Murders in the Blitz by Julia Underwood

Murders in the Blitz by Julia UnderwoodMurders in the Blitz: Eve Duncan Murder Mystery Omnibus by Julia Underwood
Published by CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform on September 27th 2015
Genres: Detective, History
Pages: 282
Format: Ebook
Goodreads
two-half-stars

Murders in the Blitz is a collection of novellas set during the London Blitz in World War 2. They feature a very unlikely female investigator who is corralled into uncovering the truth behind a series of murders which occur in the parts of town that the police don’t seem to care about.

I guess what I hoped to find in these stories were a great deal of local colour, with a background like the London Blitz, surely that would provide a great atmosphere. And while there are occasional hints that there is an actual war going on, these are neither the focus, nor do they substantially add to the story. The fact that the refugee community plays a big role – particularly in the first story – is interesting enough, but overall this could really have been taking place during any time period, and you might not know the difference.

The heroine of the story is Eve Duncan, an otherwise unskilled woman who lobs into the middle of a murder scene completely by chance, and when the police decide they aren’t interested enough, she takes matters into her own hands. Eve is a very sympathetic character, and she has a strong voice, but she is just another curious amateur detective, who honestly had no business being there. For that reason, I found the stories fairly humdrum, and as though both the main character and I were just along for the ride.

Perhaps this would be of interest to fans of cozy mysteries, but I came away from the stories uninspired, and honestly quite bored.

two-half-stars
Rating Report
Plot
two-half-stars
Characters
three-stars
Writing
three-stars
Pacing
two-stars
Cover
two-half-stars
Overall: two-half-stars

Dresden: Tuesday 13 February 1945 by Frederick Taylor

Dresden: Tuesday 13 February 1945 by Frederick TaylorDresden: Tuesday, 13 February, 1945 by Frederick Taylor
Published by Bloomsbury Publishing Plc on February 7th 2005
Genres: History, War
Pages: 608
Goodreads
five-stars

At 9.51 p.m. on Tuesday 13 February 1945, Dresden's air-raid sirens sounded as they had done many times during the Second World War. But this time was different. By the next morning, more than 4,500 tons of high explosives and incendiary devices had been dropped on the unprotected city.

At least 25,000 inhabitants died in the terrifying firestorm and thirteen square miles of the city's historic centre, including incalculable quantities of treasure and works of art, lay in ruins. In this portrait of the city, its people, and its still-controversial destruction, Frederick Taylor has drawn on archives and sources only accessible since the fall of the East German regime, and talked to Allied aircrew and survivors, from members of the German armed services and refugees fleeing the Russian advance to ordinary citizens of Dresden.

The bombing of Dresden during the Second World War has become one of those events which have brought into question the ‘righteousness’ of some of the Allies actions in that conflict. It does seem strange, however, that this one incident should have drawn such ire, in a war where a thousand other outrages occurred. This book seeks not only to examine what occurred on that fateful night, and the following day, but to unpack some of the mythology, and propaganda which surrounds the history of the event, as it has been told previously. Dresden is not only a history book in itself, it serves as a critique of some of the previous literature which covers the bombing of Dresden.

The author proposes that part of the reason the bombing was so offensive was the historic nature of the city; its beautiful works of art and architecture, and the beginning of the book is a retelling of much of the history of the city itself, reaching far back beyond the Second World War. This serves to provide interesting context and background to a layperson such as myself to whom Dresden might have otherwise been just another city. As he works his way into the subject, he sets about debunking some of the allegations that the city was a wholly non-military target, by explaining some of the factories and works which were producing war materiel.

The author brings us the stories of the aircrews who were flying the missions, putting a human face on the air war. To borrow an excuse from another party, it is true that they were just following orders, and that decisions were being made in the war cabinet far above them. It also brings us the very human stories of the ordinary German citizens who were living desperate lives of deprivation under wartime conditions. The author does an excellent job of capturing their terrifying experiences, and torment which resulted from the loss of their loved ones.

