This is a blog with spoiler free reviews. Most will be Fantasy, Science Fiction, and Horror, but there will be some books in other genres, including the occasional Non-Fiction review. There is an ongoing series of Cover Reveal Round-Ups, and sometimes I'll write an article on something that interests me.

31 March, 2014

REVIEW: THE HUNGER GAMES

Cover image adapted by Scholastic UK from an original by Tim O'Brien

THE HUNGER GAMES
THE HUNGER GAMES BOOK ONE
BY
SUZANNE COLLINS

ISBN: 978-1-407-13208-2
Pages: 454
Publisher: Scholastic UK
First published: 14 September 2008
This edition published: 1 December 2011

On the cover:
(From the publisher's website.)

The TV game show only has one rule: kill or be killed. Katniss must play or die. But she won’t give up without a fight...

In District 12, where Katniss Everdeen lives, life is harsh and brutal, ruled from afar by the all-powerful leaders of the Capitol. The climax of each year is the savage Hunger Games – where twelve boys and twelve girls from each District must fight to the death on live TV in a murderous showdown. When sixteen-year-old Katniss steps forward to take her younger sister’s place in the Games, everyone regards it as a death sentence. Only one person can survive the horrors of the arena. But plucky Katniss has been close to death before. For her, survival is second nature...


  Let's get one thing out of the way first. There has been a lot of talk about this novel, and the trilogy, being derivative of earlier works. There is no doubt that this is not the most original concept in SFF, but I don't think a real case can be made for it being any more of a copy than a lot of other SFF works. I will say more about the subject of this book's predecessors, and possible inspirations, when I have reviewed the whole trilogy. For now I'll just say that I don't think anyone I am aware has made a case for Collins being a copycat.
   This brings us to how original, or fresh if you will, this novel feels. The short answer is that it depends very much on how much you have read. For me there was much that was familiar to some degree. But even so, I quickly lost any inclination I had to spot the similarities. Collins writes in such a way that you are compelled to keep reading, putting the book down before it ends is hard, and I finished this in a shorter time span than I anticipated.
  
   Pacing wise this is all about the story, there is little worldbuilding done. We do get some info though, but the whole setting feels a bit sketchy at times. This is however not a flaw, it's clear that it is a conscious choice by the author. It does work in the context of the story, even though it makes it feel like the world we are in lacks some history at times. My personal preference would be to have more backstory to bridge our present with the novel's. Other readers will of course feel it refreshing that there is a focus on the story, and that the setting is left in the background to a greater degree than is found in many SFF novels.

   I must add though that there is quite a bit of substance to this novel, and there is definitely a lot happening at times. There is an undercurrent of societal critique here. Although perhaps undercurrent isn't exactly the right word, the novel is pretty much in your face with everything. At times the lack of subtlety can be a bit too much. There were times I felt that Collins was laying it on a bit thick, times were the way the point was made felt repetitive. What this mostly did for me was make it feel like this is "starter" SFF. And since this is after all a YA novel, that is actually a good thing.

   There is quite a lot of suspense here, at times you will be very loathe to put the book down because of it. Collins has put in some great cliffhangers that doesn't take a backseat to any you'd find in a good Thriller. Obviously there is also a lot of action, and quite a bit of it is fairly brutal. This isn't a sanitised version of the events depicted, and this realistic approach to violence makes the novel better than a "Disneyfied" version would have been.

   The characters are quite important here. We are getting the story as told in first person by the main character, Katniss Everdeen. This gets us very close to what is going on, and we do get very intimate with Katniss's feelings and her interpretation of what is going on. Unfortunately I feel that this is somewhat of a weak point. Katniss came across to me as cold and distant, and the narrative didn't really feel all that personal. As a result of this I had problems empathising with Katniss at several points throughout the novel. I felt she worked much better as a character when she interacted with others, she basically comes off more "real" when she's playing off someone else.
   I still liked following Katniss's "journey" though. Her coldness didn't keep me back from witnessing what was going on, they just didn't get me as close to her as I got the feeling I was supposed to.

