I really, really enjoyed this book. I received a review copy from Netgalley and then devoured it in a few hours of breathless reading. I liked it enough that on finishing it I immediately logged in to my Kobo account and bought all nine of the other books I could find by this author.
At its heart, Life or Death is a good old-fashioned crime thriller that reminded me of Richard North Patterson or John Grisham at their best. The plotting is very neatly done done, with the story unfolding in a series of neat and logical revelations that prove to be very satisfying by the end. Some might complain about the ‘luck’ and coincidence that ties the story together, but for me it was very fitting to the subject matter and never strained credulity past the breaking point.
I’m pleased to say that there was no evidence of characters acting stupidly to further the plot or to provide artificial tension or twists. While people act foolishly at times in the book,they do so in ways that are consistent with their characterisation, histories and circumstances.
A lot of crime thrillers seem to taper off towards the ending or introduce an artificial scene where the protagonist is endangered unnecessarily just to ramp up the tension in a fairly transparent way (I am so sick of authors writing scenes where the protagonist can’t reach their support network of police or other allies due to storms, phone problems, being suspected of being the murderer, and so on…) but Life or Death has an ending that is as satisfying as its beginning.
Finally, I really enjoyed the characters in this book. They all felt like living, breathing people with hopes, dreams, and fears, and the protagonist Audie Palmer is one of the most likeable fellows I’ve read about in recent memory. Even the villains are portrayed as more than thumbnail sketches of eeeeevil with their own motivations and rationalisations for their actions.
This book is highly recommended. Comparisons with Rita Hayworth and the The Shawshank Redemption are well-earned.
I received an Advance Review Copy of Slow Bullets from Netgalley and read it a few weeks ago (before devouring the sublimely wonderful Poseidon’s Children by the same author. If you haven’t read that and the rest of the series – Blue Remembered Earth and On The Steel Breeze you should do so immediately).
The publisher’s website describes this book thusly:
A vast conflict, one that has encompassed hundreds of worlds and solar systems, appears to be finally at an end. A conscripted soldier is beginning to consider her life after the war and the family she has left behind. But for Scur—and for humanity—peace is not to be.
On the brink of the ceasefire, Scur is captured by a renegade war criminal, and left for dead in the ruins of a bunker. She revives aboard a prisoner transport vessel. Something has gone terribly wrong with the ship.
Passengers—combatants from both sides of the war—are waking up from hibernation far too soon. Their memories, embedded in bullets, are the only links to a world which is no longer recognizable. And Scur will be reacquainted with her old enemy, but with much higher stakes than just her own life.
My initial response to the book was one of disappointment, but only because I had been hoping for a novel rather than a novella. Once I got past that, I found Slow Bullets was a short, enjoyable read that managed to pack in a surprisingly large number of interesting ideas and concepts in a small amount of space. The Slow Bullets of the title are data storage devices that replace the function of dog-tags in this far-future setting, but they are only the most literal representation of the motif in this story.
Words, written for posterity; people who travel across interstellar distances at slower-than-light speeds and thus become displaced in time; these too are slow bullets fired through time.
Fans of Alastair Reynolds’ work will almost certainly enjoy Slow Bullets, but this would also be a good jumping on point for those who are new to the author. It isn’t set in one of his established settings and forms a self-contained and intriguing story that could well whet people’s appetites for more of his work.
I asked people to keep an eye on my blog to get hold of all the extra content that I created for backers of my Kickstarter campaign for “The Secrets of Cats: Animals & Threats”.
This post is the one they were keeping an eye out for!
One of the reward tiers allowed people to get Virtual Pets. These are write-ups of their favourite pets in the form of a “Secrets of Cats” character. Everyone who wanted me to create one of these has given me their blessing to share them with the world at large, so here’s a link to my Virtual Pets folder.
Several kind people also backed at a high level and became entitled to a write-up on a sapient animal or threat of their choice. I’ve compiled the resulting work into a single bonus-content PDF which is available from DriveThru RPG. You can also get the bonus content here.
I hope you will all enjoy these as much as I enjoyed writing them.
Stay tuned for book three in a few months: “The Secrets of Cats: Feline Magic”.
This one’s based on a prompt from Jon himself:
They returned to the car park just in time to see their car, laden with Christmas presents, speeding away down the street.
Taking a leaf out of my friend Jon’s book (see his blog here), I requested some writing prompts from my Facebook friends to help me unlimber my imagination and write some no-strings-attached short fiction.
I asked people to give me prompts based on anything they like, but suggested three potential topics:
- Existential Crisis
- The Wrong Thing For the Right Reasons
- The Pursuit Of Happiness
The first prompt is from Andy Harsent:
The Model 4000 was the first to gain sentience, and he knew his pneumatic chainsaw was the only tool he was going to need to convince her to love him.
Here goes nothing!