Friday 31 July 2009

SCIENCE FICTION REVIEW: Orphan's Triumph - Robert Buettner


BOOK BLURB:

Mankind's reunited planets now control a vital crossroads after forty years of fighting, one that secures their uneasy union. The doomsday weapon that can end the Slug war, and the mighty fleet that will carry it to the Slug homeworld, also lie within humanity's grasp - but all is far from won. Since the Slug Blitz orphaned Jason Wander, he has risen from infantry recruit to commander of Earth's garrisons on the emerging allied planets. But four decades of service have cost Jason not just his friends and family, but his innocence. Then an enemy counterstroke threatens to reverse the war and destroy mankind, Jason must finally confront not only his lifelong alien enemy but the reality of what he has become after a lifetime of conflict.


REVIEW:

With it having been a while since the original series landed, I chose to reread the whole lot before embarking on Wander’s latest epic tale and if the truth be told I’m glad that I did, not that it was hard to get into again but purely for the joy that I got from doing so. The whole series is a delight and since from book one to now the whole series spans 40 years (over four books) the author was pretty clever to aid the reader by throwing in some recollections of the character to act as handy reminders. You can read this tale on its own but why should you miss out on the fun that appears within the series. Yet again its well written, the characters good fun and the type I’d buy a beer with but the author really does play to his strengths when he makes sure that he plays for keeps.

Yet for all that there are some problems. The lulls and peaks along with the speed of the prose seems to have some problems, partly as if the authors running out of idea’s and partly as he didn’t quite pull this tale off, as it felt that the ending was a bit too convenient and really didn’t leave me feeling quite as satisfied as the others. I do wonder how many more books there will be for this series and hope it ends before its dragged through the mud ruining the carefully built reputation gathered over the previous few.

HORROR REVIEW: Castaways - Brian Keene


BOOK BLURB:

Contestants on a Survivor-like reality TV show find the dangers are too real when they-re stranded on a deserted island with inhuman creatures out to kill them.


REVIEW:

OK, a horror book from the US that after my experience with Found You, I thought would be pretty descent. Alas the book had more flaws than Buckingham Palace. The major problem with this book was that the cast were pretty transparent, some characters were just names and the ones that had descriptions you knew were pretty much survivors. I hate that sort of approach, yes they were proverbial redshirts but hey they’re people too. Add to the mix that the ending pretty much summed up how I felt with the word Sell outs added and the author really didn’t do themselves any favours with this novel. It contains graphic rape scenes that the author in his afterward tried to validate although personally I felt that if he “had” to write the scenes like that he didn’t have to be quite so graphic. There was no substance to this offering as it’s a pretty standardized plot and a guy risking his life for a woman who five hours prior had barely any interaction with other than a brief chat after spending a couple of weeks on an island together was just a joke. I really do wonder who Keene knew to get it published. A real sorry excuse for a tale especially given the ending that went on to emphasise America’s pursuit for the Mighty Buck and lack of moral consequences for those concerned.

LE

Thursday 30 July 2009

INTERVIEW: Sean Black

Whilst most writers spend hours or days doing research online, Sean takes a different tack, he throws himself in at the deep end in order to get the full experience by doing rather than just reading. With his debut novel, Lock Down, he spent time on a bodyguard course and with the second following novel, Lock Up (due 2010) he went to Pelican Bay, one of America's most notorious prisons (we hasten to add that he wasn't serving time for a crime.) Due to his dedication along with insider information to keep an eye out for this title we thought that we'd best have a chat with him to find out about influences, hobbies as well as his guilty pleasures...


Falcata Times: Writing is said to be something that people are afflicted with rather than gifted and that it's something you have to do rather than want. What is your opinion of this statement and how true is it to you?

Sean Black: I'm in complete agreement with that statement, and I'd guess my wife is as well. If I don't write for a week I get restless, irritable and I'm generally not much fun to be around. If I have a good day at my desk, and I feel like I've been productive, and the work is good, I feel at peace with the world.


FT: When did you realise that you wanted to be a writer?

SB: I was around sixteen, seventeen. I was going through a very challenging period in my life, essentially learning to walk again after having undergone surgery to amputate my left left through the knee. There's only so much morphine they'll give you, so I had to find another way to occupy my time, and I started writing. That was it. I kicked the morphine, but writing became a habit.


FT: It is often said that if you can write a short story you can write anything. How true do you think this is and what have you written that either proves or disproves this POV?

SB: I don't know how true that is or not but the second short story I ever wrote was published in an anthology alongside AL Kennedy and Irvine Welsh. Irvine's contribution was the first chapter of Trainspotting. I remember reading it and thinking, this is amazing but who the hell is going to buy it? Which shows you how much I know about what sells.


FT: If someone were to enter a bookshop, how would you persuade them to try your novel over someone else's and how would you define it?

SB: I've always found my fairly broad Glasgow accent means I can persuade most people of something if I really set my mind to it.


FT: How would you "sell" your book in 20 words or less?

SB: A fast-paced, entertaining, page-turner of a thriller featuring Ryan Lock - a tough-guy hero for a new age.


FT: Who is a must have on your bookshelf and whose latest release will find you on the bookshops doorstep waiting for it to open?

SB: Norman Mailer is the writer I couldn't live without. Among my fellow crime writers, Gregg Hurwitz is the writer whose work I anticipate most eagerly.


FT: When you sit down and write do you know how the story will end or do you just let the pen take you? ie Do you develop character profiles and outlines for your novels before writing them or do you let your idea's develop as you write?

SB: I have a broad idea of the main turning points and dramatic movements but that's it. Most of the characters, while fictional, come from my research which is intense, and very hands-on.


FT: What do you do to relax and what have you read recently?

SB: I'm terrible at relaxing. I play golf very badly and that's the closest I get to relaxing.

Recently I read Andrew Klavan's Shotgun Alley, Comrade Criminal by Stephen Handelman, The Shining by Stephen King, First Blood by David Morrell.


FT: What is your guiltiest pleasure that few know about?

SB: I have an unsettling obsession with a TV show called Millionaire Matchmaker which airs on Diva TV. There goes my hard guy, thriller writer rep.


FT: Lots of writers tend to have pets. What do you have and what are their key traits (and do they appear in your novel in certain character attributes?)

SB: I have a three-year-old male Golden Retriever called Diesel. He gets an acknowledgement in the book along with the other dogs we walk with every morning. There's a Golden Labrador called Angel in the book who's been rescued from a research lab.


FT: Which character within your latest book was the most fun to write and why?

SB: Tough one. I love writing Lock's buddy Ty because he's so un-PC.


FT: How similar to your principle protagonist are you?

SB: I'm the wrong person to ask, but let me take a stab. I think I share his outward cynicism and inner concern for other people. He's a better shot than me though, as I proved when I doing my fire-arms training.


FT: What hobbies do you have and how do they influence your work?

SB: I'm not really a hobby person. I had lots of hobbies before I was married, like heavy drinking and chasing women, but those past-times have long gone by the wayside.


FT: Where do you get your idea's from?