   Overall this is a really good action-filled SFF novel. It is an easier read than many other Dystopian Science Fiction novels, and this can lead to it being more entertaining than thoughtful. If you want to introduce anyone to this subgenre of SFF, or want an introduction yourself, this is an excellent place to start.
   You don't have to have any "SFF baggage" to read this, and in some ways it is a bit of a distraction if you do. It was still a very enjoyable read for me, so if you can avoid being nitpicky this should be an entertaining read for the seasoned SFF reader.
    Basically, if you are looking for an entertaining Earth-bound Science Fiction novel with a bit of substance to it, picking this up is a good idea.

LINKS: Suzanne Collins  Scholastic UK

28 March, 2014

REVIEW: OUT ON BLUE SIX

Cover design by Neil Heacox

OUT ON BLUE SIX
BY
IAN McDONALD

ISBN: 978-1-48046-165-9
Pages: 288
Publisher: Open Road Media
First published: 1 April 1989
This edition published: 31 December 2013

On the cover:
(From the publisher's website.)

In a far-future city where happiness and stability are law, a group of rebels will fight for what it means to be human

The Compassionate Society was designed as a utopia, where people’s genetic predispositions and aptitudes—rather than random choice—guide their lives, and pain of any kind is illegal. In the self-contained city, happiness is the most cherished value, and the Ministry of Pain swiftly prosecutes anyone who interferes with the contentment of another. For many of its citizens—who were matched to their jobs, spouses, and friends—the Compassionate Society is perfect. But to Courtney Hall, a political cartoonist, it is a place of stifling mediocrity. When her satirical work makes her a target of the government, Courtney goes on the run, only to discover an entire underground network of dissidents, each fighting against the stagnation imposed by the Compassionate Society—a struggle that could stand as humanity’s last chance for growth, innovation, and ultimately, survival.


   This novel is somewhat surrealist in nature, at times you feel you are going down the proverbial rabbit hole. At times it has a feel of being Fantasy, but I would say this fits nicely into the Weird. The setting, for parts of the story at least, is pure Science Fiction and there are elements that are familiar for those that are versed in Earth-set Science Fiction.

  There is two plot-strands here and although they have the similarity of both being journeys, they are very different journeys.
   On the one hand we get a quest that owes much of its structure to Epic Fantasy, more specifically Quest Fantasy. Although I hasten to add that this is not anywhere near what you'd expect from Epic Fantasy. It is much more bizarre than that, and at times it takes turns that may be hard to follow for those that are not familiar with reading SFF. However it is this greatly imaginative quality that lifts this plot thread above the average for me. The plot becomes so unpredictable because it refuses to tie itself to the expected of such a quest that you are never quite certain where it will take you.
   The other quest is more about personal discovery. It does begin with the, at this time, not uncommon narrative device of a main character who does not know who he is. But where McDonald takes it from there means it in no way feels like it is something you've seen before. Sure, there are familiar turns at some points. Parts of what is happening does seem familiar, but it is set in a narrative context that still makes this feel very fresh, even when read 25 years after the novel's first publication.

   Taken overall, the novel is a joy to read, reading my review notes made me want to read it again. There's parts of this that are absolutely brilliant Science Fiction, and likewise parts that are excellent Quest Fantasy. When put together those two elements make for a great novel.
   The page count is not very long for a SFF novel, but McDonald has managed to make this world come vividly to life with the words he has used. Other SFF novels certainly go into more detail about the world they are set in. However the feel you get for the world you are in is excellent here, and it brings you closer to how this society looks like than many novels who go on in much more detail.

