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Sunday, September 29, 2013

Review: Frozen Solid by James M. Tabor


Having thoroughly enjoyed The Deep Zone, I really wanted to like Frozen Solid, the second Hallie Leland book in the series. In Frozen Solid Hallie Leland is dispatched to Antarcticaafter her friend, carrying out research there, suddenly dies. Hallie is asked to take over the research with only a week to go before the research station is all but shut down for the winter. Almost as soon as she arrives people start dying. Will Haillie be able to find out the cause before everyone leaves?

The plot of the book was very much my cup of tea, and I did enjoy the idea of an outside group trying to control overpopulation in a ‘humane’ way but it all going wrong. The psychological aspects of the plot such as the isolation, the fear of being watched and the ‘accidents’, serve to heighten the tension, and I very much enjoyed this aspect of the book.

The character of Hallie Leland is well written and believable. She is strong, but not overwhelming so. She is intelligent but not all knowing, and there are some moments of weakness which add to the depth of the character. The characterisation of Hallie is a strength of Frozen Solid, and there are clear improvements to her character since The Deep Zone.   

Frozen Solid is not without its frustrations. As a fan of the more fast-paced thriller, and The Deep Zone certainly came under this banner, Frozen Solid was a bit too slow to get started for me. Things don’t kick off till over half way through. The first half of the book is a confusing kaleidoscope of different characters, almost random scenes and the author going off on tangents; this makes it quite hard work to follow and often left me feeling frustrated. It is a shame that while Hallie is very well characterised; the other characters are mostly unmemorable, which also contributes to the confused feel of the book, as you try to remember who’s who.  There is also frequent bad language, now I am not a prude and feel that using swearing can enhance the story if used correctly and sparingly, in this case it was not. 

The science is there for fans of Sci-Med, and in the whole is written in a way that shouldn't present a problem for readers who are not of a scientific or medical bent, although don’t expect the science to be explained every step of the way as it is in McClure or Crichton books. There are some more technical terms but one of the benefits of reading on a Kindle is that any terminology you don’t know can easily be looked up. Overall the science used is believable but there are some subtle mistakes – for example, the events are set in February and this is described as being dark and very cold, when in reality there is 24 hour sunlight and the temperatures at the South Pole are a more balmy -38°C rather than the -58°C found in winter.  I can see that having 24 hour near darkness is essential to ramp up the psychological tension, so why not set it during March-September during southern winter. It makes no sense to say February and then claim its winter, and it makes me wonder how well researched the book was.

Overall, a pleasant Sci-Med thriller that fans of the genre will want to read. Action/adventure fans may also want to give Frozen Solid a go but may be put off by the amount of science and the slow, confused start. This was a very hard book for me to rate as I did enjoy the story but it also frustrated me, I settled for a 3 in the end as I did enjoy it but would caution readers to be aware of some of the book’s issues before purchasing.  

Frozen Solid is available from Amazon for £14.97 for the Kindle Edition. 

[A ARC was provided by NetGalley] 

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Review: How do we know? by Kenny A. Chaffin


How do we know? is a back-to-basics science book for the curious lay person. In a series of short essay like chapters it takes the reader on a journey from the start of our planet to then modern man and AI, explaining the basic science as you go.

The book is written in a conversational style, with a smattering of humour, which makes it easy and enjoyable to read. I even learnt some new things, for example it had never occurred to me that iron ore deposits were formed by Cyanobacteria in the ocean. The language used is generally accessible for someone without a background in science as Chaffin explains concepts in simple terms, however the general language used is still difficult in places, so for educators, I wouldn’t recommend this for students younger than GCSE/A Level.

As each chapter is merely a brief summary of the topic the author provides some helpful links at the end of each chapter, so that the reader can read around the subject. I was somewhat surprised to see that many of these links are to Wikipedia, which I find not to be the most accessible source of further reading in terms of complexity, and is a website that I and most other teachers discourage students from using, due to the sometimes erroneous information it can contain.

Overall an enjoyable and informative read.  How do we know? is available from Amazon.co.ukfor £3.45 and from Amazon.com for $5.13.

