Civilian Reader is 10yrs Old… A Look Back at the First Review

Happy10thBirthdayTen years ago today, I posted my first fiction review on Civilian Reader. It’s very weird to think I’ve been writing reviews, etc., for a decade. It was not my first ever book review, though: the first novel I reviewed was Richard Morgan’s excellent Market Forces, for my university newspaper. A review that was, sadly, completely butchered by the editor. Maybe that’s one reason I decided to start my own book review website…

I’ve thought about shutting the website down a number of times over the years — sometimes more seriously than others. And yet, I keep getting drawn back into writing for it. It’s taken up a lot of my free time. I’m of two minds about whether or not this has been a good or bad thing.

And so, to mark the ten-year anniversary, here’s the first review I posted to CR…

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THE BLACK SUN by James Twining (Harper Collins)

TwiningJ-2-BlackSunUKSequel to The Double EagleThe Black Sun is a fine sophomore novel from a truly talented British author.

In London, an Auschwitz survivor is murdered in his hospital bed, his killers making off with a macabre trophy – his severed left arm.

In Fort Mead, Maryland, a vicious gang breaks into the NSA museum and steals a World War II Enigma machine, lynching the guard who happens to cross their path.

Meanwhile, in Prague, a frenzied and mindless anti-Semitic attack on a synagogue culminates in the theft of a seemingly worthless painting by a little known Czech artist called Karel Bellak.

A year has passed since Tom Kirk, the world’s greatest art thief, decided to put his criminal past behind him and embark on a new career, on the right side of the law . Then three major thefts occur, and suddenly Tom is confronted with a deadly mystery and a sinister face from the past.

James Twining has managed to write a twisting tale of historical intrigue and action, while not falling foul to the cliches and pot-holes that affect Dan Brown. There’s no dubious religious connotations or huge leaps into left field to help his arguments and premises. True, he’s clearly made some of the background up, but then that’s why this book is found in the “Fiction” section of Waterstone’s… Continue reading

Turn Back 10: BETRAYAL by Aaron Allston (Arrow)

TurnBackTimeClockIn this second edition of Turn Back 10, I’m taking a look at an early Star Wars novel review. In the first few months of CR, I read and reviewed a lot of Star Wars fiction. Not long before I started the blog, I had picked up a couple of newer novels in the series, having stepped away for quite some time. I can’t remember what it was that made me re-start, but I did and I got sucked into it in a big way.

They were among some of the first novels I received from a publisher for review. I think this may have coloured my reviews — I didn’t lie about what I liked, but I think I did (in the very early months) focus more on what I liked than what I didn’t. I don’t think I am alone among reviewers to have done that, not that I would ever recommend it. I also think I read many of the Star Wars novels while still in the glow of renewed fandom. This loyalty would slowly wane as ever-more novels in ever-more convoluted series-within-series were published. My interest in reading SW novels cratered in 2013, as I tried four and finished none. With the The Force Awakened behind us, and a new era in SW fiction and movies upon us, though, who knows if my interest will be reignited?

Anyway, here’s my review of Betrayal by Aaron Allston — the first in the nine-book Legacy of the Force series — from a time when the now-“Legends” novels were still pretty great…

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AllstonA-LotF1-BetrayalBETRAYAL by Aaron Allston (Arrow)

This is the era of Luke Skywalker’s legacy: the Jedi Master has unified the order into a cohesive group of powerful Jedi Knights. However, as this era begins, planetary interests threaten to disrupt this time of relative peace and Luke is plagued by visions of an approaching darkness.

Melding the galaxy into one cohesive political whole after the savage war with the Yuuzhan Vong is not the easiest task, and already some worlds are chafing under the demands of the new government. Civil war may be brewing, and the Skywalker-Solo clan find that they might not all be on the same side. Meanwhile, evil is rising again — out of the best intentions — and it looks like the legacy of the Skywalkers may come full circle…

Betrayal is the beginning of the latest Star Wars series, which ushers in (yet another) dark time for Luke Skywalker and his expanding clan of family and friends. This time, the darkness doesn’t come from beyond the galactic rim. This time, its source is far closer to home. Continue reading