Calvin Cross is a successful and loyal officer in Intel Wing, the Empire’s intelligence organisation. He is so good that he has been given his own command, the stealth frigate Nighthawk, despite the fact that he is only a half-citizen and therefore stuck at a junior officer rank. His latest mission has been to track down rogue warship captain Raidan who used his position to destroy civilian alien freighters without provocation. Raidan is tried by a tribunal and found guilty, but his motives remain unknown. The prisoner escapes under suspicious circumstances—hijacking a dreadnought in the process—and Cross is again ordered to find him. Cross suspects foul play as several facts do not add up and decides to investigate the underlying situation rather than hunting down the fugitive. While he tries to keep up appearances his mysterious opponents act to stop Cross and his crew no matter what.
Phoenix Conspiracy has a solid, but not brilliant setup. The futuristic world is very similar to ours despite the fact that humanity travels across space; culture and technology appear unchanged for the most part. It works well enough for this kind of story as the reader feels comfortable from page one and can completely focus on the intriguing plot. The conspiracy is nicely set up and the characters are likeable yet complex enough to feel real, including heart-felt emotion and sometimes funny, sometimes nerve-wracking conflicts. Only the ending seemed a bit too hasty and shallow for my taste; but then, this is only part one of a series so I will give Sanders the benefit of doubt, assuming the rabbit hole is deeper than it seems. Phoenix Conspiracy managed to captivate me and I had a good time reading it. I certainly look forward to the sequels!
Get this great read in a variety of formats for free and DRM-free on Smashwords.
Harvey Barker is on a revenge trip in modern London, killing the people he holds responsible for his sister’s death. He is a professional assassin, but an unorthodox one: he kills using feng shui, manipulating chi and karma to kill his targets without anyone the wiser. But he is not careful enough this time. Detective Amanda Morgan can not shake the feeling that a couple of apparently tragic deaths are connected. Meanwhile, the remaining members of the group Harvey hunts down try to recover and strike back.
I needed to suspend a lot of disbelief regarding the manipulation of chi and karma. The concept seems confused at times, but experienced manga readers should have no problems accepting it. Hall’s prose is not perfect but good enough so it does not distract from his decent story. He builds a good amount of tension towards the end, finishing a very entertaining and thrilling book.
Get this good read in a variety of formats for free and DRM-free on Smashwords.
The Alloy of Law is set in the world of the Mistborn trilogy, about 300 years after the original books. The heroes of that time have become figures of myth and religion. The area around the pre-industrial capital (formerly Luthadel) is fertile and wealthy, farther out in the Roughs live is like in our Wild West. This is where noble-blooded lawkeeper Wax has made it his job to hunt down criminals until personal tragedy prompts his return to the city. He tries to blend in the noble society and behave as he should but is soon intrigued by a series of seemingly impossible thefts. Instead of preparing his inevitable engagement properly he starts to investigate, supported by his friend and colleague Wayne who has come to visit in order to make sure Wax does not die
in of boredom.
Alloy of Law is fast, fun and tragic, but most of all fast. Allomantic-Feruchemic gunfights are probably the most awesome, cinematic thing I have read in a while. They show how incredibly well-conceived Sanderson’s magic system is: it evolves and scales with ease. The story itself is a diverting piece in Sherlock Holmes style, nothing too deep. There is potential for follow-up stories, though, so we’ll see. The main characters are very well-developed considering the size of the book; Sanderson makes every word count. Besides the abundance of action, verbal exchanges between Wax, Wayne and later Marasi provide most of the fun and make the book a light read despite several tragic scenes. As a fan of the series, I enjoyed the many (religious) references—fact distorted to myth by time—to the old heroes, in particular how their way of life evolved to outright schools of philosophy.
That I recommend a Sanderson book is probably no surprise, me being a devoted fan of his. Go and read this book even if you have not read or did not like the trilogy, it is fun!
Kobo Touch next to a standard US mass paperback
Last week I wrote about my thought process that lead to me buying a Kobo Touch ereader. I have used it quite a bit since and think I should write about my experience now.
The Kobo Touch has good haptics. It is relatively light with about 185g and has a surface texture that makes it easy to hold in one hand. The E-Ink display is great; all current ereaders have one of those. Text quality depends on font and size; on the settings I read I can see almost no difference to printed books. Of course you have shadows of former pages because they completely refresh the display only every few page turns (for sake of turning speed). You can adjust the number of turns before that happens between one and six, though, so every taste should be catered.
I had my opinions about ereaderes with touch screens—basically I though they were useless—but I am very pleased with the experience. It reacts in a natural way and the system is responsive enough to avoid slowing me down too much. This is in particular true when using the on-screen keyboard which works great for the tasks you need it for. You can turn pages by swiping or tapping the display. You can adapt the regions where tapping has an effect in order to account for people holding the device with either hand, but you can not turn off tapping yet. Turning the last page prompts Kobo to leave the book which has annoyed me sometimes when I accidentally prompted a page turn while in a one-page document. There is only one key that takes you to the home screen. It can be a bit hard to press but you do not need it too often. Read more »
Before They Are Hanged by Joe Abercrombie continues right from where The Blade Itself left off; in this book, the story starts rolling. While all characters converged in Adua during the prequel, they now scatter in almost all directions. Collem West travels aide to Lord Marshal Burr, the army’s commander-in-chief, into the north; Bethod has finally moved his armies into Angland and forced the Union to fight back. They lead mostly untried lads, the only experienced troops under the command of two generals who put their rivalry before military sense. As if that was not bad enough, pampered Crown Prince Ladisla tags along, his mind set to harvest glory for himself.
Inquisitor Glotka heads in the opposite direction; he has reveiced a delicate mission from the head of Inquisition himself: He is to return to the country of his downfall. The city of Dagoska, won from the Gurkish during the last war, threatens to fall to its old master. Glotka is to make sure the city holds no matter what and solve his predecessor’s mysterious disappearance while he is at it.
The rest of the cast including Logen and Jezal is dragged to the far west by suspicious magus Bayaz. Their goal is to obtain a powerful magical relic with which to fight Bayaz’ former colleague Kalul who draws the strings behind the Gurkish war effort. Not exactly role-models and trusting traveling companions, the party has to meet more than one challenge on their trip, a fair number of them between the members themselves. Read more »