Reviews / Thriller / Crime Fiction

Book review: The Spartak Trigger by Bryce Allen

The Spartak Trigger Bryce Allen

This is the second thriller I read this week from a debut novelist. And just like Kill with a Borrowed Knife, it turned out to be an awesome ride. Let’s take a look at Bryce Allen’s The Spartak Trigger.

The story

Shane Bishop is an amoral cop turned set-up artist. He has become an expert in framing people for criminal offenses in lieu of money. But Shane’s luck runs out as he is outsmarted by a government agent and the ex-cop gets framed for what turns out to be a high profile murder.

Shane’s only hope to get out of the situation rests with a piece of crucial evidence, but he is forced into high risk espionage jobs. He finds himself in mortal danger as he deals with a Russian extremist group and tries to retrieve a computer program that can wipe out the World Wide Web.

What is Spartak Trigger

The US developed an extensive network of communications system in response to Russia’s Sputnik. However, they had no idea that a Russian agent had set up a self-destruct code that can cripple the entire communications system including the Internet. Gentlemen, welcome to the secret of the Spartak Trigger.

What’s so good

The Spartak Trigger follows typical Russian-European thriller style, but it doesn’t feel cliché. For a debut novelist, Mr. Allen delivers a surprisingly decent dose of twist and turns. The plot does seem a bit implausible at times, but it keeps the readers well hooked till the end. Most importantly, the author exhibits fantastic story telling skills.

The characterization is done with a high degree of dexterity. Particularly Shane’s character is extremely well developed and believable.

Thriller fans won’t be disappointed.

About the author:

Bryce Allen was born in Atlantic Canada in the early-1980s. He graduated from the University of King’s College in 2004 with a BA in History and currently resides in the United States.

The Spartak Trigger by Bryce Allen on Amazon

Continue reading

Reviews / Thriller / Crime Fiction

Book Review: Kill with a Borrowed Knife: or Agent Ai by Michael Wreford

 Kill with a Borrowed Knife: or Agent AiTired of 007? Michael Wreford brings you a brand new MI6 contract agent — George Quant — with sharp claws and deadly intelligence. Nope, you’ll be missing the cold war politics here for Wreford’s Kill with a Borrowed Knife: or Agent Ai is a thriller primarily set in China. Quant doesn’t fight authoritarian despots or space attacks backed by some insane crime genius. This top notch thriller focuses on cyber terrorism.

What’s the story

Quant, a journalist and a freelance MI6 agent, arrives in Beijing to find himself in a deceptive world of spies. He is a fugitive and doesn’t know who to trust. Quant is carrying a DVD labelled as “Citadel” — an antivirus programmed to fight against a unique virus that can attack major networks across the globe with extreme precision. He is the only man who can stop the attack, but odds are heavy and the web of conspiracy around him is intricate and strangulating. Quant is left with difficult choices in the face of extreme danger.

What’s so good

The trademark sign of a good thriller is its pace. Kill with a Borrowed Knife runs faster than a Japanese bullet train. Considering the non-linear plot structure, this is quite surprising. There are flashbacks that throw light on past events from Quant’s life, his relation with a Moscow-based handler called Karen, and developments in Phnom Penh and London. Nonetheless, the interest in the plot never drops.

The characters are remarkably well sketched and multi-layered. The dirty dealings, shady characters in the world of international espionage are delineated meticulously. The dialogues are cool and authentic with touches of Chinese, Russian and French phrases, which make things more credible and believable.

The best thing about Quant is that he is not an invincible superspy like James Bond. The guy is a normal human being vulnerable to attacks and bleeds like any of us.

This is a fun read and recommended for fans of the genre.

About the author

Michael Wreford is the pen name of two authors who collaborated on their debit novel. They are experts in Chinese and International relations and have lived in Beijing, The Hague, Hong Kong, New York, the United Kingdom and Switzerland.

Wreford’s Kill with a Borrowed Knife: or Agent Ai on Amazon

Continue reading

Down Memory Lane (Authors & Events) / Opinion & Featured Articles

Vintage Science Fiction Magazine: Planet Stories

planet stories magazine vintage science fiction
Planet Stories was a popular SF magazine primarily aimed at young pulp readers. Total 71 issues of the magazine were published between 1939 and 1955. Some of the top science fiction writers of the time including Leigh Brackett, Philip K. Dick, Isaac Asimov, and Ray Bradbury wrote regularly for Planet Stories.

The content focussed on interplanetary adventures and sword & sorcery stories. Quite a few stories from Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles were first published on Planet Stories. The “Letters to the Editor” column was called “The Vizigraph”. It was a pretty colourful page with interesting letters from readers as well as established writers like Robert Silverberg.

Planet Stories featured some of the most amazing SF artwork of the time. Enigmatic spaceships, scantily clad damsels in distress, deadly villains, alien princesses in alien worlds made up a perfect escapist landscape. Acclaimed artists like Frank Paul, Hannes Bok, Kelly Freas, and Alexander Leydenfrost worked on Planet Stories’ interior artwork and cover.

With a final issue in the summer of 1955, Planet Stories closed down due to serious recession in the pulp market.

