Archive for action-packed

THE DEPARTURE By Neal Asher – Reviewed

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A few hundred years in the future, the world is run by the Committee: an evil, faceless bureaucracy that punishes disagreeable thought, and polices the world with robotic killers, and the Inspectorate (a military police force who crack down on the populace without mercy). Earth is running out of food, resources are depleted after the world is raped and abused. Billions must die so that the Committee can continue to rule those that are left, those deemed societally valuable. Those not valuable to society or the Committee (zero-assets or ZAs) will be killed, slaughtered by a massive set of lasers orbiting the planet.

The small Mars colony is abandoned by a resource hungry Earth, the Committee set about planning the murder of those not valuable enough to continue living when one of them finds out about the Committee’s plans. A rebellion is about to take place on Mars.

Alan Saul wakes up on his way to an incinerator (where the Committee sends its enemies), and sets about causing as much pain as he can to the Committee and those responsible to turning him into the man he is today. The man who remembers nothing of his past over than it was wiped from his memory by pain.

This is Asher’s modern take on 1984.

I’m a bit of a fan of Asher, and I do mean a bit. I really enjoyed the adventure and exploration of The Skinner, but found the second book in the Spatterjay series, The Voyage of the Sable Keech to be repetitive and disappointing, so I was looking forward to trying a new series from the author. This one looked a little more action-packed, so I thought I’d give this a go. To a certain extent it is action-packed, but Asher’s writing style doesn’t lend itself to speed and pace, there is a lot of description, and everything is explained fully so the world we explore is finely detailed and exciting. But there’s a distinct lack of speed, the action is realised with Asher’s trademark adventure style (like paddling along a river in a row boat [albeit a river filled with flesh-eating monsters and surrounded on all sides from immortal pirates]), not the pace and drive of an Andy Remic novel (a rollercoaster thrill-ride that’ll take your breath away).

Having said that the book builds nicely towards the climax, even if the action sequences aren’t as action-packed or as fast-paced as you might expect. The world is a genuinely entertaining dystopia, and Asher’s characters are compelling, Saul in particular is someone who is massively memorable.

This is part of the Owner series, and do not misunderstand, this is in no way a stand-alone novel. It ends on a massive cliff-hanger halfway through the story, and you have to continue with Zero Point, the second book in the series which I will be reading shortly.

Asher has created an amazing world and some great characters, but the promise of an action-lead novel doesn’t quite materialise. This is more of the same, adventure and excitement, not a full, in-your-face action-a-thon.  Still enjoyable, and I’ll be reading Zero Point to make sure I find out how the stories continues, as it just gets really interesting at the end of this book.

CONTROL POINT By Myke Cole – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 10, 2013 by stanleyriiks

Oscar Britton is an army officer, and when he and his team are called to deal with a prohibited latent, they have a hell of a time. A latent is a person who develops magical powers. Certain magical powers are prohibited as too dangerous. One of Britton’s men is half killed by fire demons, and two teenage latents are shot dead, a school is burned, and Oscar has an argument with a sorcerer.

A few hours later Oscar has a latent episode, finding himself on the other side of the law. Knowing he has a prohibited magical power (opening wormhole-like gates) he goes on the run.

What follows is actually even more exciting and action packed than the beginning. As Oscar is “recruited” as a contractor for the army, and must face the tough challenges of learning to control his power on the front-line of a war with goblin-like creatures.

This doesn’t really have a slew of original ideas, but it’s put together very well, creating that newness and excitement. The military and magic are juxtaposed, and Oscar and his team work together to discover their powers and use them for good, despite the military’s view of them as weapons.

The book is a cross between Harry Potter and Stripes, or Biloxi Blues. The unique mix of military and magic makes this book. There is a little too much concentration on Oscar’s struggle to deal with his new power and his manipulation by the military, but that serves its own purpose and works within the context of the story. A kind of coming-of-age tale, using all the best bits of a military story, but a little fantasy thrown in for good measure. You can’t help but love little Marty, the goblin. There is plenty of action to speed things along.