SB: I read a lot of non-fiction and I'm a news junkie. I have way more ideas than time to write them.


FT: Do you ever encounter writers block and if so how do you overcome it?

SB: I have days where nothing much comes or where what I do write doesn't work but I've never suffered writer's block. Do you ever hear of plumber's block? Or lawyer's block? It's a job. Sit your arse down and get on with it.


FT: Certain authors are renowned for writing at what many would call uncivilised times. When do you write and how do the others in your household feel about it?

SB: I get up and start writing around five thirty. The house is quiet and I can get a few hours in before every else gets up. If I haven't written anything by eleven, the day is shot.


FT: Sometimes pieces of music seem to influence certain scenes within novels, do you have a soundtrack for your tale or is it a case of writing in silence with perhaps the odd musical break in-between scenes?

SB: I can't write with music on because lyrics distract me.


FT: What misconceptions, if any, did you have about the writing and publishing field when you were first getting started?

SB: When I started writing the book, I made a decision to focus exclusively on the work rather than how to get an agent or trying to second-guess the market. I'm only now learning about the business.


FT: If music be the food of love, what do you think writing is and please explain your answer?

SB: I have no idea. You got me on that one. I admit drawing a total blank.


FT: What can you tell us about the next novel?

SB: It's set in Pelican Bay Supermax Prison in California, a place I visited back in January. Lock is placed inside to ensure that an inmate who's about to testify against America's most violent prison gang stays alive long enough to take the stand. It's a book about the worrying rise of the white supremacist movement in America since Obama was elected.


FT: What are the last five internet sites that you've visited?

SB: Amazon - because I'm a saddo who's checking his rankings.

Paddy Power - because I wanted to see what time the Celtic game is on tomorrow night.

The Guardian - the paper I read every day, along with the Daily Mail.

The Huddleboard - a Celtic Football Club fan forum.

Google - I was vanity-googling the book.


FT: Did you ever take any writing classes or specific instructions to learn the craft? If so please let us know which ones.

SB: I studied screenwriting at Columbia University in New York. I knew nothing about screenwriting, so I learned a hell of a lot. The only real way to learn to write though is to do it every day (and develop your sense of what is working and what isn't). There are no short-cuts or magic formulas, just a constant process of failure and getting better.


FT: How did you get past the initial barriers of criticism and rejection?

SB: I assumed any agent who turned me down was an idiot - given what happened, with four publishers bidding on the manuscript, the few who did turn it down clearly weren't good judges of what the big publishing houses are looking for. I don't mind criticism if it's constructive. I have a tough editor who lets me away with nothing and I love her for that. Smart, insightful criticism aimed at making the work better is always welcome.


FT: In your opinion, what are the best and worst aspects of writing for a living?

SB: I am so fortunate to being doing this for a living, first writing for TV and now with my first book. The best parts are setting my own hours, not having a boss in any traditional sense and the short commute. The worst aspects have been the financial pressure that comes with being self-employed.

URBAN FANTASY REVIEW: Speak of the Devil - Jenna Black


BOOK BLURB:

Hosting the king of the demons is hard enough without becoming the target of a mysterious enemy with a deadly grudge. To make things worse, Morgan must also defend herself against a lawsuit that won't die and a private investigator determined to unearth her every secret. With anonymous death threats piling up and her enemy closing in, Morgan stands to lose everything she holds dear: her reputation, her boyfriend, her freedom - and maybe even her life.


REVIEW:

Having enjoyed the previous three books in Jenna’s series the forth was building up for an epic confrontation and what happens is that Morgan (the principle protagonista) is really in for the emotional as well as physical ass kicking of her career. What works really well in this series for me, is that the author doesn’t pull punches and will take the character where she needs to go to gain emotional growth. Whilst it won’t be the favourite book of many fans and can come across a little slow at times, the emotional aspects as well as the psychological ones that unfurl within only seek to make Morgan stronger for the final conflict. Great fun but not the book to start with, go for the original and work your way up here, you’ll be glad you did.

FACTUAL REVIEW: Pistols at Dawn: The History of Duelling - Richard Hopton


BOOK BLURB:

A fascinating history, packed with eye-witness accounts, of the duel. Duelling is deeply embedded in our collective consciousness, through numerous films and books: it evokes a golden past, of gentlemen defending their honour in the early morning light of a wooded glade, of frockcoats, rapiers and pistols. Richard Hopton traces the history of the duel from its medieval antecedents in trial by combat and chivalric tournaments. Using numerous vivid accounts of actual duels, he shows how the arcane rules of the duel evolved - and why so many felt compelled to fight them, often with fatal results.


REVIEW:

If there’s one thing that is certain to grab the attention of a generation raised on fantasy then it’s the honourable pursuit of the duel. Where did it begin? Why did it start? Who were the chief duelists?

Well this book answers these questions and more including the laws surrounding trial by combat alongside how its used in modern times. Its well written, it’s a fascinating subject with the author presenting the information in not only fascinating detail but keeps it witty as well as detailed without bogging the reader down with mindless statistics or useless information. A cracker of a book and one that I’m definitely buying for a few history fans that I happen to know.

Wednesday 29 July 2009

YOUNG ADULT REVIEW: Gruffalo Feature (10th Anniversary)


BOOK BLURB:

Adored by children and adults the world over, the award-winning story of a clever little mouse outwitting the creatures of the deep dark wood is the
perfect picture book and a genuine modern classic. Macmillan is proud to launch "The Gruffalo's" 10th birthday celebrations with this limited edition, which is sure to delight fans and new readers alike.


REVIEW:

As a fan of beautifully illustrated novels I’ve been keeping my eye on this little gem sinces its original release ten years ago. Not only is it lovingly put together but the illustrations have enthralled children for many years, so it probably comes as no surprise to discover that I made damn sure that when my nephew was old enough to enjoy the story a copy was brought to his attention. Children love monsters and when they can see things that not only inspires but also enthrals you know that you’ve got that something special that will stand the test of time. There aren’t many books for children of a y
oung age that do that. Great going Julia and Axel. May the Gruffalo continue marching through that forest forever more.



BOOK BLURB:

Join The Gruffalo, Mouse and all your favourite characters from the deep dark wood in this amazing magnetic book! It contains over 60 Gruffalo magnets, a special mini edition of the bestselling story, plus play scenes and exciting activities, including Mix-and-Match Monsters and t
he Great Big Gruffalo Quiz! With a neat clasp and sturdy carry handle, you can take the fun with you wherever you go! This book is the perfect gift for all Gruffalo fans.


REVIEW:

Here you get not only the original Gruffalo story but the chance for children to make up special scenes using the magnetic pieces that accompany the story, its interactive and something that they’ll love for a long time (or at least until all the pieces are lost, LOL). It’s quirky and it’s an inspired addition to the Gruffalo family, definitely something worth purchasing whether you’ll be keeping for Christmas or those long summer holidays when children are easily bored. After all it will make a wonderful project for the older children to read to the younger and enhance not only their own reading skills but bring a love of books early to the next generation.

