Yearly Archives:: 2018

Review: Wake Me After The Apocalypse by Jordan Rivet

November 19, 2018 Review 0

So let’s get one thing straight right from the start – I don’t read post-apocalypse books. Got that? Good. So… erm, what happened here? I made the mistake of reading the blurb, that’s what happened, and instantly I was hooked. That’s one powerful opening scene.

Here’s the premise: there’s a massive comet hurtling towards the earth which is going to devastate the whole planetary surface, destroying not just civilisation but pretty much all life forms. There’ll then be a long perma-winter before plants start growing again. Humans are doomed, basically. But luckily, cryo-sleep technology has been invented, and there’s enough time (just!) to build some underground storage facilities, train up some carefully chosen representatives of humanity and shut them away in cryo-tanks for two hundred years. Joanna wakes up, right on cue, and finds that she’s the only survivor after a massive cave-in.

So far, so intriguing, and this is right where the book starts, with the wake-up scene and slowly dawning realisation of the scale of the catastrophe. The first half of the book becomes the story of Joanna’s struggle to survive, to escape the caved-in underground facility and then settle on the surface, with the aim of eventually connecting with other cryo-survivors later. Interspersed with this compelling story is the frankly much duller story of what happened before doomsday – how Joanna was chosen to be part of the cryo-program, the training she and her cohort underwent, the crumbling of civilisation outside the gates and her slowly burgeoning romance with cheery team leader Garrett.

But eventually the ‘before’ part of the story is told, and the focus narrows down to the much more dramatic ‘after’, and there are several moments here that are well worth the price of admission. I confess that one or two aspects I’d already sussed out, but not the whole of it, which gave the development of Joanna’s character an unexpected depth. On the other hand, I was looking for some convoluted plot-level chicanery behind the scenes and in the end it all turned out to be a bit simpler and (dare I say it) less interesting than I’d hoped. But that was just me looking for multiple layers of complexity, which perhaps may be developed in a later book, I don’t know. It reads perfectly well as a stand-alone, but I’d like to think that there’s more to come.

A fun story with lots of dramatic twists and turns, some interesting character challenges, both physical and mental, a feisty female lead and hooray for a tale where obstacles are overcome by intelligence and creativity rather than responding first with violence. Four stars.


Urban fantasy review: ‘Hidden Goddess’ and ‘Caged Lightning’ by Marina Finlayson

April 25, 2018 Review 0

The fourth and penultimate part of this fine urban fantasy series, and finally we’re getting some answers. I didn’t enjoy the third book, Rivers of Hell, quite as much as the previous two, partly because it dropped a lot of interesting plot threads and went haring off down a very big rabbit hole – to Hell, in fact – and partly because, in the underworld, heroine Lexi’s most interesting attribute, that of control over all sorts of animals and birds, just doesn’t work in a place where everything is dead. Not to mention that one of the most interesting side characters, Lexi’s cat-shifter friend Syl, was miserably stuck in human form, and love interest Jake was captured by the evil Styx. But now Lexi’s out of Hell, Syl’s free again and has an interesting new boyfriend and we’re finally getting close to working out how to defeat those pesky shadow shapers who’ve been killing gods left, right and centre.

Anyone who’s read one of Marina Finlayson’s books before knows the drill, now. There’ll be relentless action, great characters who feel absolutely real (yes, even the werewolves and gods), lots of humour, some great twists and did I mention the relentless action? There’s a LOT going on in these books, but it’s all wonderfully believable. I love the idea of gods not merely alive and well, but actually living amongst humans and displaying very human-like foibles along with the awesome powers.

And at long last, some answers to the questions that arose in the first couple of books, and I finally found out why everything was so out of kilter when Lexi went back to her home town and nothing she remembered was quite right. Lots of readers seem to have guessed the answer but I didn’t and it was (to put it mildly) a bit of a shock, although completely logical. Best moment of the book? When Jake is rescued and reveals how he foiled the wicked plans of Styx. Attaboy! But these books are not just action. There’s real depth to them, too, in Lexi’s struggles to face up to who she really is, and dealing with her newly-rediscovered family. And who could be unmoved by the trials of a certain very cute hell-hound?

