This book was exactly for my taste. Fast paced with lot of adventures. Strong characters. Cool mass destruction weapon, which was destructed by the end, of course. I don't know why I haven't read Cussler novels before, but I definitely will.
I haven't read book 3 and 4 yet, so there was some spoilers for me, but I don't mind. This novella is a nice interlude between books, it reveals the story of Bjorn, who becomes one of the nano-guys. If you ever wondered what happened to the guys outside of the main story, now you have a chance to learn about one of them.
I was hooked on the Grey man novels right from the second one. I mean I have read On Target first, actually. Then, of course I went back to read the first one.
The figure of the Grey Man is compelling. When I was thinking about him I realized that I like a professional assassin, a serial killer, who makes hits for money. But there is something about him what makes us, readers to stand on his side. It's maybe that he kills only bad guys, which speaks about certain principles he possesses. It's maybe that he is mysterious, always slipping out of the hands of his pursuers.
This book brings an interesting plot into play. Dead Eye is almost like the Grey Man: though, well trained, merciless killing machine. But there is a big difference: he doesn't share the same principles. When he lays out his own scheme, he draws the Grey Man into a dubious game. An assassin always is in danger, the Gray Man's life isn't different, half of the governments are after him for one reason or the other. Mostly killing somebody important. But now his troubles are augmented having Dead Eye playing games with him.
I liked the dynamics of the story. Dead Eye tried to go trough his airtight plan, but it is not by chance that the Gray Man is considered to be the best assassin. He changed the game, and Dead Eye had to adjust.
In this book we learn a few things from the past of the Gray Man, which adds some puzzle pieces to the his picture.
I especially enjoyed that the final battle was played out in Belgium. I live in Overijse, where the safe-house was, I go to work on route N4 every day, and I'm familiar with Uccle and Etterbeek. It was fun to see the story to unfold in these places.
After the fourth installment, Court Gentry is still one of my favorites, right next to Jack Reacher.
Sometimes it seems that I far behind the wave with my reading . I mean, I read books came out years ago. I don't see it as not being updated what is hot and the newest on the bestselling list, instead I consider it finding gems along the road of my reading journey.
The latest one is Elantris by Brandon Sanderson.
I had previous experiences with his books, I say experiences, because they weren't simple readings. The first book I started to read was the Mistborn book 1. I couldn't finish it, don't ask why. I just struggled with it, picking the book up and putting it down several times. Finally around the middle of the book I said it was not for me. It bothered me, because I'm fan of the Writing Excuses podcast, and I find those guys (among them Brandon Sanderson) funny and helpful. He seems to be a capable author to write a decent book.
So I picked up another book of his, the Way of Kings, this time in audiobook format. Man, I was hooked from the beginning. That is a long one, and a few times it felt like flowing slowly, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.
So I purchased Elantris and I was eager to start to listen to the audiobook. And I realised again, I like fantasy pretty much.
Elantris isn't short, and a few times I was wondering if I need all those details or whether the dialogues couldn't be shorter, but by the end these all paid back. The characters became my friends (or enemies), and they were chiselled like the fine carvings on the walls of Elantris.
The idea itself got me hooked in. There was this city, once beautiful, shining, people with godlike powers walked on its streets. Then suddenly the heaven became hell, the glory faded and gave place to mud and slime, pain and suffer. The strange power that earlier made semi-gods from ordinary people now destroyed their humanity making them living dead.
Of course prince Raedon finally solved the mystery of the disappearance of Elantris' power (what would've been the point of the story if he didn't?). The clues were well timed throughout the book.
The magic system is amazing, shining signs in the air channelling power to this world and everything. I wonder how the author comes up with these ideas.
The political system is also well drawn. The throne is weakened, the country is on the edge of collapse, the political forces plot against each other, outside power threatens the kingdom, and even religion comes into the mix. Just like in real life.
There is an important phrase when talking about how captivating a book is: suspension of disbelief. Well, my disbelief was suspended all along the story. I enjoyed it a lot.
When reading a book I often was wondering what happened to the secondary characters. What they did when not helping the hero? What kind of life they lived? Now I had the possibility to get to know more about some of them.
In The Human Division I met Harry Wilson of the Old Farts. If you haven't read the Old Man's War, you may not know who the hell I'm talking about. I can tell to you: you missed a great story, so you better go and read it. If you did, probably you remember the group of old people who signed up for the Colonial Defence Force, got a new enhanced body and became green in the process. Yes, they were the good Old Farts. They went in different ways in the CDF, Wilson became a Lieutenant in the technical service. Lately he got assigned to assist diplomats, who - well, to put it mildly - were the B Team. But don't get it wrong, in this dangerous universe even the B Team saves the ass of the Colonial Union once or twice. You may think that the most dangerous in diplomacy could be that you die of boredom during endless speeches in meetings. But rest assured: even diplomats get shot at or sucked out into vacuum from the space lock of the ship. And the assisting personnel may be beaten up by half size aliens and they may have to perform skydiving while the space station they just left is blown up. Yo know, the usual space stuff.