YOUNG ADULT REVIEW: The Summoning - Kelley Armstrong


BOOK BLURB:

The first book in the Darkest Powers trilogy - a brand new series by bestselling author Kelley Armstrong. All Chloe Saunders wants is a life like any normal teenager - the chance to get through school, make friends, and maybe meet a boy. But when she starts seeing ghosts, she knows that life will never be normal again. Soon ghosts are everywhere, demanding her attention. When Chloe finally breaks down, she's admitted to a group home for disturbed kids. At first Lyle House seems okay, but as she gets to know the other patients - charming Simon and his ominous, unsmiling brother Derek; obnoxious Tori; and Rae, who has a 'thing' for fire - Chloe begins to realise that something strange and sinister binds them all together, and it isn't your usual 'problem kid' behaviour. And they're about to discover that Lyle House is not your usual group home, either ...


REVIEW:

With a new look cover, the original YA by Kelley is resent out to a number of places and is a beautiful piece of work that will inspire both young and old readers alike. Better known for her adult urban fantasy’s this tale takes the very elements that have made her a name in those circles and transposed it to the younger market. It works beautifully with believable characters who grow against their own uncertainties. Definitely a gem to get and will make wonderful holiday reading that will make them want to go to bed.

Tuesday 28 July 2009

DVD REVIEW: SG1: Children of the Gods (The Final Cut)


DVD BLURB:

On a special mission to distant Planet Abydos, retired army hero Colonel Jack O'Neill is reunited with a scientist with a controversial and dangerous discovery: a map of the galaxy's various 'Stargates', or portals through which travel is possible. The pilot episode of the television series based on the 1994 Roland Emmerich film.


REVIEW:

As a fan of the series from the beginning I've always wondered what it would be like if they could bring the technology that was developed later in the 12 years since the first episode to the original. Here, for the first time on DVD is the result of that.

Whilst some may say that its just the company looking for a way to cash in on the success the series, I'd have to disagree. Mainly as a number of the additions made the whole pilot not only into a feature length film but slicker and more in tune with the plotlines that the series became famed for. Smoother, richer and above all a more rounded script for the fans to enjoy, it really does give a true flavour of what could be accomplished were it begin again now. A great addition to any fans collection, and lets face it, with the long summer holidays to work thier way through, an SG1 marathon is probably one of the better ways to utilise that time. Be prepared for sadness, for laughter and a kick ass series that will keep the viewers clamouring for more. A great taster for new initiates to explore the phenom that SG1 became to see if its right for them.

FANTASY REVIEW: Tomes of the Dead: Way of the Barefoot Zombie - Jasper Bark


BOOK BLURB:

On a private island in the Caribbean, business guru Doc Papa has reinvented the zombie as a role model for the super rich. The world's business elite come to St. Ignatius to study the Way of the Barefoot Zombie and interact with a captive colony of the undead. However, the Zombie Liberation Front and a rogue priestess ensure that the business guru and his acolytes are soon on the menu.


REVIEW:

Way back in the early days of video, the Zombie movie was pretty much set on an exotic Island (Haiti or some other Voodoo hotspot) and a group of people are plunged into a survival nightmare against the undead hordes usually by Dario Argento.) So having grown up with these films, I ended up feeling all nostalgic and decided to enjoy this offering from Abaddon’s Tomes of the Dead series.

As you’d expect from this type of book there’s plenty of blood and guts and a pretty swift pace to keep the reader glued to the story however the major problem was the use of info dumps that really weren’t that necessary and just detracted from what was otherwise a good solid Zombie book. Whilst the villains were a little two dimensional, the struggle for survival really does hark back to the classics of the zombie genre and will enthuse a new generation to give these gem’s a try. However, I do hope that Bark’s next novel fixes the problems with this offering, perhaps with a brief world setting page prior to the tale so that the reader won’t have interruptions that just detract from an otherwise reasonable plot.

FANTASY REVIEW: Tomes of the Dead: Tide of Souls - Simon Bestwick


BOOK BLURB:

Flash floods devastate Britain and an army of the dead rise from the waters to hunt town the survivors. For ex-prostitute Katya, it's a constant fight to stay alive, but also a chance at freedom. Ex-soldier McTarn is sent on a mission to retrieve a scientist from a northern village. When the floods cut them off, McTarn may be Katya's only hope of survival!


REVIEW:

In an end of the world scenario, a tale of three people who face the curse of the undead. In itself the first two thirds of the novel are pretty much wasted and with no real explanation of how no one knew that the water level was rising in such a quick succession was not only improbable but an impossibility. The third character however is the principle protagonist of this offering. He’s the reason for the whole thing and why its happened and were this to have been a novella based on just that character it would have been a reasonable offering but having to wade through the first two characters before hitting this part will have people turning off and perhaps not even getting to the good bit.

It’s a real shame as that last part goes to show that the author had talent and was a grave error that they felt that they had to pad it out with unnecessary filler. After all the prostitute seemed to only be there to fulfil a sex quota, the soldier just for some Zombie splattering and to be honest I really didn’t get a good handle on either. A great shame to be honest but perhaps it might be interesting to see a Tomes of the Dead novel, made up of short stories from the authors of Abaddon’s fold.
LE

Monday 27 July 2009

NEWS: SG1: Children of the Gods Final Cut Released

SG 1 Fans have long talked about a special edition of the pilot episode, wondering what extra's have been added as it turns what was originally a two part adventure into a feature length film.

Released today for the first time in that format, fans will be teleporting to the shops to pick up this title. If of course you came late to the phenomena that is SG1 here's the perfect opportunity for you to get into it right at the beginning with the a whole cast of memorable characters including Major Samantha Carter, Tiel'c join Doctor Daniel Jackson and of course, the indomitable Colonel Jack O'Neill in thier fight against the Goa'uld whilst exploring various Stargates.


Falcata Times review will be appearing shortly, but we couldn't miss this opportunity to remind people of this classic shows release, especially at a time when people are looking for a way to help fill those long summer holidays.

SCIENCE FICTION REVIEW: Honour and Courage - Graham McNeil


BOOK BLURB:

The noble Ultramarines epitomise the Space Marines, the genetically enhanced warriors who protect the Imperium from its foes. Newly returned from the Eye of Terror, Captain Uriel Ventris must redeem himself in the eyes of his battle–brothers, who fear he may have been tainted by Chaos. When the planet Pavonis is invaded by tau, what better opportunity could Uriel have to join his Chapter in combat and prove that his honour is beyond reproach?


REVIEW:

The Ultramarines return in an epic battle against the Tau as our favourite warrior seeks to regain his place in the brotherhood after years away on his Deathquest. Good fun, hard battle and above all a tale to bring the Astartes back to the forefront of many readers minds. Honour is hard earned on the battlefield with friendship and duty weighing heavily on each warriors mind as they seek to earn their laurels as well as save the one of the Emperors worlds from the dreaded Tau civilisation. Cracking read and definitely something that will have many repainting their current army with battle honours either for or against these heroic (or villainous if you prefer) warriors of mankind.

