Thursday, 25 November 2010

Book Review: Evolution Expects by Jonathan Green

Evolution Expects is Jonathan Green's fourth book in the Pax Britannia steampunk series.



The main character, Ulysses Quicksilver, is a James Bond style agent for the British Government.

 This book sees several issues from the previous Quicksilver books arise and come together to form the most danger plot against the British Empire that our hero has so far faced. Old enemies re-emerge and disquieting scientific discoveries, thought to be disposed of turn out to have more life in them. This expands on the whole created world of Pax Britannia quite nicely, it is however a little disappointing that Jonathan Green has basically gone back and reused previous plots for this new novel. Personally I would like to see Quicksilver venture a little further afield, although he mentions trips to far off lands, most of his literary adventures have squarely focused on the British Isles (excluding Leviathan Rising, which took place mainly at the bottom of the ocean). There is such a fantastic world often mentioned in the books, from the lost plateaus inhabited by dinosaurs to Shangri-La, and the various other world powers that are vying for domination. It would be nice to see a little more of the wider world in these stories.

There are some interesting new characters that emerge in this story including the plucky whore that has greater depths than even Quicksilver expects, and also the masked vigilante who uses a rocket pack and bat-winged cape (every "not-Batman" joke is slipped in and is a nice touch of humour). Both characters will bear further examination and I hope that Green brings them back in future books.

As has become usual with these books, after the main novel Green adds a short novella into the book. This usually features Quicksilver in a more minor encounter, possibly little more than an interlude. However, the novella included with Evolution Expects, titled Conqueror Worm, doesn't feature Quicksilver, but instead one of his ancestors. The story is built up around the traditional tale of the Lambton Worm and has a wonderfully dark plot that moves along at a cracking pace.

Overall this is a very good and easy read the main novel ticks all the right boxes and has a good mix of humour and some very dark moment indeed. The novella, Conqueror Worm, which is to my mind even better than the main novel, is a swashbuckling adventure with highwaymen, sinister plots and a particularly nasty creature as it's centre piece.
 
I certainly wouldn't class this series of books as anything more than good "pulp" adventure, but then again they are not trying to set themselves up as anything other than that.

Although each of the books can be read individually there has been a connecting plot building subtly in the background over the whole series, so I would certainly recommend that anyone new to the Ulysses Quicksilver books starts at the beginning with Unnatural History!

In the next few weeks I will be reading the next book in the series Blood Royal, I will of course let you know what I think once I have completed it!

Monday, 22 November 2010

Blog Stats and Popular Subjects?

I have just recently started to check the Stats for this blog, and discovered which of my posts are the most popular.

I tried an experiment last week with my Sanctuary post. It was driven not only by my liking of the show, but also based on some observations by The Acrobatic Flea, on his blog Heropress. The basic thing is that photos of attractive people drive up site visits. So with that in mind I specifically included photos and name drops for three of the female leads (all of which could be described as "hotties") Amanda Tapping, Agam Darshi and Emilie Ullerup, and a couple of the male leads Robin Dunne and Ryan Robbins, which I would assume would achieve the same result for the opposite sex!

The test has so far proved marginally succesful, with my Sanctuary posting proving to be slightly more popular than most of the others. However, I am still finding that a posting I made two years ago get by far the highest number of daily visits even now. That piece entitled The ethics of "War Toys"! gets a massive number of hits compared to my other pieces, by a factor of 10!

So what is it about "The Ethics of War Toys!" that attracts so many hits? I am assuming that it probably has something to do with the combination of the words ethics and war, and possibly toys that does it. It could also be partly down to the inclusion of a photo of some plastic toy soldiers (Army Men to our American cousins).

It is in some ways quite annoying that an article I wrote two years ago still get far more hits than anything I have written since. If I can find the magic formula, maybe I will start using more of it's elements in future postings.

By the way, this article is also going to become part of my experimenting with popular subjects, as it features key words from the most popular postings on my blog, but I am also going to specifically not including any photos.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Sanctuary

 I have recently been watching the third season of Sanctuary and I have really enjoyed the expanded scope of the show.



The dynamic between the central characters is great and the stars, Amanda Tapping, Robin Dunne, Agam Darshi and Ryan Robbins is interesting, and it manages to introduce new cast members and loose older ones (Emilie Ullerup) without adversely affecting the show.

I have found some of the more off the wall episodes, especially the second season one where Tapping is thrown into the future and has to survive in a post apocalyptic world, to be the most successful.

Amanda Tapping is certainly making a name for herself at the moment, turning up in quite a few of the current crop of genre shows (if only SyFy.co.uk would show Riese). There is no denying that she is easy on the eye, but she also manages to carry the more serious stories very well.



 Robin Dunne, Agam Darshi and Ryan Robbins also bring a mixture of talents and attitudes to the show that all seem to work well together.





I really enjoyed watching Emilie Ullerup on the show so I was sad to see her relegated to an occasional appearance as one of the bad guys. Still as long as she shows up from time to time that will be no bad thing!




Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Book Review: Soul Stealers by Andy Remic



This is the second book in The Clockwork Vampire Chronicles. With the first book, Kell's Legend, Andy Remic was hailed as a worth successor to David Gemmell. Now although I really enjoyed Kell's Legend I had my reservations about comparing Remic with Gemmell. That book was good and a fun read, but something about it just didn't put it in the same class as David Gemmell.

This new book however and changed my mind, I am not much of a fantasy reader any more, much preferring science fiction these days. I even find it a struggle to pick up one of my Robert E. Howard collection, however after reading Soul Stealers I will have no problem picking up Remic's next fantasy book and reading it straight off.

I will say that Soul Stealers continues the story that started in Kell's Legend, so if you haven't read that one, read it first. That is the one thing I don't like about the series, it is one story carried over multiple books, there is no end at the end of Kell's Legend, and no real end at the end of Soul Stealers. This is an on going saga, so don't expect to read one book and walk away satisfied.
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