Tyson Adams

Putting the 'ill' back in thriller

Archive for the tag “James Rollins”

Book Review: Sign of the Cross by Chris Kuzneski

Sign Of The Cross (Jonathon Payne & David Jones, #2)Sign Of The Cross by Chris Kuzneski

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Sometimes when I’m reading a book I’m not sure if I’m meant to be excited, enrapt, or cringing. It’s taken me a few days to arrive at a decision and I’ve decided to cringe.

Sign of the Cross is a fast paced action adventure novel in the vein of Steve Berry, James Rollins, or that guy who wrote the book that annoyed the Pope; what was his name? In the second instalment of Payne and Jones’ adventures, the mercenaries are hired to hunt down two archaeologists who have uncovered a secret that could bring down the Catholic Church. Meanwhile a team of killers are reenacting the crucifixion, because, you know, that’s what Jesus would have wanted. With everyone hunting for Payne, Jones and their pet archaeologists, and a few murderers running around, who at the Vatican knows and who wants the secret, and do they want it for power or payback?

This is the first Chris Kuzneski book I’ve read, and it will be my last. Now that I’ve had time to reflect upon the story and writing, I’m actually surprised I finished the novel. Kuzneski came up in my recommendations because he writes fast paced adventure novels like two of my favourite authors, the previously mentioned Berry and Rollins. Unlike those two, however, Kuzneski takes all of the same ingredients for a novel, mixes them in an overly large bowl (the book is over 400 pages), and manages to make gruel.

The novel started well, but I noticed myself cringing at the end of the chapters with the ham-fisted foreshadowing. This continued until I would start preemptively cringing as I reached the end of each chapter. Seriously, it felt like the end of every scene or chapter Kuzneski would have a line like “Little did they know that only two of them would return.” But wait, there is more. There is an underlying casual sexism and racism to the novel that is unintentional, but jarring. An early scene has one of the characters, Nick Dial, surprised to see a woman Interpol agent. Not that Nick was sexist, women could be just as good as men……. No, Nick explained that he wasn’t sexist, but some of his bosses weren’t as open minded. Yeah. I’m not sexist, but….

These two points are just the major problems I had with the writing of this novel. And it is mainly the writing that lets this book down. In the example I just mentioned, there are many ways authors could discuss Nick’s surprise at seeing a woman on the job. But the way the scene was written it sounded like the author was desperately trying to sound progressive and PC. This poor writing happened throughout the book, which actually has a reasonable plot, a bit of humour, and great pacing. Some readers may not notice these issues, although I note many reviews complain about the foreshadowing, and it was entertaining enough for me to finish reading, so others may find this enjoyable. But I would recommend reading anything by Steve Berry or James Rollins instead.

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Book Review: Secondworld by Jeremy Robinson

SecondWorldSecondWorld by Jeremy Robinson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

There’s nothing quite like a fast paced thriller to keep the blood pumping. Well, except perhaps a double shot of espresso washing down a hit of speed after an eightball. I think reading might be easier on the heart, though.

Jeremy Robinson’s SecondWorld has probably one of the more suspenseful openings I’ve read in a while. His hero, Lincoln Miller, is stuck underwater with no air left, only to surface and find no air to breath thanks to some mysterious red flakes soaking up the oxygen. If the lack of air wasn’t bad enough, he’s being hunted by a shark. Like I said, suspenseful.

Of course, no air, poisonous red flakes falling from the sky, sharks, that’s just the beginning of a thriller that sees skin-heads and a Nazi plot started back at the end of the Second World War, trying to purify the world. Welcome to SecondWorld.

Jeremy handles the plotting and pacing well, reminding me a lot of James Rollins. This book is a lot of fun and is very entertaining. My problem with the novel comes from some of the details that jarred me straight out of the story. To most readers this wouldn’t be a problem, but for me it was. An example was a .38 Super revolver being referred to as a hand-cannon, something that is a stretch for a yoga master. These errors and the inclusion of an overly obvious ending – not to spoil it, but add cryogenics and Nazis together and what cliche do you get? – and I had to downgrade my score on what was an otherwise entertaining read.

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Tyson Adams’ 2013 Book Awards: The Awesomes

This is the third year of The Awesomes™, the award I give to books that had me staying up late to finish them, the books that had me rapt until the end, and sometimes past the end. I’ve read a few books this year (+70) so here are my favourites of 2013 and this year’s Awesome™.