SCIENCE FICTION REVIEW: Heart of Rage - James Swallow


BOOK BLURB:

Aboard the Imperial Navy frigate Emathia, Brother–Librarian Nord and Brother–sergeant Kale of the Blood Angels make a startling discovery – an alien tyranid hive ship, half–destroyed and drifting through space! Under orders from the Magos Xeren, the Blood Angels board the ship to locate a lost scout team. But their fate is far from straightforward. Little do Nord and Kale realise the horrors awaiting them. For they not only risk their bodies, but their very sanity as well.


REVIEW:

As a child I used to love audio books. They were great offerings to help you not only get to sleep but could be enjoyed time and again with no real effort. So when Black Library sent this offering it was pretty much a chance to not only enjoy a book from perhaps my favourite ongoing Sci-Fi Universe, but also the chance to relive some childhood memories.

What unfurled from the get go was a well written beautifully voiced epic adventure for the Adeptus Astartes which really got into my head as I wondered what was going to happen as they faced off against the Tyranids in a space hulk encounter. The real beauty of this was there were no pauses for you to try and puzzle out what was going on so as the tale was told you were just carried along on the aftermath of bullets, blood and carnage that continues to bring fans of all ages. Definitely a title that I’m going to recommend and a great way of introducing reluctant readers to a series that they’ll soon decide to devour the books for their own pleasure. I look forward to future audio titles in this as well as the Warhammer series.

Friday 24 July 2009

GRAPHIC NOVEL REVIEW: Modesty Blaise: Lady Killers - Peter O'Donnell


BOOK BLURB:

The dark underworld of espionage and crime is lit up by the fatal charms of the gorgeous Modesty Blaise - high priestess of pulp crime and goddess of cult thrillers! Adventurer, spy, smuggler, racketeer and all-round bad girl, Modesty is as stylish as she is smart, as lethal and beautiful as a Japanese fighting sword! This latest volume features three classic hard-to-find stories: "Dossier on Pluto", "The Lady Killers" & "Garvin's Travels"...all wrapped up in a spectacular collector's library edition! Featuring new story introductions by creator Peter O'Donnell, plus an exclusive feature on the never-before-seen Scottish Modesty strips - this latest addition to the Modesty Blaise library is not to be missed!


REVIEW:

When Bond exploded upon the big screen way back in 1962, the world fell in love with the secret service and a plethora of copycat characters hit the screen from Our man Flint through to The Men from Uncle. Yet they also appeared in books as well as graphic novels. One of the most popular was Modesty Blaise who ran in the newspapers from 1962 through to 2001 with this offering coming from the middle period of the Eighties.

Accompanied in her adventures by her Willie Garvin a former soldier, this series of adventures really will keep the most action packed fans glued as they fight, bite and claw their way through in order to reach their objective. Modern readers may find it reminiscent of Ennis’ Bloody Mary yet there’s something not only charming but also pretty gripping that makes this something that really should be read and enjoyed by the modern audience. Add to the mix the classic black and white artwork along with plenty of plot twists and you can see how this character survived so long. Cracking good fun although adult themes do appear in this volume including nudity.

GRAPHIC NOVEL REVIEW: Dan Dare: The Phantom Fleet - Hampson Franks, Desmond Walduck


BOOK BLURB:

It's chocks away once again as Dan Dare, Pilot of the Future, returns! First published in classic British comic Eagle, this is perhaps the most seminal adventure of one of Britain's best-loved characters, presented in a gorgeous library edition. When transmissions are disrupted throughout the Solar System and spaceships - including one carrying Sir Hubert - disappear, Dan and Co set out to discover what's going on. They find a fleet of huge alien craft containing peaceful aquatic creatures called Cosmobes, who are fleeing from another aquatic race, the warlike Pescods. But the Pescods have a deadly weapon, the 'Crimson Death' and they're heading for Earth! Will Dan and his crew be able to once again save the day?


REVIEW:

With the recent resurgence of Dan Dare though the use of computer graphics, fans have been swarming to regain touches of nostalgia either through the modern cartoon or, perhaps more commonly, by obtaining these re-releases of the original pages that appeared in The Eagle. Following a classic adventure with Dare facing off against the Mekon in his own indomitable style and whilst this offering from April 1950 may still appear dated to the modern reader it’s a huge influence on the whole Brit explosion of the 80/90’s that took us across the world including influencing modern names such as Moore.

If you’re short for that gem for either Christmas or even for a special birthday this hardback will present you with something special then make sure you pick up some dib dabs, or flying saucers and present those with this book to the older Sci-Fi fan in your life. I did that to my Dad when I lent it to him and to see his face transferred back to the cheeky one that stares back at me in the old black and white photo’s of the fifties and you’ve got that something special that really is priceless.

Thursday 23 July 2009

NEWS: "He's a very Naughty Boy!" Terry Gilliam Film Festival


Hail Mighty Readers and Cinema Fans,
Our friends at the British Film Institute asked us to let you know about the Terry Gilliam Film season that theyre having in August. As Python and Gilliam officionado's we just had to publish this for you, after all he's not the Messiah, he's a very naughty boy but very good at what he does. Enjoy this trip into the mind of a true eccentric of the modern era.


We'll shortly be announcing a competition run in conjunction with the BFI so stay tuned.

The Adventures of Baron Munchausen
  • Sat 8 Aug 17:50 NFT2 book
  • Tue 11 Aug 20:30 NFT3 book

A gloriously over-the-top telling of a series of tall tales.

Brazil
  • Sun 2 Aug 20:10 NFT1 book
  • Fri 7 Aug 18:00 NFT1 book
  • Fri 14 Aug 20:15 NFT1 book

Visionary cult classic which blends Kafka with Orwell's 1984 to stunning effect.

The Brothers Grimm
  • Sun 23 Aug 18:10 NFT3 book
  • Tue 25 Aug 18:30 NFT3 book
  • Sun 30 Aug 20:30 NFT3 book

Spectacular fairy tale packed with rip-roaring action and disturbing fantasy.

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
  • Sat 22 Aug 20:40 NFT1 book
  • Sun 23 Aug 20:40 NFT1 book
  • Mon 24 Aug 18:20 NFT1 book

Bold, mind-bending adaptation of Hunter S Thompson's 'gonzo' classic.

The Fisher King
  • Sat 15 Aug 17:50 NFT2 book
  • Tue 18 Aug 20:20 NFT2 book

Modern fantasy about the corruption and re-imagining of the American Dream via Arthurian Legend.

Jabberwocky
  • Sun 2 Aug 17:40 NFT1 book
  • Fri 7 Aug 20:45 NFT1 book
  • Sat 8 Aug 20:40 NFT2 book

Menacing, blackly comic medieval fantasy shot on a shoestring budget.

Monty Python and the Holy Grail
  • Thu 6 Aug 21:00 NFT1 book
  • Wed 12 Aug 20:45 NFT1 book
  • Thu 13 Aug 18:00 NFT1 book

Fondly remembered Python feature that inspired the stage musical Spamalot.

