Review: Starship Troopers by Robert A. Heinlein

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Yes, I should have read the book first and then seen the movie, but when Starship Troopers was released in the cinema I was only eleven years old. And at the time my reading list wasn’t quite as extensive as it is now. But I have finally managed to get to this one and let’s just say it wasn’t what I was expecting after having watched the over the top action movie more times than any person really should over the last fifteen years. The names are the same. That is pretty much the extent of the crossover … Thankfully I will add.

I will say this to begin. I fully understand why this book is so highly rated. The ideas, especially when put into context of when the book was written, are thoroughly thought provoking. The battle scenes are presented like a scene from a blockbuster movie and really put you in the driver’s seat for the action. The philosophical questions posed in this future earth have not dulled with age.

Reading this I constantly found myself stopping to think that the arguments Robert A. Heinlein is presenting are very convincing. His characters talk of our time with disdain and even mock our system of government. And although the world they are living in seems so utterly ridiculous, you end up nodding along as they discuss why the way we do everything is wrong.

There were a couple of times when I actually thought I was sitting in a classroom myself hearing a lecture/debate on morality, civil service and the best way to govern a country. Those bits of the book were the highlight for me; the discussions and thoughts conveyed regarding personal sacrifice for the greater good. And when that is wrapped up in an action packed military fiction, you just can’t complain.

The description of boot camp and life in the mobile infantry is so gritty and thus, to its core so real. I have never served in the military but I imagine that anybody who has could relate to this book. The story follows Rico as he joins the mobile infantry and travels the stars to battle the Bugs. In many ways this book didn’t need to be science fiction. The Bugs could have been replaced with foreigners from another country, and the spaceships with planes. But it wouldn’t have been the same.

Heinlein’s words are a pleasure to read and have you drifting through pages with ease. Some classic works of SF can be a tad dry. This was vibrant, full of slang which helped to make it feel like our society and, most of all, believable.

If I had to point at something I did not like I would say that I wasn’t the biggest fan of the way it ended. However, I cannot in any way suggest a better ending, so I will say he ended it well. I feel that this book could easily be one that students should study in high school. I know that many of the books that I read in my schooling did nothing to get me thinking differently. Yet, this book achieved just that, and all the while had marines splattering aliens across distant planets. What more could you ask for?

 

Rating 5/5

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Reading, Reading and More Reading

My blog has sadly seen little activity over the last months. But thankfully this has allowed me to get the final book of the Valerious Chronicles ready for publishing. At this stage we are looking at a June release so stay tuned for more information very soon.

In the meantime if you haven’t read ‘The Name of the Wind’ by Patrick Rothfuss, get onto it. Just finished it and can’t praise it highly enough.

Autumn

The last weeks I have had the rare opportunity to set my sights on something other than the Valerious Chronicles. I’ve rekindled my love of comics, found much more time to read books, caught up on a few shows I’ve been meaning to watch and even gotten back into video games.

But I have finally gotten my manuscript for ‘The Fleet of Sinsai’ back and am going to be putting my head down to perform the final edit and read through. I am excited to be on the cusp of releasing the final book, and so far the feedback from my Beta Readers has been outstanding. I hope you are all looking forward to seeing how the story ends, as much as I am looking forward to seeing the journey of my first Trilogy come to a close.

In the meantime if you are looking for some insights into how I am spending my free time you will find that I am busily flipping through the following comics and can’t recommend them enough.

– Locke & Key

– Star Wars 2015

– Batman (The new 52)

– Ms Marvel

– Saga (OMG Stop everything you are doing and go get this!)

– Guardians of the Galaxy

– Lumberjanes

– Darth Vader 2015

One of the next updates should hold the release date for the final book! So stay tuned.

Review: The Twelve by Justin Cronin

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Like many I am a fan of Zombie flicks. Pure popcorn entertainment. I haven’t read many books in the genre. And though Justin Cronin’s The Passage trilogy is more a post apocalyptic vampire tale, the overarching story to me is very reminiscent of the classic Zombie ‘end of the world’ story.

I will set the scene and say that I really enjoyed this book. It is a change from my usual genre and I find that often it takes me longer to read non sci-fi/fantasy books. The Twelve didn’t present that challenge. I couldn’t stop reading it. It has a fast pace, with plenty of action, several different interwoven stories and characters that you can relate to, but also feel like they are from an alternate earth.

I read The Passage many years ago and when I started reading The Twelve I had no idea what was going on. Honestly … 50 pages in I stopped, had to hop onto Google and read a synopsis of the first book, to remind myself of what exactly had happened. If it’s been a while since you read book one, I highly recommend you do this. Otherwise it can be a little difficult to keep track of what’s happening and which characters you should know, and which are new. Once my memory was jogged I got right in and loved it.

