Archive for October, 2017

When Baron Morgarath escaped to avoid punishment for treason, an uneasy peace fell on Araluen. But the Rangers know Morgarath will be planning his next move. King Duncan must prepare for war.

Halt volunteers for a seemingly impossible task – climbing the deadly cliffs of the Mountains of Rain and Night and venturing deep into enemy territory to spy on Morgarath. Meanwhile, Crowley must ensure the Queen’s safety as she undertakes her own perilous journey for the sake of her unborn child.

Morgarath’s force of savage, inhuman Wargals seems unstoppable against Duncan’s depleted army. One wrong move could mean defeat. At the Battle of Hackham Heath, the fate of a kingdom will be decided.

Published by Random House

Supplied by Penguin Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Jacqui

I’m becoming increasingly convinced that Flanagan didn’t exactly plan his world for a series of prequels. The placement of the plateau known as the “Mountains of Rain and Night” in the south-east of Araluen makes little sense geographically, and I keep wondering if they were present in the chronologically later novels that he wrote earlier. I’m also beginning to question numbers and distances in his world. King Duncan’s army takes on Morgoroth’s monstrous Wargals with barely five hundred men. There were at least six thousand English at Agincourt, and many more French. Medieval armies could theoretically march 15-18 miles in a day, so how close is Castle Araluen to Hackham Heath, if the King’s army gets there in a matter of days? There is no scale on the map.

That said, other details in Flanagan’s work are well thought out. His army needs to be fed and supplied (although what Wargals eat when they can’t get human is a mystery). The plot is straightforward. The Queen is having a baby, but meanwhile the Kingdom is under threat from Morgoroth’s beasts. The Rangers must scout out Morgoroth’s stronghold, protect the Queen, and then guide the King’s army into battle. And of course, it’s the Rangers who save the day in the end.

I find Flanagan’s prose very easy to read and enjoyable. If only he would create a new and wholly original fantasy world, doing a proper job of world-design, I could really get into his work. But he persists in writing more stories about the same world, and from what I’ve seen, even his fans are tiring of the similarities.

 

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They told Derek Calver that he’d find an odd bunch among the Rim Runners out on the edge of space: Refugees from the Interstellar Transport Commission from the Survey Service, the Waverly Royal Mail and the Trans-Galactic Clip¬pers, and so on. But Calver didn’t mind; he said he was a refugee from the Com¬mission himself.

He might have added that he was a refugee from Derek Calver, the mistakes he had made, the opportunities he had thrown away, the dreams that had been lost. And there, aboard the Lorn Lady, the worn-out obsolete ship that, like most of the others here, had once been a proud vessel of the inner worlds, he found Jane Arlen, who called herself “Calamity” Jane and avoided men for fear of the disaster she was sure she would bring them.

One of Jane’s first questions when she met Calver was: “Are you a happy drunk?”

When he said “no,” she continued: “Then you’re one of us. You’ll make a real Rim Runner, skimming the edge of eternity in a super-annuated rust-bucket held together with old string & …

Avalon Books (1961)

Reviewed by Jacqui

Among the better reasons for owning an e-book reader is that it allows you to access good old SF books which are long out of print. I’ve been meaning to read more of Chandler and thought I should start at the beginning, by re-reading his first novel. Now, while I do believe I do have a physical copy of The Rim of Space downstairs, itself quite elderly, I found the e-book convenient, especially when stuck waiting for medical appointments.

There is no doubt that The Rim of Space is quite old-fashioned in many ways. Chandler’s spaceships are classic rocketships, lifting vertically from spaceports. One of the adventures in this novel even involves a struggle to keep the Lorn Lady upright on planet in a storm. The crew is predominately male, except for “Calamity Jane” Arlen the Purser and Cook, and predictably our hero, Derek Calver, is male. But, that said, Arlen is no wilting pansy, she can stand up for herself. As does the novel. It is very much a sequence of episodes in the life of Derek Calver following leaving the Interstellar Transport Commission and the bright stars of the galactic centre for the Rim Worlds and the Lorn Lady. It should be simple classic pulp SF, but it isn’t.

First, Chandler’s background as a merchant seaman adds a realism rarely found in the pulps, not so much in the technology, but in the setting and in the ways people handle long voyages. Second, he has a fine talent for prose; the book reads very well. But most interesting are the insightful ideas slipped in here and there, sometimes well ahead of their time. Is it wise to sell technology to primitive cultures? What are the consequences? And then there is the rim ghost…

It’s great, rip-roaring stuff, science fiction of a by-gone era perhaps, but it’s still fun for a relaxing undemanding read, just what you need in that waiting room – just don’t expect too much political correctness…

Hitler is determined to start a war.

Chamberlain is desperate to preserve the peace.

The issue is to be decided in a city that will forever afterwards be notorious for what takes place there.

Munich.

As Chamberlain’s plane judders over the Channel and the Führer’s train steams relentlessly south from Berlin, two young men travel with secrets of their own.

Hugh Legat is one of Chamberlain’s private secretaries; Paul Hartmann a German diplomat and member of the anti-Hitler resistance. Great friends at Oxford before Hitler came to power, they haven’t seen one another since they were last in Munich six years earlier. Now, as the future of Europe hangs in the balance, their paths are destined to cross again.

When the stakes are this high, who are you willing to betray? Your friends, your family, your country or your conscience?

Hutchinson

Supplied by Penguin Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Simon

Munich, Robert Harris’s latest offering, is a political thriller set during the ongoing political foment of late 1930s Europe. The story is told from two points of view: one is Hugh Legat, a Foreign Office staff member attached to British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain’s office; and the other is Paul Hartmann his counterpart and former friend in the German Foreign Office in Berlin. Paul is also a member of the anti-Nazi German opposition – resistance being too strong a word.

The latest crisis is Hitler’s proposed invasion of Czechoslovakia due to settle the Sudetenland transfer once and for all. That invasion is opposed by the British, French and Czechoslovak governments, and also by large parts of the German regime because the German army, and the German populace in general, is unprepared for war.

Munich the novel centres round the four day period covering the diplomatic negotiations, and attendant espionage efforts of the German opposition, held in Munich that prevented the outbreak of war in 1938.

I found the novel to be an easy and enjoyable read as it re-emphasised the personal nature of Anglo-German relations and the horror of another major European war held by most political leaders of the time.