There is no getting around the fact that war is a brutal thing, and there are always going to be brutal acts and incidents which – while seemingly justified at the time – in hindsight seem unconscionable or unforgivable. One only has to look at the dropping of the atomic bombs on Japan that came some 6 months after the Dresden raids to see further acts of brutality which ultimately changed the course of history, and the world as a whole. The book does not seek to excuse, or scold any parties, and takes a fairly neutral stance, rather focusing on bringing the reader the very human stories of the people who were suffering on the ground through the great firestorm.

Written with the benefit of hindsight, and with access to historical records, and personal interviews, Dresden is a wonderful piece of narrative non-fiction that is engaging, heart-wrenching and thought-provoking throughout.

five-stars
Rating Report
Writing
five-stars
Pacing
five-stars
Overall: five-stars

Battle: The Story of the Bulge by John Toland

Battle: The Story of the Bulge by John TolandBattle: The Story of the Bulge by John Willard Toland, Carlo D'Este
Published by Bison Books on April 1st 1999
Genres: History
Pages: 400
Format: Audiobook
Goodreads
four-stars

"The perspective of 15 years, painstaking research, thousands of interviews, extensive analysis and evaluation, and the creative talent of John Toland [paint] the epic struggle on an immense canvas. . . . Toland writes with the authority of a man who was there. . . . He tastes the bitterness of defeat of those who surrendered and writes as if he had the benefit of the eyes and ears of soldiers and generals on the other side of the line. . . . If you could read only one book to understand generals and GIs and what their different wars were like this is the book."-Chicago Sunday Tribune John Toland has written numerous books on World War II, including Infamy: Pearl Harbor and Its Aftermath. Carlo D'Este is the author of Patton: A Genius for War and other works.

Battle is a book about the so-called Battle of the Bulge, a campaign during the Second World War, which was something of a last gasp for the Nazis. The author takes us down to ground level, sometimes below, and into the lives of the real people who are taking part in this battle, as well as civilians trapped in the firing line.

The Ardennes campaign is probably one of the areas of the second world which I know very little, although I have Antony Beevor’s book on my reading pile, somehow this came across my desk before I got to it. I think it’s important to consider that books are often a product of their time, and although I was listening to an Audiobook which was published in the 2000s, the original was published in the 1950s.

The reason for saying that is, Battle is something of an exercise in American triumphalism. Although the author devotes large sections of the book to peering into the lives of the German soldiers and civilians, this is clearly a book about Americans at war. I’m fairly certain it wasn’t just the Americans doing the fighting, but somehow the only Other Allies who rates a mention are Field Marshall Montgomery. One might be under the impression that it was down to the Americans to do the fighting, the dying, and ultimately the winning of the battle.

With that being said, Battle is an impressive work of narrative non-fiction, and the author does a great job of connecting with, and portraying the lives, loves and fears of the real fighting men on the ground. By telling small stories in the way he does, Toland is able to give a swense of the fear and chaos which was ever-present in battle.

Battle is relentless in its pacing, but does take the time to explore the countryside through which the armies are rampaging. As a student of history, I found this to be a very engaging and personal story, which is extremely accessible, even for those with little knowledge of the period. I would have preferred a less myopic look at the allied nations, but there are other books, which may add to the conversation.

An excellent read.

four-stars
Rating Report
Characters
four-stars
Writing
four-stars
Pacing
four-stars
Cover
four-stars
Overall: four-stars

Without Enigma by Kenneth Macksey

Without Enigma by Kenneth MackseyWithout Enigma: The Ultra and Fellgiebel Riddles by Kenneth Macksey
Published by Endeavour Press Genres: Historical Fiction
Pages: 240
Format: Ebook
Goodreads
three-half-stars

The cracking of the enigma code by Allied scientists at Bletchley Park has – in recent years – become one of the greatest success stories of the Second World War, lionised as the key to breaking the German war machine. Much of that narrative relies on a somewhat incompetent, oblivious characterisation of the people who were on the other side. Without Enigma seeks to take a sort of alternate history approach to the importance of the enigma machine, and the ULTRA program.