The book introduces some new characters straight away and takes you back to the beginning of the viral plague. I was actually surprised not to take off with the character from The Passage. For a little while I was actually wondering whether the book was going to have a completely different cast all together. But Cronin does a wonderful job of bringing the story of the new characters together with those from book one. It is actually the highlight of the book to see new and old join together. The Twelve builds to a terrific finale which made me glad I stuck with it to the end.

Overall this trilogy is about modern humans. A good post apocalyptic tale with zombies, vampires or any other creature should be exactly that. The time jumping and shift from character to character at the beginning gets a little confusing, but by the middle of the book you are thoroughly caught up in humanities struggle for existence. Cronin has a wonderful style of writing which is easy to read. It never feels heavy or mentally draining. It flows page to page, with breaks at just the right spots to keep you engaged.

With the movie rights having been purchased for The Passage I hope more people will be encouraged to pick up these books. They are a hell of a read and a great window into a world that could be.

Rating 4/5

The Fleet of Sinsai draws near

Over the last few months my posting has been less frequent than usual. In that time I have been receiving a wealth of great feedback on books one and two of the Valerious Chronicles. I stand humbled by the response I have had for my first books and can only hope that the last book in the trilogy will live up to the hopes of my fans.

The good news is that there is not long to go. Some of my beta-readers have already finished reading and I will be compiling their feedback soon. The others will be completing their work over March and then the final round of editing begins. I am hoping to have the Fleet of Sinsai released late May early June and can’t wait to celebrate once the trilogy is complete.

Stay tuned for more updates in the coming weeks and thank you for reading!

The End of an Era

Today marked the final day of writing for the Valerious Chronicles. Once I typed the last words for the epilogue of book three, I sat back and couldn’t move for a few minutes. How do you sum up an undertaking which has been such an enormous part of your life?

I am mostly happy. But a part of me is sad, knowing that my time with this saga is at an end. Sure, there is plenty of editing to come, but the main part, the writing, the part of this which is my true passion, is over.

I can’t begin to imagine what it must have felt like for someone like J.K Rowling, when she finished the last line of the Harry Potter series. A sense of achievement yes. But also a sense of loss.

By pure coincidence, as I finished the very last line of book three, my music playlist began to belt out “The Last Goodbye” by Billy Boyd (The final song for the Hobbit Trilogy). It was a fitting moment to mark the last day of an era.

I move now to preparing the book for its release in a few months. But before I begin I’ll make sure to take the time to really appreciate this moment. The Valerious Chronicles have come to an end.

Review – The Killing Joke by Alan Moore and Brian Bollard

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Batman & the Joker. Enough said. No point in reading any more of this review … But if you do choose to, I would actually suggest you go out and get yourself a copy of The Killing Joke instead, and read that.

I have loved comics for a long time, but for most of that time my allegiance has been to Marvel. You can thank the X-men and Wolverine for that. But in recent years my interest in DC and other publishers has risen (Image, IDW, Dark Horse etc.). I don’t know whether it is due to the Dark Knight films or the Arrow TV show, or whether I am looking for something different, but I have found my recent foray into DC to be enthralling.

The Killing Joke was the most recent graphic novel in my long list of ‘to read’ comics. It is a standalone story, never published as individual comics and created by the legendary Alan Moore (Watchmen, V for Vendetta) and Brian Bollard (Judge Dredd). It truly feels like Batman. It is gritty, dark, and gripping. Everything we have come to expect from the Dark Knight.

What sets this apart from other Batman comics I have read is the emotion. Comics have their own ability to create atmosphere. The merger of text and illustration provides a different insight compared to a regular book or movie. I haven’t read a comic in years which had me stopping at frames to think, “Whoa, intense!”

The Joker is a classic villain. In The Killing Joke he is at his best. His dialogue is terrific. It was a joy to read. Batman really takes a back seat in this and it is a good thing, because this is a story about the Joker. We are provided with the Joker’s backstory. And this is what the graphic novel is about. The turning point which transformed an ordinary man into the Dark Knight’s most famous adversary.

Make sure that you get your hands on the deluxe version in which Brian Bollard has re-coloured each panel to ensure the story is told as it was originally intended. The artwork is immaculate. Every scene draws your attention, making you study the figures and items in the background. I had to read it twice straight away to make sure I didn’t miss anything! That’s how good it is.

I recently read the Dark Knight Returns, consider by most to be the single greatest graphic novel of all time. As great as it was, I enjoyed The Killing Joke more. I actually can’t really flaw it. I was sad when it ended, that is the only thing I can say. I wanted it to keep going. I don’t want to spoil anything but I highly, highly recommend.

