Archive for fantasy

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.

YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE By Ian Fleming – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 16, 2018 by stanleyriiks

Bond is sent to Japan to liaise with their head of security and finds himself sent on an assassination mission. His target turns out to be Blofeld, and Bond must infiltrate a castle of death to finally avenge the murder of his wife.
The Bond novels chart the move between the pulp fiction of the thirties and forties, to the noir novels of the fifties, and the superhero comics of the sixties, containing elements of all of them.

We have a Bond on the edge of a breakdown, suffering from the death of his wife and PTSD (before they had a phrase to describe it). He’s sent on a mission by M, as his final chance to redeem himself, and then blackmailed into killing by a Japan secret service head. Only to find his target is his archenemy…

Bond is a superhero in a noir world of pulp supervillains, with Fleming providing enough detail and depth to really draw us into that world.

Containing all the elements of a classic Bond story; luxury, wealth, exotic locations and even more exotic woman, it’s a playboy fantasy with a measure of action and excitement thrown in. A boy’s own adventure for adult males. Fleming gives us exactly what we’re looking for: adventure, sex, and thrills. No wonder the books and the character continue to be so successful.

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.

SHE WHO WAITS By Daniel Polansky – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 30, 2018 by stanleyriiks

The third and final book in the Low Town trilogy, a grim-dark fantasy set in the filth pit of Low Town, where our anti-hero, Warden, rules with an iron fist, treading a careful path between the city guard, the larger crime families, the corrupt but powerful Black House and his various enemies.

But Warden knows his cards are marked, there are too many people out to kill him and the whole of Low Town is about to go up in smoke as two crews are about to make war and he’s in the middle of it. So he hatches a plot to escape with his ragtag family. But will he make his escape? Will Low Town implode before he gets on his ship? Will he escape the clutches of his enemies as their numbers continue to grow?

Polansky has created a brilliantly realised world, and inhabited it with a bunch of interesting criminal types. This third book doesn’t really add anything to the world, but brings the story to a close in a satisfying way.

Better to start with the first book in the series, although all of the books are roughly stand-alone stories, they read better as a set and are quick and easy to read.

I’ll be checking out Polansky’s other books soon.

TOMORROW, THE KILLING By Daniel Polansky – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 18, 2018 by stanleyriiks

The second book in the Low Town trilogy, we find Warden (former soldier and current drug-dealer and drunkard/junkie) embroiled in a search for a missing rich girl.
(Spoiler alert!)

When she turns up dead he sets out for revenge on a grand scale, involving the local Veterans Association, a criminal gang, and the Low Town equivalent of the FBI: a nasty bunch of bastards from Black House.

If you’re not familiar with the Low Town novels, you could easily start with this one as it’s a pretty much a standalone novel. But you would miss out on a good amount of background and scene setting, and the first book is also pretty good and worthy of your attention.

The second book in the series sees more of the same, violence, action, drunkenness, twisting and turning plots, crime investigation, and Warden’s amusing attitude. He’s a fast-talking anti-hero you don’t want to cross.

Polansky’s world is well-developed and rich with filth, but it’s the characters that really stand-out, as they are imbued with the fragilities of humanity and jump off the page at you, screaming and hankering for your throat.

Good stuff, fast, action packed, easy reading fantasy. Dirty, grimy and thoroughly filthy, this is dark fantasy at it’s gloriously nastiest.

ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE By Ian Fleming – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 20, 2018 by stanleyriiks

Bond is after Blofeld again, and heads to the Alps in his search after procuring some information from a very helpful Corsican gangster, whose daughter falls for our hero. But as Bond enters the strange lair of the master criminal he soon realises that he is as much a prisoner as the rest of the group, and then comes to the conclusion that another master crime is about to be perpetrated.

Can Bond escape the clutches of Blofeld? Can he discover the master criminal’s plans and thwart them? Will he find love and happiness?

Fleming gives us a bit more insight into the character of Bond, who, at the start of the book is fed-up and thinking of quitting the service. His interest in sparked by a girl, and over the course of the book he falls in love. Has the womanising spy finally been tamed?

Fleming is moving with the times, his classic pulp fictions no longer enough for a modern audience, he adds an element of realism to his character. For the modern reader we have the use of biological weapons, a rather too modern reality, to contend with.

Even more than before this Bond book is a modern thriller, seeing plenty of action and car chases, that become the hallmark of the Bond films.

Fleming ramps up the pace of the book towards a shocking climax.