   As with the setting, the characters does not really get much detail given about them. They are more defined by their actions that by who they are, but I never thought that they were too flimsy as people. Learning more about them is simply not something you miss, the narrative just doesn't need you to get to know them in that way. You do however get a good feel for who they are, and in many respects what makes them tick. They are also very nice people to follow through the narrative. Both main and supporting characters come very much alive, and you can easily relate to them on enough levels that you feel comfortable with them.

   When I was reading this, and in the time after that when I have thought about it, it's sort of hard for me to see why this book has almost disappeared. Granted, it does predate the New Weird by several years, and it does in some ways straddle the  difficult Science Fiction/Fantasy gap but it is really an excellent SFF novel. That it wasn't reprinted, and re-marketed, when New Weird became popular is a bit baffling to me.
   This is a SFF novel that deserves to be read widely. Fans of McDonald will recognise his style of storytelling, and if they haven't already read this they should remedy that at once. Other SFF fans would do well to pick this up also, and fans of China Mi√©ville and other New Weird authors should definitely pick this up. With it's mix of Quest Fantasy and Earth-set Science Fiction it should be an excellent choice for any SFF fan.

NOTE: I got an e-ARC of this novel from the publisher/NetGalley.

REVIEWS: River of Gods  Brasyl

LINK: Open Road Media

17 March, 2014

REVIEW: FIDDLEHEAD

Cover art by Angelo Rinaldi

FIDDLEHEAD
A CLOCKWORK CENTURY NOVEL/
CLOCKWORK CENTURY BOOK 5
BY
CHERIE PRIEST

ISBN: 978-1-447-22558-4
Pages: 366
Publisher: Tor UK
Published: 21 November 2013

On the cover:
(From the publisher's website.)

Ex-spy ‘Belle Boyd’ is retired – more or less. Retired from spying on the Confederacy anyway. Her short-lived marriage to a Union navy boy cast suspicion on those Southern loyalties, so her mid-forties found her unemployed, widowed and disgraced. Until her life-changing job offer from the staunchly Union Pinkerton Detective Agency.

When she’s required to assist Abraham Lincoln himself, she has to put any old loyalties firmly aside – for a man she spied against twenty years ago. Lincoln’s friend Gideon Bardsley, colleague and ex-slave, is targeted for assassination after the young inventor made a breakthrough. Fiddlehead, Bardsley’s calculating engine, has proved the world is facing an extraordinary threat. Meaning it's not the time for civil war.

Now Bardsley and Fiddlehead are in great danger as forces conspire to keep this potentially unifying secret, the war moving and the money flowing. With spies from both camps gunning for her, can even the notorious Belle Boyd hold the war-hawks at bay?


   With this book we're coming to the end of The Clockwork Century series. In some small ways that changes how I look at the book. I've loved this series from the first book (links to reviews), and I want it to end well. I was never really worried that it wouldn't though, Priest has written a great series, that I hold as a must-read among recent Alternate History works.
    Like the other books in this series this is not a direct sequel to those that have preceded it. It does however follow quite nicely on from Clementine, and there is  plenty of little tidbits that point back to previous volumes. None of them are really essential reading, and Priest is good at giving the new reader an idea of what has gone before.  But there's no doubt that it will give you a richer reading experience if you are familiar with at least some of what happened previously.

   Returning from Clementine is the heroine, Belle Boyd, who is given some more depth here than in her previous outing. She is a great character, and a really good spy/action heroine. Boyd would have been adequate as a sole main character, but she's not alone here. There are other main characters that we get to follow, Abraham Lincoln is one of them.
   Lincoln being a main character is a sign that we are getting a more political story this time. We are at the high reaches of government, and that means that the stakes are higher than they have been before in the series. Things that have been building up are now coming to a head.

   This starts out intriguingly, with a sort of recap, or at least a good reminder of what has come before. From there it builds slowly, at times you want to drag the story forwards. Don't get me wrong, it never gets boring, and neither does it feel like you are reading filler material.It's just a story that has a deliberately slow pace. One that actually fits very well with what is going on. It can be a bit frustrating at times though, you really want things to happen now, you're at the edge of your seat waiting for things to happen, but this really drives you to read on. And when things start happening your patience, or what little is left of it, is rewarded with an excellent series of events.

