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05/04/2017

Outpost by Adam Baker

Outpost by Adam Baker
Publication date: January 2011
Publisher: Hodder
Format: Paperback
Buy it here: AmazonThe Book Depository

Goodreads Description


They took the job to escape the world. They didn't expect the world to end.

Kasker Rampart: a derelict refinery platform moored in the Arctic Ocean. A skeleton crew of fifteen fight boredom and despair as they wait for a relief ship to take them home. But the world beyond their frozen wasteland has gone to hell. Cities lie ravaged by a global pandemic. One by one TV channels die, replaced by silent wavebands. The Rampart crew are marooned. They must survive the long Arctic winter, then make their way home alone. They battle starvation and hypothermia, unaware that the deadly contagion that has devastated the world is heading their way...


Aaaah the zombie novel.

Love them or loathe them, it is a rapidly growing genre - from the excellently written and disturbingly well researched zombie survival guide by Max Brooks, to the pretentious pseudo satire that was Feed by Mira Grant. The sub-genre isn’t going anywhere any time soon. Time to get used to it, because it is going nowhere.

Approaching this novel, it is reasonable to assume that it will be full of the expected standard violence and low on intelligence (come on, it's a book about zombies!) and that, whilst enjoyable, it will fail to leave a lasting impression. My assumption was wrong, and that is why I was pleasantly surprised with Outpost. 

The setting is unusual; abandoning the typical urban high-population infection zones in favour of an isolated oil derrick in the freezing Arctic. This more intimate setting instantly reduces the character count, which in turn means the characters are better developed and the mismatched bunch range from an obese female priest who has lost her faith, to a pot-smoking Sikh, and they are surprisingly well realised and likeable. They make rational decisions and behave like normal, flawed humans. The others are generally less memorable because they appear to be there to enforce the sense of cabin fever on the rig and flesh out the story a little, which in all fairness they do effectively.

However, more interesting set pieces are few and far between and the industrial grey rig setting soon becomes claustrophobic and tiresome (though I can imagine this being intentional). Also, the actual interactions with the infected are spread fairly thin throughout, almost as if they were an afterthought. Moreover, the time between these interactions is not always well-utilised, and there is more focus on the daily mundanities than feels necessary, even if the author is trying to convey the boredom of unchanging routine.


Also, there is a slight twist on the zombies themselves, and I appreciated the later first-person perspective from the viewpoint of a person on the brink of 'turning' - it was well-written and suitably dread-inducing even if I didn’t particularly care for them, and rather than going for the typical viral cookie cutter zombie archetype, these were slightly different. The outbreak starts after an unfortunate crewman is infected by a bizarre metallic parasite which causes its host to grow painful-looking spines while going insane. This is a welcome change, albeit a minor one, and one that I am aware is down to personal taste more than anything, but it does allow for a fair amount of body horror.

There is a clever build of suspension at the start of the novel which tapers off in the middle, however this lull in pace is utilised well, and builds more on the characters interpersonal relationships and back stories. This gives us far more reason to care about the characters than many of the other books in this category, and inevitably makes each loss much more poignant, especially one death in particular (mild spoiler alert) at the end of the book.

This is a solid read. If you prefer faster paced, more action-based zombie novels such as the Zombie Apocalypse series, this might not be for you. But if you’re a fan of the zombie sub-genre, or just horror in general, and you're looking for something a little more cerebral, or you're longing for a different setting, you’ll probably find something here to enjoy.



04/04/2017

Must-Have Merch For Fans of Throne of Glass


It's almost hump day everyone! :D 

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, and this week's theme is: fandom freebie.

As a self-confessed fan of Throne of Glass and pretty much ANYTHING written by Sarah J. Maas (ugh, Rhysand in ACOMAF), I thought it would be fun to make a list of Throne of Glass merch I personally have, as well as 'Glass merch that's on my wishlist. Also, I think supporting Etsy shops and other small businesses is super important, so I've linked them up! Happy shopping! :D 


MAGNETIC BOOKMARKS

Aren't these just super ADORABLE? Here we have Celaena, Chaol and Dorian magnetic bookmarks. I've seen these on pretty much EVERY ToG fan's YouTube videos at some point, and you can collect them with other bookish characters. 


