Category Archives: Books

Redshirts by John Scalzi – Review (Mild spoilers)

Redshirts – “A character in a science fiction or adventure story whose sole dramatic purpose is to get killed by the story’s villain and/or intinerant monster. ” – Urban Dictionary 

I just want to preface this review, by saying I am really getting frustrated with myself; the lack of content I am putting on this blog and just the lack of writing I have been doing in general. Hell it has been quite a long time since there has been regular content on here. I know I keep saying it in every new post I do, but I do want to post more… but I am not. So with this post please expect it to be a little rusty on the language front, also don’t expect it to be that long of a review. I am just trying to get back into the swing of things.

Redshirts is the latest book by Sci-fi novelist extraordinaire, John Scalzi. The book is not out in the UK yet, after hearing the news it was to be delayed here,  I had believed I would be able to patiently wait for the book to come out in my corner of the world….. I couldn’t. So I ended up playing more money to get it shipped over. As soon as the book came, I guilty rushed the book I was reading at the time, while enviously looking up to Redshirts – waiting to be able pick it up. Last Saturday, it came the day when I finally allowed myself to crack open the cover (I didn’t allow myself that as I read my other book). The first pleasant surprise came in the dedication section; where Brad Wright and Joseph Mallozzi were thanked for taking Scalzi to the stars. If you are not a stargate fan, this probably would mean fuck all to you. However I had a little nerdgasm, the type only one can get when two of their favourite sci-fi elements (is that the right word?) are combined, even for the shortest amount of time.

The cover, simplistic, obvious and a little bit boring

Into the book I didn’t have to wait long for a second nerdgasm, with a prologue which was infused with elements from one my favourite sci-fi books. Already from the book title, and the prologue there was the forming of a very interesting and odd story. As soon as got into the main meat of  the book , it moved at a very brisk pace, with Scalzi lead character full of the same smarts, and a little bit of snark that you see from of all his leads. The book unlike some sci-fi out there is pretty much accessibly to anyone. (as long as you can read English- that is a requirement (until it comes out in a language that you can read, then you’re fine) (obviously if can’t read English you won’t be reading this blog, so all this was kind of pointless.)) Scalzi writes a prose which is easy to read, and makes sure the book moves at a lively speed throughout.

The once the main of idea of the book is revealed, you see it is something that has been done a number of times before, and none of these times did I think it was good or well done.  So it is a real credit to Scalzi writing that he has managed to create a great novel from this premise. The book it self take a massive turn toward the end, not in terms of the story, but in the format – I shan’t say more, but I really enjoyed what he did with it. I managed to devour the book in one night (not something I usually do) and it wasn’t the story that kept me turning the pages. It was the classic Scalzi humour and dialogue that is prevalent throughout; this let me drive through the book in ways few books can.

In its self the book was great little read, but I couldn’t help but be left feeling a little cold toward the story – something that has not happened to me in a any of his previous books. I think I will give the 7.5 out of 10. Pretty arbitrary number I suppose but it feels about right. This book hasn’t dampened my appreciation for Scalzi and the fact I think it is worst of his books so far, make me even more excited for whatever he writes next.

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A 2011 interview with me

Since I know no one interesting or famous enough (not that they would agree to do one either) to warrant an interview. So like the arrogant fucker I am, I thought i’d put my 2011 memories in the form of an interview.

1) Best place you visited?
In between my large period of being a hermit writer, I have managed to see some very nice places, I went to London twice. I saw Wembley stadium for the second time but this time with my team leeds rhinos playing. But the best place has to be when I spent the week in Rome, a place I have always wanted to visit. We spent a exhausting 5 days making sure we saw all the sites.

See more of my photos of Rome from my 5 days there here (https://joelhopkins.wordpress.com/extras-rome-photos/)

2. Best book you read?
According my goodsreads account, I read 25 new book last year (plus 2 re reads of books). Not a huge amount, but I managed to fit in a number very good books in there. I managed to finally read all 3 of the Lord of the rings books. The new John Scalzi novel Fuzzy Nation was a great book, I read the 4th dune book. Other book I really enjoyed was flashfoward and the forever series of books.  I read number of other sci-fi, post apocalyptic, fantasy and the odd thriller book in the year. But my favourite would probably have to be Neil Gaiman American Gods, different to anything else I read this year and it is partly the inspiration for the story (more credit should be given to lord of light however) I am currently writing.

