Archive for heroes

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.

FLU By Wayne Simmons – Reviewed

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 4, 2011 by stanleyriiks

A few years ago zombie novels were like gold-dust. Now they’re ten a penny. Most are bog standard zombie rehashes, offering nothing new. The king of zombie fiction is Brian Keene, whose zombie novels create a sense of undeniable dread and looming, unstoppable danger. So the question is, does Simmons have anything to offer, and can be usurp the king?

Sadly the answer is both yes and no.

Flu is a post-apocalyptic zombie novel, focusing on the further spread of the disease which kills and then brings you back, and the few survivors in Belfast as they try to stay alive as long as possible, seeking out supplies, grouping together with other non-dead humans, and having to deal with the dead-fucks. The story uses sectarian issues and guilt, police, army and civilian survivors in a nice mix, which gives the book its edge.

This isn’t The Walking Dead rehashed in Belfast. Although there are clear homages to Romero’s trilogy and other zombie movies.

The story has some brutal and some disgusting moments, which help take it beyond the average, but what really put this book ahead of most of the rest is Simmons easy and efficient writing style (polished to within an inch of its life), and his characters, all of which suffer their own personal demons they have to battle along with the zombies. The humans really are the heroes of this novel, a tough sell, but one that works in this case.

The UK is bereft of zombie novels, the only decent one I can remember is the composite novel created by Stephen Jones and loads of others, Zombie Apocalypse, the exceptional London-based zombie novel told ingeniously in a series of documents.

While Flu isn’t an inventive as Jones’ effort, it still works very well and is a massively satisfying zombie novel that creates a dead world you want to explore further, and leaves enough questions for us to want to read the sequel, Fever, coming in the summer. And Flu definitely shows Simmons’ massive potential to become Great Britain’s crown prince of zombie fiction.

Not perfect, but a damn good try. Zombie fans will love it, horror fans will love it. Simmons writes like a demon, smooth and dangerous. Zombie fiction with an edge.

THE STRAIN By Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 8, 2010 by stanleyriiks

Mmmm… A modern re-telling of the Dracula story, moved to New York, and with vampirism a mutating virus, turning its victims into blood-sucking fiends with proboscis-like extra tongues that act like blood-seeking whips.

For all its modern-twists, this is a basic vampire story in which the Master plots his domination of the new world, and travels on a plane which is the centre of the story for about half the book. The build up is very well done, but feels like the first part of a trilogy, as the plane lands dark, no lights, no power. When investigators go in to see what’s going on they find the entire plane is dead, including all the passengers. The CDC (Centre for Disease Control) is called in and the investigation begins with Dr Ephraim Goodweather in charge, that is until he is set-up by the Master’s mysterious human aids, and the entire planeful of bodies goes missing from the morgue, returning home to kill their families.

Some parts of the book work well, the build-up with the plane is intense and completely feasible. The second half of the book, as a rodent-killer traces the vampires to the World Trade Centre ruins, and our heroes suddenly become much better as handling the deadly undead, and the vampires act more like rodents or zombies than traditional vampires, and things start to get a bit stretched. Even more so when our unlikely squad of heroes head down into the vampire’s nest and kill most of them with a light-bomb, and almost everything goes back to normal. A rather weak ending.

For all its clichés, and reinventions, it’s still a fairly exciting book to read. With such a lack of originality in vampire fiction, this still rates as one of the better modern takes on the evil breed in many years, despite it feeling a little like a remake.

Not quite up there with Anno Dracula, possibly the best vampire novel since Dracula, but The Strain holds a lot of promise, despite its problems, and I certainly look forward to the second and third instalments to see where this will go.

Rumble Tumble By Joe R. Lansdale – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 17, 2010 by stanleyriiks

Hap Collins and his buddy Leonard are always getting themselves into some mischief. Rumble Tumble sees Hap and Leonard caught up in a whole hell of a mess, when Brett, Hap’s girlfriend, finds out her daughter is being used a as whore in a brothel in Oklahoma. They are sold this information by a red-haired midget called Red, and a huge muscle-bound moron named Wilbur.

When Hap ponders on this predicament, Leonard offers to help out, and the three set off towards Oklahoma to help free Brett’s daughter, encountering a whole slew of trouble on their way, including bikers, gangsters, preachers and whores.

Lansdale has a unique style that sets his East Texans apart from your normal crime fiction heroes. Hap and Leonard don’t want to be heroes, they get themselves into troublesome situations and they just want to get out with their lives, shooting people’s feet off, pistol-whipping midgets, and all sorts.

Picking up a Hap Collins book you know how it’s going to go, Hap and Leonard will argue like The Odd Couple, but they’ve always got each others’ back, and you know they’re going to get themselves into some trouble, whether intentionally or not. It’s the journey you take with these guys that makes the books, you know they’re not whiter than whiter, they cause much of the trouble themselves and have to break some rules to do what they gotta do, but you can’t help admiring both of them for sticking their necks out and trying to do the right thing. Especially when it’s not the easiest path to take.

Lansdale has produced another fine novel in this continuing series, and Hap and Leonard’s adventures are not like any other crime novel you will ever read. Stylish, funny, energetic and poignant, Lansdale continues produce the goods, and I for one will be following him whatever direction he decides to go in.