Get them on Magicbookmarks' Etsy shop HERE


 

CANDLES

Am I right in saying that if you're a bookish person, you also MUST be a candle person? The two just go together, like cookies and milk, or wine and cheese, or... Aelin and Rowan. Sorry Chaol/Dorian shippers :D This particular candle smells absolutely amazing, and I'm sure most people have heard of Meraki Candles because she puts a lot of time into tweaking her candle scents. 
If you realllyy must get a Chaol or Dorian scent *sigh* then she makes those too!

Visit her Etsy shop HERE



EARRINGS

Did I mention that Aelin and Rowan belong together? If I hadn't told you, you'd know now, because I can now wear these on my ears! Haha. 

These very bookish earrings can be bought from BellBookAndScandal's Etsy shop HERE

THROW CUSHION

I think this is a quote we can all live by. Sarah J. Maas is such a queen for writing this quote, because I think this is really true! As a weapon, knowledge is way more powerful than a sword. This would look lovely on a sofa, bed or your favourite reading chair.

Get it from bookandwords' shop on RedBubble HERE



LITOGRAPH SCARF

Apparently, wearing thousands of words is now a thing. I think this is incredibly awesome. As Jack just said to me, if you get bored on the train or in a waiting room, you can now look down at yourself and read your favourite book. Litographs also offer t-shirts, posters and totes. You can also choose the colour of the words, as well as the font! Each scarf has around 30,000 words, more if you buy a t-shirt. You can even get the FULL BOOK on a gigantic poster. 

Check out Litographs HERE



THRONE OF GLASS MAP

This is the perfect companion to the books. I think maps are always so special to fandoms because they make our books feel real. Each map comes wrapped in a satin ribbon. If you know a ToG fan, I'm sure they'd really appreciate this as a gift!

You can buy this map from LandOfScrolls on Etsy HERE



PILLOW WITH CHARACTERS

This is such a pretty pillow! On this pillow there are 6 of the most popular characters, but CymeliumStore makes LOADS more with single character names, maps and quotes. 

Buy this pillow and explore the shop HERE



AELIN T-SHIRT

I've always loved this image of Aelin with a sword and her fire. I think this is wearable with pretty much anything, and would be great to wear at signings and bookish events. As this is RedBubble, you can also choose the type of shirt, as well as the colours.

Buy it on RedBubble from kbhend9715 HERE



LET'S GO RATTLE THE STARS BOTTLE

I think these are SO itsy-bitsy cute. 

These are little ToG quote bottles filled with silver stars, with Aelin's dagger on the side. EnchantedBottleCraft makes these, and you can buy them in the form of an ornament, necklace, earrings, bookmark or a keyring. There are plenty of ways to wear it!
You can find this item on Etsy HERE



RATTLE THE STARS WATERCOLOUR PRINT

This beautiful and colourful print is available on TheQuotedPage's Etsy store. It would look great in any ToG fan's bedroom, bookshelf area, or anywhere in the house really! Each print is 8 x 10 inches.

You can find the print HERE



30/03/2017

Perdido Street Station by China Mieville

Perdido Street Station by China Mieville
Publication date: March 2000
Publisher: Ballantine Del Rey
Format: Paperback
Buy it here: Amazon, The Book Depository

Goodreads Description

The iconic first Bas-Lag novel from an award-winning author.

The metropolis of New Crobuzon sprawls at the centre of its own bewildering world. Humans and mutants and arcane races throng the gloom beneath its chimneys, where the rivers are sluggish with unnatural effluent, and factories and foundries pound into the night. For more than a thousand years, the parliament and its brutal militia have ruled over a vast array of workers and artists, spies, magicians, junkies and whores. 

Now a stranger has come, with a pocketful of gold and an impossible demand, and inadvertently something unthinkable is released. 

As the city becomes gripped by an alien terror, the fate of millions depends on a clutch of outcasts on the run from lawmakers and crimelords alike. The urban nightscape becomes a hunting ground. Battles rage in the shadows of bizarre buildings. And a reckoning is due at the city's heart, under the vast chaotic vaults of Perdido Street Station.

