Saturday, 18 August 2007

‘Stealing Life’ – Antony Johnston (Abaddon Books)

After reading ‘A Kind of Peace’ I was a little dubious about picking up the next in the ‘Dreams of Inan’ series. Like I’ve said before though, I’m made of sterner stuff than to let a mere book beat me (although I’ve still to pick up anything by Terry Goodkind…)! In the end, I read ‘Stealing Life’ over a couple of days spent wrestling with fellow commuters on the London Underground. Like it’s predecessor it has it’s flaws but makes for a more entertaining read.
Nicco Salarum is a thief who is about to bite off more than he can chew on his latest job. How can one act of theft start a holy war? You are about to find out and Nicco has his hands full trying to stop what he has unwittingly started.
While there are still large chunks of text dealing with background history (and economic climates off all things, not something that interests me…) more attention is paid to the story this time. ‘Stealing Life’ is modelled on the classic ‘crime caper gone wrong’ scenario and is full of beautiful women, crime bosses, and double crossing people who aren’t what they seem. It’s a cracking read for the morning commute and had me thinking, about what was going to happen next, while I was meant to be doing ‘work stuff’. I also liked the ‘flashback’ sequences that gave us an insight into Nicco’s motives.
The only problem though is that any sci-fi/fantasy ‘crime’ novel written these days is immediately going to be compared to a certain other fantasy ‘crime caper’ sequence that has laid down the marker for other books to aspire to. You know the one I mean! When faced with such illustrious competition, the flaw’s in ‘Stealing Life’ become apparent. I’ve said already that there is a lot of padding that (although it’s crucial for setting up a series) can be cumbersome for someone who’s just after a quick read. I also found it slightly irritating that a lot of what Nicco did was based on inspiration to start off with but, a couple of pages later, the author would give a detailed explanation of Nicco’s thinking. I can understand why Johnston did this but, to me, it seemed that he couldn’t make up his mind whether Nicco functioned in instinct or rational thought. This confused me and meant I didn’t enjoy the book as much as I could.
‘Stealing Life’ is a definite improvement on ‘A Kind of Peace’ and hints that maybe the series will pick up in the future. It’s another good read for the train but there are better books out there that do exactly the same thing.

Six and a half out of Ten

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