Archive for books

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.

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.

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!

THE STORY OF NOICHI THE BLIND By Chet Williamson – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 5, 2017 by stanleyriiks

Bit of a weird one this. It’s presented as an old Japanese Fairy Tale of sorts, possibly written by a writer at the turn of the century, and found by Williamson’s son in a box of papers in an antique shop.

The story is set in medieval Japanese, where Noichi is a wood cutter, and one day is finds a young woman, hiding after accidentally killing a samurai. He takes her home and looks after her and they eventually marry. Then she gets sick and dies. But Noichi doesn’t realise she is dead, and the animals of the forest, who he has made friends with, inhabit his wife’s body, making it as live as possible, crawling inside it to remove the rotting flesh, and wriggled inside to make it feel alive. Noichi continues to feed his wife and make love to her. Then she gives birth to a Tengu, mountain demon, who eats all the creatures of the forest, but lies to Noichi, who believes everything his child tells him.

At the end is an essay saying it’s unlikely the work of the turn of the century writer.

The actual story is pretty weird and fairy-tale like, and pleasant, or rather unpleasant, enough. But the non-sense surrounding the authenticity of the story seems a bit contrived. A brief paragraph would have been suffice, it feels like unnecessary padding.

Definitely a strange tale.