AUDIO REVIEW: Kevin + Abi and the Secret of the Golden Pendant, by Paul Shapera

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Genre: Crime, Time Travel

Runtime: 1hr 15mins

Release Date: 23/02/2021

Cast: Paul Shapera, Kerttu Aarnipuu, Oliver Marsh, Kiera-Marie Somers, Lauren Osborn, Hayley Warner,

Verdict: 5/5

The third volume in Paul Shapera’s trilogy of intricate and long-titled ‘secret’ New Albion albums has been out for less than two months, but it’s already my favourite of the set. While Katy Shaw had a great story and Nash Harding had some of the best music, Kevin + Abi brings both sides of the ever-growing Shaperaverse together to create an album that works as both a story and a piece of music. Like most of Shapera’s albums, this one stands alone perfectly well, telling a complete story from start to finish. But, naturally for a shared universe, there is more here than meets the eye, and veteran listeners will recognise a lot of the names, and get more out of the album as a result.

As the title suggests, this is a murder mystery. Now, crime and science fiction go hand in hand very well, but I can’t think of that many time-travelling murder mysteries. The jumping through time in this album leads to a series of crime scenes which our titular detectives must investigate. At first, the more science fictional elements seem more set dressing than integral part, but as the album progresses it becomes clear that a lot more is going on here. In fact, there’s a whole bunch of plot elements thrown in. Murder, time travel, but also family feuds, a goblin seeking a magic pendant, and of course familiar themes such as posthumanism and the nature of narrative. Also at work is the set-up for Shapera’s next work, which I believe will be a six-part epic, which I am very much looking forward to. But if all of this sounds like too much for the casual listener to take in, don’t worry about it. even without all that extra knowledge, this still works as a murder mystery, and even with all that’s going on, you’ll never be confused for long.

The cast is a largely familiar showcase of Shaperaverse favourites. Kiera-Marie Somers plays witch Abi alongside an almost unrecognisable Oliver Marsh as the oft-mentioned Kevin the Mouse. Kerttu Aarnipuu returns as Ryvvyr the goblin, while Shapera himself once again provides the narration and interjections of Michael. There’s a little bit of doubling up on roles throughout, but you’re never in doubt who is playing who, and there’s not a bad performance in the batch. And don’t forget to hang on until the very end, where there’s a surprise character cameo to set up what comes next.

All of the songs here are solid, but two stand out above the others. Opening number ‘Theme Song’ perfectly introduces the concept of the album, balancing dialogue, music and vocals masterfully. It’s one of those rare songs that had me laughing out loud. In contrast is the much heavier, faster paced ‘The Confession,’ which comes near the climax of the album. This one is a gleeful yet tragic race through the history of the Shaperaverse, taking in over a dozen albums in the process. It’s almost entirely infodump, but it works on every level, and I can’t think of anyone else who can pull it off as well as Shapera.

Kevin + Abi is a fine capstone to another successful experiment from one of the most bizarre performers out there. Fun, dark, and catchy, it’s definitely worth your time.

BOOK REVIEW: Armageddon Saint, by Gav Thorpe

click here for a full list of all my Warhammer 40,000 content

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Publisher: Black Library

Series: Last Chancers (#4)

Genre: Military SF

Pages: 319

Publication Date: 2020

Verdict: 3/5

 

Lieutenant Kage of the 13th Legion is dead, having thrown himself into the flames in pursuit of the enemy. But from the ashes rises the Burned Man, who may be a saint, is possibly a madman, and most likely somewhere in between . . .

Full disclosure time: I haven’t read any of the previous Last Chancers novels. There is every chance I would have enjoyed this book more if I had done so, but I can only work with what I’ve got. The reason for this apparent oversight is a simple one. Books have a limited run, particularly IP tie-ins. Black Library’s print runs (with a few exceptions like Guant’s Ghosts or the Horus Heresy) are fairly small when compared to larger publishers, and the inevitable outcome of this is that books fall out of print very easily. In the case of the Last Chancers, the original trilogy is long out of print. There was a hardback re-release of 13th Legion last year, but this too was limited, and I missed out on a copy. Hopefully there’s an omnibus edition around the corner at some point, as I would very much like to see the earlier adventures of Kage and company.