When people ask me what this book is about, all I can say is: just read it.

It is rare when a novel is strange enough to warrant its own genre, and this is certainly one of those rare pieces! It dances a fine line between horror, sci-fi, dystopia and yet never fully fits neatly into any one of those categories. Yet one thing pervades each of its themes… it is utterly - and wonderfully - bizarre. Perdido Street along Mieville’s other works belong to the New Weird sub-genre, which is apt when you consider the subject matter, but to explain too much is to ruin the story so I’ll be intentionally vague when I describe the plot.

The book starts with a beautiful description of the approach to the corpulent and corrupted industrial, clockwork nightmare city of New Crobuzon (think Victorian London but EVEN MORE grim and fantastical), and a Garuda (a nomadic bird race from the harsh deserts) on a quest to find a brilliant scientist to help him get his wings back. In his quest to regain his flight, they manage to unleash an unspeakable terror on the unsuspecting denizens of the city.


To call said denizens colourful would be an understatement. There are surly cactus people, scarab-headed Khepri, impish cockney Wyrmen, eccentric extradimensional spiders with eclectic tastes for inanimate objects, waterbending frog people and so much more! Despite this strange mixture, each seems incredibly relatable, and dare I say it? Human. And each is well-written and fascinating in their own regard - despite their oddities and foibles, it never really feels like Mieville is trying to write Weird for the sake of Weird, and I think it is a testament to Mr Mieville’s writing that I often found myself relating more to something utterly alien than many of the human characters.

This is not to say that the human characters are not in any way flawed! One of our main characters, the awkwardly-named Isaac Dan Der Grimnebulin, part scientist, part left-wing political agitator (try saying that when you’re drunk), is wonderfully flawed and grapples with his many moral dilemmas in a thought-provoking and realistic way.


I will point out now that China Mieville is a self-professed Marxist which is something that I sit entirely opposed to, and it does show in his work, but thankfully never enough to become pervasive. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of sometimes less than subtle hints about the oppressive fascist nature of the New Crobuzon government and the moral righteousness of the almost exclusively left-wing main characters, as well as the violent faceless militia (POLICE China, they are called POLICE! Calling them militia implies they are state-sanctioned vigilantes, which judging by their organisation and the fact they have a separate military structure, they certainly are not) but these minor annoyances aside, it would be negligent of me not to mention the beautiful writing style.

Mieville does a fantastic job when setting the scene, and it is to his credit that even when describing something that defies logic, he can still paint a clear picture. Although there are some parts later on when the descriptions begin to ramble and really affect the flow of the action, however the city is painted beautifully even if the “corpulent and corrupt” metaphors feel a little overused.

And those moral dilemmas… Wow. There are a couple! Kill an innocent man to save many, trust a possibly malevolent sentient AI to vanquish a common enemy, or there’s the one at the end which is the final emotional sucker punch in a book chock full of them. I get the impression that Melville is trying to tread the moral grey areas and make the reader agonise over what they would or wouldn’t do, but from my perspective many of the decisions seem fairly clean cut, although that probably says more about me as a person than it does the writer.



The pacing does vary throughout, from moments of intense action and horror, to slower meandering slogs through the city. These breaks in pace are fairly frequent, but because of the rich vibrant world the author has created, it rarely feels like a chore and I personally relished a chance to learn more about the city and its convoluted political and social structures - which I am sure that someone smarter than me will be able to draw a parallel with real life.

This is not a book for everybody. It is a fairly niche market and some of the subject matters can be difficult to read, made all the more vivid by Mieville’s fantastic writing style. This is not simply a story of a quest between mismatched friends. It is a brutal slog through the underbelly and bowels of a vast, oft malevolent, city. People will die. People you care about (as well as one or two you won’t care for), but for all it’s wonder and steampunk imagery, it is rarely pretty. I would not call it unrelentingly grim, not by any stretch, but expect a less-than-optimistic change of pace about halfway through, and then get ready for the moral dilemmas, heartache and even more wonder as the world opens up.

Most importantly, enjoy yourself as you get lost in New Crobuzon.


21/03/2017

Top 10 Tuesday

We have FINALLY decided to join a weekly bookish meme...

