Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Mount Toberead 15 - Ice Station by Matthew Reilly

I promised something different and I think I have delivered. The vast majority of the works I cover here are either fantasy or science fiction. Matthew Reilly's Ice Station is neither (I guess an argument could be made for science fiction), it's a straight forward, white knuckled, high adrenalin, military action novel.

The book has been around for 20 years, and it was the author's first traditionally published work, his first novel was a self published effort. My wife rereads it regularly and had recommended it to me a number of times, but I'd read another book by the same author and came away distinctly unimpressed, so I always held off on Ice Station until now.

I have to say that I loved the book. I started it late on a Thursday night and finished it that Sunday afternoon, and it's a 600 page book.

Occasionally as a reader I'll encounter a book that grabs me right from page one and won't let me go until I complete it. Ice Station is such a book.

Matthew Reilly is an unashamed fan of Michael Crichton, and while he covers different material, he has the knack of knowing how to control his audience.

The premise of Ice Station is fairly preposterous: the scientists manning an American ice station in Antarctica discover what they think is a spacecraft under their facility and a number of them promptly wind up dead. The US reconnaissance unit that come to their rescue are in turn attacked by covert French and British forces, plus there's a killer loose on the base and the reconnaissance lead by the badass Shane 'Scarecrow' Schofield has infiltrators amongst it's make up. Oh, I didn't mention the pod of orcas that hang around the base, either.

Somehow Reilly makes this all hang together. Like any good action movie, it moves quickly and doesn't give the reader a lot of time to get their breath or realise how some of it really doesn't make a lot of sense when given some time to think about it.

Reilly writes really good action sequences and there are two massive ones in Ice Station; a firefight on the base early on and a hovercraft chase, where every section ends on a cliff and drags the reader through to see what happens next.

The characters are fairly strong with decent shades of grey, although there is the occasional white hat and black hat. The author took the time to give them proper back stories and built up some decent chemistry between them, I particularly liked sequences featuring the pre teen science/math geek Kirsty and Scarecrow interacting.

There's been talk about making this into a film and how it hasn't already happened I do not know. Modern audiences would absolutely lap it up.

Monday, July 9, 2018

Mount Toberead 14 - Boneshaker by Cherie Priest

On the face of it Cherie Priest's Boneshaker should be a cracking read: steampunk, alternate history, sky pirates, zombies, honestly what is there not to like?

Unfortunately it sounds a little better than it actually is. It's set in an alternate 19th century US in Seattle and a US that is beset by a seemingly endless Civil War that has gone on a lot longer than the one in our world did.

Seattle isn't involved in the war that much, but they have bigger problems, ever since Dr. Leviticus Blue's Boneshaker machine destroyed much of the city and unleashed a noxious gas that turns those exposed to it into mindless shambling undead creatures with a desperate need to feed.

In most cases I don't really want to read zombie books where we see the zombocalypse take place. In the case of Boneshaker I'm willing to make an exception. Had I read a book where we saw the Boneshaker being built and causing a massive disaster, and actually met the mysterious and brilliant Leviticus Blue, I think I would have liked it more.

Having said all that I didn't actually dislike Boneshaker. I just found it a bit frustrating. I liked the character of Briar, but she was inconsistent. I did not like the character of Zeke (the son of Briar and Leviticus), he was 15, but acted 12 and was written as if he were younger than he actually was. He behaved much like many pre teen characters in fiction these days, and I find many of them to be suffering from TSTL (Too Stupid To Live) syndrome. Zeke was no exception.

Often the book itself read as if it were a steampunk extravaganza for the young adult reader, rather than the dark more epic thing it was meant to be.

Possibly the reason it sat on the shelf for as long as it did was because somewhere I knew the book probably wasn't going to ultimately be for me. Shame, because I generally tend to like Cherie Priest's work.

R is up next (can't find a Q) and I have something completely different planned.