Go Wild!

10:25 PM 21 JULY 2017

This was my first experience of work by Canadian author, Jeffrey Moore and perhaps to the author’s credit ‘The Extinction Club” isn’t easily pidgeon-holed. It’s certainly thrilling, but there are also elements of brutal crime, a key character (Celeste) is a teenager, but it’s not really a ‘young adult’ novel, at one point crumbs even seemed to be leading down the path of a ghost/monster story, but no. What does stand out is the use of the book as a brash exposé of the abject capacity of man for cruelty and the depraved abuse of wild animals, as well as their own kind. Designed to be hard-hitting, in parts the book adopts the tenor of a documentary and yet the tension builds from the classic clash of good and evil.

Nile Nightingale is an unlikely hero. Hiding out in the Laurentian mountains of Quebec, from a series of stateside misdemeanors and a litigious ex-partner with designs on his inheritance, the recovering alcoholic is in poor shape. However, when he rescues a discarded burlap sack from sinking into marshland, he discovers inside 14 year-old Celeste, beaten and stabbed. Both damaged by their respective experiences. Nile and Celeste contrive to rehabilitate each other and rediscover the spirit to not be cowed, but rather to find the courage to stand up for what it right.

For Nile especially, the adventure smacks of a chance for redemption, but brimming with challenge, the temptation to take the path of least resistance is palpable. In describing the burgeoning connection of the main characters the book is also touching and ultimately demonstrates that humankind is simultaneously capable of great virtue and altruism, which can set the species apart.

Thus, by casting a light on the dichotomy between the hunted and the hunters, Moore alludes to the possibility that the abuse of power is the greatest weakness of all. Still, for all the uncompromising wildlife protection zeal, Moore’s inclusion of wacky cameos, such as Welshman Myles Llewellyn, at least confers a little lightness to the barbarous gloom. Bore da! 

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Tribute to Ian Fleming

11:20 PM 8 JANUARY 2017

The 100th anniversary of the birth of Ian Fleming is as good a reason as any for commissioning a ‘continuation novel’ for his most famous creation – James Bond. And who better to write it than one of the most popular British authors of the contemporary crop, Sebastian Faulks? As an avid Faulks fan, it was an intriguing thought, but one not without risk for this most eponymous of spy franchises and perhaps also for the author. Though I needn’t have worried. As early as the opening chapter, the reassuring velvety panache of Faulks was grafted onto the gritty style of Fleming, in a typically grisly, action-packed episode.

A global threat posited by a maniacal power broker bent on the destruction of west, in particular this time the UK, the ‘baddie’ is strikingly familiar, right down to a physical deformity and a penchant for cruelty, which in due course must surely get its comeuppance.

Also present, the romantic entanglement with a beautiful, tragic woman, which is as much a necessity for Bond, as his trusty Walther PPK.

A light read, the book moves along at a break-neck pace and is unadulterated escapism, but worthy of one of the nation’s favourite literary heroes and we continue to be lucky to have him.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

New Turf

7:52 PM 26 OCTOBER 2016

The adage that writers should stick to what they know has been assiduously followed by former National Hunt Champion Jockey, John Francome. Mining the rich seam that accompanies the elite world of horse racing, the author assembles the well-worn ingredients of wealth, corruption, murder, sex and conflict against the genteel backdrop of Lambourn and the horsey set. In some respects, the book has the feel of a formula, the cast of characters, including police investigators, stereotypes equally recognizable in other contexts. Only the presence and mystique of thoroughbred horses and the sub-plots of their racing careers mark out this book among the shelves of ‘thrillers’. Still, as with the best of the genre, I did burn through the pages quickly and the fast-moving action did ‘gallop’ along. As I’m on holiday, it also felt like a light foray into a new hedonistic field for me. I think I shall have to pick up a Dick Francis novel to see if Francome, the padawan, is yet neck and neck with the acclaimed master of this particular turf.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