Everything’s building now to the final confrontation, so a quick five stars and straight on to the final book.

At last, the dramatic denouement and the final confrontation. The build-up to this was a bit slow, and there were long stretches of Lexi saying chirpily: ‘All we have to do is X and it will all be over…’. Well, you just know there’s trouble coming, don’t you? And so it was.

For anyone who’s made it through all four previous books, you’ll be rewarded by a dramatic climax, where Lexi’s wits are the deciding factor, although ably assisted by her friends and assorted gods. The outcome isn’t unexpected, but there’s a neat resolution to the thorny issue of mortals falling in love with immortals. And Lexi eventually decides her newly-found brother is all right really, which was touching.

A great series. Five stars and highly recommended.


Review: ‘The Crysalids’ by John Wyndham

April 12, 2018 Review 0

This was a book group read and it was my suggestion, yet when one of the other members asked why I’d chosen it, the only reason I could come up with was that I couldn’t remember anything about it. I’ve read many of Wyndham’s books, like The Day of the Triffids, The Midwich Cuckoos, The Trouble With Lichen and Chocky, and I have vivid memories of them, but The Crysalids? Not so much. Turns out there’s a reason for that – I’ve never read it before. Several others in the group were in the same position, avid Wyndham fans but hadn’t read this one. We’re all of a certain age, so it made me wonder whether it was regarded as subversive in its day, and not sold as widely as some of the others.

The premise is that there’s been a nuclear holocaust at some time in the past. Large swathes of the earth are uninhabitable because of the devastation and radiation, but there are small pockets of humankind who have managed to cling to life. Mutations are a constant challenge, however, and the different groups have developed different ways to deal with them. The society we’re initially shown is striving to maintain (or return to) a ‘pure’ form of humanity and deviations are ruthlessly dealt with. A whole fundamentalist religion has grown up around this principle.

The main character, David, is the young son of the leader of one particularly devout group, living a precarious existence close to the edge of habitable lands. David meets a girl of his own age, and accidentally discovers that she has a deformity – an extra toe on each foot. Such a tiny difference, yet in David’s community, she would be put to death, or exiled to live an even more precarious existence in the badlands where mutations run wild. And when the reader is still pondering this issue, we discover that David is harbouring a bigger deformity than an extra toe – he and a group of far-flung other children have a form of telepathy, which allows them mental communication over a distance.

Eventually, as David and his friends grow up, things get difficult and they have to make terrible choices – to deny their ability and try to pretend they’re normal, to hide it from normal people or, if all else fails, to run away. And when they’re forced to run, they begin to discover all those other groups that have very different ideas about radiation-induced differences, including groups which celebrate and try to develop them.

This is a book that’s stuffed with ideas, some of them almost casually thrown in as an aside. It could have stood to be a little longer, to develop some of these ideas more fully. It’s also stuffed with a lot of proselytising, where one or other character simply sits down to explain, at great length, some scientific or philosophical point. I could have done with less of that, frankly. And the ending is shocking, in a number of different ways. But on the whole, the writing has held up pretty well, the story was absorbing and if the characters sometimes felt like ciphers, the action moved swiftly enough to paper over any cracks. A surprisingly good and thought-provoking read. Four stars.


News: the Brightmoon world is coming to lots more stores

January 16, 2018 News, Publishing/marketing 1

The Brightmoon books have always been available from Amazon for you to read on your Kindle or other device. Up to now, they’ve been exclusive to Amazon which meant I could offer them to readers in Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited subscription program.

Now, at last, they’ll be available in lots more stores, like iBooks, Kobo and many more.  I’ll be gradually making them available over the next few months, so if you’re not a Kindle reader, watch out for the Brightmoon books in your favourite store – coming soon!