Review: The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz By L. Frank Baum


FOLLOW THE YELLOW BRICK ROAD

THE FITTINGLY WONDERFUL MODERN FAIRY TALE WITH BRAINS, HEART AND COURAGE THAT BECAME A TIMELESS CLASSIC

 

Book CoverThe Wonderful Wizard Of Oz
(The Oz Series, Book 1)

L. Frank Baum

Genre: Children’s Classic, Juvenile Fantasy
Publisher: Hesperus Press
Format: Paperback, 448 Pages
Date: 1st April 2013 (First Published 1900)

ISBN-10: 1843913909
ISBN-13: 978-1843913900

 
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In the introduction to his defining work, The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz, American children’s author, L. Frank Baum mentioned that his purpose in writing the story was to bring about a new kind of fairy tale for children to enjoy. He was of the view that the traditional fairy tales of old should essentially be confined to the dustbin of history; that it was no longer required for children’s stories to be cautionary tales with moral lessons to impart, as morality was now part of a modern education. His goal was to make his book a modernised fairy tale that retained the excitement and entertainment, but did away with all the moralising. Whether his opinion of traditional fairy tales has merit or not is for others to decide.

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Review: The Lies Of Locke Lamora By Scott Lynch


THEY SEEK HIM HERE, THEY SEEK HIM THERE

AN ELUSIVE CON ARTIST FINDS HIMSELF EMBROILED IN THE DEADLY SCHEME OF A FOE EVEN MORE ELUSIVE

 

Book CoverThe Lies Of Locke Lamora
(Gentleman Bastard Series, Book 1)

Scott Lynch

Genre: High Fantasy
Publisher: Gollancz
Format: Paperback, 544 Pages
Date: 1st February 2007 (First Published 2006)

ISBN-10: 0575079754
ISBN-13: 978-0575079755

 
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Warning! This book is liable to make your blood boil if (like this reviewer) you have a deep antipathy towards criminals and criminality. The “hero” of the story, and his associates, are not just criminals, they are the unrepentant variety who take great pleasure in their scumbaggery, and the misery they cause. If their victims were also criminals it would be less of an issue; however, as this is not the case, every misfortune that befalls these lowlifes will warm your heart, while, by the same token, any time they escape their just comeuppance will leave you bemoaning how unfair life is.

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Review: God’s War By Kameron Hurley


A NEW BREED OF (ANTI) HEROINE HAS ARRIVED

ASS-KICKING, HEAD CHOPPING WOMAN RE-WRITES THE CONVENTIONS OF A GENRE AS SHE UNDERTAKES A MISSION SHE CAN’T REFUSE

 

Book CoverGod’s War
(Bel Dame Apocrypha, Book 1)

Kameron Hurley

Genre: Science Fantasy
Publisher: Del Rey
Format: Paperback, 432 Pages
Date: 16th January 2014 (First Published 2010)

ISBN-10: 0091952786
ISBN-13: 978-0091952785

 
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Part science fiction, part urban fantasy, God’s War is a rather difficult novel to nail down, due in no small part to its inherent contradictions. For example, certain facets of the book are incredibly original and unique, yet the plot progresses in a very predictable manner; there is little, if anything, within the run-of-the-mill narrative that will take you by surprise. Also, several interesting characters are introduced throughout the story, yet interesting never translates into memorable; you’ll have a hard time remembering any names once you’ve finished reading the book. It is a novel that is rather good at setting up expectations, but not so good at meeting them.

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Review: Bitten By Kelley Armstrong


IT TOOK A SECOND TO CHANGE ELENA’S LIFE…

FEW READERS WILL ESCAPE THE SENSE OF DEJA VU. YES, YOU’VE READ THIS STORY NUMEROUS TIMES BEFORE

 

Book CoverBitten
(The Women Of The Otherworld, Book 1)

Kelley Armstrong

Genre: Urban Fantasy
Publisher: Orbit
Format: Paperback, 464 Pages
Date: 6th May 2010 (First Published 2001)

ISBN-10: 1841499188
ISBN-13: 978-1841499185

 
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When Kelley Armstrong’s debut novel, Bitten, was first published in 2001 the urban fantasy genre was still very much in its infancy, hence the book didn’t need to do much to stand out; Laurell K. Hamilton’s Anita Blake Vampire Hunter series was more or less the only high profile competition. As the market was not yet as saturated as it is today the tropes that readers now come to expect of the genre had not been established. One obvious benefit of this circumstance is that readers at the time would more than likely not have viewed the story as lacking in originality. Sixteen years later, however, anyone reading the book for the first won’t be able to escape the feeling they’ve read it all before.

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Review: Ancillary Sword By Ann Leckie


SOCIAL JUSTICE WILL COME TO THE EMPIRE

IF AT FIRST YOU DON’T SUCCEED… ABANDON YOUR REVENGE AND WORK FOR YOUR DISSOCIATIVE DISORDER AFFLICTED NEMESIS?

 

Book CoverAncillary Sword
(Imperial Radch, Book 2)

Ann Leckie

Genre: Science Fiction, Space Opera
Publisher: Orbit
Format: Paperback, 384 Pages
Date: 7th October 2014

ISBN-10: 0356502414
ISBN-13: 978-0356502410

 
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If you cast your mind back to 2013 you may not recall that Ann Leckie’s début novel, Ancillary Justice, was published with little in the way of fanfare or hype. Yet you’ll have no difficulty remembering that the book quickly garnered great critical acclaim, which translated into significant commercial success. The book went on to win both the Hugo Award and the Nebula Award for Best Novel, as well as the Arthur C. Clarke Award. These plaudits, in addition to the other awards and nominations, were well deserved because Ancillary Justice was a breath of fresh air. The space opera genre had for many years been a stale wasteland of tedious novels weighed down by their bloated, cliché-ridden narratives. But Leckie conspired to bring something more original and satisfying to the table than most of her contemporaries were producing.