The book consists of 13 seemingly separate stories, but by the end a grandiose conspiracy plot takes shape against the Colonial Union. Or the Conclave. Or both. It's not really clear who is behind the scenes, and what is their purpose exactly. This is why I can hardly wait for the next book of the Old Man's War universe.
I really enjoyed Scalzi's sarcastic humour, it is one of the reasons he became one of my favourite authors. The narration was excellent, William Dufris got Scalzi's humour right.
I was hooked on Mark Greany's books right from the first one. He writes just the type of stories I like: fast paced action spiced with special human relations.
In Ballistic Greaney takes us to Mexico, and shows the dark shadows of los amigos. I live in Europe, so the setting was exotic for me. The Ballistic is a work of fiction, and I'm pretty sure Greaney made up the Mafia characters, but based on the news sometimes I hear there must be some truth in the Mexican gang wars. It adds to the reliability of the story.
The Grey man is a strange hero: he is an assassin, but he takes on only bad guys and criminals. Which makes him the good guy in the reader's eye. He isn't James Bond, sometimes he is betrayed and deceived, which makes his character more believable. In this book he has a love affair. I liked the way it was written, the Grey man remained totally in his character, with his past and fears.
The story of Ballistic is compelling: the Grey Man finds himself between two Mafia groups trying to save the family of his respected but dead friend. Can a loner win against two armies of bad guys? Can he be smart enough to outwit them? Is the loyalty and friendship more important than his own life? Well, you can guess the answers, I suppose, I don't need to tell you.
The book has elements of torture and inhuman treatment, so read it only if you don't mind some hard story parts. And it has a lot of shooting, fortunately most often it is the bad guys who fall.
I'm slightly above the young adult age (around twenty five years plus), so consider my opinion taking that into account. You may ask why I read YA books then. Why not? I'm curious.
I enjoyed Insurgent. And I didn't.
The setting is quite compelling, the basic idea is really interesting. How could a society work if people are divided into factions based on their mental attitude? And I arrived to the first point I have problem with. I'm not a sociologist nor psychologist, but I'm sure it cannot work. Humans are not black and white. Humans are not of four clear colour, they cannot be put into boxes. It just doesn't work like that. The idea of creating a society based on this is born dead. But it still could be interesting to see how things can develop in a scenario like this, so I suspended my disbelief and I wanted to know, you know, "what if". It reminded me of religious cults suppressing general truths worshipping only one (often false one). I continued listening as it was an experiment on one possible way to solve the society's serious issues. I put my doubts aside and flowed with the story, and I did enjoy it more. By the end of the book I learned that this environment didn't evolve, but it was established artificially. That helps a little to believe the scenario. Desperate times call for desperate measures.
In the factions individuals start to pup up as divergents, (of course they do, if they didn't the story wouldn't exist), and this society cannot handle them. They blend in pretending having one aptitude or get hunted because they cannot fit in the system. That creates a lot of tension, and gives the floor for the action.
The action moved the story forward, and kept me listening. I really liked the action scenes, those were the best parts of the book. Unfortunately in between there were scenes when the heroin agonized over exaggerated dilemmas. Maybe I've a very simple personality, maybe it was too long time ago when I was teenager, maybe being a man I cannot understand the girls (who can? :) ). Maybe Tris had mental issues. But some of the whining should have been cut out.
I would have enjoyed more world-building. There were some explanations about the supporting equipment like power supply, but I missed some technicalities how they could sustain the supporting services. It was a closed environment after all.
By the way, can somebody tell me who drove the train? People died, factions fought each other, but that damn train still run no matter what.
As I mentioned I'm not in YA age anymore, that may explain my disbelief concerning the hands off love between Four and Tris. At the age of 16-19 teenagers are much more interested in the hands on stuff of sex. It was annoying how the circumstances (or their fears or anger) "accidentally" stopped Four and Tris to get into it more deeply. I don't say there should be explicit sex scenes, not at all. But their love would have been more believable if there were scenes like "Four pulled Tris' shirt off, kissed her on the mouth and... Cut.... Tris smiled at Four and nested herself in his arms with satisfaction". Like in an old movie ;)
The character of Tris is well drawn, we get to know her deepest secrets and fears. She had a special power, she could resist the simulation. Awesome. She is mentally off balance in my opinion, but I gather that was the author's intention. But it didn't help to like her that she made stupid decisions. I mean stupid. For example when she joined Marcus. She loved Four, she knew that Four hates Marcus, she didn't trust Marcus, and didn't have evidence that it was true what he was saying, but she went with him instead of being and fighting on Four's side.
I'm sure my daughter enjoyed the book more, because she already told me she hardly can wait for the third one to come out. She is at the right age, I suppose.