Intelligent, exciting, pulse-racing and action packed. Full-on magical military mayhem.

DAY OF THE DAMNED By David Gunn – Reviewed

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I’m a huge fan of the Death’s Head trilogy, and particularly our reluctant hero, soldier and narrator Sven Tveskoeg, but despite Gunn’s unique and thrill-a-minute story telling, this is the weakest of the three novels.

For a start Sven is almost too utilitarian, the ultimate soldier is without his humanity (the Aux) for most of the book, and when they do turn up nothing much happens for them to be of any use. The plots of previous novels, Sven going from mission to mission, or sent on a huge suicide mission, here give way to political (high clan) intrigue. Sven feels out of his depth, and the reader awaits the action. Alas, it does not arrive. The damp squib of an ending is let down all the more because there is no fight, the “baddy” gives in, and the battle that should be hard-won is escaped.

Where’s the fighting, the action, the battles and near-death experiences? Where’s the edge of your seat/seat of your pants sequences that leave you dripping with sweat and physically exhausted? The first book int he series delivers and then some! It’s a full-on, over-the-top, action-fueled SF adventure! The third book… not so much. A couple of good action scenes, but poor plotting and a wasted opportunity of an ending just didn’t do it for me.

Not the best of a great set of action-packed SF thrillers. Sven deserves better, and I hope Gunn isn’t finished with his brilliantly-realised grumpy supersoldier.

DEATH’S HEAD: MAXIMUM OFFENCE By David Gunn – Reviewed

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Futuristic warfare is brutal. Just ask SvenTveskoeg, Lieutenant in the elite Death’s Head regiment of the Octovian Army, head of the go-to squad for General Jaxx, and seconded to the U/Free (superior alien race) to search for a missing ambassador on the artificial world of Hekati. Except nothing is ever as easy as it first appears for Sven, as his mission is a cover, and he doesn’t even know what his real mission is as it’s on a “need to know basis” and despite him being in charge of carrying out the mission, his superiors don’t believe he needs to know. Sven and his small team, the Aux, have to do their best to be diplomatic as they search for the missing U/Free on a world inhabited by bandits and gangs, all the while being chased by the Enlightened (humanity’s greatest enemy), and having to cope with a nineteen year old colonel who thinks he’s in charge.

But the Death’s Head series isn’t so much about plot as it is about action, here it’s delivered by the bucket-load. Fighting, battles, warfare, snipers, talking guns, spacecraft, treason and treachery, missing arms and all sort of action, excitement and adventure. There aren’t many books that could even keep pace with this face-stomping, arm twisting, rip-roaring riot of a novel. There’s little room here for developing characters (except for Sven who is our trusty narrator as well as our hero), clever plotting, or realistic futuristic worlds, all of these are secondary to the action-packed fun.

That’s not to say they’re missing, the second book in the series shows a slightly more complex structure than the first novel, there’s even a twist at the end. And the general narrative has a lot more depth, but this never takes away from the speed and excitement of the journey we’re on with the Death’s Head squad.

Only Andy Remic can hold a candle to the sheer blood-fuelled adrenaline shot that the Death’s Head books give you. There are few books as pacey or as exciting, and the second book leads so well into the third that you can’t help but leap up after finishing it, ready for more. Bring on the third book!

DEATH’S HEAD By David Gunn – Reviewed

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Amazon suggested this book to me because of a previous purchase of one of Andy Remic’s books. Andy Remic writes the kind of fast-paced, action-packed SF and fantasy stories that thrill and entertain in equal measure, so I was looking forward to this one.

For once amazon got it pretty much spot on.

Sven is an ex-sergeant Legionnaire who is about to be lashed to death for insubordination, until a group of Ferox (unfriendly Wookie-type creatures) attack the out-post he’s stationed at, killing everyone but him. One of the massive alien beasts talks to Sven using telepathy and Sven is taken back to their camp where he lives with them as a kind of pet.

