Solomon’s Seal

Solomon’s Seal (Ogmios Team Adventure #2)
by Steven Savile (2012)

With the discovery of the long lost Seal of Solomon Konstantin Khavan and Orla Nyren find themselves in Jerusalem and Palestine fighting for their lives with enemies on all sides. They don’t know who they can trust. They don’t know which way to turn next. All they know is they have to find the Seal while diverting the detonation of a dirty bomb at one of Jerusalem’s most holy sites. Which would be fine, but Orla’s been here before, during the worst days of her life when she was a prisoner in Jenin, a refugee camp on the border.


Review

This is more like ‘Crucible’, at 44,000 words it come in a novella length. It’s about a single operation to retrieve a piece of jewellery. May sound like nothing, but Savile ramps up the action to suitable levels to satisfy.  At times there is a but too much violence, pushing into the horror genre, especially its depiction of the actions against the female agent.

In the end, a decent but not complicated action thriller.

Silver

Silver (Ogmios Team Adventure #1)
by Steven Savile (2010)

Two thousand years ago, thirty Tyrian shekels were paid to secure the most infamous betrayal of all time. Melted down by the grandsons of Judas Iscariot, Menahem and Eleazar ben Jair, in the dark heart of the Sicarii fortress, Masada, the silver was re-forged as a dagger.

When Sicarii zealots committed mass suicide in AD73, the dagger of Iscariot and the truth of his sacrifice were lost. Until now. A religious cult calling itself the Disciples of Judas has risen in the Middle East. Its influence is pernicious, its reach long. In thirteen cities across Europe, thirteen people martyr themselves in the name of Judas, promising forty days and forty nights of terror.


Review

There is more than a hint of Dan Brown’s ‘The Da Vinci Code’ in this book. In fact  in the author notes Steven Savile states that he felt he was overshadowed by Dan Brown as the books came out around the same time.  But this is a better story. It lacks the over the top breathless quality of Dan Brown.

Savile really knows how to deliver an action sequence, they are tense, gripping and usually have an unexpected way out for the protagonist.

What I have noticed in the writing it that he will spend more time on setting and the environment that most authors. This results in a more immersive read, but without the dreaded info-dump some indulge in.

The only negative aspect was the amount of Christian/Jewish history included beyond my minimal knowledge of the era.

Still a great thriller with an unexpected ending.

Lewis 8.30

Lewis Series 8
30 “Beyond Good and Evil”

(Originally Aired in UK 7 November 2014)

Thirteen years ago, Lewis successfully apprehended hammer killer Graham Lawrie. Now Lawrie is on the verge of freedom thanks to new evidence. Lewis fears the worst, but nothing can prepare him for a string of murders resembling the original case. With his mentor’s reputation in jeopardy, Hathaway races to catch the killer.


Review

The last of the season and best of the season. This is due to the simplicity of the story. It’s a basic did-he-do-it plot. Was Lewis wrong in his original arrest of Lawrie. Is there someone else and who will die.

Alec Newman plays Graham Lawrie and gives a great portrayal of a psychopathic killer.  Hathaway finally gets to show some leadership as Lewis is fading into retirement.

 

 

Deep Fire

A Fire Upon the Deep
(Zones of Thought #1)
by Vernor Vinge (1993)

Thousands of years hence, many races inhabit a universe where a mind’s potential is determined by its location in space, from super-intelligent entities in the Transcend, to the limited minds of the Unthinking Depths, where only simple creatures and technology can function. Nobody knows what strange force partitioned space into these “regions of thought,” but when the warring Straumli realm use an ancient Transcendent artifact as a weapon, they unwittingly unleash an awesome power that destroys thousands of worlds and enslaves all natural and artificial intelligence.

Fleeing the threat, a family of scientists, including two children, are taken captive by the Tines, an alien race with a harsh medieval culture, and used as pawns in a ruthless power struggle. A rescue mission, not entirely composed of humans, must rescue the children-and a secret that may save the rest of interstellar civilization.


Review
This is being read as the ‘Sword and Laser’ podcast pick for September. The last Vernor Vinge book I read was ‘Rainbows End’. This starts OK, but the plot really sags in the middle, I got bored with it and gave up.
So it’s with trepidation I started this book………

The start is OK, spaceships are destroyed and a family is abandoned on a planet to face a savage foe. Then the third person narrative switches to the aggressor. The language changes and all sorts of unnecessary  words are thrown in that makes it a difficult read. Up until now I can follow the story, then we get another narrative by some unknown people in an unknown place.

The author just isn’t that good at setting up a situation and describing what is going on. Things start to drag and become boring. I persisted until 14% of this 203,000 word novel. Was I going to slog my way through the remaining 86% ?

No Way.

 

 

Crucible

Crucible (Ogmios Team Adventure #5)
by Steven Savile (2014)

1996, London. The Troubles are in full flow. A young Irish officer, Ronan Frost, is deep undercover inside an IRA cell in London. Something big is happening. Something devastating. Something that will shake the foundations of Anglo-Irish relations and make sure the peace process stalls.

The Ogmios Team doesn’t exist.

Sir Charles is not confined to a wheelchair.

This is where it all begins.


