Rincewind vs Vimes: Who do you like best?

Vimes and Rincewind, from Terry Pratchett's Discworld seriesThere is nothing like a good long holiday to catch-up on your reading, and I have recently returned from mine. Prior to setting out I knew I wouldn’t be able to take all the books I would want, so Kindle in hand, and just one or two hard copies, off I trundled on my holiday.

Choosing not to get into anything too heavy I decided to re-read some old favourites. Settling on Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series I set myself the challenge to read my favourite character’s books in their chronological order. In my case these have always been Rincewind and Vimes.

Rincewind, as the books say, is the true anti-hero, and a man out of reality and backbone (with hilarious consequences). He doesn’t want much, to be called a ‘Wizzard’ and occasionally a really long head-start. Vimes on the other hand is, or was the underdog, a character who wants to think in straight lines as long as they are crooked. With a heart of gold, and a boot of steel the Vetinari lapdog dragged himself from the gutter to bludgeon the law back into line in a city of lawlessness. Smart, dogged (pun intended), continually bruised and bloody but he always gets his man/women/dwarf/law-breaker.

I was able to knock the Rincewind books off fairly quickly but only got through the first five of the Vimes stories. That said I was able to (for myself) final pick a winner. Drum roll please…

Vimes!

There are so many things I love about Rincewind, his perpetual cowardliness, his deluded belief that there should be logic in the Discworld, he fatalism (which is pretty on the nose when the gods are using you as a chess piece), and it probably doesn’t help that as a wizard he can see Death, who really really doesn’t like Rincewind very much. Rincewind captures the two sides of people, the flight and the fight. Well maybe not much on the fight, but he’s still alive thanks to some fast feet and a his own deadly weapon… a Sock (stone supplied separately!).

Lets just get down to playground level, who would win in a fight? Obviously Vimes would come out on top, but I’d say it would be a closer call than most would think, you can tell Rincewind would be a biter and hair puller. On the other hand, if we are talking about a foot race, all my money is on Rincewind. There is a freedom in Rincewind’s tactical confrontation disengagement, his exit stage left a la Snagglepuss, that always brings a smile to my face. What’s the old adage ‘he who fights and runs away lives to fight another day’ – this might be better refined in Rincewind’s case as ‘fugit ille vivit alius dies fugere’ – he who runs away, lives to run away another day.

The one issue I have with Rincewind’s is that given the depth and complexity of character that Vimes has, he can come across a little one-dimensional. Vimes, from his first appearance was layered, complex and born new to the reader. Pratchett gives you his flaws, his durability and the reformation of the Night Watch and himself.

It’s these flaws that make you bond with the character, we all have them and hope to improve on them while still functioning in life and the world, even if it’s a world flying on the back of a giant turtle, held up by four giant elephants.

Rincewind in comparison to Vimes is a man out of his world, while Vimes is a man firmly rooted inside his world: he accepts its defects, disfigurements (no jib at Nobby) and inequality and does his best to lift it a little higher out of the river (I would have said mud but calling what flows through the Ankh would sully the name of mud).

The point of my musings is I hope is to see what other people think. If you had to pick Vimes or Rincewind, who would your be choice and why? Would you pick neither? Maybe Death is your anthropomorphic man or Granny Weatherwax is your crone?

Maybe there is no right or wrong answer as they are all just fantastic.

Any thoughts?

Spotlight: The Sword of Feimhin by Frank P Ryan

Book three in The Three Powers Quartet

The Tyrant now threatens Earth as well as Tír…

In a violently dystopic London, where Mark and Nantosueta are searching for Padraig and the Sword of Feimhin, Penny Postlethwaite, a gifted but emotionally troubled teenager, is mapping two Londons, the tormented ‘City Above’ and an eerie and frightening ‘City Below’.

On Tír, an army of a hundred thousand Shee has invaded the Wastelands, intent on attacking Ghork Mega, the Tyrant’s capital city, but obstacles of malevolent cunning obstruct their path at every turn.

