Monthly Archives: February 2014

Clockwork Angels

Clockwork Angelsby Kevin J Anderson from a story and lyrics by Neil Peart

Clockwork Angels is an unprecedented collaboration between the well established and very prolific writer Kevin J Anderson, and Neil Peart, drummer and lyricist with Canadian rock band Rush.

The book itself is based on a idea by Neil that became Rush’s most resent album, Clockwork Angels. Kevin Anderson worked with Neil to turn his vision into a book.

Basically, this is a story about Stability versus Anarchy, not too dissimilar from an earlier work by Neil – Hemispheres. So with Neil’s ideas and Kevin’s storytelling ability this book couldn’t fail to be anything other than a damned good read.

This is the story of a young man, Owen Hardy, who’s dreams and wishes find him caught between two opposing sides. One the one hand there is the Watchmaker, ruler of Albion, who provides stability through regulation and conformity. On the other side is his nemesis, the Anarchist who wants to bring freedom through anarchy. Two extremes that tear at young Owen as he tried to find his own way and reaches for his dreams.

Set in a world driven by alchemy, where travel is through dirigibles and steam ships, Owen’s story is all too familiar to many. His desire to seek answers, to reach for his dreams, drives him on. But, as is so often the case, the reality is often a big disappointment His search for the fabled Seven Cities of Gold, and desire to see the Clockwork Angels, lead him to discover much about himself, but also open his eyes to the realities of the world around him.

A great tale, well told. And for the Rush fan, a not inconsiderable sprinkling of Rush lyrics and references throughout the book. 

And to help bring the whole thing to life, there are plenty of illustrations by Hugh Syme, who has also illustrated every one of Rush’s albums.

A must-read for Rush and fantasy fans alike (probably the same thing anyway). 

May Contain Nuts

May Conain Nutsby John O’Farell

Whilst there is no recognised blueprint for being a good parent, there are some things that you instinctively know are just wrong. And as any parent will know, protecting your offspring from the darker side of the real world is a seemingly impossible task. But just how far do you go to protect your precious children? How much are you prepared to do to ensure their passage through to adulthood is a smooth as possible?

Which brings the next great question, how much should you protect them? 

In Alice Chaplin’s case, the answer is quite clear; you protect them from everything and everyone. Sitting up at night popping bubble-wrap, Alice is permanently panic-stricken by all the horrors of the modern world. And what about schooling? For Alice, getting her daughter into the “best” school takes an hilarious twist when she decides to sit the entrance exam in her place.

John O’Farrell has once again produced a very funny book, made all the funnier because it comes so scarily close to reality. But that is what O’Farrell does best. His eye for detail and unmatched wit left me aghast at how far the parents are prepared to go. 

I think we all know parents who seem unable to see that they are crossing the line between protecting the children and smothering them. In this satirical broadside on Middle England, O’Farrell leaves the reader in doubt that for the Chaplin’s, that line has well and truly been crossed, and the consequences force them to re-evaluate how they raise the children.

A really funny book. If you haven’t read any of John O’Farrell’s books, this is as good a place to start as any. But take it from me, once you have read one, it won’t be long before you’ve read them all. 

Freezing Point

Freezing Pointby Karen Dionne

Access to clean drinking water is something that we take for granted, But what happens when it is in short supply? For some, water is a right, something that should be made available to everyone, for others, it is an inexhaustible revenue stream.

In Freezing Point, Karen Dionne brings these two sides together in explosive mix. 

A team of scientists, working at a station in the Antarctic, find themselves at the centre of a conflict between environmentalists and big business. But there is something else lurking in the ice shelf, something unexpected and deadly.

The plot is not original, bearing a close resemblance to several other novels and films, but with strong characters, compelling science and a first class plot, “Freezing Point” is an exciting debut novel. There is plenty of action as the characters fight for their lives against the elements, business interests and a hidden, unexpected old enemy.

This is a well written, compelling and exciting book from an interesting writer.

Raising Steam (A Discworld novel)

Raising Steamby Terry Pratchett

always look forward to reading Terry Pratett’s books so was delighted to get a copy of “Raising Steam” at Christmas. 

Despite battling with Alzheimer’s, Terry Pratchett still manages to deliver the goods, albeit in a slightly more subtle and less in-your-face way than his earlier books.

Over the past couple of years the content and style of the Discworld novels has matured. The comedy is still there, but it has mellowed. Terry’s wonderful way of twisting words is still very much in evidence, but the plot has become more involved and the parallels with modern life even more pronounced.

In this, the 40th in the Discworld series, we see some of our favourite characters come face to face with the power, and the wonder, of steam locomotion. This is real magic, not the kind cast by wizards, but made real by ingenuity and passion. 

Dick Simnel is a simple young man from the Sto Plains whos passion for cosines and his slide-rule help him to tame the power of steam and invent the locomotive. The possibilities seem endless and even attract the attention of Lord Vetinari, Patrician of the city state of Ankh-Morpork. But not everyone is as enthusiastic about the advent of the steam age, and Mr Simnel soon finds himself, and his train, at the centre of a battle between traditional values and the drive for progress.

Also finding themselves at the centre of this conflict are Moist von Lipwig, recently appointed master of the Royal Mont, and Commander Vimes of the City Watch. Add to this the ongoing fight for goblin freedom and attempt to overthrow the Low King of the Dwarfs, who incidentally has a little secret of their own, and you can see that it won’t be as smooth a ride as everyone expects.
With his usual wit and ingenious use of language, Terry Pratchett has done it again!

I have read some harsh criticism of Terry’s recent books. Certainly, if you make a direct comparison between “Raising Steam” and one of his earlier works, such as “The Colour of Magic”, the difference is very pronounced. But it is a series and the characters have moved on as much as I have.

I still look forward to every new Discworld story and will continue to do so for as long as they keep coming. My only advice to anyone who has not read any Terry Pratchett is that they start at the beginning and take the same journey I have. There are some wonderful adventures along the way and it’s a journey I would recommend to anyone.