Archive for fiction

BLAST FROM THE PAST By Ben Elton – Reviewed

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

I read Stark, Elton’s first book, when I was at school. It was funny, political, interesting. I watched The Young Ones, Blackadder, and The Thin Blue Line. I’d seen some of Elton’s stand-up on TV. I wasn’t obsessive, but I considered myself a fan.

I probably bought this book around the time it came out in 1998 and just haven’t got round to reading it. Nearly twenty years after the book came out it hasn’t really dated. It’s still as relevant as it was back then.

It’s the story of a young woman, Polly, who, after having an affair with a US soldier based at Greenham Airbase in the 80s (she was a protester), gets a phone call from him at 2.15 in the morning. She’s also being stalked by a man she called the Bug.

Although the book follows the conversations, it’s about the lives of these characters, their interactions with each other, and the impact of the initial affair.

But, it’s not classic Elton. It’s not particularly funny, there are no laugh out loud moments, and only the occasional smiles. The characters are fairly well rounded, but occasionally come across as typical stereotypes. The plot feels like a writing exercise: can I write a whole book based on a few hours of conversation one night. And it’s all fairly predictable.

That’s not to say it isn’t entertaining, and despite some issues I have with Elton’s all over the place writing style, it draws you in and you want to find out what happens next. It is easy reading.

Not Elton’s best by a long shot, out of his first five books (this is the fifth) this is the least successful.

I still have about four Elton books hidden on my shelves somewhere, but on the strength of this one I won’t be searching them out immediately.

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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.

THE GUNSMITH: DEADLY FORTUNE By J. R. Roberts – Reviewed

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

Never has a series been more like a male version of Mills and Boon than the Gunsmith series. Bearing in mind, this is my first, and probably my last, dip into a series which runs at least 398 books.

This is a western, where Clint Adams, the Gunsmith, heads into a new town and is attacked. He meets a beautiful fortunate-teller and decides to help her out, swiftly becoming involved in a battle against the local tough, Mr Torquelan, a gangster and murderer.

Pretty simple stuff, written by numbers, and including a few action scenes, fist-fights and shoot-outs, and a couple of almost pornographic love scenes.

The men are hardy, the women are easy. The action is plenty, the story is minimal.

This is a few hours of mindless entertainment, and literally nothing more.

Entertaining enough, but only just.

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.

THE SILENT ARMY By James A Moore – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 25, 2017 by stanleyriiks

OMG, this is how to finish a fantasy series! At last the final book in the series sees the culmination of years of planning as the Sa’Ba (a vicious, brutal and merciless war-like race) chase the City of Wonders as it flies through the air, killing everything in their path, and plotting the capital’s downfall.

In the flying city the Empress and her advisors attempt to stop the war by any means necessary, but at every step their plans are thwarted. On top of that the flying city isn’t safe, it’s been infiltrated, random murders are taking place, the refugees from the destroyed cities are homeless and desperate, food is being poisoned, and the city is heading directly for the mountains on a path of destruction that no one knows how to alter…

Wow. Fantasy doesn’t get much better than this.

Moore has managed to create a vivid, brilliantly realised world, he’s filled it with incredible characters, thrown in a ton of violence, brutality, murder and destruction, and then managed to build the tension throughout four books, ending in a compelling and riveting climax.

The Seven Forges books are immensely readable, totally absorbing, refreshing and absolutely brilliant.
Don’t read this book, read the entire series! Definitely one of the best fantasy series in decades. One that will live long in my memory.

A happy reader.

OUT OF THE DARK By David Weber – Reviewed

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

How do I review this book without ruining the surprise ending that lets it all down? Ok, let’s start off with the good, there’ll be plenty of time for the bad in a minute.

Aliens decide to invade Earth.

This is an ensemble piece, following not only several human characters but also the aliens, giving us an insight into the politics of the Shongairi (a dog-like race) and their Hegemony (universe-wide coalition). The problem is that there is a little too much going on and none of the characters are well developed, or even developed a little bit.

Straight to the bad stuff. The characters are merely cardboard cut-outs. The world is half-destroyed by the alien race but who gives a shit, there is nothing in this book that really presents this as a bad thing and certainly nothing to make us care about it. For an “advanced” race the Shongairi are pretty stupid, and when they invade they are ill-prepared and equipment for infantry warfare, which is explained easily enough, but not entirely convincingly. Then we have Weber’s obsession with weaponry. Now this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, except when it overpowers the story. Instead of being told how a something grain bullet travels faster in one weapon than another, how about telling us why we should care about the marine in Romania, or the rednecks in the hills, or anyone in this book.

Ok, now for the spoiler alert: The Earth and whatever is left of humanity is saved from the alien invasion by Dracula about twenty pages towards the end, with no signposting or anything to make me believe this is in anyway real. I can accept alien races invading Earth, that’s fine, I can suspend disbelief because the author has sold me that story and I’ll willing to buy it. What I’m not willing to buy is a writer throwing in a deus ex machina. I feel robbed.

Not the story I was looking for, not the writer I was looking for. Disappointing on all fronts.

VANILLA RIDE By Joe R. Lansdale – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 29, 2017 by stanleyriiks

No matter how many Lansdale books I read I’m always pleasantly surprised at how easy they are to read and get into. This is another book in the Hap and Leonard series of crime novels (soon to be on your small screens), and the luckless couple find themselves in so far over their heads they don’t know what to do when they help a friend out by kidnapping his granddaughter and beating up her drug-dealer boyfriend and flushing his stash down the toilet. Now the Dixie Mafia is on their tails and the FBI are blackmailing them, and something is a bit hinky…

East Texas sounds like a dangerous place and Lansdale brings it to life as only he can. You can virtually smell the burning rubbish in the backyard of the trailer. Hap and Leonard’s sense of humour is infectious, despite the dangers they face the pair just won’t keep quiet, but their devil-may-care attitude is what’s so endearing.

A simple plot with a healthy dose of twists and turns, a whole load of action and danger, and laughs aplenty with this crew.

Lansdale does it again, providing his own unique style in a captivating crime thriller.