Meanwhile, in Dromenon, while exploring the labyrinthine roots of the Tree of Life in her attempts to save the Momu, Kate finds herself in the Land of the Dead. Her only recourse appears to lie with the serpent-dragon Nidhoggr, whose very soul is chaos…

Day by day and hour by hour the looming threat grows…

TheSwordOfFeimhinfull

Frank P Ryan is a distinguished and international bestselling author. He was born in Ireland but grew up, from his teens, in England.  He is currently writing an epic fantasy series, The Three Powers, which began with The Snowmelt River and continues with The Tower of Bones.  This  is already a top ten epic fantasy bestseller on amazon.co.uk.  He is also the author of a Book of the Year for the New York Times.

His other fiction includes the thriller trilogy Goodbye Baby Blue, Sweet Summer and Tiger Tiger, his contemporary novels, Taking Care of Harry and Between Clouds and the Sea and a science fiction apocalyptic thriller, The Doomsday Genie.

In addition to writing, Frank has directed his own commercial art gallery and has retained strong links with the artistic community.

Reviews of the first two books in The Three Powers Quartet can be read here:

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Shortlist for the fourth annual Book Illustration Competition announced

The Book Illustration CompetitionSix illustrators have beaten hundreds of entrants from over 30 countries to be shortlisted for the fourth annual Book Illustration Competition, a collaboration between House of Illustration and The Folio Society.

The Book Illustration Competition invited entrants, who must not already be published by The Folio Society, to submit three illustrations and a binding design for Joseph Conrad’s masterpiece about a life-changing journey, Heart of Darkness. The winner will receive a highly sought-after commission, worth £5,000, to complete a total of nine illustrations and a binding design for the book, which will be published by The Folio Society in September 2014. Five runners up will each receive £500 cash. Three prizes of the six are awarded to student entries.

The winner will be announced at an award ceremony on 24 September at House of Illustration in King’s Cross.

After extensive debate the shortlist was selected by a judging panel comprising artist, critic, curator and committee chairman for the Royal Academy Tom Phillips, former Royal Academy of Arts Director of Exhibitions and House of Illustration trustee Kathleen Soriano, last year’s competition winner Finn Dean and Flora Craig from House of Illustration, together with Folio’s Production Director, Editorial Director and Art Director.

“I applaud the thought, skill and time that everyone put into their illustrations for the competition and hope to work with many of the entrants in the future! We were all particularly impressed by the intelligent responses to the text by the shortlist. Each has a unique style but is equally strong in technique and ingenuity,” said Folio Society Art Director Sheri Gee.

"A wonderfully varied collection of entries that were often surprising in their boldness and desire to depict the themes of the story and did a great job in capturing the atmosphere of the book," added last year’s Book Illustration Competition winner Finn Dean.

The Shortlist

Reto Crameri graduated in visual communication from Geneva University of Art and Design. In 2012 he was awarded with a grant for book illustration by the City of Geneva. He has also performed live drawing and worked on playful visual settings for exhibitions.

Max Häring studied at the Akademie der bildenden Künste München in Munich, Germany, and has worked as an independent artist since 1983. He works in mixed media in pen, ink and acrylics then digitally adds shading.

Sean McSorley is a freelance illustrator, originally from Cumbria but now based in London. He graduated with a degree in English Literature at Queen Mary University of London in 2006, and in 2014 he completed an MA in Visual Arts: Illustration at Camberwell College of Arts. His clients have included Sony Television, Paramount and Universal Pictures. Sean’s work combines traditional ink drawing and printmaking with digital techniques, his subject matter often reflecting his interest in early- and mid-twentieth-century cinema and literature.

Kit Russell is a 23-year-old Scottish designer living in London. Having graduated from Duncan of Jordanstone college of Art & Design in 2013 with a First Class honours degree in Illustration, he has spent the last year offering freelance design services as well as interning at some of the top design agencies in London. Kit was runner up in last year’s Book Illustration Competition and also won ‘Best of Year’ in the D&AD student awards 2013.

Magdalena Szymaniec is a Polish illustrator currently residing in Richmond, VA. She will graduate Ringling College of Art and Design, majoring in Illustration, in 2014. Her digital work is inspired by traditional media including watercolour painting and printmaking. She aims to create decorative and intellectually stimulating illustrations. Symbolism and literature are her main inspirations for narrative work. She likes cats and David Bowie.