[A review copy was provided by the author]

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Review: The Cure by Doulgas E. Richards


 
The Cure follows graduate student Erin Palmer who due to a close encounter with a psychopath in her childhood now studies them to determine what makes them different to ‘normals’. Unbeknown to her supervisor she is not just studying psychopaths but is experimenting on them, and with her mysterious partner has finally discovered a genetic cure for the condition. There are some who would do anything to stop Palmer succeeding, and soon Palmer is on the run and unsure who to trust. Will she chose the right allies?

I really liked how The Cure began as it had a good balance of exciting action and science, we get to know and feel for Erin early on and this helps draw the reader into the story, which in the first third of the book is very believable. I was a bit perturbed when the story suddenly took a fantastic leap into the unknown and introduced not one but seventeen races of extra-terrestrials and a plot to save the Earth from humankind and an overwhelming alien threat. As a fan of more realistic Sci-Fi this jolted me, and whilst I did enjoy the rest of the story, the alien plot was just a little too unbelievable for me and also a bit clich├ęd. The sudden introduction of all of this lead to lots of exposition, which did become tedious after a while but there was plenty of action which kept me going, in addition to several interesting twists and terms.

Whilst not what I was expecting, The Cure turned out to be very readable, as long as you checked your disbelief in at the door. Aside from the psychopath thing, the plot is pretty run of the mill for Sci-Fi but works well. I would recommend this to fans of action-based alien Sci-Fi.

The Cure will be available in dead tree format from September 18th from Amazon.co.uk and from Amazon.com

[An ARC was provided through NetGalley]

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Review: Buried by Kendra Elliot


A school bus full of children goes missing on summer’s afternoon and the children disappear without a trace. Two years later a lone survivor, Chris Jacobs, walks out of the woods and into the arms of his parents. He claims to have no memory of where he has been or what happened to the others.

Buried takes place years after the school bus goes missing and follows Jamie Jacobs (Chris Jacob’s estranged sister) and Michael Brody (the brother of one of the still missing children). The bunker where Chris Jacobs was kept captive has been discovered, along with the bodies of all but one of the missing children, Daniel Brody, Michael Brody’s brother. Michael makes it his mission to find out what happened that fatal day, but will he cope with what he finds out…

Buried kept me on the edge of my seat throughout, and was a book I finished in one sitting. The story has a good pace, and unlike some thrillers, I was kept guessing right until the end. There is a big surprise near the end of the book, which was very thought provoking and was something I would never have guessed.

I have not read the previous two stories in the series, but was pleasantly surprised that this wasn't required, and I felt like I didn't miss anything by having not read the rest of the series. It is always a sign of a good writer, when you can read a book either as part of a series or as a true stand alone.

The thing for me that let down Buried was the romantic aspect. I know, I know, it’s a romantic suspense novel so has romance, but I truly felt that the book was very strong without the romance, and that the romance (or random sex scenes) detracted from what was a very good suspense thriller. I fear the mere mention of romance in the genre will put off readers who otherwise would really enjoy this book.


Overall, a very solid read, and readers should not be put off by the romance, jarring though it is. A word of warning: apart from some explicit sex and language, this book deals with some difficult topics, and as such is not one for younger readers. 

Buried is available from Amazon for £3.99. 

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Review: Strange Shores by Arnaldur Indridason


 
Strange Shores by Arnaldur Indridason is another in a long line of Scandinavian mysteries, and unfortunately is not the best example of the genre. It follows an aging police detective who is trying to find his dead brother and a young woman, both of whom disappeared many years ago into the vastness of Iceland’s wilderness.

I generally enjoy Scandinavian-set stories but was disappointed with Strange Shores. The writing was technically good but it was quite simply boring, and as such took me much longer to read than most books in this genre. As those missing are long gone there is no real sense of urgency and instead the book has chapters and chapters of tedious conversations and descriptions.

I would only recommend this book if you have read previous books in the series and don’t want to miss one out.
 
[A review copy was provided by NetGalley]