Review: Hyperion By Dan Simmons


THE PILGRIMS PROGRESS

Seven strangers embark on a once in a lifetime mission, each with a strange tale to tell.

 
Book CoverHyperion
(Hyperion Cantos, Book 1)

Dan Simmons

Genre: Science Fiction
Publisher: Gollancz
Format: Paperback, 496 Pages
Date: 12th May 2011 (First Published 1989)

ISBN-10: 0575099437
ISBN-13: 978-0575099432

 
Purchase From: Amazon | Book Depository
 

It’s difficult deciding how best to describe Dan Simmons’ Hugo Award winning novel, Hyperion. Though it is a full-length novel it is structurally more like a collection of short stories loosely connected by an overarching conceit; a narrative choice acknowledged to have been directly inspired by Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales. Also, though Hyperion is a book that is ostensibly science fiction, stripping away the copious amounts of technobabble leaves a story that reads very much like a work of literary fiction. This is perhaps not surprising given the author’s known fondness for classical literature, which is very much in evidence throughout Simmons’ narrative.

In spite of the numerous classical literary influences that can be found littered all the way through the book, Hyperion should in no way be construed as being inherently derivative. It is unquestionably an original, unique work of fiction; it’s hard to think of another novel quite like it. And leaving aside Simmons’ literary pretensions (or perhaps snobbery) it is obvious that he put a great deal of creative effort into the science fiction aspect of the backdrop for the novel. The detail in which he writes about the technology, history and culture of his futuristic setting is instrumental in conveying just how well constructed and deeply thought out it all is. Which is all the more impressive given that not all of these elements are necessarily vital to the plot, which could work just as well without them.

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Review: The Wise Man’s Fear By Patrick Rothfuss


A MYTH IN THE MAKING

There are three things all wise readers should fear: unwarranted hype, meandering narrative and directionless plot.

 

Book CoverThe Wise Man’s Fear
(The Kingkiller Chronicle, Book 2)

Patrick Rothfuss

Genre: High Fantasy
Publisher: Gollancz
Format: Paperback, 994 Pages
Date: 6th March 2012 (First Published 2011)

ISBN-10: 0575081430
ISBN-13: 978-0575081437

 
Purchase From: Amazon | Book Depository
 

For bookworms who have previously read Patrick Rothfuss’ epic fantasy novel, The Name Of The Wind, this review could tell you everything you need to know about the second instalment of The Kingkiller Chronicle by simply stating: this sequel offers more of the same, only hundreds of extra pages more of it; and the review could end there. Whether or not that is a good thing will depend entirely on how much any given reader enjoyed the first book. If The Name Of The Wind’s six hundred plus pages was a chore to read, then you can be sure that the nine hundred plus pages of The Wise Man’s Fear will require greater patience, still.

Assuming that the precocious protagonist’s meandering narration of his life story had you engrossed while reading the first book, you’ll be pleased to know this follow up pretty much resumes where its predecessor left off, and continues in the same vein. Rothfuss keeps Kvothe within the confines of his Inn, with his fae student Bast, and Devan the Chronicler for company, where he continues to recount his life story. As with the previous novel, Kvothe’s first person narration is intermittently broken up by the interludes of a third person narrator whom Rothfuss uses to keep readers abreast of events in and around the Inn.

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Review: Eye In The Sky By Philip K. Dick


WELCOME TO THE (NOT SO) REAL WORLD

Eight accident victims awake to find themselves trapped in a bizarre alternate reality… Or do they?

 

Book CoverEye In The Sky

Philip K. Dick
 

Genre: Science Fiction
Publisher: Gollancz
Format: Paperback, 256 Pages
Date: 9th December 2010 (First Published 1957)

ISBN-10: 0575098996
ISBN-13: 978-0575098992

 
Purchase From: Amazon | Book Depository
 

Philip K. Dick was not a writer generally known for his humour, therefore it is unsurprising that his stories aren’t particularly noted for their comedy value. Yet, his 1957 novel, Eye In The Sky, is undoubtedly a hysterically funny book whether or not he intended for it to be comedic in tone. A story by which he uses his trademark motif of distorted reality to take a satirical swipe at the Cold War paranoia of McCarthyism that had gripped the US during the Fifties when the book was written. The end result mocking the absurdity of persecuting people for what they may or not secretly think, based on random, innocuous criteria which effectively means that anyone can come under suspicion.

The narrative concocted by PKD actually has a few more layers than a cursory synopsis might convey. While being a denouncement of the witch-hunts of the era, the book does also posit that the beliefs that people hold can and do shape how they view the world around them. And the author takes this conceit and uses it in the literal sense within the story, with laugh out loud hilarity ensuing, as he torments his characters with manifestations of how the world is perceived in the minds of other people.

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Review: The Name Of The Wind By Patrick Rothfuss


YOU MAY HAVE HEARD OF ME

The coming of age tale of a self made folk hero, recounting the story that turned him into a legend.

 

Book CoverThe Name Of The Wind
(The Kingkiller Chronicle, Book 1)

Patrick Rothfuss

Genre: High Fantasy
Publisher: Gollancz
Format: Paperback, 672 Pages
Date: 12th June 2008 (First Published 2007)

ISBN-10: 0575081406
ISBN-13: 978-0575081406

 
Purchase From: Amazon | Book Depository
 

There are two ways in which one can approach reading a book that has received such overwhelming praise from critics and readers alike. The first option is to believe the hype; have faith that the book in question is an unparalleled work of literary genius that your life will remain incomplete if you never take the time to read it. Alternatively, the second option is to keep expectations in check; after all, very few books that generate excessively positive feedback are capable of meeting expectations.