Thankfully, Armageddon Saint largely stands alone. There are a lot of references to previous missions, and the characters have clearly been developed outside of this slender tome, but the plot itself makes sense without any prior knowledge. A lot of this is due to how simple the story is. It’s pretty much a case of ‘run from enemy, regroup, take the fight to the enemy.’ Hardly an original plot for a Warhammer 40,000 novel, but it’s well told. I haven’t actually read any of Gav Thorpe’s 40k work before (though I do have an omnibus of his on my TBR) as his attention has largely been on factions or stories that I am not all that interested in. Those who are more enthused by the Horus Heresy or the Eldar will likely be more familiar with him than I. That said, his work in Warhammer Fantasy was excellent, with The Sundering trilogy still standing proud as my favourite part of that universe. His original fantasy work is strong too, so I was happy to pick up this book without being a series regular, knowing that I’d get a decent read even if I wasn’t blown away.

And that’s exactly what I got. Here, the action is strong, the characters are interesting, and the plot rattles along nicely. We get to see a nice variety of 40k factions, from Imperial Guard, to Sisters of Battle, to Space Marines, but the book is well enough paced not to feel crowded. One particular standout character for me is Nazrek the Ork. It’s no secret that I’m not a fan of 40k’s Orks, but Nazrek is one of their better depictions. Thorpe nails the genderless mushroom aspect of Orkishness, while also making some kind of sense of their pseudo-magical abilities.

If you’re already a Last Chancers fan, then you probably know about this book by now. If not, there are worse introductions to the grim, dark future.

BOOK REVIEW: Koko Uncaged, by Keiran Shea

click here for my review of book one, Koko Takes A Holiday

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Series: Koko (#3)

Publisher: Titan

Genre: Cyberpunk

Pages: 351

Publication Date: 2018

Verdict: 1/5

 

Koko Martstellar is back, this time on a ship bound for space. Having lost everything, Koko throws herself into an all-or-nothing battle against the odds. With the universe stacked against her, will Koko emerge alive . . ?

As I start this review of book three, I want to point out that everything I said about book one still stands. Koko Uncaged is messy, over-the-top, and at times nonsensical. I don’t have anything more to add that I haven’t already said without getting bogged down in negativity. So this isn’t going to be a normal review. Now that I’ve reached the end of this trilogy I want to talk about the positives of it.

First of all, the covers are absolutely gorgeous. Bright, bold colours with Koko standing loud and proud in the centre. I can’t think of any other covers that grab the eye quite as well. Even if you weren’t a big science fiction reader, I’d bet you’d pick these up if you saw them on the self. The almost photo-realistic character art really stands out with how pale Koko is in contrast to the red or yellow stripes in the background. Throw in the lettering and you have a cover that could have been taken from the pages of a comic. It really hits home the pulp aesthetic that runs through these books. Everyone at the Titan Books design team deserves heaps of praise for their work here. As an aside, Titan have some of the most distinctive covers in the industry in overall design. Even when they have the same spaceship on starfield art that dominates space-based SF, their fonts and layout are simply brilliant.

Turning back to the author himself, I have to praise Shea for trying something new. Even though his prose just doesn’t work for me, I can’t think of anyone who writes the way he does. He has a manic energy that carries through every page of the book, and despite their pulpiness these books are not particularly short. This entire trilogy is around a thousand pages, but the short chapters and direct language makes them all fly by. On the topic of chapters, the titles also deserve a mention. The majority of books I read have simple numbered chapters, but Shea gives each one a unique title. With some chapters only a page or two in length, that’s a lot of chapter titles by the time the series is out. And in a book crammed with jokes and winks, the titles are among the funniest parts. There’s also more than just regular prose here. There are extracts of emails, a dog’s PoV, transcripts of news reports, and more. The pacing is just relentless, for better and worse, but it’s so varied in its delivery.

