Thursday, September 29, 2011

Brad Meltzer’s “Decoded” Season 1 (History Channel)


Having read and mostly enjoyed Brad Meltzer’s novels, I was intrigued when I discovered that he had his own TV show on the History Channel. Political history and the conspiracies that often surround them are popular topics for thrillers, and Meltzer’s novels often fit comfortably in this sub-genre. In Decoded, Meltzer and his team (a lawyer, an engineer, and a history professor) investigate a number of American historical mysteries and conspiracies. Here’s how the History Channel describes the show:

Every now and then, a researcher stumbles upon a historical enigma, an unproven rumour, a story with a puzzling outcome. Such encounters are an irresistible challenge for bestselling author Brad Meltzer, who unravelled many mysteries in the first season of Brad Meltzer’s Decoded.

Now he’s back to explore a whole new set of history’s most compelling and perplexing riddles. Luckily, he’s got a team of investigators to help him out with each mission: Buddy Levy, a professor and journalist who assumes there is always more than meets the eye; Christine McKinley, a mechanical engineer who only believes in what can be proved; and Scott Rolle, a trial lawyer and born sceptic. Together, they’ll sniff out every clue and leave no stone unturned as they seek to reveal the truth.

DC New 52: “Men of War” #1


A World War II Hero caught in between battling superheroes

Writers: Ivan Brandon, Jonathan Vankin

Artist: Tom Derenik, Phil Winslade

On the ground and on the front lines, a young, headstrong soldier known as Joe Rock assumes the command of Easy Company – a grizzled team of ex-military men turned contractors. Will they survive the battle-scarred landscape carved by the DCU’s Super-Villains?

This appealed to me because the main character was not a superhero with special powers. He and his regiment do, however, find themselves up against some super-powered villains. This issue has a number of extras, including two interviews with other New 52 writers (Batwing and Animal Man), and also a second story, “Navy SEALS: Human Shields, pt.1/3”.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

An Interview with MIKE LAWSON


I’ve been a fan of Mike Lawson’s work ever since I stumbled across his debut, The Inside Ring, back in 2006. I’ve read all of his thrillers, and with the recent publication of House Divided, the latest in his series, I thought it would be a perfect time to get in touch with him and ask him a little more about his writing. The interview will also, hopefully, introduce him to more readers – I’ve always thought, given how good his novels are, he deserved far more attention than he appears to get in the UK.

DC New 52: “Resurrection Man #1”


When Heaven & Hell are after your Soul…

Writers: Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning

Artist: Fernando Dagnino

Long-time readers of this blog will know that I don’t have much of a history reading comic books save some X-Men when I was younger (as well as a recent attempt to get back into the medium). The main problem for me was always “Where do I start?” With the recent re-boot of 52 DC Comic titles, it seemed like too good an opportunity to pass up. So, I’ve picked up quite a few to try out (eleven, to be exact), and will post short reviews of them all over the next couple of weeks – the focus will be on story, art, and also how well they work as introductions.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

“Fated” by S.G. Browne (Piatkus)

Fated B.indd

When Fate gets involved with his subjects…

Over the past few thousand years, Fabio has come to hate his job. As Fate, he’s in charge of assigning the fortunes and misfortunes that befall most of the human race – the 83 per cent who keep screwing things up. And with the steady rise in population since the first Neanderthal set himself on fire, he can’t exactly take a vacation.

Frustrated with his endless parade of drug addicts and career politicians, it doesn’t help watching Destiny guide her people to Nobel Peace Prizes. To make matters worse, he has a five-hundred-year-old feud with Death, and his best friends are Sloth and Gluttony.

And worst of all? He’s just fallen in love with a human. Sara Griffen might be on Destiny’s path, but Fabio keeps bumping into her – by accident at first, and then on purpose. Getting involved with her breaks Rule No. 1 – and about ten others – setting off some cosmic-sized repercussions that could strip him of his immortality... or lead to a fate worse than death.

