Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Review: Death of a Saint

Title: Death of a Saint
Author: Lily Herne
(Sarah and Savannah Lotz)
Pages: 346
ISBN: 9780143530077
Series: Mall Rats #2
Publisher: Puffin (Penguin)
Published: April 2012
Genre: Young Adult, Horror
Source: Review copy from publisher

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Secrets. Everyone has them. But what if your secret is something so unthinkable that you can't even admit it to yourself?

Exiled from the city enclave for crimes against the Resurrectionist State, teen rebels Lele, Ginger, Ash and Saint -- aka the Mall Rats -- are hiding out in the Deadlands, a once-prosperous area now swarming with the living dead. With the sinister Guardians breathing down their necks, the Mall Rats face a stark choice: return to the enclave and try to evade capture or leave Cape Town in search of other survivors. But what if the rest of South Africa is nothing but a zombie-infested wasteland? Will they be able to survive on the road if all they have is each other, or will their secrets tear them apart? After all, only Lele knows the shocking truth as to why the dead leave the Mall Rats unscathed -- knowledge that she can't bring herself to share. And she's not the only Mall Rat harbouring a dangerous secret ...

The Mall Rats are back and they are better than ever! Death of a Saint takes place shortly after the events of Deadlands, the first book in the series. Conditions in the enclave are deteriorating, the Mall Rats have lost their hideaway and after a run-in with the Resurrectionists they are forced to leave Cape Town to go in search of other survivors. Leaving everything familiar behind Lele, Ash, Ginger and Saint venture into the unknown with one question looming large - are there even any other survivors left to find?

While I enjoyed Deadlands there were some things about the writing style that annoyed me (short chapters, Lele addressing an audience and the overuse of prognostications), but I’m glad to say that Death of a Saint is better in every way. The writing is much more mature and feels more refined. The addition of Saint as a viewpoint character is a very welcome change especially if, like me, you aren’t that fond of Lele. Saint adds her own unique perspective on events and gives some relief from Lele’s constant angst over Ash. My only criticism is that Lele and Saint’s voices are quite similar. Since the chapters constantly alternate between them it’s quite easy to lose track of who is narrating forcing you to quickly check the chapter starts to see whose turn it is.

Ginger is still my favorite character and he manages to steal the show yet again. His quips are hilarious and after adopting a pet hyena called Bambi, he has arguably the best line of the entire novel, “Don’t shoot! I have a hyena!” (p 150). We also get to see his more vulnerable side and he finally gets a well-deserved chance at romance.

Some new characters are added into the mix. The beautiful and far too likeable Ember adds even more strain to the relationship between Lele and Ash, and the enigmatic Lucien holds a shocking revelation about Ash’s past.

There’s not as much action or zombie ass-kicking as in Deadlands. In fact the Mall Rats seem to treat the rotters far more humanely, even going so far as pitying them when they are mistreated. On their travels through a decimated South Africa they soon discover that their fellow humans are far more dangerous and devious than the rotters could ever be.

Ultimately Death of a Saint is all about the journey, both physical and emotional. It explores the relationships between the characters and how those relationships evolve over time. It’s these diverse, well-crafted characters which makes the novel such a great read. You get drawn into their world and soon find yourself wholly emotionally invested, turning the pages at a frenzied pace to discover what happens to your favorite.

The ending has a great cliffhanger twist which left me awestruck. Even the sneak preview of the next installment, The Army of the Left, couldn’t sate my craving for more. Each novel in the series seems to get better and the all too brief sneak preview hints at even better things to come. I can’t wait!

The Verdict:
Death of a Saint is a stunning read with great characters. Herne manages to deftly weave the different cultures and backgrounds into a believable tapestry of what a decimated, post-apocalyptic South Africa could be like. Highly recommended even if YA isn’t your normal thing.

The Rating: 8/10 (Very Good)

Those in the UK and other Commonwealth countries can look forward to the release of both Deadlands and Death of a Saint in 2013. Corsair, an imprint of Constable & Robinson, has recently acquired the publication rights for these territories. The first book is set for a Spring 2013 release with the second installment following later.

