Tyson Adams

Putting the 'ill' back in thriller

Book review: The Time Machine by HG Wells

The Time MachineThe Time Machine by H.G. Wells

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I wonder if vegans object to the Morlocks’ diet?

In what is now a classic of the Science Fiction genre, an un-named narrator has local dignitaries over to his place once a week to tell tall tales and show off his latest inventions to. On one of these evenings he limps in the worse for wear, in desperate need of a steak, and discusses his pocket flower collection.

When I was a kid I read a lot of the classic science fiction stories from the likes of HG Wells and Jules Verne. It has been so long since I’ve read them that I thought it was time to revisit these classics. While I can still fondly remember the 1960 movie – let us not ever speak of the 2002 adaptation – the book felt unfamiliar and akin to virgin reading material.

Whilst The Time Machine does deserve its place in history for influencing/creating Science Fiction as we know it (fantastical ideas explored, social issues analogised), as a novel it is lacking. One example of this is the lack of tension in scenes that are literally life or death struggles. Instead of fearing for the narrator’s life and wondering how he’ll survive, we are treated to a recounting of the events that could have instead been describing someone having a cup of tea while watching the rain out of the dining room window. A wondrous adventure told as though it was just another day at the office.

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Book review: The Scam by Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg

The Scam (Fox and O'Hare, #4)The Scam by Janet Evanovich

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When someone launders your money do they also iron and starch it? Why yes, I am a dad, why do you ask?

Nick Fox and Kate O’Hare are once again using Nick’s talents as a conman to take down criminals on the FBI’s list of bad guys. This time they are after a casino owner who is helping launder money for anyone from mobsters to terrorists. Given the company he keeps, is it any surprise he has a tank of piranha in his office for ‘negotiations’.

After being disappointed in the second instalment in this series, The Chase, I was unsure if I would read any more of the Evanovich and Goldberg series. I already had The Scam on loan from the library, so I decided to chance it. This was a rewarding decision as The Scam delivers an entertaining read.

I was disappointed with The Chase because it felt like an episode from one of those will-they-won’t-they crime shows – such as Castle or Bones – during their declining years. You know, just as they are lining up the ramp over the shark cage. But The Scam felt like an early episode at the beginning of the series when Castle or Bones are still awesome, even though there are plot elements here that set this firmly later in the series (can’t say more without major spoilers).

So skip The Chase and read The Scam.

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Book to Movie: Lord of the Rings – What’s the Difference?

This month’s What’s the Difference? from CineFix covers the Fellowship of the Ring section of Lord of the Rings.

Let’s be honest here, the movies were better.

Whilst I enjoyed the Lord of the Rings in both movie and book form, to call the books waffly and slow-moving is an understatement. As pointed out in the CineFix video, huge passages of time elapse before anything actually happens in the book. The adventure Frodo sets out upon literally takes decades to start, such that you forget what the inciting call to adventure is.

The movie also establishes the stakes and opposing forces better. This not only sets the clock ticking but raises tension and consequence. Meanwhile the book has plenty of pipe smoking and walking. In fairness, Tom Bombadil is a highlight that is sorely missing from the movie – although I doubt that the lyricism of his presence would translate to the screen from the page.

In all, this is one of the few examples where the movie was superior. And shorter. Much shorter.

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Book review: The Chase by Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg

The Chase (Fox and O'Hare, #2)The Chase by Janet Evanovich
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

There is no con you can pull on a politician, given that they invented them all.

Nick Fox and Kate O’Hare are once again teamed up as the will-they-won’t-they odd couple. This time their mission is to recover a stolen artefact of national significance to the Chinese government. They have to steal it from the people who stole it before someone realises it was stol….. You get the idea.

I’ve read many Lee Goldberg and Janet Evanovich novels and have always found them humorous and entertaining. But The Chase felt like a by-the-numbers follow up to The Heist, a book that established a potentially good series. This was like an episode from a TV crime show like Castle, or Bones, or any of the dozens of those similarly constructed dramedies. And not an episode from the start of the series when it was good, but in those later episodes when they are lining up the ramp over the shark tank.

That isn’t to say that The Chase fails to entertain, quite the contrary. This is a fun novel and series, but could feel a bit too formulaic.

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Book review: Fire Touched by Patricia Briggs

Fire Touched (Mercy Thompson, #9)Fire Touched by Patricia Briggs
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Who knew trolls were brightly coloured down there. Something to keep in mind during your next internet argument.

