Book Review: Fantasy books

By David Larsen

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Photo / Supplied
Photo / Supplied

In The Mouth Of The Whale by Paul McAuley
(Orion $27.99)

This is the third of three novels set in McAuley's elaborate Quiet War future history and, like the first two, it consists of several stories, whose connections become apparent only slowly. The writing is densely complex and getting up momentum with the book takes effort. But persist. Four separate post-human species are at war in the asteroid belt of a far-off solar system, and McAuley's protagonists are as vivid and convincing as their well-conceived backdrop.

Seven Kings by John R. Fulz
(Orbit $27.99)

Meat and potatoes fantasy adventure, well enough written that you don't have to feel guilty for enjoying it. As all such books should, it has a map, charting a wide continent stretching from the arid north (frozen wastes, mountains, giants) to the steamy south (jungles, lost cities, slave traders). Immortal sorcerors vie for power, and the seven young kings of the title form alliances, betray each other and wage righteous war. Technically this is the middle volume of a trilogy, but it works pretty well as a standalone.

Bedlam by Christopher Brookmyre
(Orbit $36.99)

Computer-gaming geekdom has featured heavily in some of Brookmyre's previous thrillers - notably A Big Boy Did It And Ran Away - but this is his first venture into science fiction, and this time, the games are real. A first-person shooter fan who just happens to be working on brain-computer link-up technology wakes up one day and finds himself trapped inside his favourite game. Anyone with any knowledge of this genre will figure out what's going on far sooner than Brookmyre's hero does but while the story is short on suspense, its gaming in-joke count is satisfyingly high.

Fade To Black by Francis Knight
(Orbit $27.99)

The first book in yet another gritty, pseudo-realistic fantasy series about a misunderstood loner with a heart of tarnished gold. In a city state whose iron-clad social hierarchies are expressed literally in its multi-levelled architecture, our hero is cursed with "the forbidden power to draw magic from pain". That's right, the more people get hurt, the more he can do things about it. Sado-masochistic karma, written so crudely it doesn't even qualify as porn.

Steampunk H.G. Wells Illus. by Zdenko Basic
(RP Classics $29.99)

A gorgeously illustrated edition of the two most reprinted of Wells' novels - The Time Machine and The War of the Worlds - plus one of his short stories, The Country of the Blind. The two novels are perfectly suited for steampunk visual adaptation. The story far less so, an odd addition.

- NZ Herald

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