Archive for Conan

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!

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CONAN AND THE MISTS OF DOOM By Roland Green – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 30, 2014 by stanleyriiks

Reading a Conan novel is my Christmas treat. The first novel I bought, and the first novel I read as an adult was a Conan novel, so the character holds a fond place in my heart.

Conan is in the wilds of the Kezankian mountains when his troop is attacked by his old friend, Khezal, a Captain in the Turanian army. The group is further expanded when part of a hill tribe and the beautiful Bethina, sister and usurper to his brother’s tribe, join, and further complicate an already tense truce.

The lady of the mists, a powerful and evil sorceress, falls in love with her guard and becomes a lover not a fighter. Swiftly the mist of doom that powered her evil gains sentience and begins to attack.

This is pretty standard fair, the most interesting part of it is actually the love story between the sorceress and her guard, but this plays a small part in proceeding and could have done with being expanded. There are too many tribes and factions and it becomes confusing at certain stages who is who and what and why they’re doing it.

Really not enough Conan in this one, there are too many other characters and other parts of the story that are more interesting. More a standard sword and sorcery fantasy novel with Conan shoe-horned in than a proper Conan book.

THE PSYCHOPATH TEST By Jon Ronson – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 21, 2013 by stanleyriiks

Never judge a book by its cover, so goes the saying. Well, as far as I’m concerned that’s arse. The first book I picked up and bought as an adult (at the tender age of fourteen, but I consider that as adult as I’ve ever got) was a Conan book with a lovely cover. It wasn’t a Frazetta but it was that style, and it was awesome. The fact the cover didn’t have hardly anything to do with the contents of the book didn’t put me off at all. I continue to purchase books because they have great covers. I can barely put back on the shelf a book with artwork by Jon Sullivan.

What I would suggest though, is don’t pick a book because of a title. That’s how Jon Ronson got me. The Psychopath Test sounds like a quality book. There’s likely to be madness in it, and may be some murder. And there is, just not the sort I thought there would be.

Perhaps I need to explain a little further. I don’t read blurbs, those paragraphs on the back of the book that tell you what’s going to happen. Why would I? It’s like a film trailer, it shows you the best bits, it tells you what’s going to happen. If I’ve seen the best bits why watch the rest? If I know what’s going to happen what’s the point in reading the story? So I had no idea that this book was even non-fiction.

I also don’t read quotes, not before I start reading anyway. This book has quotes all over it. I can’t help but think they were reading a different book to me.

I didn’t realise this was written by the same bloke who wrote The Men Who Stare At Goats, that’s a film I’ve been meaning to watch because it has a great title. Ronson, it seems, is pretty good with titles.

So, what’s this book about? It’s about an investigative journalist (Ronson) searching out the meaning of mental health, or rather, psychopathy. He meets people in mental hospitals, he tells the stories of child bipolar disorder, he meets the man who created the psychopath test, a scientologist who believe psychiatrists are con-men, ex-dictators, and ex-CEOs. From the quotes all over this book you might expect it to be funny. I didn’t expect it to be funny until I read the quotes, and up until then (almost at the end), I had found some vaguely amusing parts, but nothing that made me do more than almost crack a smile. This isn’t Ben Elton or Stephen Fry.

So, what is this book?

It’s a look at the crazy world of the madness industry. It’s quite interest, mildly amusing in parts, quite frustrating in others. Repetitive, not particularly insightful, but quite short. Never judge a book by its title, a lesson learned.

VAMPIRE WARLORDS By Andy Remic – Reviewed

Posted in Morpheus Tales Magazine, Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 27, 2011 by stanleyriiks

Posted with the permission of Morpheus Tales Magazine.

The third book in the Clockwork Vampire Chronicles sees us back at the dramatic cliff-hanger (literally) of the second book, where the immortal Vampire Warlords are brought back from the Halls of Chaos by the mass genocide of the Vachine race of Silva Valley by Graal and Kradek-ka. Myriam betrays Kell, Saark’s heart is ripped from his chest, and the Army of Iron, alongside the Harvesters, have taken over Falanor.

Kell and Nianna grab up Saark’s body and head down a hole in the mountain of Hill Top, leaving the Vampire Warlords to start the destruction of the entire human race. The Warlords start by turning the humans into vampire slaves as the split Falanor between them, each taking a major city, corrupting it and turning the people into the undead.

Kell cannot sit back and watch. He must fight, because that’s all he knows. Heading North, hoping to find something or someone that will help him, Kell manages to find the least expected army, and must try to drive the Vampire Warlords and Graal’s Army of Iron from Falanor before every human being is killed.