   Some of the slow burn of the plot continues throughout, but there is a lot of action interspersed with the other developments and there are events that create a lot of suspense. A lot of the suspense is created by the reader not knowing how this is going to end. Although you assume the good guys will win, it is never clear what the cost will have been when this story ends. And it is never clear who will be making it to the end of the book either, no-one is really essential here and the body count has the potential to be really high.

   Although I am not a big fan of open-ended series I feel this book is a bit hampered by it's "end of an era" feel, but that was pretty inevitable seeing as this is the end of the series. It's not even really a problem with the book itself, it's a problem with the reader - in this case me. I had a sort of separation anxiety before I started reading this book, I even put off starting it for quite a while. In hindsight I need not have done that, and in some ways it made finishing it more of a melancholy experience than it had to be. But now that I am at the end of it, I can say that I am very satisfied with the stories that Priest has shared with me as a reader. This is an excellent Steampunk series with a strong Alternate History component.

   This is an excellent book, and I am confident it will satisfy those that have taken a liking to Priest's Clockwork Century series. It is well written, with a very well developed, but slow-burning, storyline. There's plenty of action here, and political intrigue on the top level. Somewhat of a political thriller with a good dose of action.
   It will work as a standalone, but it is definitely a book that works best as the end of an era in the alternate history of the United States. Both Steampunk and Alternate History fans should do themselves a favour and check out this series. For Priest's fans this is of course a must, but I assume most of them have already finished this one.

REVIEWS: A Clockwork Century reviews.

LINKS: Cherie Priest  Pan Macmillan (Tor UK)  Tor UK Blog

13 March, 2014

COVER REVEAL ROUND-UP (XIX)

   It's been a few months since I last did this. (You can see part of the reason for that here.) I haven't kept a very close look on covers since then, so I have definitely missed some. But these are some of those that caught my eyes.

   I assume that those that read this has caught the news that there will be a new Fitz & Fool novel from Robin Hobb in August 2014. This is the cover for the US edition, coming from Del Rey. The art is by Alejandro Colucci. I'm hardly objective when it comes to a new Realm of the Elderlings book from Hobb, but I really like this cover. (You can read the first excerpt from the book here.)


   This is the third book from Kim Curran. I was pretty excited about the ending of the last one so I am of course very excited by this one. The cover is by Larry Rostant. and the book will be out in August 2014 from Strange Chemistry. As always, Rostant has made a great cover. I really look forward to getting my hands on this one.


  The third book in The Long Earth series will be out from Doubleday on 19 June 2014. I like this cover quite a bit. It does fall into the (sometimes overused) realistic Mars expedition image, but it is a good one.

NOTE: What is it with all the Mars books coming out recently, and in the not to distant future?


   The second Stephen King novel of the year has gotten a cover. This one will be out in November this year, and I assume this is the US cover. (More info here.) Not much to say about this one. It's got King's name on it, the title, and some lightning. Only the first one of those will be necessary for most book-buyers, so this will do the job. -I am looking forward to reading this though.


   Strange Chemistry has some great covers. I'll include this one with art by Sarah J. Coleman in that statement. I really like the style of this one, it's an image that makes me want to read the book. And since I already have an e-ARC I will try to do that before its release on 6 May.


   This is the cover by Alejandro Colucci for an Angry Robot Books release on 1 July 2014. This is a really great piece of art. I would gladly pick this up without knowing anything else about it than having seen this cover.


   This is the cover for the first book in a new series, it will be out 17 March 2015 from Orbit. Photo by Shirley Green, illustration by Don Sipley, and design by Lauren Panepinto. It's no secret that I like Gail Carriger's books, and that would make me excited for this one no matter what was on the cover. But I like the covers for Carriger's books, and this fits neatly into the style of those that have gone before. -A bit more info on the author's website.