Bethany White is a 22-year-old artist and illustrator from Manchester. Her work aims to lift the veil on the esoteric and arcane, delving into the vast subjects of occult philosophy and the pantheons of ancient mythology. This is explored through the combination of highly controlled dot work, ungoverned chance textures, and a range of different print mediums. Since graduating from Manchester School of Art, Bethany has participated in group exhibitions across the United Kingdom and produced work for occult musicians. Her latest artwork will be released via the Italian record label ‘I Voidhangar Records’ towards the end of 2014.

Congratulations to all those short-listed and here are there fantastic illustrations. Which one would you award as winner? My personal favourite is bottom right.

Shortlisted illustrations 1-3

Shortlisted illustrations 4-6

Assassins, Wurms, Martin and Hobb

Fantasy Book Review, August 2014

This is the first of what I hope will be a regular-as-clockwork monthly blog post rounding-up our latest reviews of the new releases and golden – or perhaps not-so golden – oldies. The post will also feature popular news items and anything else which I hope people will find interesting.

Fool's Assassin book cover imageThe stand-out book of the month for me is Fool’s Assassin, the latest addition to Robin Hobb’s superlative Elderlings series and an example of just how lucky the fantasy genre is to have an author of this calibre working within it. Joshua, who read and reviewed the book first, summed everything up nicely: “Fool’s Assassin is, quite simply, one of the best books I have read in years. Brandon Sanderson might have all the attention at the moment, but there is something to be said for the quiet simplicity of a FitzChivalry Farseer story and the world around it. Robin Hobb has dealt a serious blow to all those contending for best book of 2014, and I believe is set to return herself to the centre of attention with this new series.”

And I couldn’t agree more. Read the full Fool’s Assassin review

This month has also found me reading another of my all-time favourite authors, Steven Erikson. The Malazan series of ten wonderful tomes (for they be chunky) completely blew me away and I constantly find myself going back and re-reading them but thankfully there are also occasions when I can read something new from this awe-inspiring and fascinating world.

The events and humour within reminded me often of that channelled through Kruppe in Gardens of the Moon and Tehol and Bugg in Midnight Tides – it is funny and farcical but but at the same time hints at hidden power and a long and dark history. Any who have read The Lees at Laughter’s End or the Collected Tales of Bauchelain and Korbal Broach will know exactly what to expect – and will not be disappointed.

Read the full The Wurms of Blearmouth review

Of the other books that have been reviewed this month, the following are all highly recommended:

For those who like historical fiction we recommend Robert Carter’s Language of Stones and for science-fiction fans, Peter F. Hamilton’s The Naked God.

George and Robin

The news that created the biggest buzz was when HarperVoyager announced that they will host an event with George RR Martin and Robin Hobb in a central London venue on 19th August 2014. Tickets will be £45 each and will include a hardback copy of Hobb’s latest novel Fool’s Assassin (you know how much we love this book).

HarperVoyager poster for George R. R. Martin and Robin Hobb London event.

This unique event offers readers the perfect opportunity to spend an evening listening to two of the world’s greatest storytellers, discussing how they build their fictional universes, create their characters and balance fantasy and reality; about their influences and inspirations, their struggles and successes.

The event is sponsored by ebook retailer blinkbox Books and in support of their pledge to bring readers closer to authors, they will be streaming the full event  for free – live and exclusively – on their Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/blinkboxbooks. HarperVoyager and blinkbox Books newsletter subscribers will be first to hear about tickets: http://harpervoyagerbooks.co.uk/subscribe/.

The event will have the #GeorgeAndRobin hashtag.

So that’s it for the August round-up, join us in September for a more comprehensive look at the month on FBR.

The best selling fantasy audiobooks, August 2014

Magician audiobook cover imageSpecial mention: I’m currently listening to Peter Joyce reading Raymond E. Feist’s classic fantasy novel, Magician. Very highly recommended.

There is no surprise in George R. R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones still being number one when you take into account the ongoing popularity of the HBO series and then add to that the fact that Audible are offering a free copy when new members sign up. I have listened to all 5 A Song of Ice and Fire audiobooks and have been very impressed, although Daenerys and the Lannister’s accents have travelled the length and breadth of the British Isles (you just have to roll with it).

Keith C. Blackmore’s free short story, The Hospital has risen to #2, and it is great to see Anthony Ryan’s sublime Blood Song enter the top ten at #3.

A new entry that really caught my eye was The Girl with All the Gifts by M. R. Carey – the synopsis sounds fantastic and it’s now on my wish-list.

