The works of J.R.R. Tolkien

The works of J.R.R. Tolkien
A long time ago when i first got interested in books, my dad gave me his copy of the hobbit to read, I never even finished it. As a teen i was insulted by the writing style, this is a kids book i said to him and that was that. Our family played alot of board games and every so often my dad would bring out his Lord of the Rings game and naturally i got quite interested as the board was the map of middle earth.  The game was Riddle of the Ring if your interested http://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/2157/riddle-ring
I bought myself a copy of Lord of the Rings back in ’99 and was quickly drawn into the world of middle earth and as such i have read it every year since
The movies came out and i found myself fielding questions from friends about plots and events. Occasionally something would stump me so i began to delve into more works. And bought every single book my Tolkien or his son. (i have 31 at the moment)
So now every year i read the entire epic of Middle Earth. I start with the Sillmarillion, then hit up the Hobbit. The Lord of the Rings and finish up with Unfinished Tales
Tolkien’s works have really set the standard for fantasy novels for me, i wont touch any unless it has a similar sense of depth and history. To this day the only other fantasy works i have read is a Song of Ice and Fire.
Even with the vast array of works i still find myself with unanswered questions and a desire for more.  Sadly this cant be, Tolkien died along time ago and his son has extensively gone through all his fathers notes to find as many stories as possible.  Alot has been published posthumously
The saga of middle earth would have to be my favorite book(s) and yet each time i read it i still discover more. Just this time it clicked as i was reading some of the genealogies in the appendices that Galadriel is Elrond’s mother in law.
Anytime i meet someone who hasn’t read it, i slowly coerce them to get it but it is a lot to take on, so i work it back wards from how i read them. I get them to read Lord of the Rings, in it it mentions a lot about the hobbit. So after Lord of the Rings they get curious so then i give them the Hobbit which explains a few things for them but then if still curious i give them the Sillmarillion ,it is probably the hardest of his works to swallow because it is  a collection of stories about the forming if the world. Coming of elves and men and of the first dark lord  (Saurons boss Morgoth) if only somehow Peter Jackson could make a Sillmarillion movie, armies of dragons and Balrogs oh what a sight. The Unfinished Tales is more like a giant appendices, it contains some expanded stories mentioned in the Silmarillion but it also has some good parts like, More information about the 5 wizards and the start of the abandoned sequel to Lord of the Rings.
Needless to say Tolkien has a shelf all to his own and i will continue to read these stories year after year until my eyesight fails me.

The Long Earth Series – Terry Pratchett & Stephen Baxter

The Long Earth Series – Terry Pratchett & Stephen Baxter
I may not understand how or why authors co-author a book but that doesn’t detract from my enjoyment of them. Do they co-author because they are too old to write themselves? Or are they trying to combine their powers like captain planet. More to the point how do they do it. Do they both just write separate plot lines then combine them and just alternate chapters or is it more a spinning ideas by each other. After all only one person can be typing at time.
Anyway this series turns out to be 5 books long and sadly Pratchett passed away just prior to book fours release. So the final book will be written solo. So i guess i might understand the writing process of a co-authored book by seeing how dissimilar the final book will be. Needless to say the world these two have made is stunningly imaginative.
A scientist discovers a way to travel to parallel worlds with a simple device made from basic component’s and a potato. Then he posts the blueprints online without a description of what it does and then disappears from society soon all over the place kids are building these and disappearing. No one knows where they are but one boy comes to the rescue, Joshua Valiente. He brings the kids back to home. The world soon learns of these parallel worlds and everything changes.
As one imagines when given the opportunity of slaving at some desk job to pay off a home loan. Or living like a pioneer building your own house and hunting or farming free from capitalism a huge amount of the population chooses the later and disappears from what they call datum earth(the same earth we the reader lives on). I know i sure as hell would go in a second. The parallel worlds are just numbered by how many steps they are from datum. They are also called east or west but those titles have nothing to do with a compass. A step is the term for stepping from one parallel world to another. In that you can step west into West 1, 2,3 or step east to 1 ,2,3 etc there is no end number. As you can imagine the first book deals with Joshua and friends going on an expedition to explore all the way to west 2 million. While still discussing the changes back home. Which were all quite logical. If half the population leaves government revenue dries up. Greedy evil banks and corporations start struggling but people can actually enjoy life.  Joshua on his journeys finds there are no humans in the other words but evolution has gone crazy and there is such an assortment of life out there.
The second book The Long War is more about the fall out of half the population getting up and leaving and then having the datum earth try and find ways to control and tax people. No taxation without representation sound familiar?  yeah how did that work out last time someone tried to do that.
I really felt the authors came into their own with the third book The Long Mars as its title suggests an expedition goes to mars and tries to step to see if its possible and if the parallel worlds of mars and earth are connected and there second objective is to keep stepping till they find life on mars
The fourth book The Long Utopia while still dealing with a natural disaster on datum earth our protagonist Joshua is led to a distant world where events are underway that could destroy the planet and possible the long earth
After the first book i just couldn’t stop and did all 4 in one go. The downside is i must wait till next year for the fifth and final part, oh the agony but well worth it. These books manage to tap into and capture that pioneering spirit and the readers imagination. i am just blown away by the level of creativity and imagination show by the authors in making this world.

The Five Greatest Warriors – Matthew Reilly

The Five Greatest Warriors – Matthew Reilly

Essentially what Matthew has done is make these Jack West Jr books into a lord of the rings style trilogy. In that each book doesn’t finish the story, just continues it. In fact the second book much like its twin the two towers has no conclusion and leaves the story hanging on a cliff hanger no less. What a pain it would of been to of read these books back when they were released and reach that end and have to wait a year or so for this book to wrap things up.

