Book Review: Hollow City (Miss Peregrine Book #2) by Ransom Riggs

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One of the books that helped me rekindle my love of reading was Ransom Riggs’ Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children. Initially intrigued by the cover which had gone viral, I found both the premise and the concept fresh and exciting and coupled with Doogie Horner’s amazing book design, it was not only one of the best written but best designed books in its genre in many years.

Hollow City picks up where Miss Peregrine’s left off, with Jacob Portman and his peculiar friends barely escaping the island of Cairnholm, with Miss Peregrine incapacitated and constantly hunted by the wights and their grisly minions, the hollows.

Journeying across a Britain ravaged by World War II, the children stumble across news of a cure for Miss Peregrine, now trapped permanently in her bird form and with time running out for their protector, head for London, the Peculiar capital of the world.

With the introductions out of the way in book one, Riggs now has the time and scope to offer a  much bigger story than he was previously, while also expanding on the characters and building on the mythology of the Peculiars. The pace has picked up significantly and while the original felt a little static at times, the opposite is the case here. There is rarely a lull as the children stumble their way in and out of danger in a much more linear fashion and although they have no idea of what will happen once they reach their goal, they continue to push forward faced with the truth that there is no going back.  Tension is expertly created throughout, building to several life-threatening crescendos, its opus being  a brilliantly devious twist at the conclusion.

It’s also a story about conflict, both internal and external with Jacob worried about the impact of his disappearance on his parents and his relationship with Emma, and the other peculiars torn between their sometimes misguided loyalties and doing the right thing when faced with adversity and the threat of death. What’s interesting about Riggs’ Peculiars is that they’re not treated as superheroes and they don’t act like them either. Each has distinct flaws and regardless of their age (some being hundreds of years old) at times they can still act like the petulant children they once were, largely due to being under the over-protective wing of Miss Peregrine for so long.

Once again the story is brilliantly enhanced by the eerie vintage photography, most real and collected by Riggs over the years (as was the case with book one.) The big difference here is that with Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children, much of the story seemed driven and written around the photography. I don’t get that impression with Hollow City. It’s much more it’s own story and uses the images sparingly and to great effect in parts, while also building on the plot built around the ones used in book one and once again, this concept never feels gimmicky at any stage of the proceedings.

It’s a brilliant expansion of an inventive novel and although a darker and more grown-up affair which, to an old geezer like myself sometimes feels restricted by the Y.A. audience it’s aimed at,  it’s a perfect companion to the original and one that will not only delight, excite and intrigue fans,  but leave them with an uncomfortable (but hopefully curable!) case of the Heebie-jeebies.

Eamon Ambrose

Amazon

Amazon UK & Ireland

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Book Review: Karma Omnibus by Patrice Fitzgerald (Wool Fan Fiction)

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Anyone who reads this blog on a regular basis knows my love of Hugh Howey’s Wool series but as of last week I hadn’t delved in to the massive library of fan fiction out there. Something was holding me back, part of me not wanting to dilute the experience with something below par, but at the same time I was eager to go back to the Silos for another peek.

I’d seen Hugh recommending Patrice’s Karma series on more than a few occasions so when the omnibus edition was released I took his word for it and jumped in.

Taking on the world of Wool is no easy task and Karma Of The Silo bravely takes on the life story of a significant character from the Wool series who we know existed and while didn’t play a huge part in the original story, the importance of her relationship with one of the main characters reverberates through the history of the Silos

Beginning with the early days of the Silos, the author does a fantastic job of retaining the atmosphere and claustrophobia of life underground and the characters are carefully constructed, exploring not only the effects of Silo life on the family dynamic, but the often complex relationships between the different Silo classes through the eyes of Karma and her family as she realises who she really is and has to decide whether to remain subdued and forget her past life, or choose a different path than the one chosen for her and challenge the status quo.