   This is the third book in the second trilogy from Deas. It will be out from Gollancz 19 June 2014. I like dragons, and these are good looking ones. Looking forward to this one.


   This is the third book in this series, it will be out in January 2015 from Solaris Books. The cover art is by Jake Murray. I think the covers for these books just get better and better. And this image really makes me want to read this book.


   And Finally, the US cover for the latest Discworld novel. Out from Doubleday 18 March 2014. (It's weird that Pratchett has delayed release in the US. Maybe it's a contract issue?) Every time I see a US Pratchett cover I have to wonder why they don't just reuse the UK ones. They're not all bad, this one is actually quite good, but the comparison to the UK ones will always let them down.

11 March, 2014

REVIEW: THE MARTIAN



THE MARTIAN
BY
ANDY WEIR

ISBN: 978-0-8041-3902-1
Pages: 384
Publisher: Crown Publishing
Published: 11 February 2014

On the cover:
 (From the publisher's website.)
 

Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars.

Now, he's sure he'll be the first person to die there.

After a dust storm nearly kills him and forces his crew to evacuate while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded and completely alone with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive—and even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone long before a rescue could arrive.

Chances are, though, he won't have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment, or plain-old "human error" are much more likely to kill him first.

But Mark isn't ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills—and a relentless, dogged refusal to quit—he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. Will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?


   Before I start off the actual review, I have to tell you a little anecdote from when I grew up. Back in around 1980 my grandparents had what would be defined as a smallholding. It wasn't big, basically just a patch of land along a road going through a farm-field.About a quarter of that property was used to grow potatoes. When I was a kid I used to help with setting the potatoes in the ground in the spring, and getting them out of there in the autumn. This was done by hand.So, despite being a city-boy I have personal experience with low-tech potato growing.

   At this point you might very well wonder what my personal anecdote has to do with a Science Fiction book? It's actually pretty essential. The growing of potatoes is essential to the whole premise of the book. And for me it is also where things start to fall apart. My recollection of potato farming doesn't completely mesh with what happens in the book. I'll grant that I could be misremembering things, it is after all 30+ years ago, but I am pretty sure there are flaws in the book's description.
   This is actually a huge problem when it comes to this novel, there is a lot that has to be bought without question when it comes to science in this narrative , most of it quite more advanced than potato growing. Usually I would have no problem accepting this science as facts, I assume that the author has done his research. But when I feel something is wrong I start on the path to distrust, and that brings me out of the story. Basically, my suspension of disbelief has ended, and I stop taking the story seriously.
   Not taking a story seriously need not be a problem. I enjoy Action Adventure and Action Thriller books, neither of which usually has a close relationship with realistic events. This is however a Science Fiction novel, and one that spends a lot of time setting up its science.

   That is really where The Martian falls down for me. It spends so much time trying to be a Hard SF book, more than enough time is spent with the science of surviving to bore anyone who isn't planning to get marooned on Mars. Even if I didn't have the potato-problem I stated above there is so much science talk here that it quickly takes on the cloak of techno-babble. Page after page of unnecessary detail that add nothing to the story, just shows off how little story there really is.
   This is coupled with lots of plot-points that make little or no sense. Even the events leading up to the novel's starting point seem to be taken straight out of an Action Adventure novel. And as in an Action Adventure novel there are problems facing the "hero" that seem totally unlikely to even occur once, yet they keep coming up time and time again. That the main character always has the skills needed to rig together a solution keeps getting less and less plausible.
   Before the novel was halfway through, I was already fed up with the obstacles put in the main characters way. There was simply too many of them, and it started to feel repetitive, like there was a list that needed to be gotten through before the end of the novel. And at times it feels like you're reading a novelisation of a Final Destination movie with all the coincidences. There were times I thought about abandoning the novel because of the repetitive series of obstacles.