The author draws heavily on this style to develop a sort of alternative narrative, still mostly within the bounds of what actually occurred during the war. At the end of each chapter, however, he notates the places where his own stories diverge from the actual historical events, and while I found these intriguing at first, as time went on I was less and less interested in knowing where the differences lay.

I did enjoy the author’s style, and his dedication to bringing this alternative view of history to us. His characters felt realistic, and well-fleshed out, although he tended to focus a little too much on the German side of things, without giving the English enough individual credit. Axis competency aside, the reality is that the English did have some part to play in all of this.

If there is one other failing I found with this book is that it tended to be front-loaded with action, as the discovery and investigation of whether the Enigma machine is no longer secure reads like a spy novel. As the story progresses, however, I found that the pace slowed down, and it felt like a fairly banal retelling of our own reality, with only vague callbacks to the earlier alternatives. This remains an interesting read, for people with an interest in history, who are looking for more than what they get taught in school. I don’t necessarily agree that the author succeeds in his premise of revealing the ‘importance’ of enigma to be a lie, but it is an interesting read nonetheless.

three-half-stars
Rating Report
Characters
four-stars
Writing
four-stars
Pacing
three-stars
Cover
three-half-stars
Overall: three-half-stars

Power and Empire by Marc Cameron

Power and Empire by Marc CameronPower and Empire by Marc Cameron
Published by G.P. Putnam's Sons on November 28th 2017
Genres: Thriller, Politics
Pages: 582
Format: Ebook
Goodreads
three-stars

A newly belligerent Chinese government leaves US President Jack Ryan with only a few desperate options in this continuation of the #1 New York Times bestselling Tom Clancy series.

Jack Ryan is dealing with an aggresive challenge from the Chinese government. Pawns are being moved around a global chessboard: an attack on an oil platform in Africa, a terrorist strike on an American destroyer and a storm tossed American spy ship that may fall into Chinese hands. It seems that President Zhao is determined to limit Ryan's choices in the upcoming G20 negotiations. But there are hints that there's even more going on behind the scene. A routine traffic stop in rural Texas leads to a shocking discovery--a link to a Chinese spy who may have intelligence that lays bare an unexpected revelation. John Clark and the members of the Campus are in close pursuit, but can they get the information in time?

Ever since the passing of the great Tom Clancy, there have been a steady stream of ‘co-written’ books by a number of other authors, some with major readerships of their own, and some lesser-knowns. They can be a bit hit and miss, and while I particularly enjoy the work of Mark Greaney in this series, I am always open to trying new blood. Power and Empire is set in the Jack Ryan universe, although most of the action centres around his son Jack Jr, and the operators of The Campus.

I find it challenging to describe the plot, without revealing too many spoilers, but I really felt there were too many moving pieces in this book. The Campus operators are investigating some generic bad guys for basically unspecified Bad-Guy-ness, when they are drawn into a combination child smuggling ring, Chinese Triad, and Mexican drug cartel angle. There is a hell of a lot of head-hopping between the various actions going on around the world, from Chinese politics to games of brinkmanship in the South China Sea, all of which seem to have no connection with each other.

I suppose this is almost more of a political mystery story than a true action thriller as some of the other book in this series have been. There are glimpses of Lee Child-like actions here, as it was trying to tell this very small human story while the rest of the action, and the world events go on around it. Which I wouldn’t necessarily have a problem with, but I think the author allowed himself to get too carried away with the sub-plots. When the proverbial excrement hits the fan, I want all my pieces in the right place. Something I also noticed is that the main characters seem to do an awful lot of communication over radio. It sounds kind of silly, but I felt this was a metaphor for just how disconnected everything felt from each other. After this many books in the series, the characters are very well-developed in the mind of the reader, and I just felt like there was not that same voice that I knew and loved.