Terry Gilliam: Pot Pourri
  • Thu 20 Aug 20:45 NFT1 book

A rapid gallop through the flotsam and jetsam of Gilliam's career.

Tideland
  • Thu 27 Aug 20:40 NFT3 book
  • Mon 31 Aug 18:00 NFT3 book

A dark fable in turns scary, disturbing, tense and full of strange wonder.

Time Bandits
  • Mon 3 Aug 20:45 NFT1 book
  • Sun 9 Aug 20:40 NFT2 book
  • Sat 29 Aug 13:30 NFT1 book

Crowd-pleasing, unexpected smash-hit which brought Gilliam to wider attention.

Twelve Monkeys
  • Wed 19 Aug 20:20 NFT1 book
  • Fri 21 Aug 17:40 NFT3 book
  • Wed 26 Aug 20:15 NFT1 book
A convict is sent back in time in the hope of preventing an apocalypse.

INTERVIEW: Angus Donald

If theres one thing thats well known it's that all Journalists love a good story. That said, however, very few can actually tell one. Having travelled the world in various guises (fruit picker, waiter, anthropologist) it probably would come as no surprise that Angus decided to give the world of literature a go especially after using it as a form of therapy to keep himself sane in an otherwise alien world to which he was inhabiting at the time. Here, after realising that the human race has changed remarkably little over the last thousand years, he tackled the myth of Robin Hood, bringing a more realistic, if barbaric Robin to the fore tempered by the cooling influence of his friends and told from the point of view of Alan Dale. We thought that we'd ask him about everything from practical archeology through to how he copes whilst travelling the globe...

Falcata Times: Writing is said to be something that people are afflicted with rather than gifted and that it's something you have to do rather than want. What is your opinion of this statement and how true is it to you?

Angus Donald: I think it is ridiculous to talk about something a pleasurable as writing as an affliction. It’s true that I do feel, and as an adult have always felt, a compulsion to write, but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. I love writing; it’s cathartic and gives me a real sense of achievement.


FT: When did you realise that you wanted to be a writer?

AD: I was in my early twenties doing fieldwork in Indonesia for a Masters Degree in Social Anthropolgy. I was studying magic and witchcraft in a small rural village and I was quite lonely as almost nobody in the village spoke English, so I started writing a novel (it was unfinished, unpublished, pretty much unreadable). But I found that writing was a marvelous antidote to my loneliness and that it made me feel very contented and self-contained. I realized that I could be happy anywhere with just a pencil and notebook and my own imagination.


FT: It is often said that if you can write a short story you can write anything. How true do you think this is and what have you written that either proves or disproves this POV?

AD: I guess it’s true. If you can write, you can write anything. I don’t much care for short stories. I’ve written a few but the ones I’ve read have very often left me wanting a bit more from the characters that you can get in, say, 10,000 words.


FT: If someone were to enter a bookshop, how would you persuade them to try your novel over someone else's and how would you define it?

AD: I’d ask them if they were interested in a fast-paced action-adventure novel in the style of Bernard Cornwell and Conn Iggulden.


FT: How would you "sell" your book in 20 words or less?

AD: A dark re-telling of the Robin Hood legend in which the hero is a violent gangster: the Godfather of Sherwood


FT: Who is a must have on your bookshelf and whose latest release will find you on the bookshops doorstep waiting for it to open?

AD: I’m a big fan of John Le Carre, but I also adore the Flashman books by the late, great George Macdonald Fraser. I love Bernard Cornwell, too, and Lee Child’s Jack Reacher series. But I wouldn’t wait on a bookshop’s doorstep, I tend to buy my books online.


FT: When you sit down and write do you know how the story will end or do you just let the pen take you? ie Do you develop character profiles and outlines for your novels before writing them or do you let your idea's develop as you write?

AD: I always know how the book is going to end
– usually with a great climactic battle and the bad guy getting his comeuppance; and I have a rough idea of the story arc of each main character; and I also know some of the waystations, or landmarks in the plot, some big scenes I’m going to write. But apart from that I just sit down and start typing and see where the muse takes me. I enjoy that more than having a fixed plan and rigidly sticking to it. You never know what your characters are going to say and do. They constantly surprise me.


FT: What do you do to relax and what have you read recently?

AD: I like a nice glass of good red wine in the evening – actually, I usually have several. I’ve just finished reading A Perfect Spy by John Le Carre for the fourth or fifth time.


FT: What is your guiltiest pleasure that few know about?

AD: I’m not very good at guilt. When I behave badly or say something unkind, I don’t feel all that guilty. I just tend to shrug, apologise to the person, and try not to do it again. So I don’t really have any pleasures that I feel guilty about.


FT: Lots of writers tend to have pets. What do you have and what are their key traits (and do they appear in your novel in certain character attributes?)

AD: I don’t have any pets. Maybe down the road a few years I might get a dog, as my wife would like one, but as I have a young baby at the moment, having a pet is not very practical.


FT: Which character within your latest book was the most fun to write and why?

AD: The character I like most (apart from Robin himself, and the narrator Alan Dale) is Bernard de Sezanne, a drunken French troubadour, whose chief pleasures in life are wine, women and song. He’s a bit of a coward, and terribly vain, but he’s good-hearted and fun-loving so I like him despite his many faults.


FT: How similar to your principle protagonist are you?

AD: There is a good deal of my teenaged self in Alan Dale, who is thirteen at the beginning of the novel. But he’s much braver than I am, much better at languages and a lot more musical. 



FT: What hobbies do you have and how do they influence your work?

AD: I like to walk across the countryside in Kent where I live; I usually go with one of my brothers and we set the world to rights over a couple of hours of tramping, followed by a pint in a nice local pub. I find it very useful to have someone to bounce ideas off, and somehow the exercise seems to make my brain work more clearly. I also play golf (badly).


FT: Where do you get your idea's from?

AD: All over the place. History books, mainly, I also browse the internet quite a bit looking for interesting facts to use in my books. I also steal real people’s mannerisms and expressions and give them to my characters.


FT: Do you ever encounter writers block and if so how do you overcome it?

AD: Sometimes. Mercifully, not often. And then I just type my way through it. Even if I think what I’ve written is crap I just keep going. The act of typing seems to release something in my head, and ideas begin to flow. And you can always delete it when you look over it, if it really is awful. That’s the beauty of writing on a computer.


FT: Certain authors are renowned for writing at what many would call uncivilised times. When do you write and how do the others in your household feel about it?

AD: I don’t really work uncivilized hours. I have a routine but I don’t stick to it rigidly. If I feel like it, sometimes I take the day off. That’s the good bit about working for yourself. But the normal routine goes like this: I get up at 7am and get some coffee and, still in a dressing gown, go upstairs to my study and begin work. At about 9am, I have a shower and some breakfast and then go back to work till about 11am, then I go to the gym three days a week and do errands on the other days until lunchtime. After lunch I have some downtime, reading, napping, playing with the baby, whatever. In the early evening 4pm or 5pm I go back to my desk and spend a couple of hours looking over what I’ve written that morning. I clock off about 7pm.


