Archive for epic

TWILIGHT OF THE DRAGONS By Andy Remic – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 25, 2017 by stanleyriiks

Book two of the Blood Dragon Empire series sees our band of heroes, now freed from the torturous clutches of the dwarves, heading deeper into the mountain, following Lilith the witch as she divines their path to the ancient city of dragons, Wyrmblood, hunted by dwarves intent on their murder.

Above ground the freed dragons are on a rampage, attacking everyone and everything they can find. The Iron Wolves, another crack team of warriors from Vagandrak, from Remic’s previous books The Iron Wolves and The White Towers, find themselves on the receiving on Kranesh, the dragon queen’s, wrath. The axe-warrior is intent on giving as good as he gets and involves his crew in an epic battle on the ramparts of the walled city…

Anyway who hasn’t read at least the first book in this series should turn back now. Can you get away with not reading the first book? Sure you can, but it’s like watching a film by starting in the middle, and a football match from the second half.

To get the most out of this book I would also recommend the connected Iron Wolves books too, which will give you a nice back history of half the characters involved.

Having read a lot of fantasy I can pretty well predict where the author is going to go. I have a good idea of the plot, and how the characters will act. Not so with Remic. He manages to surprise me, a lot. What he is willing to do to his characters is… well, it’s quite horrible sometimes. And yet brilliant. His plots continue to surprise as well, just as I think this will be a nice Empire Strikes Back-type second book in a trilogy, adding depth and dimension to the story and moving it forward towards the inevitable conclusion, he throws in battles you expect him to save for the third book, he kills characters you expected to the trilogy’s heroes, and he blows your mind.

Remic surprises and delights in equal measure. He does something few writers seem to be able to, he makes you feel.

Remic is a fantasy genius. Twilight of the Dragons slides nicely into my Remic collection, and if you don’t have your own Remic collection you’re not reading the right fantasy.

LOOK TO WINDWARD By Iain M. Banks – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 18, 2017 by stanleyriiks

Set in the Culture universe where artificial intelligence rule much of the galaxy we find ourselves on Masaq’ orbital. Famous Chelgrian composer Ziller is working on his latest masterpiece, but when he hears that an emissary from his home planet is on his way Ziller is outraged, suspecting they will ask him to return to his home planet, and it may cause chaos for the planned festivities surrounding the inaugural rendition.

But beneath the various diplomatic shenanigans more disastrous activities are taking place…

To tell you more would ruin the surprise that Banks has in store.

This is such an easy book to read, and it’s only because of the writer’s hard work. You immediately know what’s going on, get hints of what is to come, and can easily realise how this galaxy-scanning empire works.

Brilliant characters, simple plot, but with depth you don’t often see outside of epic space operas. A nice, easy and intelligent read.

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.

THE NECROMANCER By Douglas Clegg – Reviewed

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 16, 2017 by stanleyriiks

This book feels very similar to the previous Cemetery Dance book I read by Chet Williamsons, except where The Story of Noichi the Blind, the set-up feels strained and overdone, here it works.

This book is based on the diary of a young man on his journey to becoming the apprentice of The Necromancer of the title. Justin Gravesend is born and brought up in a mining town in Wales in the mid-1800s, believing his father is a murderer who killed his twin brother as a baby, James heads off to London, as much to escape his family and life down the pit as to seek his fortune. At University he becomes friends with some toffs who take him to a brothel, where a man is waiting for him, the owner of the brothel, and the Necromancer.

Will James survive the initiation?

It all ends rather abruptly just as the story starts getting interesting. Perhaps that’s because this is part of a series of books, but I still felt a little cheated. I expect a book to be a whole story, and to a certain extent it is, that of James’ discovery and initiation and maturation into an apprentice, but at that point it ends. The rest of the story is told in Clegg’s other books in this series, which are currently only available on the Kindle (yuk yuk yuk, technology!).

A traditional and well told tale of horror, which ends too quickly. More a prelude than a proper story, but I guess that’s what you give with chapbooks.

THE SCARLET GOSPELS By Clive Barker – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 30, 2017 by stanleyriiks

It’s rare that I buy hardbacks, but I have quite a few of Barker’s. When I heard that the infamous Pinhead would be returning there was no way I was missing out.

Pinhead is one of the quintessential horror anti-heroes, like Jason, Michael Myers, Leatherface, Freddy Kruger, he appeared in the eighties (ok, so Michael and Leatherface led the way in the seventies) when I was approaching my teens and basically robbed me of my childhood sleep and left indelible memories of terror that I still have today. Exciting recollections of terror that instilled my on-going love of all things horror.

Pinhead was the only character to actually originate in a book, one of Barker’s Books of Blood, which was a series of collected stories that really didn’t impress me at the time, but introduced the world to splatterpunk. The books were a gore-fest.

The story was adapted into a film, very loosely based on the original story. Barker wrote and directed a film that was already a classic by the time I saw it. When I did watch it I was underwhelmed, but the Chinese puzzle box and that vision of the lead Cenobite and his symmetrical “pin-head” stayed with me, and the violence and nastiness was impressive.

Here again, Barker impresses.

The first four chapters, before Book One starts, are one of the greatest character introductions in modern horror. A group of magicians is holding a meeting to discuss the rapid decimation of their kind, and call upon the ghost of one of their recently murdered number. But the meeting is interrupted by chains and hooks and the infamous Cenobite, known as Pinhead, who has been slowly tracking down and killing every magician in the world.

What ensues is, as you would expect, horrifying, terrifying, and exactly the kind of start to a Barker book that gets a horror fan excited.

Then things go normal very briefly, as Norma, a blind woman who talks to the dead, and her friend Harry D’Amour (private investigator) do a job for a dead man that ends up with Norma being kidnapped and Harry following her and Pinhead into Hell as the Cenobite sets out to kill Lucifer. I said very briefly!

It’s a bit of a strange one this. The best part of the book is the beginning, after that the mystic of the Cenebite begins to fall apart, despite his perversions and evilness being just as bad down in hell. You kind of get numb to it as he’s doing all his evil doings to demons, so there’s little sympathy. His treatment of Norma, a nice old lady, is pretty horrible and as times quite startling. Barker isn’t afraid to hurt his characters or his readers.

The ending is a bit strange, not really satisfying all that has gone on before.

But this is the return of Pinhead, and a nasty and deliciously twisted return it is.

Barker is back, returning to create a world of horror (hell) and then sending in a terrifying creature of chaos in the form of Pinhead to destroy it.

Good, nasty fun. Pinhead returns!

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.