As you will have noticed, my reviews of books are more about my impressions of the book and talking about how much I liked the book, rather than a recap of the plot, etc. My reasoning behind this is simple, I want to say “read this book” to people rather than fall into my bad habit of spoiling the ending, or being a bitch about books I didn’t enjoy. My list is based upon what I have read this year, so obviously some great books have missed out due to lack of reading hours in the year (blame the rugrat). Also my read list does include some books that were published prior to 2013. There were also some categories that were sadly under-represented, whilst others had some very intense competition. Also, the fact that I finished a book shows that it was worth reading. I have my reading rules that stop me wasting valuable reading time on books I’m not enjoying. This means that any books on my read list are entertaining (well, unless I was particularly disgusted with the crappiness of the book in question).

Awesome™ of 2013
Luther: The Calling – Neil Cross
Killer Instinct – Zoe Sharp
Gone Girl – Gillian Flynn
Never Go Back – Lee Child
Without Fail – Lee Child
Altar of Eden – James Rollins
The Secret of Excalibur – Andy McDermott

Zero at the Bone – David Whish-Wilson

Awesome Literary Fiction
There were no nominees in this category this year. Better luck next year.

Awesome Mystery & Thriller
Killer Instinct – Zoe Sharp
Without Fail – Lee Child
Altar of Eden – James Rollins
The Secret of Excalibur – Andy McDermott

Never Go Back – Lee Child

Awesome Crime
Luther: The Calling – Neil Cross
Gone Girl – Gillian Flynn

Zero at the Bone – David Whish-Wilson

Awesome Fantasy
There were no nominees in this category this year. Better luck next year.

Awesome Paranormal Fantasy
There were no nominees in this category this year. Better luck next year.

Awesome Science Fiction
There were no nominees in this category this year. Better luck next year.

Awesome Horror

The Strain trilogy – Guillmero Del Toro and Chuck Hogan

NB: cheating here as it was only 4 stars, but deserves the nod as the TV series is now in development and looks like they might have a winner.

Awesome Romance
There were no nominees in this category this year. Better luck next year.

Awesome Humor
There were no nominees in this category this year. Better luck next year.

Awesome Nonfiction

Bad Science – Ben Goldacre

Awesome Graphic Novels & Comics
Midnighter – Garth Ennis
Batman: The Black Mirror – Scott Snyder

Luthur Strode – Justin Jordan

Awesome Indie
No 5 star indies this year, although several 4 star and a few non-mentionables.

Awesome Poetry
There were no nominees in this category this year. Better luck next year.

Awesome Shorts/E-zines
I’m putting this category in just so that I can pimp:

Thrills, Kills and Chaos

Still Awesomes
I re-read – well in some cases I listened to the audiobook – several books this year. They deserve a mention for still being awesome. Sometimes books are better on their second outing, sometimes they are worse, sometimes you wonder why you didn’t throw the book out the first time (I’m looking at you Holden Caulfield).

Dirk Gentley’s Holistic Detective Agency – Douglas Adams (better than I remember)
Long Dark Tea-time of the Soul – Douglas Adams (similar to how I remember)
Life, the Universe, and Everything – Douglas Adams (similar)
Fight Club – Chuck Palahniuk (slightly better)
Game Keeper – Guy Ritchie and Andy Diggle (better)

Congratulations to all the nominees and winners. I hope that I have a chance to read more fantastic books from these authors again in 2014 and that everyone else does too.

Book Review: Arctic Floor by Mark Aitken

Arctic FloorArctic Floor by Mark Aitken
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

There is nothing quite like a marketing executive, especially when they work in publishing. These are the people who come up with the fantastic ideas like: dog on the cover because dogs sell books, no dogs in the book; bright and cheery cover art, book about a serial killer; quotes recommending the book by famous authors, authors that have the same publisher. In this case the marketing department came up with a brilliant idea: Matthew Reilly is an Australian author who sells a lot of books, let’s mention him on the cover, despite the fact that the two authors write in a completely different style.

I grabbed Mark’s book from my local library because I saw he had a new book out, the third in a series, and I hadn’t heard of him previously. A fellow Aussie author, with a comparison to Matthew Reilly on the cover: this should be gold. Needless to say, the marketing people drew me in with false advertising. Mark’s book is a thriller and was a decent read, but he was more Cussler or Archer than Reilly. In fact, I was more reminded of Sahara (swap baking temperatures for freezing cold) than I was of Ice Station.

