Tyson Adams

Putting the 'ill' back in thriller

Archive for the tag “Techno-thriller”

Book review: The Seventh Plague by James Rollins

The Seventh Plague (Sigma Force, #12)The Seventh Plague by James Rollins

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

After the first nine plagues, is the tenth plague free?

A missing archeologist reappears out of the desert in a semi-mummified state. With him he brings a biblical disease that threatens to yadda yadda the world. A brilliant businessman has designs on using the disease for his own ends. Only Sigma can uncover the ancient McGuffin to you get the idea before ticking clock.

I’m going to preface this review by saying that I’m a long time fan of James Rollins’ blend of pseudo-science, mythicism, and tehcno-thriller. His Artefact McGuffin Adventures are usually very entertaining reads.

Here’s the but. I don’t know if I just had a lower tolerance for the narrative this time, or if Rollins has introduced a bash the reader over the head style to his writing now. Regardless, it is annoying and hackneyed, and something I’d expect from Dan Brown, not James Rollins. It makes you notice the other problems, like the factual errors in the story. The suspension of disbelief is always high with these sorts of novels, so to have Dan Brown-ified the writing lowers my enjoyment and rating.

An example of what I’m talking about was an exchange early on between the Sigma members about disease categories. We’ve just been told that this is a super deadly disease with X% death rate, and we’re then told the disease death categories, which again states this is super deadly. Okay, so us dumb readers need to be informed that this disease is really bad. But to imply that the Sigma team of science experts who deal with this sort of problem semi-regularly would have to be bashed over the head with the explanation the way they were is silly. I immediately had in mind four or five ways to write that section that weren’t out of character, repetitive, and mind-numbing to the reader.

That all said, this was still a reasonably well paced thriller, with decent tension, especially into the final act. If you like Artefact McGuffin Adventures, then this is an okay instalment.

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Book Review: The Great Zoo of China by Matthew Reilly

The Great Zoo of China
The Great Zoo of China by Matthew Reilly
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

My mother bought me The Great Zoo of China for Christmas, which makes her the best mother in the world. Well, unless your mother bought you a copy as well, in which case the title of best mother in the world would have to be shared.

CJ is a herpetologist specialising in large animals like crocodiles, and being a Matthew Reilly novel, she also specialises in avoiding dying every page or two. She is recruited by National Geographic to take a press junket trip to a new zoo in China. The Chinese government have developed an amazing new zoo that is set to wow the world, assuming their main attractions don’t try to escape and eat everyone. What could go wrong during the promotion junket for a zoo filled with dragons?

Yep. Dinosaurs, sorry, Dragons.

I’ve seen some reviews that suggest Matt’s novel is just a rip off of Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park. I agree completely. I also like to ignore that Jurassic Park is a rip off of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World, which is in turn a rip off of Jules Verne’s Journey to the Centre of the Earth, or possibly Off On A Comet – if you want to count dragons as dinosaurs. Because every idea is 100% original and comments complaining about rip-offs don’t primarily show the complainer’s ignorance.

Ignoring that point – because who cares? – Matt’s latest novel is all of the elements we’ve come to love from him. The story is fast paced, life and death, adventurous fun. I really enjoyed The Great Zoo of China: enough said.

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Book Review: Deep Storm by Lincoln Child

Deep StormDeep Storm by Lincoln Child
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

It isn’t often that scientists are the good guys. Usually they are the bad guys, or at least facilitate things going horribly wrong, or they are socially inept losers. This time it is the military trying to ruin the planet…. I suppose you can’t do away with every cliché.

Lincoln Child of the widely successful Preston and Child writing duo, wrote this stand-alone novel, Deep Storm. Dr Peter Crane is a medical scientist recruited to help discover what is ailing a military and scientific team operating in a top secret deep water facility. The team have discovered something deep in the North Atlantic and are trying to uncover what it is, where it came from, and what scientific marvels it will unveil. If only people would stop going crazy and if they had left the saboteur behind.

