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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.

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THE SILENT ARMY By James A Moore – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 25, 2017 by stanleyriiks

OMG, this is how to finish a fantasy series! At last the final book in the series sees the culmination of years of planning as the Sa’Ba (a vicious, brutal and merciless war-like race) chase the City of Wonders as it flies through the air, killing everything in their path, and plotting the capital’s downfall.

In the flying city the Empress and her advisors attempt to stop the war by any means necessary, but at every step their plans are thwarted. On top of that the flying city isn’t safe, it’s been infiltrated, random murders are taking place, the refugees from the destroyed cities are homeless and desperate, food is being poisoned, and the city is heading directly for the mountains on a path of destruction that no one knows how to alter…

Wow. Fantasy doesn’t get much better than this.

Moore has managed to create a vivid, brilliantly realised world, he’s filled it with incredible characters, thrown in a ton of violence, brutality, murder and destruction, and then managed to build the tension throughout four books, ending in a compelling and riveting climax.

The Seven Forges books are immensely readable, totally absorbing, refreshing and absolutely brilliant.
Don’t read this book, read the entire series! Definitely one of the best fantasy series in decades. One that will live long in my memory.

A happy reader.

OUT OF THE DARK By David Weber – Reviewed

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

How do I review this book without ruining the surprise ending that lets it all down? Ok, let’s start off with the good, there’ll be plenty of time for the bad in a minute.

Aliens decide to invade Earth.

This is an ensemble piece, following not only several human characters but also the aliens, giving us an insight into the politics of the Shongairi (a dog-like race) and their Hegemony (universe-wide coalition). The problem is that there is a little too much going on and none of the characters are well developed, or even developed a little bit.

Straight to the bad stuff. The characters are merely cardboard cut-outs. The world is half-destroyed by the alien race but who gives a shit, there is nothing in this book that really presents this as a bad thing and certainly nothing to make us care about it. For an “advanced” race the Shongairi are pretty stupid, and when they invade they are ill-prepared and equipment for infantry warfare, which is explained easily enough, but not entirely convincingly. Then we have Weber’s obsession with weaponry. Now this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, except when it overpowers the story. Instead of being told how a something grain bullet travels faster in one weapon than another, how about telling us why we should care about the marine in Romania, or the rednecks in the hills, or anyone in this book.

Ok, now for the spoiler alert: The Earth and whatever is left of humanity is saved from the alien invasion by Dracula about twenty pages towards the end, with no signposting or anything to make me believe this is in anyway real. I can accept alien races invading Earth, that’s fine, I can suspend disbelief because the author has sold me that story and I’ll willing to buy it. What I’m not willing to buy is a writer throwing in a deus ex machina. I feel robbed.

Not the story I was looking for, not the writer I was looking for. Disappointing on all fronts.

BROTHERS OF THE SNAKE By Dan Abnett – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 10, 2017 by stanleyriiks

This is a bit of a weird one, part circular short story collection, part novel, with the Iron Snakes of Ithaka as its heroes. The story starts with the primuls (dark Eldar) attacking the backward world of Baal Solock who can barely attempt to stave off the aliens and must call upon the Iron Snake Space Marines to aid them. The Iron Snakes send a young marine called Priad to deal with the problem. A few short stories later and Priad is now Brother Sergeant and back at Baal Solock to finish what he thought he’d finished all those years before. The stories in between may seem disconnected, but all of them are tales of the growth and development of the Iron Snakes.

Again, I’ll repeat, this is a bit of a weird one. Not really a novel, it doesn’t have the drive, energy or depth of a longer piece, although the novella at its end, which ties some of the stories together, makes up for some of that. The separate stories feel disjointed, despite sharing the Iron Snakes as a major theme they are often too dissimilar to feel like part of a single story.

Abnett creates some great set-piece battles, and his action sequences are top-notch, but here the structure of the book fails to draw the reader in enough.

Not quite a themed short story collection and not quite a novel, this book fails before it even begins.

Other novels by Abnett in the 40K universe are much worthier of your attention.

WEED SPECIES By Jack Ketchum – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 22, 2016 by stanleyriiks

I don’t know how Ketchum does it, but he does it every time. He has a way of saying stuff that just makes it feel really really wrong. And although the stuff would be wrong anyway, it feels really wrong when Ketchum says it in his raw, open-wound kind of style.

