Archive for character

FORTRESS FRONTIER By Myke Cole – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 5, 2013 by stanleyriiks

A bit of context for those who haven’t read the first book yet: this is like the X-Men, but with magic instead of mutations. When people develop magical abilities, or come up “latent”, things develop swiftly, and they have to report to the Police, otherwise they will be arrested as “Selfers”. There are some prohibited types of magic too dangerous to be allowed in society, the government use these “probes” as part of a secret service in an alternative dimension called the Source, to fight the indigenous population of goblin-like creatures. This is where Oscar Britton is sent, for training and indoctrination, when he develops “probe” magic and accidentally kills his father. But things don’t work out quite as planned for Britton and the Shadow Coven…

The first book in the Shadow Ops series left the remaining renegade sorcerers of Shadow Coven surrounded by goblins after FOB (Forward Operating Base) Frontier was partially destroyed, the witch Scylla was freed, and a massive battle had taken place. If you’re expecting this book to pick up straight after that then you’ll be disappointed. For the most part this is the story of Colonel Alan Bookbinder, Pentagon administrator, who turns up latent, but his magical abilities fail to fully develop. Despite this, he is sent to Frontier, where he becomes the second in command. The timelines of this and the first book overlap, as Bookbinder arrives before Britton and the rest of Shadow Coven go rogue. But when that does happen we see the other side of the action, as the base is left devastated and with no contact or supplies from the home plane (Earth). With rapidly depleted stocks of ammo and food the base becomes desperate and the goblin attacks increase daily. Bookbinder and a small team head out into the wilderness to try to find an Indian base hundreds of kilometres away, their lives on the line, and they are the only hope of survival for those left in the partially destroyed base.

Britton and Shadow Coven do play a part in the story, we get an update about half-way through and then Britton and his team are involved towards the end of the book, tying everything nicely together and preparing the reader for the third book in the series.

This is an SF military action thriller with magic thrown in for good measure. Although it doesn’t have the new and shiny feel of the first book, and the lack of my favourite character Marty (A Dobby-like good goblin), mean this feels a little like the second book in the series (the necessary part between the beginning and the climax [is this a trilogy?], continuing the story and an integral part, but not really adding a great deal.

Those who enjoyed the first book, and that should be plenty, because it’s pretty bloody good, should come to this with an open-mind and they’ll enjoy this slightly different but linked second part. Those expecting the continued story of Britton and Shadow Coven may be a little disappointed by the new direction.

Good fun, but not as good as the first book. I still want to know what happens next, and expect at some point a full-scale war between the sorcerers and the military, and possibly civil war!

THE DAYLIGHT WAR By Peter V. Brett – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 11, 2013 by stanleyriiks

I’ve been busy the past few weeks working my way through this massive book, so apologies for the delay in posting.

The third volume in The Painted Man series, I thought this would end the trilogy. In some ways I’m sad it’s not, I was looking forward to finding out what would happen, but in some ways I’m glad this epic and brilliant story continues.

For those of you who have not read the first two books in the series, this is not the place to start. The first two books are equally epic and amazing. If you like your fantasy huge, filled to the rafters with brilliant ideas, great characters, intensity, action packed, and filled with mysterious magic, demons and loads more, then you’ll absolutely love these books.

In the first book we discover this world in which every night humans must hide behind warded protection from the corlings (demons) who appear out of the earth. Arlen Bales is a young boy when we first meet him, but Arlen becomes a messenger, a dangerous but privileged position, learning the wards for protection as he must strike out across the townships taking the post with him, his life on the line ever night. Eventually Arlen meets Jardir, the leaders of a tribe in the deep south, a tribe that fights the demons every night, using mysterious new wards, while their women and children hide in an underground city. The two become firm friends until the discovery of an ancient city thought lost, and a magical warded spear.

The second book in the series gives us a full history of Jardir and how he achieved his position. Then how he brings the tribes together and launches a brutal attack on the northern cities.

Of course there more to it than that, but you really really need to read the first two books in the series.

In the third book we see history from the other side, Jardir’s powerful wife, Inevera, was behind many of his decisions and in this book we discover her history. And we see the two sides preparing for the night battle of the “waning” when the most powerful corlings come to the surface to fight. The time when the two sides, the united tribes of the south, and the northern cities, will battle draws ever closer. The characters relationships proving more and more problematic because of it. The daylight war is coming…

The books are not focused on a single character, although sometimes it does seem that way. There are several other characters, all important to the story, and too many to list. The books thus far have given us a massive history, we watch the characters grow and develop, and this is the key to drawing you in. This feels more like watching a life, rather than following a plot.

