go. Especially because my mum reckoned the TV episode that followed the plot of this book was one of the best.

To be quite honest, the plot could have been quite fantastic. In fact, much of the book was fantastic. The problem was with the fact that the book had been seriously bulked out by the inclusion of the ramblings of a prodigy violinist who had lost his memory and possibly had something to do with the violent hit and run that killed his mother--a mother he had not seen since he went on tour aged 8 with his father and returned to find the house wiped clean of both her presence and that of his murdered little sister. Fair enough to include some from the perspective of the possible killer, but really, over half the chapters filled with his ramblings? It just got tedious and boring, and detracted from what could have been a fantastic plot, and quite an original and intriguing one too. Instead, the book dragged. It was almost as though Elizabeth George had two ideas and decided to just combine them into one book, but ended up giving neither the attention or interest value they deserved.

In short, a disappointing book that I couldn't bring myself to finish. Perhaps if you were to skip out all the chapters dealing with the whinings of a musically talented brat it might be a good read.

Land of Ghosts

When Paul Tallis is asked to go to Russia, or, more precisely, to Chechnya (is that spelt right?) he's not initially all that enthusiastic. Especially when he's told that he's going to pull out a spy who may or may not have 'gone native'. But that particular spy is his childhood friend, and Tallis finds himself launched into a deadly race to reach the spy before the attacks in Moscow escalate even further. Because if the British Intelligence Service is implicated, the international repercussions would be terrible.

Fast paced and engrossing, this book was as good as the blurb suggested. A spy thriller for the modern day, an interesting cast of characters, intriguing plot, gripping story telling. I don't know what else to say. For fans of James Bond, Robert Ludlum, Alistair MacLean, this really is a great spy story.