   When it abandons Hard SF the novel works well. Weir writes good action and suspense, and in the passages that aren't smothered by techno-babble the novel flows well. But it is bogged down by the structure of the novel, everything on Mars is told as a journal/log. That gets very dry. Worse than that it means we are distanced to some degree from the main character, and I found I only started caring about his survival when it would mean success for the people back on Earth. I felt the main character only came to life when he interacted with others, and for much of the novel he's completely on his own.
   The Earth-set parts of the narrative work much better. There's a bigger cast of characters, and their interactions makes the story flow much better. I even found there to be more tension in what is happening elsewhere than Mars, and it also brought more immediacy to what is going on on the red planet. However, some of the tension that could have been there from the Earth point of view is lost when we already know what is happening on the surface of Mars.

   There is some glimpses of a good story here. The final chapter especially is giving us a glimpse of a suspense-filled story. Unfortunately, at that point the only thing I really cared about was being done with this book.
   If pressed to describe this book in one word I would choose uneven. It's all over the place when it comes to pacing, especially between the Hard SF parts and the Action Adventure parts. For me the Hard SF parts became just a distraction from what is in parts a good, and tense, story.They also felt completely out of place in a narrative that contains lots of elements you'd be more inclined to look for in a summer blockbuster movie than in a novel of this type.
   There's plenty of good ideas here, and at times Weir shows he can pull off a fast-paced narrative, but I feel it fails in becoming a coherent whole. There's glimpses of something much better here, but they get lost in a desire to be both action-filled entertainment and dry Hard SF. Even with all those problems I feel that this would be an interesting novel for those that are interested in fiction about the exploration of the Solar System.

LINKS: Andy Weir  Crown Publishing

07 March, 2014

MY JANUARY UK BOOK-BUYING SPREE

   In January I spent a three week holiday in South Yorkshire. -Well, it was really a test to see if me and Jo would function together. But that's beside the point here.
   During those three weeks I had the joy of discovering charity shops that had books I actually wanted. (There is a completely different culture in Norway when it comes to charity, and we have few charity shops.) And I disovered The Works. For those that are unfamiliar with The Works (, as I was when I got here in January), it's basically a remainder shop. They sell new stuff at a ridiculously high discount. Paperbacks from £1, hardcovers from £1.99, and coffe table books from about £4.99.
   Both of these are of course somewhat of a book-lover's dream. I do however feel a bit bad about getting books for the prices I have, since I believe that authors (, and by extension publishers,) should get paid decently for what they give me as a reader. However I don't really feel too bad, for two reasons. The first one is that I still buy books at regular prices in Waterstones and WH Smith, the second one is I have been buying books in Norway for the last 30+ years.
   In Norway books are much more expensive than in the UK. You might be lucky and get some books at sale prices, but usually you have to pay quite a bit for your reading. US/UK hardcovers very rarely cost beow £25*, and you are lucky if you can get a trade paperback for below £12.99*, the cheapest I've seen mass market paperbacks is £6.99*. Norwegian books are even more expensive. So I can say that although I buy books at low prices now, I have contributed quite a lot to the overall revenue going into the book business over the years.

*Because I am lazy, I have used £1=10 NOK (Norwegian Kroner) when posting these prices.

   Anyway, here are pictures of the books I got in my first, three week, book-buying spree.

 These are from a charity shop.

Also from a charity shop.

More charity shop books.

From The Works.

More from The Works.

Even more from The Works.

Top two from The Works, bottom two from charity shop.

These came from Waterstones.

The Works. The "Design your own cover" one is Aesop's Fables.

More The Works books.

Even more from The Works.

And finally a couple more from Waterstones.

   Not pictured is the LEGO Star Wars Yoda Trilogy I bought for my nephew at the airport when I went back to Norway.
   By total coincidence, that adds up to 42 books bought  in my January UK book-buying spree.