Overall, I would say that Power and Empire, as a first outing for the author in this universe, is a competent enough book. I think that it was a story that could have any set of generic good guys to go with the strange mix of bad guys and it would have been the same story though. Definitely not my favourite Clancy-verse book, but still a decent read, if you are prepared to follow the rabbit warren of plots.

On a side note, I must say the one thing that I had to laugh at was a reference to someone researching guns on the Hickok45 Youtube channel. I fricking love that channel so much.

three-stars
Rating Report
Plot
two-stars
Characters
three-stars
Writing
three-half-stars
Pacing
three-stars
Cover
three-stars
Overall: three-stars

Being Watched by Jeffrey L Vagle

Being Watched by Jeffrey L VagleBeing Watched: Legal Challenges to Government Surveillance by Jeffrey L Vagle
Published by New York University Press on December 5th 2017
Genres: Politics
Pages: 170
Format: Ebook
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
three-stars

A riveting history of the Supreme Court decision that set the legal precedent for citizen challenges to government surveillance The tension between national security and civil rights is nowhere more evident than in the fight over government domestic surveillance. Governments must be able to collect information at some level, but surveillance has become increasingly controversial due to its more egregious uses and abuses, which tips the balance toward increased--and sometimes total--government control.This struggle came to forefront in the early 1970s, after decades of abuses by U.S. law enforcement and intelligence agencies were revealed to the public, prompting both legislation and lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of these programs. As the plaintiffs in these lawsuits discovered, however, bringing legal challenges to secret government surveillance programs in federal courts faces a formidable obstacle in the principle that limits court access only to those who have standing, meaning they can show actual or imminent injury--a significant problem when evidence of the challenged program is secret. In Being Watched, Jeffrey L. Vagle draws on the legacy of the 1972 Supreme Court decision in Laird v. Tatum to tell the fascinating and disturbing story of jurisprudence related to the issue of standing in citizen challenges to government surveillance in the United States. It examines the facts of surveillance cases and the reasoning of the courts who heard them, and considers whether the obstacle of standing to surveillance challenges in U.S. courts can ever be overcome. Vagle journeys through a history of military domestic surveillance, tensions between the three branches of government, the powers of the presidency in times of war, and the power of individual citizens in the ongoing quest for the elusive freedom-organization balance. The history brings to light the remarkable number of similarities among the contexts in which government surveillance thrives, including overzealous military and intelligent agencies and an ideologically fractured Supreme Court. More broadly, Being Watched looks at our democratic system of government and its ability to remain healthy and intact during times of national crisis. A compelling history of a Supreme Court decision and its far-reaching consequences, Being Watched is essential reading for anyone seeking to understand the legal justifications for--and objections to--surveillance.

The concept of privacy in the modern world is an interesting one. People casually give away great swaths of personal information to large corporations in return for useful apps and games, but for most people, the idea that their government is spying on them is – at the very least – disturbing. What is interesting is that in recent years the concept of the government casually invading everyone’s privacy has been normalised in the name of national security, and as the bar shifts, many people’s ideas of what is acceptable has also shifted.

Being watched is a history of the extensive legal challenges throughout the past century to the encroachment of government surveillance – particularly in the form of the National Security Agency – into the private lives of citizens.

I must admit that while I find the subject matter both fascinating and disturbing, I found this book to be a very dry tale. I had initially overlooked the fact that it was focused on the legal side of things, and was expecting more of a history of, or modern look at government surveillance.

There are certainly other books out there who cover this sort of material, although this was one of the more indepth looks at what it does focus on. I found this book kind of depressing, which is my reaction to most of the way the world has gone in recent years.

This is probably one for those with a serious interest in the topic, as it is not written for general consumption.

I received a review copy through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

three-stars
Rating Report
Writing
four-stars
Pacing
three-half-stars
Overall: four-stars

Gallipoli by Peter Fitzsimons

Gallipoli by Peter FitzsimonsGallipoli by Peter FitzSimons
Published by Random House Australia on November 3rd 2014
Genres: History
Pages: 824
Format: Audiobook
Goodreads
five-stars

On 25 April 1915, Allied forces landed on the Gallipoli Peninsula in present-day Turkey to secure the sea route between Britain and France in the west and Russia in the east. After eight months of terrible fighting, they would fail.