If you’re always looking for great fantasy audiobooks then this page here: My favourite audio-book narrators, provides a good list of all that is fantastic in audiobook fantasy.

Without any further ado… below are the 10 most downloaded titles from Audible.co.uk.

    1. A Game of Thrones (Part One): Book 1 of A Song of Ice and Fire
      A Game of Thrones audiobook cover imageUNABRIDGED
      By George R. R. Martin, narrated by Roy Dotrice
      Summers span decades. Winter can last a lifetime. And the struggle for the Iron Throne has begun. It will stretch from the south, where heat breeds plot, lusts and intrigues; to the vast and savage eastern lands; all the way to the frozen north, where an 800-foot wall of ice protects the kingdom from the dark forces that lie beyond. Kings and queens, knights and renegades, liars, lords and honest men… all will play the Game of Thrones. Winter is coming…

    2. The Hospital: The First Mountain Man story
      The Hospital audiobook cover imageUNABRIDGED
      By Keith C. Blackmore, narrated by R. C. Bray
      "Mountain Man" Augustus Berry is a survivor in undead suburbia. He scavenges what he can from what’s left over. He is very careful in what he does and where he goes, taking no chances, no unnecessary risks, and weighing every choice… until he decides to visit the hospital at the edge of town, and experiences terror the likes he’s never encountered before.

    3. Blood Song: Book 1 of Raven’s Shadow
      Blood Song audiobook cover imageUNABRIDGED
      By Anthony Ryan, narrated by Steven Brand
      We have fought battles that left more than a hundred corpses on the ground and not a word of it has ever been set down. The Order fights, but often it fights in shadow, without glory or reward. We have no banners. Vaelin Al Sorna is the Sixth Order’s newest recruit. Under their brutal training regime, he learns how to forge a blade, survive the wilds, and kill a man quickly and quietly – all in the name of protecting the Realm and the Faith. Now his skills will be put to the test. War is coming. Vaelin must draw upon the very essence of his strength and cunning if he is to survive the coming conflict. Yet as the world teeters on the edge of chaos, Vaelin will learn that the truth can cut deeper than any sword.

    4. A Game of Thrones (Part Two): Book 1 of A Song of Ice and Fire
      UNABRIDGED
      By George R. R. Martin, narrated by Roy Dotrice
    5. The Jester
      The Jester audiobook cover imageUNABRIDGED
      By Michael J. Sullivan, narrated by Tim Gerard Reynolds
      Stop me if you’ve heard this one. A thief, a candle maker, an ex-mercenary, and a pig farmer walk into a trap… and what happens to them is no joke. When Riyria is hired to retrieve a jester’s treasure, Royce and Hadrian must match wits with a dwarf who proves to be anything but a fool. Difficult choices will need to be made, and in the end those who laugh last do so because they are the only ones to survive.

    6. The Book of Life: The All Souls Trilogy, Book 3
      The Book of Life audiobook cover imageUNABRIDGED
      By Deborah Harkness, read by Jennifer Ikeda
      Historian and witch Diana Bishop and vampire scientist Matthew Clairmont return to the present to face new crises and old enemies. At Matthew’s ancestral home in France they reunite with their families – with one heart-breaking exception. But the real threat to their future is yet to be revealed, and when it is, the search for the elusive manuscript Ashmole 782 and its missing pages takes on a terrifying urgency. Using ancient knowl­edge and modern science, from the palaces of Venice and beyond, Diana and Matthew will finally learn what the witches discovered so many centuries ago.