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Review: The Invisible Man By H.G. Wells


THE ORIGINAL MAD SCIENTIST

FROM THE IMAGINATION OF SCI-FI’S GREATEST PIONEER, A TALE THAT’S NEITHER GROTESQUE NOR ROMANTIC, BUT STILL ESSENTIAL READING

 

Book CoverThe Invisible Man

H.G. Wells
 

Genre: Science Fiction
Publisher: Penguin Classics
Format: Paperback, 208 Pages
Date: 31st March 2005 (First Published 1897)

ISBN-10: 014143998X
ISBN-13: 978-0141439983

 
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I have previously made the case that H.G. Wells is the most influential science fiction author of all time, ahead of such luminaries as Verne, Clarke and Asimov. Despite his obvious limitations as a fiction writer, he was an exceptionally creative and original storyteller with an imagination unrivalled by his peers; many of his ideas were truly ahead of their time. While it may be difficult to categorically state which of his published stories should be considered his definitive work (as there are several candidates), his 1897 novella, The Invisible Man, is arguably his best known work. It has been a hugely influential book, spawning numerous adaptations in other mediums, and been a source of inspiration to countless other writers. Little wonder that over a century after its first publication the story continues to be reprinted to this day.

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Review: The Curse Of Chalion By Lois McMaster Bujold


A DARK CLOUD HANGS OVER THE HOUSE OF CHALION

A RELUCTANT HERO IS THRUST INTO THE ROLE OF SAVIOUR, TO PROTECT THE ROYAL HEIR TO THE THRONE FROM A SINISTER CURSE

 

Book CoverThe Curse Of Chalion
(World Of The Five Gods, Book 1)

Lois McMaster Bujold

Genre: High Fantasy
Publisher: HarperCollins
Format: Paperback, 448 Pages
Date: 11th April 2006 (First Published 2000)

ISBN-10: 0061134244
ISBN-13: 978-0061134241

 
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Lois McMaster Bujold is an author whose name is, perhaps, synonymous with science fiction. However, no reader could have any genuine concerns when a writer of her calibre chooses to step somewhat out of her comfort zone to write a high fantasy novel. Bujold is, after all, one of the most acclaimed and decorated genre authors ever, with four Hugo Awards for best novel to her name; equalling Robert Heinlein’s record. That being the case, it should come as no surprise to learn that The Curse Of Chalion is a splendid novel, coming as it does, from a writer with such a pedigree.

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Review: Prince Caspian By C.S. Lewis


THE TRIUMPHANT RETURN TO NARNIA

IN THE HOUR OF GREATEST NEED THE PEVENSIE SIBLINGS ARE CALLED BACK TO NARNIA TO SAVE THE DAY ONCE AGAIN

 
Book CoverPrince Caspian
(The Chronicles Of Narnia, Book 4)

C.S. Lewis

Genre: Children’s, Juvenile Fantasy
Publisher: HarperCollins
Format: Paperback, 224 Pages
Date: 1st February 2009 (First Published 1951)

ISBN-10: 0007323115
ISBN-13: 978-0007323111

 
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Let’s get the trivia out of the way first. Prince Caspian was the second book of The Chronicles Of Narnia to be published, in 1951, though the events narrated therein make it chronologically the fourth story of the series. So being, effectively, the direct sequel to The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe, the book marks the inevitable return to Narnia of the four Pevensie siblings; Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy. After all, once a king (or queen) in Narnia, always a king (or queen) in Narnia.

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Review: The Phantom Tollbooth By Norton Juster


MAKING LITERACY AND NUMERACY COOL FOR KIDS

THE STRANGE ADVENTURES OF A BORED SCHOOLBOY WITH TOO MUCH TIME ON HIS HANDS

 

Book CoverThe Phantom Tollbooth

Norton Juster
 

Genre: Children’s, Fantasy
Publisher: HarperCollins
Format: Paperback, 272 Pages
Date: 3rd March 2008 (First Published 1961)

ISBN-10: 0007263481
ISBN-13: 978-0007263486

 
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The Phantom Tollbooth is one of those children’s books that should be one of the defining reads of every bookworm’s childhood; much like The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe is. I certainly have fond memories of my first reading of it as a young schoolboy. But whereas C.S. Lewis’ classic is a very easy book to categorise and describe (being an age old tale of good triumphing over evil), Norton Juster’s story almost defies conventional categorisation. It is a story that is as unique as it is bizarre, making it all the more memorable. And as an added bonus, it’s hard to think of another book as likely The Phantom Tollbooth to spark an interest in literacy and numeracy in a young child.

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Review: Willful Child By Steven Erikson


BRAVELY GOING WHERE THEY REALLY SHOULDN’T

ERIKSON BOLDLY GOES WHERE HE HASN’T GONE BEFORE WITH THIS ILL-JUDGED PARODY THAT QUICKLY WEARS THIN

 

Book CoverWillful Child

Steven Erikson
 

Genre: Science Fiction, Parody
Publisher: Bantam Press
Format: Paperback, 352 Pages
Date: 27th August 2015 (First Published 2014)

ISBN-10: 0857502441
ISBN-13: 978-0857502445

 
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Steven Erikson is an author whose name is synonymous with the High Fantasy genre, having authored the Malazan Book Of The Fallen series. It was a surprise then, when he decide to dip his toe into science fiction with the publication of Willful Child; a parody novel that takes aim at Star Trek created by Gene Roddenberry. After reading the book, one can only hope that Erikson never again ventures outside of his comfort zone, for Willful Child is a spoof with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer. And when a novel of only 350 pages feels at least 250 pages too long something is seriously amiss.

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