Fated is a slim novel, with lots of fun and clever word play, and is frequently amusing. It’s not perfect, however. The story is a little predictable as Browne adheres to some of the romantic comedy formula. The novel casts a dark observational eye on human nature and its weaknesses, but offers signs of hope for our race towards the end. Overall, it’s quirky, fun, and quickly paced.

Monday, September 26, 2011

“The Inner Circle” by Brad Meltzer (Grand Central/Hodder & Stoughton)

Meltzer-InnerCircleUKA long-held secret of the American Presidency is about to be revealed…

Beecher White, a young archivist for the US government, has always been the keeper of other people’s stories, never a part of the story himself... Until now.

While Beecher is showing Clementine Kaye, his first childhood crush, around the National Archives, they accidentally uncover a priceless artefact – a two-hundred-year-old dictionary once belonging to George Washington. Suddenly Beecher and Clementine are entangled in a web of conspiracy and murder.

Beecher’s race to learn the truth behind this mysterious treasure will lead to a code that conceals a disturbing secret from the nation's founding. A secret that some believe is worth killing for.

I’ve had generally good experiences reading Meltzer’s novels – only one of them has been disappointing, so I came to The Inner Circle with high hopes that the author would once again entertain and thrill. It’s doubly interesting for me, because I’m always fascinated by anything that features the US Presidency. The Inner Circle is well conceived, but the execution was disappointingly flawed.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Book Store Tour – California Stop #1: Santa Monica Barnes & Noble

This is going to be a series of posts on interesting or quirky book stores I find while on my travels. I’ll talk about selection, anything interesting about them, or anything of note. Unfortunately, all of the bookstores in and around Westwood (where I’m staying) appear to have closed, so I’ve had to go further afield. This does mean that I’ll probably end up at more big-name branch stores rather than indies, but I’ll do my best to find some of those, too.

First up, something quite conventional: the Barnes & Noble in Santa Monica.

20110920-1028 - B&N Santa Monica 1

Thursday, September 22, 2011

“Gridlock” by Sean Black (Bantam)


A stalker escalating to murder and the seedy side of LA’s entertainment industry

Adult movie actress, Raven Lane, is one of the most lusted after women in California, with millions of fans to prove it. But none seem to be more dedicated in their pursuit of her than the murderous stalker who is carving a demonic swathe across the streets of Los Angeles in an apparent bid to get her attention.

Fearing for her life, and with the LAPD seemingly unable to protect her, Raven turns to elite bodyguard, Ryan Lock for help. But with suspicion settling on Raven herself, Lock finds himself drawn into a deadly web of deceit and seduction.

This is the third novel featuring Ryan Lock – former Royal Marines investigator turned personal protection expert. As with Black’s previous two novels (Lockdown and Deadlock), Gridlock is a fast-paced thriller with a sympathetic protagonist and intriguing case to unravel. It lived up to my expectations, and Black continues to show growth and improvement in all aspects of his writing.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011



A little while back, Mark Lawrence (author of Prince of Thorns) told me about the upcoming debut novel by Mazarkis Williams, The Emperor’s Knife, and helped put me in touch with the author. Knowing absolutely nothing about either Mazarkis or his novel, I asked if he’d like to introduce himself and his novel on Civilian-Reader. He was kind enough to say yes, and I sent him a few questions. Everyone, meet Mazarkis Williams…

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

“Thanquol’s Doom” by CL Werner (Black Library)

Werner-ThanquolsDoomReviewed by Brennon Shaw

The latest Thanquol & Boneripper adventure

Upon his return to the Old World, the ambitious Grey Seer Thanquol is coerced into leading an army against the dwarfs of Karak Angkul. Renowned for its engineer clans, this city will not fall easily, but the true object of Thanquol’s fascination is a secret artefact of incredible power which he believes will assure his ascension to the Council of Thirteen. His efforts are thrown into disarray when the infamous Skaven Ikit Claw usurps control of the army for his own nefarious schemes, and so Thanquol must act quickly before the warlock can unleash his ultimate weapon – the Doomsphere.