This weekly meme is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, and because I'm absolutely in love with lists, I thought this 'weekly' would be perfect for our blog. 

Each week, The Broke and the Bookish posts a weekly Top 10 for other bloggers to complete. This week, the theme is.... 'Read In One Sitting'. I'm going be a little more lenient with myself and list books that I've read in a day. Keep in mind that I know everyone reads at different speeds. These are just books that I've personally read in a day and I feel many would enjoy! Even if it does take you a week, or even a month, the experience is still the same! In no particular order...

Ten Books I've Read In a Day


Caraval by Stephanie Garber

Up first is Caraval! I received this book with my January FairyLoot. I fell in love with Caraval when I first saw the cover, and believe me, the contents are just as gorgeous! This book is about a girl who leaves her little island against her will to visit a once-a-year magical performance called Caraval where the audience participate in the show. She gets caught up in the performance to rescue her sister who has been kidnapped, and immerses herself in the world full of heartbreak, love and magic! 'Welcome, welcome to Caraval... beware of getting swept too far away'... And I certainly did, hence why this book was read in a day! 


Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

I did actually read this book in one sitting! Hence why it has a well-deserved place on this list. Even though this book has 310 pages, most have a lot of white space because of the multimodal nature of this book (lots of IM conversations, written letters etc). I believe most people could read this in a day, even if you don't have a lot of time to spare! This book is about a girl who is allergic to the world - she hasn't left her house in 17 years! But everything changes when her new neighbour Olly moves next door and she decides to step outside of her comfort zone. I connected with this book pretty deeply because of my struggles with agoraphobia. A very cute, fast contemporary!


Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

As a gamer and a fan of the 80s - even though I was born in the next century - I absolutely loved this book. I think Ready Player One is pretty niche, in that if you don't like either of those things, you probably won't totally appreciate it because it's chock-full of references. Because I like both of those things, I absolutely FLEW through this book. The references were perfect, the story was fast-paced (features a type of virtual treasure hunt) and it's not too long either. I felt like this was a love letter to gamers. If you love gaming, nerdy references and 80s movies... you'll love this book. 


These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman & Meagan Spooner

An awesome story that begins when a HUUUGE luxury spaceliner called Icarus crashes into a nearby planet and two people on opposite ends of the class spectrum are forced to unite and help each other when they land on an eerie, alien planet. As they grow closer, they eventually discover some wicked secrets. This book contains a huge mystery, and throughout you try to piece together fragments of literary clues while shipping the two protagonists, Lilac and Tarver. You can't help but constantly ask yourself: what's going to happen next? Whenever I put the book down, I couldn't bear leaving Lilac and Tarver in the desert until I found out what happened to them, so I finished in a day!


Saga (ALL Volumes) by Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples

Ahh, Saga. I wasn't going to include a comic/graphic novel on this list, but I couldn't leave out this one. At 160 pages and (mostly) beautifully illustrated pictures, you could easily devour a few Saga volumes in one day. This graphic novel is about two soldiers from opposite sides of a never-ending galactic war who fall in love. There are so many weird and wonderful characters and breathtaking places to explore. I was never bothered about reading comic books in the past, but I haven't looked back since I read Saga for the first time. 


Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

If you haven't read this masterpiece yet, what's stopping you? At 227 pages, it's certainly short enough to read in a day or two when you have some time to yourself. Plus, this is a mandatory read for all lovers of books. This book is about a fireman (not the firemen we all know and love nowadays, but a burner of forbidden books), who goes on a contemplative journey to discover the truth about why his dystopian society is the way it is. Think 1984 by George Orwell (in my opinion, I prefer this book over Orwell's even though I ADORE 1984), but with a... shall we say... Nazi? twist. This is a classic, and a must-read. Personally, I devoured it all in 4 hours!


Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

I love Rainbow Rowell so much because she writes contemporaries (always with a twist) so well. Fangirl is Rowell at her best, and is a perfect introduction to her writing if you've heard much about her but haven't quite picked up one of her books, ESPECIALLY if you are, or have been, a Harry Potter fan. I resonated so much with this book because of my HP past, and it was nice to read a book about a fangirl, as a fangirl. Haha. This is why I read Fangirl from 2am to 6pm, THE SAME DAY. It's slightly long, at 445 pages, but since I did finish this book in a day, and because it IS one of my favourite books, it's going on this list! 