Turkey regards the victory to this day as a defining moment in its history, a heroic last stand in the defence of the nation's Ottoman Empire. But, counter-intuitively, it would signify something perhaps even greater for the defeated Australians and New Zealanders involved: the birth of their countries' sense of nationhood.

Now approaching its centenary, the Gallipoli campaign, commemorated each year on Anzac Day, reverberates with importance as the origin and symbol of Australian and New Zealand identity. As such, the facts of the battle – which was minor against the scale of the First World War and cost less than a sixth of the Australian deaths on the Western Front – are often forgotten or obscured.

Peter FitzSimons, with his trademark vibrancy and expert melding of writing and research, recreates the disaster as experienced by those who endured it or perished in the attempt.

This is one of those history books that should get one’s blood boiling. Fitzsimons takes a detailed look at the deeds and misdeeds of the ANZACs, and their commanding generals, who took part in the battles on the Gallipoli Peninsula. There has been a tendency to mythologise, or lionize the ANZAC ‘legend’ in Australia, and while there are a great many valourous actions which took place there, it does those fighting men and women a disservice, I believe, to examine the events through rose-coloured glasses.

Fitzsimons takes us back to an era which seems almost impossible to conceive of by today’s standards. The young men of Australia were signing up in droves to go and fight in someone else’s war, in a far off land, just because mother England came calling. Fitzsimons does an excellent job of capturing the palpable atmosphere which was present at the time, and as a reader you get a sense of the camaraderie which existed.

The story begins long before the landings at Gallipoli, and follows the men as they journey first to England, and then on to Egypt where they spend a great deal of time training, drinking and carousing with the locals. I think one of the most enjoyable parts of listening to an audio book of this story were the very-Australian accents which were performed by the reader. It reminded me that you can take an Australian out of the bush, dump him in a far away place, but you can never take the bush out of an Australian.

In reading other non-fiction works about the first world war, I have long-since come to the conclusion that it is some sort of miracle that anyone won the war. There are countless anecdotes of incompetency, mismanagement, and sheer disregard for the lives of the fighting men by an officer class who often weren’t even on the scene. The sheer ignorant madness of some of the orders given, which resulted in the needless deaths of hundreds and thousands of Australian soldiers is so infuriating in hindsight.

Fitzsimons has a gift for story-telling, and through the use of primary sources, along with some likely fabrications, has woven an eminently readable tale of courage and tragedy. Although the battles at Gallipoli were a sort of coming-of-age for Australia, this is not just an Australia tale, as we are taken behind the scenes and trenches of the Turkish lines. As much as this is a tragic tale, there are also moments of humour, and humanity, and comradeship between the opposing sides in a way that would be unthinkable today.

I cannot recommend this book highly enough to those who wish to learn more about the Gallipoli landings, and who are looking for more than just a recitation of the old legends. It is a hard book, that is sure to stir up emotions, as it did with me, but a worthy read nonetheless.

I also highly commend listening to the audiobook, which is available through Audible.

five-stars
Rating Report
Writing
five-stars
Pacing
four-stars
Cover
four-half-stars
Overall: four-half-stars

What does this button do by Bruce Dickinson

What does this button do by Bruce DickinsonWhat Does This Button Do?: An Autobiography by Bruce Dickinson
Published by Dey Street Books on October 31st 2017
Genres: Memoir
Pages: 384
Format: Ebook
Goodreads

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

A long-awaited memoir from the larger-than-life, multifaceted lead vocalist of Iron Maiden, one of the most successful, influential and enduring rock bands ever.

Pioneers of Britain’s nascent Rock & Metal scene back in the late 1970s, Iron Maiden smashed its way to the top, thanks in no small part to the high-octane performances, operatic singing style, and stage presence of its second, but twice-longest-serving, lead singer, Bruce Dickinson. As Iron Maiden’s front man—first from 1981 to 1993, and then from 1999 to the present—Dickinson has been, and remains, a man of legend.

