Monthly Archives: June 2017

Impact (Outer Earth #3)

Impactby Rob Boffard

The final part of Rob Boffard’s “Outer Earth” trilogy packs just as munch punch as the previous two books. Impact picks up the story immediately after Zero-G’s cliff-hanger ending, with our hero, Riley Hale and he companions drifting away from the Outer Earth space station.

The bulk of the action in the final instalment takes place on a cold and almost barren Earth. Raveg by a nuclear holocaust, the whole planet is swathed in an eternal winter; except for one area centred on Anchorage, where things have started to change.

The pace of Impact is relentless, and the body count just as high as in the previous two books. But now Riley is no longer trying to save the station – that is beyond saving now – this time she is after revenge. There is definitely going to be reckoning, and she knows who is going to come out on top. She also needs to decide who she wants to be with.

Back on Outer Earth things are going from bad to worse. The damage inflicted by the fire fight at the end of the second book has forced the remaining residents into the lonely intact section of the station, but time is running out and there are not enough escape pods for everyone. Who lives and who dies is to be decided by lottery. 

The race to escape the station and Riley’s personal race for revenge and answers can only be won by the kind of daredevil escapades that have become the hallmark of this series. If you like your thrillers full of action then this is definitely a must. A great read that kept me hooked from the very beginning to the climactic end.

Zero-G (Outer Earth #2)

Zero-Gby Rob Boffard 

This is the second part of Rob Boffard’s debut Outer Earth trilogy. In the first book (Tracer) we were introduced to the Outer Earth space station and the storey’s central character, Riley Hale, the tough, independent and resourceful Tracer. 

Whilst I was convinced by the first book of Rob Boffard’s skills as a storyteller, I was a little concerned that the pace and intensity might be slowed down a little. I needn’t have worried. Picking up the story six months after the events if Tracer, Zero-G starts on a high with a hostage situation that tests Riley to the limit, and it doesn’t let up until the cliff-hanger ending 450 pages later.

Riley is now a “stomper” – part of the stations security force and her team get embroiled in a conspiracy that ponce again threatens the future of then whole station, where personal animosities become a danger to everyone.

Riley once again finds herself having to make impossibly tough decisions, but her resourcefulness may be the only hope the residents of humanity’s last outpost have to survive.
Outer Earth is not just any orbiting space station. It is the home of the last of humanity after a cataclysmic nuclear war made Earth itself uninhabitable and wiped out all life on Earth. Or did it?

But it is not just the relentless pace that keeps the reader gripped. Rob Boffard’s characters are both larger than life but also comfortingly vulnerable. Each is faced with conflicting loyalties, their decisions impacting on the lives of those closest to them. As Riley Hale is the driving force behind the plot twists and turns, she is not the only one who’s actions ricochet through the station’s population. Greed for power, desperation over resources and blind revenge all play their part on bringing Outer Earth to the very edge of destruction.

I was as gripped by the story as I was by the first. The dual narrative works well and I love the mix of thriller and science fiction. 

The Accidental

The Accidentalby Ali Smith

I picked up this book after reading several reviews of Ali Smith’s work and was really looking forward to what I believed would be a captivating and amusing read. After all, it is an award-winning book from a multi-award-winning novelist.

From previous experience, I should have realised that award winning doesn’t always relate to an enjoyable read. From the very beginning I felt that I was not going to get on with this particular book. Whilst I am used to novels that switch focus between characters, even changing narrative style each time, but in “The Accidental” I found myself quickly losing empathy and interest in their individual stories.

The Smarts are the kind of dysfunctional family that would normally be found in a sitcom. And if this book were a comedy, I might have had more understanding and feeling for the story. And whilst there are undoubtedly moments of mild humour, for me it just doesn’t work. The only character that I felt any empathy for was young Astrid for whom the stranger, Amber, becomes a kind of mentor.

Amber’s unexpected arrival at the holiday cottage, and the way the family handle her arrival, I found difficult to swallow. Her influence stretches credulity and the more I read, the more cheated I felt. But not just by the story. I found the narrative to be difficult to follow at times, with much of it adding little, if anything, to the story itself. 

For me this was a very disappointing book. I would say I am surprised it is an award winner, but it isn’t the first time I have been let down by critically acclaimed work. We all see different things in a novel – there is a saying that “no two people ever read the same book” and I am certainly not seeing what others do in this work. 

Northanger Abbey (The Austen Project #2)

Northanger Abbeyby Val McDermid

Northanger Abbey is the second in the series of books reimagining some of the works of Jane Austen. Of Austen’s books, Northanger Abbey is probably the least well known, but it has always held a certain fascination for me. Although it follows the traditional girl meets boy, they fall in love, are separate by circumstances before finally coming together for the obligatory happy ending, Northanger Abbey has a darker and more intriguing theme. And it is that element of the story that seems to have attracted McDermid to the Austen Project.

At first it might seem rather strange to have a respected crime writer tackling a piece of romantic fiction. But Northanger Abbey’s sinister undercurrent provides the perfect vehicle for McDermid’s style.

Bringing these books into the 21st century does require some imaginative thinking, but to me what is most intriguing is just how little needs to change. In this interpretation, only the location has changed, moving the bulk of the action from the original Bath to modern day Edinburgh, where the Fringe provides the necessary gatherings and public events. Consequently, Northanger Abbey is now in the Scottish Lowlands which seems rather more fitting than the original.

The story remains virtually unchanged, as do the characters, with just the occasional tweak to bring their stories up to date. Catheryn Morland is the same innocent young woman, sometimes struggling to tell the difference between reality and the plots of the books she reads and begins to invent her own theories about the family and events that inhabit Northanger Abbey.

As you would expect from a writer with McDermid’s reputation, Northanger Abbey is well written and full of pace and drama and not a little wit and tension. As a fan of Miss Austen’s work, I have approached each of these reimaginings with just a little trepidation. These books have become part of our literary heritage, but their language and settings are not to everyone’s taste.

What this series does is make Austen’s original stories more accessible to a wider audience. For me, the originals can never be improved on. The language, settings and manners of the time are as much a part of the book as the story itself. However, I very much enjoyed this retelling of one of my favourite Austen stories and would happy recommend it to fans and novices alike.

Reading this book has also reminded me of the works of one of our most respected modern authors. I will definitely make an effort to pick up a book or two in the near future. 

Arrival

Arrivalby Ted Chiang

I chose this book based on the reviews of the film, which to date I haven’t actually seen. What I hadn’t realised at the time was that this is not a novel but a collection of short stories, one of which was the basis for the movie.

I am not normally someone who reads short stories o probably wouldn’t have picked it up if I’d known, without seeing the film first.

Originally published as “Stories of Your Life and Others”, it is a collection of eight very different tales, each focusing on a unique aspect of science fiction.

The first two stories, (“Tower of Babylon” and “Understand”) are the most interesting. Each had a story I could follow and interesting characters. The rest, including “Stories of Your life” which the film was based on, mainly left me frustrated or simply unimpressed. At various times, I felt that Ted Chiang was stringing stories together as vehicles for his latest research and I found the plots either irrelevant or confusing. 

I was determined to read every story in the collection, but after an interesting start, it quickly become something of a chore.

I have read other reviews of this book and am well aware that I seem to be in a minority here, but tone, content and direction of six of the eight stories just did nothing whatsoever for me.