Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Choosers of the Slain by James H Cobb

A friend at work was clearing out a lot of their old books and asked if I wanted any.  I said, “Sure thing, I’ll take a couple”. The next day I arrived at work and found eight books sitting on my desk, among them were four books by James H Cobb; Choosers of the Slain, Storm Dragon, Sea Fighter and Target Lock.

Choosers of the Slain caught my eye for two reasons; 1) I love a series and it was book one in the series, and 2) the phrase caught my eye, it’s the English translation for the Norse word Valkyrie, the female warriors who chose those amongst the slain Norse warriors on the battlefield to go to Valhalla, the Hall of the Slain in Asgard. Enough of the history lesson, on reading the cover and discovering that Cobb’s hero, was in fact a heroine, Commander Amanda Lee Garrett, so the title seemed to make a lot of sense.

I don’t usually read war stories, I prefer something a bit more futuristic and seeing that this story was written in 1996 and set in 2006, I was intrigued to see if what the author was calling a futuristic war ship compared to what exists now.  Commander Garrett, captains a LCS (littoral combat ship) guided missile destroyer, with the Navy’s latest electronics warfare, Aegis radar systems and is the world’s first true ocean going stealth warship. After reading this book, I did some research about LCS vessels and found that Cobb had done a very fine job in 1996 of predicting the capabilities of this class of ship, which has only been in service a couple of years, check out this Wiki Link if you want to know more:

Anyway, back to the book, it’s not just a war story, though it is full of action and the combat scenes are extremely well written, keeping an edge to the excitement but not excessive in melodramtic over detailing (if that makes any sense what so ever?).  The story is also about relationships in the modern military, there is a potential love interest  for Garret here, but I am also talking about the relationships between a ship’s crew. A group of people crammed together in close confined quarters of mixed ranks, backgrounds and life experience. This book gives a good insight into how much a ship’s crew not only respect each other but also care for their ship mates.

My Synopsis:
Anyway back to the book in question, Choosers of the Slain, it begins as most books of this type do by setting up the scenario: It’s late autumn in Antarctica, the last pristine region on earth that as yet has not been mined for its minerals and resources. A lone British scientific outpost is suddenly overrun by a foreign aggressor,  Argentina, looking to capture the region just before winter sets in and therefore making a counter attack by the British and her allies highly improbable. A move which should buy the Argentinians enough time to establish a military presence and start harvesting the region’s resources. The Argentinians are still stinging from the Falkland’s conflict, but now have bigger ambitions than just a small group of islands.

Commander Amanda Lee Garrett is in command of the USS Cunningham, the first vessel of its kind, unique and as yet untested in either extreme conditions or combat.  The ship is one of the obvious stars of this book and rightly so, Cobb has obviously done his research well in bringing what was at the time a concept ship on paper, to life.  This is Garrett’s first major command, but the reasons for her getting the job soon become obvious, she is sharp minded, extremely intelligent, courageous and as hard as iron in the face of conflict. Due to technical problems the Cunningham soon becomes the only US vessel anywhere within range and heads into an incredible game of cat and mouse with the massed Argentine Navy and Air Force, on the unpredictable wintery waters of Drake’s Passage.

The characters are extremely easy to get to know and just as importantly likeable, I found myself actually wanting to know much more about the Cunningham’s bridge crew and specialists. Cobb gave me just enough to actually be interested in these side characters without them dominating any section of the storyline too much.

Cover Art:

The book: Choosers of the Slain.
The author: James H Cobb
Series name: The Amanda Garret series
Genre: Action, Warfare, Thriller
First published: 1996
My rating out of 10: It’s a 7.5, this is Cobb’s first work and though I really enjoyed the entire Amanda Garret series this book remains my firm favourite of the four.  If you see this book grab it, it’s well worth the effort.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

The Noah's Ark Quest by Boyd Morrison

I picked this book up in Canberra airport, while I had a couple of hours to wait for my flight home.  The thing that caught my eye was the title and cover, oddly enough the bookseller also had the US version, simply called “The Ark” on the shelf, but the US title and cover weren’t enough to make me pick up the book. It must be something to do with my UK heritage. 