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Review: Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep? By Philip K. Dick


ANDYS ARE PEOPLE TOO…RIGHT?

Attention Rick Deckard, I find your lack of empathy disturbing.

 

Book CoverDo Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?

Philip K. Dick
 

Genre: Science Fiction
Publisher: Gollancz
Format: Paperback, 208 Pages
Date: 29th March 2010 (First Published 1968)

ISBN-10: 0575094184
ISBN-13: 978-0575094185

 
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If you have seen the film Blade Runner you may think that you know what the book it is based upon, Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep? is all about. But you would be only partially correct in that assumption, as the film is a rather loose adaptation of the source material, focussing primarily on one aspect of the story while downplaying or completely ignoring much of the rest of the book’s ideas and themes. Anyone who reads the novel after having seen the movie first should not be surprised to discover that there are more differences than similarities; so don’t expect to stumble upon the terms Replicant or Blade Runner in the text, for example.

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Review: Double Star By Robert A. Heinlein


GET YOUR ASS TO MARS!!!

In a career defining role, a down on his luck actor finds himself while impersonating someone else.

 

Book CoverDouble Star

Robert A. Heinlein
 

Genre: Science Fiction
Publisher: Gollancz
Format: Paperback, 224 Pages
Date: 12th September 2013 (First Published 1956)

ISBN-10: 057512203X
ISBN-13: 978-0575122031

 
Purchase From: Amazon | Book Depository
 

Anyone who reads a Robert A. Heinlein novel today will likely find it next to impossible not to come to the conclusion that his work hasn’t aged very well. But in many ways this sense of “out-datedness” is invariably tied, one way or another, to either the characterisation or the setting within which Heinlein tells his story rather than the narrative itself. This is very much the case with regard to his Hugo Award winning novel, Double Star.

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Review: Living Dead In Dallas By Charlaine Harris


SHE’S PRETTY. BUT IT’S HER MIND THEY WANT TO USE. HONEST!

Thwarting hate groups and solving murders is all in a couple of days work for accidental sleuth, Sookie Stackhouse.

 

Book CoverLiving Dead In Dallas
(The Southern Vampire Mysteries, Book 2)

Charlaine Harris

Genre: Paranormal, Urban Fantasy
Publisher: Gollancz
Format: Paperback, 288 Pages
Date: 20th October 2011 (First Published 2001)

ISBN-10: 0575117036
ISBN-13: 978-0575117037

 
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While a part of me would ideally love for every book I read to be an unforgettable, life defining masterpiece, I realise that this is not a realistic expectation. There are times when I simply have to let myself enjoy a book for what it is. Reading a Sookie Stackhouse novel by Charlaine Harris is always one of those occasions. Living Dead In Dallas, the second instalment of the Southern Vampire Mysteries, much like its predecessor, Dead Until Dark, is at best a disposable guilty pleasure. Much, if not all, of the enjoyment to be derived from it is the result of how eye-rollingly cringe-worthy, and hilariously funny the story is. Whether or not that is by design is hard to tell. But I’ll give the author the benefit of the doubt.

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Review: Dead Until Dark By Charlaine Harris


MAYBE HAVING A VAMPIRE FOR A BOYFRIEND ISN’T SUCH A BRIGHT IDEA…

Thus begins the much beloved Southern Vampire Mysteries series, the brainchild of Charlaine Harris.

 

Book CoverDead Until Dark
(The Southern Vampire Mysteries, Book 1)

Charlaine Harris

Genre: Paranormal, Urban Fantasy
Publisher: Gollancz
Format: Paperback, 336 Pages
Date: 20th October 2011 (First Published 2001)

ISBN-10: 0575117028
ISBN-13: 978-0575117020

 
Purchase From: Amazon | Book Depository
 

Last summer saw the release of Charlaine Harris’ Dead Ever After, the final instalment of The Southern Vampire Mysteries, which lead to much acrimony and gnashing of teeth among a legion of shipper fangirls. Now that the controversy has settled down, what better time to look back at the novel that first introduced readers to Sookie Stackhouse and her world of vampires, and their Fang Banger groupies.

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Review: Romanitas By Sophia McDougall


THIS IS THE ROMAN EMPIRE. NOW.

Romanitas, a début novel with an alternate history premise that promises more than it delivers.

 

Book CoverRomanitas
(Romanitas Trilogy, Book 1)

Sophia McDougall

Genre: Alternate History, Fantasy, Young Adult
Publisher: Gollancz
Format: Paperback, 608 Pages
Date: 24th February 2011 (First Published 2005)

ISBN-10: 0575096926
ISBN-13: 978-0575096929

 
Purchase From: Amazon | Book Depository
 

It is almost a certainty that anyone who picked up this title did so because of its central premise; the Roman Empire never declined and fell, instead it endured, encompassing two thirds of the world, and continues into the 21st century… Now! Such a simple, yet intriguing premise inevitably creates a high level of expectation in a reader due to the endless story possibilities; expectations that Sophia McDougall as a first time author had almost no chance of meeting with her début novel.

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