Archive for atmosphere

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.

The Function Room: The Kollection By Matt Leyshon – Reviewed

Posted in Morpheus Tales Magazine, Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 7, 2012 by stanleyriiks

This is horror pornography. A non-stop and diverse collection of violent and brutal filth. The pages literally drip with ruin. This is horror for horror fans. This is for those wishing to push the boundaries of taboo.

Those familiar with Morpheus Tales will know of Leyshon’s work, the first of the Function Room stories have featured within the magazine’s pages, and these are true works of genius. Uninhibited, utterly sensual in their horroristic descriptions, his stories are thick with atmosphere. Reading the Function Room stories is like watching a snuff movie, hideously depraved and yet so fascinating you can’t take your eyes off it.

But this is just part of the Kollection, although many of the stories are linked and contain familiar characters, there are a few stand-alone, or less obviously connected, stories. There is a wide range here, from the dripping filth of “The Function Room” to mysterious Lovecraftian towns, mass suicides, vampiric creatures, nasty children and loads more. A full bucket of originality, depth, characterisation and atmosphere. Leyshon does not hold back, he is unafraid of exploring the darkness of humanity in the same way Clive Barker or Gary McMahon do.

My favourite are definitely the Function room stories, where his heavily stylised world drips with filth and decay. Leyshon writes stories that are so visceral and dripping with atmosphere and filth you feel the need for a shower afterwards. These stories are written with a knowledge of depravity that makes me smile. Very few stories, and this is especially difficult with short stories, can give you such a feeling of immersion that you feel disgusted and unclean. Leyshon’s twisted vision is sheer genius.

Having read far too many single author collections and anthologies this year (I much prefer novels), there is only one collection that every horror fan should read and that is The Function Room: The Kollection. It will likely disgust some, send others whimpering to their bed, but will also put a sick and disturbed grin on some (including my own) faces.

This first collection from Leyshon promises much and deliveries in filthy, dirty, brutal blood-filled bucket loads. I cannot remember when I felt impure and entertained at the same time. Twisted genius.

Also available through amazon, on kindle and

WHAT GETS LEFT BEHIND By Mark West – Reviewed

Posted in Morpheus Tales Magazine, Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 24, 2012 by stanleyriiks

With the kind permission of Morpheus Tales Publishing.

I’ve heard the name Mark West, but never read any of his work nor felt the need to pick up either of his novels. After reading this short story from Spectral Press though, I will be seeking out his work. West now has an ardent fan.

This is the story of Mike Bergen, who after thirty years, has gone back home to visit the warehouse where his best friend died in an accident.

The 1981 section of his story is what really drew me in; it’s not only nostalgic and warm, but also helps to set the stage for the present which immediately turns dark and brooding and nasty. The tension ramps up quickly as Mike revisits the warehouse, and West continues to drive forward, pouring on the tension and then pouring on some more.

Great characters, excellent atmosphere, stunning pacing for a short story – this is what I want. This is what I want to read and this is what I want to write. I can’t remember when I’ve read a short story this good. West has done a grand job and the usually excellent quality of the Spectral Press chapbooks is nudged up to stunning with this.

Best short story of the year, without a doubt.

SILENT VOICES By Gary McMahon – Reviewed

Posted in Morpheus Tales Magazine, Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 8, 2012 by stanleyriiks

This review is published with the permission of Morpheus Tales.

Wow! It’s very rare for me to be this impressed by a book. McMahon has produced a fantastic novel, a book of friendship, loss, heartache, and sacrifice.  If you have not read McMahon before, then this is the perfect book to start with.

The second book in the Concrete Grove Trilogy (but a stand-alone novel that works just as well if you haven’t read the first book in the set, although I would recommend it as the first book really sets the changes and starts things off with a bang), sees the reuniting of a group of childhood friends, who twenty years ago went into the abandoned tower block known as the Needle and lost a weekend, only to be found abused and bloodied with no memory of what happened. Finally back together, they head back to where their lives changed, the Needle, to fight whatever demons are there and try to remember what happened that fateful weekend.