This book picks up right from the cliff hanger from the previous one. The story then moves on the follow the team as it tries to find the remaining stones and pillars and naturally save the world. Which of course is done after quite some adventuring. It was refreshing to see someone other than the US being the bad guys. Matthew does seem to have something against them, with the US being the bad guy in numerous stories. Art imitating life anyone? Here we have Japan filling the role of the “bad guy” to the extreme, wanting to destroy the planet and thus erase the events of their WW2 defeat which stripped their nation of honor. Extreme, yes but then again when you hear of a small minority of Japanese schools removing reference to Pearl Harbour and calling the US the aggressors, is it really that much of a stretch?

This book really did have a “Return of the king” style to it as many plots from the previous ones were wrapped up however i couldn’t help but notice his choice of titles for this series. “Seven Wonders” “Six Stones” “Five Warriors” clearly a countdown which precludes the need for four more books to complete the countdown. And sure enough in the interview at the back, he suggests this very notion and implies there will be more. Which aside from some real stretches of the imagination in terms of plot so far, i am actually quite looking forward to. I have really taken a shining to these characters

Lost on Mars – Paul Magrs

Lost on Mars – Paul Magrs

I have a frustrating tendency lately to pick up books which are parts of trilogies that havent been finished. Unbeknowst to me at the time of course, its kinda frustraing to get to the end of a book that you have been really enjoying and as you approach it, you say to yourself how will he wrap this up. Then it finishes and you find out you have to wait for the author to write part two and three. I hate waiting, i was the kid who stuck downstairs at christmas carefully unwrapped his christmas presents to see what he got and then wrap them back up. In fact it gets worst, there was one time i got a boxset of the 3 original robocop movies, i watched two of them then wrapt it back up, just in time for the morning festivities. Thats bad i know, but anyway back to this book. This book blends a good mix of sci fi with life in the mid west, frontier style. Third generation settlers on mars have developed small communities, they each keep to themselves and there is no contact between communities or earth. LIfe is that of isolation. Think of this as Little house on the Martian Praire, if anyone gets that refference. There are rumours that have drifted down from the original settlers of Martians but everyone thought it was just nonsense stories from old ladies, the kind to scare kids. That was untill people start going missing. First its the town drunk, then someones kid, but soon Lora’s Grandma and father go missing, Then Lora sees the Martians and after a chance encounter with a friendly one sets of on an adventure with her family to escape the coming Martians. What follows is an amazing journey across an unforgiving and unfamiliar landscape what she and her family discover at the end aside from a giant plot hole makes them rethink their entire existence on Mars.

Such a great read, it really captures the imagination with the view of frontier life on Mars. Good to see a strong willed female protagonist. If you over look the giant plot hole (read technology being used well before its invented) its a great read. Eager to grab parts two and three whenever they are ready

Contest – Matthew Reily

Contest – Matthew Reily
Another great Matthew Reilly novel here. In fact this was his first every story, no one wanted to publish it so he had to do it himself – not an easy thing. Then a publisher saw his book in a book store and boom the rest is history. This story really sets the tone for his later novels. Its non stop action, what would later become a signature of Matthew.
We find ourselves following Dr Stephen swain, who gets teleported along with his daughter into the national history museum in New York. There he is throw into a millennium old contest by which participants from 7 different worlds a forced to fight to the death. Yes i said teleport and yes i said other worlds – it is most definitely a sci fi story after all.
What follows is a fast paced adventure as he outwits his adversarys on mostly luck . This story really shows what Matthew is about, fast paced non stop action, there are no budget restraints with a book unlike a movie and so the action can just keep being raised.
This book is literally a “i cant put it down” story, mainly because there are no natural pauses in the action in which you would normally put it down.  Considering he was only 19 and fresh out of high school when he wrote this, it still stands-up extremely well against his later stories
Definately well worth a read, as long as you don’t mind some out there sci fi

The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August – Claire Norton

The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August – Claire Norton

Wow where do i begin with this book, such a fantastic and original story. Not only does the concept of this plot amaze me but incidentally i have finally found the illusive female author who doesn’t ruin her story by feeling the need to make a love story a major plot line.

Harry has a unique gift in that when he dies, he is reborn is his own body and relives his life over but the catch is he remembers EVERYTHING from his previous life. Can you imagine what you would do in this situation? Soon he meets others of his kind and starts to understand his situation. He soon joins a club of similar people who he finds can communicate backwards in time. For example when a member dies they then find the club when they are a kid and pass the message on to the oldest member who when they die finds the club in their time and passes the message likewise onto its oldest member. The same is true for passing messages forward in time.

But soon scary messages are being sent back of future club members being killed off or simply not being born at all and it is up to harry to get to the bottom of this and save the world.

Some brilliantly thought out concepts in this story, a very much well thought out plot and a main character who you really feel for. I am still now stunned by how awesome this story was.

If the mind of Claire can come up with this story, i very much look forward to seeing what else she can create

Star Wars Lords of the Sith – Paul S. Kemp

Star Wars Lords of the Sith – Paul S. Kemp
Star Wars novels that are set between the movies come in two types, you have the type where it expands the mythos revealing more information about the characters and events or perhaps fills in the time line between the movies. These are great novels as they add to the overall universe of Star Wars.
Then there is the type which is merely a side story which leaves the characters as they are since they are needed in later films but really adds nothing as a whole merely gives them a nice adventure but then at the end of it nothing has changed as a whole, this a disappointment
It is sad to say this novel falls into the later, here we have an adventure where no important characters die and little character development occurs. In the end it matters not if this story happens or not as nothing that occurs in it affects the wider universe. The only saving grace for this novel is we get to see the emperor flex some of his powers that alone saves this novel
While it was a rather short and inconsequential story it does little to satisfy my Star Wars craving, i guess i will just have to wait till Star wars Aftermath is released this septeber