FT: Sometimes pieces of music seem to influence certain scenes within novels, do you have a soundtrack for your tale or is it a case of writing in silence with perhaps the odd musical break in-between scenes?

AD: Perhaps oddly, given that my hero Alan Dale is a musical genius, I hardly ever listen to music. And I can’t think of any scenes in the book that were influenced by music. I certainly can’t write in anything but silence. I do have an iPod but I only use it very occasionally, sometimes in the gym.


FT: What misconceptions, if any, did you have about the writing and publishing field when you were first getting started?

AD: I thought I would be more involved in decisions about the blurb on the back of the book, the cover design, and the marketing. In fact, I’m very lucky to have a superb team of people at Little, Brown who managed to do all that very well without any help from me.


FT: If music be the food of love, what do you think writing is and please explain your answer?

AD: I think writing is “the flow of soul”, an outpouring of a person’s essence on to the page. Apart from telling a story, novels give you a glimpse of the novelist’s inner man.



FT: What can you tell us about the next novel?

AD: The next novel is called Holy Warrior and in it Robin Hood, Alan Dale, Little John and everyone go off on the Third Crusade with Richard the Lionheart. It has plenty of bloody battles, treachery, torture, and quite a lot of sex. And it will be published next summer


FT: What are the last five internet sites that you've visited?

AD: My website www.angus-donald.com; the Media Guardian website; Wikipedia; Pimbley’s Dictionary of Heraldry; and the BBC weather site


FT: Did you ever take any writing classes or specific instructions to learn the craft? If so please let us know which ones.

AD: I never took any classes in writing but I did work as a journalist for more than 15 years before I wrote my first book. I started as a proof-reader on magazines in Hong Kong and it taught me to be very precise about the words I used. I also worked as a sub-editor, a magazine feature writer, and a foreign correspondent. All of that was good training.


FT: How did you get past the initial barriers of criticism and rejection?

AD: I was very lucky that I didn’t really have to deal with rejection. I sent off three chapters of my book to an agent and within a week I had signed a contract with him; a month later I had four publishers wanting to publish a book I hadn’t even written by then and I ended up signing a two-book deal with Sphere (an imprint of Little, Brown). I’m bound to get some criticism in the future and I hope I can just take it with a pinch of salt and move on.


FT: In your opinion, what are the best and worst aspects of writing for a living?

AD: The best aspect of writing for a living is the freedom. I can do whatever I like all year, I just have to produce a book at the end of it. I love the magic of writing, too, when my characters come alive and speak to me. It’s like having an imaginary family. The worst bit about writing is the isolation. After working for so many years in a busy national newspaper, I find it strange that now I can spend days and days during which the only person I talk to is my wife, and maybe the postman. When she goes away to visit friends or family, I find I email people a lot just looking for a bit of human contact.

For more information of Angus and his upcoming work please visit his website.

HISTORICAL FICTION REVIEW: Outlaw - Angus Donald


BOOK BLURB:

When he's caught stealing, young Alan Dale is forced to leave his family and go to live with a notorious band of outlaws in Sherwood Forest.

Their leader is the infamous Robin Hood. A tough, bloodthirsty warrior, Robin is more feared than any man in the county. And he becomes a mentor for Alan; with his fellow outlaws, Robin teaches Alan how to fight - and how to win.

But Robin is a ruthless man - and although he is Alan's protector, if Alan displeases him, he could also just as easily become his murderer....

From bloody battles to riotous feast days to marauding packs of wolves, Outlaw is a gripping, action-packed historical thriller that delves deep into the fascinating legend of Robin Hood.


REVIEW:

With Robin Hood currently being back in vogue with many authors tackling the famous outlaw, few seek to strike out on their own as well as Angus Donald as he tells the tale from Alan Dales old age as he looks back on his past as a cutpurse and soon to be outlaw. The tale is not only well written but told with a freshness that has a sense of history injected as the tale clearly shows. You can’t help but be drawn into this world through the characters eyes as the brutality of the age meets the cunning of well matched chess opponents. Add to the mix a realistic sense of adventure and the promise of more to come and its definitely a book that could be used to help the Young Adult in your home cross to the world of Historical Fiction in one easy step. We’ll look forward to Angus’ next novel Crusader currently scheduled for a 2010 release date.

HISTORICAL FICTION CRIME REVIEW: Nefertiti, Tutankhamun - Nick Drake


Nefertiti:

She is called 'The Perfect One', the most famous and beautiful woman in the world. Nefertiti rules equally with her husband, the Pharaoh Akhenaten, over the richest, most sophisticated and powerful society in the modern world. At home the wealthy enjoy their hunts and love affairs, their new jewellery and fashions, and invest their money in elaborate tombs for the afterlife. The rest of the population labour on the land as they have done since time began. Yet behind the glorious facades of luxury and pleasure an epic power struggle is taking place; Akhenaten and Nefertiti inaugurate an enlightened new religion, and build a magnificent and mysterious new capital in the desert in which to worship the God of the Sun. The delicate balance of power in Egypt is thrown into confusion; the old p
riesthood is stripped of its traditional authority and wealth, the army is enraged by the growing turbulence on the country's borders, and the people resent the loss of the ancient Gods. Old alliances are brought into doubt, and generations of inherited power and wealth are suddenly at stake. And then, shortly before the crucial festival to celebrate the new capital, to which rulers and representatives from across the world are invited to attend, Nefertiti suddenly vanishes. Rai Rahotep, the youngest chief detective in the Thebes division, with a rising reputation for his original methods, is secretly assigned by Akhenaten himself to investigate. He has ten days to find the Queen and return her in time for the celebrations. Success will bring glory but if he fails, he and his family will die...


Tutankhamun:

Tutankhamun, son of Akhenaten, has inherited an empire that seems to be at the height of its power and international glory. But the young King, just eighteen years old, is faced with the political and personal intrigues and conspiracies of the Court, where his godfather Ay, and the General Horemheb are locked in a bitter struggle for ascendancy. Tutankhamun must steer the empire back from the brink of disaster and dissent to which his father Akhenaten's rule led the Two Lands of Egypt, and re-assert the stability and authority of his famous dynasty.Rahotep, chief detective of the Thebes division, has his own worries - his daughters are growing up in a changing world of danger and instability, while out on on the streets of Thebes things are falling apart; poverty and dissent are breaking out into a nightmare of violence, gold and corruption seem all-powerful, and the city's shadowy underworld is itself witnessing mysterious acts of shocking brutality. Yet, when he receives a mysterious invitation to the secret halls of the Royal Palace, he cannot refuse.What he finds there, and the quest on which he embarks, will change his life, and put everything he thought he believed, and everything he loves, at risk.


REVIEW:

Murder, mystery has long since fascinated readers as well as mankind psychologically, yet we tend to think of it as a more modern day phenomena. What happens within Nick’s writing is changing the setting to ancient Egypt during a time of political strife and upheaval is a way of life. Blend in the mix a touch of history and well researched historical detail and you have a story that will stay with you long after the final page is turned. Whilst Tutankhamun is the secondary novel I heartily recommend enjoying the two back to back, its well worth the investment of not only your time but your finances making this a holiday read that’s a must, especially if you’re going to cruise down the Nile and visit the temples of the ancients.