But OTT front man is just one of the many hats Bruce wears. In addition to being one of the world’s most storied and well-respected singers and songwriters, he is an airline captain, aviation entrepreneur, motivational speaker, beer brewer, novelist, radio presenter, and film scriptwriter. He has also competed as a world-class level fencer. Often credited as a genuine polymath Bruce, in his own words (and handwritten script in the first instance!), sets forth many personal observations guaranteed to inspire curious souls and hard-core fans alike.

Dickinson turns his unbridled creativity, passion, and anarchic humour to reveal some fascinating stories from his life, including his thirty years with Maiden, his solo career, his childhood within the eccentric British school system, his early bands, fatherhood and family, and his recent battle with cancer.

Bold, honest, intelligent and very funny, his memoir is an up-close look inside the life, heart, and mind of one of the most unique and interesting men in the world; a true icon of rock.

I’m an unabashed metalhead, and die hard Iron Maiden fan, so when this book came out I was utterly fascinated by the story of its (sometime) lead singer, and all around badarse, Bruce Dickinson. So often we see the very public persona of musicians, but this book is a very heartfelt, personal look at the journey that Bruce has taken in his life. This is the story of a working class upbringing, the trials and tribulations of his youth, and his multitude of attempts at breaking into the music industry.

While a great deal of the book is given over to his life as part of Iron Maiden, the stories are about the relationships with his fellow band members, and the very interesting process of creation of the Irons’ music. There is some descriptions of the drama which went on at various points, but I never felt as though Dickinson was trying to sensationalise events for the sake of a good story. One of the other long-running themes and tales were his efforts to obtain various pilot licences, and his flying commercial airliners, as well as Ed Force One. As if being the lead singer of one of the greatest bands in the world was not enough, Bruce’s Boys Own adventure had to include flying all kinds of planes around the world.

Dickinson never falls into braggadocio, despite his many accomplishments, and is not afraid to own up to many of his shortcomings. Perhaps it is apppropriate that the book seems to be gaining momentum when it is all brought to a screeching halt when he is diagnosed with throat and mouth cancer. This section is him at his most vulnerable, and his most intimate. And it reveals that – no matter how famous, or rich you might be, you are just another human being when it comes to a battle with cancer. I’m not going to wax lyrical about how his journey was inspirational, etc etc; but the last few chapters were definitely the hardest, and the most encouraging to read.

I am sure that hardcore Maiden fans will be all over this book. It is written in a smooth, and ultimately readable style, as one might expect from such an accomplished lyricist. What does this button do? is an entertaining and engaging look inside the personal life of a very ordinary man, who is living an extraordinary life.

Gods of Howl Mountain by Taylor Brown

Gods of Howl Mountain by Taylor BrownGods of Howl Mountain by Taylor Brown
Published by St. Martin's Press on March 20th 2018
Pages: 304
Goodreads
two-stars

In Gods of Howl Mountain, award-winning author Taylor Brown explores a world of folk healers, whiskey-runners, and dark family secrets in the high country of 1950s North Carolina.

Bootlegger Rory Docherty has returned home to the fabled mountain of his childhood - a misty wilderness that holds its secrets close and keeps the outside world at gunpoint. Slowed by a wooden leg and haunted by memories of the Korean War, Rory runs bootleg whiskey for a powerful mountain clan in a retro-fitted '40 Ford coupe. Between deliveries to roadhouses, brothels, and private clients, he lives with his formidable grandmother, evades federal agents, and stokes the wrath of a rival runner.