    7. A Storm of Swords (Part One) – Steel and Snow: Book 3 of A Song of Ice and Fire
      A Storm of Swords audiobook coverUNABRIDGED
      By George R. R. Martin, narrated by Roy Dotrice
      The Seven Kingdoms are divided by revolt and blood feud, and winter approaches like an angry beast. Beyond the Northern borders, wildlings leave their villages to gather in the ice and stone wasteland of the Frostfangs. From there, the renegade Brother Mance Rayder will lead them South towards the Wall. The men of the Night’s Watch are ready for the coming of a great cold and the walking corpses that travel with it. But now they face a horde of wildlings twenty-thousand strong – hungry savage people steeped in the dark magic of the haunted wilderness – poised to invade the Kingdom of the North where Robb Stark wears his new-forged crown. But Robb’s defences are ranged against attack from the South, the land of House Stark’s enemies the Lannisters. His sisters are trapped there, dead or likely yet to die, at the whim of the Lannister boy-king Joffrey or his depraved mother Cersei, regent of the Iron Throne. Cersei’s ambition is unfettered while the dwarf Tyrion Lannister fights for his life, a victim of treachery. And on the other side of the ocean, the last of the Targaryens rears the dragons she hatched from her husband’s funeral pyre. Daenerys Stormborn will return to the land of her birth to avenge the murder of her father, the last Dragon King on the Iron Throne.
    8. The Girl with All the Gifts
      The Girl with All the Gifts audiobook cover imageUNABRIDGED
      By M. R. Carey, narrated by Flinty Williams
      Melanie is a very special girl. Dr Caldwell calls her ‘our little genius’. Every morning, Melanie waits in her cell to be collected for class. When they come for her, Sergeant keeps his gun pointing at her while two of his people strap her into the wheelchair. She thinks they don’t like her. She jokes that she won’t bite, but they don’t laugh. Melanie loves school. She loves learning about spelling and sums and the world outside the classroom and the children’s cells. She tells her favourite teacher all the things she’ll do when she grows up. Melanie doesn’t know why this makes Miss Justineau look sad.

       
    9. A Clash of Kings (Part One): Book 2 of A Song of Ice and Fire
      A Clash of Kings audiobook cover imageUNABRIDGED
      By George R. R. Martin, narrated by Roy Dotrice
      The Iron Throne once united the Sunset Lands, but King Robert is dead, his widow is a traitor to his memory, and his surviving brothers are set on a path of war amongst themselves. At King’s Landing, the head of Lord Eddard Stark rots on a spike for all to see. His daughter Sansa is betrothed still to his killer’s son Joffrey – Queen Cersei’s son, though not the son of her late husband Robert. Even so, Joffrey is now a boy-king, Cersei is his regent, and war is inevitable. In Dragonstone, Robert’s brother Stannis has declared himself king, while his other brother Renly proclaims himself king at Storm’s End – and Eddard Stark’s fifteen year old son Robb wears the crown of the north at Winterfell. A comet in the night sky, red and malevolent, the colour of blood and flame, can only be an omen of murder and war. Stannis’s child Princess Shireen dreams of dragons waking from stone. And a white raven has brought word from the Citadel itself, foretelling summer’s end. It has been the longest summer in living memory, lasting ten years, and the small folk say it means an even longer winter to come… The first rule of war is never give the enemy his wish. But winter will be the biggest enemy. From beyond the Wall the undead and Others clamour for freedom, and from beyond the sea the long-dead Dragon King’s daughter hatches her revenge. Robb Stark will be exceedingly lucky to reach adulthood.

    10. Ark Royal
      Ark Royal audiobook cover imageUNABRIDGED
      By Christopher G. Nuttall, narrated by Ralph Lister
      Seventy years ago, the interstellar supercarrier Ark Royal was the pride of the Royal Navy. But now, her weapons are out-dated and her solid-state armour nothing more than a burden on her colossal hull. She floats in permanent orbit near Earth, a dumping ground for the officers and crew the Royal Navy wishes to keep out of the public eye. But when a deadly alien threat appears, the modern starships built by humanity are no match for the powerful alien weapons. Ark Royal and her mismatched crew must go on the offensive, buying time with their lives And yet, with a drunkard for a Captain, an over-ambitious first officer and a crew composed of reservists and the dregs of the service, do they have even the faintest hope of surviving… And returning to an Earth which may no longer be there?

Orion announce full programme activities for 2014 Gollancz Festival

Gollanz Festival 2014 PosterGollancz, the science-fiction and fantasy imprint of the Orion Publishing Group, have announced the full programme of author events at Waterstones Piccadilly for The Gollancz Festival 2014 – the publisher’s first interactive multi-media celebration of genre fiction – on the 13th August 2014.

New additions to the line–ups of both rooms at Waterstones Piccadilly include Joe Hill and Connie Willis. For updates on digital events register your interest at www.gollancz.co.uk/gollanczfestival2014 and follow @gollancz #gollanczfest.

