Publisher: Angry Robot

Scare Me by Richard Parker

Posted December 26, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Thriller / 0 Comments

Scare Me by Richard ParkerTitle: Scare Me (Goodreads)
Author: Richard Parker
Published: Exhibit A, 2013
Pages: 386
Genres: Thriller
My Copy: ARC from Netgalley

Buy: AmazonBook DepositoryKindle (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

“When did you last Google yourself?” That was what wealthy businessman, Will Frost was asked by an anonymous late night caller. When Will got online, he found a website with photographs of his home along with six other houses he’s never seen before. Within the first house a gruesome murder has already taken place. His family is in danger and the only way to save them is to visit all seven houses, discover their connection before the police discovers him.

First of all, I decided to google Richard Parker just to get an idea of who he was. If you were wondering, Richard Parker is not the sailor and president of the Floating Republic, Peter Parker’s (Spiderman) dad, a Bengal tiger or from Weekend at Bernie’s. Richard Parker is in fact an English writer who spent over twenty years writing for TV (nothing I’ve heard of). He was nominated for the Crime Writers Associations John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger Award in 2010 for is dark thriller Stop Me.

Scare Me is his second book (and if you were wondering they are both standalone novels) and Will Frost’s struggle to save his daughter’s life from a twisted and sadistic psychopath. This novel has all the typical thriller tropes and you can pretty much match this against your expectations and come up with the exact plot in your head. This is something I found rather frustrating; I was never surprised, everything seemed obvious and expected.

This wasn’t the major problem I had with this novel; my issue was with the characters. Will Frost is so two dimensional and inherently good there was nothing interesting or complex about him, I found this boring. I like characters that are complex and flawed; I didn’t even find this in the killer either. Their motivation came a little too late into the novel, there was no hints (although you can guess easily) and when you find out, it was too late to save the novel.

You also have major plot problems, which is a shame since the idea of scavenger hunt of dead bodies is a great one. An example, all phones work in every country, no need for international roaming (this isn’t a big problem but when you make a deal of buying a new phone you could mention something). Also there is the fact Will’s old phone was amazing; He hides it on the killer to track it and the phone never goes flat. I struggle to last a day with my phone, so I’m keen to get my hands on a phone that lasts so long.

You add all these up, with the basic writing style and you have a novel that didn’t work for me. I liked the premise and had high hopes but I was let down. I wish I abandoned this novel and moved on to something different but unfortunately I pushed myself. I know of a few people that have read and enjoyed this novel, I’m happy for them, I wish I was one of them but there was too much I couldn’t let go.

The Age Atomic by Adam Christopher

Posted March 11, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Science Fiction, Thriller / 0 Comments

The Age Atomic by Adam ChristopherTitle: The Age Atomic (Goodreads)
Author: Adam Christopher
Series: Empire State #2
Published: Angry Robot, 2013
Pages: 416
Genres: Science Fiction, Thriller
My Copy: ARC from Netgalley

Buy: AmazonBook Depository (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

The Empire State is dying due to the fissure connecting this reality to New York disappearing. The populace is in a panic, demanding the return of prohibition and rationing of energy. Meanwhile in 1954 New York there has been a dynamic political change. A new group called Atoms for Peace are preparing a robot army for a trans-dimensional invasion. Their goal: total conquest – or destruction – of the Empire State.

Private Investigator Rad Bradley is back in the sequel to Empire State. This time the twisted parallel prohibition-era New York City is falling apart and a robot army are planning to invade. Adam Christopher spent a lot of time building this amazing inter-dimensional city with some wacky atomic age technology and doppelgangers; in Empire State he has this brilliant tech noir story happening which I really enjoyed. But then we get to The Age Atomic and all noir elements have gone and the plot just feels like a generic atomic age thriller.

The world building he has done to give up this trans-dimensional New York is great and Rad Bradley is a wonderful character, so I can understand why he would want to stay in this world. I just think I was expecting another neo-noir type novel but was left we a pretty average science fiction thriller. The term ‘killing your darlings’ is often used and I’m wondering if Christopher should have just used the same world and created new characters. The return of Rad Bradley (an obvious homage to Ray Bradbury) just meant I expected more hard-boiled adventures from him.

