Archive for family

BILLY LYNN’S HALFTIME WALK By Ben Fountain – Reviewed

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 14, 2015 by stanleyriiks

On the cover it says this is the Catch 22 of the Iraq War, and it probably is. Ever since that seminal book was written every book on war that uses humour is compared to it. But Catch 22 is a classic for a reason, it’s an amazingly written book that twists and turns and makes a strange kind of sense, it encapsulates the danger, the struggle and the terror of being a soldier.

Does Billy Lynn’s story do the same? To a certain extent, yes, it does.

Billy Lynn and his squad are heroes. On a break from fighting after a much publicised mission, the military trots the soldiers across the country to drum up support. The book tells the story of their final stop, at a Dallas Cowboy’s game. Dealing with the stress of their last mission, recorded for all to see by a journalist, the loss of their comrades, meeting with the dignitaries and millionaires of the Cowboy’s management and fanship, trying to broker a deal with a Hollywood producer who wants to tell their story, coming to terms with heading back into a warzone, and falling in love, this isn’t just a story about war. It feels a little like a coming of age story for young (19 year old) Billy Lynn, and his story is quite incredible, as he joined the army after beating up his sister’s boyfriend who dumped her after a car crash.

Poignant, intelligent, well written, with humour, insight, and subtlety, this is a story of manhood, war, love, family and honour. A remarkable story, and yes, very probably the Catch 22 of the Iraq war. Touching and brilliant.


BLACK FEATHERS By Joseph D’Lacey – Reviewed

Posted in Morpheus Tales Magazine, Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 2, 2013 by stanleyriiks

Printed with the kind permission of Morpheus Tales. This review will appear in the forthcoming (very soon!) Morpheus Tales Supplement!

Black Feathers is the first the first volume in the Black Dawn Duology. A story of an environmental apocalypse…

Gordon Black is born into a world that is starting to crumble. The very Earth is sick, its disease is humanity. Floods, solar flares, famine, financial crises, earthquakes, mudslides. The old saying that society is only 72 hours from falling apart is going to be tested.

The Black family can see what’s happening. They start saving tinned food, hoarding supplies, preparing for the worst. But they can’t prepare for The Ward (a multinational corporation, part police, part military, part government). The Ward takes control of a faltering nation. They “collect” people and their belongings, taking whatever they want or need. They are self-proclaimed saviours of humanity. Gordon’s family is collected and imprisoned by The Ward for hoarding supplies, but the teenage boy manages to escape with his life and sets off to find the mysterious figure called The Crowman: a figure that some say is Satan, and others say is the saviour. While The Ward chase Gordon down, he attempts to find The Crowman.

This is a story of discovery. Gordon and Megan Maurice (who also searches for The Crowman) set off into the wilderness to try to find answers although they don’t even know what questions they need answering. Both are at the mercy of a humanity shattered and broken, as well as rapists, murderers, liars, thieves. Both must discover the truth about the Earth, The Crowman, and what happened to the world.

D’Lacey paints a disturbing picture of the apocalypse, giving hints of the epic dangers and actions that took place, while focusing on the lives of our main characters and telling the story of these epic events through our protagonists. The horrors, instead of the numbing millions, are directly relatable to the terrors that both teenagers face. The human de-evolution due to the crisis is dangerously clear at every stage. Each new face they meet is a potential danger.

This first book sets up the scene nicely, gives us a lot of the background, and sets up a nice cliff-hanger ending that’s left me ready for more. D’Lacey gives us hints of the horrors of the apocalypse, making it a mystery for our protagonists to discover. The story is carefully laid out for the reader to interpret. This is intelligent and subtle, with life-threatening dangers on an individual scale, not an action-filled battle for Earth’s survival. Not yet at least; there may well be some of that in the second book in this duology (and from the author of MEAT, I’m really looking forward to that).

Black Feathers is an original and intelligent apocalypse story. It’s a myth-filled fable of the end of the world on an individual basis. It’s a coming-of-age story set on a cruel and broken Earth.

D’Lacey writes with a power and conviction that is scary. This could well be our future. Bring on volume two! Right now! I need to know what happens next!

ROLLBACK By Robert J. Sawyer – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 15, 2012 by stanleyriiks

A brilliant, emotional, human SF novel.

Dr Sarah Halifax decodes a response from a SETI sent message in a far-flung planet, 18.8 light years away. She is instrumental in forming the response, and sending it, having little thought that she might be dead by the time the message is responded to gain in 37 years time.

But, in her eighties, Sarah is still alive when the new message from the alien race arrives.  She is celebrating her sixtieth wedding anniversary with her husband Don when the news breaks.

A wealthy SETI contributor wants Sarah to be around when the next message arrives and pays for a rollback, a rejuvenation programme that costs billions, to make her young again. Sarah insists that her husband receive it too, but when it works for Don and not for Sarah they have to struggle with her aging and his youthful vigour.

The SETI alien contact is only a part of this novel, the tension and emotional rollercoaster of the two main characters in the happily married couple tugs at the heart-strings. The moral dilemmas, the guilt, the hope, the sadness and loss are truly heart-felt. This is an emotional novel. The background of technology enhances the love story, twisting it and stretching it to breaking point. As much as this is a story of first alien contact, this is a story of family, of history, of love and respect, of youth and aging and old age.  Sawyer has written a truly insightful and inspirational novel.

This is SF with a human side, a brilliantly realised story of love set in a future world with robots and aliens. Intelligent, insightful, emotional and amazing.

DARKER By Simon Clark – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 6, 2009 by stanleyriiks

Richard Young, his wife and their four year old daughter Amy wave off Mark, their eldest child as he goes camping with friends. Little knowing that this week, while their son is away, they will be in a race for their lives across the UK, fighting to stay alive as they are chased round the country by a huge, invisible, crushing thing. They are joined in their plight by a multi-millionaire, Michael, who believes what he calls “the beast” can be controlled and he has a team of scientists trying to work out how to contain the ancient power.

This has a fairly slow start, not really much happening for the first sixty or seventy pages, as everyone is introduced and the happy family angle is played up. But when the action does kick it it’s full steam ahead, a frantic chase as the beast chases the family and their visitor Michael, who drip-feeds them information. All the while they are also chased by Rosemary Snow who is somehow linked to Amy, and knows just what a bad man Michael really is. He tried to kill her.

Mmm… While you’re reading this it’s actually quite good, typical thriller, full-on action which doesn’t give you a chance to think. You go along with the story because it keeps you entertained, you ignore the implausibility because it’s fun, you ignore the lack of good characters because the story sweeps you up. And it really does, despite its many errors and mistakes, and a complete disregard for the use of the comma, the story sweeps you up like a whirlwind, swings you round and won’t let you go till it’s finished with you and chucks you out the other end! Ok, so we don’t really care what happens to these people, the explanations are fairly implausible and at times ridiculous, as though the plot hasn’t really been thought out that much. But this is like a rollercoaster ride of a novel, you enjoy it while you’re enthralled in the action, despite the fact you’re left wondering “was that it?” at the end.

Clark is a much better writer than this book shows him to be. Fun, exciting, but lacking in substance.