Interior Artwork

science fiction

science fiction

science fiction

science fiction

science fiction

science fiction

Continue reading

Cover of the Week

Conan Cover Art by Frank Frazetta (Sphere/Lancer Books)

Conan the Avenger by Robert E. Howard

No, the one above is not a Sphere/Lancer edition. It is a Bantam cover by Bob Larkin. Not sure how much it appeals to the pulp readers, but I, for sure, have got an appetite for Frank Frazetta and prefer him over Larkin.

When Lancer decided to re-print Robert E. Howard’s Conan books , it fell on the able shoulders of Frazetta to work on the cover art. Frazetta, who also produced paintings for Burroughs’ Barsoom and Tarzan series, revolutionized the genre of sword and sorcery with his interpretation of Conan. Let’s take a look at some of the Sphere/Lancer covers of Conan books (below).

Continue reading

Reviews / Social drama

Book Review: The Sabbatical by Frederick Pinto

The Sabbatical Frederick Pinto

Usually, I skip debut novels because most of them are not as mature as the later works of the author. Even Turgenev’s On the Eve was not at par with Father and Sons or Virgin Soil. However, Frederick Pinto’s The Sabbatical seems a rare exception.

If you are just out of Jean Paul Satre’s Nausea and looking for a smart, entertaining read with a substantial story, pick up Frederick Pinto’s debut novel — The Sabbatical. It will cure you of any hangover from a sombre philosophy, yet won’t let you down as a light hearted effort that fails to leave an impression.

The Story

“Well, not fired, Charles,” Colin says. “Consider it more a forced buy-out.”

Charles Barca, the founder of an ambitious and visionary music startup— PlayLouder – finds himself in a tight spot after some conspiring people play smart to force him out of his own nest. Things become worse as he loses his girlfriend and rock star status. Even in the face of a crisis, Charles rejects opportunities to come back to the music business and tries to re-invent himself. Frederick Pinto’s The Sabbatical is an insightful story of “a bought-out, spit-over, disgraced and depressed” prince, seeking “a Copernican revolution of the self.”

Meet the Sharks

Pinto introduces you to real-life, morally ambiguous characters. You meet schemers, frauds and manipulative people. If you know the music industry, you easily identify them. If you don’t, you start feeling really close to it. Barca stands out as a confused, but honourable man among shady characters. He might not be a typical hero (for many readers), but he is certainly someone who makes you think. Barca is someone you can’t ignore.

The Sabbatical Frederick PintoPinto’s Style

If you are a sucker for snappy dialogue and descriptions, you can’t afford to miss The Sabbatical. Barca speaks and thinks in the equivalent of Clint Eastwood’s .44 Magnum:

“I know them by heart, those nightlife vamps, hunting for a pint of fame here, a pound of status there; those tweet chique groupie types whose gibberish runs in fast forward, junkies of tweener pop stars and the Disney channel by age seven, suburban beauty pageants between nine and twelve, then drugs and uniforms and public toilet blow jobs, then college and amateur porn cams, followed by entry level jobs and hard partying on the back of a vulgar hotness and loud makeup and sophomoric life theories, culminating into some version or other of the American way of life and a high earning beta male they can blood suck into a castrating relationship of mortified sex and consumerism and debt and death.”

Pinto can be deeply sarcastic and highly intense, but he always stays believable. Here’s a debut author who can write dialogues like a seasoned pro. Also, Pinto shows great narrative skills. Barca’s intercontinental journey is filled with amazing descriptions that give a tactile quality to the places Barca visits.

In the hands of a daring director, The Sabbatical could turn into a very thought-provoking and intelligent film. A noteworthy first literary effort!

Check out The Sabbatical at Amazon
Continue reading

Classics & Cult Books / Download Free ebooks / Reviews

Download ebook: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

A funny reviewer at Goodreads sums up Pride and Prejudice in a few darn good lines:

“Girls need to marry. Girls can’t get married. Girls are sad. Girls get married. Girls are happy.”

That’s an honest-to-god review of Jane Auten’s classic. The reviewer’s words are proven and undisputed as Kevin Bacon would put it (as he did in A Few Good Men). Yet there is something more to the story. Ah, actually there is a lot more.

The Usual Lovers

Pride and Prejudice is an unforgettable love story with some typical tensions and stumbling blocks found in most romantic novels. However, Elizabeth and Darcy’s love story has some deeper elements as well. Their journey is filled with irony.

Elizabeth says she is not someone who rejects a guy only to accept him later. But this is exactly what she does with Darcy. While the first line of the novel states that “a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife”, we find that a single woman needs a man of good fortune more desperately. Darcy detests the ill-bred behaviour of the Bennet family, but his own Aunt is no better. Elizabeth takes pride in her judgement, which results in her unjustified prejudice against Darcy.

Though there is no explicit symbolism in the story, the love story serves as a tool for social commentary.

Thou Art Proletariat

The importance of reputation and class in Victorian society is emphasised time and again. Though the middle class Bennet family socializes with aristocrats like Darcy and Bingleys, they are clearly treated as inferiors. The snobbish Mr. Collins is another product of the class system.

Do you think class is still a decisive factor today when it comes to relationships? Of course, a Paris Hilton is not going to marry a loser, but then how far can someone go beyond his own league?

Comedy of Wits

Darcy’s pride and Elizabeth’s prejudice against him make an intelligent story supported by lots of quotable quotes.

“I could easily forgive his pride, if he had not mortified mine.” — Elizabeth on Darcy.

Well said Liz.

Download ebook: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Continue reading