05 March, 2014

REVIEW: DOCTOR SLEEP


DOCTOR SLEEP
BY
STEPHEN KING

ISBN: 978-1-444-76120-7
Pages:
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Published: 24 September 2013

On the cover:
(From the publisher's website.)

 On highways across America, a tribe of people called The True Knot travel in search of sustenance. They look harmless - mostly old, lots of polyester, and married to their RVs. But as Dan Torrance knows, and tween Abra Stone learns, The True Knot are quasi-immortal, living off the 'steam' that children with the 'shining' produce when they are slowly tortured to death.

Haunted by the inhabitants of the Overlook Hotel where he spent one horrific childhood year, Dan has been drifting for decades, desperate to shed his father's legacy of despair, alcoholism, and violence. Finally, he settles in a New Hampshire town, an AA community that sustains him and a job at a nursing home where his remnant 'shining' power provides the crucial final comfort to the dying. Aided by a prescient cat, he becomes 'Doctor Sleep.'

Then Dan meets the evanescent Abra Stone, and it is her spectacular gift, the brightest shining ever seen, that reignites Dan's own demons and summons him to a battle for Abra's soul and survival...


   This is billed as a sequel to The Shining, and in one way it is. We do learn what happened to Danny Torrance after the events that took place at the Overlook Hotel, but those events are really incidental to what takes place here. It does help if you have read The Shining before you read Doctor Sleep, but mostly in the way that you will know what it is Danny is thinking about when he is thinking about what happened at the Overlook Hotel. And it will give more significance to the problem that Danny has struggled with. But it's by no means essential to read the previous book before setting out to read this.

   King often uses quite a bit of time to let us get to know the characters before the story really gets going, and this is not an exception to that. This is however not in any way a drawback, it is done in a way that gets you very invested in what happens to the main characters.
   Danny Torrance is not the only main character in this book he shares that role with Abra Stone, who is mentioned in the cover copy above. I will not give away who Abra is, or what her role in all that happens is, but I will say that she is an excellent character who I would like to see more of in the future.
   As already alluded to both Danny and Abra are very well described by King, and we get really close to them. Danny is given more space than Abra is, but that has reasons that will come clear when you read the novel.
   There are of course more than two characters in the book but we don't get as close to the others as the two I've already mentioned. We do however get to meet several other characters that are well developed and add a lot to the story of our main protagonists.
   It wouldn't really be a King book if we didn't have at least one antagonist for our main characters, her we have a group of them. They are introduced pretty early on, but they takes a while before it really is clear what their role is. It is the discovery of what these antagonists are that gives us the story in this book.

   I've already mentioned that the story takes a bit of time to get going, but that isn't time that is wasted. Not only do we get to know the characters and the situation they are in, but we get a creepy undertone that slowly builds into suspense. King is keeping some of his cards close to his chest, and it does take a while before things really become clear. And even then things are far from certain.
   That is one of the strengths of this novel, that the outcome is kept uncertain longer than is usual. The tension level is really high at times, and the nature of what is happening in many ways prevents the story from going down familiar paths. There is however some weaknesses in the outcome here, especially one event went a little bit too quickly for my tastes, but that is just a minor quibble.

   Overall this is definitely a great novel. There is plenty of suspense here to satisfy those that like a bit of mystery in their reading. I did however not feel that there was much Horror in this, although there is an abundance of the supernatural. Even when there is somewhat of a supernatural background to what is happening it is caused by things that are very human.
   The characters are definitely among King's best, and that I see characters as one of King's great strengths that should tell you something about how much I liked spending time with them.
   This is a book that should satisfy everyone that likes a supernatural Thriller. For King fans it is of course a must, but I feel confident in saying that this is one King book that can be easily gotten into by those who have never read him before.
   Personally I want to recommend that everyone who reads this review reads this book.

STEPHEN KING REVIEW INDEX

LINKS: Stephen King  Hodder & Stoughton