I love this world but I’m very disappointed with the way this book turned out, I think Adam Christopher has the skills and tools to write great alternative reality or neo-noir novels but for me I think the genre switch left me dissatisfied. I recommend you read Empire State and if you are planning to continue to series, be warned, it’s not the same. I’m pleased to see that Adam Christopher added his writing and editing soundtrack again. This book could have been better, I will have to check out WorldBuilder again and see what other people have done with this world, since that is the most interesting part of the whole book.

The Mad Scientist’s Daughter by Cassandra Rose Clarke

Posted February 9, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Speculative Fiction / 4 Comments

The Mad Scientist’s Daughter by Cassandra Rose ClarkeTitle: The Mad Scientist’s Daughter (Goodreads)
Author: Cassandra Rose Clarke
Published: Angry Robot, 2013
Pages: 400
Genres: Speculative Fiction
My Copy: ARC from Netgalley

Buy: AmazonBook DepositoryKindle (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

Cat’s life was not ever going to be normal; the daughter of a mad scientist can never be easy. When her father created an android to be her tutor, she was a little afraid to begin with but soon Finn became her best friend. While Finn is programmed to assist his owners, this billion dollar construction becomes a whole lot more to Cat. The Mad Scientist’s Daughter is a coming of age novel with a science fiction twist.

While this is a coming of age type novel, it’s both Cat and Finn that have to try and find their place in the world. Cat, as she grows up into an intelligent woman, and Finn, as the government look into granting rights to the increasing android population. As a young girl who grows up with only one person to talk to, it comes as no surprise to see that she forms a strong emotional bond with Finn, but I can’t help but wonder if the author took it a little too far. I can fully accept this young adult to fall in love with the android that has always been there when she needs it the most, but the sex, seemed a little weird and really threw me out of the story. I’m not going to debate the idea of sex and androids because I’m sure there a many thoughts on this concept; just for this novel it really threw me off.

There really are some interesting concepts coming through in this novel. Firstly the interesting science fiction twist on the coming of age novel; not only does Cat grow and struggle though life, I really thought the idea of Finn finding himself in an evolving world was explored in a decent way. Then the concept of loving someone that can never love you back. It’s clear that Cat is in denial at times, hoping that Finn will return her feelings but always getting hurt by the fact that he doesn’t; this is a long struggle she deals with and created a great emotional impact for the protagonist and the reader. Finally the increased population with robotics; this was never explored as well as someone like Isaac Asimov did but it was still interesting to read Cassandra Rose Clarke on this subject.

At times this dragged on a long time, but I found myself being fully absorbed in the novel only to be yanked out with the sex scenes. I’m not sure if they really needed to be in the book; I think they could have portrayed the love Cat has for Finn without it. It was these sudden jerks that destroyed this book for me.  I tend to think the author was adding a bit of controversy to get the book talked about but for me it didn’t make me want to ponder the concept, it just made me want to resort to skim reading.

The Dead of Winter by Lee Collins

Posted October 22, 2012 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Fantasy, Western / 0 Comments

The Dead of Winter by Lee CollinsTitle: The Dead of Winter (Goodreads)
Author: Lee Collins
Series: Cora Oglesby #1
Published: Angry Robot, 2012
Pages: 384
Genres: Fantasy, Western
My Copy: ARC from Netgalley

Buy: AmazonBook DepositoryKindle (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

I didn’t know much about this book apart from the tag on the front of the book ‘True Grit meets True Blood’. This was enough to get my attention and I felt like a western paranormal urban fantasy novel might be a fun read. Cora and her husband Ben are hunters, but for things that should not exist in the world. When the Marshall of Leadville, Colorado calls her in to help with a series of mysterious deaths, Cora feels she may have finally met her match.