By the time I landed in Hobart I was nearly half way through this book and totally enthralled and was, unusually for me one of the last passengers off of the plane. Being a big fan of Matthew Reilly and having enjoyed quite a bit of Clive Cussler in my younger days, I could really get into this book finding the story paced somewhere between the two.

I will read this book again and would thoroughly recommend it to anyone who enjoys, or want to be introduced to, this genre. It's a very entertaining read that kept me interested the whole way through, there was nothing superfluous to be found and at no stage was I thinking "get on with it".  In fact I was looking for any opportunity and spare moments to read a few more pages.

Boyd Morrison has neatly brought together a bit of Biblical history, some of his own knowledge as the holder of a PhD in industrial engineering, religious fanaticism, high-tech equipment, fast paced action, well researched theories and a lot of imagination, to bring this story to life. Which I am pleased to say will have a sequel appearing soon, known as “The Vault” in the US and “The Midas Code” in the UK, bringing Tyler Locke back to the pages of what is set to be another thrill ride of a read.

My synopsis:
We she receives a mysterious summons promising information on her father who has been missing for several years from Sam Watson, an old family friend, Dilara Kenner can only abandon her archaeological dig in Peru and get to LA as fast as possible. Instead of news on her father he instead speaks cryptically about Noah’s Ark and a conspiracy theory that will lead to the deaths of millions, if the Ark’s secrets are revealed, just before he suddenly dies in her arms. His last words send her in search of Tyler Locke, a total stranger.

A former Army combat engineer, Locke is an engineering troubleshooter working on technical problems on an oil rig in the North Atlantic. Dilara manages to get passage to the rig on the next helicopter transport, which goes down just before reaching the platform.  Locke pulls of a daring rescue in the face of an oncoming storm, after a series of other events on the rig, convinces him that there may be something to what Dilara is telling him. He then agrees to helping her reveal the mystery of Noah’s Ark and her father’s disappearance.

A mysterious plane crash, conspiracy theories, government agents, car chases, intrigues, betrayals, attempts on their lives and a mysterious cult, whose leader intends to unleash a flood of his on making upon the world, enabling him to re-populate the earth with his hand selected survivors. With just seven days to find the Ark, Dilara and Tyler commence a rollercoaster ride of events that ensure you won’t be in a hurry to put this book down.

Cover Art and Awards:
This book was nominated for "Best First Mystery" by RT Book Reviews and "An Indie Next Notable Pick". The cover art below are for both the UK and US versions:

The book: The Noah's Ark Quest (UK), The Ark (US).
The author: Boyd Morrison
Series name: Tyler Locke Adventures
Genre: Action, Thriller
First published: 2010
My rating out of 10: It’s a 8.5, this is Boyd Morrison's first work and I look forward to see how he develops his characters.