Adam and Mercy’s pack is quickly becoming the go-to problem solving group. Vampire dispute: call the pack. Wayward fae: call the pack. Troll rampaging on a bridge in town and threatening to kill everyone: call the pack. Since that isn’t happening anywhere else, Mercy claims the Tri-cities as their territory and any and all are under their protection. Only took a few seconds for someone to take up the protection offer and give them another headache in the form of a fire-touched human hunted by the fae.

This instalment in the Mercy Thompson series sees some of the older conflicts resolved, only to be replaced by new conflicts as the importance of the Columbia Basin pack in the wider world grows. The way Patricia Briggs has gradually grown the Mercy’s world, and the characters who live within it, has felt natural, whilst upping the stakes. Of course now that I’m up-to-date with the series, I have a fortnight to wait for the next instalment to be published.

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Just Add Coffee

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Book Review: Night Broken by Patricia Briggs

Night Broken (Mercy Thompson, #8)Night Broken by Patricia Briggs
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If you are dyed blue are you at risk of being abducted by Smurfs?

Mercy and Adam have an unwelcome house guest, Christy, Adam’s ex-wife. She is fleeing a stalker who has killed at least one person and burned down a condo. Oh, and he might be a volcano god. Even more reason for Christy to try to manipulate her way back into Adam and the pack’s life.

This instalment of the Mercy Thompson series is filled with tension. The injection of Christy back into the werewolf pack politics, the new enemy, the need to protect people who are trying to hurt you, and the suspicion of the werewolves being responsible for a rash of murders, could induce reader anxiety. Patricia Briggs has certainly left no obstacle out of Mercy’s way in Night Broken.

Needless to say, the review of the next instalment, Fire Touched, will be coming soon.

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Book vs Movie: Shawshank Redemption – What’s the Difference?

Nothing quite like comparing one of the best movies of all time with its source material. This month CineFix do with What’s the Difference? on The Shawshank Redemption.

It’s odd that I have read Stephen King’s The Body but haven’t read Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption, given that they shared space in the same collection. But then I don’t often read novellas and short stories, as I prefer novels. I often think that shorter stories make for easier movie adaptations as the filmmakers don’t have to trim material the same way. Of course there are two problems with that thinking:

  1. It assumes that filmmakers actually read the source material (see here, here, herehere….)
  2. It assumes that filmmakers aren’t quite content to stretch source material out to fill as much cinema time as possible, no matter how bad an idea that is. *cough* The Hobbit *cough*

I recently saw a listicle that suggested Shawshank was one of the movies you should have in your collection. That is clearly wrong. If you can’t turn on the TV and catch it on rerun then your TV is broken or you have found Die Hard on instead. Why own it? Which brings me to possibly the only real gripe there is to be had with Shawshank, and that is its over-popularity. Exactly how many times can it play on TV before people start becoming annoyed? At what point does the audience start to groan at what was once a great movie? Can great art remain timeless if you beat everyone over the head with it? I fear the answers.

Finding something to read

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Book review: Rick and Morty Volume 4 by Kyle Starks

Rick and Morty, Volume 4Rick and Morty, Volume 4 by Kyle Starks
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“If I’m being too vague, I’m talking about your penis here.”

Are you missing Rick and Morty? Can you believe it has been 1 year, 4 months, and 9 days since the cliffhanger of Season 2? Can you believe we still have a month to wait for Season 3?

Well this collection of short adventures will tide you over. So many of these stories feel like lost episodes that we missed out on. It’s a Ricklicious fix. Rick and Morty fans will enjoy this collection no end.

I received a digital copy of this collection ahead of release in exchange for an honest review, focussed on science.

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Book Reviews: Nine Princes in Amber by Roger Zelazny

Nine Princes in Amber (Amber Chronicles, #1)Nine Princes in Amber by Roger Zelazny
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I’m confused: are gods meant to wear flowing robes or leggings and cloaks?

Corwin awakes in a hospital after a car crash. Not everything is on the up and up, as the staff are keeping him overly sedated and aside from a lack of memory he appears to be healthy. He sets out on a quest to find out how he ended up in hospital and why all roads lead to Amber, whatever that is.

The Amber Chronicles by Roger Zelazny is a series that kept popping up in recommendations of awesome fantasy. So I found a copy of the first in the Corwin cycle to see what the fuss was about. Quite frankly, I’m still trying to figure out whether I understand what the fuss was about.