Rating 5/5

Image credit: The Killing Joke; Alan Moore and Brian Bollard (Deluxe edition, 2008)

Update on ‘The Fleet of Sinsai’

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It has been a while since I’ve posted on my blog. Rest assured this is only good news for those awaiting the conclusion to the Valerious Chronicles. The last few months have been hectic, but progress has been better than I thought. I am writing the final act of book 3, with five chapters to go.

My initial editing has already begun and Beta reading will commence in Jan/Feb. At this stage I plan to have the final book released In May 2015. The champagne is already in the fridge!

So far I am excited with how The Fleet of Sinsai is shaping up. The last novel in a trilogy is the most difficult, as I need to bring everything together whilst keeping an exciting pace and good narrative flow.

With Christmas rapidly approaching I am looking forward to catching up on my reading. I’m halfway through Royal Assassin by Robin Hobb at the moment and looking to pick up some Brandon Sanderson soon.

Wish everyone a fantastic holiday period full of good food, company and above all good books.

Why Reviews Matter

 

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I had a discussion with a fellow artist not that long ago about why we do what we do. This person was not a writer, but their particular medium of art was also one where reviews are an important part of success. Our lengthy discussion revolved heavily on gaining enjoyment from seeing others appreciating our work.

Afterwards, on the train, I was looking through some of the reviews I have been lucky enough to receive and found myself feeling exhilarated. The profound truth is that though you may make a sale, or have someone download your work for free, you will never truly know whether they liked it or not unless they write you a review.

What is it that drives people to write reviews? I still don’t really know the answer. I know that I have only recently taken to writing reviews and much of that is driven by my own desire to receive reviews. I like to think of it as good fortune. If I give a little out into the world, perhaps I will gain a little back.

A review to an artist is a confirmation that what they are pursuing is worthwhile. That it means something to someone. Even if it is a bad review, we at the very least know that someone read or listened to our work. And we can learn from the criticism. This is the only way we will know as artists, what people like, and what they do not like.

So I encourage you all to take five minutes when you read a good book, listen to a great song, or watch a great film, to write a review. Or even just click a box to give that piece of art a star rating. The artists appreciate it more than you could know.

My Top Picks – Part Three

What are my biggest influences? There are too many to cover in one post. This is part three of my series of posts to show the key books, movies, music and shows that have influenced me, not only as a writer, but as a person.

 

Star Trek:

We are at a point in time where the amount of Star Trek available for consumption is mind blowing. Not only are there five shows and twelve movies, there are comics, video games, board games, card games and books. I began watching Star Trek because of my mum, who was a big fan. It was almost routine for us to sit down and watch the latest episode of Next-Gen or Deep Space Nine and Voyager in later years. As I child I can recall watching Star Trek IV; The Voyage Home, on a monthly basis.

What is it about Star Trek that captivated me so? Firstly it was the individual characters who became a second family. Every new voyage was like going on an adventure with a band of best friends. But the truth of it is that Star Trek appeals to something in human nature. The desire for discovery, and for betterment. The federation is an almost utopian idea. A world where we have shed all of the prejudices and vices of the past. We have rid the world of poverty, of greed, of war. All that is left is a unified civilisation which strives to spread peace throughout the galaxy and learn all that can be learnt.

Despite this we see the crew of the enterprise go through all of the very same drama’s which are present in the world today. However, they are presented to us in conflicts with alien species or new space oddities. Even though the Earth has managed to find lasting peace, we still find war and avarice in the far reaches of space. Star Trek showed me that no matter what, peace is not eternal.

 

Magician by Raymond E. Feist:

Arguably this is the single most influential piece of art in my life. When coming up with a list of things for this series of posts, the first thing to spring to mind was Magician. It is the one book that changed my life. It was one of the first epic fantasy novels I read front to back and I still recall the feelings I felt when turning those pages.

The story of Pug and his journey to become a magician captivated me like no other story ever has. When reading it I recall the sensation that this was what had been missing from my life. It had everything you could ever want. There were battles, an invading alien army, magic, dragons, dwarves and elves, but most of all it had amazing world building and characters.

There is no doubt that my writing in most influenced by the many books set in Midkemia. There is no doubt my characters are influenced by the characters I grew to love from Magician. I have not recommended a book more than this one. I would never hesitate to recommend it. It is, in my opinion, a perfect example of the emotion, excitement and enjoyment that the fantasy genre is capable of. If I were deserted on an island, it is the one book I would want to have with me.

 

To see my other posts in this series click below.

My Top Picks – Part One

My Top Picks – Part Two