It was a couple of years ago that I discovered Kell’s Legend in Forbidden Planet and bought it because I liked the cover, and it  was a signed copy. It was about three months later that I bought another copy as my local Borders closed, I think it was half price. Little did I know at the time that the book was so worth buying twice. Kell’s Legend is the first book of this series, and it’s now one of my favourite books of all time. One of the most exciting, energetic and inspirational books I’ve ever read. Like the first Conan book I picked up at the age of fourteen. Like the first time I read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. This is a book that sticks with you, a character who is far from perfect, but all the better for it. A hero that you can love for his grumpiness as well as his courage and determination. The third and final part of Kell’s adventure has more excitement, more action, more energy. It’s difficult to convey the energy and passion that Remic has imbued his books with. I don’t get excited very often (just ask my girlfriend!), but reading these books had me grinning ear to ear, bouncing up and down like a little school boy needing to have a pee.

If you’ve missed the first and the second books and want to dive into the third it’s very possible you’ll have a great time. But you’ll still be missing out. The first and second books are fabulously rich with drive, action and experience. Never have I been so riveting with a book as at the end of Kell’s Legend when I reached the final page, lying down in bed (where I do most of my reading), and I jumped up and down and screamed and shouted that I had to buy the second book (which wasn’t out at the time), and was left fidgety and nervous for several hours afterwards as I tried to calm down.

Ok, so now Kell is seemingly invincible, but Remic remedies this by making him all the more human emotionally, and filling in a rather distasteful back-story.

The secret to these books is that Remic draws you in, he makes you feel, he tricks you, he hurts you, he draws you in further. Reading a Remic book is not like reading, it’s like playing the most immersive video-game, or watching the best film, you believe you are there, you feel every cut, every crash of steel, every heartbeat, every gasp of breath. The excitement comes from this interactive experience, which is beyond what other writers do.

Andy Remic is a nasty genius who wants to kidnap you and take you for the ride of your life.

I urge you to read the Clockwork Vampire Chronicles. If you only pick up one fantasy book in your life you should read Kell’s Legend and you will certainly pick up the Soul Stealers and Vampire Warlords. You won’t be able not to.

Angry Robot should offer a money-back guarantee with Andy Remic’s books, their money would be perfectly safe.

An amazing book in a truly outstanding fantasy series. I hope, I beg, I pray, I beseech Mr Remic to provide us with more tales of Kell. Books really don’t get much better than this. A thundering fantasy thriller. A rip-roaring action-adventure. A suitably exciting conclusion to an epic and massively entertaining series.

http://www.angryrobotbooks.com/

DEATH’S HEAD By David Gunn – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 7, 2011 by stanleyriiks

Amazon suggested this book to me because of a previous purchase of one of Andy Remic’s books. Andy Remic writes the kind of fast-paced, action-packed SF and fantasy stories that thrill and entertain in equal measure, so I was looking forward to this one.

For once amazon got it pretty much spot on.

Sven is an ex-sergeant Legionnaire who is about to be lashed to death for insubordination, until a group of Ferox (unfriendly Wookie-type creatures) attack the out-post he’s stationed at, killing everyone but him. One of the massive alien beasts talks to Sven using telepathy and Sven is taken back to their camp where he lives with them as a kind of pet.

This is the beginning of Sven’s adventures.

When the cave system the Ferox live in is attacked and Sven is saved, he becomes a tool of the General, given mission where the army needs deniability. Sven’s unique abilities and his tougher than shit attitude not only get him into trouble, but also out of it, as he tackles prison, treason, war and command.

Ok, so Sven’s adventures feel very much organic, the plotting for the novel seems to have happened during the writing process and each episode doesn’t connect too much with what follows or what came before other than occasional details, but that doesn’t matter.

The haphazard plotting makes it feel like a real adventure, and you can’t help but enjoy Sven’s “fuck you” attitude. This guys got huge balls and isn’t afraid to display them for all to see. You want Sven to win, whatever it is he’s doing. He’s one of those grumpy bastards, like Kell, Conan and Druss, that we’re used to seeing in fantasy fiction, but a lot less so in SF. Here we have a true hero, who knows the difference between right and wrong, but does things he own ways, whether it gets him into trouble or not.

So the aliens involved in the final battle all become a bit confused, and you’re not sure quite who’s fighting who, but who cares!

Sven is what carries the story on, and Gunn gives us a great helping of action to keep things speeding along nicely so we don’t get too worried about the details. Great fun, the kind of book that puts a grin on your face. A boy’s own adventure in space.