False advertising aside, this is quite a decent thriller. Worth a read, if you are after a James Rollins or Clive Cussler style novel. I’d expect later books in this series will probably “grab” the reader more, so maybe check out Mark’s new one.

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Book to movie

If there is any one thing that Hollywood does well, it is taking terrific books and turning them into terrible movies. When was the last time someone said “Well the movie was better than the book”?

I’ve opined on this issue before: Tom Cruise as Jack Reacher; why movie studios bother with buying a book when they make a movie that doesn’t resemble the book in any way.

And here it is happening again:

Any movie starring Katherine Heigl is always doomed. She ranked in my article on actresses you don’t want in you book adaptation. Clearly Janet Evanovich signed the movie rights before she read my article. So you have to ask what is happening in Hollywood, aside from the hookers and blow?

Clearly the first thing that is happening is the movie rights. Author agents are clearly trying to make some money for their authors so that the author can give up the day job and write more. Sorry, that should read, they want a commission. The movie studio hands over some spare change they have lying around and grab the book. Then they ask a script writer to give them a script, usually in the same amount of time it would take the script writer to actually read the book. So the script writer hands over a script they already have lying around, after changing a few of the character names to match. The studio then launders finds some money from “business associates” to start casting and shooting. The casting agent looks at the budget and sorts through the least desperate actors in the appropriate pay scale, to find the person who least embodies the main characters.

By the time the movie hits cinemas there have only been two people in the entire process who realise the movie is based upon a book, one of whom may have read it. This, of course, doesn’t really matter because the ten people who have read the book that go to see the movie are sitting in a packed cinema with people who don’t read and are generally confused by plots that can’t be explained in a one-to-two sentence monologue from a minor character.

Clearly Hollywood knows what it is doing, I mean, they cast Tom Cruise as Lestat. And authors love getting money from Hollywood, they can actually afford to pay the rent that month. So maybe it is time writers started writing for Hollywood. Oh wait, they already do that….

Book Review: Map of Bones by James Rollins

Map Of BonesMap Of Bones by James Rollins

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Picking up a James Rollins thriller is a guaranteed good read. He has the knack of providing a solid thriller that moves along at a fast pace.

Now, we aren’t talking Matthew Reilly pace, and not Andy McDermott either. Rollins is in that pacey category with (his good friend) Steve Berry and Clive Cussler. So this is “does my side have air-bags” as opposed to “my parachute isn’t opening”.

Map of Bones is part of Rollins’ Sigma Force series. I like that the heroes are highly intelligent military operatives; it is a nerd’s wet dream. This is the second book in the series and the first to feature Seichan, the nemesis of protagonist Gray Pierce. You know you have a good series when the bad guy is this interesting.

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Steve Berry on writing

It’s my birthday today – no “you’re old” jokes, unless you want to be bombarded with “yo momma” jokes. I’ve had a great start to the day, having received a box of chocolates and a bottle of Johnnie Walker Blue label Scotch from my wife. I even managed to get a little writing done over breakfast.

A few weeks ago I posted a video from James Rollins on writing. This follows on from a post many months back that featured a video by James with Steve Berry talking about writing. So it only feels fair to present a video by Steve Berry talking about writing. Enjoy! 

James Rollins: Where do you get your ideas from?

James has a bunch of videos on Youtube. So if you haven’t had the chance to see him in person you can check out his Q&A videos.

The second video is James’ reason he started writing story and the ventriloquist doll story. The later story is hilarious.

Book Review: Beneath the Dark Ice by Greig Beck

Beneath the Dark IceBeneath the Dark Ice by Greig Beck
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Beneath the Dark Ice was on my Amazon recommendations list for ages. Clearly it ticked a lot of boxes for my likes and being written by a fellow Aussie was another big tick. Needless to say, when I was in a bookstore that hadn’t been swallowed by a bank, I bought a copy.

For anyone who has read James Rollins’ Subterranean, or drowned themselves in HP Lovecraft at any stage in their life, you will see some similar ideas in this techno-thriller. Mix a super soldier and his team, his long time enemy, a band of scientists and a world beneath ours and you have the makings of a fine thriller. I always enjoy playing, “guess who dies next” in these sorts of novels.

