Apr 172014

Poorly written, overly long, but containing useful information. This could be the summary of most business books. Leoncioni works on organisational structure and behaviour with companies, and builds fables to teach his principles. The fables are really, really difficult to read, but there is something about using storytelling that makes it stick, I suppose, but I’d personally rather read a textbook. It’s got loads of useful advice, I just wish it had a little bit more respect for people and the language in which it’s written – and spent more time on actual case studies rather than one long made-up one.


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Apr 142014

In this future fashioned for the 9-12 set, Alice Dare (not Alasdair) is the very normal daughter of the world’s most famous fighter pilot. The world has been invaded by invisible aliens called Morrors who want to turn the Earth into a never ending ice age. They like it cold, see. McDougall blends clever wit and loads of fun to bring this tale where 300 kids are evacuated to Mars ahead of the ongoing Morror invasion, just in time for it all to get worse. Endlessly inventive, this book deserves to be right at the top of your book-buying list.


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Apr 092014

In a complete turnaround from much of the deep, thoughtful work I’ve been reading comes a B movie in novel form. James Stark, petty magician condemned (alive) to Hell gets out after eleven years, taking some precious Hellion artefacts and returns to the only place worse: Los Angeles. He’s got a score to settle and he’s missed everything from 1989 ’til 2009. A fun, fast read with top-notch worldbuilding let down, unfortunately, by some poor research and edit choices (doesn’t recognise a BlackBerry but sneers at Dot-com millionaires…) Ignore the iffy edits, though, and just go along for the ride.


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Apr 072014

This book grabbed me by the throat and didn’t let go for a second. I used to live in Uganda and Zambia, and Nollywood drama was part of the background; this book is Nollywood drama run headlong into alien invasion, all steeped in Nigeria’s history, both real and legendary. It starts out looking like an eco-thriller, then weaves together the lives of a marine biologist, a soldier with strong ethics, and a Ghanaian rapper. The book is impressive in ambition and it doesn’t spoon-feed a thing; you’ll be rewarded with a range of emotion from terror to bleak, black humour.


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Apr 042014

The March Hodderscape Review Project is out.

100 words: Overall

I’m of somewhat mixed mind of this book. It started off strong, pulling the reader in with a great premise – a young girl, kidnapped by a survivalist and locked up in a disused nuclear silo. So far, so good, and the book has a strong beginning. It’s easy, if potentially triggery for those with a history of sexual abuse, to get drawn into a story like this. There are extreme stakes and a good clash of culture and values and assumptions. The thing is, this story has been done, really well, just a few years ago, so it’s harder now.

100 words: Descent (Below)

The cracks in the story start to show once our hero Blythe is trapped underground. She tries to escape several times, but it feels almost by the numbers. She tries. Dobbs, the school librarian survivalist with the clip-on tie and lacquered hair, stops her, and then makes her confinement a little more complex. Promising ideas – a vent that goes to the ground level, are touched on and explored, as though it’s just there to be filler until the inevitable twist comes. Does a plot twist if it’s telegraphed so very clearly, even in Dorothy’s Kansas, land of twisters? Does it?

100 words: SPOILERS (Above)

The book really comes into its own in the second half, after Morley winds up the locked room kidnap horror novel and returns us to the surface. <SPOILERS NO REALLY> She’s had a child, and raised him out of the light, and the reader gets the twist right away – but the poor characters have no idea: Dobbs was right. The world has blown itself apart. Radiation. Disease. Mutation. There are some lovely, tender moments when Blythe knows what has happened, but her son, Adam, doesn’t understand it at all. There’s violence and humanity and – some – redemption, and the meaning of home. </SPOILER> But good?

100 words: The tropes of victimhood

So, there’s this strange dynamic with Blythe, our victim. We can see her go through several stages victimhood: fighting, craftiness, denial, and finally a full Stockholm Syndrome acceptance, complete with child. Eventually there’s even some forgiveness and understanding and – dare I say it, love? It is, perhaps, the emotional arc that the setup demands, but it’s just… troubling, all the way through. The beats are all there, but the journey between them falls flat, feels false, and makes it appear inevitable. This book also suggests that kidnapping a sixteen year-old girl is OK in certain circumstances. Seriously fucked up. Wrong.

100 words: Conclusion

Above is an enjoyable read, but it’s ultimately less than the sum of its parts. It does a decent job of glossing over violence (and particularly sexual violence) without glorifying it – but also, perhaps, without deep investigation, so it may not be triggery for certain readers. It often feels padded and sometimes divorced from its emotion. The big reveal isn’t all that big, and I can’t quite work out what age it’s aimed for: I can’t work out if it’s pandering to older readers or spurring younger readers to face an all-too-real terrible reality. Started with a bang; ended whispery.



Apr 022014

Lucien de Fontein is an Orfano, one accorded all the privileges of status, but without being an actual part of one of the four families of Landfall – an Italianate land of intrigue and increasing strangeness. Patrick weaves two threads of the story in time towards a stunning final conclusion that showcases a vast imagination teeming with plots and intrigues. The writing and the world set up a sequence of three books that, if they live up to the promise of the first, will be gladly read by those who think fantasy is tired as well as its most die-hard fans.


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Mar 312014

Cadigan, known for being a proper Cyberpunk OG, is still writing and rousing rabble, and doing a damn fine job of it. With Chalk, a chapbook, she shows a deft hand with horror as well. This isn’t horror in the “One, two, Freddie’s coming for you” mould, but layers of the supernatural which draw the reader in, creeping through the underbrush to create fear and dread in yourself. Two young girls, best friends, in a small town in the 1960s look for places to hide in plain sight. Don’t be surprised if you see this on loads of awards lists.


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Mar 282014

George Duncan appears to be a perfectly safe, perfectly ordinary man, divorced, schlepping towards middle age, and passing the time with a moderately successful business that gives him ample time. He is presented with a choice: venture into the cold and dark, friendless and alone to aid an anonymous cry for help, or back to sleep.

George plunges into the unknown and is literally touched by divinity, taking his role in a complex blend of history and myth, touching on the endless cycle of creation and destruction. It’s a terribly ambitious whirlwind that gets more right than it gets wrong.



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Mar 262014

Business books are poorly written and typically contain about 80% useless information and posturing to about 20% useful information. Often the blog posts or the articles on which they’re based are better written, tighter, and more useful. This holds true here – I’d estimate that only 10-15% of the book is useful, but what’s there is really rather good. It’s very much worth a read, particularly because of its extreme focus on people. Managing. One-on-ones. Development. Hiring. Firing. Redundancies. Hiring for strength rather than to avoid weakness. I’d just like to see a shorter version of it that wasn’t so CEO-focussed.


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Mar 242014

Another day, another dystopian future, but not every one is quite so “progressive, intelligent, and entertaining“. Lona is a stray: an escapee from the Path project, in which children in care are put through twenty-three hours a day of a quiet, normal life – in virtual reality. Hesse’s debut digs deep: we value children, but much more the small ute ones learning to walk than those turning into people – and how we deal with those who don’t fit in? What does it mean to be an individual human? Who are we as a society, and is that society a humane one?


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