‘Champion’ Heroes

13:10 PM 30 August 2020

In his thrilling fantasy novel, indie author Jeff Lane introduces two strains of superhumans, in effect the Yin and Yang of seemingly contrary forces, locked in a perpetual existential struggle for survival. That the conflict between the ‘champions’ and the ‘spoilers’ rages alongside the humdrum existence of the vast majority of the human population is interesting. That such extraordinary beings are hidden in plain sight among the general population and their activities go largely unnoticed is also slightly unnerving! Both groups are relatively small in number and co-opt lesser mortals to their respective causes, however, the enmity between the two factions is palpable. For the champions it is driven by the predation of the spoilers, whose hunting style resembles that of hyenas. The spoilers seek to harvest power from their superior opponents in a gruesome and tortuous process, draining the very life force from a lone champion, most often isolated and overwhelmed by numbers. Still, for the reader, this insatiable appetite for the ‘consumption’ of champions’ energy, in what is essentially a parasitic existence, readily casts the ‘spoilers’ as villains and the battlelines drawn between ‘good’ and ‘evil’ are clearly marked throughout this opening book in the series.

In an act of self preservation, some champions are loosely connected through a national network and this story follows the transition of eighteen year-old, Jim Hunt, from college student to elite champion-in-the-making. Jim is the prodigy of his neighbour, the enigmatic Nathaniel Parker, who had identified the boy’s potential at a young age (and the need to protect it), but until now never disclosed why he was so special. However, the importance of the young man does not go unnoticed and when spoilers audaciously organise to trap Nathaniel and use him as bait to feast on two of the most powerful champion ‘batteries’, Jim has a life-changing decision to make. 

This, will he, won’t he, journey to potential ‘champion’ undertaken by Jim is exciting and at times comical, as the hero is supported by his college roommate, Eric Warner, who exhibits all the more familiar traits of a hapless mortal teenager. In fact, at times, Eric reminded me of Sancho Panza, with his squirely regard and selfless support for his friend, though he is also weighed down by a substantial secret, his ‘sanchismos’ provide a useful lighter tone amid the surrounding tension.

In the broader arc of this compelling story, can the champions survive this coordinated attack on their existence? Maybe even counter attack the unusually organized incursion into their established, but intentionally nondescript lives? No doubt which side the reader is on, but the grandstand finish raises plenty of new questions, which will have me reaching for Book 2 (“This Burning World”). The author has also confirmed that Book 3 (“This Champion’s World’) is currently being edited, so more to look forward to. For fans of thrilling fantasy tales, this is a very welcome addition to the bookshelf and I am obliged to Jeff Lane for a welcome diversion in this time of COVID-19. 

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Sequels can work…

7:39 PM 28 AUGUST 2016

A return to Jake Brigance as a hero of the courtroom marks the continuance of John Grisham’ s first novel. JB now in his thirties has not enjoyed the take-off of his career that might have been anticipated following his triumph in “A Time to Kill”, set three years previously, but his brand of delivering legal representation with an ethical edge remains thoroughly compelling. Of course, the latest tale is dependent upon a scenario which duly presents a moral maze, through which JB must navigate on behalf of a victim of circumstance, facing high calibre legal gladiators. As always, Grisham confirms his standing as a consummate story-teller and his pacing of the plot translates into a strong ‘page-turner’. The book reinforced my relish of the wise Judge Atlee, who wields power on the Ford County bench, mentor of JB, but unashamed arbiter of fair play, at times based on an apparently instinctive, ‘common sense’ view of justice. There are a couple of mechanisms used to maintain the pitch of impending failure, but nonetheless, the resolution of the court case is satisfying and confirmed my standing as a fan of
Grisham’ s skill as a writer of thrilling fiction.

SOURCE: HTTP://WWW.GOODREADS.COM/REVIEW/SHOW/1521162726

Rating: 4 out of 5.