3. Best film?
For me it has been a pretty poor year for films, and I would have really struggled coming up with my best film year before last week. I ordered Rise of the planet of apes on sky box office. I really enjoyed the prequel/remake, perhaps I have seen a better a film, but I really can’t think of any off the top of my head.

4. Best TV show?
There has been a few contender’s for this, starting with the last ever episodes of Stargate Universe and in turn the Stargate franchise. However, that is tinged with so much sadness I can’t put it as my best TV show of last year. Walking Dead season 2 (part 1) also aired which carried on from an excellent first series. There was Game of thrones which pretty amazing and the Borgias which I enjoyed as well. The show I enjoyed the most would be the first series of Sherlock, the second series just recently started and it reminded me just how good the show is, and how great those first episode were.

5. Best Game?
Mass effects 2 (see http://wp.me/psL0a-jo)

6. Best Album?
Another thing that I really haven’t kept up with all that much. I got the new Foo Fighters album, along with the long awaited (for me) new Kaiser Chiefs album which I thought was great. However, I found a new group that I really like The Dresden Dolls, and while none of their albums were released this year. I found all their albums were available on the website, for a pay-what-you-like price. So I manage to get 3 albums and a live album for a cheekily cheap sum. The songs have been played over and over again on my I pod and computer so one of their album would probably be the best.

7. Best Moment?
Without a doubt seeing Leeds Rhinos win their 5th grand final in 8 years, from the fifth position.Which was the lowest ever position for a team to win it from, they shocked almost everyone (including me) by winning it, and showed the world that they are true team of champions. I have been lucky enough to see all 5 of those grand finals they won, in them I have seen some magnificent tries. But the two tries that Rob Burrow scored and made were pretty amazing, and will stick in my memory for a long time to come, like the Scot Donald try in 2007.

Best moment

8. Best Gig?
I’ve seen a few good bands this year, Hurts in February was amazing and so was seeing Muse for the second time at Leeds Festival. Though the best gig I went to was seeing Arcade fire for the second time too. They are a interesting band to watch, because they are so many of them. Your eyes move all around, not being sure what to look at next. I give credit to my sister for getting me into them, they have a unique style. And they put on great show.

9. Most important thing that happen you in 2011?
I guess having an almost full time job, while it was only for a little over 6 months, it was an interesting experience living life of almost full time working. It was not my ideal job, and not at all stimulating, but then again I did say I got the experience of a full time job, so what did I expect? Hopefully, a new job will rear its head soon in 2012.

10. What are you looking forward to most in 2012?
Quite a few things, there might be a holiday to American in the making which would be very, very good. I will be going to Italy to see my sister, who is now living there for next 6 months. But most of all I look forward to reading plenty more books, playing more games and getting a lot more writing done this year, a lot more than I did last year. Oh and the new Keane album and tour!

Done.

I, Partridge We need to talk about Alan – Review

“Whereas i was flying my first sorties into a sexual territory, Carol had been hymen-free for the best part of six years” – Alan

The above is a typical encounter with Alan’s new book. Alan has had a difficult life, which has been filled with the highs and lows which are truly of epic proportions. If any story is deserving of a book then this is it! Alan already had one attempt at selling his story, with his first book Bouncing back, sadly it was  panned (or was refused to be reviewed) and the remaining unsold copies were pulped.

“My eyes filled with a burning white light and Abba drenched my brain. ‘Ahaaaaa!!!!’ I boomed” – Alan

The book tells the whole story of his life, from his humble beginning, to the height of his own BBC 2 chat show. Of course things did not stay golden for Norfolk’s joint second favorite son. Alan shoot one of his guest on stage (who dies),  and so his life soon spirals uncontrollably down from there. He is of course famously know for being a recovering chocolate addict. He goes in to detail on all these subjects in the book. My personal favorite account is of when he had a nice meal in Jail, after killed his shows guest, riveting stuff!

“I’ve been blessed with a superb personality, it translated into shit-hot radio” – Alan 

Of course I know Alan is a fictional character, a smarmy, slimy but funny character. The book is a fictional memoire of Steve Coogan’s popular fictional character. I thoroughly enjoyed the book, it rare i read a biography (never mind a fictional one) so it was a departure from my normal books. The book takes what happend in the tv/radio shows and covers all aspects of Alan’s fictional life, but it is of course always from his point of view. He sees himself as always the victim and  thinks he always right (a bit like me). It is what you expect from the book, funny, awkward in places, and full of Partridgeisums. The book give me hope that we might see more of my favorite Coogan character, perhaps a movie, “Alan in Hollywood”. The only real negative that i can place on the book, is that 300 pages of Partridge can be a little, too much.

