Archive for 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.

The Quantum Thief By Hannu Rajaniemi – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 29, 2012 by stanleyriiks

Jean le Flambeur is a legendary thief, who is broken out of prison by the alien Mieli and her sentient starship Perhonen. Jean is a post-human, his body was taken from him, his mind was imprisoned and mental torture took place during his incarceration. Now he has a new body, but his memories are not intact, and to do what Mieli asks of him he has to rediscover who he used to be.

What follows is an intricate spider-web of intrigues, layer upon layer of deception and politics.

Difficult is not a word I use often to describe a novel, but I found this one a challenge. There is a deep and complex world here, and Rajaniemi doesn’t make it as easy as it could be. This book written by Peter F. Hamilton would be another six hundred pages long, but would make a great deal more sense.

The climax the story builds towards seems to fade out before actually happening, but the complexity and intricacies of the plot had me floundering at times. On the surface this is a simple crime-thriller, but deeper it is a massively detailed political siege drama.

There are a lot of complex and excellent ideas, the gevulot privacy system, sharing memories, and post-humanity are clever. The fact that nothing is described, information is given only as part of the story, and sometimes details and explanations can be lost, or simply not explored enough, create a sense of confusion in the reader (in this reader anyway).

The failure of the climax (did I miss it?) is just as annoying as the lack of clarity.

For those willing and able to re-read a book this is likely to be one of those books that grows on you with a second or third reading, but I want to enjoy a book on the first read, and don’t want to have to give myself a headache concentrating and working out what every idea is before moving on with the plot. An appendix with explanations might be been a helpful addition.

This book shows massive potential, but feels like an unedited manuscript in need of more explanation. Great cover though, and I’ll likely pick up the second book in the trilogy when it comes out later this year, in the hope that some knowledge of the first book will help.

Morpheus Tales Biopunk Special Issue – 31st July Deadline for Submissions

Posted in Morpheus Tales Magazine, Uncategorized, writing with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 24, 2012 by stanleyriiks

Oh bugger me! Doesn’t time fly when you’re having fu… well, when you’re busy. It also flies when you have a deadline approaching, it seems much more quickly than when there’s no deadline. I really wanted to submit to this Biopunk Special.

With just a week to go until the issue closes I’m not sure if I have enough time to get something written, edited and submitted. I’ve been fortunate enough to have been published (fiction-wise) by Morpheus Tales a couple of times, by different editors.

When the issue was first announced earlier this year I was flooded with ideas, now, a week before the deadline, and having written no fiction yet this year, I am bereft. No idea, no time, no story.

Three thousand words can seem like a daunting challenge, but with the right story and the imaginative flow going, it’s difficulty to contain it within that amount of words.  But staring at a blank screen, nothing is coming to me.

One week. That’s all I have left. Will I even manage to submit something? I know the issue is almost complete, I’ve even had a sneaky peak, but didn’t get a chance to read any of the stories. It’s being edited by proof-reader extraordinaire Samuel Diamond, who is one of those responsible for polishing the Morpheus Tales Supplement until it shines.

Ok, enough with this procrastination. I haven’t got time for it. One week. To write a story, edit and submit. I can do it. Or can I? Well, I should at least try. Otherwise I’ve already failed, haven’t I. Bring it on!

Guidelines can be found here:

EXPEDITION TO EARTH By Arthur C. Clarke – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 26, 2012 by stanleyriiks

Clarke is one of SF’s foremost thinkers, so it’s not a surprise to find his first short story collection to be filled to the brim with ideas. Originally published in 1953 this collection of eleven short stories is remarkable not just for the plethora of ideas it contains, but the fact that almost sixty years after its publication hardly any of it has dated.

Having never read Clarke before, but having heard of his collaboration on 2001: A Space Odyssey with Kubrick, I was quite looking forward to reading this short book (only 180 pages).

The first story is the longest, and the collection ends with “The Sentinel”, which is one of the stories 2001 was based on. Full of great ideas, Clarke writes with a clean, crisp style most SF writers nowadays tend to adopt, which leaves characters as mere pieces to discover or be endangered by the idea that is the heart of the story.

The perfect introduction to a legendary writer, this collection made me want to read more, and I’ll likely pick up Rendezvous with Rama before too long.

THE SKINNER By Neal Asher – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 18, 2011 by stanleyriiks

Three strangers meet on the way to the planet’s surface. That planet, which has little serviceable surface, is Spatterjay, a mostly water-filled world. And the seas of Spatterjay are filled with all manner of creatures all ready and willing to eat you and anything else that invades their watery home: including the strange leeches, whose bite, if not fatal, will change your body chemistry until you are immortal, or near as damnit.

One of the party of three is Sable Keech, several hundreds of years old, and finally returning to Spatterjay to complete his mission: to find the remaining survivors of Jay Hoop’s crew and execute them. They were an ancient gang who sold cored-human slaves to the alien Prador’s during the war. Despite the war now being over a Prador adult and adolescent have arrived on the planet in secret with one of Hoop’s old crew, intent on causing problems.