Room 1 at Waterstones Piccadilly will have a reading from Patrick Rothfuss followed by a series of panel events with award-winning authors covering the sense of wonderment in SF, the elements of SFF that make it impossible to cross genre boundaries, and whether fantasy, by definition, is consolatory.

In Room 2, Gollancz’s 2014 debut novelists will talk about their novels and experience of publishing, and three bestselling authors will give solo talks, readings and interviews:  Joanne M. Harris will discuss the use of different narratives as a means of exploring stories; Joe Hill might share an insight into having your work become a Hollywood film; and Patrick Rothfuss will give a solo talk and audience Q&A.

Gollancz have also confirmed that the Gollancz Festival Goodie Bags, available to every ticket-holder, will include two Gollancz novels, and an exclusive Pat Rothfuss The Slow Regard of Silent Things book plate.

For full details of the Waterstones evening event, to purchase tickets or to pre-order a signed book visit www.waterstones.com/events or call 020 7851 2400.

Authors participating in the festival will include:

  • Ben Aaronovitch
  • Joe Abercrombie
  • Mark Alder
  • James Barclay
  • Leigh Bardugo
  • Elizabeth Bear
  • Greg Bear
  • Holly Black
  • Mitch Benn
  • Kit Berry
  • Miles Cameron
  • Pat Cadigan
  • Anna Caltabiano
  • AJ Dalton
  • Elspeth Cooper
  • Edward Cox
  • Janie Fenn
  • Joanne Harris
  • Peter Higgins
  • Joe Hill
  • Stephen Hunt
  • Simon Ings
  • John Hornor Jacobs
  • Tom Lloyd
  • Scott Lynch
  • Paul McAuley
  • Elizabeth May
  • Suzanne McLeod
  • David Moody
  • Richard Morgan
  • Den Patrick
  • Sarah Pinborough
  • Hannu Rajaniemi
  • Adam Roberts
  • Alastair Reynolds
  • Robert VS Redick
  • Justina Robson
  • Patrick Rothfuss
  • Brandon Sanderson
  • Nalini Singh
  • Gavin Smith
  • Jon Wallace
  • Connie Willis
  • Chris Wooding

George RR Martin and Robin Hobb to make London appearance in August

HarperVoyager will host an event with George RR Martin and Robin Hobb in a central London venue on 19th August 2014. Tickets will go on sale later this week, will be £45 each and will include a hardback copy of Hobb’s latest novel Fool’s Assassin.

George RR Martin.Robin HobbThis unique event offers readers the perfect opportunity to spend an evening listening to two of the world’s greatest storytellers, discussing how they build their fictional universes, create their characters and balance fantasy and reality; about their influences and inspirations, their struggles and successes.

“This is a uniquely exciting event, bringing together two of the greatest storytellers in modern fiction talking candidly about their writing lives. I have worked with them both for years, but in all that time I’ve never had the chance to eavesdrop on them in conversation: I can’t wait,” commented Jane Johnson, HarperVoyager’s Publishing Director.

The event is sponsored by ebook retailer blinkbox Books and in support of their pledge to bring readers closer to authors, they will be streaming the full event  for free – live and exclusively – on their Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/blinkboxbooks.

HarperVoyager and blinkbox Books newsletter subscribers will be first to hear about tickets: http://harpervoyagerbooks.co.uk/subscribe/

The event will have the #GeorgeAndRobin hashtag.

Stephen King’s Mr Mercedes read by Will Patton

Mr Mercedes audio-book cover imageThe following is a review of the audio-book edition of Stephen King’s Mr Mercedes, a cat and mouse thriller narrated by Will Patton and first released in June 2014.

Author King and narrator Patton recently joined forces for Dr Sleep, the author’s last publication (that review can be found here), and a sequel to his classic The Shining. So I felt in safe hands as I began the latest offering from an author whose output remains as varied and engaging as ever.

Stephen King opens books well. I guess you could say that he is an expert in manipulating the ‘hook’, that magical something that draws the reader in within the first chapter and holds their interest for the remainder of the book. And Mr Mercedes utilises this ‘hook’ as well as any King novel. Picture this – it is very early morning, mist reduces vision to only a few feet and outside a job fair (this novel is set during the recent recession) job-seekers have queued to be first in line when the doors open, seeking to secure one of the few hundred jobs on offer. And from out of this mist suddenly emerges a powerful Mercedes motor car, clown-masked driver behind the wheel, which ploughs indiscriminately into those crowded close together at the front of the line, killing eight and injuring and maiming many others. This masked perpetrator was never caught.