At the end of the day, Koko isn’t a trilogy I would recommend. Not without knowing the potential reader. But even if I personally find large parts of it very lacking, there is still some good in this trilogy.

BOOK REVIEW: A Desolation Called Peace, by Arkady Martine

Major spoilers for A Memory Called Empire

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Publisher: Tor

Series: Teixcalaan (#2)

Genre: Space Opera

Pages: 480

Publication Date: 04/03/2021

Verdict: 5/5

Teixcalaan expands outwards, consuming all in its path. Except Lsel Station, which has negotiated a fragile peace in the face of a greater threat. A fleet is approaching human space. Unidentified, unknowable, and utterly alien . . .

Arkady Martine’s debut A Memory Called Empire was one of my top books of 2019. A beautifully told and highly original space opera that was as intellectually challenging as it was entertaining. It was one of those rare books that worked for me on every level, and also one of the rare occasions on which I find myself in agreement with the Hugo Awards, where Martine won best novel. A Desolation Called Peace was first advertised as being available last year but (I assume) like many others it had its release date shunted back by the pandemic, and has only now appeared. The question is, can it live up to the staggering level of book one?

The answer is yes. A resounding yes at that. A Memory Called Empire left a lot unresolved, with Mahit Dzmare returning home in shame rather than submit to the seduction of Teixcalaan. At the same time, an alien threat manifested on the edge of human space. One thing is immediately clear in A Desolation Called Peace, and that is that the characters are indeed human. Only referred to as Stationers or Teixcallanlitzlim, I spent large parts of book one wondering if they were in fact all alien. But no, Martine has saved the truly alien for the sequel. The impending threat of war gives Desolation a sense of narrative urgency that Empire didn’t always have. But Martine still takes her time with proceedings, and there’s something of a relaxing quality to her writing. This isn’t space opera like most I read. Yes, there are naval engagements and explosions, but the real action takes place in the dialogue.

Just as Empire was a musing on the nature of civilisation, so Desolation concerns itself with language. You see, the aliens don’t speak (or even think) the way humans do. This is abundantly clear from the prologue, which I had to read twice before deciding I wasn’t supposed to understand it immediately. If ever. All the best literary aliens are nonhuman in ways other mediums can’t portray, and here we have some great ones.

A Desolation Called Peace poses a lot of big questions, and to her credit Martine doesn’t try to give concrete answers. How can you talk to someone who doesn’t understand what language is? Can you make peace without the threat of war? What price must you pay for life you want? As with Empire, it’s clear Martine’s answers are different from my own, but her control of language makes for a compelling argument.

This ends the story of Mahit Dzmare, but I am told that the story of Teixcalaan will go on. With these two novels Martine has established herself as a must-buy author. I for one can’t wait to see what happens next.

THE WISHLIST: Heavy Hitters of Science Fiction

I consider myself pretty well-read when it comes to science fiction. Look at my shelves and you’ll see a lot of the big names. Asimov, Herbert, Scalzi, Weber. There’s tie-in novels for Star Trek, Star Wars, and more. Then there’s books no one else seems to have heard of. Michael Mammay, Christopher Ruocchio, H. Beam Piper, and countless others. But it is the tragedy of all readers that no collection will ever be complete. There are gaps in my shelves that I’m embarrassed to admit. While I love picking up obscure reads, there are some rather more famous ones I should probably get around to reading. here are some that I’m planning to get around to this year.

David Brin: Uplift – Brin is the author of my favourite authorised Asimov sequel, but his original work is something I’ve never given much thought. As I bring myself up to date on a fair few series though, my eye inevitably turns toward new material from a familiar name. From what I’ve seen of it, Uplift and the accompanying universe look like the sort of concept-driven SF that I want more of. I’ve heard a lot of mixed things about his writing, but I’m fairly forgiving on that front, especially if the ideas are as good as I’ve been led to believe.

