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URBAN GOTHIC By Brian Keene – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 20, 2019 by stanleyriiks

Does this book represent horror? Probably not present day horror as the book is now nearly ten years old. It certainly feels of a time, although is that because it feels so familiar? There’s nothing in the book to date it, no trademarks or brands that are now defunct. No historic attitude or clothes. Cellphones, that most telling of recent items, are present.

So what are we looking at here? A haunted house story… Essentially. But one with a twisted sense of realism. The house is only haunted by hideously deformed human beings, cannibals, rabid and misshapen.

A group of teenagers enter the house, having been chased through a bad neighbourhood by a gang of not-so-ruthless “thugs”, little knowing the rumours and stories about it. Then they find themselves trapped inside, the prey of dangerous, mutated cannibals in a desperate struggle to survive.

Keene gives us familiar tropes and twists them, much in the same way Edward Lee does, so keeping a realism that is shocking and nasty, in the same way Ketchum managed with Off Season. The horror here is the brutality of humanity rather than actual monsters.

Back to my original question, does this book represent horror? To a certain extent, yes, it does. There isn’t anything new here. The entire problem with the genre is that it’s stuck with a single and simple premise, the evocation of an emotion: fear. Sure, it’s actually pretty difficult to achieve. And it’s the same things that make us scared, like haunted houses, crazy killers, and this book plays on those stereotypes. The failure of the book, as the failure with most horror novels, and the failure of the genre, is that in order for us to feel fear, to be scared, to be horrified, is that we need to feel.

Keene does a good job, this is by no means a bad horror novel. But it failed to make me feel. SF often does a similar job of not making me feel anything for the main characters, but SF is about ideas. If I’m not emotionally involved in the characters in an SF novel it doesn’t mean the book fails. For me, now, horror fails if I don’t feel. If the main characters are brutally tortured and killed and I don’t care, then they might as well not have been killed and I might as well not have bothered.

I’ve read far too many books in my forty odd years for everything to touch me. I’m jaded. I’m cynical. I don’t care about real people most of the time, why would I care about some words on a page. But that’s what good horror makes me do. It doesn’t have to be a whole novel, sometimes it’s a scene in a fantasy. The torture scene in an Andy Remic fantasy novel had me cringing for several pages, because I cared about the characters. Without that engagement horror is dead.

That is the main reason Stephen King is successful, he draws you into the story, gets you involved with the characters and then he hurts them, and by extension, he hurts you too.

For all his stereotype twisting and all his brutality (which I did enjoy), Keene failed to make me feel anything. This isn’t a bad book by any means, and like the genre itself, I feel I’ve grown out of it a little. Not by choice, I wish I jumped at the scary parts of films, I wish I loved every character I read about, but I don’t. The novelty has worn off.

May be horror is not my genre any more.

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RUIN AND WRATH By John Gwynne – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 20, 2018 by stanleyriiks

The third and fourth book in this epic tale of war see our various heroes finally coming together to battle against the evil that is Calidus, and his puppet, King Nathair. Giants, traitors, hunters, warriors, soldiers, betrayal, demons and angels, the tales of the wars of the Banished lands has it all.

You can’t join a story of this size anywhere but the beginning, so go out and pick up a copy of Malice. This is where we meet Corban and his friends, and we find out the myth of the seven treasures, the Bright Star, the battle between the gods and the players that side with them.

This is a story of hardship, of battle, of love, and loss. Gwynne portrays his world brilliantly, and his characters live and breathe, capturing your heart and tearing at it as they are plunged into deeper and deeper dangers.
Any fans of epic fantasy will enjoy this.

If you’re not a fan of epic fantasy, and why not, this is a great place to start. Don’t be daunted by the size of this truly epic tale, it is easy to read, easy to get into, and you’ll find the pages just turning as you devour the story.

Gwynne has himself a long-life fan after this set of novels. I can’t wait to read his next book.

PROSPERO BURNS By Dan Abnett – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 2, 2018 by stanleyriiks

Book 15 in the Horus Heresy series. If you’re coming to this book having not read any of the previous books in the series then it might be a bit of a struggle, although much of the book can be read as an individual story, you’ll miss out so much of the context that it might be confusing.

For those who have been following the series, this book is the other side of book 12 (A Thousand Sons), and follows directly on. The first forty pages or so is pretty confusing and doesn’t really seem to relate to anything, but is essentially our introduction to Hawser, a historian, who has travelled to Fenris (the home of the mighty Space Wolves) and becomes their archivist. As such he is privy to secrets beyond the scope of mere humans, and is there at the trial of Magnus the Red. After Magnus tries to warn his father using the void that he has been told not to use, it is the Space Wolves who must travel to Prospero, the home of the Sons, and sanction them using every deadly measure available to them.

Despite an annoyingly opaque opening, this book really develops. It shows the intrigue and genius of the plotting of chaos against the Emperor and his space marines. It shows the struggles of brother being pitted against brother, and there is a whole heap of action as the space marines fight against their only true opponent: their brother space marines.