No Reviews – Clive Barker – Eagerly Awaited

Posted in Life..., Morpheus Tales Magazine, Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 26, 2010 by stanleyriiks

I’ve been busy the past few weeks reading Clive Barker’s Imajica. Not terrible, just hideously long. Quite a marathon it eventually ended up taking six weeks of my life. Time I’ll never get back! More soon, the review will come eventually.

At the moment I’m working on a couple of reviews for Morpheus Tales Magazine, Wintercraft and The Gemini Factor, will be heading to the pages of the Morpheus Tales Reviews Supplement. Hopefully when the next one comes out in July, fingers crossed!

The book I’ve been waiting for since just after christmas, Soul Stealers By Andy Remic has been delayed! Grr! Angry Robot, the publishers, have delayed the publication until October due to them leaving Harper Collins and hooking up with Ospray Publishing.  I’m really not bothered who the robot people are cosying up with as long as they publish Soul Stealers! And soon!

I’ve never been so excited waiting for a book to come out. Soul Stealers is the second book in the Clockwork Vampire Chronicles, the first novel in the series, Kell’s Legend was definitely the highlight of my reading year. It made me feel like a young boy again! Took me back to reading my first Conan novel at the age of fourteen, which was the start of my love or all things fantasy, horror and SF.

Come on Angry Robot, sort of it! I want Soul Stealers! And I want it now!

Tip of the day: Never anger a critic!

KELL’S LEGEND By Andy Remic – Reviewed

Posted in Morpheus Tales Magazine, Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 31, 2010 by stanleyriiks

How do you create a possible successor to one of the greatest fantasy characters to ever live? I’m obviously talking about sword and sorcery legend Conan. The Cimmerian Barbarian has entertained readers for eighty years, and film goers for thirty. There hasn’t been a new Conan novel for a long time, but if you read any of the Tor novels you’ll find them remarkably similar – a plot on rails with very little imagination.

Conan is a prototypical fantasy barbarian, with well-known characteristics that many have tried to emulate.

Kell’s departure from these characteristics is what makes this story work so well. He’s a grumpy old man, a warrior past his prime and discarded by society, hiding away in a small northern town where he makes soup and is visited by his granddaughter, Nienna. After one such visit, the ears of the old warrior prickle as he hears screams. His door is kicked in by albino warriors who bleed white blood when he kills them using his trusted blood-bond axe, Ilanna, and the fight is on to save Nienna. It soon becomes clear that the albino soldiers are part of an invading army, and Kell is joined in his cause by a seducer and popinjay Saark, who’s more interested in saving his own skin and bedding Nienna or her friend Kat.

The invasion is led by General Graal, a leader of the Vachine, a race part vampire part machine. Graal is a cruel and twisted warrior who will stop at nothing to capture the entire human race, so that he and his people may feed.

Kell is a hero for the modern era, complete with idiosyncrasies, a deep and troubled history, and dealing with his own set of problems whilst struggling desperately to survive. The other characters in the novel are also very well drawn, and as the world gradually expands on their voyage, so too does the world become more detailed.

This book isn’t read as much as it is experienced. It draws you in deeply in the first hundred pages and then, as more and more dangers are thrown at our band, you feel you are surviving with them. Remic isn’t afraid to kill off a great character or throw in another challenge to spice things up and ramp up the tension. You can’t help feeling like you have to hold on tight just to stay on for the ride. It’s that tension and excitement that make the book stand out. There is real danger here. In most fantasies you know that the main characters are always safe because they have to appear in the next book, but although this is Book I of the Clockwork Vampire Chronicles, it’s not the Tales of Kell chronicles and you really do believe that at any moment another character could be killed. There’s an evil and twisted streak to Remic, which not only gives us added danger (and a little torture), but also provides the grim humour that is sadly lacking for many modern fantasy novels.

Okay, so it’s not perfect. For a start, you have to wait for the second instalment. (Grr! I have no patience.) There are far more typos than you would expect from a major publishing house and this can be bothersome, but not overly so. Also, the start of the story is a little slow, but only for the first couple of chapters and then it’s full speed ahead!

Kell’s Legend is a rare book. It’s one of those reads that makes you sit up and slaver with excitement. It has the page-turning quality of a thriller, the depth of an epic, the kind of protagonist that comes round one in a lifetime, and a story that twists and turns like a snake. It’s imaginative, brilliant, exciting, amazing, and truly inspiring. Yeah, I really did fucking love this book!

The cliffhanger ending will leave you on the edge of your seat begging for the next instalment. This series has the potential to be truly legendary and I really can’t wait for the next chapter.

This review appeared in Morpheus Tales 8 Reviews Supplement:

www.morpheustales.com/reviews.htm