The Selection by Kiera Cass

If you're looking to read something a little different, and you're maybe in the mood to swoooon a little, this book is calling your name! The Selection is about a competition in which thirty-five girls get selected to compete for the heart of Prince Maxon and escape their lives. If you've ever watched The Bachelor (I have to admit, I do love trash TV sometimes), then the process will be familiar to you. This book is really enjoyable and totally readable in 1-2 days! Also, look at that cover! It's pretty Cinderellaesque and you'll be bitching in your head at all the nasty characters, so it's a really satisfying read! Click here for a review of The Selection


The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

By now you've probably watched THG movies or read the books already. Not to worry. Even if you've read the book before, or watched the movie (or both), re-reading this book will probably still be an enjoyable experience for you. There's something about The Hunger Games that keeps many people coming back, and I think that has a lot to do with our world today - TV is getting more and more ridiculous, political correctness and the attempts to stop free speech is getting out of hand, and it is up to us to wear our Mockingjay pin and shout that something is wrong, even when the Capitol mocks us. The fast-paced nature of this book and the familiar story = fast read. 


Harry Potter (Books 1-3) by J. K. Rowling

Of course, I had to include Harry Potter in this list. Books 1-3 were the first books I EVER read in a day. I remember going to the bookshop SUPER EARLY in the morning to pick up the recent copy of HP on its release day. It's only 223 pages too. If you STILL haven't picked up a HP book, or at least watched the movies (and I know there are people out there), now's a better time than any! Even if you feel like you missed the bandwagon years ago, or you've watched the movies and feel you don't need to read the books, I would still definitely read them because you're missing out on such a huge magical adventure. Pick up a copy and I'm sure you'll be flying through it in no time!



07/02/2017

Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare

Clockwork Angel (The Infernal Devices #1) by Cassandra Clare
Publication date: August 2010
Publisher: Simon &
Schuster
Format: Audiobook via Audible
Buy it here: Amazon, The Book Depository

Goodreads Description


In a time when Shadowhunters are barely winning the fight against the forces of darkness, one battle will change the course of history forever. Welcome to the Infernal Devices trilogy, a stunning and dangerous prequel to the New York Times bestselling Mortal Instruments series.

The year is 1878. Tessa Gray descends into London’s dark supernatural underworld in search of her missing brother. She soon discovers that her only allies are the demon-slaying Shadowhunters—including Will and Jem, the mysterious boys she is attracted to. Soon they find themselves up against the Pandemonium Club, a secret organization of vampires, demons, warlocks, and humans. Equipped with a magical army of unstoppable clockwork creatures, the Club is out to rule the British Empire, and only Tessa and her allies can stop them...


This book was outstanding. And I don't say that lightly, EVER.

This book reads from Tessa's point-of-view. She is an American girl from New York, who has come to London, England (my home town, whoop!) in search of her brother Nathaniel. She comes into contact with Shadowhunters (they like, hunt demons and such) and descends into a dark and alluring world. She learns surprising things about herself while attempting to solve a mystery with her new friends. 

I never thought I would pick up another book by Cassandra Clare after I read the first book of her most popular Shadowhunter series The Mortal Instruments. I hated that book because it felt so boring and unoriginal, and I hated the characters and it was all just a bit SLOW. However, I was persuaded to give The Infernal Devices a chance when I read through the glowing reviews on Goodreads. Who does this Will Herondale think he is? He seems so appalling and mean! - I thought. Why on Earth do these readers think so highly of him? How can this book be so different? I mean, it'll still feature the same old Shadowhunters and runes and demons and vampires and everything I hated in the The Mortal Instruments... But actually... actually... it feels entirely different and way more magical. 

This book, Clockwork Angel, changed everything for me. It was so different to The Mortal Instruments, even though it is based in the same world, it's set in the Victorian Era which made it extra charming. And now I feel like an idiot for being so far behind in this fandom. I'm making up for it now though, because as I write this I'm now on the third, yes the THIRD and LAST book already. And now I feel a bit pathetic because I might actually once again have to pick up the first book I hated, City of Bones, to carry on with the Shadowhunter world and experience Cassandra Clare's creation to the fullest, though it'll be without Will, Jem and the others *unhappy face*. 

