Archive for horror

DELIVERANCE LOST By Gav Thorpe – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 19, 2019 by stanleyriiks

The legend of the Horus Heresy continues. In the 30th Century the Empire of Man is under threat from the vilest villain it had ever faced, not the orks or any other alien invaders, but from the Emperor’s favourite son: Horus.

The remaining Raven Guard of the Isstvan V slaughter manage to escape the awful violence caused by the Space Marines traitor legions, and head back to Earth to heal their wounds and regroup.

This is the story of the troubles they face, the machinations of the traitor legions against them, and the internal politics and paranoia of an empire under siege.

To describe what happens in book 18 of this series any further would do it a disservice, as there are shocks and surprises throughout.

This is the Heresy in all its wonderful glory: epic scale, brilliant characters, brother fighting brother and you, the excited reader, torn as much as the characters are by the intricacy of this brutal war.

Gav Thorpe is does an outstanding job in his first Heresy book, this is exciting stuff, and a great insight into one of the less well-known but still very interesting Primarchs.

One of the best Heresy novels and definitely worth a read.

URBAN GOTHIC By Brian Keene – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 20, 2019 by stanleyriiks

Does this book represent horror? Probably not present day horror as the book is now nearly ten years old. It certainly feels of a time, although is that because it feels so familiar? There’s nothing in the book to date it, no trademarks or brands that are now defunct. No historic attitude or clothes. Cellphones, that most telling of recent items, are present.

So what are we looking at here? A haunted house story… Essentially. But one with a twisted sense of realism. The house is only haunted by hideously deformed human beings, cannibals, rabid and misshapen.

A group of teenagers enter the house, having been chased through a bad neighbourhood by a gang of not-so-ruthless “thugs”, little knowing the rumours and stories about it. Then they find themselves trapped inside, the prey of dangerous, mutated cannibals in a desperate struggle to survive.

Keene gives us familiar tropes and twists them, much in the same way Edward Lee does, so keeping a realism that is shocking and nasty, in the same way Ketchum managed with Off Season. The horror here is the brutality of humanity rather than actual monsters.

Back to my original question, does this book represent horror? To a certain extent, yes, it does. There isn’t anything new here. The entire problem with the genre is that it’s stuck with a single and simple premise, the evocation of an emotion: fear. Sure, it’s actually pretty difficult to achieve. And it’s the same things that make us scared, like haunted houses, crazy killers, and this book plays on those stereotypes. The failure of the book, as the failure with most horror novels, and the failure of the genre, is that in order for us to feel fear, to be scared, to be horrified, is that we need to feel.

Keene does a good job, this is by no means a bad horror novel. But it failed to make me feel. SF often does a similar job of not making me feel anything for the main characters, but SF is about ideas. If I’m not emotionally involved in the characters in an SF novel it doesn’t mean the book fails. For me, now, horror fails if I don’t feel. If the main characters are brutally tortured and killed and I don’t care, then they might as well not have been killed and I might as well not have bothered.

I’ve read far too many books in my forty odd years for everything to touch me. I’m jaded. I’m cynical. I don’t care about real people most of the time, why would I care about some words on a page. But that’s what good horror makes me do. It doesn’t have to be a whole novel, sometimes it’s a scene in a fantasy. The torture scene in an Andy Remic fantasy novel had me cringing for several pages, because I cared about the characters. Without that engagement horror is dead.

That is the main reason Stephen King is successful, he draws you into the story, gets you involved with the characters and then he hurts them, and by extension, he hurts you too.

For all his stereotype twisting and all his brutality (which I did enjoy), Keene failed to make me feel anything. This isn’t a bad book by any means, and like the genre itself, I feel I’ve grown out of it a little. Not by choice, I wish I jumped at the scary parts of films, I wish I loved every character I read about, but I don’t. The novelty has worn off.

May be horror is not my genre any more.

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.

THE FIRST HERETIC By Aaron Dembski-Bowden – Reviewed

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

Another instalment in the epic saga of the 30th century greatest tragedy, the Horus Heresy. In this volume we follow the tale of Lorgar and the Word Bearers, loyal warriors who were shamed many years before the Heresy by the Emperor, who castigates them as worshippers. What follows is a tale of treachery and chaos, as daemons falls upon the shamed legion, tricking them and manipulating them. The simple tale of father against son, of rebellion and treachery, are no simple matters. The battles of brother verses brother, writ large across the galaxy, start here…

The Heresy becomes more and more complex as we find out about the background events to lead up to the greatest tragedy the universe has ever witnessed.

It’s nice to see such a powerful individual as a Primarch, the leader of the Space Marine legions, playing such a pivotal part in the story. This time-spanning novel feels a little disjointed, as the time periods cut this into three distinct (linked) sections.

This book, much more than the previous instalment, Nemesis, does feel like an essential part of the Heresy story, but it still feels like we are only moving forward slightly. It gives us a much greater insight into the chaos daemons, and their manipulative nature, but only hints at their scariness.

This brings us a bit closer to the date of the Isstvan V battle, and gives a great battle scene with Primarch against Primarch. But for some reason it still left me wanting more.

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.

ODD HOURS By Dean Koontz – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 2, 2018 by stanleyriiks

The fourth book in the Odd Thomas series see our hero in Magic Beach. Just a short time after his adventures at the monastery (see Brother Odd), Odd is working for a retired film actor and heads towards the pier where he meets up with a strange young pregnant woman. The pair encounter a menacing group of men, Odd ends up in the sea fighting for his life, and he is the witness and only one who can stop, a massive terrorist conspiracy to nuke major cities in America…

Odd’s special powers, being able to talk to ghosts and find things he’s looking for, come in handy as he desperately tries to investigate and stop the bombing of America.

The Odd Thomas books are pleasant, easy-reading. Koontz doesn’t go very hard with the tension, the action or the pace of the novels. They kind of meander towards the inevitable conclusion. But they are fun, and the characters are really what make the books something special. Odd is funny, intelligent in a simple way and sweet, and his interactions with a whole bunch of strange characters, including the ghost of Frank Sinatra, are really what make these books worth reading.

Good fun, not the best of the Odd books, as the first one is definitely the one to beat, but the formula works well enough, so Koontz isn’t about to try and fix it.