Dead Until Dark (Sookie Stackhouse, #1)

By Charlaine Harris

Rating: 3 stars

I’ve heard good things about the True Blood TV series, and this was the first book in the series that inspired them, so I thought I’d give it a go. As it went, I found it just “okay”. It was a quick read, and an easy read, but the story of the telepathic waitress and her romantic entanglements with a vampire, whose mind she can’t read, didn’t do an awful lot for me.

Sookie herself is an interesting character, if one a little obsessed with (describing) what she wears. I also thought that she fell into vampire Bill’s embrace just a little too easily. The murder mystery woven around Sookie’s story was more interesting to me, and the attempts to frame Sookie’s brother. The plot twist with Sam was visible a mile off, and I can see the love triangle being clearly established for future books.

I’m not a huge fan of the romance genre, whether it be supernatural or not, but where I do, I prefer the romance to be gentler, whether that be Pride and Prejudice or The Ship Who Searched. This book was a decent enough way to while away a couple of afternoons, but I’ll not be searching out any more of Sookie’s adventures.

Book details

ISBN: 9780575089365
Publisher: Gollancz
Year of publication: 2001

The Dervish House

By Ian McDonald

Rating: 5 stars

I’ve been a fan of Ian McDonald for several years now, and this book does nothing to make me reconsider. From the opening paragraphs, introducing us to Istanbul, the Queen of Cities, the language is rich and beautiful and quickly draws you in. The story is in six strands, each following a different protagonist across five days following a terrorist suicide-bombing as their paths cross and weave. Interleaving Islamic mysticism, nanotechnology, a hunt for ancient Ottoman artefacts and more, this was a joy to read.

The characters are all drawn well and have good motivations and histories. The only thing that didn’t entirely work for me was the relationship between the financial trader Adnan and his wife Ay┼če. I’m not sure why, and it may have been more to do with my prejudice against financial traders than anything else, and it certainly didn’t affect my enjoyment of the story.

The city was lovingly and beautifully described and crafted, becoming another character, and player in the mysterious plot. I did sort of wonder just how true that the characters were to Turkey, or whether they were just Westerners in Istanbul. However, I’m not really familiar with the country at all, so I’m going to give the book the benefit of the doubt and suggest that a near-future Turkey, just having joined the European Union would be modern, forward-looking and diverse, as this novel portrays.

The book isn’t short on SF ideas either, from a boy’s robotic smart dust that forms into animals, through corporate scams that would shame Lehman Brothers to how forward-looking terrorists might use nanotechnology. Believable, creepy, marvellous and at times terrifying. There’s a lot here to chew on and you’ll be thinking about it long after the final page.

Book details

ISBN: 9780575088627
Publisher: Gollancz
Year of publication: 2009

Bill, the Galactic Hero (Bill, #1)

By Harry Harrison

Rating: 3 stars

Several of the quotes on the back cover of this book compare it (favourably) to Catch-22 and the comparison is certainly justified. This is a similar anti-war satire on bureaucracy and the military but for me, it didn’t quite work. Despite Terry Pratchett claiming on the front cover that his is the funniest SF book ever written, it’s not. His own are more laugh out loud funny, and Douglas Adams might be in there, or even Harrison’s other series featuring The Stainless Steel Rat but this was too depressing, possibly because it’s all too plausible, to be that funny for me.

Book details

ISBN: 9780575047013
Publisher: Gollancz
Year of publication: 1965

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