Review
As I had read another Steven Savile book, I wasn’t too worried about being taken on a story that would waste my time. I gave his book ‘Immortal’ a 4/5 review.

This novel is a conventional thriller told in two parallel third person narratives.

It feels like an episode of a TV series like ‘The Professionals’, Sir Charles could be George Cowley. Boddy or Doyle any of the agents. Certainly well done, however it covers ground (UK-Irish troubles) that has been done a lot before.

This is episode five, supposedly an origins story, but for half the book it felt like being thrown in with established character I had just met. Reading the blurbs for the other four books, they appear to cover less conventional ground, so should be worth a read.

 

Didymus Contingency

The Didymus Contingency
by Jeremy Robinson (2007)

When Dr. Tom Greenbaum faces that question after successfully discovering the secret to time travel, he knows the time, place and event he will witness: the death and failed resurrection of Jesus Christ. Dr. David Goodman, Tom’s colleague and closest friend follows Tom into the past, attempting to avert a time-space catastrophe, but forces beyond their control toss them into a dangerous end game where they are tempted by evil characters, betrayed by friends, pursued by an assassin from the future and haunted by a demon that cannot be killed.


Review

This is Jeremy Robinson’s first book,not published until recently. It’s got all the characteristics of later books; action, suspense and evil villains. This is a time travel tale. Near the end things do get a bit to timey-whimey (trademark Dr Who) for my liking.

The interesting thing was his depiction of Jesus. In this book he is a big boisterous guy, outgoing and charismatic. In Ben-Hur (2016) he is a sniveling wretch, downtrodden and weak. Robinson’s Jesus makes more sense, you would expect the King of the Jews to be outgoing and a natural leader. I’m not sure if this mixture of religion and science fiction is meant to be taken too seriously, but I found humour and a touch of satire in what happens when the heroes of today meet iconic people from Judea.

Despite the inherent problems with time travel and the insertion of an unnecessary villain, it’s still a good read. Just don’t think too hard about the ‘rules’ of time travel and the nature of Jesus.

 

Lewis 8.29

Lewis Series 8
29 “The Lions of Nemea”

(Originally Aired in UK 24 October 2014)

Lewis, Hathaway and Maddox’s abilities as a team are severely tested when they investigate the brutal stabbing of an American classics scholar. The bizarre case that follows takes in the cocaine trade, astrophysics and ancient drama, but the truth is hidden in plain sight: a heartbreaking tragedy made possible by the most ordinary of secrets.


Review
The body count mounts in this twisting tale. Trouble is, it involves so many people things get confusing near the end. I did guess that the lost play was a fake. Unfortunately there are no clues early on to point you the real killer. It’s all up to the Police to lead us along as numerous co-incidences lead them to an inevitable arrest.

Ben Hur

Ben-Hur is a 2016 American epic historical action drama adventure film directed by Timur Bekmambetov and written by Keith Clarke and John Ridley. It is the fifth film adaptation of the 1880 novel Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ by Lew Wallace following the 1907 silent film, the 1925 silent film, the Academy Award-winning 1959 film and the 2003 animated film of the same name. It has been termed a “re-adaptation”, “reimagining” and “new interpretation” of the novel. The film stars Jack Huston, Morgan Freeman, Toby Kebbell, Nazanin Boniadi, Haluk Bilginer and Rodrigo Santoro.

Ben-Hur received generally negative reviews from critics and bombed financially having grossed just $41 million worldwide against its $100 million budget.


Review
This film came at at a good time, as I was reading Jeremy Robinson’s ‘The Didymus Contingency’ at the same time. The book covers the same period, Rome about 30AD. It’s a big budget film ($100m) and it shows in the scope of locations and sets. However it could have done with a bit more spent on the script. There are times it feels a bit too modern in tone and language.

Morgan Freeman is the only actor I know in the cast. His role is to move to his mark and make important proclamations to us and other characters. Toby Kebbel is better as Messala than Jack Huston is as Judah Ben-Hur. The best parts of the film was the two big action sequences, one during a sea battle and the famous chariot racing at the end.

The film has been labelled as a ‘bomb’, bringing in just $41m (so far). The reason probably being the relatively unknown actors and a script that didn’t have much impact. Ridley Scott’s Gladiator is still the best film depicting this era. This film is just OK and gets a 3/5.

 

Buccaneers’ Code

The Buccaneers’ Code
The Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates #3
by Caroline Carlson (2013)

 

Hilary Westfield is now a freelance pirate. After trying to prove herself to the VNHLP, she realized many members of the League weren’t all that honorable—not even very nearly. With Captain Blacktooth in cahoots with the Mutineers, the kingdom of Augusta and all its magic are at risk.

What the League needs is a very honorable pirate to be their new president. So Hilary—with the help of her friends, including the always spirited gargoyle—challenges Blacktooth to a High Seas battle. Winner takes all. Loser, at best, will be exiled.


Review
In the third book, villains become more villainous, magic has more prominence and things get a bit more silly. The writing is a sharp as ever, but some of the plot twists get a bit silly to support the notion that a young girl will defeat a bunch of (semi) professional pirates. Still, it’s a fun read and appears to bring the series to a close.