Here we follow the sordid adventures of Sherry, who starts off by drugging her teenage sister so that her husband can rape her. You see Sherry has been helping her husband rape for a few years, and they’ve also been murdering these girls, and now that young Talia is of a certain age, and Sherry is getting older, she’s just not doing it for her husband anymore and is going to help him rape her little sister. Except that things swiftly go wrong and the girl ends up dead.

This short book chronicles the further adventures of Sherry and the consequences of their sordid escapades.

This is pretty nasty stuff, and Ketchum shows us the true horror of the world, despicable humans. Horror has never been quite so nasty as when Ketchum writes it. The man is a devil, he is truly terrifying, by showing us the capacity of humanity to do wrong. A nasty little book, such great fun!

THE TECHNICIAN By Neal Asher – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 14, 2015 by stanleyriiks

This is the book that got me reading Asher’s books. Jon Sullivan’s cover of the titular beast is incredible, and his other covers for Asher’s other books are pretty damn good too. Can you pick a book by its cover?

Although this book is set in Asher’s familiar Polity world it is a stand-alone novel and can be read independently. But, if you have read some of his other novels this will inform the backstory of some familiar characters.

Masada is home to the hooders, a set of deadly creatures, the Theocracy (a strictly religious group who have enslaved some of the populous), the gaggleducks, and the Technician, a near mythical creature who not only attacks humans but turns their bodies into works of art.

When the Technician allows one of its victims to live, Jeremiah Tombs, a member of the Theocracy, it changes him in ways that even the advanced technology of the Polity cannot determine.

Twenty years later the Theocracy is no more, Tombs escapes his Polity captors and goes in search of the truth, a band of rebels called the Tidy Squad are out to kill him, and the Technicians is still out hunting…

Apart from that there are war drones, a dragon and his ancestors, a modified human studying the Technician, and alien races that have destroyed themselves to muddy the waters further.

There’s a lot going on here, as there is with most of Asher’s novels. His intricate plots draw you gradually deeper into his worlds. The characters are barely memorable, but it is the story, the plot and the incredibly well crafted world that really drive this novel.

Asher writes proper SF, intelligent, insightful, and passionate. The world he has created in this novel and the other Polity books (and the Scatteray series) are incredibly complex and detailed and yet don’t overwhelm the intense and sometimes complicated plots. The story drives along swiftly, there are multiple layers, and everything comes together in a riveting but mildly disappointing climax. Can any ending really live up to the rest of the novel?

Asher is the master of intelligent SF. The Technician is a great novel to start your Polity education: jump straight in, the water is thrilling.

THE OCEAN AT THE END OF THE LANE By Neil Gaiman – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 30, 2015 by stanleyriiks

How does he do it?

As a reader he manages to captivate, inspire and surprise me. As a writer he terrifies me. How can I compete?

Our narrator is a middle-aged man who visits what’s left of his childhood home and remembers a brief episode: after he sees a man commit suicide in their family car, he runs away to the house at the end of the lane, and in that house is a family of women, including a young girl slightly older than him, who have been there since the Doomsday book was written (who have a duckpond that they call an ocean). After a magical trip with the young girl our narrator returns home to find things have changed… When he gets a new nanny, she turns out to be some form of magical creature and is intent on imprisoning him in the attic.

Gaiman weaves tales like no one else. This book most reminded me of Hansel and Gretel, it’s a modern-day fairy tale. It’s riveting, absorbing, poignant, intelligent, and captivating. It’s a fantasy like a Roald Dahl book. A book of memory and the fantastic, it’s beautiful and heart wrenching.

Mr Gaiman is a true genius. It’s impossible to review his books with any kind of critical eye because he just sweeps you up in the story and characters. This isn’t his best book, American Gods and Anansi Boys both have more depth, and I’m not sure any book could better The Graveyard Book. But this is an amazing book. It’s simple and straightforward and brilliant. It’s short and insightful and poetic.

The modern teller of fairy tales has created another masterpiece of fiction.

I will follow Mr Gaiman (not in the stalker sense, just his writing!) wherever he goes and I have no doubt I will enjoy every step.

Fantastical genius.