Anyway i really enjoyed the book and hope there is more of Partridge.

8/10

Put me in a book store….

I simply don’t pay for books, of all the book’s i have ever read only a handful of books that i actually owned. A library is pretty amazing place, it’s one of the only place where you can get stuff you want for free*, with the online service it is very easy to get most books you want. Now that borders have closed there are very few large book stores around, so when i was in London yesterday and i was confronted with Europe largest book store, i made the choice to buy a few books from the Sci-Fi and fantasy section.

The collection i bought,

I know 6 books is not a massive amount; but i had to lug this collection all about London and some of the books happens to be quite chunky, with one books being 3 books in one. Many of the books are part of a series i’m already quite familial with;

  • Two lord of the rings books are there as i mentioned in my previous blog, i had read the first book and i was planing to read the next two.
  • Heretics of Dune i have read the previous 4 books in the dune series, which i believe is best Sci-fi  series out their. And i’m looking forward to reading this book.
  • The forever omnibus, i have read forever war but this book cotains the original (i got it from a library) and the two other books in the series, which i have been planing to read for a while.

The other two American Gods, and Seeds of the earth are both books i have heard of, seen some good reviews of and they have been recommended to me. On the train home i read the first 70 odd pages of American Gods and so far it is VERY good.

*For a limited time

Fellowship of the ring….

As a avid book reader, it has surprised even me that it has as taken me this long to read any of the lord of the rings, which happens to be my favorite movie trilogy. So i got the book out of my local library (which will probably end up being closed soon) to have a little gander at the book. I have now read the first volume (well it was actually last week; but never mind) and i can kinda see what all the fuss was about now.

Having watched the movies many a times, it was nice to see parts of the book, that never actually made it in the film. I enjoyed these little bits the most, and i was surprised how much of this very large book did in fact make it in to the film. There was one big surprise in the book for me, which was the age of main character; i assumed wrongly that he would be same age as in the film, but in fact he is much older and there was a longer time lap’s at the start of the book. I’m not going to lie and i say it’s the best book i have ever read, maybe not knowing the plot before hand could have made the difference, but the fact is i have read better books. I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the trilogy as it is still a great book,  it is probably a little unfair of me to give an my impression of a book that is clearly meant to be read in all 3 parts. So once i own the next 2 volumes, i shall read them and i will give some more detailed views on the series as a whole.

I’m off to London tomorrow, so if all is well with the riots, i may visit a book store and buy the trilogy. Also off to see Shrek the musical; i’m so cultured you see.

Killing Hour by Andrew Gross – A short review

The Killing Hour is by Andrew Gross, Gross is an author that i have never read before but heard of because of work with James Patterson. I do read the odd thriller (Greg Hurwitz, Linwood Barclay being among my favorite’s) but it’s been a while since i’v venture to this genre. This book was a good middle  ground for me, the last two book i read were, the god emperor of mankind and book that take’s all of my little brain power, and the world of Karl Picklington, which took a little less.
If you don’t wan’t to know any of the story then don’t look at the next Paragraph.

It’s the story of a Dr. Jay Handler’s who lives a perfect life. But as in most books, the development happens, his bi polar nephew commits suicide. The Dr goes help out his step brother who is also Bi polar. It look’s a pretty open and shut case. The main problem is clear lack of care shown for his Nephew who was in care. Dr. Handler stays to try and get’s some answer for his family. Things soon take a sinister tone though, information that his nephew was in contact with a police officer who turns up dead; murdered. A 60’s and 70’s cult that had used sex and music to control the followers and were made famous for a number of bloody murdered, are soon linked to his death. Thus the Dr set’s about to solve his nephew death, the police don’t believe him, and only a old ex-alcoholic who had enough of his own horror in his own life, looks a little deeper for the poor (in both senses) of the child.

Unlike lot’s of thrillers that i have read, the emotion felt very real. And i was not surprised to read the afterward and find out a little more about the back story of the writing of the book. It’s a Cliche but this book was a real page turner. It can take me a month to read a book sometime’s granted the more wordy ones. It took me 3 days to read that, which is great for me. The story was enthralling, and it took me all of 20 pages for me to get invested in the book. The style of the book is very a like to James Patterson, short snappy chapter, not all that much description but very good dialogue. It’s a top book, a great read. And since my mum has a few other of Gross’s book laying around, i’m sure i will reading some more of his very soon.