The people are waiting for The Deliverer to battle the corlings and free them from their constant nightly struggle, but is it Arlen or Jardir? Both of them are building armies, the various characters aligning with one or another of them. Friendship, politics, love and intrigue all fight for dominance.

This is a massive book, and I was conflicted. I wanted to read it quickly and get to the end to find out what happens next (probably the best cliff-hanger in the history of fantasy, giving Andy Remic’s Kell’s Legend a run for its money!), and savouring every single page of brilliance.

Brett is an artist and the page his tapestry. He has woven a tale of magnificence. I can’t wait for the next volume, I need to know what happens next.

ACK-ACK MACAQUE By Gareth L. Powell – Reviewed

Posted in Morpheus Tales Magazine, Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 11, 2013 by stanleyriiks

Published with the kind permission of Morpheus Tales.

Powell’s first collection The Last Reef (available as an ebook from Anarchy Books ( was exceptional. A book filled with intelligent SF, bristling with ideas and clever stories. I was looking forward to reading Powell’s first novel The Recollection, a clever SF story based on some of the stories in that first collection. It wasn’t as good as I was expecting. Most of the brilliant ideas in the book came from the stories in The Last Reef. I’d expected more.

I wasn’t looking forward to reading this one. It sounded a bit… well, stupid. Also, I’d just finished reading the excellent Sandman Slim, a book filled with character, with attitude, with energy. Not something I would have expected from the “quiet” fiction of Powell.

Boy was I wrong!

Powell seems to be having a great deal of fun with this book, and fortunately the reader is right there alongside him all the way.

Britain and France merged in the 1950s. Nuclear powered airships travel around the world. Britain refuses to give back Hong Kong and is on the brink of war with China. The King is recovering from an assassination attempt. Victoria returns to London to deal with the murder of her husband, only to find the policeman who escorted her to the flat dead on the foot of the stairs and his murderer looking up at her, then heading straight for him, his knife poised to kill her too…

A Macaque is battling against Nazi forces during the Second World War…

This is powerful, action-packed stuff. The tension starts to rise from very early on, and as the twisted tale of treason, conspiracy and murder is revealed the tension continues to rise. The characters are unique, their voices clearly individual, and the monkey adding a level of attitude and humour that really jumps off the page. The one-eyed, pistol carrying, cigar chomping fighter pilot macaque is brilliantly refreshing in his no nonsense attitude, and animalistic simplicity amongst the complex plotting and treachery.

The tension rises throughout the book, creating an edge of the seat expectation that could only be satisfied with a powerful climax, so how about fighting and explosions, and crashing and… (I don’t want to give away too much!) but Powel delivers by the bucketload.

Powerful, intelligent, filled with ideas, clever touches and brilliant characters.

Powell has hit his stride, and produced a steampunk SF novel that delivers. I don’t know if Powell is planning a sequel, but when you have a character this good, he deserves another book. I can’t think of a story that could possibly live up to this one, but I hope Powell can!

Monkey magic.

DEPARTMENT 19 By Will Hill – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 18, 2012 by stanleyriiks

Jamie Carpenter’s dad is a traitor who was killed in front of his very eyes. The murder of his father still haunts him when he returns home to find a vampire kidnapping his mother.

Then Frankenstein appears and saves his life.

Swiftly, Jamie finds himself in The Loop, a secret hidden base of operations for Department 19, the most secret service in the UK. A vampire-hunting group who his father worked for before his death.  Jamie is desperate to find his mother and with the help of Frankenstein, his father’s loyal companion, and a young female vampire who failed to kill him, Jamie will stop at nothing, including hunting down the second most powerful vampire to ever live…

Anyone who is familiar with the Hellboy comics or films with find similarities with the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense, this is very much the English version of that, with a hint of James Bond thrown in for good measure.

The story is simple enough, the set up is well thought out, with some nice touches such as the t-bone weapon, and there’s plenty of action here to keep you entertained.

Despite some miss-direction it’s clear from the start who the goodies and baddies are, there’s no shock when the traitor is finally revealed. There is also rather a lot of crying at the end of the book, fair enough there might be some crying, but it just feels a bit forced and fake after the twenty-seventh person in the last thirty-odd pages balls their eyes out. If this is an attempt for us to engage with the characters emotionally then it fails, miserably.

The biggest problem with the book is the distinct lack of decent characters, ok, we have some work put into this area for Jamie, but there’s nothing to flesh the rest of them out. A shame because a little more work in characterisation and this would have been a great book.

Exciting and entertaining, the world of Department 19 is interesting and needs further exploration. The plot works well enough and the action and story carry it through, although it feels a little long, a bit contrived at the end, and the characters are pale facsimiles.