Abnett is one of the best writers working for the Black Library, and his Horus Heresy books are essential reading. The Heresy series sometimes seems to stretch the story a little too far, giving more context than substance in some of the novels, but here we are really at the heart of the story, but told in a slightly different way.

One of the better Horus Heresy books, Dan Abnett does it again.

YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE By Ian Fleming – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 16, 2018 by stanleyriiks

Bond is sent to Japan to liaise with their head of security and finds himself sent on an assassination mission. His target turns out to be Blofeld, and Bond must infiltrate a castle of death to finally avenge the murder of his wife.
The Bond novels chart the move between the pulp fiction of the thirties and forties, to the noir novels of the fifties, and the superhero comics of the sixties, containing elements of all of them.

We have a Bond on the edge of a breakdown, suffering from the death of his wife and PTSD (before they had a phrase to describe it). He’s sent on a mission by M, as his final chance to redeem himself, and then blackmailed into killing by a Japan secret service head. Only to find his target is his archenemy…

Bond is a superhero in a noir world of pulp supervillains, with Fleming providing enough detail and depth to really draw us into that world.

Containing all the elements of a classic Bond story; luxury, wealth, exotic locations and even more exotic woman, it’s a playboy fantasy with a measure of action and excitement thrown in. A boy’s own adventure for adult males. Fleming gives us exactly what we’re looking for: adventure, sex, and thrills. No wonder the books and the character continue to be so successful.

THE PERDITION SCORE By Richard Kadrey – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 31, 2018 by stanleyriiks

It’s with such delight that I order the latest Sandman Slim novel, number eight in the series. And then I read it.
I’m all for character development, and the character has developed nicely since he escaped hell, became Lucifer, went back to hell, and has fought vampires, demons, zombies, gods and all manner of mystical powers.
But he seems to be approaching middle age fast, he’s settled down, he’s got a job, and dare I say it, he’s lost his mojo…

The attitude, the enthusiasm for violence, the fuck you, fuck everyone, the punch first and ask questions later thinking. It’s all a bit toned down, a bit “matured”, a bit “civilised”.

Sure, there’s a helping of violence in here. And Kadrey sticks very closely to his formula for these novels, put Stark in an almost impossible situation, making him investigate in his own merry way, and then he has to throw himself on the line yet again to resolve the problem and save the world, which happens far too easily and far too often for my liking.

Kadrey seems to be settling, and our anti-hero Stark is settled into his middle years far too well.

Is this exciting? Yes, it’s fun, it’s exciting, it’s everything you’d expect from a Sandman Slim novel. And may be I’m expecting too much, but I’ve seen all of this before. It’s still exciting, it’s still Sandman Slim. But the novelty is wearing off a little.

I’ll stick around for the next book in the series, but my hopes for the new one will not be so high. At least then may be I won’t be so disappointed.

CONAN THE FREELANCE By Steve Perry – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 25, 2018 by stanleyriiks

Our hero is once again dragged into helping a damsel in distress, although this one is no shrinking violet. When Conan rescues her in the desert he is invited to her forest and tree-city. While enjoying himself and making friends, he becomes embroiled in a three-way tussle for a magical seed. Fighting, battles, trickery, betrayal and love all follow, with Conan at the centre of it all through no fault of his own…

Some interesting characters, and, chasing chasing and more chasing, are enough to raise it above the standard Conan fair. Things are still pretty predictable, and this is good old fashioned sword and sorcery at its best.
Perry isn’t the best writer to have worked on this set of novels, but the story has plenty of action and enough going on to keep you interested.

Good stuff, despite the lack of originality and surprises.

THE FIRST HERETIC By Aaron Dembski-Bowden – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 30, 2018 by stanleyriiks

Another instalment in the epic saga of the 30th century greatest tragedy, the Horus Heresy. In this volume we follow the tale of Lorgar and the Word Bearers, loyal warriors who were shamed many years before the Heresy by the Emperor, who castigates them as worshippers. What follows is a tale of treachery and chaos, as daemons falls upon the shamed legion, tricking them and manipulating them. The simple tale of father against son, of rebellion and treachery, are no simple matters. The battles of brother verses brother, writ large across the galaxy, start here…

The Heresy becomes more and more complex as we find out about the background events to lead up to the greatest tragedy the universe has ever witnessed.

It’s nice to see such a powerful individual as a Primarch, the leader of the Space Marine legions, playing such a pivotal part in the story. This time-spanning novel feels a little disjointed, as the time periods cut this into three distinct (linked) sections.

This book, much more than the previous instalment, Nemesis, does feel like an essential part of the Heresy story, but it still feels like we are only moving forward slightly. It gives us a much greater insight into the chaos daemons, and their manipulative nature, but only hints at their scariness.

This brings us a bit closer to the date of the Isstvan V battle, and gives a great battle scene with Primarch against Primarch. But for some reason it still left me wanting more.