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THE COLD COMMANDS By Richard Morgan – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 22, 2013 by stanleyriiks

I read the first book in this series around two years ago, and you know what, I can barely remember any of it. I remember the three main characters (after my memory is jogged reading about them again), who are all here, present and correct. I vaguely remember feeling like the book ended on a cliff-hanger and feeling a little bit cheated, but I still enjoyed it enough to put the second book in the series (trilogy?) on my Christmas list for Santa to buy me. So in amongst my stacks of drugs and porn and alcohol (ok, so it was pretty much all books that Santa brought me!), I found this SF/fantasy novel (and it’s got a nice cover which always draws me in) and sat down to read it.

Ringil Eskiath is a true antihero, although we find him rescuing slaves after his cousin was imprisoned by a slave-trader. He’s a tough, no-nonsense S.O.B. who demands your attention, a mean man with a massive alien sword.

Archeth is a half-alien female who works for the new emperor, a paranoid young man intent on ridding his empire of enemies by having them flayed alive by octopi.

Egar the Dragonbane is having an affair with the wife of a war hero, but his adventures into a religious fortress will bring the three old friends back together, whether they like it or not, with magic, death, and betrayal to get in their way.

This book (I think like the first, my memory is not what it once was!) takes a long time to gather speed, there are almost three hundred pages of build-up as the story meanders along, setting everything up for the inevitable climax. When it does comes there’s plenty of action and intrigue, although Ringal is a little too superheroic and never appears in danger of being hurt, let alone losing a fight. He’s a bit too invincible, like Judge Dredd with a sword.

Morgan’s writing is good, he manages to draw you in without you realising, the atmosphere and world are vividly portrayed, but there’s a lingering sense of missing something. Perhaps it’s been too long between instalments, but I felt like I missed the oft-referred to war (did it appear in the first book?).

Despite confusing the hell out of me, the grey lands are strange and mysterious and make everything seem a bit too easy at the end. I couldn’t help but enjoy Egar’s tough steppe barbarian, Archeth’s frustrated diplomat and Ringal’s menacing killer. The characters are really what make this book, and Morgan has done a first rate job with them. I’ll be back for more despite my misgivings, fantasy doesn’t get much more original or compelling than this.


HELL TO PAY By Shaun Hutson – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 23, 2012 by stanleyriiks

This book from 2004, follows a similar pattern to Hutson’s other “horror’ thrillers of the time such as White Ghost.  Around this time, Huston seems to leave the supernatural horror of his previous books behind and head into this new “thriller” territory. Normally there would still be plenty of violence and disturbing gruesome descriptions (that Hutson’s known for) to up the ante on the usual thrillers out there.

Hell to Pay follows the same principles, including the various plot-lines intersecting towards the end for a climactic showdown.

Nikki Reed is in trouble, big trouble. Her and her husband owe the local gangster twenty thousand pounds, most of it spent down the bookies and gambled away, the rest spent on Playstation 2s and similar unrequired accessories. They have until the end of the week to find the money, or they’re likely to be killed by the loan shark, who is already threatening them with violence.

Roma Todd is having an affair. Her husband is virtually estranged, spending all of his time at work and providing little in the way of parental support for their ill daughter Kirsten.

Detective Inspector Fielding is called to another murder. A young boy found washed up by a lake. The third child to be killed. Is it a serial killer they are looking for or a paedophile? Or both? With few clues to follow the police are searching for any lead they can get.

So these three plot lines will eventually intersect, but the climatic action denouement that you would expect ultimately fails to be realised. There is a slight twist, but not enough to satisfy.

One of the great things about Hutson’s novels is the pop-culture references, but reading a book that’s eight years old mean searching through the annals of history. That’s not Hutson’s fault obviously, the fact the book has been lying on my shelf for eight years though is down to the dissatisfied feeling I had after reading White Ghost. That is Hutson’s fault.

Ultimately Hutson is a decent writer who has moved away from what he was good at, writing horror novels, to have a go at the more lucrative thriller market where he does not excel. Nowadays Gary McMahon does urban horror with a much better grasp of the intricacies of modern youth culture, and a better handle on violence and atmosphere.

To write off Hutson as a has-been based on a book written eight years ago is far too harsh. Some of his novels, those that I grew up with such as Nemesis, Death Day, and Relics, are classic British horror. I need to read a more recent Hutson novel to make a more informed decision, and because of his former skill he can’t be written off after a couple of decent, if not impressive, horror thrillers. Decision pending…


Posted in Morpheus Tales Magazine, Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 9, 2011 by stanleyriiks

This review is printed with the permissions of Morpheus Tales Publishing. The review originally appears in the April issue of the Morpheus Tales Supplement.

It’s not often you finish a book sweating, panting and in need of a shower. Andy Remic writes such books, exhilarating thrill rides, the perfect combination of excitement and danger. Remic’s books are not read, they are experienced, and when you get out the other side you feel like you’ve just parachuted yourself out the back of a plane or ridden a motorbike at a hundred and twenty miles an hour down a motorway. It feels like you’ve just gone three five-minute rounds (MMA style) with a huge gorilla and you’re lucky to be alive. But in a good way!

Serial Killers Incorporated follows Callaghan, a hard drinking, hard smoking, hard fucking, hard living photo-journalist for a tabloid. When he and his partner get a tip-off of a hot story they don’t expect the skinned body of a woman with her legs cut off, but that’s what they find. And there is a note to Callaghan on the course. The police want to arrest them both and interrogate them despite the evidence proving their innocence, but then Callaghan has had some run-ins with the DI and they’re not exactly friends. Callaghan’s girlfriend is also proving a problem. Or rather her Romanian gun-runner husband is about to become a problem if he finds out Callaghan is fucking his wife. Then another tip-off sends them into a dark, desolate warehouse with another body awaiting them.

The first hundred or so pages set up the characters and the scenarios, but it’s once the action starts that this book really takes off. There’s plenty of action, including multiple murders, shootouts, fighting, and car-chases.

The warehouse scene is suitable frightening and will send chills down even the hardiest of spines. Even Callaghan becomes somewhat likeable, despite being a selfish bastard.

The climax is a bit… weird… But it works because Remic’s prose style punches you in the face until you submit. Here, unlike his Clockwork Vampire series, he seems even less inhibited and more in your face than normal, which is no bad thing, but does take some getting used to. There’s not the subtlety of the Clockwork Vampire series, this is stark and brutal, and works fine for a dark, noir crime-thriller.

There are a few niggling typos and a least one continuity issue, but with a book this size (400 plus pages) it’s hardly surprising, and all can be forgiven when a book is this much FUN!

Remic has produced another fine example of how to thrill a reader. This crime thriller is dark and nasty, and that’s what makes it so good. Remic is a no-holds-barred writer and Serial Killer Incorporated is a no-holds-barred novel; massively entertaining, scary, exciting, and brutally nasty. I defy you to read it and not have a grin on your face when you’re finished.