It also explores the brutality of human nature as various conflicts arise during Karma’s life with all-too-familiar uprisings and power struggles taking place with some resorting to violence, menace and murder to achieve their goals, while also dealing with the tragic consequences of suicide as people become disillusioned with life and the ever-lingering threat of being sent to Clean.

The story is well-paced and rarely falters with plenty of twists and a stirring conclusion and I have to say overall my first foray into fan fiction has been very rewarding indeed. I have to admit I’ve always been a bit skeptical about the impact and validity of fan fiction, but Patrice Fitzgerald has proven me wrong and for that I’m grateful.

Eamon Ambrose

Book Review: Sand by Hugh Howey (Omnibus Edition)

 

Hugh Howey’s breakout success of 2013, the stunning Wool trilogy was a game-changer not only in the sci-fi genre but in the world of publishing itself. The self-published epic delighted readers worldwide and the final part, Dust released in August brilliantly concluded a captivating piece of work that will continue to delight fans for many years to come.

But no sooner had we said goodbye to the Wooliverse than a new title, Sand was being bandied about. What was even more surprising was how quickly it had been written. By late December fans were being treated to the first instalment in this new series, with the last episode arriving in January. The new omnibus UK print edition is available from today.

Sand is yet another epic story set in the distant future in a world where the aforementioned granular substance has buried entire cities leaving people to eke out an existence in a harsh desert climate by any means possible. Aided by sand-altering technology, skilled divers can manipulate the sand with vibrations making it flow so they can dive deep underground, recovering lost artifacts (in fact just ordinary everyday objects from present day) from long lost cities selling them on for huge profit.

When Palmer, a skilled diver and his friend Hap are hired to dive by a dangerous group of pirates (yes there are pirates!) they become unwittingly involved in a huge discovery which will have dangerous repercussions for everyone, including Palmer’s family, who themselves are struggling to survive while also dealing with the disappearance of their father.

Sand has a very different feel to Wool. It’s a much grittier (sorry!) affair in many ways reversing the dynamic. We now have an open environment and a totally disorganised and essentially lawless society where characters fend for themselves, one dusty day at a time. It has a much more adult feel dealing with sexual themes and gory comeuppances and is littered with more swear words than you may be used to from this author but this fits perfectly with the world Howey has once again expertly built and while it may not be as intricate and detailed a world as that of the Silos it certainly feels much more grounded in reality for some reason. Not too much is explained about the technology, giving it an almost steampunk feel, we just know it looks cool and it works but we don’t really need to know how.

The beauty of Sand however is in the writing. There is a true emotion throughout as we see a disengaged family struggle to reunite only to risk being torn apart again by the forces working against them. The characters are subtly introduced and expertly enhanced at key points, not only building on their personalities and history but also keeping the plot flowing steadily. The vivid, contrasting imagery can shift from beauty to ugliness in an instant and back again seamlessly and there are some moments of – and I do not say this lightly- sheer brilliance in Howey’s prose and for all it’s rough and tumble, Sand has some well-placed and genuinely tender moments which at times can cleverly disarm the reader temporarily, leaving them totally unprepared for the next fiendish plot twist.

But fear not, this ain’t no sandy Seventh Heaven. Sand is a highly-charged, action-filled, thrill-a-minute, ass-kicking, jawbreaking blockbuster and makes no apologies for it. The panic and claustrophobia of the dives is portrayed perfectly and the tension is retained every single time a character dives into the unforgiving sand even if just for a moment, knowing the slightest error of judgement means instant death. This savage world leaves no prisoners and Danger brashly loiters around every dune and street corner. It’s a world where it’s much easier to look away than help and sadly this is already starting to mirror today’s society, but as our characters prove, the most exceptional of circumstances can yield the most unexpected response from some people.

If there was ever any doubt about Hugh Howey’s longevity as a writer, Sand is proof that there can be none. Consistency is hard enough for a writer to achieve, constant and sustained improvement is another thing entirely.

Now I know it’s only January, but I think I’ve already found my Book of 2014.

Eamon Ambrose

Buy here:

Amazon US  

Amazon UK/IE