Saturday, October 22, 2016

Inferno: Not What I Expected Yet I Was Still Pleased

Book Review: Inferno by Julian Stockwin
Version: Purchased

Inferno wasn't what I thought it would be. Author Julian Stockwin broke some expectations with this novel, but when I got to thinking about it, his decisions to break them were sensible. In the end, I was pleased.

Inferno is the seventeenth novel in the Thomas Kydd series, which has been an age-of-sail series about a British naval hero's rise from seaman class to captaincy and knighthood. They are tales of adventure as well as tales of personal experiences based on historical moments, which result from precise research. Thus, I was looking for another tale of Captain Sir Thomas Kydd doing great daring deeds.

However, the Thomas Kydd series is also about Britain's struggle against Napoleon's attempt to conquer all of Europe. And Inferno hewed true to that story line, involving Kydd but not focusing on him. In fact, other than that Kydd appeared at the beginning and end of the story, and briefly in the middle, this book was hardly about him at all.

Inferno really is a tale about Britain's struggle to keep Napoleon from closing the European commercial market to them and uniting with Russia to seize all of Europe's navies to finally beat the British Navy, which commanded the seas. Between defeating them on the sea and defeating them economically, this would have meant Napoleon finally conquering Britain, which was all that stood in Napoleon's way of world domination.

Central to Napoleon's plan was working with Russia to take the Danish navy, and Britain had a brilliant plan to ask the Danish government to temporarily hand over their navy to Britain to deny Napoleon the key final piece of his plan. But the Danish king wouldn't hear of it. Even when British soldiers landed and surrounded the capital of Copenhagen and threatened to reduce it to rubble.

Stockwin's brilliance is in using historical detail to bring authenticity to his stories, and he does so in Inferno. You will thoroughly understand both sides of the dilemma and the horror of this battle from this story. It is a riveting tale told through the eyes of his characters, involving both fictional and real people from those times.

While I will admit to being disappointed initially that this wasn't much of a Kydd story, I came to admire Inferno for being a fine piece of well-crafted historical fiction told in the Thomas Kydd universe. Kydd and Kydd characters do show up from time to time in the story, and Kydd fans can enjoy that while enjoying Stockwin's attention to detail and being true to history.

Monday, October 03, 2016

The Fever Code: The Well Rounded Back Story to The Maze Runner Series

Book Review: The Fever Code by James Dashner
Version: Public Library

I finally finished the series - the three originals and the two sequels, and it was all a great read!

The Fever Code (2016) takes off some time after The Kill Order leaves off. One character from the latter book survives that story (DeeDee), although you don't find out about who that is until about halfway through the former.

The Kill Order was about the initial purposeful spread of the Flare by government forces to reduce the population after the Sun flared and made the Earth unsustainable. But the virus morphed and ran beyond the government's ability to control it. The Fever Code is about the government's effort to find a cure for it. Or so you as a reader and the main characters are led to believe.

If you are a fan of The Maze Runner series (The Maze Runner, The Scorch Trials, The Death Cure), you likely wondered about the back story on all those interesting characters. The Kill Order tells that story, too. We meet Thomas, Teresa, Newt, Minho, Alby, Gally, Chuck, and others for the first time. Also Aris and Rachel. Jorge and Brenda, too. We also meet the minds behind WICKED for the first time. And it brings us right up to the moment Thomas emerges from the cage into the Glade. This is how the Maze was built, how Thomas and Teresa help create it, and how the kids got there.

Just as with its predecessors, The Kill Order is a well written, well paced, well told sci-fi thriller in the young adult genre pitting innocent teens against the scheming adults. The kids are made to believe they are part of an effort to find a cure for the Flare, but along the way they begin to wonder if they are just being manipulated, if this isn't all some sick effort by morbid adults to torture them. And one young man's acquiescence to help the adults to help save humanity becomes a drive to save his friends. This is the second prequel to The Maze Runner series, through which this theme eventually runs, but everything in this book is set up before Thomas's mind is wiped of its memories. And you learn here the subtext for Thomas's motivations for the story lines to follow.

I'm a big fan of Dashner's series. His characters are well rounded, the plot is well thought out and developed, and the setting is amazing. I read through it in a few quick days. While most of us began by reading The Maze Runner (because it was published first), if you're new to the series I would begin with The Kill Order and read it order that the story unfolds, following up with The Fever Code, then The Maze Runner, and so on. That way it all makes sense. However, if you want to make the adventure a bit more mysterious, begin with The Maze Runner series and then pick up the prequels to fill in the back story. Any way you do it, the five books are a great read. The Fever Code was the perfect bridge between.