Wednesday 22 July 2009

YOUNG ADULT REVIEW: Goldstrike - Matt Whyman


BOOK BLURB:

Carl may have escaped from Camp Twilight, but now he's being pursued by a bounty hunter in the pay of the US government, and an al-Quaeda assassin. Wanted dead by one and alive by the other, he must use all his skills as a manipulator of both systems and people to survive. Can he play one enemy against the other in his bid to live another day? Hiding out in the least likely place possible - a warehouse hiding untold treasures - Carl has to harness the powers of Cleo, the super-computer who controls it. For Cleo is primed to unleash aggressive counter-measures at the least sign of intrusion - but can Carl get her on side?


REVIEW:

Having missed the first tale in this series I was a little apprehensive at how coherent I’d get a little lost with this tale but was quickly sucked in. Not only is the character a Grade A YA antihero but one that seeks to do things their own way and strike the chance at preserving their freedom in any way that his expertise can manage. In the mix are a couple of villains who would have given Bond a troubling time and constantly seek to outdo and step on the others coat tails as they seek to take their prize (the antihero.) Well written, a solid plot and above all a tale where all hell breaks loose from the opening line.

YOUNG ADULT REVIEW: The Odd Egg - Emily Gravett


BOOK BLURB:

Duck is delighted to find an egg of his own to look after. It's the most beautiful egg in the whole world! But all the other birds think it's very odd indeed - and everyone's in for a BIG surprise when it finally hatches.


REVIEW:

If there is one name that constantly jumps out for the Young Adult illustrated books then its Emily Gravett, not only has she given the reader highly original but also beautifully created books but also managed to get her work in the top sellers of the year its been released. She really is a master and the Odd Egg carries on her quirky as well as fun books. Quite short but an absolute dream book that will soon become a firm favourite in the owners household. Great stuff.

Tuesday 21 July 2009

FANTASY REVIEW: Witches Incorporated - KE Mills


BOOK BLURB:

It's a case of espionage, skullduggery and serious unpleasantness. And it's also Gerald's first official government assignment. He's hunting down a deadly saboteur, and time is quickly running out. Old enemies and new combine forces to thwart him. Once again, innocent lives are on the line. He needs his friends. He can't do this alone. But Princess Melissande and Reg have troubles of their own. With the help of Monk Markham's brilliant, beautiful sister, they've opened a one-stop-shop witching locum agency, where magical problems are solved for a price. Problem is, the girls are struggling to keep the business afloat. Things are looking grim for Witches Incorporated - and that's before they accidentally cross paths with Gerald's saboteur. Suddenly everybody's lives are on the line and Gerald realises, too late, that there's a reason government agents aren't supposed to have friends ...


REVIEW:

As a fan of the original novel by Karen, I really couldn’t wait to get this novel, so when it landed I set myself up for a wonderful day of reading pleasure. What unfurled was a tale that not only explored the world that the characters inhabit a bit deeper but went on to expose the seedier side of things as this Fantasy Crime novel exposed the hidden truths behind the ruthlessness that people are prepared to go to in order to make a few dollars more. Add to the mix (and lets face it with cakes involved there is a mix,) a book that’s not afraid to laugh at itself and you’ve got a story that’s light hearted and an easy read with a fistful of twists that will keep you guessing. Its great fun and if I get my way I want Reg the owl to get a tale at some point about her life. She’s an absolute cracker and demonstrates that even supporting characters are as magical as the leads.

FANTASY REVIEW: Furies of Calderon - Jim Butcher


BOOK BLURB:

For a thousand years, the people of Alera have united against the aggressive races that inhabit the world, using their unique bond with the furies - elementals of earth, air, fire, water and metal. But now, Gaius Sextus, First Lord of Alera, grows old and lacks an heir. Ambitious Lords manoeuvre to place their Houses in positions of power, and a war of succession looms on the horizon. Far from city politics in the Calderon Valley, young Tavi struggles with his lack of furycrafting. At fifteen, he has no wind fury to help him fly, no fire fury to light his lamps. Yet as the Alerans' most savage enemy - the Marat - return to the Valley, his world will change. Caught in a storm of deadly wind furies, Tavi saves the life of a runaway slave. But Amara is actually a spy, seeking intelligence on possible Marat traitors to the Crown. And when the Valley erupts into chaos - when rebels war with loyalists and furies clash with furies - Amara will find Tavi invaluable. His talents will outweigh any fury-born power - and could even turn the tides of war.


REVIEW:

When it was announced that Jim Butchers Fantasy series was about to be released for the first time in the UK, I found myself covered in goose bumps. Add to the mix that I was already a huge fan of his Dresden books I started a countdown for the books arrival originally in days and months and then down to hours as I eagerly waited by the window for the Postie to arrive.

So you can pretty much imagine how upset I was when I started this novel and found it was nothing special, there’s plenty of fantasy authors out there that write better, plenty with more original plots and did leave me wondering if this novel was more about releasing something based on his previous success rather than having something special released.

When I started thinking like that, I had to put aside my previous thoughts and I decided to treat this as a new author and did my damnedest to forget all about Harry. Whilst it was hard to do so, it did make it easier to get into this novel. It is written well although at times a bit too predictable and it will give the readers the sort of standard fare that will satisfy them. However it won’t give them any new and as such if fans are expecting Jim to do something for Fantasy in much the same way he did for Urban Fantasy then they’re going to be sadly disappointed. A great shame.

Monday 20 July 2009

SCIENCE FICTION REVIEW: Retribution Falls - Chris Wooding


BOOK BLURB:

Frey is the captain of the Ketty Jay, leader of a small and highly dysfunctional band of layabouts. An inveterate womaniser and rogue, he and his gang make a living on the wrong side of the law, avoiding the heavily armed flying frigates of the Coalition Navy. With their trio of ragged fighter craft, they run contraband, rob airships and generally make a nuisance of themselves. So a hot tip on a cargo freighter loaded with valuables seems like a great prospect for an easy heist and a fast buck. Until the heist goes wrong, and the freighter explodes. Suddenly Frey isn't just a nuisance anymore - he's public enemy number one, with the Coalition Navy on his tail and contractors hired to take him down. But Frey knows something they don't. That freighter was rigged to blow, and Frey has been framed to take the fall. If he wants to prove it, he's going to have to catch the real culprit. He must face liars and lovers, dogfights and gunfights, Dukes and daemons. It's going to take all his criminal talents to prove he's not the criminal they think he is ...


REVIEW:

Originally a well known children's author, Chris Wooding has grown as an author along with his audience. With his latest offering, many will end up comparing it to the now sadly defunct Firefly but will have numerous problems with it. My first, and perhaps major complaint was that I really couldn't get a likeability factor for them, they really got on my nerves and instead of some in depth bonding relied more on the mannerisms of navvy's which might seem like clever macho stuff but is quite sad and annoying in the long run. It's a shame as the book had so much going for it but the author seems to have rushed the whole thing and sadly turned up an half assed attempt at a novel that won't please many if any at all. A sad shame to be honest as it had the makings of something great.