So why only 3 stars? Well, I’m not a fan of exposition. Sorry, let me rephrase: you know how everyone loved Steig Larson’s Girl With the Dragon Tattoo? Well I hated it; because I didn’t need the first 50 pages of the book to describe flowers, home renovations and nautical exploits. Greig’s book is fast paced and doesn’t flounder in blocks of boring detail like Larson, but he does use a style of exposition in his writing that I don’t enjoy. Nothing wrong with the story, or the style, just that whilst I enjoyed the story, the style just didn’t do it for me.

This was Greig’s first book, so I expect his work will be ‘tighter’* in the subsequent books (which are rated higher on Goodreads). His super soldier, Alex Hunter, is definitely setup for another adventure. How Greig will top the story in this novel I don’t know though.

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*tighter – this is reviewer talk for “I have no idea how to write a book but writers seem to get better at it somehow, I’m assuming magic”.

Book Review: The Sacred Vault – Andy McDermott

The Sacred Vault (Nina Wilde & Eddie Chase, #6)The Sacred Vault by Andy McDermott
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Australia has Matthew Reilly. The US has Clive Cussler and James Rollins. The UK has Andy McDermott.

The Sacred Vault is Andy’s sixth Nina and Eddie adventure and he just keeps the adrenalin pumping as much as ever. I’ve met archaeologists, they make soil scientists seem exciting by comparison. Yet the world has more archaeologist adventurers than any other science: Indiana Jones, Jack West Jnr, Dirk Pitt, Nina and Eddie, the list goes on. But who can blame writers for picking archaeologists over the other sciences, ancient stuff doesn’t go in the sci-fi section.

Andy has served up another thriller that doesn’t let up. Much like Reilly, he knows how to keep you glued to the page and blow things up. What I also like is the humour he manages to weave into the dialogue, making for a fun and exciting read. Something I noticed with this book in the series was that as the action peaked, so did the amount of witty banter.

This is definitely a book (and series) for thriller and adventure fans.

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Book Review: Scarecrow and the Army of Thieves by Matthew Reilly

Scarecrow and the Army of ThievesScarecrow and the Army of Thieves by Matthew Reilly
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

There is a small quote at the start of this book that sums up this fantastic new installment in the Scarecrow series:

The President looked at a wall clock. I was now 5 pm, or 6 am at Dragon. ‘Are you telling me that in five hours an unknown force is going to set off some kind of superweapon that will ignite the atmosphere or the northern hemisphere?’
‘That’s correct sir,’ Gordon said. ‘We have five hours to save the world.’

I was looking for a fast paced adventure/thriller novel a few years ago, I was recommended James Rollins. His books are fast. Then I discovered Andy McDermott; his books are Rollins on caffeine. Matthew Reilly books are what you get from the amphetamine addicted, ADD offspring of both authors. Simply, Matt is in a class of his own in terms of intense and fast paced thrillers.

Sure these are a big budget action movie on the page, a veritable Michael Bay blockbuster on speed, but that is exactly what makes these books so great. Unlike a Bay movie, however, you don’t feel cheap and dirty afterwards.

Scarecrow is my favourite of Matt’s series of books. The Jack West Jnr books have become steadily better adventure novels, but Scarecrow is a straight up thriller, and only becoming more intense with each outing. Fans have had a long wait for this latest adventure. The Army of Thieves book was an eight year wait, but the 10 hour non-stop thrill-fest was worth the wait.

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Rollins and Berry talking books and writing

I love my James Rollins and Steve Berry books. They also do a great tag team at book shows. This video is more insightful for authors than some of the others I’ve seen from them.

http://www.seattlechannel.org/videos/video.asp?file=1&ID=3371110
If you aren’t a James Rollins or Steve Berry fan, or you were wanting something other than a talk about writing, then I have this news article about the decline in print journalism.
http://media.theonion.com/flash/video/embedded_player.swf
How Will The End Of Print Journalism Affect Old Loons Who Hoard Newspapers?

E-books: Return of the Reader

Just like the previous two installments of this e-book saga there will be allusions to some non-existent struggle, my thoughts on the changing publishing industry, no Leia in a bikini, and definitely no Wookie. When we left our hero writers, they were diligently trying to decide whether they wanted to sign with a traditional publisher or self-publish like an indie rebel. Publishers had the track record, the self-publishing indies had the jump on the fastest growing segment in the industry: e-books.

