Monday, 27 February 2017

2017 Reading, Part One

The first six books of the year have made it past my discerning gaze. Let's take a look...

I've read a few of Terry Pratchett's books in the Discworld series that are based around the City Watch and I saw this one going free on a charity stall in one of the craft fairs that Fran and Gill do in the Winter Gardens in Blackpool. I snapped it up and the next day donated in return the first ten books from the Robert Jordan series The Wheel of Time. I'd read and enjoyed the series a couple of times but as with all long-running serials it had got very sprawling in concept and there were too many characters to keep track of and I had decided I wasn't putting myself through it again.

Anyway, this is an excellent addition to the City Watch series-within-a-series as Watch Commander Sam Vines finds himself tricked and sent back through time, to arrive at the death scene of the man who had taught him all he knew and his nervous and untrained younger self pointing a crossbow at his head... Enough of the spoilers! The cover, by the way, is based on the famous painting Night Watch painted in 1642 by Rembrandt and displayed in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.

The Deathlands series contains a lot of books! The official James Axler website lists 125 books in the series but unlike other long-running series, this kept a tight group of main characters and they interacted with new characters in a different location for each book. Published by Arrow Books, these are not the easiest of books to come across in the UK. I've got a few and have read more but all have either come from libraries or been bought second-hand. This is the first book in the chronology of the series, but was written some thirteen years or so after the first to be written. The series centres around Ryan Cawdor and his band of travellers in a dangerous dystopian future set 100 years after a nuclear holocaust. Wherever they travel they face a society disintegrated into territories ruled by violent barons, mistrustful of strangers and covetous of the possessions of the travellers. Weapons, food and petrol are all commodities for which men would kill. Mutated creatures - none of which have been made more timid or small - present other threats to the band. With some futuristic technology thrown in here and there and even a bit of time travel the books are good entertainment.

James Axler never actually existed. It is a pen name and the books have been written by a number of authors, drawing on a huge database of facts and histories of the environment and the main characters.

And back to our friend Matthew Bartholomew, the 13th century scholar-physician at Cambridge University. His is never a quiet life and so it continues in the fifteenth of his adventures. When the College Treasurer dies it becomes apparent that money has been paid for goods which have not been received. Meanwhile a pregnant woman visiting Matt's sister dies from an overdose of pennyroyal, a substance beneficial for some ailments but known to induce miscarriages. Matt discovers his own stock of the drug has been stolen. He also discovers that the missing money was paid to the husband of the pregnant lady and he, Brother Michael and some students set out on a journey, becoming embroiled in plots and counter-plots and finding themselves hunted by killers.

Blimey! Time for some light relief! Tom Holt takes us to Fairyland where time doesn't work in quite the same way when the elves remove all the boring bits from your memory. A bit embarrassing if you think you are still 15 and insist on being taken back to your school only to find an unknown headmaster demanding to know what the 30-something you is doing in one of his classrooms...

Whoa! Hang on... Terry Pratchett again? Well, although I usually try to vary my reading within these groups of six books, this time I found myself in the local library whilst Miss Franny was looking for stories of young put-upon women triumphing against outrageous cads and they had this. One of my uncles has been telling me for ages that this was a great book and I should read it, so it came home with me. Then I realised that I wasn't going to get through another two books and still have time to read this in the three weeks before it was due back. So... Anyway, it is excellent. I'd seen and loved the TV two-parter but the book (as books always do) contains far more.

And to finish let's go way back to the days of American gangsters and private eyes with Mickey Spillane's hero Mike Hammer. I, The Jury was the first Mike Hammer book and it's a cracker of a read. Fast-paced, exciting, full of cold killers, hot guns and even hotter women. This was the first of three books in an omnibus I got from a bargain book shop ages ago. I'll bet it's not ages until I get round to the second book!

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