I’m a huge fan of Lincoln Child and Douglas Preston’s work. I’ve previously read Preston’s stand-alone novels Impact and Blasphemy, the latter being one of my 5 star reviews, but until now I hadn’t read a stand-alone from Child. Deep Storm is definitely not as strong as either of Preston’s stand-alones, nor as good as most of their joint novels I’ve read. This novel had a lot of elements I liked about it, including the fairly well thought out plot. Normally techno-thrillers get bogged down in details (e.g. Crichton’s Timeline) or get the science wrong (e.g. Crichton’s State of Fear), but Child managed to balance accuracy with pacing.

The main reason I think this isn’t as strong a novel as the others in the Preston and Child oeuvre is that Deep Storm feels like a “by the numbers” thriller. Blasphemy had some interesting things to say about humans and beliefs. The Pendergast novels are underpinned by one of the more interesting central characters in the thriller genre. Which is why this book, whilst entertaining, felt lacking in comparison. This was still a tense, fast paced, engaging read and definitely one for Preston and Child or techno-thriller fans.

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Book review: The Persona Protocol by Andy McDermott

The Persona ProtocolThe Persona Protocol by Andy McDermott
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Something a little bit different from Andy McDermott with Persona Protocol; different in that Nina and Eddie aren’t being shot at in this one. But there is still plenty to enjoy about this techno-spy-thriller, not starring Nina and Eddie, but instead Adam and Bianca take over the being shot at duties.

Andy again delivers his mix of breakneck pacing and humour that are the reason I enjoy his books so much. I think this departure from the Nina and Eddie series of archaeological adventures (is it still archaeology if they destroy most of the stuff they find?) is every bit as good, and I hope to see more of these departures from Andy.

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Book Review: Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton

Jurassic ParkJurassic Park by Michael Crichton
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Is Michael Crichton always this preachy?

This is the second Crichton thriller I have read and the second time I have come away noticing his anti-science rants and preachy tone. This time the anti-science diatribe was delivered by the character of Malcolm, who only seems to be in the book for his chapter long anti-science rant. I’ve heard Crichton is even worse with this novel State of Fear.

The book itself is a decent techno-thriller. It was enjoyable and moved along swiftly. One thing I did notice, though, was a tendency to weigh the story down with details. I didn’t really need to know what lines of computer code came up on the screen unless it was relevant – it wasn’t. I didn’t really need to see the DNA sequence typed out.

So you can see that I was less than impressed with Crichton again. The book was entertaining, but from this scientist’s point of view, Crichton should have spent more time writing and less time preaching.

Also, before anyone comments, yes, I am aware that this is fiction. The perils of scientific meddling have always been the cornerstone of sci-fi and techno-thrillers. There is a difference between the “what if” fictional supposition and the “look at my reference list and opinions spouted as facts” tact Crichton uses. Fiction is meant to be fun, not didactic.

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Book review: Origin by Joe Konrath

OriginOrigin by J.A. Konrath
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

People would assume that because I’m a writer I would have heard of Joe Konrath as a result of his excellent blog about writing and self-publishing. Well, I’d like to say that I found out about the world of self-publishing and writing via Joe after I’d become a fan of his books. I liked his mix of humour and darkly themed tales. I especially liked his novel Shaken, which had me buying anything else I could find of his.

Actually, come to think of it, Shaken may have been the first e-book that my wife and I bought.

Origin is less Jack Daniels and more horror, that is to say, it has less humour and is more about the thrills. Origin definitely keeps the pace up and is an enjoyable read. At about 60% finished (e-book remember) I had trouble putting this book down to do even important tasks, like take the dog out and make tea.

I’ve given 4 stars, but it is somewhere between a 3.5 and 4 star book. The mix of genres works most of the time, but at other times it feels like someone should be eaten by a monster, not making doe eyes. Definitely a book for horror fans, or anyone who likes thrills and can handle a little horror.

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