Now hold on just a second. Traditional publishing is behind? As has already been stated in this blog, his mouth to my post, Michael Connelly is selling 45% e-books. His publishers are clearly on board of this new market place. James Rollins and Steve Berry have both released exclusive e-book short stories on Amazon and B&N as lead-ins to their next books (pity non-US people can’t buy them, not being close enough to the centre of the universe and all). I even noticed that Aussie authors like Tara Moss and Matthew Reilly are available on Kindle for under $10. Behind isn’t quite right.

On the other side of the great divide, all the cool kids authors are self-publishing. People like Konrath, Eisler, Mayer, some guy named John Locke, are doing well out of self-publishing and doing all the work themselves (or hire for service). Clearly all authors should be grabbing their manuscripts and uploading them now.

I’ll pause so you can upload your book now. Don’t forget to spell check first!

Well it seems that 10’s of thousands are doing just that. Given that 90% of everything published is probably crud, you have to question how wise it is to rush to publish. We also have to remember that e-books are still a minority share of the market place (this will change of course). Shouldn’t quality come first? Spend the time on crafting a fine book, see what industry professionals have to say about it, then publish? Preferably not the professionals that published Snooki. Basically writers will have to find the best publishing deal for them, even if it is swapping their novel for a packet of magic beans.

And here is a startling fact: readers don’t care if writers are traditionally published, indie published, self published, or published by a small Scottish Terrier named Rolf. Readers want to read something entertaining and well written. So writers shouldn’t care how they are published. To quote Nick Spalding:

“Writers on the traditional publishing side of this particular conflict want to be successful and earn a decent living as a writer, appealing to an audience with their work. On the other hand, writers on the self publishing side of this particular conflict want to be successful and earn a decent living as a writer, appealing to an audience with their work.”

What I love about e-books is that they are made for readers. Well Duh! Stick with me on this one. Lets say that it is August 2010 and I’ve just finished 61 Hours by Lee Child. Now Lee may or may not have finished with a cliffhanger in that particular book. Despite the fact that the next Reacher novel is finished and ready in boxes to go on shelves, I have to wait until the end of September to read Worth Dying For. With e-books there is no need to delay because of printing, shipping, and shop displays still being filled with James Paterson’s books. In fact, with e-books I can have the entire Reacher series downloaded the minute after I’ve finished 61 Hours to keep my spirits up while I wait.

Essentially the gap between writer and reader has been shortened. The reader is King.

So what about publishers? Well they sell books. Authors write those books for them. I don’t think that in the long run they will particularly care whether they are selling an e-book or a DTB. In fact e-books could really cut out a lot of their middle men costs.

A lot has changed in the past year or two, some of the big companies are behind to some extent, but are more likely to catchup. I still can’t believe that e-readers weren’t dreamt up by publishers and bookstores. But then again I can’t believe that Australia – lots of sun – has sent solar technology to Germany – no sun – and politicians are wanting to move from coal to gas.

As long as publishers are paying advances, advertising/promoting authors and fronting costs they will be who most authors will turn to in order to publish. And when the publisher rejects it, and the crying has finished, the author will release it, plot holes and all, on their own.

Bookshops look like the real loser here, despite their claims to the contrary. Apparently people love the smell of books. Solved. Apparently people like to browse in bookstores. Yes, nothing like spending hours in a store with your head at a funny angle to find the store doesn’t stock what you are looking for. Apparently people love the feel of books. Admittedly books are much better to throw at an intruder, although War & Peace is regarded as a lethal weapon.

Can I just point out that an e-book is a book. That you can read. Thanks for letting me clear that up.

Tenuous reasons for bookshops continued existence aside, I don’t see why there won’t be purveyors of fine literature, and the stuff I like reading, into the future. Online stores are often seen as more reputable when they have a physical storefront. Even if that storefront is never visited by anyone because it is located down a side street, off a back alley, near a crack den. Plus POD could make book buying like a trip to the deli counter for lunch.

“I’ll have the new best-seller and a long white to go thanks.”
“Did you want that signed or unsigned?”
“Hold the signing, but I will take the first chapter of the sequel at the back.”

As a reader and as a some-day published author, I think that the future is so much brighter for readers and writers. Readers will have access to more good books than ever. Writers will have greater access to an audience than ever. The future of books is very bright and may even step out of the shadow of DVD’s, when DVD’s become obsolete.

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