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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.


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.

NEMESIS By James Swallow – Reviewed

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

A band of assassins is put together, the very best of the best, and sent to kill the arch-traitor Horus. The leader of the rebellion against the almighty emperor…

The first half of the book is taken up with the collection of the varied and talented assassins, giving us an insight into their personalities and how they work. Unfortunately there are a few too many of them and there is little characterisation, apart from their physical bearings, to separate them easily.

The second half of the book quickly ramps up the pace and sees our anti-heroes on a world struggling with the Horus Heresy (the split of the human empire), the governors siding with the rebellious Primarch Horus and the people of the world imperials to the core, fighting their corner despite heavy losses. The assassins decide to help out the imperial guerrillas.

Meanwhile a savage killer is making its way across the universe, heading for its own ultimate goal…
What happens when a band of assassins intent on killing the enemy of the Imperium clash with the universe’s most expert murderer…

And we have the Nemesis of the title.

It takes a little while to get into the book, but the second half more than makes up for it. Brilliantly gory and intelligent – although not necessarily an important part of the Heresy story – it is interesting to see how things progress from the Imperial perspective outside of the Space Marines.

The later parts of the book reminded me slightly of Dan Simmons’ Hyperion Cantos.

A new view of the Heresy, and some interesting new characters and viewpoints of this pivotal moment in Imperial history. A great jumping on point for this epic series.

HORNS By Joe Hill – Reviewed

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

When Ig wakes up after a night he can’t remember his lack of memory is the least of his problems: he has developed horns, like a devil, that make people tell him their deepest, darkness thoughts. And as Ig is the town pariah, thought to have murdered his childhood sweetheart, the truths he hears are unkind to say the least…

Hill is a natural storyteller, much like his father, and manages to suck you into the story and his characters. This book reminded me of King’s work, as well as Odd Thomas by Koontz.

It’s the murder mystery that initially draws you in, but the characters are what continue to keep your interest after the mystery is solved.

Involving and entertaining, but lacking a sufficiently explosive climax. The book further cements Hill as one of the best writers of horror in America.

A THOUSAND SONS By Graham McNeill – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 10, 2017 by stanleyriiks

The Horus Heresy is about to begin. The traitor hasn’t yet shown his true colours.

The Thousand Sons are the most advanced warriors when it comes to using the Great Ocean, what will come to be known as the Warp. Magnus the Red, their fearless one-eyed leader, is desperate to warn the Emperor of the impending chaos that is coming when he learns of it through his powers.

But others are plotting to put a stop to the Thousand Sons and their use of the knowledge of the warp, calling it sorcery.
There will be a judgement on the planet of Nikaea that will have repercussions across the universe.

While it’s always good to see the stories of the people and the warriors of the massively epic Heresy, this is part of it that truly resonates across the galaxy. The Thousand Sons will become chaos-infested monsters in the future of the 40K universe, but here they are fiercely loyal warriors of the Emperor.

Their destiny is to be corrupted and this is the first step towards their destruction.

The judgement at Nikaea is a pivotal moment in the conflict that is yet to come.

This book has all the action and excitement we’ve come to expect from the 40K universe, and the Black Library. But, it also has well crafted characters, a deep back story, true conflict, and, what is normally lacking in SF novels, a heart.

McNeill has managed to create a quietly astounding novel in the Horus Heresy series. Ok, so it appears to have been cut in half and we have to wait for the other book to fully see the destruction of an entire Astartes legion, but this is still brother verses brother in an epic battle for the universe.

Great stuff from McNeill again, the Horus Heresy doesn’t get much better than this.

KILLING PRETTY By Richard Kadrey – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 14, 2017 by stanleyriiks

There are some books you just can’t review, because you experience them. You don’t read them, you live them. They impact you and affect everything that follows. The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings are those kind of books. You don’t come across those types of books very often.

Most recently Kadrey’s Sandman Slim did that to me. This is the seventh book is the continuing saga of the man who escaped hell.

Jim Stark, AKA Sandman Slim, is hired as a Private Investigator to save the angel of death, who was forced into a human body and had his heart cut out. Stark’s investigations will lead him to ghost fights, neo-nazis and hedge-funds…

No summary of the Sandman Slim novels manages to capture the essential attitude of our anti-hero Stark, and the random collection of waifs and strays he calls his friends, including a former pornstar and zombie killer, his demon girlfriend, an immortal Frenchman, and Samael the ex-devil.

The impact of the novels, the freshness of the characters and the stories, continues to decrease ever so slightly in each successive instalment. It’s not new anymore. But it’s still a hell of a lot of fun. These are the kind of books you race through at the beginning of the story, glad to be in it, and you slow towards the end as you savour every page and don’t want it to end.

Kadrey has developed an amazing formula, brilliantly realised characters in a dark and gritty world of LA that is wholly recognisable, but strangely shifted beyond our reality. Death, danger, demons and hideously corruptible humans.
Anyone willing to give this series a try is likely to get their mind-blown. This is urban fantasy as it’s shocking best.
Keep up the good work, Mr Kadrey.