8 out of 10

Other news of note
Leeds beat Crusaders in the challenge cup, though at the cost of three players getting injuries. We also got Harlequin’s at home, which all things considers in pretty good.

PSN is still down…………*sigh* pretty annoying; i should really get to checking my bank account.

I need another job

The Other lands – Acacia trilogy (book 2) A Review

I’m just sat here listening to music, browsing the internet looking at complete crap and then something made me think of my blog; that i have been ignoring the poor thing. It’s just sat here. I had no plans for a new blog, i was shocked at the realisation. I have been away playing a new game (mass effects 2 (on ps3)) , also getting prepared for a new job that starts soon. I go to look at my favourites to find the next page I should view when I see my blog. I know it has not been an age since my last update, but i normal had a plan for the next blog; however lose the plan. Anyway i sat bored, ass starting to go numb thinking of something to write here. I looked down to a pile of books that was scattered on a pouffe,Ii saw the brilliant cover art for the most the recently read book “the other lands” which is the middle part of Acacia trilogy, it is a epic fantasy book series. I say recently read, i mean it, I read the last 40 odd pages this morning. Hey presto a blog idea so crazy that it would make the man in the padded room squeam, A BOOK REVIEW.

So here it is my first book review on my blog!

The Other lands – Acacia trilogy (book 2) A Review

The other lands, is set I think around 9 years after the first book “War with the Mein”. It follows the three remaining Akaran children, now Queen Corinn, Prince Dariel and Princess Mena. All of the children (now adults) have their separate tales which all interlock with each other in to an epic story of a large force who hail from “the other lands”. I love maps of fictional worlds so when I first opened up the book I spent a good while looking at every location of the known world, and of the other lands. That done I look further in the book to find a very helpful “story so far” section, it had been more than a year since i read the first book; this give a refresher of the story and I’m sure would do the job for a new reader as well. I wish more books had them.

The first book was set in a world where magic had existed in the form of the giver tongue. But by the end of the first novel the now dead Akaran son Aliver brought back some magic to the world, which he used to defeat his enemy. He died though, very sad. The queen Corinn had now learned the givers tongue though. Magic (or whatever) is used lots more in this second book; it’s not used overkill though. The world is not filled with Gandalf’s. It makes the use of magic that much more powerful when she uses it. I don’t read all that much fantasy so not all that much magic is a good thing for me!

A good middle book of trilogy normally will set up the third book, which this did do. It did it too well. As that was more or less all it did it started a story that had no end I am sure it will start in the second book and then move in to the third, seamlessly. I would have liked a little more of a closed story in this book, like the first had. The story though was as epic as ever. Huge distances were traversed (In getting the other lands). The way David Anthony Durham built up the inhabitants of the other lands was great, using small mention in the first book and building such a large mystery around them . I was so happy when Dariel was told he would get the chance to travel to see them and their lands. The answers were all given in this book. I won’t spoil it but it’s a great dark story which  is sending shivers down my spine when thinking back on it. There is no innocents in this book; it’s not black and white, with the good side (the Akaran family) having a have a dark past, which involves giving child slaves to the other land for a drug, the drug that will make the people of the empire more subservient. While not the children (now adults) fault it created an interesting dilemma for the reader; when a rebellion pops up.

In many ways this book is better than the first; darker, not as many unanswered question, a sweet big bird/reptile and it carried on with great characters. I would have liked a little more action; I’m an 18 year old boy after all. The story is well paced; it’s not in a genre I would normally read either so it not being too hard core fantasy helped me a lot. The world is so believable too, a great mix of real life and made up things that make up this world.

The book built up slowly and an epic battle looks to be coming in the third book, which I am sure will amazing. But I can’t help but feel like the third book should have been added to end of the book though. What I mean by that is that when I finished the book it did not feel like I had just finished reading a book. Yeh I know there has to be a bit of a tease and be left open for the third one, while there was a big story twist in the last words of the book, it still just seem to end a little unnatural. That only my own opinion and you know by now that I don’t read much fantasy.

Guess i have to give it a score out of 10 or something along those lines.

SO i will give it a ………………………………………………… 8.8 very good, a must read, i would suggest after you read the 1st book of course.

Want more book reviews? tell me?!