The Grove is a hellish place, and if you grew up on a council estate it may ring a little too true, and feel a little too close to home. The unease McMahon creates with his setting is perfectly and sadly authentic.

McMahon’s novel is so well put together, the sense of foreboding, the creeping unease, and the disturbed atmosphere McMahon gradually builds, grow through the novel towards a heart-wrenching climax that leaves you torn and wounded. The characters here are real, you know them.

This is not just a horror novel, this is an intelligent and insightful social commentary; a literary, character-driven novel that delves deeper into our hopes and fears, our shame, guilt and pain, than many other writers dare look.

I always come to a McMahon book with high hopes; his Pretty Little Dead Things is a brutal and twisted vision of genius that is in my top ten books of all time. But that means expectations are high, and that can be a double-edged sword. I look for failures and weaknesses in everything, and usually have no problem finding many, but Silent Voices is good. Really good. Bloody good.  McMahon has done it again; he’s impressed the hell out of me. He’s written an extremely accomplished, intelligent and insightful novel that goes far beyond the genre boundaries.

All horror writers should read McMahon; he shows them how it’s really done. Silent Voices is a disturbing tale of friendship and sacrifice, and McMahon is a master craftsman.

HARBINGER OF THE STORM By Aliette de Bodard – Reviewed

Posted in Morpheus Tales Magazine, Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 2, 2011 by stanleyriiks

With the kind permission of Morpheus Tales. This review will appear in the April issue of the  MT Supplement.

You know how sometimes when you meet someone for the first time, for absolutely no reason that you can put your finger on, you have an instant dislike – like a kind of anti-chemistry – and as you get to know them a little better you find out your initial instinct was complete and absolutely correct? (Lots of people who meet me for the first time get this impression.) That’s what happened with this book.

It should have been fine. A murder mystery set in Aztec Mexico at the height of the Aztec empire, somewhere around the fifteen century. Sounds interesting enough. Except that it’s really not. It’s not a murder mystery for a start; it’s more a political drama with a few deaths and murders thrown in. This is not Poirot. The story is much more reminiscent of Macbeth or Hamlet as it follows of the political intrigues when the ruler dies and his replacement must be found.

The minutiae of finding the new leader is epic, on a scale that even those not taking an instant dislike to, will find hard to bare. De Bodard, in her afterword, says herself that the process would likely have been shorter than she’d written it. Of course it would. The only things that would feel longer would have been having my fingernails removed with pliers, or my testicles boiled on a low heat.

One of the problems with the book is that you just don’t care. The characters, with their incomprehensible and mispronounce-able names, are interchangeable, having no distinguishing characteristics. The fact that half of them are priests and the other half are imperial family doesn’t help matters. There’s so little tension that a couple of deaths acts only to wake you up a little.

The fantastic Aztec Mexican setting is ruined by keeping everything within the courtly areas of the temples. There’s no jungle, no danger, no atmosphere. The Aztec setting, rather than spicing things up just adds to the confusion with the many-syllable names and a little of their religion. For one of the most blood-thirsty warrior nations in the world there’s little blood-shed, only once is sacrifice mentioned, and there’s absolutely nothing to help alleviate the boredom.

Can a book really be that bad? Everything good you might imagine should be contained in this book has somehow been removed. It’s rather like my mother’s cooking, when at her worse she manages to remove everything that’s good from every single ingredient until what you end up with is a vapid, insipid, flavourless slop. De Bodard seems to have fashioned this book in the same way. What should work just does not, and it doesn’t work unrelentingly. A failure of epic proportions, but a book that can be read. Probably the worst book I remember finishing, but finish it I did, and I feel quite proud to have suffered such torment and survived. I can only hope that Volume 1 in the Obsidian and Blood series was very different, and that the following third volume won’t make the same mistakes as the second.

Of course there are worse fates than having to read this book again, waterboarding or the aforementioned bollock boiling. Both of which I would recommend before attempting to read this.