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THE PAINTED MAN By Peter V. Brett – Reviewed

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 18, 2011 by stanleyriiks

I’ve been really getting into fast-paced, action packed SF recently, so it was a nice change to take on the more sedate pace of fantasy. Before I go any further I have to say I spent a great 544 pages with this book, this is the first book in a series that’s going to be absolutely epic. Almost the entire first book is an introduction, building up the three main characters of Arlan, Rojer, and Leesha as they grow from childhood to adulthood, dealing with their various separate dramas and are brought together (late in the book) by circumstance. You see the world they live in lives in fear of the dark. When the sun sets corelings (demons) come out of the earth and eat and kill humans, and have done for the past three hundred years. Only wards (ancient writing) learnt only by a precious few can be used to protect them, and only then if the wards are perfect. Any imperfection will be found by the demons.

The world in which the story is set is a tired, dangerous place, humans have mostly given up fighting, instead prepared to hide and live a small, simple life, without travel, without night, and with danger just outside their warded walls and doors. There’s so much to the world that Brett has created that it would take more space than we have here to describe it all, suffice to say, it is brilliantly realised, with a nicely tied-in religion, a wide range of characters, and purposeful travel throughout the known lands to give us a nice guide tour, with much opportunity for expansion.

The only problem is that most of the book feels like an introduction or prologue. We don’t get to meet the Painted Man, as such, of the title until near the end of the book. There’s so much information on the characters that they do stick with you, but at what cost? There’s some action, and the final battle is great, but it takes it’s time to get there.

This is a difficult book to review alone, as it’s obviously not meant to be read individually. This is most definitely the first part of a mammoth series, which will no doubt be spectacularly entertaining and brilliant, but without the next book it’s so difficult to tell. A very good first instalment in the series, but I find myself reserving judgement until more titles in the series are available, although I will definitely be ordering the second book in the series very soon. (The cliff-hanger ending is ridiculously exciting!)

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.

GARDENS OF THE MOON By Steven Erikson – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 28, 2010 by stanleyriiks

In the author’s introduction to this novel he says that he’s unapologetic for the “throw you straight in” style of the book and he leaves readers to either sink or swim. He also says that the book was always ambitious in scope, and readers will either love it or hate it. Well, I did both.

For the first hundred pages I loved this book, the richly portrayed fantasy world, the sheer depth, and the fast-paced action drew me in. Then we get to the second section of the novel, where the various factions and their plotting to take over the city of Darujistan come to the fore and things start getting complicated, very complicated, and I admit that I got lost. Not with the plot which is fairly simple, lots of factions attempting to take over the city or using whatever means necessary to stop someone else taking it over: from the Empress’ Adjunct; the Bridgeburners (Imperial Army but almost outcasts); a young girl being used as the pawn of a god; a thief, also being used; Captain Paran; the Council of Darujistan; the Ruler of Moon’s Spawn; the Alchemist Barak; The Guild of Assassins; and the list continues. It is the sheer scale of the story that gets in the way of its telling. Fantasy isn’t normally this plot-orientated, and in some ways this feels more like a science fiction epic.

That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but the complete lack of characterisation means that none of the characters is even noticeable. The scale of names to remember and the fact that several characters have more than one name, and it just gets confusing.

As the various threads of the story begin to come together for the denouement, everything begins to make sense again, but Erikson chooses then to get the gods more heavily involved than they already were. A couple of hundred pages towards the end everything suddenly becomes clearer, although still muddied.

Ambition is no bad thing, but here the ambitious scale has meant good characterisation is sacrificed. Yes, we have one of the most in-depth worlds ever created, possibly due to Erikson’s gameplaying background, a world with several sets of humans, other species, gods, and a full background history. But we have no good characters to follow other than standard cardboard cut-out stereotypes, a young love-struck thief, a world-weary Sergeant, a ruthless Empress… Again a victim of Erikson’s gamer background?

For every plus with this first book of the tales of Malazan there is an equally important minus. Erikson’s sacrificed character for scope, he’s thrown away clever plotting, and thrown in everyone (including the kitchen sink) in an attempt to make the story more complex than it really is, just confusing everything.

The fact is this book shows great potential. I’m just not sure I’ll be willing to put in the effort to read another of the Malazan books to find out if Erikson can reach that potential.

Not the best introduction to a world, and not the worst. A shame that it wasn’t better, as I could have been completed hooked.