THE ABOMINABLE By Dan Simmons – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 7, 2017 by stanleyriiks

I thought this would be Simmons back to his roots with a horror novel featuring the Earthly form of the Wookie: the abominable snowman, the yeti. But the “baddie” here is pretty much the mountain, the mountain: Everest.

It’s the early thirties, and three climbers set out to climb the largest mountain in the world, the unconquerable Everest. They find funding, their excuse to go there being to recover the body of a former friend, but they must take his cousin with them. The mountain quickly proves treacherous, and when they find out the body is of a spy, and they are being chased by Germans intent on collecting the secrets his body carries, things go from dangerous to even worse…

As with all Simmons’ novels he manages to capture the essence of the place he’s writing about, in this case the wind-blown peaks of the Himalayas, the jagged rock-faces, and the desolate and airless ridges of ice and rock.

The build-up is slow and gradual, giving the reader the information necessary to respect the struggle that these early pioneers had to endure, and giving you essential knowledge about climbing and the primitive but revolutionary equipment they are using.

Sadly, although he manages to imbue the characters with the same sense of depth, for some reason there is just a lack of feeling towards any of them. I’m not entirely sure what’s missing, but something definitely is.

This is a long book, and takes a while to get into, it being book-ended with the set-up for the actual story.

Simmons is a craftsman, his books really do capture you and take you to someplace else. This one is no exception, it, like all his books, is exceptional.

TWILIGHT OF THE DRAGONS By Andy Remic – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 25, 2017 by stanleyriiks

Book two of the Blood Dragon Empire series sees our band of heroes, now freed from the torturous clutches of the dwarves, heading deeper into the mountain, following Lilith the witch as she divines their path to the ancient city of dragons, Wyrmblood, hunted by dwarves intent on their murder.

Above ground the freed dragons are on a rampage, attacking everyone and everything they can find. The Iron Wolves, another crack team of warriors from Vagandrak, from Remic’s previous books The Iron Wolves and The White Towers, find themselves on the receiving on Kranesh, the dragon queen’s, wrath. The axe-warrior is intent on giving as good as he gets and involves his crew in an epic battle on the ramparts of the walled city…

Anyway who hasn’t read at least the first book in this series should turn back now. Can you get away with not reading the first book? Sure you can, but it’s like watching a film by starting in the middle, and a football match from the second half.

To get the most out of this book I would also recommend the connected Iron Wolves books too, which will give you a nice back history of half the characters involved.

Having read a lot of fantasy I can pretty well predict where the author is going to go. I have a good idea of the plot, and how the characters will act. Not so with Remic. He manages to surprise me, a lot. What he is willing to do to his characters is… well, it’s quite horrible sometimes. And yet brilliant. His plots continue to surprise as well, just as I think this will be a nice Empire Strikes Back-type second book in a trilogy, adding depth and dimension to the story and moving it forward towards the inevitable conclusion, he throws in battles you expect him to save for the third book, he kills characters you expected to the trilogy’s heroes, and he blows your mind.

Remic surprises and delights in equal measure. He does something few writers seem to be able to, he makes you feel.

Remic is a fantasy genius. Twilight of the Dragons slides nicely into my Remic collection, and if you don’t have your own Remic collection you’re not reading the right fantasy.

DARK HARVEST By Norman Partridge – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 6, 2017 by stanleyriiks

I first discovered Partridge in a Cemetery Dance magazine probably in the mid-nineties, and his writing immediately drew me in. His short stories were compelling and unforgettable. It’s not often I remember the author of a short story as I read quite a few, but his name stuck and I eagerly awaited his novels. But that never happened. While I was expecting the new Richard Laymon to start writing a series of horror novels that would captivate and delight me, Partridge continued to write short stories and novellas. (While writing this review I found that Partridge has written at least 5 novels, but can’t find any trace of them on Amazon!)

This is Partridge’s version of Children of the Corn. Halloween, 1963, a small Midwestern town. The pumpkin-headed October Boy is out stalking his prey, as are all the boys between 16 and 19, who haven’t been fed for the past five days and must kill the October Boy before he kills them and before he reaches the church. They have until midnight…

What follows is fairly predictable. The “twists” are familiar to a seasoned horror reader, but Partridge still manages to imbue the story with a little bit of shock, and decent enough characters.

This isn’t the breakout book I had been expecting. There’s nothing new here, and while Partridge does a decent enough job, this fairly short book doesn’t pack much of a punch.

Ultimately unsatisfying, Dark Harvest is perhaps an indication why Partridge isn’t the new/next Richard Laymon. Not Partridge at his best.