I’m not sure how to classify the novel; is it a Western, paranormal, dark fantasy or even urban fantasy novel? The Dark of Winter seems to mash all these elements into the one book, and it does a decent job at doing that. I was hoping that Cora would be as sassy as Mattie Ross in True Grit but she was just a bitch, plain and simple. In fact the only True Grit element in the book was that this book is a western. I felt a little disappointed in that, I wanted sassy, but I got bitchy. I did get over that pretty quickly and was able to settle in to enjoy the plot. The characters never seemed to be developed enough for me, but this may have been due to my expectations.

On the whole, I felt that there was just something missing from the book; the characters just didn’t come together properly, but there was some chemistry between Cora and the English hunter. The writing of this book was good and the pacing of the plot was decent enough but for some reason I still think the book needed something else to improve the story. I’m not sure if it needed the sass, or maybe some wit or humour but I think adding an extra element like these would have helped the book overall.

A Vampire Western novel seems very unique and there was a sense of mystery throughout the novel but there was always some cliches which counteracted the good parts. Its adventure elements were let down by the dialogue between the characters. It just felt like for every good element of this book, I had an issue with something else. I’m sure some people will really enjoy this book I just felt like the pros and cons of this book just equalled out to make it feel like an average read. I’m not sure if I’ll read the sequel when it comes out but I know I won’t be rushing out to get it.

Empire State by Adam Christopher

Posted July 4, 2012 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Pulp, Science Fiction / 0 Comments

Empire State by Adam ChristopherTitle: Empire State (Goodreads)
Author: Adam Christopher
Series: Empire State #1
Published: Angry Robot, 2012
Pages: 445
Genres: Pulp, Science Fiction
My Copy: Audiobook

Buy: AmazonBook DepositoryKindle (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

During the last great superhero fight, a blast of energy rips a hole in reality, the result is Empire State; a twisted parallel prohibition-era New York City. But now the rift is starting to close and both parallel worlds have to fight for the right to exist. Adam Christopher’s Empire State tells the story of Rad Bradley a private detective investigating the disappearance for Sam Saturn which leads him to uncover something a whole lot bigger. This book is everything you expect in a pulp style superhero novel; you have the super villains, airships, robots, organised crime and prohibition (to make it feel more like a pulp novel). This is all a brilliant back drop for the main plot; the case the gets Rad Bradley tangled in a complex web of robotic killers, inter-dimensional doppelgangers and science.

The whole tone of this book feels very much like a superhero novel but never loses sight of the noir style narrative. The whole story cast is wonderfully unique and mystery that will keep the readers on the edge of their seats while reading this book. There are some things that didn’t quite work within the story and the constant world shifting can get the reader lost. I think in the end there turns out to be at least three different worlds; Prohibition New York, Empire State and New York 1950’s. The world, the crime and the characters show potential for a lot of great stories to follow.

Adam Christopher and publisher Angry Robot Books have invited others to create works based in the world of Empire State. Writer, artist, musician, sculptor, puppeteer, interpretive dance major, or poet, are invited to create their own stories with what they are calling WorldBuilder as long as you stick to their Guidelines and Instructions. They are authorising fan-created content to be created under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License which means content can be posted on the internet or beyond as long as it’s in a non-commercial way; publication rights of the stories are still in the hands of the publisher. There are plans for an eBook or Print-on-Demand anthology of the best stories which is pretty exciting; I’ve never seen a novel do anything like this, making for some interesting stories to follow. I think this world is capable of millions of other great stories whether superhero, science fiction, alternate history, organised crime or even pulp stories.

I’m curious to see what the results of this creative common might lead to but as for this book, if you want a fun, exciting novel with twists and mystery, then you really should give Empire State ago. There’s a certain uniqueness within this book while remaining familiar with the writing style. I feel nostalgic towards a good pulp novel and this blends that with science fiction elements with such ease. This genre is often called neo-noir (a genre that blends pulp with updated themes, content, or style, often blended with Science Fiction) and there have been some great books that have come out in this style, but Empire State is definitely one of the better ones.