26 February 2014

BOOK REVIEW: Hyperion (Hyperion Cantos #1) by Dan Simmons

Hyperion (Hyperion Cantos, #1)Hyperion by Dan Simmons
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

On the world called Hyperion, beyond the law of the Hegemony of Man, there waits the creature called the Shrike. There are those who worship it. There are those who fear it. And there are those who have vowed to destroy it. In the Valley of the Time Tombs, where huge, brooding structures move backward through time, the Shrike waits for them all. On the eve of Armageddon, with the entire galaxy at war, seven pilgrims set forth on a final voyage to Hyperion seeking the answers to the unsolved riddles of their lives. Each carries a desperate hope—and a terrible secret. And one may hold the fate of humanity in his hands. 

After having read this book, I can't believe that it took me years to get around to doing so. This is a very, very good book, superbly written with a captivating and intelligent story line. The way that the background story is built up by the telling of the various characters' testimonies is wonderful, and the book unfolds itself seamlessly even though the telling moves from different perspectives. I was surprised how abruptly it ended, however, and I obviously have to get the next book in the series to see how things progress. I've read some of the other reviews and there's not really a whole lot more that I could add to portray how good this book is. I really can't imagine a sci-fi reader who wouldn't enjoy this, anybody who enjoys a great story will. I hear that it may be leading to a movie, too. Done right it'll be a blockbuster. The only other thing I can say is: read it! I don't think you'll be disappointed.

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12 February 2014

BOOK REVIEW: Wings on My Sleeve by Eric Brown

Wings on My Sleeve (Phoenix Press)Wings on My Sleeve by Eric Brown
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Eric Brown went to Germany in 1939 on an exchange course, and his first experience of the war came when the Gestapo arrested him, not knowing he was an RAF pilot. The rest is history. He is the only man alive to have flown every major and most minor combat aircraft of the Second World War (as well as all the early jets), and has been interviewed by the top Nazis. While testing the Nazi jets in war-stricken Germany, he interviewed (among others) Hermann Goering and Hanna Reitsch. A living legend among aviation enthusiasts, his amazing life story deserves to be told in full?from crashing in front of Winston Churchill to unmasking a Neo-Nazi ring in the 1950s to his terrifying flights in primitive jets and rockets.

This guy has had a life that most can only dream of. Obviously of good breeding and from the right family, Eric Brown becomes a naval aviator during the early days of World War Two and after a brief combat career becomes a test pilot. He is absorbed into the fascinating and intense world of developing aircraft for use in the war and also evaluating captured enemy machines. Later, because of his earlier pre-war experiences in Germany, he becomes involved in the testing and evaluation of surrendered German aircraft including the jets and rocket powered examples that he is particularly interested in. He also has the opportunity to question prominent German aviation personalities like Goering and various scientists and designers to obtain useful information about wartime German aircraft developments.
Brown was obviously a supremely gifted flyer who could learn an aircraft very quickly and evaluate it to the edges of its envelope as few could. Okay, we're getting Brown's own appraisal of his work, but I've no reason to suspect that he may be overstating anything, and in actual fact comes across like quite a humble man for the most part. Even later as he becomes quite a high ranking member of the British Admiralty he continues to fly operationally with his people as much as he can, and to continue improve how things are done.
To sum up, this is an excellent memoir that tells us much about Brown's working career and the various trials and tribulations of that work. However, he manages to keep his personal life completely out of it apart from a few vague references to his wife and children. It would have been nice to get more of a glimpse into this side of his life, but possibly his life outside of work was hopelessly dull, or he didn't have one. Maybe, but he does appear to be a remarkable man. My only other complaint is that Brown seems to stick to a chronological telling of his story for most of the book whereas I think that categorized chapters may be a better way to tell the various stories. A good book that most people interested in aviation, aircraft and machines will enjoy.

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03 February 2014

BOOK REVIEW: The Martian War by Gabriel Mesta (Kevin J. Anderson)

The Martian WarThe Martian War by Gabriel Mesta (Kevin J. Anderson)
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What if the Martian invasion was not entirely the product of H.G. Wells's vivid imagination? What if Wells witnessed something that spurred him to write The War of the Worlds as a warning? 

From drafty London flats to the steamy Sahara, to the surface of the moon and beyond, The Martian War takes the reader on an exhilarating journey with Wells and his companions.

One word will sum up this book: FUN! I started reading it not really convinced that I'd finish it, but I was quickly absorbed into the story, which is an alternative account of the impending Martian invasion as depicted in H G Wells' famous work. We have a third-person account of Wells' own adventure and discovery of the Martians and what they are planning for Earth, an experience which ultimately leads him to write The War Of The Worlds as a warning to mankind. We're also treated to a first-person version of events from the journal of the infamous Dr. Moreau who has teamed up with astronomer and Mars enthusiast Percival Lowell in a quest to learn as much as they can from a lone Martian crash survivor. There are also appearances by familiar characters from some of Wells' other stories, all wrapped in a wonderful steampunk style with lots of technology and action. I particularly liked the insights that we get into the mind of Dr. Moreau through his journal entries, and also the way that the author blends actual historical people and places into the story. To end up giving this five stars I surprise myself, but it really is an enjoyable book. It's well written (as you'd expect from Kevin J Anderson) and the language used is fantastic, very well suited to the Victorian era in which the story is set. Another of those pleasant surprises that come along every now and then.

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Free eBook: THE BODY HUMAN by Nancy Kress

Phoenix Pick continues their free eBook promotion this month with The Body Human: Three Stories of Future Medicine by Nancy Kress!

Nancy Kress is famous for creating realistic near-future societies based on technological advances and then studying the impact those technological changes have on our society
This collection has three outstanding stories that deal with innovations in medical science and how they affect our lives.

Instructions and download links can be found on Phoenix Pick’s catalogue page.

The Coupon Code for the free eBook this month is 9991491 and is good between February 2 through February 28, 2014.

ALSO: Be sure to check out Phoenix Picks’ 2nd book bundle sale starting featuring titles from Kevin J. Anderson (a prequel to his famed Seven Saga series), Robert J. Sawyer, L. Neil Smith, Brad Torgersen, Kristine Rusch, Jan and Brian Herbert and Mike Resnick and the classic post-apocalyptic novel by Leigh Brackett, The Long Tomorrow. See details on the web page at www.BookBale.com