I have bought this book for my daughter, she is in the right age for a YA novel. But then I thought, what the hell, the book is out in public for anyone to read, so I read it. I try to write my review as if I were a few years younger :)
The story is interesting. The idea of the hidden magic world below a real town is not that original, but still compelling. There is still much can be said or written about it. I thought I was familiar with the story of the first book in the series since I saw the movie, but listening I gathered that the book was different. Anyway, I learned enough backstory to enjoy this volume. The creatures and the magic system was awesome. I could hardly wait to see them in work. Unfortunately the authors didn't expand the full potential these creatures were capable of. I expected more use of magic and more direct conflict and fight. More about this later.
There were some really good characters, I liked Link and Liv the best. Oh, and the old ladies. Unfortunately they were not the main characters. I found Ethan - who supposed to be the hero - a weak, girlish kid. He did nothing else but think of Lena. He didn't play computer games, he didn't play soccer, he didn't hang out with his friends. He did nothing what a guy at his age would do. Actually I didn't understand why he insisted on belonging to Lena. There was no future for them, because they couldn't be together as mortal and immortal. OK, I could accept this because of the power of love overcomes every barrier. But the girl consequently refused him and sent him away, she was impossible go get on with. If was Ethan I would have left Lena and picked up Liv. I just couldn't believe that Ethan was able to love Lena with such an intensity. I'm not too romantic, I suppose.
As I said I would love to see more fight. Some may say that this is a YA book for fifteen to eighteen years old kids, and we must be careful writing about violence. Come on. These kids already played through Call of Duty Black Ops II. Twice. They watched ol' Skywalker get burned and turned dark in Star Wars. They watched the ork battle in The Lord of The Rings. I don't say that the book should contain extreme violence, but if my thirteen year old son would read it he would fall asleep bored.
It's same with the sex. I support that there shouldn't be forthright sex scenes. But again: come on. Most of our kids had their first sexual experience before the age of eighteen. A seventeen year old boy spends most of his day thinking about cars and computers games and girls. And when they think about girls they don't stop at holding hands and innocent kissing. I didn't, and I was a quite average guy. "YA books shouldn't have sex in them" is a myth, which should be busted. YA books shouldn't have steamy sex scenes, I agree. But guys put your hands on your heart and say: "when kissing, I strictly forbade my hands trying to explore my girl's touchy spots". You cannot, because you would lie. But in this book that wouldn't even be possible, because when it gets hot, the mortal one of the couple gets burned for real.
I had one other problem with the book: it was too long. It was too long, because of the repetition of the same thing over and over again. It could have been compressed into half length. Making it shorter would have increased the tension and quicken the pace. Also it could have helped to avoid having long discussions before or during actions. It was annoying how the characters explained the evident while I was eager to know what was really happening. Our kids are growing in a very intense environment and got to used to fast image video clips and action movies, not explanations stretching until becoming boring.
I have to mention that I loved the narration, and the southern accent. I also liked the style the book was written, it flowed smoothly.
I wonder what my daughter will have to say about the book.
I discovered Michael Connelly last year reading one of his Mickey Haller novels. I liked his style immediately, and read a Harry Bosch novel. Then I decided that I must read all of his books. So I started with his first one, and I'm slowly going through.
I find The Last Coyote the best one of Connelly's first four books. I got to know Bosch more deeply than in the previous books, I especially liked the sessions with his therapist.
Bosch is not a superhero, he makes stupid mistakes and makes bad decisions. It makes him and the story more real.
I like how Connelly plays with the emotions of his characters bringing tension and conflict in the story.
Dick Hill did an excellent job narrating the story. In writing classes they teach you not to write the filler words like "uhm" or "er", but in the audio version they come through really well when expressing confusion or embarrassment.
The idea of "ripping off" famous stories by taking their first sentences seemed interesting, so I bought Rip-Off! I finished the book with mixed feelings. There are some great stories in it. Scalzi hits the high bar as he usually does, I liked The Muse of Fire the most. I had some good time with The Red Menace (by Lavie Tidhar) and The Big Whale (by Allen M. Steele). There were OK stories with nice twist at the end, like Writers' Block (by Nancy Kress), and there were OK stories, which were pleasant to listen to without having big endings, like The Lady Astronaut of Mars (by Mary Robinette Kowal). Then other stories were waste of time, I gave up on some of them after five minutes, for example Karin Coxswain or Death as She Is Truly Lived (by Paul Di Filippo).
So, do I suggest this book? Yes, if you have fair tolerance towards books with good stories mixed with ones going nowhere.
I'm always amazed at the scale Alistair Reynolds applies in his books. In the House of Suns he exceeds even himself. Campion and Purslane travels across galaxies, through millions of years. It puts my imagination to test.
The book has a lot of compelling ideas, also awesome aliens (like the giant librarians, or the golden machine man). The story is interesting.
In some places I found the book too long, too detailed, sometimes repetitive. By the end it annoyed me a little bit that every character talked in same, very accurate, punctual way, like everyone was an English teacher.
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