Saturday, 11 April 2015

Book Roundup #6: Pulp, Modern

Steelheart (Brandon Sanderson) Score 3
The author who finished the Wheel of Time series (I admit I lost interest around book 6 when I realised the series was just going to be milked forever) has quite a few books of his own.  This isn't his best, but it is an interesting book, where superheroes (or rather supervillains) called "epics" rule cities and territories by right of might.  The hero joins the resistance, aiming to assassinate the apparently invinvible "epic" who killed his father.

Why you'd read it: A superhero story with a twist.  Mr Sanderson is a capable, entertaining writer and his world building is very good. Good beginning, solid ending.

Why you'd leave it: It's a bit cliched, and quite young-adult in how it's orientated.  A little cartoony (though that isn't necessarily a bad thing). Characters were uninspired and rather paint-by-the-numbers.

Ice Station (Matthew Reilly) 4 Stars
Something metallic has been discovered deep under the ice.  And countries will kill to discover what it is.   Basically Ice Station is a blockbuster action movie in book form.  What Michael Bay would write if he was an author.  Whilst not the most polished author, Mr Reilly is the most relentless, piling action set piece atop of action set piece.

Why you'd read it:  First class man fuel.  Goes full throttle from the start and does not let up.  SAS vs French Foreign Legion vs Marines - toss in killer whales, grappling hooks and nuclear subs for the most action sequences ever packed into an airport size novel.  The squad-level gun battles through the multi-level research station would make great wargaming material.

Why you'd leave it:  As improbable as a Michael Bay blockbuster and about as deep in literacy merit.  But a fun ride!

Emergence (John Birmingham) 3.5 Stars
An oil rig in the Gulf drills to deep, and disturbs something best left undiscovered.  The creatures are hungry, and we are their prey.  The author sarcastically thanks the movie "Reign of Fire" for being his inspiration.  "For having a cover that suggested we'd have dragons vs gunships then not delivering" Mr Birmingham, however, delivers in spades.  This has to be my surprise "sleeper" hit of this year - a book that was so much better than I expected. Really looking forward to the sequel.

Why you'd read it:  Demonic orc-apes, dragons, SEALs and gunships, and a magic hammer.  And a very flawed redneck who might just be the superhero to save humanity.  There's bucket loads of wargaming inspiration and very much this book leads with the "rule of cool."

Why you'd leave it:  It's pulpy to the extreme.  The anti-hero is an exaggerated caricature of cliches.  The writing is a bit clunky at times.


  1. Matthew Reilly really is a fantastic author and my daughter's favourite. We saw him speak in Sydney about his writing and then met him afterwards. A really delightful and engaging man. He says his inspirations for his books are James Bond, Indian Jones and Video Games and he tries to blend them all together. I think he does that very well.

  2. Honestly, I couldn't finish Ice Station. Just way too ridiculous IMO.

    1. In that case, please do not read the others. They're labelled "pulp" for a reason!

    2. That's probably a good idea. Thanks for advice. I usually go through stages where different genre of book becomes the current favorite. Back in my youth, Tom Clancy, Larry Bond, etc were favorites. More recently it's military non-fiction.