In the mill town at the foot of the mountains - a hotbed of violence, moonshine, and the burgeoning sport of stock-car racing - Rory is bewitched by the mysterious daughter of a snake-handling preacher. His grandmother, Maybelline “Granny May” Docherty, opposes this match for her own reasons, believing that "some things are best left buried." A folk healer whose powers are rumored to rival those of a wood witch, she concocts potions and cures for the people of the mountains while harboring an explosive secret about Rory’s mother - the truth behind her long confinement in a mental hospital, during which time she has not spoken one word. When Rory's life is threatened, Granny must decide whether to reveal what she knows...or protect her only grandson from the past.

With gritty and atmospheric prose, Taylor Brown brings to life a perilous mountain and the family who rules it.

I found this book a really frustrating experience to read. I really had no idea what was going on for most of the book, and although there is plenty of dramatic tension, and the sort of atmosphere you can chew on, the underlying plot doesn’t reveal itself until near the very end of the book. This is a kind of slice of life book if it was written by Stephen King, with a family of moonshiners living in the backwoods, doing their rednecky witchy things, competing against the forces of modernity which want to intrude on their happy little universe.

I thought this was going to be my kind of book, and in the end I was sadly mistaken. There are some excellent characters in the book, particularly the matriarch of the family – Granny – but I never really got the sense that the book was going anywhere. By the time I got to the explanation of the catalyst in the story, I was ready to be done with the book. If I was not reading it for review I definitely would have abandoned this well before the halfway mark.

I am sure that there are readers who will enjoy this sort of thing. I was expecting some sort of quasi-mystical redneck tale set in the backwoods of America, and I really don’t know what I got instead.

I received a review copy from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

two-stars
Rating Report
Plot
two-stars
Characters
four-stars
Writing
three-stars
Pacing
two-stars
Cover
three-stars
Overall: three-stars

Mississippi Roll by Various Authors (edited by George R R Martin)

Mississippi Roll by Various Authors (edited by George R R Martin)Mississippi Roll by George R.R. Martin, Stephen Leigh, David D. Levine, John Jos. Miller, Kevin Andrew Murphy, Cherie Priest, Carrie Vaughn
Published by Tor Books on December 5th 2017
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 336
Format: Ebook
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
three-half-stars

Perfect for current fans and new readers alike, Mississippi Roll is an all-new, adventurous jaunt along one of America's greatest rivers, featuring many beloved characters from the Wild Cards universe

Edited by #1 New York Times bestselling author George R. R. Martin, Mississippi Roll features the writing talents of Stephen Leigh, David D. Levine, John Jos. Miller, Kevin Andrew Murphy, Cherie Priest, and Carrie Vaughn.

I feel as though I should open with a disclaimer, that while I have read some of the books/anthologies in the Wild Cards series, I have by no means read all of t hem. In saying that however, I do understand the world that He (being George R R Martin) has created in conjunction with the other authors who contribute to this shared world. Mississippi Roll in a collection of interwoven stories set on a paddle steamer named the Natchez filled with colourful and intriguing characters who really jump off the page.

I have always appreciated Martin’s sense of place, and the unique settings he has created, although some of the stories that are told within that setting are not as interesting as others. One of the major threads in the stories in Mississippi Roll seems to be a discussion of the morality, and worthiness of taking in illegal immigrants, and while I can take or leave the politics of this, I really had no interest in the story being told. The plot with the ghostly captain? That was a much more emotional, ripping yarn. As a consequence, I found myself reading this book in fits and starts.

The publisher notes that this is suitable for newcomers to the Wild Card series, but I believe that to do so would be like being thrown in the deep end, without any context of the politics and environment in which these stories are set. The authors take some steps to explain the origins of the Wild Card virus, but you have to have a basic understanding of a lot of the terminology used. There were several times I found myself running to the wiki for clarification on some points.

For fans of the Wild Cards series, this latest collection is more of the same of what they have enjoyed in the past. Whether some of the messageyness of the stories suits your brand of politics, or can be overlooked, that’s up to you. This is a solid addition to the Wild Card universe.

I received a review copy from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

three-half-stars
Rating Report
Plot
three-half-stars
Characters
four-stars
Writing
four-half-stars
Pacing
three-half-stars
Cover
three-half-stars
Overall: four-stars