Book review: Hanging Hill by Mo Hayder

Mo Hayder’s books should come with a small phial of whiskey sellotaped to the spine; every one I’ve read (the excellent Jack Caffrey series and the brutal Tokyo) is an exercise in dark prose, superb characterisation and roller coaster plot lines.

Hanging_Hill Hanging Hill manages about one-and-a-half out of the three on that score. The story was good (though perhaps a little plodding in places) but seemed to be missing a lot of the edgy and stark prose of the Caffrey series.

Hayder’s writing is usually a lot smoother too, relying less on exposition and more on punchy dialogue and well-crafted action scenes. I wondered if the story is being aimed toward a possible TV drama, which would explain why the story lacked much of the edginess of her earlier work. If that’s the case then it would make one hell of a series; the characterisation is still top notch.

All in all, I was a bit disappointed with Hanging Hill, but then I do hold Mo Hayder to a much higher standard than other shock thriller writers I happen to read.

A little narcissistic …?

… To have a mug with your own picture on it?

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Yeah, maybe just a bit.

Anyway while I’m here, I have a recommendation for you. Now, there are no end of web sites covering grammar and punctuation, but I recently ran into the Petulant Poetess. If you’re a fan of Harry Potter, poetry and fiction in general, then great, but tucked away just a few short hops from the title page, you’ll also find a rather nifty punctuation guide.

Very concise, very easy to follow and little less rigid in its advice. Whether or not this is more suitable for prose and poetry writing … Well, I wouldn’t like to say 🙂

But it’s definitely worth a read.

Book Review: The Hydrogen Sonata by Iain M. Banks

This is the latest instalment in Iain Banks’s Culture series, and let me say, right off the bat, it doesn’t disappoint. The story is huge – epic, in fact – spanning stars, civilisations, and a cast of extraordinary proportions, each of whom is given enough attention to make them as large as life. As you might expect, the plot matches the setting perfectly; it is sprawling, complex and, like much of Banks’s work, is not so much about space battles fought between advanced cultures (though there is some of that), but a study of perhaps one basic question. In this case, the question is this: Just because your race can evolve, en masse, to a higher state of being – should it?

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Yes, there’s a lot of techy stuff that sci-fi buffs (like me) will love, but if that’s not your bag then the story can carry itself without having to understand how AIs view virtual realities, and why a ship large enough to carry billions of people has to start slowing down days before it reaches orbit. In my mind, focussing on the story rather than the tech is the essence of good sic-fi.

Some of the body-modifications are a bit gruesome , but given the light humour that pervades the whole book, I don’t think it’s anything that’ll leave the reader scarred for life.

So for me, this is the best of the Culture novels I’ve read so far; perhaps it’s because there was less focus on the benevolent (interfering?) super civilisation after which the series is named. Or perhaps it was because it was a genuinely funny book that raised questions the human race may have to ask itself – a hundred thousand years from now.