I don’t know about you, but this opening caught me hook, line and sinker.

Moving on from this stellar opening the story jumps ahead a few years and the detective who led the hunt for the Mercedes killer, one Hodges DET RET, is now retired, overweight and contemplating suicide. But a taunting letter from Mr Mercedes arrives through his letterbox and any thoughts of suicide are banished as the retired detective finds himself reinvigorated and determined to catch the maniac who had eluded him while active. And so begins a game of cat and mouse as Hodges and Mr Mercedes mess with each others minds and lives.

The first half of Mr Mercedes is excellent, just as good as all of King’s recent books, by which I refer to 11.22.63, The Wind Through The Keyhole, Joyland and Dr Sleep. And as I’ve mentioned is all my recent King reviews – he is writing as well as he ever has. But then things, in my opinion, begin to take a bit of a turn for the worse and a rather lame, but fortunately brief, romantic interlude is followed by rather weak secondary characters, which I can only call caricatures, being elevated to leading roles in a manner that seemed scarcely believable. This made the second half of the book a let down. And I think many other King fans might agree that the book loses its way after the midway mark, it just wasn’t up to his usual high standard.

But it would be unfair to concentrate on the negatives as there is much within that is classic King, the product of a craft mastered over decades. And Hodges is not an alcoholic which was refreshing. There is as ever a strong focus on characterisation and back-story development (initially) which allows for a strong emotional attachment between the reader and characters written on the page. King also has a gift for building tension with his narrative.

Will Patton’s narration was once again very good, doing full justice to the leads of Hodges and the Mercedes Killer. He is a first rate narrator.

So my summary would be that a cracking first half is followed by a weak second. But every review is subjective and others may experience the book differently.

Recommended, but with caveats.

7.5/10

Mr Mercedes (unabridged) by Stephen King
Narrated by Will Patton
Length: 14 hours, 21 minutes
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton

Mr Mercedes is available only from Audible.co.uk

Best selling fantasy audiobooks, June 2014

George R. R. Martin’s stranglehold on the fantasy audiobook top ten downloads is showing signs of lessening with Michael J. Sullivan challenging on two fronts. It’s good to see Jim Butcher and Jasper Fforde making an appearance.

Below are the 10 most downloaded titles from Audible.co.uk during the month of June 2014.