This is the beginning of Sven’s adventures.

When the cave system the Ferox live in is attacked and Sven is saved, he becomes a tool of the General, given mission where the army needs deniability. Sven’s unique abilities and his tougher than shit attitude not only get him into trouble, but also out of it, as he tackles prison, treason, war and command.

Ok, so Sven’s adventures feel very much organic, the plotting for the novel seems to have happened during the writing process and each episode doesn’t connect too much with what follows or what came before other than occasional details, but that doesn’t matter.

The haphazard plotting makes it feel like a real adventure, and you can’t help but enjoy Sven’s “fuck you” attitude. This guys got huge balls and isn’t afraid to display them for all to see. You want Sven to win, whatever it is he’s doing. He’s one of those grumpy bastards, like Kell, Conan and Druss, that we’re used to seeing in fantasy fiction, but a lot less so in SF. Here we have a true hero, who knows the difference between right and wrong, but does things he own ways, whether it gets him into trouble or not.

So the aliens involved in the final battle all become a bit confused, and you’re not sure quite who’s fighting who, but who cares!

Sven is what carries the story on, and Gunn gives us a great helping of action to keep things speeding along nicely so we don’t get too worried about the details. Great fun, the kind of book that puts a grin on your face. A boy’s own adventure in space.

TRIUMFF: HER MAJESTY’S HERO By Dan Abnett – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 7, 2010 by stanleyriiks

Set in an alternative England, where Queen Elizabeth the first married Spain’s King Philip the Second, setting in motion a series of Queen Elizabeths to follow, leaving England and the Empire to discover the joys of magic, but not those of the industrial revolution or mechanisation.

Sir Rupert Triumff is an adventurer who has recently discovered Australia for the Queen, but refuses to give her back his letter of passage and return the country back to her.

This is used by plotters to set Triumff up as a traitor in their own attempts to kill the Queen and take over the Empire in the name of Spain.

Fans of Dan Abnett’s gamesworkshop novel should be made fully aware this is nothing like the full-on action-packed adventures of the Space Marines. The king of battle-writing tones down the action for much of this novel, although the intrigue and scheming are ramped up to compensate.

The style of the writing also shows Abnett’s depth, as our narrator, one William Beaver, continues to pop up at odd moments and imbues the proceedings a little light relief.

The plotting is well worked, and the tension continues to grow as the plot to kill the queen gets closer, and Triumff and his friends get closer to discovering the truth behind it.

Although not as action-packed as Abnett’s 40K Universe books, and despite a swashbuckling start, the novel is heavier on machinations and tension. Abnett’s talent doesn’t go to waste, and the world he creates is cleverly portrayed with many layers. Nothing like his tie-in novels, but providing an equal amount of enjoyment and entertainment.

If there is a sequel, I’ll be there.

DYING WORDS By Shaun Hutson – Reviewed

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I like Shaun Hutson. His books are invariably entertaining. Mindless violence, action-packed, thrill-a-minute page-turners, Hutson provides a Hollywood Blockbuster of a novel.

Dying Words, whilst not his best work, is still a good solid read, and offers some nice insight into Hutson’s mind as we see two writers, one a grossly successful horror writer, the other an intellectual biographer, both are prime suspects in a murder. Then another body turns up. Then another. Detective Inspector Birch has no clues, the murders were committed in closed rooms, flats or houses, all locked from the inside. But as Birch digs deeper he starts to find out secrets that no one wants uncovered…

What starts off as a simple crime novel, ends with a fantastic twist that unfortunately doesn’t come as much of a surprise. It wouldn’t have been believable at all if it had, but the lead-up is pretty clear.

Although the book lets down with the lack of surprise, it’s still a Hutson book, rip-roaring action throughout, and unflinching in every sense. Hutson peers into the nooks and crannies other writers are afraid to even think of, and that’s what we want.

