Review: FORCE OF NATURE by Jane Harper #ForceOfNature @janeharperautho @LittleBrownUK @kimberleynyam

Monday 12th February (2)

(I was recently sent a copy of FORCE OF NATURE by Jane Harper’s publisher and was more than happy to take part in the truly epic blog tour to support the release–big shout out to Kimberley Nyamhondera at Little, Brown UK for all her support.)

I thoroughly enjoyed FORCE OF NATURE. It is structured in such a way that, in alternating chapters, we see the investigation, and the events that led to the dead woman’s (Alice) murder. Nothing is quite what it seems, and the book was full of twists and turns–many of which were thoroughly unexpected.

Harper’s prose is sharp yet nuanced, and her character work is truly first-rate. I was impressed with this follow-up to THE DRY, and hope that Harper continues the series for at least another couple of books. Falk is an excellent protagonist and, like the famous sleuths that precede him, Falk proves himself to be worth revisiting. Nuanced, multi-layered protagonists like him don’t come along often enough.

Force Of Nature by Jane Harper

Where did Alice Russell go?

Is Alice here? Did she make it? Is she safe? In the chaos, in the night, it was impossible to say which of the four had asked after Alice’s welfare. Later, when everything got worse, each would insist it had been them.

Five women reluctantly pick up their backpacks and start walking along the muddy track. Only four come out the other side.

The hike through the rugged landscape is meant to take the office colleagues out of their air-conditioned comfort zone and teach resilience and team building. At least that is what the corporate retreat website advertises.

Federal Police Agent Aaron Falk has a particularly keen interest in the whereabouts of the missing bushwalker. Alice Russell is the whistleblower in his latest case – and Alice knew secrets. About the company she worked for and the people she worked with…

Force Of Nature

(To clear something up, I have been asked several times now if I named ‘Jane Harper’ from the Harper and Lane series after novelist Jane Harper. No. I first heard Jane Harper’s name some point after HOPE’S PEAK was released. It is purely a case of coincidence, so quit asking . . .)

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2017 In Review

After completing the manuscript of STORM’S EDGE, there was a lot of work, through subsequent drafts, that went into taking the book to the next level. I am glad that it got the extra time and attention (not to mention energy!) as readers seem to have responded strongly to the book. Meanwhile, HOPE’S PEAK is in the Top 20 of books sold on Amazon for the year…

I am currently 40,000 words into a new novel. Its the first book in a (hopeful) trilogy. More deets on that later on down the line. My plan is to deliver a solid draft to my agent in February, for her consideration.

On TV I have enjoyed the hell out of Star Trek Discovery, and of course Stranger Things 2 was excellent. Sorely disappointed by the lacklustre third season of Bloodline. And after a cracker second season of The Affair, it was disheartening to find it sizzle out somewhat in its third outing.
Thirteen Reasons Why was great (and timely), and I found that documentary Jim & Andy absolutely fascinating. And Gilmore Girls A Year In The Life did a fine job of pushing the series and characters onward. What we need now is an announcement for more…

At the movies, I think my favourite film of the year was Blade Runner 2049, followed closely by the fantastic The Last Jedi.
Dunkirk was phenomenal. Possibly Nolan’s best film yet. Alien Covenant proved that Scott has taken the Alien franchise about as far as it can go. You can reinvent the wheel, but you can’t reinvent it forever. After a while, all you see is a wheel, no matter what it is trying to be.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 was also fabulous, and the ending was truly moving. Much like The Last Jedi, it is a sequel that takes what made the preceding film really good and elevates it to another level. Rian Johnson and James Gunn are good examples of storytellers who have been given free reign with the material, and it shows with the end product.

On the reading front, I bested my 12 books a year target by reading 17. After enjoying Graham Greene’s The Quiet American years back, I read Our Man In Havana, and The Power and The Glory. Neither very good, unfortunately.
Bernard Schaffer ordered me to read Ready Player One. When El Presidente orders you to do something, you do it. It is a solid book. I enjoyed it for the most part. But I dont think it deserves the reverence it has got. As a non gamer, there were aspects of it that left me cold, and I think that is the books downfall. These sections read like fan wank. But what it does get right are the characters, the stakes and the emotional aspects. It will make a neat film.
I was blown away by Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad, and by the grit of Galveston, by True Detective creator Nic Pizzolatto. Uncommon Type—Tom Hanks’ short story collection—was really well done, with half a dozen standout stories. Can’t wait to see what he does next. Artemis by Andy Weir is his follow-up to smash hit The Martian. It will appeal more to fans of Ready Player One than it will fans of The Martian. It was a lot of fun, and I greatly enjoyed it. It’s a hard act to follow The Martian, but he did an admirable job, and proves the success hasn’t gone to his head. I enjoyed new works by friends at Thomas and Mercer: The Devil’s Country by the ever-funny Harry Hunsicker; the awesome Baytown Salvage by Mark Wheaton and The Lucky Ones by that no-good rascal Mark Edwards.
Friend David Hulegaard relaunched his rewritten/retooled Noble Trilogy to great acclaim and you really should check it out.
The standout, for me, was Dodgers by Bill Beverly. It was a tremendous work of fiction. Crisp, clean writing. Deft plotting. It has won a slew of awards and it deserves every one of them. I am still thinking of this novel, months later. Very jealous of it, in fact. If I could write something as elegiac, as insightful, I would be a happy man.