Ben Bova: Grand Tour – Bova is one of those names that I’ve always seen floating around in used bookstores, but have never picked up. He has a lot of books to his name, and a quick glance suggests something like an early version of The Expanse. Bova’s recent death brought him back to my attention, and it seems only fitting that I delve into his legacy now. With a reputation for hard SF mixed with pulp, I’m interested to see where his works take me, though the titles of his books offer some pretty good clues.

Peter F. Hamilton: The Commonwealth Saga – I have read a little bit of Hamilton before. Manhattan in Reverse was an interesting collection of shorts, but I found The Dreaming Void to be something of a slog. Apparently this isn’t one of his best books, though, and given the size of his writing (both books and page-count), I’m happy to give him a second chance. Pandora‘s Star has been sold to me as a good starting place, though the standalone nature of Fallen Dragon or Great North Road certainly appeals to me. With a choice between matching covers or a diverse spread of fantastic and bizarre images, this is an author I hope I enjoy purely so i can collect the books themselves.

Alastair Reynolds: Revelation Space – I have a mixed history with Reynolds. On the one hand his short stories are engrossing and his YA(ish) Revenger trilogy was very good. On the other, both House of Suns and Aurora Rising I found lacking. Given that the latter books represent the style of his larger body of work, I’m hesitant to plunge in. But I also know that Revelation space is touted as some of the best British SF by people who know about that sort of thing. Even if I don’t get on with the series, I’ll probably continue buying his novellas and short story collections as they become available.

Clifford D. Simak – With a name as recognisable as Asimov, Simak is an author I’ve long been intrigued by, especially with the bright orange spines all his old paperbacks seem to have. I’ve read the odd short story by him, and haven’t be overly impressed. But nor have I been convinced to stay away. I’ll be honest and admit I have no idea where to start with Simak, but most of his work does appear to be standalone. And if can find fun in someone like A.E. van Vogt, then I’m sure Simak is worth the pittance being asked for admission.

Vernor Vinge: A Fire Upon the Deep – This is another book I’ve seen on shop shelves for as long as I can remember. To tell the truth, I have no idea what it is about, but that title is one that demands further investigation. Some of the online communities I’m part of are planning a readalong for April, but I know I won’t have time for that. Nor, in truth, are readalongs my thing. But they have brought it back to my attention, and there’s only so long I can ignore a classic of its standing.

So there you have it. A glimpse into my gap-toothed shelves. I don’t know when I’ll find time to read these classics, especially with all the new books being produced month after month, but they are in my plans at some stage. If there’s any message here, it’s this: Don’t worry about the gaps in your knowledge. They just mean you have new experiences still ahead.

BOOK REVIEW: What Price Honor? by Dave Stern

click here for a full index of all my Star Trek reviews

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Era: Enterprise, Season 1

Publisher: Pocket Books

Genre: Space Opera/Military SF

Pages: 298

Publication Date: 2003

Verdict: 4/5

A member of the Enterprise crew is dead, having seemingly turned traitor. But is there more to the story of Alana Hart? And how does it relate to the ongoing first contact with the Sarkassians . . ?

Just look at him. Lieutenant Malcolm Reed, staring our of the cover with typical British reserve. Magnificent. Though Hoshi Sato is my favourite Enterprise character, Malcolm is a very close second, and this is a book all about him. Almost the entire novel is told from close to his perspective, with a few diversions here and there. Now, in the show Malcolm was a pretty closed-off individual, especially in the first season. His stiff upper lip approach to life and general love of regulations were no small part of his appeal, and that’s something that comes across strongly in What price Honor? Like By the Book, this was written before most of the show came out, but Stern has clearly had more material to base his characterisation on than previous authors, and here he absolutely nails the reserve and dedication to duty of Reed.  This is an early chance to get in the mind of the British spacefarer, but he loses none of his gruff charm and dry wit for the exposure.

