Archive for drama

ALOHA FROM HELL By Richard Kadrey – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 6, 2013 by stanleyriiks

I hate Richard Kadrey. I hate his books. I hate Sandman Slim, one of the greatest anti-heroes to ever be captured on the page.

Kadrey writes books I wish I’d written. He had created a world and characters that I can only dream of creating. He has plots that make me want to read the whole book in one sitting because I want to find out what happens so bad. But also I want to read slowly, to savour every sentence, and respect every line because there is such a wit and darkness in these pages.

This is the third book in the amazing Sandman Slim series, featuring Slim who is a magician returned from hell after turning monster fighter and demon killer. He lives in an LA underworld ruled by Sub Rosa (old magical) families and factions. And finds himself involved as a bodyguard to Lucifer, a private-detective and monster hunter. Slim is my hero. The dude rocks my world, and I wish, I so wish, that he was mine. We would have such great adventure together. But what am I saying? We do have such great adventures together, but that bugger Kadrey creates them! I don’t want to share, I want Slim all to myself.

The third book in the series see Slim having to head down to Hell as his nemesis is having success building an army of hellions and plans to head up to Heaven to destroy it, and then destroy the rest of the world. Of course, there’s excommunicated priests, demons and gods, magic, fighting, betrayal, lies, and all manner of excitement to get in the way of things moving along smoothly.

Slim narrates with a unique voice that entertains with a brisk pace and style that you will find hard to match. The closest comparable voice stylistically would be Joe Lansdale’s East Texas drawl. But Kadrey goes further, where most are afraid to go. He seems unafraid to deal with difficult and controversial issues such as religion and faith, all the while having a wicked sense of humour, and one hellish, fetid darkness that sucks the reader in.

Like the very best fantasists, Clive Barker and Neil Gaiman at the top of their game, Kadrey creates a magnificent world that drips reality, characters that ooze personality, and plots that truly capture the imagination.

The third book in the series continues on the success of the previous two books. You must read the Sandman Slim novels. You MUST read one of them.

I hate Richard Kadrey, I want to be Richard Kadrey. I love Sandman Slim. I look forward to most adventures together.

Darkly brilliant.

Demented genius.

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THE SPY WHO LOVED ME By Ian Fleming – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 24, 2013 by stanleyriiks

Those expecting nuclear submarines and dastardly spy shenanigans are likely to be disappointed, as Fleming experiments with an almost non-Bond Bond novel. Here we have a book narrated in the first person by a young Canadian woman in an empty motel, Vivienne Michel, reliving her past loves (basically abuse at the hands of men), and whiling away the hours until dawn arrives and she can leave. But half way through the night two men (gangsters) turn up and things get nasty. They seem intent on giving Viv a hard time and one even beats her, the threat of rape and murder hangs in the air, and when Viv tries to escape she is shot at.

Fortunately, about three quarters of the way through the novel, Bond turns up and takes matters into his own hands.

So, not your standard Bond novel then. The use of Viv as a filter for the hardened Bond character works well, and was probably a nice change for Fleming, but it could be seen as a strange departure by fans expecting a typical Bond novel.

Although there is the subtle hint of menace throughout the book, this is a strange kind of love story, with Viv becoming besotted with her hero almost as soon as he arrives. The book is enjoyable enough, Bond is on hand to help ramp up the action for the final quarter, and the book is short enough and well-written enough, to keep your attention. But this seems like a step too far from the traditional Bond stories, Fleming’s evocative and stylish prose isn’t as effective here, and the lack of action and tension that normally drive the books is missing.

Fleming was by this time moving away from his pulp fiction beginnings and into detective/mystery territory with the novels, but apart from the love-story echoes this is pure pulp. The gangster criminals in the shape of Sluggsy and Horror could easily have come from a Charlie Chan or Spider novel. A departure from the Bond canon, but not a bad book, a more female view of the action hero that is James Bond, license to thrill.

LOOPER – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 23, 2012 by stanleyriiks

When I saw the poster for this I got excited. With the two figures holding guns in different directions, and a review quote stating the film was this decade’s The Matrix, nothing was going to stop me watching it.

Unfortunately the film is nothing like The Matrix. The 1999 Wachowski brothers’ classic is a SF action thriller. In no sense of the words is Looper an action thriller. It’s more a drama with SF at the heart of the story, but virtually ignored in visual terms.

Set in the near-future, the story follows Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a looper. Loopers are assassins working for some form of mob in the future, sent back in time (30 years) to await their victims, who are also sent back through time where they do not yet exist. The murders are therefore untraceable. Every now and then a looper’s older self is sent back to be killed by his younger self 30 years before with a nice big payoff, and 30 years of freedom until they are sent back in time to be killed by their younger self. You still with me? One thing the film does do well is explain this.

