29 September 2012

Book Review: Great North Road - Peter F. Hamilton

What: Great North Road
Who: Peter F Hamilton
When: Published 17 Sep 2012

St Libra is paradise for Earth's mega-rich. Until the killing begins.
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...
In this stunning, standalone adventure, Peter F. Hamilton blends fast-paced narrative with vividly imagined future-worlds.

An excellent standalone novel. As good, if not better than Fallen Dragon. The two main plot lines came together wonderfully and the characters were very good - all typically Peter F Hamilton.
I really grew to like the character Angela - what a life she had! The twists and turns of the plot had me wondering right until the end.
I was eager to read this book when it was first released and I wasn't disappointed. Top stuff.


New comet to see in 2013

A new comet will fly by in 2013! And it could be brighter than the Full Moon.

Russian astronomers using the International Scientific Optical Network's (ISON) telescope have discovered a comet that's scheduled to make its closest appearance to Earth in December of 2013. Called C/2012 S1, it's expected to be the brighest visitor to our solar system in the past century — a comet that'll be considerably brighter than Hale-Bopp (1997) and Halley's Comet (1986). The disintevaporating hunk of ice and rock could be visible for up to three months.

C/2012 S1 will not be the only comet to pay us a visit next year. Comet Pan-STARRS is expected to swing by in March 2013, though it's not expected to be as bright as the newly discovered object.

The comet was discovered on September 21 by Vitali Nevski and Artyom Novichonok. The object will hit its perihelion (its closest approach to the Sun) on November 28, 2013 at a distance of 0.012 AU, or 1,800,000 miles. On October 1, 2013, the comet will swing by Mars, and then the Earth on December 26, 2013.

Experts predict it could become a rather spectacular sight in the night sky — but that's assuming it doesn't disintegrate before then. As witnessed by Elenin last year, a comet can break-up at any given time, particularly as it gets closer to the Sun.

Writing in Red Orbit, Lawrence Le Blond notes that C/2012 S1 is currently hanging out just beyond the orbit of Jupiter. "The comet is currently very faint, but as it approaches the Sun, it will steadily brighten," he writes, "It will be easily picked up by experienced amateur astronomers with CCD equipment in the coming months, and will be within binocular view by late summer 2013, and eventually by the naked eye in early November. Depending on brightness, the comet should remain visible to the naked eye from early November 2013 to mid-January 2014."

Nice one. Can't wait.

Book Review: Biggles In Africa by Capt. W.E. Johns

What: Biggles In Africa (Biggles No.11)
Who: Captain W.E. Johns
When: Published August 1936

This book is good clean fun!

This is the first Biggles book that I've ever read. I remember them in the library when I was a kid but they never really caught my attention. So it's quite unusual that I decided to have a go at one as an adult. This was first published in the 60's I believe. I would have LOVED this as a young reader.

I threw this book onto my phone and read it in between my regular reading during downtime at work over about 3 months. It was a very easy book to come back to after being away from it for days or even weeks. The plot is pretty straightforward and the characters easy to grasp and this makes for a nice story, albeit a little 'juvenile'. I gather that this is the target audience, however.

I found the story really fun. Three jovial friends heading off to Africa to rescue the lost son of a wealthy gentleman. There are aeroplane rides, fierce savages, rampaging rhinos, snarling lions and a host of other neat predicaments the chaps find themselves in, all the while keeping the true British 'stiff upper lip'.

I also found the 'non-political-correctness' quite refreshing as I often think we live in a crazy world in this regard. There is no disrespect intended as this is how things were back in the days when this story is set. Check this out:

Biggles’ eyes glinted and his lips came together in a tight line. "You insolent rascal; you talk to me like that and I’ll thrash the skin off your back. Be off, and sharp’s the word!" 


"WHAT happened to those niggers at the finish?’" asked Biggles as the machine ran to a standstill on aerodrome. 

Absolute gold. It's phrasing like this that make it such innocent fun and a real giggle in places.

A great story (if predictable) and fun characters. I've given it a rating based on what the story is and who it's written for.

I'm glad I read it and I'll be sure to read some more Biggles in between the more serious reading.


21 September 2012

British Lion - listen online!

For those like me who are waiting for Steve Harris's new album British Lion, click HERE to take a little sneak preview and listen to the songs online.

18 September 2012

Messiah - EVEN MORE great space opera

What: Messiah - Apotheoisis Book 3
Who: S. Andrew Swann
When: Published Feb 2011

The third book in the Apotheoisis Trilogy following Heretics.

The last stand against the self-proclaimed God, Adam, has retreated to the anarchic planet Bakunin-a world besieged by civil war. Humanity's last hope lies with Nickolai Rajasthan, a Moreau who believes that the human race that created his kind is already damned beyond redemption.

This final installment was a very fine finish to an equally fine space opera trilogy. Messiah had a lot more combat action than the previous two books. But what great action!

Again I'm reminded of Hamilton's Night's Dawn Trilogy...a final apocalyptic and epic battle with one of the main characters finding a "way through" to score the ultimate victory. That's more than okay because the climax just seemed to fit so well with the story that had led up to it.

I liked how the author weaved the question of God and faith into the story. Quite well done and those who think about such things will enjoy this aspect. I certainly did.

I particularly enjoyed learning who the Dolbrians were/are. Very satisfying and leaving a few unanswered questions there too. I regret that I haven't read any of the preceding books (Moreau/Hostile Takeover) because I felt that I'd missed some prior background to the story, but this is only a minor frustration. In saying that, I enjoyed this series immensely. I want the story to continue so I can see where the characters go next! It'd be nice to think that there could be future stories in the pipeline...(please).

My hat is off to Mr Swiniarski, what a great job. Not too heavy and not too light - just right! If you like good sci-fi then read this series. Right now I'm on the lookout for the Hostile Takeover books...

Click on the cover image above to read more at Goodreads