Archive for filled with ideas

ACK-ACK MACAQUE By Gareth L. Powell – Reviewed

Posted in Morpheus Tales Magazine, Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 11, 2013 by stanleyriiks

Published with the kind permission of Morpheus Tales.

Powell’s first collection The Last Reef (available as an ebook from Anarchy Books ( was exceptional. A book filled with intelligent SF, bristling with ideas and clever stories. I was looking forward to reading Powell’s first novel The Recollection, a clever SF story based on some of the stories in that first collection. It wasn’t as good as I was expecting. Most of the brilliant ideas in the book came from the stories in The Last Reef. I’d expected more.

I wasn’t looking forward to reading this one. It sounded a bit… well, stupid. Also, I’d just finished reading the excellent Sandman Slim, a book filled with character, with attitude, with energy. Not something I would have expected from the “quiet” fiction of Powell.

Boy was I wrong!

Powell seems to be having a great deal of fun with this book, and fortunately the reader is right there alongside him all the way.

Britain and France merged in the 1950s. Nuclear powered airships travel around the world. Britain refuses to give back Hong Kong and is on the brink of war with China. The King is recovering from an assassination attempt. Victoria returns to London to deal with the murder of her husband, only to find the policeman who escorted her to the flat dead on the foot of the stairs and his murderer looking up at her, then heading straight for him, his knife poised to kill her too…

A Macaque is battling against Nazi forces during the Second World War…

This is powerful, action-packed stuff. The tension starts to rise from very early on, and as the twisted tale of treason, conspiracy and murder is revealed the tension continues to rise. The characters are unique, their voices clearly individual, and the monkey adding a level of attitude and humour that really jumps off the page. The one-eyed, pistol carrying, cigar chomping fighter pilot macaque is brilliantly refreshing in his no nonsense attitude, and animalistic simplicity amongst the complex plotting and treachery.

The tension rises throughout the book, creating an edge of the seat expectation that could only be satisfied with a powerful climax, so how about fighting and explosions, and crashing and… (I don’t want to give away too much!) but Powel delivers by the bucketload.

Powerful, intelligent, filled with ideas, clever touches and brilliant characters.

Powell has hit his stride, and produced a steampunk SF novel that delivers. I don’t know if Powell is planning a sequel, but when you have a character this good, he deserves another book. I can’t think of a story that could possibly live up to this one, but I hope Powell can!

Monkey magic.

Ripped Genes: The Biopunk Special Issue – Reviewed

Posted in Morpheus Tales Magazine, Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 11, 2012 by stanleyriiks

I really wanted to hate this issue. For completely selfish and nasty reasons, I wanted to hate this magazine. I wanted to submit to it, I had some amazing ideas. Ideas that never made the transition from brain to page. For whatever reason (that thing some people call writers’ block and I call life) got in the way of my making the deadline, although I had determined months before that I’d write something. In the end I wrote nothing, and because of that I didn’t want to like this issue.

And you know what? Now I feel even worse. Because this is not just a good special issue, this is the kind of magazine that excites me (ok, not in that way you perve!). It inspires me, it makes me want to write, it wakes up my brain!

Filled with ideas, and bursting with sparkles of brilliance, the editor Samuel Diamond has delivered a treat. This is SF as it should be!

There are far too few SF magazines out there. Morpheus Tales delivers a good share of horror, but the SF is sadly lacking. The small press for SF seems to have mostly dried up (forgive me if I’m wrong, but I’ve looked and I can’t find much).

Which is why it is magazines like Ripped Genes: The Biopunk Special issue are so important. It doesn’t just deliver, it delivers by the bucket load.

There is not a bad story in this diverse bunch, but highlights for me were “Fishing the Life in Notochords” By Matt Leyshon, a writer who never fails to amaze me; “Baby Boom” By Alan Spencer, another writer I’m familiar with who shows time and time again that he’s more than just a blood and guts horror writer (although he does it so well); “Screaming Monkeys” By Dev Jarrett, a remarkable story; and “Legacy” By Richard Farren Barber who gets better with every story.

Picking four out of the thirteen stories on offer had me tearing my hair out, it’s so difficult to pick out just a handful of these exceptional stories. The creators of these stories are all on top form.

I hate that I’m not a part of this magazine. I’m gutted. I wish I had a time machine, then I’d go back six month and sit down and write. Of course, I’d probably steal some of the brilliant ideas contained in this magazine if I did. Ripped Genes is an SF magazine that demands you read it. Check out the free preview and then go buy yourself a copy. You will not regret it.

Cutting edge SF at it’s very best! Devilishly good stuff!

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THE SKY ROAD By Ken MacLeod – Reviewed

Posted in Life..., Reviews, Uncategorized, writing with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 8, 2009 by stanleyriiks


Lately I’ve been spending a lot of time reading, trying to get through the huge stockpile of books I’ve managed to build up over the last twenty years. I’ve told myself I can’t buy any new books until I’ve made a dent in the three huge bookcases full I already have. I have a list ready of new books I want to buy: Drood, The Umblemished, Patient Zero… The list goes on. And on.

As Stephen King, and nearly every other successful writer, says: If you want to be a writer, you have to read a lot and write a lot. OK, so at the moment it’s a bit easier to do the former than the latter. I’m watching almost no TV, the house is a mess cos I’m not doing any chores (any excuse!), and I’m only watching about one film a week instead of one a day! Every spare minute seems to be taken up with reading, and I’ve been on a bit of a roll. In the last three months not one book has taken more than four days to read.

And then I come to The Sky Road.

This isn’t a book that can be read quickly. Unlike most modern novels it actually takes a bit of concentration, but when you put in the effort you do feel you’ve achieved something.

Set against the background of a post-apocalypse world, the people of the future are building a spaceship, their vehicle to travel The Sky Road of the title. Society consists of two very separate peoples, the Tinkers, a strange set of individuals who travel round the country and live free of care, but also use that strange technology called computers. No one else in normal society uses computers, afraid that they might be infected by the dark power.

When one of the normal citizens, Clovis Colha Gree, the narrator of half the book, meets and falls in love with a beautiful Tinker, he sets himself on a path of change and discovery he never could have imagined.

Interwoven with this is the story of the Deliverer, the person responsible for the almost-end-of-the-world that set humanity back on its chosen path.

Redolent with leftist politics and with MacLeod’s writing tight and concise, and filled with ideas, this book is a bit of a struggle to begin with. There’s so much in the densely packed pages that you need to concentrate a little more than you average SF novel.

King should take note of MacLeod’s use of adverbs; he’s a bit of a master and really shows what can be achieved with their careful use. It just goes to show that every writer has their own way of using language and we have to find the one we are most comfortable with.

At its heart this is a love-story and a tale of discovery. The backwards and forwards of the narration can be a bit herky-jerky and I felt the Deliverer’s story was a bit more exciting that the post-apocalyptic vision of Earth, but ultimately MacLeod delivers once again in his own unique style.

This doesn’t have the more futuristic setting of his other books, and I preferred The Cassini Division, but it made me look up Kazakhstan (where some of the book is set) on wiki and it actual made me think, something very few books (or anything else for that matter!) can do.

MacLeod is a strange but fascinating writer whose books compel you to continue reading and The Sky Road is no exception.