On the one hand this tale of gods roaming parallel worlds and fighting for the throne of the empire (Amber) has a lot of interesting and novel fantasy elements. On the other hand things just tend to happen without much in the way of tension. We are presented with the tyrant who has usurped the throne via a “hero” who sounds just as bad. This novel raises so many conflicting aspects that you could almost mistake it for a first draft of something that will be great. Maybe.

I’m not sure I’ll read any more of the series despite how interesting the fantasy world on offer is.

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The Reading Channel

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Book Review: Slipping by Lauren Beukes

Slipping: Stories, Essays, & Other WritingSlipping: Stories, Essays, & Other Writing by Lauren Beukes
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Could zombies be a viable replacement for slave labour? Asking for a certain electronics company. And most clothing manufacturers.

Slipping is an interesting collection of writing from the brain of Lauren Beukes. From enhanced athletes to bored ghosts, these stories display Lauren’s spec-fic interests. There are also a few essays at the end of the collection, one of which explains the personal inspiration behind The Shining Girls; an essay well worth reading.

I met Lauren at a writers’ festival where she was running a workshop on, surprise surprise, writing. I really enjoyed reading the aforementioned The Shining Girls as it was a highly enjoyable mix of crime and spec-fic. So I was looking forward to reading this collection. As with any collection of previously published works, there are highs and lows. For me the highs outweighed the lows, with Slipping, The Green, and Ghost Girl being amongst my favourites. I think the strengths of this collection come from the South African cultural influence to Lauren’s writing, which gives far more grittiness to the bleak sci-fi stories than you usually see.

If you’re a spec-fic fan, or a fan of Lauren’s writing – and how could you not be? – then you will find some compelling stories in this collection.

I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.

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Book Review: Frost Burned by Patricia Briggs

Frost Burned (Mercy Thompson, #7)Frost Burned by Patricia Briggs
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Is the correct term for the abduction of shapeshifters werenapping?

Our favourite coyote is back, the rest of her pack less so. Some mad fool has decided to abduct Adam and the rest of the Tri-Cities werewolves. They also come after Mercy and all of her friends. That’s one way to invite yourself to be dinner I suppose.

Halfway through the novel I was reminded why I’ve been enjoying the Mercy Thompson series so much. Patricia Briggs sets a plot in motion but doesn’t follow the standard path you would expect. Without spoiling things, we get more plot and a different endpoint than you were initially expecting. Most authors would set that initial plot in motion and try to make the ride enjoyable. Briggs makes the ride to the shops enjoyable but also changes the destination for somewhere with ocean views.

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Hipster Kindle

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Book vs Movie: A Clockwork Orange – What’s the Difference?

Time for some ultra-violence with this month’s instalment of CineFix’s What’s the Difference?

I can’t remember if I read the book or watched the movie first. A Clockwork Orange was a novel in my parents’ collection of novels, which is why I turned out so well. I do remember the novel wasn’t as easy to consume as the movie, mainly because you can interpret spoken language more easily than understanding the lexicon employed in Burgess’ written words.

This may be a somewhat shocking statement, but I’m not much of a fan of Stanley Kubrick’s films. I always found them somewhat bland, as though there were a lot of empty space on the screen. As such, there are parts of the film I find to be bordering on dull, and others that strike me as weird and hammy (such as the scene with Alex’s parol officer). Meanwhile, the book managed to be entertaining and yet critical of youth culture whilst discussing free will.

It is ironic that I would enjoy a book that is critical of “kids these days”. But the fact that it was written in 1962 only further proves my point that complaining about the younger generation has been a popular pastime for old people since the invention of young people. Oh, and free will probably doesn’t exist.

Book review: River Marked by Patricia Briggs

River Marked (Mercy Thompson, #6)River Marked by Patricia Briggs
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

There are times when you really need a bigger boat.

Mercy and Adam have decided to get married and go on a honeymoon. Of course, everyone else has plans on their time, including a few odd jobs they could do. Such as figure out why so many people are disappearing near the river… At least Mercy isn’t repairing cars on her honeymoon.

In River Marked we have some reveals about Mercy’s real father. This hints at things to come as well as explaining why she seems to have been attracting trouble. As always, Patricia Briggs has progressed the series and characters, filling in the gaps in a natural and satisfying way. We never get all the answers, but Briggs is revealing them without it feeling like she has been obstinately hiding details or making them up on the fly.

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