The overall story focuses on the death of a woman under Malcom’s command. A woman that he had been developing feelings for. Despite a lot of theories going around at the time that Malcolm was gay, he certainly had a habit of diving into relationships with women when the opportunity presented itself. As regular readers will know, I’m not really a fan of romance, but the affection between Reed and Hart here is almost secondary to Malcolm’s internal struggle between following his heart and obeying the letter of regulations. For what it’s worth, I’m firmly on the side of the regulations, and Malcolm’s actions are perfectly in keeping with his portrayal in the show. You can easily imagine Dominic Keating delivering any of the lines in this book.

This is a far more intimate story than a lot of Enterprise‘s more action-heavy episodes, with the alien encounters and strange new worlds taking a backseat to Reed’s struggles. Even so, the war between the Sarkassians and the Ta’alaat is a fun little side-piece. Their use of ancient technology is a classic Star Trek puzzle, and if this book was written later on I think it might have been tied into the Ware technology from ‘Dead Stop’ and the Rise of the Federation series. This could easily have been a full novel on its own, but as it stands it’s a good break between scenes of Reed’s investigations.

This isn’t a perfect book, and my main issue is a structural one. The book takes place over the course of about two weeks, but is not told in a linear fashion. Chapters alternate between the present, and the earlier days of Reed and Hart’s relationship, leading up to her death. The switches between times can get a little confusing. It mirrors Reed’s own confusion, but for me it goes slightly to far, and makes for odd reading. The dates in the book also set the action about a year before Enterprise should have left Earth, but that’s only a minor niggle.

In spite of a few flaws, this is a strong book for so early in the series, and provides some of the finest Malcolm Reed content you’re likely to find.

BOOK REVIEW: By the Book, by Dean Wesley Smith & Kristine Kathryn Rusch

click here for a full index of all my Star Trek reviews

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Era: Enterprise, Season 1

Publisher: Pocket Books

Genre: Social SF

Pages: 252

Publication Date: 2003

Verdict: 4/5

First contact is the reason Jonathan Archer travels, but what do you do when communication with aliens is impossible? And when there are two aliens on the same world, are your problems doubled . . ?

By the Book is the very first Enterprise novel, written before the pilot even aired. As such, it doesn’t do anything terribly daring, focusing instead on telling a classic Star Trek tale while showcasing the new crew. In that, it fits right in alongside other early episodes of the TV series. There are a few continuity errors, mostly to do with rank, but nothing that gets in the way of the story. Given that the authors only had production notes to base the characters on, there’s also a sense that the characters are somewhat caricatures of themselves. Trip is always interrupting with folksy dialogue, Archer is even more anti-Vulcan than he is on screen, and there’s a slightly stilted feel to proceedings.

That being said, two characters are served incredibly well by Smith and Rusch, and they are Hoshi Sato and Travis Mayweather. It’s no secret that Hoshi is one of my favourite Trek characters, and it is delightful to see her getting some page time at this early stage. While she was often underutilised in Enterprise, her role here is exactly what it should be. This is a book all about communications difficulties, so of course the communications officer has a lot to do. Nerd that I am, I could happily read entire books dedicated to deciphering alien language, so this slim offering is just perfect for me. Travis, meanwhile, was probably even less well-used on the show, but here he’s the heart that holds the crew together, a role I would have loved to see more of on the screen. there’s only a certain amount a pilot has to do in any given script, so having Travis focus on the social side of ship life is a perfect balance, and only natural given his background.

While the main story is of course that of first contact, almost half the book is dedicated to something rather different. Travis and a handful of other low-ranking crewmembers are playing a tabletop role-playing game. As a gamer myself, it was bizarre seeing my two hobbies come together like this, and Cutler’s struggles as a Games Master is possibly the most relatable thing I’ve ever read. Weirdly, this secondary story doesn’t cross over with the main one. There’s a small amount of thematic similarity, but that’s the extent of their links. Other than the fact that characters swap between the game world and the real world, these could almost be a pair of novellas rather than a single novel. Having a story within a story is always a gamble, but here it really sells the communal feeling of the crew that has always been one of Star Trek‘s defining features.

