Review: The Andromeda Strain by Michael Crichton

The Andromeda Strain is a scientific thriller that is rooted in science while positing a terrifying “what if” scenario. First published in 1969, the book includes some scientific breakthroughs that we have not yet achieved, as well as some dated technology – the paper jam problem, the lack of mobile phones, for example.

The crux of the book is that humankind can be its own worst enemy. The danger comes from an organism brought back to earth from a downed space probe, but twice the actions recommend by the scientists (the major protagonists) almost bring about catastrophe. People’s hubris, biases, oversights, and flaws, are every bit as threatening to humanity as the immediate problems we face. Part of the problem in the novel could be that the scientists are indeed scientists and become focussed on details, where outsiders and artists would look at possibilities.

Told as if reporting on a true event, until this moment highly classified, Crichton’s thriller is still relevant today. His own background and detailed research combined with skilful story-telling, make this a science rich but accessible, enjoyable, and thought provoking read.

Buy from Amazon UK (affiliate link):
The Andromeda Strain by Michael Crichton (1995) Paperback

Book Review: Raining Embers by Jessica Dall

Raining Embers (Order and Chaos Book 1) by Jessica Dall
I received this book from the author in exchange for an honest review

“Raining Embers” was, on the whole, an enjoyable read.

We’re introduced to the two protagonists separately, although it’s clear their destinies are interlinked. The fantasy world was well detailed and, to me, spoke of Renaissance Italy, with opulent palaces and quiet religious enclaves alike.

Palmer’s disability didn’t really seem to affect him, while Brier’s malady seemed to have her getting drunk to drown out the smell rather than, as the blurb says, taking to her bed. I was slightly confused about Palmer’s early Seer abilities and the mixing of two disciplines; astrology as a means of predicating the future was fine, for example an eclipse being an omen of peace or war, but predicting an eclipse itself comes to me under the heading of astronomy.

These concerns aside, the story picked up the pace in chapter seven when the two heroes were thrown together and discovered their true identities, giving us answers to some of the questions posed in the earlier chapters. The rest of the book details their adventures as they train, escape, and finally return home to try and save the city.

I liked Rosette and how Palmer and Brier adopted her into their lives, and I liked Nico and felt bad for how he was so easily cast aside for Palmer; the affection between Palmer and Brier seemed to come more from their destinies and abilities rather than any actual attraction. I could accept the romance but it wasn’t my favourite part of the book. The story felt somewhat YA to me, possibly because of the ages of the characters, which isn’t a minus for me, but could be to other readers.

I’m pretty sure the author didn’t intend it, but Brier seems to go without wine until they go home and sees Nico. Then there’s a couple of line where she could do with a drink. It comes across as when she’s with Palmer their love means she is sober and in control of her skills but with anyone else she wants alcohol to dampen her abilities. If you’re truly in love you won’t drink? It left a nasty puritanical taste in my mouth.

The action-packed final chapters were fantastic as all the threads finally came together, Palmer, Brier, and Rosette’s abilities came to the forefront, and there were further revelations made. The story ended with some nice nods to friendship, rebuilding, and preserving knowledge.

Finally, while it’s clear that this is the first book in a series, this novel does stand alone. Rather than end on a cliff-hanger, there’s a moment of respite that gives the book enough closure to satisfy the reader, which I very much appreciated.

Again, an enjoyable enough read, a story that’s good for a few nights entertainment in a well drawn fantasy setting. I’d award it 3.5 stars out of 5.

Book Review: Follow the Stone by John Locke

I downloaded this for free and it was well worth reading – more “Deadwood” than “Rawhide” with apparently more “coarse language” and sex than some reviewers were expecting, and with just a hint of the supernatural. A short, easy read, it doesn’t have any pretensions to be literature, just a fun ride that manages to evoke the spirit of the Western but with plenty of gritty realism about the hardships faced by travellers and settlers. I’ll look out for more works by the author.

Follow the Stone (An Emmett Love Western Book 1)

Book Review: UnEnchanted by Chanda Hahn

Maybe I read a newer edition than other commentators at Goodreads because I didn’t find a lot of grammar errors – and lately I’ve been giving up on many an ebook for atrocious editing, especially the obnoxious “free reign” when what is meant is “free rein”.

The overall story was captivating; if you enjoy Pratchett’s Discworld then you’ll enjoy the idea of the Story becoming an entity in its own right and the twists it makes to ensure the narrative continues. If you’re a fan of the tv show Grimm, you’ll appreciate the similarities between Nick and Mina, whose ancestry thrusts them into a modern twist on fairy tales. If you enjoy the idea of a female protagonist, a Red Riding Hood who fights back against the wolf instead of waiting for a hunter, then this is for you.

My only real complaint was with the grimoire. Mina asks if it is a spellbook – yes, that’s the proper usage of the term. No, her mother says, it’s a book for the family Grimm. Grim-oire, gettit? An unnecessary pun that would have worked better if it were at least posited as the original grimoire and all others are mere shades of the sentient magical book.

An enjoyable free download that, while being an introduction to a series, also does the reader the decency of not ending on a cliffhanger. Mina has a long way to go, but we come to a natural pause in her journey and I didn’t feel shortchanged as I have when finishing other free ebooks, some of which end abruptly and with zero resolution of any plot threads.