 

Review: Uncommon Type by Tom Hanks

‘Uncommon Type’ isn’t ‘Dark Side Of The Moon,’ and that’s just fine. Very few albums are.

Albums like ‘Dark Side Of The Moon,’ that you can listen to from start to finish without skipping a single track, are few and far between. The same can be said for short story collections. ‘Uncommon Type’ by Tom Hanks was as surprising as it was wonderful, even if it was no ‘Dark Side Of The Moon’.

Hanks likes to say that when he first started out, his writing was lacking a voice. Well, there is no evidence of that here. His voice is strong, and unique, and his prose is thought-out and confident. He is best, I found, when exploring the inner workings of his characters. The young man in ‘Welcome To Mars’ who makes an unfortunate discovery; the single-mom of ‘A Month On Greene Street’ and her reluctance at embracing her new neighbour; a lost soul in need of a friend in New York, New York, in the story ‘Who’s Who’; the broken-yet-whole veterans of ‘Christmas Eve 1953,’ and the enigmatic yet distant mother of the boy in ‘A Special Weekend’. These stories are tender, and beautifully written, and I really felt that we were getting the real Hanks here.

Strangely, the story I didn’t connect with so much was the very story most reviewers claim is the standout of the entire collection. ‘Alan Bean Plus Four’ was entertaining, yes, but I could not connect with it at a deeper level, perhaps because I found the concept behind it so absurd. The same could be said for time-travel tale, ‘The Past Is Important To Us’. Another story I did not connect with was ‘A Junket In The City Of Lights’ as it seemed too on-the-nose, to be honest. We know Hanks is a famous actor, and this insight into what a press-tour can really be like was interesting, but obvious. It didn’t surprise the same way the others did, even though it was brilliantly written.

Of 17 stories in this collection, I found fault in just three of them. That ain’t half bad! In fact, ‘Uncommon Type’ is an exceptional collection of short fiction by a strong, fertile literary voice. I will be going back for second-helpings, and hoping that Hanks has caught the bug to write more. Because he really should.

‘Uncommon Type’ isn’t ‘Dark Side Of The Moon,’ and that’s just fine. Very few albums are.

HOPE’S PEAK IS A KINDLE MONTHLY DEAL

There is still time to get HOPE’S PEAK for just $1.99 if you’re a reader in the US. And for those of you in the UK, you can read it for the crazy low price of 99p!

While you’re at it, why not pick up the sequel STORM’S EDGE? I don’t know if HOPE’S PEAK will be discounted like this anytime soon so there’s no better time to get it at such a low price. You have until the end of the month–what’re you waiting for??? 🙂

MORE ‘IN DISCUSSION WITH…’ INTERVIEWS ARE COMING

I wanted to add a new section to this site, of interviews with writers and other creatives, so I created the ‘In Discussion With…’ page. I have many more interviews lined up. But for now, to recap, I have interviewed:

Harry Hunsicker, where he discussed his latest release, THE DEVIL’S COUNTRY.

Bernard Schaffer, talking about his self-publishing career and his novel THE THIEF OF ALL LIGHT, out soon from Kensington Publications.

Dayton Ward, who detailed what it was like writing a tie-in to Star Trek Discovery, and the publication of his latest Trek novel, HEARTS AND MINDS.

I will have news soon of further interviews but for now, if you’ve missed any of the interviews above, why not give them a read?

“I have a Star Trek emergency.” IN DISCUSSION WITH… DAYTON WARD

Today I welcome author Dayton Ward here for a lengthy chat. Dayton is a prolific science-fiction and media tie-in author who has dabbled in Star Trek, 24, Planet of the Apes, The 4400, and other properties. Author Kevin Dilmore is a frequent collaborator (and partner in crime). Dayton is also a regular contributor to StarTrek.com, and has previously written content for Tor.com, Star Trek Magazine, and the blog Novel Spaces. You’ve probably read his Ten For Ward articles on StarTrek.com over the years. I know I have.

You can read the interview by clicking here!