This isn’t a book that will change the world, but it’s a nice little slice of Star Trek that gives quality material to two underappreciated characters.

BOOK REVIEW: Broken Bow, by Diane Carey

click here for a full index of all my Star Trek reviews

(Based on the screenplay by Rick Berman & Brannon Braga)

Era: Enterprise, Season 1

Publisher: Pocket Books

Genre: Space Opera

Pages: 282

Publication Date: 2003

Verdict: 3/5

Enterprise. The NX-01 will be Earth’s first warp five starship. But before the ship can be launched, a diplomatic incident with the Klingons threatens to further delay Earth’s spacefaring ambitions . . .

As the Star Trek section of this blog proves, I love cross-media tie-ins. Books based on TV shows, TV shows based on films, films based on books. A lot of my favourite shows are adaptations of some kind. But for whatever reason, one thing I’ve always tended to avoid is straight novelisations. My bookshelves have a few, from Star Wars to Stargate, and even Isaac Asimov‘s version of Fantastic Voyage, but I’ve never picked up a Star Trek novelisation before. I think it’s mostly because I know a lot of these episodes inside and out, so novelisations don’t have much new to offer. That being said, I am a huge Enterprise fan. Having read all of the post-finale novels last year, I now turn my attention to the books written during or set in the original run. And where better to start than with Broken Bow, the pilot that launched the series?

This is a pretty direct adaptation, to the point that some scenes feel more like a script with description slotted in than a regular novel. There’s a little bit of internal dialogue added, but honestly it’s nothing that the actors can’t convey with a few meaningful looks. The writing itself is functional, boilerplate in the best way, conveying a lot in just a handful of words. That said, Carey has a good grip on these characters, and the sparse descriptions can be forgiven easily when the faces and sets are etched on your memory as they are mine. If you’ve watched the show, there won’t be anything new here, but it’s a decent introduction to the world for someone unfamiliar with Enterprise.

The last forty pages of the book aren’t actually part of the adaptation, but instead consist of a behind the scenes article written by Paul Ruditis. This is particularly interesting, as it covers some of the decisions made during early production. I didn’t know how integral Scott Bakula was to the role of Archer, nor how Dominic Keating got the part of Malcolm Reed. I have to say, the interviews with Berman and Braga do shed light on some decisions I always fund puzzling. their insistence on treating T’Pol as a ‘babe’ is particularly telling, as this treatment is easily one of the show’s weakest links. For all the issues behind the scenes, however, it’s clear that everyone involved was trying to make the best show they could, even if they did have to rise beyond what they were given by those higher up the chain.

At the end of the day, this is pretty much what I expect from an adaptation. It’s basic, but a fun read that won’t take too much time out of your day.

BOOK REVIEW: Dead Men Walking, by Steve Lyons

click here for a full list of all my Warhammer 40,000 content

 

Publisher: Black Library

Genre: Military SF

Pages: 414

Publication Date: 2010

Verdict: 5/5

The Death Korps of Krieg are among the most infamous Imperial soldiers. Bred for war and determined to die for the God-Emperor, they are utterly without mercy. Now they face an enemy as cold and implacable as they are. On Hieronymus Theta, the ancient Necrons have awakened . . .

Originally released eleven years ago and now re-released after the results of a reader poll as part of the 2021 Black Library Celebration, Dead Men Walking is a book with a fearsome reputation to live up to. Happily, it absolutely lives up to it. This is unquestionably one of the best standalone Warhammer 40,000 books I’ve read. You don’t need to know anything about the setting before going in, and it doesn’t leave you hanging at the end as some long series do. These four hundred pages are a complete story in and of themselves.

And what a story it is! Steve Lyons impressed me last year with his novella Iron Resolve, and I am pleased to see that his skill translates just as well to longer for storytelling. Like that novellas, Dead Men Walking hammers home the absolute darkness of war in the forty-first millennium. It is brutal, bloody and bleak, and I absolutely love it. This isn’t war the way it’s often portrayed in Warhammer 40,000. There’s no larger-than-life Space Marines tearing their way through heretics and xenos alike. No mystical powers or psykers. Our protagonists here are human, and stand just about as much chance as you’d expect when faced with overwhelming odds.