Friday, June 3, 2011

A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

About 3 years ago I had just finished reading a Sci-Fi series of epic proportions and wanted something big to fill that void, I sent an e-mail around a couple of mates and asked what they recommended in the way of a fantasy series. One of them came back suggesting the series called; A Song of Ice and Fire, which was now up to four volumes now, with a fifth due soon. (soon is a relative timeframe I suppose)
So I dropped by a local book store and picked up A Game of Thrones, I started reading chapter one while I was on a break at work. What a mistake that was, I was immediately hooked. I found myself impatiently waiting for the bus trip home, during which time I would devour another two chapters.
This is a rich fantasy story that really is aimed at an adult market, full of intrigue, political manoeuvrings, revenge, murder, sex, betrayals, action and so much more. This book is almost 900 pages of a nonstop rollicking good story, each chapter is written focusing on one of the main characters and their part in this epic story.
The story is set in a land that is as vast as it as rich in its own history, there is magic to this land but it isn’t the usual spell casting wizards and magicians, it’s a magic that comes from the land and of its history and mythology. The Seven Kingdoms of Westeros has a history of warring houses, dragons, mad kings and land whose people should fear the coming of winter and the fell creatures, known as White-Walkers that the long winter will spawn.
 In the north stands the Wall, protecting the south from the long Winter, which is coming. The Wall is manned by the Night Watch, a once proud brotherhood, which now accepts any kind of recruit including the rejects from the Kingdoms dungeons.  The northern most of the Great Houses resides in Winterfell; House Stark, whose patriarch Lord Eddard Stark is also a close and very personal friend of the Seven Kingdoms’ latest king.
From the south, King’s Landing, comes King Robert Baratheon, to visit his old friend, with him comes his entire family, including his children and his wife. Queen Cersei, whose family, House Lannister led by Tywin Lannister,  is probably the most powerful and wealthiest of the great houses.  It’s this visit to Winterfell by the Royal family and in particular Cersei and her two brothers, Jaime (her twin) and Tyrion (the Imp) that really sets the story in motion.
As part of the Stark family head south to King’s Landing with Robert, a journey of intrigue, betrayals with in betrayals sees the Seven Kingdoms fall into Civil War. Whilst at the same time an ancient terror is awakening beyond the Wall and the south is too absorbed by their disputes over who should be King, to even give this threat credence.
Meanwhile across the sea and to the east in the Free City of Pentos, the last descendants of the previous king, King Aerys Targaryen live in exile and in hope of returning and reclaiming what Viserys Targaryen sees as rightfully his, the Iron Throne of the Seven Kingdoms. Such are his ambitions that even his own sister Daenerys, nothing more than a sellable object to help him get back his crown. Daenerys has grown listening to Viserys’ stories of the Dragons of house Targaryen, but the last of the dragins died many, many generations ago. As she is sold to the Horse Lord Khal Drogo, warlord of the Dothraki people, Daenerys develops into the Queen she will be.
This book and its author are well awarded, for this book lone George R.R. Martin has won, three awards that I know of including a Locus Award, Best Fantasy Novel 1997. On top of this the series has now been picked up by HBO and has been turned into a very spectacular new TV series of the same name.  With HBO recently confirming that it is going to continue series into season two that covers the next book; A Clash of Kings.
This has been nothing more than the briefest of introductions to the saga known as A Song of Ice and Fire, and its people, with his way of writing this story using character perspective chapters, George R.R. Martin will have you enthralled for hours in what can only be described as one of the best Fantasy stories ever written for a grown up audience.  Martin continues this story in volume two, A Clash of Kings, which I will look at with you in the future.

Below are just a few examples of the cover art you will find for this book:

The book: A Game of Thrones.
The author: George R.R. Martin
Series name: A Song of Ice and Fire
Genre: Mature aged fantasy (it’s no kids book)
First published: 1996
My rating out of 10: It’s a 9.5, this is as close as it gets to perfection for me. I have re-read this novel many times now and I never fails to keep me enrapt.

Who reads books anymore?

So, who reads books anymore?And I mean real books, with real paper pages, not these dull, unfeeling reading tablets that you see more and more people carrying around these days. Boy I sound like a technological dinosaur, don't I? To be truthful I am far from it, most people would describe me as a bit a geek, or at least very tech savvy.

I just love the feel of actually turning the page and holding that sometimes oversized, weighty tome in my hands. They never run out of power, they are very tactile and when I look at my book shelves I can actually see I own hundreds of books. I also much prefer to see my kids with their faces buried in a book rather than yet another screen.

This blog is going to be about the books I am reading or have read. My reading time is usually very limited. I work full time, am married with two kids (8 and 3), I love to cook, I enjoy playing computer games, like to go fishing and am having trouble losing weight (LOL). So getting time to read can be a challenge, but I manage it and I usually devour books fairly quickly.

So whether you read books (real or otherwise) I invite you to join me as I kick of this blog with my latest reads, giving you my views and opinions, but I will also invite my followers to also give their views. Eventually this may become an on-line book club, which would be rather cool.

I warn you now though, my tastes mainly lay the genres of: Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Action and occasionally the odd classic. I especially enjoy multi-volume storylines, so if you aren’t up for reading say the 13 (thus far) volumes of the Wheel of Time series, don’t worry I am not going to look at these books one after the other.

My first views will be cast forever on to this blog will be on volume one from the series known as A Song of Ice and Fire, George RR Martin’s:

A Game of Thrones