Archive for epic

THE GETAWAY GOD By Richard Kadrey – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 27, 2017 by stanleyriiks

James Stark, Sandman Slim, is working for a secret Christian agency that is intent on keeping the demons and magically infused citizens of LA in check. Meanwhile the entire world is falling apart, under a deluge of never ending rain LA is flooding and emptying out. God, the actual god, has had a breakdown and his split personalities have literally split him into various pieces, and are fighting each other. Stark trapped one part of the fractured deity down in hell, to get out of being Lucifer.

The Angra Om Ya, a powerful set of old gods, are attempting to come back while the chaos continues, and only Stark and his magic eight ball (a powerful weapon he doesn’t know how to use) can stop them.

There’s also a serial killer on the loose, cutting people up and putting them back together as vessels for the ancient gods to possess.

Can Stark work out the eight ball in time? Can he stop the serial killer? Will his girlfriend leave him? Will heaven collapse?

If you’re coming to a series six books in then I think you should be a bit lost, but Kadrey kindly provides enough explanation of the back story so that every makes sense.

The fact is, as a reader of the series, I remember all of it. I read a lot, I watch a lot, and most things pretty much trickle out of my sieve-like brain. But not Kadrey’s books. They stick in there, their weird scenes, characters and a hellish LA are imprinted on my memory. Sure, I don’t remember everything, but I remember most of it. These books are memorable, and that’s a lot more than I can say for most books.

Kadrey’s characters and writing has attitude. Stark would pick you up, slam your head against the wall, and kick you while you’re down.

The filmic quality of the books is finally realised with the new style covers for the paperbacks.

The Stark books are not likely to be anything like the books you’ve read before, and that’s more than a good thing, that’s a great thing. You don’t often find a writer who can quite tap into your nastiness and bring it out in book form, but Kadrey’s done just that.

The man is a genius, and while this isn’t the best of the Stark novels (the series does seem to be losing a bit of momentum), I’ll be sticking with it until the end, because it’s still the best urban fantasy ever.

Read and beware, you may well become addicted.

THE ABOMINABLE By Dan Simmons – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 7, 2017 by stanleyriiks

I thought this would be Simmons back to his roots with a horror novel featuring the Earthly form of the Wookie: the abominable snowman, the yeti. But the “baddie” here is pretty much the mountain, the mountain: Everest.

It’s the early thirties, and three climbers set out to climb the largest mountain in the world, the unconquerable Everest. They find funding, their excuse to go there being to recover the body of a former friend, but they must take his cousin with them. The mountain quickly proves treacherous, and when they find out the body is of a spy, and they are being chased by Germans intent on collecting the secrets his body carries, things go from dangerous to even worse…

As with all Simmons’ novels he manages to capture the essence of the place he’s writing about, in this case the wind-blown peaks of the Himalayas, the jagged rock-faces, and the desolate and airless ridges of ice and rock.

The build-up is slow and gradual, giving the reader the information necessary to respect the struggle that these early pioneers had to endure, and giving you essential knowledge about climbing and the primitive but revolutionary equipment they are using.

Sadly, although he manages to imbue the characters with the same sense of depth, for some reason there is just a lack of feeling towards any of them. I’m not entirely sure what’s missing, but something definitely is.

This is a long book, and takes a while to get into, it being book-ended with the set-up for the actual story.

Simmons is a craftsman, his books really do capture you and take you to someplace else. This one is no exception, it, like all his books, is exceptional.

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!