Archive for anti-hero

THE SCARLET GOSPELS By Clive Barker – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 30, 2017 by stanleyriiks

It’s rare that I buy hardbacks, but I have quite a few of Barker’s. When I heard that the infamous Pinhead would be returning there was no way I was missing out.

Pinhead is one of the quintessential horror anti-heroes, like Jason, Michael Myers, Leatherface, Freddy Kruger, he appeared in the eighties (ok, so Michael and Leatherface led the way in the seventies) when I was approaching my teens and basically robbed me of my childhood sleep and left indelible memories of terror that I still have today. Exciting recollections of terror that instilled my on-going love of all things horror.

Pinhead was the only character to actually originate in a book, one of Barker’s Books of Blood, which was a series of collected stories that really didn’t impress me at the time, but introduced the world to splatterpunk. The books were a gore-fest.

The story was adapted into a film, very loosely based on the original story. Barker wrote and directed a film that was already a classic by the time I saw it. When I did watch it I was underwhelmed, but the Chinese puzzle box and that vision of the lead Cenobite and his symmetrical “pin-head” stayed with me, and the violence and nastiness was impressive.

Here again, Barker impresses.

The first four chapters, before Book One starts, are one of the greatest character introductions in modern horror. A group of magicians is holding a meeting to discuss the rapid decimation of their kind, and call upon the ghost of one of their recently murdered number. But the meeting is interrupted by chains and hooks and the infamous Cenobite, known as Pinhead, who has been slowly tracking down and killing every magician in the world.

What ensues is, as you would expect, horrifying, terrifying, and exactly the kind of start to a Barker book that gets a horror fan excited.

Then things go normal very briefly, as Norma, a blind woman who talks to the dead, and her friend Harry D’Amour (private investigator) do a job for a dead man that ends up with Norma being kidnapped and Harry following her and Pinhead into Hell as the Cenobite sets out to kill Lucifer. I said very briefly!

It’s a bit of a strange one this. The best part of the book is the beginning, after that the mystic of the Cenebite begins to fall apart, despite his perversions and evilness being just as bad down in hell. You kind of get numb to it as he’s doing all his evil doings to demons, so there’s little sympathy. His treatment of Norma, a nice old lady, is pretty horrible and as times quite startling. Barker isn’t afraid to hurt his characters or his readers.

The ending is a bit strange, not really satisfying all that has gone on before.

But this is the return of Pinhead, and a nasty and deliciously twisted return it is.

Barker is back, returning to create a world of horror (hell) and then sending in a terrifying creature of chaos in the form of Pinhead to destroy it.

Good, nasty fun. Pinhead returns!

ALOHA FROM HELL By Richard Kadrey – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 6, 2013 by stanleyriiks

I hate Richard Kadrey. I hate his books. I hate Sandman Slim, one of the greatest anti-heroes to ever be captured on the page.

Kadrey writes books I wish I’d written. He had created a world and characters that I can only dream of creating. He has plots that make me want to read the whole book in one sitting because I want to find out what happens so bad. But also I want to read slowly, to savour every sentence, and respect every line because there is such a wit and darkness in these pages.

This is the third book in the amazing Sandman Slim series, featuring Slim who is a magician returned from hell after turning monster fighter and demon killer. He lives in an LA underworld ruled by Sub Rosa (old magical) families and factions. And finds himself involved as a bodyguard to Lucifer, a private-detective and monster hunter. Slim is my hero. The dude rocks my world, and I wish, I so wish, that he was mine. We would have such great adventure together. But what am I saying? We do have such great adventures together, but that bugger Kadrey creates them! I don’t want to share, I want Slim all to myself.

The third book in the series see Slim having to head down to Hell as his nemesis is having success building an army of hellions and plans to head up to Heaven to destroy it, and then destroy the rest of the world. Of course, there’s excommunicated priests, demons and gods, magic, fighting, betrayal, lies, and all manner of excitement to get in the way of things moving along smoothly.

Slim narrates with a unique voice that entertains with a brisk pace and style that you will find hard to match. The closest comparable voice stylistically would be Joe Lansdale’s East Texas drawl. But Kadrey goes further, where most are afraid to go. He seems unafraid to deal with difficult and controversial issues such as religion and faith, all the while having a wicked sense of humour, and one hellish, fetid darkness that sucks the reader in.

Like the very best fantasists, Clive Barker and Neil Gaiman at the top of their game, Kadrey creates a magnificent world that drips reality, characters that ooze personality, and plots that truly capture the imagination.

