Sunday, April 30, 2017

Recent Reads Round-Up (Non-Crime)

Taking a break from crime fiction to read some speculative fiction is a great way to keep my genre of choice fresh. While not completely breaking away from crime, with each of the below having some criminal elements, it was nice to try out something different, including reading a book by an author I've not read before (despite having 4 books written by him in my tbr).

Book: Thrawn by Timothy Zahn
Publisher Century
Length 427 pages
Format softcover
Published 2017
Series standalone
My Copy I bought it

My Review
I loved the original Thrawn trilogy in the now non-canonical Star Wars extended universe and was wrapped to read in late 2016 that a new Thrawn book was to be published this year set in the Disney Canon. Thrawn reads as an origin story of the alien super tactician Thrawn as he sneaks his way into the Empire steadily building a reputation as one of the most important strategic thinkers in the Empire, wining battle after battle and showing compassion and modesty along the way. Of course, his rising star burns some of the Empire's more ambitious members but Thrawn handles everything with a grace only his character could muster. 

There are battles and action scenes but these are secondary to Thrawn himself, author Timothy Zahn knows this character back to front and writes him in a way that is a joy to read, action aside, this book is all about firmly implanting Thrawn in the modern day Star Wars continuity. 

5/5 stars - You could easily read this book as part of the current canon or as a prelude to the Thrawn trilogy. 

Book: Harbinger Renegade: The Judgement of Solomon written by Rafer Roberts
Publisher Valiant
Length  144 pages
Format trade paperback
Published 2017
Series Harbinger Renegades Vol.1
My Copy I bought it

My Review
The return of Harbinger hit all the right notes; re-establishing the Renegades, maintaining the continuity of the earlier Harbinger run written by Joshua Dysart, introducing a new and menacing villain in Solomon, and making Psiots at the front and center of the Valiant Comics Universe. This return to form sees Solomon manipulate matters to re-establish the Renegades for his as yet undisclosed purposes. Like Harada before him, Solomon (a former protege of Harada from a long time ago) actively seeks out Psiots yet to be activated (not many humans with dormant super powers survive the activation process) in hopes of helping them reach their full potential. As a result he's got a motley crew of super powered teens at his back, somewhat unruly but willing to do his bidding. 

Rafer Roberts writes these character very well and teases just enough to keep the reader coming back for me. Collecting Harbinger Renegade #1-#4, The Judgment of Solomon feels meaty. There's a long going on issue to issue while seeding plot points for the next installment (due to start monthly in July). 

This book is about two things really - reuniting the Renegades and establishing a new bad guy on the block; it does both beautifully. 

A note on the art: Derick Robertson and Juan Jose Ryp are a perfect fit and really capture the emotion of the characters and provide a deeply well crafted visual landscape for Rafer Roberts's characters to traverse. 

5/5 stars - bring on 'Massacre' (the next collected volume).  

Book: Red Country by Joe Abercrombie
Publisher Orion
Length 451 pages
Format hardcover
Published 2012
Series standalone / First Law book #6
My Copy I bought it

My Review
Red Country is one part fantasy, one part western and all parts good storytelling. The book largely follows a group (or Fellowship) of characters as they traverse a dangerous country in search of missing children, killers and gold among other reasons. 

Each character is well defined with their own unique voice and accompanying back-story (or enough story to make them read 'real'). There are so many sub plots, had a lesser writer penned the book I could easily see this bloody quest going off track but Abercrombie is such a good writer that everything feels organic and true to the broader story arc. 

One thing that did surprise me was the humorous aspect to the book, characters such as Shy, Temple, and Cosca all had me laughing with their witty dialogue - a nice contrast to the richly violent world these characters inhabited. Additionally, Red Country is chock full of memorable quotes, much like the Shadows of the Apt fantasy series by Adrian Tchaikovsky, Abercrombie goes that extra mile to enhance an already good story. 

5/5 stars. 

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