Fantastic read.  


06/01/2017

The Call by Peadar O'Guilin

The Call by Peadar O'Guilin
Publication date: September 2016
Publisher: David Fickling Books
Format: Hardback
Buy it here: Amazon, The Book Depository

Goodreads Description

3 minutes and 4 seconds. The length of time every teenager is 'Called', from the moment they vanish to the moment they reappear. 9 out of 10 children return dead. Even the survivors are changed. The nation must survive. Nessa, Megan and Anto are at a training school - to give them some chance to fight back. Their enemy is brutal and unforgiving. But Nessa is determined to come back alive. Determined to prove that her polio-twisted legs won't get her killed. But her enemies don't just live in the Grey Land. There are people closer to home who will go to any length to see her, and the nation, fail...

Imagine a country that has been isolated away from the world; no one can get in, and no one can get out. Imagine teenagers and children disappearing into thin air, leaving only their clothes behind, then returning 3 minutes later (which is a whole 24 hours for them) - mangled, stretched, decapitated and tortured - because the fairies want to punish Ireland for taking their country and banishing them to the Grey Land. They want Ireland back, and now they're going to torture and kill 9 out of 10 children, one by one. No child/teen knows when their time is up, and so they have to train all of their lives in hope of surviving their 24hrs/3 minutes in the Grey Land to have any hope of becoming an adult.

Yeah, this book is pretty dark and fucked-up. But in a good way. 

When I first looked at the book's description, I was intrigued. I had never read anything quite like this before. I've heard this book being compared to The Hunger Games a few times, and although the similarities are there, this book is way darker and A LOT more violent. The Irish mythology element was also intriguing because I never knew much about these fascinating creatures before, but I'm so happy to say that this book has ignited in me a new love for these Irish stories. In the past my primary impressions about fairies came from the Peter Pan movies and the books written by Julie Kagawa, among others. It was an interesting and terrifying experience reading a book casting fairies in such a psychopathic, murderous light. O'Guilin's characters are so, incredibly bloodthirsty, and I'm not just talking about the Fae. Humans are also portrayed in a dark light - though the Fae are awful creatures, I couldn't help but feel slightly sorry for them for being banished from their land.

‘Listen,’ he says, ‘we don’t need the Sidhe to teach us evil. We were the ones who put them in the Grey Land, remember? And not just for a day or however long it is the Call lasts. We Irish… we trapped an entire race of people in hell for all eternity, just so we could take their homes for ourselves.’

The only gripe I had with this book was the ending because it felt very anticlimactic and abrupt after being so fast-paced. However, O'Guilin has hinted at a possible sequel! If this is written, all will be forgiven ;)

This book is perfect for people who love shortish fast-paced books, combined with mythology and a little (okay, A LOT) of gore and horror. If you're usually not into gore though, don't let that put you off. O'Guilin's imagination is dark and fascinating, so this element of the book is well-done - I say this as a person who is squeamish at even the mildest of horror movies!

Everyone should read this book :) 


P.S. I couldn't write mini character reviews this time because of spoilers.
01/12/2016

The Reality Dysfunction by Peter F. Hamilton

The Reality Dysfunction (Night's Dawn #1) by Peter F. Hamilton
Publication date: January 26th 1996
Publisher: Pan Books
Format: Paperback
Buy it here: Amazon, The Book Depository

Goodreads Description

In AD 2600 the human race is finally beginning to realize its full potential. Hundreds of colonized planets scattered across the galaxy host a multitude of prosperous and wildly diverse cultures. Genetic engineering has pushed evolution far beyond nature's boundaries, defeating disease and producing extraordinary spaceborn creatures. Huge fleets of sentient trader starships thrive on the wealth created by the industrialization of entire star systems. And throughout inhabited space the Confederation Navy keeps the peace. A true golden age is within our grasp.