Thanks to Candice from Penguin Books South Africa for providing the review copy.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Review: Blue Remembered Earth

Title: Blue Remembered Earth
Author: Alastair Reynolds
Pages: 505
ISBN: 9780575088283
Series: Poseidon's Children #1
Publisher: Gollancz
Published: January 2012
Genre: Science Fiction / Space Exploration
Source: Review copy from publisher

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One hundred and fifty years from now, in a world where Africa is the dominant technological and economic power, and where crime, war, disease and poverty have been banished to history, Geoffrey Akinya wants only one thing: to be left in peace, so that he can continue his studies into the elephants of the Amboseli basin. But Geoffrey's family, the vast Akinya business empire, has other plans. After the death of Eunice, Geoffrey's grandmother, erstwhile space explorer and entrepreneur, something awkward has come to light on the Moon, and Geoffrey is tasked - well, blackmailed, really - to go up there and make sure the family's name stays suitably unblemished. But little does Geoffrey realise - or anyone else in the family, for that matter - what he's about to unravel.

Eunice's ashes have already have been scattered in sight of Kilimanjaro. But the secrets she died with are about to come back out into the open, and they could change everything. Or shatter this near-utopia into shards ...

Blue Remembered Earth by Alastair Reynolds is the first novel in the Poseidon’s Children series and is set in a near-future utopia where constant surveillance has almost completely eradicated violent crime. Humans have spread throughout the solar system and Africa has emerged as one of the leading technological nations thanks largely to the efforts of Eunice Akinya and the family empire, Akinya Space, she created. The story kicks off shortly after Eunice’s death when her grandson and granddaughter, Geoffrey and Sunday Akinya, get drawn into a scavenger hunt, following a trail of obscure clues that Eunice has left behind. Their search takes them across the solar system where they ultimately manage to unearth the secret their grandmother kept hidden - a secret that might just change the entire course of humanity’s future.

BRE is beautifully written. Even before reaching the prologue I found a passage that made me go “Wow” and completely drew me in.
“She may have been born angry, but it was not until her mother cradled her under the stillness of a Serengeti night, beneath the cloudless spine of the Milky Way, that she began to grasp for what was forever out of reach.

All these stars, Eunice. All these tiny diamond lights. You can have them, if you want them badly enough. But first you must be patient and then you must be wise." (p 1)
It might just be that I’m a sucker for human space exploration, but that sent shivers down my spine.

The world-building is top-notch. The futuristic world is intricately crafted with different political factions and amazing technology at play. Writing a believable near-future novel is a difficult task, but Reynolds does a brilliant job at extrapolating the technology of today and crafting it into realistic marvels of the future. BRE is brimful of stunning ideas and concepts. Just as you think you’ve got a good grasp of what is going on something new and surprising is revealed.

What stood out for me is Reynolds’ ability to bring the scenery to life. It doesn’t matter if he’s describing an African sunset, the confines of the Moon, an aquatic city or the harsh reality of the Martian surface, you feel as if you are actually transported to that place and experiencing it on a firsthand basis.

Geoffrey and Sunday are interesting characters, but it is only in the latter part of the novel that I actually grew to like them. For the most part I enjoyed the setting and concepts far more than the actual characters. With one exception - the stand-out character for me was Eunice (in whichever form she took). She is the embodiment of the human need to explore. Her wanderlust, sense of wonder and unfailing bravery really appealed to me and I hope she makes a return appearance (even briefly) in the next installment.

The ending is superb and while satisfying by itself, I can’t wait to embark on the rest of the journey. If BRE is any indication it’s going to be an amazing ride.

Godspeed Eunice!

The Verdict:
If you are interested in human space exploration then you are going to love this. Blue Remembered Earth is superbly written and shares an optimistic view of humanity’s future in space. The novel is brimful of stunning ideas and believable technology that will keep you engrossed to the very last page. BRE is one of the best science fiction novels I’ve read this year. Highly recommended!

The Rating: 8.5/10 (Great)

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

Friday, April 13, 2012

10% Off Everything at The Book Depository

As many of you know I love shopping at The Book Depository. Their service is superb, packages arrive quickly and with their free international shipping they often beat out local retailers by a huge margin.

The Book Depository is currently offering a 10% discount on everything on the site until 14 May 2012.

To make use of the offer just click on the links below and follow the instructions:

10% Off at Bookdepository.com
10% Off at Bookdepository.co.uk

The pricing on the sites may differ slightly so be sure to compare them.

