Archive for brutal

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!

WEED SPECIES By Jack Ketchum – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 22, 2016 by stanleyriiks

I don’t know how Ketchum does it, but he does it every time. He has a way of saying stuff that just makes it feel really really wrong. And although the stuff would be wrong anyway, it feels really wrong when Ketchum says it in his raw, open-wound kind of style.

Here we follow the sordid adventures of Sherry, who starts off by drugging her teenage sister so that her husband can rape her. You see Sherry has been helping her husband rape for a few years, and they’ve also been murdering these girls, and now that young Talia is of a certain age, and Sherry is getting older, she’s just not doing it for her husband anymore and is going to help him rape her little sister. Except that things swiftly go wrong and the girl ends up dead.

This short book chronicles the further adventures of Sherry and the consequences of their sordid escapades.

This is pretty nasty stuff, and Ketchum shows us the true horror of the world, despicable humans. Horror has never been quite so nasty as when Ketchum writes it. The man is a devil, he is truly terrifying, by showing us the capacity of humanity to do wrong. A nasty little book, such great fun!

THE BIG SLEEP BY Raymond Chandler – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 3, 2016 by stanleyriiks

Chandler’s classic novel introduced us to Philip Marlow, a no nonsense ex-soldier turner Private Investigator, who is called to the home of the Sternwoods, a rich family living the highlife in LA.

Although the mission Marlow is given by the ailing old patriarch is to resolve a case of blackmail, he rapidly becomes involved in a series of murders, and must wade through the seedy underbelly of the city to find out what he needs to know.

This all seems very familiar, probably because it’s been copied to death, and has influenced pretty much every crime novel and movie ever since it was published.

Marlowe is the quintessential gum-shoe. What more can you say about a novel that inspired a genre?

Well, how about the Sternwoods are about as lifelike as the Kardashians, rich cardboard cut-outs, the dying old wheelchair-bound man is the most life-like and likeable, his daughters are a pair of spoilt rich sluts, alternatively using their money or their bodies to get what they want.

Marlowe, our hero (of a sort), doesn’t fare much better, although I suppose we have to give Chandler the credit for creating the stereotype. I guess I expected more, a bit of attitude, a bit of flair, a down at heel, hard on his luck James Bond type (you can clearly see where Marlowe inspired Bond). What you get is a man following his nose into trouble, with little wit, energy or intelligence.

And the plot hobbles along, following the barest morsel of investigation to a weak and ultimately unsatisfying ending.

It seems Chandler’s novel hasn’t fared as well as the pulp heroes before it, or the superheroes and Bond-villains who followed. May be the realism of Marlowe is what made him great and has made him age just as badly.

Chandler’s unique style isn’t noticeable present here either.

Perhaps the film version is better?

Disappointingly pedestrian.

CONAN AND THE TREASURE OF PYTHON By John Maddox Roberts – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 20, 2016 by stanleyriiks

Maddox Roberts has a lot to answer for. When I was fourteen years old I walked home from school past the local WH Smiths, and had a look at some of their books. I picked out Conan the Valorous because I liked the cover. I bought it and went home, started reading and nine pages in I put the book down, went back to WH Smiths and bought a couple more.

Since then there has rarely been a time when I’m not reading a book. And although I’ve come to realise that the newer Conan novels aren’t really a patch on Howard’s originals, they are still great sword and sorcery.

Conan is bored having a drink at an inn when he takes on the job of escorting a beautiful woman, her brother-in-law and their scholarly friend, deep into the mysterious Coast of Bones to help find her husband.

It rapidly becomes clear that Conan has been lied to about the purpose of their journey; they are in fact in search of treasure, as well as the missing husband/brother. With a gang of cut-throat pirates to try to keep control of the Cimmerian must also travel through strange forests, cannibal-infested lands, and jungles, all the while followed by murderous Stygians.

The Conan books offer adventure, exploration, and excitement. There is fighting, sorcery, beautiful women, and evil. They are simple, enjoyable, entertainment.

Roberts does it again, another exciting fantasy adventure. More Conan please!

THE TECHNICIAN By Neal Asher – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 14, 2015 by stanleyriiks

This is the book that got me reading Asher’s books. Jon Sullivan’s cover of the titular beast is incredible, and his other covers for Asher’s other books are pretty damn good too. Can you pick a book by its cover?

Although this book is set in Asher’s familiar Polity world it is a stand-alone novel and can be read independently. But, if you have read some of his other novels this will inform the backstory of some familiar characters.

Masada is home to the hooders, a set of deadly creatures, the Theocracy (a strictly religious group who have enslaved some of the populous), the gaggleducks, and the Technician, a near mythical creature who not only attacks humans but turns their bodies into works of art.

When the Technician allows one of its victims to live, Jeremiah Tombs, a member of the Theocracy, it changes him in ways that even the advanced technology of the Polity cannot determine.

Twenty years later the Theocracy is no more, Tombs escapes his Polity captors and goes in search of the truth, a band of rebels called the Tidy Squad are out to kill him, and the Technicians is still out hunting…

Apart from that there are war drones, a dragon and his ancestors, a modified human studying the Technician, and alien races that have destroyed themselves to muddy the waters further.