Continuing the tale of the conniving and downright lucky Grey Seer Thanquol and his hapless minion Boneripper, C.L. Werner has woven a tale of backstabbing, dwarfen resilience, and rampant in-fighting in the sprawling Under Empire of the Skaven. The novel starts off with Thanquol scratching a living out in the dankest corner of the world. He works his way back into favour, trying to save his own tail while manipulating those around him to suit his needs. There are plenty of twists and turns throughout, which keep readers on their toes until the novel’s final, epic conclusion in the halls of Karak Angkul.

Monday, September 19, 2011

“Choices of One” by Timothy Zahn (Century)


A return to the early days of the original Star Wars saga

The fate of the Rebellion rests on Luke Skywalker’s next move. But have the rebels entered a safe harbor or a death trap?

Eight months after the Battle of Yavin, the Rebellion is in desperate need of a new base. So when Governor Ferrouz of Candoras Sector proposes an alliance, offering the Rebels sanctuary in return for protection against the alien warlord Nuso Esva, Luke, Leia, Han, and Chewie are sent to evaluate the deal.

Mara Jade, the Emperor’s Hand, is also heading for Candoras, along with the five renegade stormtroopers known as the Hand of Judgment. Their mission: to punish Ferrouz’s treason and smash the Rebels for good.

But in this treacherous game of betrayals within betrayals, a wild card is waiting to be played.

Choices of One, the latest offering by Tim Zahn takes us back to the days between A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back, reuniting us with our favourite characters from the movies as well as some new favourites from other novels in the Star Wars universe. In typical Zahn style, it offers great action and fun, and is one of the best in the series.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

“Salvation’s Reach” by Dan Abnett (Black Library)


A desperate mission that could decide the fate of the Sabbat Worlds Crusade

The Ghosts of the Tanith First-and-Only have been away from the front line for too long. Listless, and hungry for action, they are offered a mission that perfectly suits their talents. The objective: the mysterious Salvation’s Reach, a remote and impenetrable stronghold concealing secrets that could change the course of the Sabbat Worlds campaign. But the proposed raid is so hazardous, it’s regarded as a suicide mission, and the Ghosts may have been in reserve for so long they’ve lost their edge. Haunted by spectres from the past and stalked by the Archenemy, Colonel-Commissar Gaunt and his Ghosts embark upon what could be their finest hour… or their final mission.

The thirteenth book in Abnett’s hugely popular Gaunt’s Ghosts series, Salvation’s Reach offers the great action and characterisation that we have come to expect from Abnett, and should please existing and new fans alike.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

An Interview with MIKE LEE


“Nagash Immortal” by John Sullivan

Mike Lee has written or been involved with a surprising number of things that I like: from his work for Black Library to his work on White Wolf’s RPGs, I had no idea just how familiar with his work I actually was. Having recently released the final novel in his trilogy chronicling the rise of the undead in the Warhammer universe, I thought it would be an excellent time to get in touch to find out even more about his work.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

“Ascension” by Christie Golden (Century)


Fate of the Jedi reaches book eight

As this is the eighth book in the season, I’ll re-work the usual review structure to avoid spoilers.

The Fate of the Jedi series has seen the Star Wars universe taken in a number of new and interesting directions, following the game-changing events of the previous nine-book story arc (Legacy of the Force). Luke Skywalker, his family and the Jedi Order are faced with a number of growing and implacable foes.

This eighth novel ups the ante, and brings the various story threads closer to being tied off. The novel ends on quite a bang, and should whet readers’ appetites for the final book in the series, Apocalypse. The Fate of the Jedi series has been another entertaining chapter in the larger Star Wars saga, but it remains flawed despite some great developments. If you’re caught up with the series, read on for more information about this novel – I warn others that there are some minor spoilers after the break.