Lyons has a decent spread of characters in this book, introducing more as the pages turn by. But to a one, they’re engaging from the outset. There are tired soldiers, cold veterans, young lovers, and more. All are different, and all are interesting. Lyons is also brilliantly unafraid to kill his creations. This is Warhammer, so you shouldn’t expect everyone to make it out alive, and they don’t. But the brutality of their end(s) is shocking even for an experienced reader. The fragility of these characters is half their appeal, with you never knowing if they’ll make it to the end of the chapter. It is the bloodiest book I’ve read in a long while, and really pushed the grim and dark aspects of the setting.

Beyond our protagonists, we have the Necrons. They’re one of the xenos factions that I find more interesting. Essentially legions of undead cyborgs, the Necrons here have one of their best portrayal. While authors like Nate Crowley and Robert Rath are bringing a more human feel to the ancient robots, here they are very much faceless legions. And that’s the whole point. How can you fight an enemy that is barely aware of your existence? One who has existed for longer than your species has been alive, and will probably be around long after your grandchildren are forgotten? Without any PoVs, the Necrons are a faceless and enigmatic foe, and I would love to see more of this side of them.

Dead Men Walking is one of those rare books where the hype is justified. More than that, even. It is phenomenal on every level, and I cannot recommend it highly enough.

BOOK REVIEW: Koko the Mighty, by Kieran Shea

click here for my review of book one, Koko Takes A Holiday

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Series: Koko (#2)

Publisher: Titan

Genre: Cyberpunk

Pages: 323

Publication Date: 2015

Verdict: 1/5

Koko has done her best to settle down, but sometimes trouble finds you. Once again pursued by people who want her dead, Koko flees the Sixty. But is her destination a safe haven, or just a haven for drug-dealing psychopaths . . ?

One of the things I do here At Boundary’s Edge is try and keep things positive. Like the majority of bloggers, I write reviews because I love books, and because I want to encourage others to find the books I love. There’s enough negativity in the world without it encroaching on every hobby. A lot of people read books, especially science fiction, to escape from the real world, so why would I drag negativity into the literary world? There are a lot of books I haven’t reviewed simply because I didn’t enjoy them. But this year I’ve decided to talk about all the science fiction I consume, even if it’s not to my taste. This is partly a cynical bid to boost page views, but more than that, it’s an effort to start a conversation. If all I do is spout positivity, it feels like I’m an unpaid hypeman. As I’ve written before, negative reviews are just as valid as positive ones. The way I see it, you can learn as much about my tastes from the books I dislike as the ones I love.

Koko the Mighty is a book that I very much do not love. Koko Takes A Holiday was a stupid, noisy little book that cleansed my palate between longer reads. Koko the Mighty is worse in almost every regard, which is odd given that it’s basically a rerun of book one. Once again we follow Koko as she fights mercenaries, assassins and general thuggery, to the backdrop of chaotic scenery and frenetic writing. But if there’s too much of a good thing, there’s certainly too much of a mediocre thing. This book lacks the novelty of the first volume, has none of its charm, and didn’t make a whole lot of sense.

The weirdest part is that I can see a story like this working, albeit in a different medium. If this were a comic book, the dialogue and action set-pieces could be much more clearly conveyed, and the story might benefit from that shorter, more vivid form. If this ever gets picked up for adaptation, I can see it becoming a cult hit like SyFy’s Killjoys. The over-the-top sensibilities and non-stop action would certainly come across better on the screen than on the page. This is a book that tries very hard to be fun – too hard, in my opinion – but with actors to bring life and vitality to the characters, I would give it a second chance.

Koko Uncaged is still sitting on my TBR, and I’m torn between letting it linger there a while longer, or just getting it out of the way next. Whatever I decide, I’ll be sure to let you know.