    1. A Game of Thrones (Part One): Book 1 of A Song of Ice and Fire
      A Game of Thrones audiobook cover imageUNABRIDGED
      By George R. R. Martin, narrated by Roy Dotrice
      Summers span decades. Winter can last a lifetime. And the struggle for the Iron Throne has begun. It will stretch from the south, where heat breeds plot, lusts and intrigues; to the vast and savage eastern lands; all the way to the frozen north, where an 800-foot wall of ice protects the kingdom from the dark forces that lie beyond. Kings and queens, knights and renegades, liars, lords and honest men… all will play the Game of Thrones. Winter is coming…
    2. Hollow World
      Hollow World audiobook cover imageUNABRIDGED
      By Michael J. Sullivan, narrated by Jonathan Davis
      Ellis Rogers is an ordinary man, about to embark on an extraordinary journey. All his life he has played it safe, but faced with a terminal illness he’s willing to take an insane gamble. He’s built a time machine in his garage. If it works, he could find more than a cure for his illness; he might find what everyone has been searching for since time began…
    3. Steel World: Undying Mercenaries, Book 1
      Steel World audiobook cover imageUNABRIDGED
      By B. V. Larson, narrated by Mark Boyett
      In the twentieth century Earth sent probes, transmissions and welcoming messages to the stars. Unfortunately, someone noticed. The Galactics arrived with their battle fleet in 2052. Rather than being exterminated under a barrage of hell-burners, Earth joined their vast Empire. Swearing allegiance to our distant alien overlords wasn’t the only requirement for survival. We also had to have something of value to trade, something that neighbouring planets would pay their hard-earned credits to buy.
    4. Game of Thrones (Part One): Book 1 of A Song of Ice and Fire
      UNABRIDGED
      By George R. R. Martin, narrated by Roy Dotrice
    5. Lost in a Good Book
      Lost in a Good Book audiobook coverUNABRIDGED
      By Jasper Fforde, narrated by Gabrielle Kruger
      Thursday Next, literary detective and newlywed, is back to embark on an adventure that begins, quite literally on her own doorstep. It seems that Landen, her husband of four weeks, actually drowned in an accident when he was two years old. Someone, somewhere, sometime, is responsible. The sinister Goliath Corporation wants its operative Jack Schitt out of the poem in which Thursday trapped him, and it will do almost anything to achieve this – but bribing the ChronoGuard? Is that possible?
    6. The Hospital: The First Mountain Man story
      The Hospital audiobook cover imageUNABRIDGED
      By Keith C. Blackmore, narrated by R. C. Bray
      "Mountain Man" Augustus Berry is a survivor in undead suburbia. He scavenges what he can from what’s left over. He is very careful in what he does and where he goes, taking no chances, no unnecessary risks, and weighing every choice… until he decides to visit the hospital at the edge of town, and experiences terror the likes he’s never encountered before.
    7. The Martian
      The Martian audiobook coverUNABRIDGED
      By Andy Weir, narrated by R. C. Bray
      Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars. Now, he’s sure he’ll be the first person to die there. After a dust storm nearly kills him and forces his crew to evacuate while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded and completely alone with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive-and even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone long before a rescue could arrive. Chances are, though, he won’t have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment, or plain old ""human error"" are much more likely to kill him first. But Mark isn’t ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills-and a relentless, dogged refusal to quit-he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. Will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?
    8. Skin Game: The Dresden Files
      Skin Game audiobook cover imageUNABRIDGED
      By Jim Butcher, narrated by James Marsters
      Harry Dresden, Chicago’s only professional wizard, is about to have a very bad day. As Winter Knight to the Queen of Air and Darkness, Harry never knows what the scheming Mab might want him to do. Usually, it’s something awful. This time, it’s worse than that. Mab’s involved Harry in a smash-and-grab heist run by one of his most despised enemies, to recover the literal Holy Grail from the vaults of the greatest treasure horde in the world – which belongs to the one and only Hades, Lord of the Underworld.
    9. The Jester
      The Jester audiobook cover imageUNABRIDGED
      By Michael J. Sullivan, narrated by Tim Gerard Reynolds
      Stop me if you’ve heard this one. A thief, a candlemaker, an ex-mercenary, and a pig farmer walk into a trap… and what happens to them is no joke. When Riyria is hired to retrieve a jester’s treasure, Royce and Hadrian must match wits with a dwarf who proves to be anything but a fool. Difficult choices will need to be made, and in the end those who laugh last do so because they are the only ones to survive.
    10. A Clash of Kings (Part One): Book 2 of A Song of Ice and Fire
      A Clash of Kings audiobook coverUNABRIDGED
      By George R. R. Martin, narrated by Roy Dotrice
      The Iron Throne once united the Sunset Lands, but King Robert is dead, his widow is a traitor to his memory, and his surviving brothers are set on a path of war amongst themselves. At King’s Landing, the head of Lord Eddard Stark rots on a spike for all to see. His daughter Sansa is betrothed still to his killer’s son Joffrey – Queen Cersei’s son, though not the son of her late husband Robert. Even so, Joffrey is now a boy-king, Cersei is his regent, and war is inevitable. In Dragonstone, Robert’s brother Stannis has declared himself king, while his other brother Renly proclaims himself king at Storm’s End – and Eddard Stark’s fifteen year old son Robb wears the crown of the north at Winterfell. A comet in the night sky, red and malevolent, the colour of blood and flame, can only be an omen of murder and war. Stannis’s child Princess Shireen dreams of dragons waking from stone. And a white raven has brought word from the Citadel itself, foretelling summer’s end. It has been the longest summer in living memory, lasting ten years, and the small folk say it means an even longer winter to come… The first rule of war is never give the enemy his wish. But winter will be the biggest enemy. From beyond the Wall the undead and Others clamour for freedom, and from beyond the sea the long-dead Dragon King’s daughter hatches her revenge. Robb Stark will be exceedingly lucky to reach adulthood.