Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Reading Wrap-up: March 2018

The month of March brought with it two blissful weeks of vacation leave. I had been looking forward to it for ages and I had the perfect staycation planned - a comfy bed, loads of snacks and enough time to read ALL the things. My plan was to put a dent into my considerable review copy backlog, but alas my brain had other ideas...

Things started out great, I read and reviewed Elysium Fire by Alastair Reynolds. And that's when I lost myself in a decidedly Reynolds-shaped black hole of mesmerising fiction. I couldn't get Reynolds' work out of my head which sparked a frantic re-read of  the first two Revelation Space novels, Revelation Space and Redemption Ark. Both of these were as good, if not better, than I remembered. I loved the complexity, and absolutely gigantic scope of both the universe and concepts Reynolds brings to vibrant life on the page. The female characters in his novels are powerful, captivating and memorable. They aren't just token female characters; they shape the world and have critical roles to play - just as it should be. His work will set your brain abuzz in the best possible way!

After spending so much time in outer space I needed a change of pace and Robert McCammon's Boy's Life was just the thing to bring me back to Earth. Boy's Life is a wonderful, magical look into childhood. It follows a year in the life of a young boy, Cory, as he deals with the loss of childhood innocence. It's beautifully written, funny, sad, and profound, with keen observations about what it means to grow up. There's a touch of the supernatural thrown in, but it just adds an extra bit of magic to a coming of age story that will have you yearning for your own lost childhood. If you can get past the slower pacing this is an absolutely fantastic read! I definitely need to explore more of McCammon's work.

In the end I managed to read 4 books with a total of 2276 pages (an average of 576 pages). Since most of these were tomes I'm really happy with the amount of reading I got done. Overall it was a pretty great month even if things took a detour.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Review: Elysium Fire by Alastair Reynolds

Title: Elysium Fire
Author: Alastair Reynolds
Pages: 408
Series: Prefect Dreyfus Emergency #2
Publisher: Gollancz
Published: 15 January 2018
Genre: Science Fiction
Source: Review copy from publisher

Buy it from:
The Book Depository

One citizen died a fortnight ago. Two a week ago. Four died yesterday . . . and unless the cause can be found - and stopped - within the next four months, everyone will be dead. For the Prefects, the hunt for a silent, hidden killer is on . . .

Alastair Reynolds has returned to the world of The Prefect for this stand-alone SF mystery in which no one is safe. The technological implants which connect every citizen to each other have become murder weapons, and no one knows who or what the killer is - or who the next targets will be. But their reach is spreading, and time is not on the Prefects' side.

After more than a decade Alastair Reynolds returns to the world of The Prefect and it's about damn time! Elysium Fire is set two years after the events of The Prefect (recently relaunched as Aurora Rising) and follows Prefect Dreyfus and his team Thalia Ng and Sparver Bancal as they face another threat to the stability of the Glitter Band. All across the ten thousand habitats citizens are dropping dead without warning. There is seemingly no connection between the victims, the rising death-toll threatens to push the already strained relations between the Prefects and the citizenry to the breaking point. It is up to Dreyfus and his team to figure out what is going on and to put a stop to it before it is too late.

All the familiar characters we've grown to love return for this second outing. The characters are older and wiser, scarred by their previous actions they are more conflicted and yet this makes them even more determined to carry out their mandate of upholding the tenets of the democracy that allows the Glitter Band to function.

Elysium Fire is a far more intimate story in scope, the relationships and interactions between Dreyfus and his team takes the forefront as they struggle to make sense of this newest emergency. While the first novel focused on a larger scale with ever-expanding implications, Elysium Fire takes a much more personal route. It is the actions of a few that puts the Glitter Band in jeopardy, but it is also the actions of the small team of Prefects willing to take a final stand that makes all the difference.

"And while a single one of us still breathes, you'll know there's still someone willing to make that final stand. Still Someone guarding the gates of utopia." (p 290) 

When I first read The Prefect I was amazed with the scope of it all and Elysium Fire takes that groundwork and sketches in even more intricate details.  Reynolds plays around with some truly breathtaking ideas - the machinery of governance and democracy, policing a society distributed throughout thousands of habitats, artificial intelligence, identity and the implications of altering memories. I could go on, but suffice it to say that there's a lot to unpack and the technologies underpinning it all are simply astounding.

As the mystery is slowly unraveled Dreyfus and his team manage to connect seemingly disparate clues and events to uncover the truth of an unexpected atrocity at the very center of everything. The ending ties up everything in a satisfying manner and it is heartening to see Dreyfus's compassion shining through at the end.

Elysium Fire was a great return to a world I never truly left behind. Having recently re-read The Prefect (Aurora Rising) it felt like coming home. Let's hope we don't have to wait another ten years for the next installment.I suddenly have the urge to read the entire Revelation Space series again...

The Verdict:
Elysium Fire is triumphant return for Alastair Reynolds to the world of Prefect Dreyfus. It takes a far more personal look at Dreyfus and the Prefects as they face the world in the aftermath of the Aurora event. The pacing is slower than the first novel, but it allows more time to engage with the characters on a deeper level. If you love big ideas, amazing technologies and concepts which will set your brain abuzz then Elysium Fire is highly recommended.

The Rating: 7.5/10 (Very Good)

Thanks to Charlene from Jonathan Ball Publishers for the review copy.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

New Arrivals: Birthday Edition

While the plan is to cut back severely on my book purchases during the year to focus on titles I already own I decided to spoil myself somewhat during my birthday month. I picked up a few novels and  a couple of graphic novels. If you don't spoil yourself who will?

For Review

I was also fortunate enough to receive some review copies from the awesome folks at Jonathan Ball Publishers.

The titles I received were:
Elysium Fire by Alastair Reynolds
Shroud of Eternity by Terry Goodkind
The Girl Who Takes An Eye For An Eye by David Lagercrantz
Hero At The Fall by Alwyn Hamilton

I've already finished Elysium Fire (a review will be up later this week), but since the rest are later titles in a series I'll first have to track down the rest of the series before I can consider getting to them.

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