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DEPARTMENT 19 By Will Hill – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 18, 2012 by stanleyriiks

Jamie Carpenter’s dad is a traitor who was killed in front of his very eyes. The murder of his father still haunts him when he returns home to find a vampire kidnapping his mother.

Then Frankenstein appears and saves his life.

Swiftly, Jamie finds himself in The Loop, a secret hidden base of operations for Department 19, the most secret service in the UK. A vampire-hunting group who his father worked for before his death.  Jamie is desperate to find his mother and with the help of Frankenstein, his father’s loyal companion, and a young female vampire who failed to kill him, Jamie will stop at nothing, including hunting down the second most powerful vampire to ever live…

Anyone who is familiar with the Hellboy comics or films with find similarities with the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense, this is very much the English version of that, with a hint of James Bond thrown in for good measure.

The story is simple enough, the set up is well thought out, with some nice touches such as the t-bone weapon, and there’s plenty of action here to keep you entertained.

Despite some miss-direction it’s clear from the start who the goodies and baddies are, there’s no shock when the traitor is finally revealed. There is also rather a lot of crying at the end of the book, fair enough there might be some crying, but it just feels a bit forced and fake after the twenty-seventh person in the last thirty-odd pages balls their eyes out. If this is an attempt for us to engage with the characters emotionally then it fails, miserably.

The biggest problem with the book is the distinct lack of decent characters, ok, we have some work put into this area for Jamie, but there’s nothing to flesh the rest of them out. A shame because a little more work in characterisation and this would have been a great book.

Exciting and entertaining, the world of Department 19 is interesting and needs further exploration. The plot works well enough and the action and story carry it through, although it feels a little long, a bit contrived at the end, and the characters are pale facsimiles.

The second book is the series is out now, and I enjoyed the first enough to give the second a try, but I have high standards and expect them to be met, otherwise I will abandon the series after that. Shows promise.

FOR YOUR EYES ONLY By Ian Fleming – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 8, 2011 by stanleyriiks

I love James Bond, he’s my hero, a womanising action man, with a license to kill and an adventurous lifestyle. I love Ian Fleming too. Bond’s creator lived almost as exciting a life, although he was incredibly human in his weaknesses and failures, whereas Bond is the perfection of Fleming’s misdeeds.

What gets me every time I pick up a Bond book is the writing, the richness, the sheer imaginative grace that exudes from every sentence. There is a vibrancy in Fleming’s work that makes you forget about some of the ridiculous plots, the super villains, and the vehicles turned into dragons (Dr. No).

I still consider the Bond books the essential step away from pulp and into the modern thriller, they are the (not so) missing-link between the pulp action crime thrillers such as The Spider, and the cold-war heroes of the seventies and eighties, Bourne et al. The not quite perfect combination of action, hi-jink, over-the-top entertainment, and that essential ingredient, realism.

The eighth book in the series, For Your Eyes Only is the first short story collection, featuring some familiar titles such as the title story, and “Quantum of Solace” and “A View To A Kill”, and two other less familiar titles. Although the stories contained in the books will be much less familiar, having little or nothing to do with the films that followed.

An incredible collection of tales, diverse and entertaining in their own ways, each of the stories stands out as individual and unique. Bond works so well in short fiction, but only rarely do you get the full character of Bond, sometimes he is there merely as background such as in “Quantum of Solace”, a story told to Bond by a senior civil servant.

A nice little book at just over two hundred pages, I finished it in a couple of days and hankered for more. Not necessarily Bond at his best, but Fleming’s writing here is not as overwhelmed with fabulous plotting, and some of these stories are perfectly, brilliantly exciting. Another Bond fix that delivers.

DOCTOR NO By Ian Fleming – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 27, 2009 by stanleyriiks

It’s difficult to read a James Bond book and think about it critically. Bond is a character I grew up with, and still want to emulate! I couldn’t help but watch the true James Bond (Roger Moore, come on people!) seducing women, killing baddies and quipping while they die, an eyebrow raised mischievously. Having grown up with the films, in the same way I grew up with the Conan novels, I can’t help but cherish them and know that no matter how life changes, they will always have a place in my heart.

I’ve probably seen the Doctor No film, or at least bits of it, dozens of times. Some of the scenes are so familiar they are instantly recognisable, although I’m pretty sure I’ve never actually watched Ursula Andreas walk up the beach in her bikini.

But the books are slightly different, as you would expect. Moonraker bares little if any resemblance to the original novel.

I can’t remember the film enough to do a critique of the development of novel into film and I’d prefer not to. People with too much time on their hands can do that while I simply offer my opinion on a book that cleverly encompasses the extremes and thrills of the pulp era, whilst nodding towards the realism and action of the modern thriller. That’s what sets the Bond novels apart from many of their contemporaries, such as Chandler. There’s still a healthy dose of nostalgia for earlier times, a retro pulp action-thriller feel to the novels.

When two secret agents go missing in Jamaica, Bond is sent in to investigate, with the help of Quarrel Bond finds himself on an isolated island owned by the mysterious Doctor No, who protects his privacy by murdering all trespassers. Bond meets up with a young innocent girl, Honeychile, who turns up naked on the beach searching for shells in the area. Unfortunately Doctor No’s troops are alerted to their presence and set out to find them, and the poor girl is dragged into a cat and mouse chase across the island, until they are eventually caught by a dragon!

The pulp tradition is strong in this novel, our hero is tortured by the mad genius, and must go through a series of hideously painful challenges, which even include fighting a giant squid. But where Bond moves the genre forward is the level of detail and the general realism that Fleming uses to describe his hero and the situations he faces, and his weapons.

Bond is the essence of the modern pulp hero, he’s courageous, he’s strong and intelligent, and despite the backing of the British Secret Service, he’s on his own fighting all manner of super villains. In the same way that Batman or The Spider fight crime, with his hands, his ingenuity and his weapons, Bond is also a superhero in the same league, having no special powers (apart from his own God-given abilities) and fighting crime simply because it’s wrong and must be stopped.

Fleming’s original books have dated, just as the original Batman comics and the adventures of The Spider, Fu Manchu and Charlie Chan have also dated, but they were a product of their time, and that’s what still makes them so powerful. Because back then there was hope that one man could make a difference, and that’s why I find these pulp characters so appealing. There’s no modern cynicism to get in the way of the innocent enjoyment of the books and comics and films.

Bond lives forever, unstoppable, in the hearts of his fans, and that’s why he continues to live on through his many different incarnations, but the original books will also live on forever.