Shaun Hutson churns out his books with such regularity that it’s hard for the average reader to keep up, in which case if you haven’t read one of his novels there are better ones out there, but for the passionate fan or collector then this will fit nicely on your shelf with the rest of Huston’s novels.

It’s a shame that I’ve recently read a similarly themed book by Paul Kane, which does the whole crime/horror novel with a little more skill and panache, and after that I’m afraid that Hutson doesn’t quite measure up.

Of course Hutson still delivers his trade-mark in-your-face style and plenty of action, the first few chapters alone are brilliant. But Dying Words doesn’t work as well of other books of a similar kind, and Hutson has produced better. Not his best and not his worst, and who wants to read middle-of-the-road anyway?

THE KULT By Shaun Jeffrey – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 25, 2009 by stanleyriiks

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THE KULT By Shaun Jeffrey

www.leucrotapress.com

 

It’s rare that I get excited by a book, but Shaun Jeffrey’s The Kult really grabbed me.

The book was sitting on my sofa when my girlfriend picked it up and started flicking through, the next thing I know she’s over a hundred pages in and won’t let me have it back. My girlfriend doesn’t read horror, SF or fantasy, she reads romances and crime thrillers and she’s usually not willing to deviate despite my best attempts to educate her. She’ll gladly watch a horror film with me, hiding behind her hands, but I’ve not seen her manage ten pages of a novel before throwing it back at me and spitting, “that’s disgusting!”

So when I discovered she was a hundred and twenty pages in after only one day, I asked for it back so that I could review it and was a little taken aback when she said I could have it when she was finished and not until. I had to pry it from her cold dead fingers, but it was worth it!

Prosper Snow is a detective on the hunt for a serial killer called The Oracle. The Oracle is a nasty piece of work who sends photos of his mutilated victims to alert the police. He leaves no clues, no bodies, nothing for the investigating team to work with except the photos. And the photos of the bodies are starting to pile up.

When one of Prosper’s oldest friends enlists the help of their revenge group, called The Kult, he has little choice but to help out. But this time the retribution the group is seeking isn’t a simple beating to avenge a bullying as in the past, like when they were kids, when the group started. This time it’s vengeance for a rape. And the penalty for the perpetrator is death.

From the start this is a dark and atmospheric story that absorbs the reader. This is a mystery that keeps you guessing as Prosper and his friends are drawn further into the machinations of the serial killer, eventually finding themselves on the hit list. The tension continues to ramp up as members of The Kult turn up dead and we run out of suspects.

This is edge of your seat stuff and it’s difficult to put the book down as you haveto keep going. I polished the three hundred odd pages off in two days, and read the finale with a grin on my face, loving every minute of it. The final few pages will see you sighing with relief as you travel through the novel with the protagonist and feel his every effort to remain alive.

Just thinking about The Kult fills me with excitement, it’s like the feeling you get coming out of the cinema after watching a really good film, you feel alive. You just want to dive back in and experience it all again.

When I started reading this book I was thinking about making references to the British best-seller Shaun Hutson, whose novels are also fast-paced, action packed and furiously tension-filled. Jeffrey shares these attributes, his story is similar brutal and nasty as well, but The Kult leaves you not only deeply satisfied but also somehow wanting more.

GARBAGE MAN By Joseph D’Lacey – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 20, 2009 by stanleyriiks

As reviews editor for Morpheus Tales Magazine I tend to get first choice of the material that comes in for review. It also means I’m stuck with all the leftovers too!

When I get the choice I pick books I like, authors I enjoy. I don’t do this for the money, mostly I do it for the free books! I’m not a masocist, why would I pick a book I’m fairly unlikely to enjoy? That’s why I read horror, science fiction and fantasy and not romance and girlie books. I don’t have anything against rom-coms, I just prefer my entertainment served up in a bodybag, after a thorough beating!