So, Joe’s older self is sent back in the form of Bruce Willis, and instead of killing him, older Joe escapes and tries to survive, and to change the future by killing the person he believes will grow into the murderer of his wife and himself. Meanwhile the mob are trying to track down both Joes to kill both of them to close the loop.

The film is set in a futuristic Kansas City, which is seen only briefly. Half of the film is set on a farm in the middle of nowhere, where younger Joe holes up, awaiting older Joe, and falling in love with the lovely Emily Blunt.

The story travels a fairly predictable path, apart from the premise there is nothing new here. Visually this is more of a farm story, it only gets a bit exciting when an old looking Willis goes on the rampage, which is fun.

Despite a mostly decent story, and some good actors, the film ultimately falls flat because at two hours it’s too long, too boring, too dull. The brief moments of action and excitement are too few. The future Kansas City is barely glimpsed instead of explored, too much time is spent with no action, and when you get to the end of the film you’re just a bit glad it’s all over.

The Quantum Thief By Hannu Rajaniemi – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 29, 2012 by stanleyriiks

Jean le Flambeur is a legendary thief, who is broken out of prison by the alien Mieli and her sentient starship Perhonen. Jean is a post-human, his body was taken from him, his mind was imprisoned and mental torture took place during his incarceration. Now he has a new body, but his memories are not intact, and to do what Mieli asks of him he has to rediscover who he used to be.

What follows is an intricate spider-web of intrigues, layer upon layer of deception and politics.

Difficult is not a word I use often to describe a novel, but I found this one a challenge. There is a deep and complex world here, and Rajaniemi doesn’t make it as easy as it could be. This book written by Peter F. Hamilton would be another six hundred pages long, but would make a great deal more sense.

The climax the story builds towards seems to fade out before actually happening, but the complexity and intricacies of the plot had me floundering at times. On the surface this is a simple crime-thriller, but deeper it is a massively detailed political siege drama.

There are a lot of complex and excellent ideas, the gevulot privacy system, sharing memories, and post-humanity are clever. The fact that nothing is described, information is given only as part of the story, and sometimes details and explanations can be lost, or simply not explored enough, create a sense of confusion in the reader (in this reader anyway).

The failure of the climax (did I miss it?) is just as annoying as the lack of clarity.

For those willing and able to re-read a book this is likely to be one of those books that grows on you with a second or third reading, but I want to enjoy a book on the first read, and don’t want to have to give myself a headache concentrating and working out what every idea is before moving on with the plot. An appendix with explanations might be been a helpful addition.

This book shows massive potential, but feels like an unedited manuscript in need of more explanation. Great cover though, and I’ll likely pick up the second book in the trilogy when it comes out later this year, in the hope that some knowledge of the first book will help.

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.

BAG OF BONES By Stephen King – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 23, 2010 by stanleyriiks

Michael Noonan is a writer suffering hideous writers’ block after the tragic and unexpected death of his wife. But the block, resulting in all manner of symptoms including migraines, stomach cramps and vomiting, seems to disappear entirely when Michael heads to Sara Laughs, his holiday home on the lake.

There, Mike meets Kyra, a three year old girl, walking down the centre line of the high street in town. And shortly thereafter he meets Kyra’s mother, a teenage widow who is in the middle of a custody battle with a billionaire father-in-law who will stop at nothing to grab her child away. Without meaning to Mike gets caught up in the drama and decides to help out.

What Mike gets himself into will turn all of their lives upside down.

Only King could get away with the first hundred pages of the novel just warming you up, hardly anything happens and yet he still manages to keep you attention. The book builds slowly, developing towards the epic finale which continues in intensity, depth and astoundingness the further into it we get.

King always feels the need to put in some kind of supernatural entity, and here, like in Rose Madder, it feels like its being forced. This could have been a shockingly horrific action thriller, without the supernatural element. But King refuses to deny his roots (normally such a good thing!), and produces not only bad ghosts but good, friendly and helpful ghosts too. A stretch too far perhaps?

Of course, even bad King is good. And this certainly isn’t bad, it’s one of the better novels, although slightly over-the-top in terms of the supernatural, and a little long-winded, but what King novel isn’t. It’s too easy to pick criticisms when you have such a great deal of choice and such a wide range of novels, but some of those criticisms are certainly justified. On the whole Stephen King is a story-teller who grips the reader, entertaining us wholeheartedly, and providing lifelong memories.

Bag of Bones is one of King’s better novels, which puts it towards the top of any pile of horror novels. It sucks you in and makes you feel, and really, what more could you ask for.