Saturday, April 17, 2010

Review: Enigma by C.F. Bentley

Following on from the first book a delegation from Harmony, lead by high priestess Sissy, is meeting with the CCS on a neutral space station trying to eke out a treaty for mutual protection against Maril aggression. These already tense negations are thrown into chaos when an alien ship crashes into the station. Believing that management cannot provide for their protection major Jake Devlin usurps control of the station. He gets more when he bargains for when a mysterious phantom, Mac the alien half brother of the original manager, begins wreaking havoc. Meanwhile high priest Gregor arrives seeking to bring Sissy back to harmony and regain control of her but suffers a major heart attack that threatens his life. As always Jake’s former superior and resident spymaster Pammy has her own agenda, that involves a recently discovered planet. As does a mysterious stowaway Adrial.

From that synopsis it is obvious there is a lot going on in this novel and sadly I think it suffers for it. I was left with the strong impression that the author didn’t have everything completely clear in her own mind and things can get quite confusing. Like the first novel though she has created some excellent characters but I didn’t feel like Jake and Sissy stole the show to the same extent this time around. I really enjoyed the differing agendas of some of the support characters, especially Adrial and Mac. Though at times some of the characters behaved rather irrationally. One incident that immediately springs to mind is the normally practical Jake’s decision to bring along two people suffering some very serious health problems on an expedition to an alien planet. He really should have known that could only end badly and this seemed out of character. Some of the concepts especially the idea of a First Contact CafĂ©, a neutral space station built for the express purpose of providing a meeting place for different cultures, were truly inspired.

Overall there were some really good ideas in this novel not to mention very interesting characters but I think the author struggled in conveying those ideas from her head, onto paper and then onto the reader. The end product suffered as a result. Still it was a decent read and I think Bentley will only keep on improving from here. 6.25/10

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Review: The Dragobone Chair by Tad Williams

Considering Tad Williams reputation and impact within the fantasy field it is something of a surprise that I have only recently gotten around to reading one of his novels. I had read his short story in the Legends 2 anthology several years ago and while it was good in itself, it wasn’t enough to inspire to pick up anything else by him. Now that I have I can see that his is a reputation well earned.

Prester John, the high king for countless decades who united the land like never before is dead. In the chaos which follows an ancient evil takes advantage of the situation inciting John’s sons into a deadly contest for the throne which no side can win. Only the scattered remnants of an ancient order are aware of the true danger and Simon, a castle scullion who has unknowingly been apprenticed to one of those members finds himself caught up in events he never would have imagined. The quest for three magical swords, each lost in the pages of history and their only hope.

What I really enjoyed about this book was the contrast between events related through Simon’s eyes to those of other characters. Simon is a teenager who has never been out of the castle in his entire life before and William’s captures his naivety perfectly. The events related by the adults felt a lot darker and reminded me a bit of Martin’s work, this felt like a real forerunner to that more realistic style of his. The byplay between Simon and the troll Binabik cut the tension nicely and was also effortlessly funny. Pacing was another area where I felt Williams excelled here with a good buildup to the large scale battle at the conclusion and introducing an interesting cliffhanger or two.

Overall Williams is simply as good as his reputation says he is and I look forward to reading the rest of the series. 8.25/10.