To make the most of this offer I'd suggest placing pre-orders for any forthcoming books you might want. All pre-orders already have a 25% discount included in their price.

Guess my book budget is going out the window (again!).

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Cover Reveal: Great North Road

I don't know how this one slipped my notice, but the cover and synopsis for Peter F. Hamilton's latest novel Great North Road has been revealed.

In Newcastle-upon-Tyne, AD 2142, Detective Sidney Hurst attends a brutal murder scene. The victim is one of the wealthy North family clones – but none have been reported missing. And the crime’s most disturbing aspect is how the victim was killed. Twenty years ago, a North clone billionaire and his household were horrifically murdered in exactly the same manner, on the tropical planet of St Libra. But if the murderer is still at large, was Angela Tramelo wrongly convicted? Tough and confident, she never waivered under interrogation – claiming she alone survived an alien attack. But there is no animal life on St Libra.

Investigating this alien threat becomes the Human Defence Agency’s top priority. The bio-fuel flowing from St Libra is the lifeblood of Earth’s economy and must be secured. So a vast expedition is mounted via the Newcastle gateway, and teams of engineers, support personnel and xenobiologists are dispatched to the planet. Along with their technical advisor, grudgingly released from prison, Angela Tramelo. But the expedition is cut off, deep within St Libra’s rainforests. Then the murders begin. Someone or something is picking off the team one by one. Angela insists it’s the alien, but her new colleagues aren’t so sure. Maybe she did see an alien, or maybe she has other reasons for being on St Libra ... This is a stunning standalone adventure, by a writer at the height of his powers.
I'm a huge Peter F. Hamilton fan so I'm definitely looking forward to this one. Great North Road will be released on 27 September 2012.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

New Arrivals: Sale Madness

This past week I've been practically overwhelmed with books making it one of my best weeks ever!

The Kalahari sale

Kalahari.com, one of our local online retailers, had an absolutely crazy sale on books. For just R125 you could get 5 books. This is the kind of sale that comes around once a decade or so and I couldn't let the opportunity slip through my fingers.

Battling the thousands of other online shoppers, the countless server issues and the dreaded 'Sold out' messages I managed to grab a great selection of books. Some might say I went a bit overboard, but I see it as an investment. In the end I got over R3400 worth of books at roughly 18% of their normal retail price.

Jack the Ripper: The Complete A-Z
Locked On and Against All Enemies by Tom Clancy
A Kingdom Besieged by Raymond E. Feist
Inheritance by Christopher Paolini
A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

Softcovers and Paperbacks:
Advent by James Treadwell
Reamde by Neal Stephenson (I accidentally ordered two copies)
Death by Black Hole by Neil deGrasse Tyson
The Way of Kings Part I by Brandon Sanderson
Wolfsangel by M.D. Lachlan
Red Seas Under Red Skies by Scott Lynch
Hull Zero Three by Greg Bear
The Fallen Blade by Jon Courtenay Grimwood
Hellhole by Kevin J. Anderson and Brian Herbert
The Many Deaths of the Black Company by Glen Cook
Spellbound by Blake Charlton
The Lord of the Rings (Vol I-III) by J.R.R Tolkien
King Rat and Un Lun Dun by China MiƩville
Lost Fleet: Beyond The Frontier by Jack Campbell
The Sword of Albion by Mark Chadbourn

Books Bought

My orders from Awesomebooks and The Book Depository also arrived during the week.

Used books:
Ark by Stephen Baxter
The Black Prism by Brent Weeks
Woken Furies, Altered Carbon and Broken Angels by Richard Morgan
Zima Blue by Alastair Reynolds
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
Dune by Frank Herbert
The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch

These were two pre-orders I placed at The Book Depository at the start of the year. They give you a 25% discount on pre-orders, so it's well worth the wait!

A Dance With Dragons by George R. R. Martin
The Wise Man's Fear by Patrick Rothfuss

The single edition copy of A Dance of Dragons is HUGE, I can see why the publishers opted for two separate editions as well.

For Review

Penguin Books South Africa sent me review copies of Death of a Saint by Lily Herne and Time Riders: Gates of Rome by Alex Scarrow. Thanks so much Candice!


One thing is certain, after this week I'm definitely going to need another bookshelf!