The second book is the series is out now, and I enjoyed the first enough to give the second a try, but I have high standards and expect them to be met, otherwise I will abandon the series after that. Shows promise.

DOCTOR NO By Ian Fleming – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 27, 2009 by stanleyriiks

It’s difficult to read a James Bond book and think about it critically. Bond is a character I grew up with, and still want to emulate! I couldn’t help but watch the true James Bond (Roger Moore, come on people!) seducing women, killing baddies and quipping while they die, an eyebrow raised mischievously. Having grown up with the films, in the same way I grew up with the Conan novels, I can’t help but cherish them and know that no matter how life changes, they will always have a place in my heart.

I’ve probably seen the Doctor No film, or at least bits of it, dozens of times. Some of the scenes are so familiar they are instantly recognisable, although I’m pretty sure I’ve never actually watched Ursula Andreas walk up the beach in her bikini.

But the books are slightly different, as you would expect. Moonraker bares little if any resemblance to the original novel.

I can’t remember the film enough to do a critique of the development of novel into film and I’d prefer not to. People with too much time on their hands can do that while I simply offer my opinion on a book that cleverly encompasses the extremes and thrills of the pulp era, whilst nodding towards the realism and action of the modern thriller. That’s what sets the Bond novels apart from many of their contemporaries, such as Chandler. There’s still a healthy dose of nostalgia for earlier times, a retro pulp action-thriller feel to the novels.

When two secret agents go missing in Jamaica, Bond is sent in to investigate, with the help of Quarrel Bond finds himself on an isolated island owned by the mysterious Doctor No, who protects his privacy by murdering all trespassers. Bond meets up with a young innocent girl, Honeychile, who turns up naked on the beach searching for shells in the area. Unfortunately Doctor No’s troops are alerted to their presence and set out to find them, and the poor girl is dragged into a cat and mouse chase across the island, until they are eventually caught by a dragon!

The pulp tradition is strong in this novel, our hero is tortured by the mad genius, and must go through a series of hideously painful challenges, which even include fighting a giant squid. But where Bond moves the genre forward is the level of detail and the general realism that Fleming uses to describe his hero and the situations he faces, and his weapons.

Bond is the essence of the modern pulp hero, he’s courageous, he’s strong and intelligent, and despite the backing of the British Secret Service, he’s on his own fighting all manner of super villains. In the same way that Batman or The Spider fight crime, with his hands, his ingenuity and his weapons, Bond is also a superhero in the same league, having no special powers (apart from his own God-given abilities) and fighting crime simply because it’s wrong and must be stopped.

Fleming’s original books have dated, just as the original Batman comics and the adventures of The Spider, Fu Manchu and Charlie Chan have also dated, but they were a product of their time, and that’s what still makes them so powerful. Because back then there was hope that one man could make a difference, and that’s why I find these pulp characters so appealing. There’s no modern cynicism to get in the way of the innocent enjoyment of the books and comics and films.

Bond lives forever, unstoppable, in the hearts of his fans, and that’s why he continues to live on through his many different incarnations, but the original books will also live on forever.

THE GIRL WHO LOVED TOM GORDON By Stephen King – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized, writing with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 15, 2009 by stanleyriiks


King seems to write two different types of books, one is the great sprawling stories, normally set in a small town with a small group of characters and the horrors that are unleashed upon them: The Stand, Needful Things, IT, and the other type of story is a much more personal adventure into the darkness, a personal journey through the horrors: The Body, Rita Hayworth and the The Shawshank Redemption, Misery and The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon.

Trisha Macfarlane is out on a trip with her mother and brother in the forest, and they’re going for a hike to get away from things. But when Trisha heads off into the woods for a pee she gets lost. And then she gets more lost.

This short book is the story of Trisha’s journey through the forest, the suffering, the hardship, the fear…

This is the kind of book that only King can write. He doesn’t just produce amazingly realistic characters that everyone can identify with, he doesn’t just imbue the very page with personality, what he does is capture a person, a real life, living, breathing person, and he translates them into words. What he does is magic.

This simple tale is easily up there with some of King’s best stories, the best of which for me will forever be The Body. Even the film version Stand By Me, is one of my favourite films, forever capturing that age when you’re no longer a boy but not yet a man. Well, he’s repeating a similar feat here. The book is an exercise is characterisation, sure it’s a simple story, but King keeps you reading, keeps you on the edge of your seat as you discover more and more about Trish and her family, as you travel and struggle with her.

For a writer who wants to create great characters this is a book to savour and study, it’s a lesson in how to develop a character, an intelligent, in-depth and deeply entertaining lesson.

The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon is simple but outstanding, a book that draws you further and further in. King manages to capture your heart as you travel through the woods with Trisha and suffer alongside her.