Archive for epic

FRAGILE THINGS By Neil Gaiman – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 17, 2019 by stanleyriiks

I have a strange relationship with short stories. On the one hand they are fun, easy to read, short and can be read in one sitting. On the other hand they blend into each other, lack impact and are generally easily forgettable.

I read this collection a few weeks ago and apart from remembering that the final novella of the book is related to American Gods, I can’t really remember any of them. I know there were a few poems in here, none of which really stuck a chord for me (I’m not a big poetry fan).

So, how can I review it? If you like Neil Gaiman, or short stories, then you’ll probably enjoy this. I like his comics, I really enjoyed his novels, and some of his children’s stories.

This book was easy to read, and if you like short stories then you’ll relish this book from this master fantasist. But none of the stories really stands out. There is the usual sense of being told a fairy tale, but… I don’t know. The book seems to be lacking something. Definition may be. It’s all too vague, too limp, too directionless. I suppose that’s why most anthologies have a theme nowadays.

A nice stop-gap between novels, but hardly riveting reading and nothing memorable. A bit disappointing from Gaiman.

THE KILL SOCIETY By Richard Kadrey – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 29, 2019 by stanleyriiks

Ah, and Sandman Slim is back with a bang.

After the very slightly disappointing eighth book in the series, Kadrey throws Slim into hell, where he becomes trapped with a fanatical group of demons and other criminals, intent on taking a secret weapon to heaven and getting involved in the civil war going on there. Of course, they have to escape the tenebrae first, the desolate wasteland of the lost dead.

Will Slim be able to save his friend Father Traven? Will he be able to escape the dangerous clutches of the ruthless Magistrate? Will he be able to escape hell itself for a second time? And is being dead going to help or hinder his adventures?

This nice departure from Slim saving the world yet again in his magic-fuelled world of LA is Kadrey back to his best. Slim is the perfect anti-hero, he has a terrible attitude, and his kill-first-and-ask-questions-later mentality are on full show once again.

A great addition to the Slim chronicles, and definitely essential reading if you like your urban fantasy with a boot up the arse.

ANATHEM By Neal Stephenson – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 20, 2019 by stanleyriiks

What a long, boring book. It took me about four months to finish reading this SF/fantasy epic, in which very little happens for the most part.

The world in which it is set is vividly described, a strange world in which those who want to learn live in conclaves away from the rest of civilisation and once a year venture outside. When an alien starship is noticed edging close to the planet their world erupts, the avout are forced out in unheard of numbers, and must venture across the outside world to another Concent, meanwhile finding out that saving the world is now down to them.

This book is just too long. There is a lot going on, but not actually much in the way of action. There are philosophical debates and arguments, politics aplenty, and even some interesting discussions and dilemmas. But I can’t help thinking this book should have been heavily edited. At least half of the waffle could have been removed without massively affecting the quality of the story.

Perhaps I’m just annoyed I spent so so long reading this, only to be disappointed by the weak ending.

Whatever, I will be steering clear of Stephenson’s books from now on.

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.

PROSPERO BURNS By Dan Abnett – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 2, 2018 by stanleyriiks

Book 15 in the Horus Heresy series. If you’re coming to this book having not read any of the previous books in the series then it might be a bit of a struggle, although much of the book can be read as an individual story, you’ll miss out so much of the context that it might be confusing.

For those who have been following the series, this book is the other side of book 12 (A Thousand Sons), and follows directly on. The first forty pages or so is pretty confusing and doesn’t really seem to relate to anything, but is essentially our introduction to Hawser, a historian, who has travelled to Fenris (the home of the mighty Space Wolves) and becomes their archivist. As such he is privy to secrets beyond the scope of mere humans, and is there at the trial of Magnus the Red. After Magnus tries to warn his father using the void that he has been told not to use, it is the Space Wolves who must travel to Prospero, the home of the Sons, and sanction them using every deadly measure available to them.

Despite an annoyingly opaque opening, this book really develops. It shows the intrigue and genius of the plotting of chaos against the Emperor and his space marines. It shows the struggles of brother being pitted against brother, and there is a whole heap of action as the space marines fight against their only true opponent: their brother space marines.

Abnett is one of the best writers working for the Black Library, and his Horus Heresy books are essential reading. The Heresy series sometimes seems to stretch the story a little too far, giving more context than substance in some of the novels, but here we are really at the heart of the story, but told in a slightly different way.

One of the better Horus Heresy books, Dan Abnett does it again.

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.

CONAN THE FREELANCE By Steve Perry – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 25, 2018 by stanleyriiks

Our hero is once again dragged into helping a damsel in distress, although this one is no shrinking violet. When Conan rescues her in the desert he is invited to her forest and tree-city. While enjoying himself and making friends, he becomes embroiled in a three-way tussle for a magical seed. Fighting, battles, trickery, betrayal and love all follow, with Conan at the centre of it all through no fault of his own…

Some interesting characters, and, chasing chasing and more chasing, are enough to raise it above the standard Conan fair. Things are still pretty predictable, and this is good old fashioned sword and sorcery at its best.
Perry isn’t the best writer to have worked on this set of novels, but the story has plenty of action and enough going on to keep you interested.

Good stuff, despite the lack of originality and surprises.