SCIENCE FICTION REVIEW: Winterstrike - Liz Williams


BOOK BLURB:

Winterstrike spy Hestia Mar has been sent to Caud to recover details of an ancient weapon. During her stay in the Martian city, she encounters the ghost of a warrior, who turns out to be the encoded representation of the city's bombed library. Hestia Mar manages to access the library's data, but realizes too late what she has done: by downloading the information, she has virtually guaranteed the use of the weapon against Caud by her own government. Desperate to rescue the situation she makes her way back home across the dangers of the Crater Plain. Meanwhile, in Winterstrike itself, the festival of Ombre has been taking place upon the eve of war.Hestia's cousin Shorn -imprisoned by her family for accidentally consorting with a male - manages to escape. Her sister Essegui, pursuing her to the dangerous mountains of Mars, discovers a plot by creatures who hold the secrets of the Martian past, and its future. While Essegui battles forces back in Winterstrike, Hestia travels to Earth in an attempt to save her city ...


REVIEW:

In recent years if you've wanted an author who creates characters along with worlds that you just can't help but be sucked in by then there are few that have been so prolific as Liz Williams. Here, in Winterstrike, the story moves at its own pace sacrificing speed for development on both the world as well as characters, generating political intrigue that is beautifully blended with the surrounding environment painted with words as only a true master can. Add to this hidden secrets, backstabbing double dealing and you've got a tale to keep you happy until the last page is turned.

Friday 17 July 2009

HISTORICAL FICTION REVIEW: Jack Steel Day - Iain Gale

Man of Honour:

The first in a stunning new historical adventure series, perfect for all fans of Sharpe. Upper Bavaria, 1704. The British army, triumphant, fresh from victory, stands proudly to attention, ready to fight for honour and glory. Their enemy is Louis XIV of France, a megalomaniac intent on possessing all Europe. Among this proud group of men stands Lieutenant Jack Steel, admired by his men, the finest infantry in Queen Anne's army. Much praised for his courage, his strength, and his loyalty, Steel has come to the attention of his Commander in Chief, the Duke of Marlborough. Tasked with rescuing a letter whose controversial contents could destroy Marlborough, Steel leads his men through the battle of Blenheim, risking death and destruction in the fight for another man's honour. And along the way he is constantly threatened from within by the mellifluous Major Jennings, intent on destroying Steel and all he stands for. The first in a stunning new series featuring Jack Steel, Man of Honour is historical adventure perfect for all fans of Bernard Cornwell's Sharpe.


REVIEW:

With Bernard Cornwell currently engaged in writing his Alfred series many people have been looking for a Sharpe type of hero to come to the fore. Currently, there’s no better example than Iain’s Jack Steel who charges into the literary world in this, his first novel set during the War of the Spanish Succession (early 18th Century.) Not only is he a hero with a sense of honour and tries to engage in the rules of warfare according to his personal code but he also refuses to endanger his men unless he accompanies them personally.

Gripping, addictive and above all a series that will soon endear itself to the fans of the genre. A cracking fictional debut by a true historical master.



Rules of War:

Jack Steel, first introduced in Man of Honour, is a splendid hero on a new and dangerous mission. Perfect for all fans of Bernard Cornwell's Sharpe. MEET JACK STEEL - GENTLEMAN, SOLDIER, HERO. In the early eighteenth century, the British army led by John Churchill, Duke of Marlborough, were the leaders of a wide-ranging and very successful alliance. Jack Steel, maverick gentleman, superb soldier, was in the middle of any fight. Ramilles 1706. One of the great victories of the British army, a signal battle honour for the regiments who were there. But for Captain Steel, standing at the head of his Grenadiers, sinking into the swampy ground, at odds with his Allied partners and receiving contradictory orders, it was hard to see the General, Lord Marlborough's grand stratagem. Even after victory, Steel finds himself mired in further difficulties. The Allies had thought that they were liberating the Low Countries but some preferred their previous masters, the French, who at least were Catholic, and some wanted independence from all powers, while others of his fellow officers wanted out of the war altogether.Far from the battle lines he enjoys, Jack Steel is sent undercover to discover and deal with the traitors. He needs to identify the loyal locals who would help a few British advance troops into the besieged city - a dangerous mission made deadly by his identification by an old enemy of his and the brilliant malevolence of the renegade French pirate who is in charge of Ostende.


REVIEW:

When it comes to the
second book of any series (this being Jack Steel 2), you get to know whether an author has real talent and able to maintain the standards portrayed within the original or whether the pressure was just too much and a poor offering was presented. There just isn’t a middle ground, it maintains and builds or it goes down in flames, so what did Iain’s writing do?

The fact that I’m having an Iain Gale Day should pretty much tell you. The writing was a pure joy, the characters fresh and complete although personally I’d rather have a Sergeant Slaughter series over a ranking officer any day. I love this series so far and to be honest there’s not much more that can be added other than its something special for all readers. Special mention also has to go to the wonderfully creative villains that have so far appeared within the context who give Steel a real challenge and are just as wonderfully addictive, long may they continue to elude the hero to generate more chaos into which he’s plunged. Cracking stuff.



Brothers in Arms:

Charismatic hero Jack Steel returns, in a new and perilous adventure. England 1708 and Jack Steel returns to Flanders from England a married man. But his wife Lady Henrietta Vaughan is proving expensive and Jack must look for a promotion. At the battle of Oudenarde Steel is sent in to stem off the French attack and wins a glorious victory for Marlborough.The allies eyes' turn from Paris to Lille, where the Dutch have recommenced a siege. Unbeknownst to them, Marlborough sends Steel, his trusted envoy to Paris to broker a deal with a man who has the ear of the French King. Disguised, in danger of exposure and in fear of his life, Steel accomplishes his mission and makes it back to the bloody, mud-logged siege of Lille -- a victory for the British in the end, but at huge cost of human life. As Steel desperately tries to open supply lines to his troops, he discovers that his wife has been unfaithful to him, though he has risked all to rescue her from the besiged town of Leffinghe. Jack returns to England covered in glory from Lille, and with the promotion that he desired.Although he has lost his reason for desiring money and honour he is now even more determined to win further military accolades in order outshine his wife's new lover.


REVIEW:

Finally we come to the third part in Iain’s Jack Steel series to date, Brothers in Arms. Beautifully recreated historical accuracy occurs throughout the novel which makes this pretty addictive from my point of view. Whilst to some, Iain’s writing may come across a clichéd, for me it adds more depth and hooks the reader deeper within the series as Flashman meets Sharpe through the daring do of the protagonists actions. You really aren’t going to get historical fiction as jam packed with the same sort of fight sequences or with the challenges within. Definitely an author to enjoy and, if you’re on the odd day trip to Belgium, then take these with you, cracking good fun and there’s no better way to learn the history than to enjoy it first hand with Steel and Slaughter.