Monday, September 12, 2011

“Dwarf Omnibus” by Gav Thorpe & Nick Kyme (Black Library)

Reviewed by Brennon Shaw

KymeThorpe-DwarfsOmnibusThree Novels of Warhammer Dwarfs

The Dwarfs are a stoic and long-lived race. Their unbending will and pride serve them as fearsome warriors on the battlefield and the greatest craftsmen across the Old World. But cross them at your peril, as a dwarf grudge is never forgotten, a quest for revenge handed down from generation to generation until the debt is settled in blood…

In this action-packed omnibus, the bravery and resilience of the dwarfs is brought to life as they wage war against the twisted powers of Chaos, vile skaven ratmen, brutal greenskins and their oldest adversaries, the mysterious and powerful elves. From the ancient dwarf holds to the killing fields of the Empire, war will be waged in the name of Grungni, Grimnir and Valaya, and no foe shall forget the day they met these unbreakable warriors in battle.

The blurb doesn’t lie when talking about the sheer breadth of this collection. You really get a lot of what the Black Library does best, especially with Warhammer: battles, blood, betrayal and everything else in between. Taking on a vast timeline, Gav Thorpe and Nick Kyme have taken the stalwart Dwarfs of the Old World and woven a fantastic set of tales that constantly keep you reading. A sizeable portion of the book gives details of the culture and history of dwarf kind. If you collect dwarfs in the table top game, or your favourite character from Lord of the Rings is Gimli, this is the book for you. It is an indispensable guide to the trials and tribulations of the dwarf people.

Friday, September 09, 2011

Black Library’s First ‘Game Book’: HIVE OF THE DEAD


Hive of the Dead is the first Warhammer 40,000 game-book. I thought this might have been like the old Fighting Fantasy games, which is does share some elements with, but it looks like it’s a little more than that as well:

“Using rules reminiscent of those in the Warhammer 40,000 tabletop game, albeit without models and terrain, with just this book, a six sided dice and a pencil, you can battle the zombie hordes from the comfort of your armchair.”

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Another Look: “The Reapers Are The Angels” by Alden Bell (Tor)

With the recent paperback release of Alden Bell’s highly praised post-apocalyptic zombie novel, here’s a new perspective on the novel. [Original review, by Shevaun, here.]

Reviewed by Shane Collins


Older than her years and completely alone, Temple is just trying to live one day at a time in a post-apocalyptic world, where the undead roam endlessly, and the remnant of mankind who have survived, at times, seem to retain little humanity themselves.

Temple has known nothing else. This is the world she was born into. Her journey takes her to far-flung places, to people struggling to maintain some semblance of civilization – and to those who have created a new world order for themselves.

When she comes across the helpless Maury, she attempts to set one thing right, if she can just get him back to his family then maybe it will bring forgiveness for some of the terrible things she's done in her past. Because Temple has had to fight to survive, along the road she's made enemies – and one vengeful man is determined that, in a world gone mad, killing her is the only thing that makes sense...

It is a standard of horror movies to wait until close to the final curtain to allow the audience a really decent look at the monster of the tale. When the director does let us stare into the eyes of the beast it is often in the moment of their death. I’ve always felt an uncomfortable tenderness in that brief period of staring. It is a final moment in which it is hard not to feel some kindred spirit with whatever alien creature has been chasing teenagers about this time. For this reason I often find zombies rather hard to hate. Unlike other monsters we frequently do get to stare at them long and hard, and indeed directors often draw great humour from moments of apparent familiarity in their strange behaviour.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

An Interview with ERIC BROWN


Eric Brown is a prolific author, and with some interesting and exciting projects coming up over the next few months, I contacted him to see if he might like to tell us a little more about his most recent novel, Kings of Eternity, and his forthcoming project with Abaddon books.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

“The End Specialist”/“The Postmortal” by Drew Magary (Voyager/Penguin)


An interesting novel about life and immortality. Superb

2019. Humanity has witnessed its greatest scientific breakthrough yet: the cure for ageing. Three injections and you’re immortal – not bulletproof or disease-proof, but you’ll never have to fear death by old age.

