“The Affinities” by Robert Charles Wilson (Tor, 2015)

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What if Facebook was more than just a social media platform, but a way of life and living that you used to pick your friends, make any and all important decisions in your life, and in many ways become your real family? Wilson takes a department from his more classic science fiction and is more subtle with the genre in The Affinities as he takes the idea of social media to a whole new level.

Adam Fisk doesn’t really know where his life is going and his family isn’t really supporting him or seeming to care that much. So he takes the affinity test and finds himself categorized into the Tau affinity. A whole new world opens up to him, with a community of people similar to him, new friends and partners are made, as well as new career opportunities. But soon the Affinities test and what it means becomes much more as it takes over the world, and Fisk finds himself in the middle of it as things start to turn ugly as the affinities begin to compete against each other, vying for power and control in various areas such as resources and government.

Originally written on May 12, 2015 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of The Affinities from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

“Waterloo: The History of Four Days, Three Armies, and Three Battles” by Bernard Cornwell (HarperCollins, 2015)


The Battle of Waterloo is one of the most documented events in history; it’s also one of those times in history that’s very close to Bernard Cornwell’s heart. The bestselling author is known for his medieval historical fiction and is definitely a master of the genre, but now, for the first time, Cornwell has created a work of nonfiction in Waterloo.

The subtitle encapsulates the book: the history of four days, three armies, and three battles. The book is divided into relatively short but riveting chapters, each ending with a selection of photos and artwork – in color where available – making Waterloo a wonderfully illustrated edition for any history buff. Cornwell spends little time with the first two battles, Ligny and Quatre-Bras, providing a detailed step-by-step report of the battles in Cornwell’s talented way, and using detailed formation maps to make things clear for the reader.

The last third of the book is dedicated to the battle of Waterloo and perhaps what makes the book so fascinating is how much Cornwell uses from letters and diaries and other primary sources that give the book life, taking the reader back to the historic time.

Originally written on June 4, 2015 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of Waterloo from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

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“Random Targets” by James Raven (Robert Hale, 2014)

Random Targets
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An average day of rush hour traffic near Southampton on an English motorway soon turns to tragedy and mayhem when a sniper shoots two motorists. With the large number of automobiles on the roads there is soon a massive pileup with a number of people killed and many more injured. DCI Jeff Temple of the Major Investigations Team is brought in to investigate. It is the worst tragedy he’s ever seen but he knows he must focus and do his job to the best of his ability to catch the person behind these killings, for the man or woman has left a painted message on a wall for them to find, indicating this will happen again.

As the many rescue workers help those in need and try to get the motorway back up and running again, Temple gets his team together and they glean what few facts they can. The killer is a sharp shooter using a specific sniper rifle that is not easy to acquire, either through extreme black market means or the British military. The killer has left no prints and very little detail that he exists, other than a brief hooded shot on a CCTV camera. Temple’s girlfriend, also a member of the constabulary, was involved in the devastation and has suffered a serious head injury and is recovering in hospital, so he also has a very personal connection to the case and wanting to catch this killer.

Before the team has a chance to put much together, the killer strikes again on a different motorway. There are more dead and many more injured but little evidence to show for it, other than another message that there will be more shootings to come. The next hit is on the great M25 ring-road around London which heavily disrupts traffic for some time. There are those who fear to travel on the motorways anymore and choose to use smaller rural streets, clogging up the countryside. A reward is offered which soon grows to £2.5 million by all the businesses and people involved for any information on the killer.

Temple has his own idea who might be behind it and is doing his best to track down the man. At the same time a new task force is convened as there is new evidence possibly linking these killings to a terrorist cell related to Al-Qaeda. Temple now has a higher-up he reports to, but he’s still pretty sure that his suspect is the killer behind all this.