Early last year we got a book called MEAT by Joseph D’Lacey, a debut novel from Bloody Books, a new publisher I’d never heard of. New author, new publisher, new book…. Mmm…

Unknown quantities scare me. I like to mentally prepare myself for whatever experience I’m about to have. But D’Lacey had travelled around the country in a “Meat Wagon” promoting the book, which appealed to my dark sense of humour so I thought I’d try it.

MEAT is not a subtle book, it’s refreshingly shocking, brutal, and nasty. It’s kind of like a Shaun Hutson novel, it’s dirty and wrong, but that’s why you love it. And I did! I did love it, MEAT is one of those rare books that can shock you, it sucks you in and then vomits you out before you’re ready for it.

So when Joseph D’Lacey’s second novel turned up I begged for it!

GARBAGE MAN By Joseph D’Lacey

Bloody Books

This book is absurd. It’s ridiculous. And it’s bloody marvellous!

In D’Lacey’s debut novel MEAT he teased us in, providing a stark, gritty realism to draw us into his world, and then slamming us face first into the dark, depraved heart of his brutal, unforgiving, twisted reality.

Well, he’s back!

Shreve is a small mid-England town, a normal enough town with a normal enough set of individuals populating it. Shreve is also home to one of the largest landfill sites in the UK.

The populants of the town are Shreve are a varied bunch, there’s the Smithfields, their son Donald, a young paperboy having sex with one of his married neighbours, and Aggie, the wannabe model and teenage temptress. There’s Miss Ahern the nosey neighbour and religious nut. There’s Kevin and Tamsin, the married couple on the verge of breaking up. Ray and Jenny, two students whose relationship has run it’s course and who may find happiness in the arms of that married couple. And then there’s Delilah, an Earthy goth chick. And Mason Brand, former star photographer and now caretaker of one of the strangest creatures to ever grace the printed page…

In a superbly Frankenstein-esque moment during a lightning storm several piles of rubbish from the landfill awaken into creatures. But only one of the creatures survives as Mason finds it and starts feeding it, with his own blood. The creature, made of rubbish, feeds and grows. This truly gives a new meaning to recycling, as the creature consumes everything given to it, or it can take, and uses it to heal itself, to upgrade itself. It’s like a Transformer made of rubbish and when it eventually feeds on an entire human being it starts to get the taste and realises that it shouldn’t be alone, it should be the commander of a massive army of other garbage creatures, and so it sets its army on a path of destruction that will change Shreve and the world forever.

This really shouldn’t work. It’s too ridiculous, except that it’s not. This does work, and it works well. The town of Shreve is set up very realistically, and the characters and their bad habits are all presented to us well before the actual horror starts. And when the horror does kick in it’s hard and fast and furious.

Not only does D’Lacey provide his knack for brutal realism, he creates a creature you care about almost as much as the other characters. The Garbage Man, although certainly a villain, is also something of a hero, and at the end you can’t help but feel a certain empathy with him in an almost King Kong moment.

The final ending is even harsher and more brutal than the attack of the garbage men and deserves mention as one of the spookiest endings I’ve read in a long time, one that will not only leave you pondering the sheer wretchedness of it all, but leaving you aching for more. The last few chapters show us the true power that D’Lacey can unleash.

It’s not a perfect package by any means, our ensemble cast provide little in the way of emotional involvement. The best character is Delilah and she doesn’t appear until the book is halfway through. And Aggie’s adventures in London are cut far too short, and probably could have been quite a decent book on their own.

D’Lacey’s tendency to use pertinent socio-political themes doesn’t detract from the entertainment, it enhances it. You can’t help but smile at the clear message, whilst enjoying the bloodlust and nastiness that D’Lacey uses to such great effect. A bloodlust and nastiness that is akin to Jack Ketchum’s brutality and is highly entertaining for the horror connoisseur.

Garbage Man is ridiculous, but in a good way. It is the skill and subtlety with which D’Lacey tells the story that raises this so far above beyond the ridiculous.

This is what horror should be like, no-holds-barred brutality, nastiness in an action-packed package.

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