Archive for discovery

BLACK FEATHERS By Joseph D’Lacey – Reviewed

Posted in Morpheus Tales Magazine, Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 2, 2013 by stanleyriiks

Printed with the kind permission of Morpheus Tales. This review will appear in the forthcoming (very soon!) Morpheus Tales Supplement!

Black Feathers is the first the first volume in the Black Dawn Duology. A story of an environmental apocalypse…

Gordon Black is born into a world that is starting to crumble. The very Earth is sick, its disease is humanity. Floods, solar flares, famine, financial crises, earthquakes, mudslides. The old saying that society is only 72 hours from falling apart is going to be tested.

The Black family can see what’s happening. They start saving tinned food, hoarding supplies, preparing for the worst. But they can’t prepare for The Ward (a multinational corporation, part police, part military, part government). The Ward takes control of a faltering nation. They “collect” people and their belongings, taking whatever they want or need. They are self-proclaimed saviours of humanity. Gordon’s family is collected and imprisoned by The Ward for hoarding supplies, but the teenage boy manages to escape with his life and sets off to find the mysterious figure called The Crowman: a figure that some say is Satan, and others say is the saviour. While The Ward chase Gordon down, he attempts to find The Crowman.

This is a story of discovery. Gordon and Megan Maurice (who also searches for The Crowman) set off into the wilderness to try to find answers although they don’t even know what questions they need answering. Both are at the mercy of a humanity shattered and broken, as well as rapists, murderers, liars, thieves. Both must discover the truth about the Earth, The Crowman, and what happened to the world.

D’Lacey paints a disturbing picture of the apocalypse, giving hints of the epic dangers and actions that took place, while focusing on the lives of our main characters and telling the story of these epic events through our protagonists. The horrors, instead of the numbing millions, are directly relatable to the terrors that both teenagers face. The human de-evolution due to the crisis is dangerously clear at every stage. Each new face they meet is a potential danger.

This first book sets up the scene nicely, gives us a lot of the background, and sets up a nice cliff-hanger ending that’s left me ready for more. D’Lacey gives us hints of the horrors of the apocalypse, making it a mystery for our protagonists to discover. The story is carefully laid out for the reader to interpret. This is intelligent and subtle, with life-threatening dangers on an individual scale, not an action-filled battle for Earth’s survival. Not yet at least; there may well be some of that in the second book in this duology (and from the author of MEAT, I’m really looking forward to that).

Black Feathers is an original and intelligent apocalypse story. It’s a myth-filled fable of the end of the world on an individual basis. It’s a coming-of-age story set on a cruel and broken Earth.

D’Lacey writes with a power and conviction that is scary. This could well be our future. Bring on volume two! Right now! I need to know what happens next!


DOWN UNDER By Bill Bryson – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 25, 2011 by stanleyriiks

I bought this book just before going to Australia myself and never got round to reading it. I have to say that although it’s an interesting account of Bryson’s travels around Oz, and his amusing anecdotes offer a little insight into the country, I didn’t really miss much.

It’s an interesting book rather than fascinating. Amusing rather than funny.

The problem is exactly what drives people to read Bryson’s books, their very ordinariness. His adventures (using the term loosely) around Australia were almost as exciting as mine. The places he visited similarly to mine, although I didn’t get to the outback or Perth, I definitely saw more of Melbourne than he did, and my brief trip to Sydney seemed to encompass more than his.

The insights aren’t anything special either. You only have to talk to a couple of Australian and visit their cities to see the issues they have with the Aborigines.

Australia is an interesting and very new and empty country, and you get that idea from Bryson’s book. His travels around the country offer an insight if you haven’t ever been, but it’s much more fun to explore yourself. You’ll likely come to similar conclusions.

Where Bryson’s book does excel is his research. There are some fascinating histories in here amidst the middle-of-the-road traveller’s adventures. He seems to spend every evening in a bar having a beer, a traditional Aussie past-time perhaps, but hardly exciting for the reader.

Down Under isn’t a massive success, nor is it a massive failure. It’s difficult to get excited about the book either way. I neither feel compelled to read another of his book, nor bothered to remember not to.

Unlike a guidebook you don’t feel the sense of exciting of discovery, and Bryson’s mild excitement isn’t really enough to make you want to discover more.

May be this is one of his off books, and may be they’re all like this. I just can’t be bothered to find out.

MY SHIT LIFE SO FAR By Frankie Boyle – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 25, 2010 by stanleyriiks

Frankie Boyle is a very funny man. This acerbic wit, and irreverent humour find a perfect venue on Mock The Week on BBC 2. Boyle is a man who writes for Jimmy Carr, and has written for numerous other comedians I’ve never heard of. But for a comedy writer he doesn’t really seem to get how to write a story.

This book traces Boyle’s history, his impoverished childhood, his loner years, and his discovery of drugs and alcohol. We watch as boy grows to man, his university years, all imbued with vast quantities of alcohol. We get a hint of the life of a nomadic comedian. All interspersed with anecdotes. But actually, interspersed isn’t really correct, the story of Boyle’s life is riddled (interrupted!) with anecdotes of varying quality. The best jokes will be familiar to anyone who regularly watches Mock The Week and what really lets the book down is the lack of insight into the man.

We have barely any more knowledge after reading the book than watching Mock The Week. Frankie is a funny man, you can see that on the programme, but from the book you would hardly guess at just how funny he can be. The editor should have fixed the major problems, lack of insight and hideously unfocused, but then perhaps it wouldn’t have worked at all.

But does it work? Not really. Frankie doesn’t allow the reader in, and from what we discover of his personality, that’s just him.

Not refreshing, not insightful, not even very funny. If you want a funny book try Ben Elton and Stephen Fry, both of whom can supply the goods on a regular basis. Frankie Boyle is obviously much better suited to a few one-liners on a TV show than a full-length book.

Sadly disappointing.

THE BROKEN SWORD By Poul Anderson – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 17, 2010 by stanleyriiks

The story begins when Scafloc, born of Orm  and Aelfrida, is stolen from his human parents by an Elf doing a favour for a witch, and replaced with a troll-child who looks exactly the same.

Only years later is it revealed that the child – Valgard –  Orm and Aelfrida have brought up isn’t there own, but by then it is too late, as Valgard kills his brothers after being tricked into it by that witch who had him swapped all those years ago.

As Valgard comes to realise his true troll nature he joins with the troll forces as they attempt to take over all the Elf lands, enslaving them and torturing Imric, the Elf father to Scafloc.

Fantasy-operas don’t get much more convoluted than this! What starts out as a nice fairy tale swiftly becomes a full-on drama, throwing in family histories, incest and all sorts. Of course, this doesn’t detract from the remarkable pace of the book, as Scafloc attempts to stop the troll invasion and must take the broken sword of the title to the gods to have it fixed.

Anderson creates a world of great depth, and his characters almost breathe, the fine-line between cold, hard elf and human warmth is balanced well in Scafloc, just distant enough to be different, but mortal enough to be relatable.

The depth of the writing, and Anderson’s concise style, make this book feel like an epic, despite it being only a little over two hundred pages, but that’s not to say this book feels long. It feels vast, the description of the story above barely covers half of it, but to describe more would give away secrets that are so worthy of discovery it doesn’t feel right to divulge them.

This book feels like an ancient epic, a story told orally and kept alive through generations by its retelling. Here Anderson puts his own mark on the tale of the war between the trolls and the elves, and such a mark it is.