Sunday, 22 May 2016

Book review: Haterz

As the internet makes people feel free to express ever more extreme opinions about each other, extreme ways might be needed to police their behaviour. The solution in James Goss' comedy-thriller Haterz takes no prisoners - the narrator is a serial killer targeting trolls and anyone else who makes the internet a worse place. He starts more or less by accident, slipping peanuts to the allergic girlfriend of his friend, who uses Facebook to passive-aggressively make people's lives a misery. But it catches the attention of a mysterious conspiracy he calls The Killuminati, who finance him to get rid of trolls who threaten violence to random women, charity scammers and teenage pop fans who try to bully others into suicide.

I really enjoyed Haterz, which doesn't stick just to black comedy but also sees the narrator get more subtle in his revenge on characters who bear a certain resemblance to real people: A self-pitying columnist who lives in the country, slagging off her neighbours and ex-husband in her articles, gets her comeuppance when he turns her into a nice person, thereby ruining her career. It does look for a while as if the story's impetus is running out, but Goss salvages it with a couple of twists about who's been behind his mysterious funders.

Monday, 9 May 2016

Book review: A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms

Something of a prequel to George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series, A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms takes place in his fictional world of Westeros about 100 years before the events of A Game of Thrones, and collects three novellas Martin had previously published separately about Dunk and Egg. The former is a hedge knight - a wandering knight who doesn't owe allegiance to any particular house or lord - and the latter his 11-year-old squire, but secretly a prince of the ruling Targaryen family. Compared to the intrigues of the main novels these prequels are pretty straightforward - Dunk earns his spurs at a tournament, helps an elderly knight fend off his aggressive neighbour, and then gets caught up in a political plot at another tournament - and not quite as full of gratuitous sex and violence (I mean, loads of people die, several horses come to a sticky end and someone's brains fall out, but I did say this was in comparison to A Song of Ice and Fire.) It's kind of like a violent fairytale, enjoyable but Martin's claim in the epilogue that many more Dunk and Egg stories will follow might be a bit optimistic, given the speed at which he writes.