The third book in the series continues on the success of the previous two books. You must read the Sandman Slim novels. You MUST read one of them.

I hate Richard Kadrey, I want to be Richard Kadrey. I love Sandman Slim. I look forward to most adventures together.

Darkly brilliant.

Demented genius.

KILL THE DEAD By Richard Kadrey – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 9, 2013 by stanleyriiks

It’s not often that a book comes along that excites me. It’s not often that anything excites me. In fact, it’s a very rare occasion that anything wakes me from the tortured stupor that is my day to day life. I read almost constantly to escape the dull oblivion that is my pitiful existence.

And then a book like this comes along…

James Stark (demon fighter and part-Angel celebrity) is dragged into LA’s zombie while being Lucifer’s bodyguard. And that’s barely scraping the surface of this story, but I don’t want to ruin the surprises in store for you.

This is the second book in the Sandman Slim series, and if I haven’t read the first book then go read it. Go now. What are you waiting? Go, just go. No, don’t read any further, get it now! Right now I tell you!

You could probably pick this book up and struggle along to catch up, but don’t. The first book is a hell of a story (literally), and there’s far too much you’ll have missed out on if you start the series with book two. Although this is pretty much a stand-alone story, this is very much the second part of a series, and there’s a ton of background (and it’s really fun background!) that you’ll miss out on if you skip the first book. Do not skip the first book! DO NOT!

Stark is a serious piece of work, an alcoholic, chain-smoking, demon assassin, murderer, kick-ass detective; just the kind of dude Lucifer wants as a bodyguard. Our hellish anti-hero is a brilliantly humorous, angry young man, killing vampires and zombies with witty asides, and inventive techniques.

Kadrey has produced an LA dripping with monster filth, which works so well. This is a city bound-up with demons and hellions, drowning in Sub-Rosa (magical families), and is an antidote to those good folks in the Harry Potter novels. These magicians would cook up Harry and his pals for breakfast and then shit them out as zombies. This is hardcore witchcraft, terror and death.

This book is demented genius. Kadrey raised the bar for urban fantasy with Sandman Slim, and the expectations were high for the second book in the series. Not only does Kadrey gives us another exciting episode, but he continues to explore one of the most fascinating and engaging narrators/creatures in modern genre literature.

Sandman Slim is dead. Long live Sandman Slim!

FATHER’S LITTLE HELPER By Ronald Kelly – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 3, 2010 by stanleyriiks

There are certain things about this book that I liked. But most of it is plain and simple and slightly stupid.

The book starts off with Richard McFarland finally having enough one Christmas morning in 1978, and, finding a shotgun, goes to a church near where his car has broken down and shoots half the parishioners.

Fourteen years later, Sonny Beechum’s fascination with true crime comes to a head when he realises he is the son of Richard McFarland and goes on a rampage, heading towards the small town of Cedar Bluff where he aims to finish his father’s work.

All well and good, we’re set up for a reverse revenge tragedy, an all-out action-fest with guns blazing. And to a certain extent that’s what we get. Sonny’s actions take him across country, killing whoever gets in his way, following the instructions of his dearly departed father, whether he appears is a ghost or a figment of Sonny’s fragmented reality.

The problem is that it’s all too easy. Sonny’s a teenager with a shotgun, and yet he’s outsmarting the idiotic police department, the FBI and all the other law enforcement officers. The FBI are unwilling to get more than a single agent involved for most of the book in case the town gets scared. When they do bring some more people in, one a highly trained former soldier, he gets killed almost instantly.

The fact is it’s too easy for Sonny to go around the country killing people indiscriminately. It’s not that easy, and this is where the book falls down. There’s barely any struggle, the teenager is running rings around the police. Our “hero” is meant to be the town Sheriff, but he’s as easily duped as all the rest, and you can’t help enjoying the idiots getting their just desserts. Sonny becomes the anti-hero and you don’t want him to caught until he’s finished with these muppets.

Also we have the problem of characters. There aren’t any worth caring about, which just makes you root for the murderer even more.

Apart from the complete lack of plausibility – throwing in the dad as adviser and Sonny’s true-crime obsession are just not enough to convince us he’s a criminal mastermind – this is a nice violent action novel. I’m not sure I’d go as far as saying it’s a thriller, but there’s enough here to keep you entertained if you can forgive it its problems.

Not bad, but certainly not good. If you find a copy it’s worth reading, but I wouldn’t for a second suggest seeking it out.