Brilliant Bond at his best.

NEMESIS By James Swallow – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 31, 2018 by stanleyriiks

A band of assassins is put together, the very best of the best, and sent to kill the arch-traitor Horus. The leader of the rebellion against the almighty emperor…

The first half of the book is taken up with the collection of the varied and talented assassins, giving us an insight into their personalities and how they work. Unfortunately there are a few too many of them and there is little characterisation, apart from their physical bearings, to separate them easily.

The second half of the book quickly ramps up the pace and sees our anti-heroes on a world struggling with the Horus Heresy (the split of the human empire), the governors siding with the rebellious Primarch Horus and the people of the world imperials to the core, fighting their corner despite heavy losses. The assassins decide to help out the imperial guerrillas.

Meanwhile a savage killer is making its way across the universe, heading for its own ultimate goal…
What happens when a band of assassins intent on killing the enemy of the Imperium clash with the universe’s most expert murderer…

And we have the Nemesis of the title.

It takes a little while to get into the book, but the second half more than makes up for it. Brilliantly gory and intelligent – although not necessarily an important part of the Heresy story – it is interesting to see how things progress from the Imperial perspective outside of the Space Marines.

The later parts of the book reminded me slightly of Dan Simmons’ Hyperion Cantos.

A new view of the Heresy, and some interesting new characters and viewpoints of this pivotal moment in Imperial history. A great jumping on point for this epic series.

A THOUSAND SONS By Graham McNeill – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 10, 2017 by stanleyriiks

The Horus Heresy is about to begin. The traitor hasn’t yet shown his true colours.

The Thousand Sons are the most advanced warriors when it comes to using the Great Ocean, what will come to be known as the Warp. Magnus the Red, their fearless one-eyed leader, is desperate to warn the Emperor of the impending chaos that is coming when he learns of it through his powers.

But others are plotting to put a stop to the Thousand Sons and their use of the knowledge of the warp, calling it sorcery.
There will be a judgement on the planet of Nikaea that will have repercussions across the universe.

While it’s always good to see the stories of the people and the warriors of the massively epic Heresy, this is part of it that truly resonates across the galaxy. The Thousand Sons will become chaos-infested monsters in the future of the 40K universe, but here they are fiercely loyal warriors of the Emperor.

Their destiny is to be corrupted and this is the first step towards their destruction.

The judgement at Nikaea is a pivotal moment in the conflict that is yet to come.

This book has all the action and excitement we’ve come to expect from the 40K universe, and the Black Library. But, it also has well crafted characters, a deep back story, true conflict, and, what is normally lacking in SF novels, a heart.

McNeill has managed to create a quietly astounding novel in the Horus Heresy series. Ok, so it appears to have been cut in half and we have to wait for the other book to fully see the destruction of an entire Astartes legion, but this is still brother verses brother in an epic battle for the universe.

Great stuff from McNeill again, the Horus Heresy doesn’t get much better than this.

KILLING PRETTY By Richard Kadrey – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 14, 2017 by stanleyriiks

There are some books you just can’t review, because you experience them. You don’t read them, you live them. They impact you and affect everything that follows. The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings are those kind of books. You don’t come across those types of books very often.

Most recently Kadrey’s Sandman Slim did that to me. This is the seventh book is the continuing saga of the man who escaped hell.

Jim Stark, AKA Sandman Slim, is hired as a Private Investigator to save the angel of death, who was forced into a human body and had his heart cut out. Stark’s investigations will lead him to ghost fights, neo-nazis and hedge-funds…

No summary of the Sandman Slim novels manages to capture the essential attitude of our anti-hero Stark, and the random collection of waifs and strays he calls his friends, including a former pornstar and zombie killer, his demon girlfriend, an immortal Frenchman, and Samael the ex-devil.

The impact of the novels, the freshness of the characters and the stories, continues to decrease ever so slightly in each successive instalment. It’s not new anymore. But it’s still a hell of a lot of fun. These are the kind of books you race through at the beginning of the story, glad to be in it, and you slow towards the end as you savour every page and don’t want it to end.

Kadrey has developed an amazing formula, brilliantly realised characters in a dark and gritty world of LA that is wholly recognisable, but strangely shifted beyond our reality. Death, danger, demons and hideously corruptible humans.
Anyone willing to give this series a try is likely to get their mind-blown. This is urban fantasy as it’s shocking best.
Keep up the good work, Mr Kadrey.