But now something has gone catastrophically wrong. On a primitive colony planet a renegade criminal's chance encounter with an utterly alien entity unleashes the most primal of all our fears. An extinct race which inhabited the galaxy aeons ago called it "The Reality Dysfunction." It is the nightmare which has prowled beside us since the beginning of history.

Wow, where do I begin with this book? 

First thing I will mention is that this book is 1200 pages and loaded with sci-fi jargon, so it's not for everybody. However, if you can endure the initial 100 or so pages where the story begins to progress, it’ll be well worth your time. And what a story it is! The word ‘epic’ is bandied around all too often these days, but honestly… I can’t think of a better way to describe it. Peter F. Hamilton has managed to create a vast universe with a rich history and an intricate political structure across a variety of worlds and cultures. However, Hamilton chooses not to elaborate on things like the mercantile Kulu empire and the militaristic commonwealth. This would usually be inexcusable in a novel this size, but they ARE covered in Hamilton’s other commonwealth novels in more detail, which (admittedly) I’ve yet to read...

The story starts off slow, as the first few hundred pages focuses on the sentient ‘bitek’ (a sentient organic matter, relied on by genetically engineered Edenists to create spaceships and planets), outpost Tranquility and the commonwealth planet Lalonde with its population of exiled convict labourers and wide-eyed colonists, of which the main pool of characters are drawn from (trust me, there are a lot of them). In fact, it’s worth mentioning that the action flits between protagonists fairly regularly, which can be quite disorientating in the few high-action moments.


I definitely wouldn’t describe this as an action-packed novel - and it does suffer from fairly frequent pacing issues, and I admit, this would be an issue for me if the setting and subplots were not so thoroughly engaging. For example, during the inevitable convict uprising on the Colony planet Lalonde, we are treated to the exploits of the archetypal young manrogue Joshua Calvert, who treats us to the *ahem* racier moments and some pretty cool settings throughout his quest (such as Atlantis, which as its name suggests, is almost entirely covered by ocean, as well as Norfolk which could briefly be described as Downton Abbey in Space) to become… well I’m not sure at this moment in time.

Now back to the storyline… I’m anxious not to give too much away, but to sum it up briefly: 

Thousands of years ago, an ancient advanced alien society suddenly suffered an instantaneous mass extinction thousands of years ago and scientists are on the verge of a breakthrough in the modern day whilst simultaneously things are getting weird on the colony planets like demonic possessions and mass murder - you know the usual. It is these moments that drive most of the action and are suitably disturbing and seem designed to make the reader question the nature of death (no spoilers), which it does to great effect. The themes of religion and human evolution are also prevalent throughout the story, with mistrust between the Adamists (humans) and the Edenists (genetically engineered humans who can telepathically communicate with Bitek), as well as the exploration of baser human nature and the limitations of science, - which are at this point pretty standard fare for sci-fi novels, but are at times handled clumsily and sometimes feels like Hamilton has shoehorned them in to lend intelligence to the novel.

Another problem is the reliance on jargon: there is a hell of a lot of it and it can often be difficult to remember the difference between a Voidhawk and a Blackhawk, as is the occasional (but thankfully brief) bombardment of high science, although it becomes more than manageable in the end and actually enriches the universe even more.


Now, as you can probably tell, I’ve been intentionally vague regarding the plot and that is because I am incredibly reluctant to give any of the wider plot details away, as despite the pacing issues, the story is still masterfully crafted. However, as I have mentioned before, this is not a light read. If you can make the commitment to suffer through the initially confusing technojargon, you will find there is a lot to love. The sheer amount of characters consequently means that some never feel as fleshed out as they could be and the story is prone to meandering. Also, do not expect the loose ends to be tied (I forgot to mention this is part of a trilogy, oh yes there’s another 2400 pages in this series) by the end, but it is one hell of a journey that rarely feels like a chore, thanks to the rich setting and captivating story. It manages to create a sense of mystery, tension and a scale which many less-talented writers could reasonably pull off though.

Is this book for everybody? No, definitely not. Is it for you? Well… if you love a good space opera with rich story arcs and a beautifully realised setting, intertwined with a healthy amount of existential horror, then I couldn’t recommend it enough!

If you are undecided, then there’s only one way to find out: take the plunge. I’m sure you won’t regret it.