While Random Targets perhaps lacks the tightly-edited speed and pace of American thrillers, the step-by-step progression of the case and the characters give the book a very realistic feel, as if this is exactly how a case would be investigated and solved in Britain. There is little background development in the characters other than Temple and his girlfriend, Angel, and what few additional female characters there are end up being simply described by their looks and body type. When the ending is revealed, which isn’t completely a surprise, it is done in a ham-handed all telling and no showing way that kills all the momentum of the book.

Random Targets is an interesting look into English law enforcement and how they work when there is a deadly killer on the loose. While the book is lacking in areas of character development and the ending is somewhat anticlimactic, overall the book is a fun and interesting read.

Originally written on October 5, 2014 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of Random Targets from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

“Dark Screams: Volume One” edited by Brian James Freeman and Richard Chizmar (Hydra, 2014)

Dark Screams Volume 1

Ebooks have and are continuing to change the way we read books, with shorter chapters and a growing popularity in short stories, ideal for reading on your particular ereader on the go just about anywhere. When it comes to horror, you want to make sure you find a good story to enjoy, and the first volume of Dark Screams features some big names in the genre and at a very reasonable price.

The opening story and high-point of the collection, “Weeds” by one Stephen King, is about a meteor that crashes to the earth and the weedy alien life upon it begins to grow in this world as well as on one of its inhabitants. The next story keeps the thrill and chill going with “The Price You Pay” by Kelley Armstrong about the price of debts, and how some can never be repaid.

Sadly, the collection goes downhill from there with the remaining three stories from Bill Pronzini, Simon Clark and Ramsey Campbell doing little to stimulate the mind and are just dark and don’t really go anywhere whether it’s about a strange member of an asylum or a doomed person trapped in a chamber of torture. Nevertheless, Dark Screams: Volume One is worth the read for a reader looking to experiment in the genre.

Originally written on December 8, 2014 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of Dark Screams: Volume One from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

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“The Fold” by Peter Clines (Crown, 2015)

The Fold

As we work our way steadily through the 21st century, it feels like the future is here and now, and while we don’t have flying cars or hover boards quite yet, one futuristic invention we really wish existed is teleportation. The idea that you could zap from one country to another in the blink of an eye with no plane involved stirs the mind with excitement. Well, some scientists in Peter Clines’ The Fold may well have done just that, the problem is they have no clue how it really works.

A group of DARPA scientists deep in the California desert have been working on the project for years and it seems they have now made teleportation possible from one Door to another. Each of the scientists have tried it themselves a number of times with no side effects or mishaps, as well as a rigid battery of tests to confirm the machine, known as the Albuquerque Door, works perfectly. The problem is there have been a few anomalous readings, and one person who was visiting to check out the device, went through with no problem, then flew back home and apparently went insane, claiming his wife wasn’t who she said she was.

Mike Erikson is a school teacher in Maine who keeps his life simple and regular and doesn’t like to mention that he’s one of the smartest people on the planet. He has a perfect recall memory and cannot forget a single thing. He needs only to look at a page of information or watch a commercial once and he is able to replay and recall with pinpoint exact detail what he just saw.

Then an old friend at DARPA who has wanted him to come work for them for years finally convinces Mike to join the project. He needs to go check out the Albuquerque Door and make sure there are absolutely no issues so they can start preparing to release the reality of this world-changing invention to the rest of the planet.

In the California desert, Mike will make some new friends and some enemies, he will also learn a lot about the Albuquerque Door and be able to pinpoint its few issues, but getting straight answers out of the scientists is like pulling teeth, that is until he figures out just how the machine works and since the scientists don’t know this information themselves, they are terrified when he tells them.

Reading The Fold gives the reader an extreme thrill, like watching The Matrix, for the first time as the tension and anxiety build, but also the excitement of discovery. Clines does a great job of introducing some interesting characters and then letting them act and react in his world, as the reader learns about the Albuquerque Door. They will be hooked to the very last page, wanting and wondering.

Originally written on May 13, 2015 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of The Fold from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.