LOOK TO WINDWARD By Iain M. Banks – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 18, 2017 by stanleyriiks

Set in the Culture universe where artificial intelligence rule much of the galaxy we find ourselves on Masaq’ orbital. Famous Chelgrian composer Ziller is working on his latest masterpiece, but when he hears that an emissary from his home planet is on his way Ziller is outraged, suspecting they will ask him to return to his home planet, and it may cause chaos for the planned festivities surrounding the inaugural rendition.

But beneath the various diplomatic shenanigans more disastrous activities are taking place…

To tell you more would ruin the surprise that Banks has in store.

This is such an easy book to read, and it’s only because of the writer’s hard work. You immediately know what’s going on, get hints of what is to come, and can easily realise how this galaxy-scanning empire works.

Brilliant characters, simple plot, but with depth you don’t often see outside of epic space operas. A nice, easy and intelligent read.

GEMINI CELL By Myke Cole – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 24, 2017 by stanleyriiks

The fourth book in the Shadow Ops series moves away from our regular cast of characters as this one is a prequel. Before Shadow Ops was established as the military’s de facto X-Men-like squad, they were experimenting with “gifted” individuals.

If you haven’t read one of Cole’s books before this is the perfect book to start. Imagine if the X-Men was run by a fairly ruthless military group rather than Prof. Xavier, and you pretty much have a good idea of what’s going on here.

Navy SEAL Jim is brutally killed by a crack assault team seeking revenge for his last op. His body is torn apart, but the military bring him back to life, a kind of life, except he has to share his body with another soul, one that has an uncontrollable blood lust, a demon. Can Jim control the creature he now shares his body with? Can he complete the missions the military expects of him? Can he get revenge for his murder and the murder of his family? Can he trust his handler?

As usual Cole serves up a great big helping of action, some nice moral questions, and a military conspiracy. This, like the other books in the series, is fast paced and action filled. The love story at its core seems like a side-plot. The characters aren’t as strong here as in the trilogy that set up this universe, but they serve their purpose.

Cole writes thrilling military SF and this is another really solid edition to his world.

I’ll be eagerly awaiting the next one.

BROTHERS OF THE SNAKE By Dan Abnett – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 10, 2017 by stanleyriiks

This is a bit of a weird one, part circular short story collection, part novel, with the Iron Snakes of Ithaka as its heroes. The story starts with the primuls (dark Eldar) attacking the backward world of Baal Solock who can barely attempt to stave off the aliens and must call upon the Iron Snake Space Marines to aid them. The Iron Snakes send a young marine called Priad to deal with the problem. A few short stories later and Priad is now Brother Sergeant and back at Baal Solock to finish what he thought he’d finished all those years before. The stories in between may seem disconnected, but all of them are tales of the growth and development of the Iron Snakes.

Again, I’ll repeat, this is a bit of a weird one. Not really a novel, it doesn’t have the drive, energy or depth of a longer piece, although the novella at its end, which ties some of the stories together, makes up for some of that. The separate stories feel disjointed, despite sharing the Iron Snakes as a major theme they are often too dissimilar to feel like part of a single story.

Abnett creates some great set-piece battles, and his action sequences are top-notch, but here the structure of the book fails to draw the reader in enough.

Not quite a themed short story collection and not quite a novel, this book fails before it even begins.

Other novels by Abnett in the 40K universe are much worthier of your attention.

THE NECROMANCER By Douglas Clegg – Reviewed

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 16, 2017 by stanleyriiks

This book feels very similar to the previous Cemetery Dance book I read by Chet Williamsons, except where The Story of Noichi the Blind, the set-up feels strained and overdone, here it works.

This book is based on the diary of a young man on his journey to becoming the apprentice of The Necromancer of the title. Justin Gravesend is born and brought up in a mining town in Wales in the mid-1800s, believing his father is a murderer who killed his twin brother as a baby, James heads off to London, as much to escape his family and life down the pit as to seek his fortune. At University he becomes friends with some toffs who take him to a brothel, where a man is waiting for him, the owner of the brothel, and the Necromancer.

Will James survive the initiation?

It all ends rather abruptly just as the story starts getting interesting. Perhaps that’s because this is part of a series of books, but I still felt a little cheated. I expect a book to be a whole story, and to a certain extent it is, that of James’ discovery and initiation and maturation into an apprentice, but at that point it ends. The rest of the story is told in Clegg’s other books in this series, which are currently only available on the Kindle (yuk yuk yuk, technology!).

A traditional and well told tale of horror, which ends too quickly. More a prelude than a proper story, but I guess that’s what you give with chapbooks.