For John Farrell, documenting the cataclysmic shifts to life after the cure becomes an obsession. Cure parties, cycle marriages, immortal livestock: the world is revelling in the miracles of eternal youth. But immortality has a sinister side, and when a pro-death terrorist explosion kills his newly-cured best friend, John soon realizes that even in a world without natural death, there is always something to fear.

Now, John must make a new choice: run and hide forever, or stay and fight those who try to make immortal life a living hell.

I knew nothing about this book before it arrived in the post. The premise appeared intriguing and original. Having now read the book, I can say that it exceeded my already positive expectations. It is a great novel, one with depth and an interesting message.

Monday, September 05, 2011

“Heartless” by Gail Carriger (Orbit)

Reviewed by Alyssa Mackenzie

Carriger-HeartlessAre treason and conspiracy threatening London?

Lady Alexia, soulless, is at it again – only this time the trouble in the air is not her fault.

When a mad ghost threatens the queen, Alexia is on the case, following a trail that leads her deep into her husband’s past. Top that off with a sister who has joined the suffragette movement (shocking!), Madame Lefoux’s latest mechanical invention and a plague of zombie porcupines – and Alexia barely has time to remember she just happens to be eight months pregnant.

Will she be able to figure out who is trying to kill Queen Victoria before it’s too late? Is it the vampires again or is there a traitor lurking about in wolf’s clothing? And do they really have to take up residence in Lord Akeldama’s second best closet?

I have been a fan of The Parasol Protectorate since I read Soulless last year: the series is consistently charming, original, and laugh-out-loud funny. Heartless, the fourth volume of the series, is no exception, and Carriger’s readers will not be disappointed.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Douglas Hulick’s Next Novel (Tor/Roc)


Doug Hulick’s Among Thieves is one of the best new fantasies I’ve read this year, and so I was very happy to see the new artwork for the second in his Tales of the Kin series, Sworn in Steel (which was released through Twitter a while back by Julie Crisp from Tor UK). Now that the US artwork has been released as well, I thought I’d share them both on here.

Saturday, September 03, 2011

On the Road Reading (& News)


As I have mentioned before on the blog, from the middle of September until the beginning of January I am basically going to be homeless (I will still have a UK address, though), and therefore travelling an awful lot – as luck would have it, I’ll be in LA, New York and Peru. By no means does this mean Civilian-Reader is going to suffer (at least, not much; depending on internet connection, etc.). I’m still going to be reading plenty, reviewing plenty, and trying to get interviews, guest posts and other content up on the site.

Friday, September 02, 2011

Influences & Inspirations: ERIC BROWN


In this post, prolific sci-fi author and editor Eric Brown (Solaris/Abaddon) talks about the authors who have influenced his own writing and interest in genre fiction.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

“Spellbound” by Blake Charlton (Tor / Voyager)

Charlton-SpellboundUSA strong second outing for hero Nicodemus Weal and his allies

Francesca DeVega is a successful healer in the city of Avel, wielding magical text to close wounds and disspell curses, but her life is thrown into chaos when a dead patient suddenly sits up and tells her to run. Now Francesca is in the middle of a game she doesn’t understand, one that ties her to the notorious rogue wizard, Nicodemus Weal, and brings her face-to-face with demons, demigods, and a man she thought she’d never see again.

It has been ten years since Nicodemus Weal escaped the Starhaven Academy, where he was considered disabled and useless, where he battled the demon who stole his birthright and killed his friends. Unable to use the magical languages of his own people, Nico has honed his skills in the dark language of the kobolds, readying himself for his next encounter with the demon. But there are complications: his mentor suffers from an incurable curse, his half-sister’s agents are hunting him, and he’s still not sure what part Francesca DeVega will play. He certainly doesn’t know what to make of Francesca herself…

Spellwright was one of the surprise debuts of last year, so I was very eager to discover what Charlton would offer up in his second novel. As it turns out, Spellbound is great; it builds nicely on the first novel, expanding the world and unique magic system. I really enjoyed reading this, and am now impatient for the third book.