There’s a lot going on here, as there is with most of Asher’s novels. His intricate plots draw you gradually deeper into his worlds. The characters are barely memorable, but it is the story, the plot and the incredibly well crafted world that really drive this novel.

Asher writes proper SF, intelligent, insightful, and passionate. The world he has created in this novel and the other Polity books (and the Scatteray series) are incredibly complex and detailed and yet don’t overwhelm the intense and sometimes complicated plots. The story drives along swiftly, there are multiple layers, and everything comes together in a riveting but mildly disappointing climax. Can any ending really live up to the rest of the novel?

Asher is the master of intelligent SF. The Technician is a great novel to start your Polity education: jump straight in, the water is thrilling.

BILLY LYNN’S HALFTIME WALK By Ben Fountain – Reviewed

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 14, 2015 by stanleyriiks

On the cover it says this is the Catch 22 of the Iraq War, and it probably is. Ever since that seminal book was written every book on war that uses humour is compared to it. But Catch 22 is a classic for a reason, it’s an amazingly written book that twists and turns and makes a strange kind of sense, it encapsulates the danger, the struggle and the terror of being a soldier.

Does Billy Lynn’s story do the same? To a certain extent, yes, it does.

Billy Lynn and his squad are heroes. On a break from fighting after a much publicised mission, the military trots the soldiers across the country to drum up support. The book tells the story of their final stop, at a Dallas Cowboy’s game. Dealing with the stress of their last mission, recorded for all to see by a journalist, the loss of their comrades, meeting with the dignitaries and millionaires of the Cowboy’s management and fanship, trying to broker a deal with a Hollywood producer who wants to tell their story, coming to terms with heading back into a warzone, and falling in love, this isn’t just a story about war. It feels a little like a coming of age story for young (19 year old) Billy Lynn, and his story is quite incredible, as he joined the army after beating up his sister’s boyfriend who dumped her after a car crash.

Poignant, intelligent, well written, with humour, insight, and subtlety, this is a story of manhood, war, love, family and honour. A remarkable story, and yes, very probably the Catch 22 of the Iraq war. Touching and brilliant.

ORBUS By Neal Asher – Reviewed

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 27, 2015 by stanleyriiks

This is the third book in the Spatterjay series, although this one doesn’t take place on the galactic version of Australia (ie the most dangerous planet in the universe!). If you’ve read the other books in the series you will know that Orbus is one of the old captains, the rulers of Spatterjay, a virtually immortal group of Captains who sail the leech-infested seas. But after the events of the second book, Orbus is happy to head off-planet, and takes a cargo ship travelling to a place known as the Graveyard, a no-man’s land between the Polity (human) empire and the Prador empire. And everything is going fine with this routine pick-up until a couple of war drones stow away on Orbus’ cargo vessel, a rebel Prador attacks at the pick-up, a civil war starts in the Prador empire, and a mythological nightmare creature proves to be very much real and alive…

Asher write SF with a good amount of action, with some of the characters already set up in previous books he has a chance to let rip without having to explain who and what they are. His books always contain great details that make them seem more real, and Orbus is no exception.

The different setting makes this barely a Spatteray novel, but the characters are what connect it to the other books in the series. This one works well enough by itself, but there’s a lot of history and backstory you would miss out on if you skipped the first two books.

The exciting SF adventure continues. The Spatterjay series is remarkable and unique. This slight change of direction for the series works well, bringing in a new environment, and further developing the  interesting characters, particularly the war drone Sniper.  I’ll be coming back for more in the fourth book in the series. The story of Spatterjay rocks!

HIVE MONKEY By Gareth L. Powell – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 14, 2015 by stanleyriiks

This review will likely start off like every review of Powell’s work I’ve written, saying how impressed I was with his first collection from the awesome and now hibernating/demised Elastic Press. It was filled to the brim with great stories and amazing ideas, and it was riveting. The books that followed sadly fell a little flat. That was until Powell hit his stride with his first monkey book, Ack-Ack Macaque. Although I don’t remember it in great detail, I remember it being an exciting steampunk thriller and I actually bought this second book in the series because it was so good. I rarely, if ever, buy books, as I get plenty for review, so that’s a pretty big recommendation.

This second book works perfectly well as a stand-alone novel, although it carries on from the first book and there is some history, it works well as backstory to in novel.

The skyliner that is home to the monkey who escaped from a game, and a brain-damaged captain and her holographic ex-husband, comes under threat when a man from a parallel universe is murdered. The investigation into the murder brings the skyliner crew into conflict with a hive-mind cult intent on take over the world. Can Ack-Ack, Victoria, Paul and K8 save the world again?

The plot doesn’t really capture the essence of the book, you miss out on the style and the characters that really raise this above your average SF steampunk thriller. Powell has created a really unique cigar-chomping spitfire pilot of a macaque who really brings the story to life, the other characters are mere background cast, this isn’t really an ensemble piece, despite Powell’s efforts.

And the world that Powell has created is filled with interesting ideas: a United Kingdom of France, Norway, UK and Northern Ireland; zeppelins; parallel universes; laser guns; Neanderthal assassins, and a whole lot more.

Great world, great character, great style, all put together with decent plot and some nice background characters. I will be back for more with the third book in the series soon, and recommend this for any fan of monkey fiction, and anyone who likes a bit of fun.

Great SF has never been so hairy.