Another of the three is Janer, part of a hive mind that may have secret plans to colonize the planet.

Throw into this mix semi-immortal pirates; a monster that skins people alive; the various fauna that occupies most of the planet and is intent on eating everything else; an AI overseer that acts as the planet’s police and army; and a War Drone; and you get a massive amount of story, huge back-stories, and a huge amount of information that fortunately doesn’t slow down the plot too much.

It takes a little while to get into the book because of the sheer volume of stuff you need to know, but it’s so full of great ideas that you can’t help but keep reading. The book builds nicely, we have enough action and enough ideas to not only keep you entertained but make you want to discover more. Fortunately Asher’s produced not only more Spatterjay novels, but also Polity novels (based on the more organised part of the universe that only make a brief appearance here). Asher’s universe is massively detailed and cleverly put together, and the novel is the same. What it lacks in pace to begin with is swiftly made up for in the later stages, and you can forgive this because of the amount of detail expounded.

Full of great ideas, with a good solid story and plenty of twists and turns, this first book of Spatterjay is the ideal entry into this virgin territory, and I have high hopes for the other books in the series, which I will most definitely be seeking out.

Morpheus Tales #8 Out Now!

Posted in Morpheus Tales Magazine, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 5, 2010 by stanleyriiks

The eighth issue of Morpheus Tales Magazine of Horror, SF and Fantasy Fiction is out now. Go visit the website for free previews of all previous issues of the magazine, and the Undead Special Issue and the Fantasy Femmes Special Issue. Click on the cover for a preview!

Plus you can also download your own free copy of the Morpheus Tales Horror Flash Fiction Special Issue! Yes, completed free of charge!


Posted in Life..., Uncategorized, writing with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 7, 2009 by stanleyriiks

I’m having a hard time writing at the moment. It’s not a lack of ideas, it’s more a lack of passion. I discovered writing when I was in my teens and loved it. I felt compelled to write down my every idea, thought and feeling. I kept a diary, I wrote most days. It wasn’t a choice, it was as natural as waking up, as natural as eating.

I wrote thousands of stories and seven novels, I wrote reviews and articles that appeared in magazine all over the place, but I wasn’t ready to share my fiction. I wanted to keep it for myself. I didn’t edit hardly any of it because I hate editing.

Then one summer, lacking ideas for my latest novel, I decided to edit the ones I had already written. I worked my way through all of them, and then again. Pretty soon I’d been editing for two years, and hadn’t written anything. For me editing takes the passion out of writing, it makes writing lose the magic that makes it special.

I haven’t written anything substantial for several years now. The fire that burned inside me is almost out. I have no lack of imagination, no lack of inspiration, just a lack of sitting my arse down and writing.

Writing now seems like a chore rather than a joy. In fact most things in adulthood seem like a chore. But some chores take priority, like earning money to pay the bills.

I’m not focused on writing like I was before. I have too many other hobbies that take up too much time.

I still write a short story occasionally, although I now have to push myself. When I do a spark of that old fire comes back, the joy returns while I weave my world from words. But I need a kick-start, I need something to push me.

Whilst threatened with redundancy earlier in the year I planned to write a book and to learn a language, at least until I found another job. Fortunately the redundancy didn’t happen, but unfortunately I don’t have the time to spend doing the things I would really like to do.

My latest idea was to get my books proof-read by a professional and start submitting them, but that’s actually fairly expensive if you want it done properly, and trust me, from what I can remember of my last (fourth) edits of my novels, they need to be looked at properly.

So I sit, filling up a blank screen with my moaning instead of writing another story, one I have an idea for. About a private detective who is visited by a beautiful woman who brings with her a box that kills people when it’s opened. Ok, so it’s not that original, but I could do something with it.

May be I would try and see where it takes me…

DIFFERENT SKINS By Gary McMahon – Reviewed

Posted in Morpheus Tales Magazine, Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 27, 2009 by stanleyriiks

I wrote this review a few weeks ago. I think it’s a good review, and it will be published in the first edition of the Morpheus Tales Review Supplement. Before putting it up here I wondered how the space and distant I’ve had since reading the book had changed my opinion. Actually, it hasn’t. I think that Different Skins is an amazing book, both the stories are moving and emotion-evoking. You can’t help but be sucked into the worlds that McMahon creates, the stories actually touch you emotionally and intellectually. That’s what I look for in my life, I don’t just want to read a book, I want to experience it. That what happens with Different Skins. I cannot recommend this book enough. Go do yourself a favour and buy this book:

This is one of those books that it is a pleasure to hold. It feels nice. It looks stunning, the cover and back cover by Vincent Chong are exquisite. Even the interior looks and feels nice, it feels like you’re holding a good quality book in your hands. It feels very similar to the limited editions from Blood Letting Press, except in paperback.

OK, so it doesn’t particularly matter what the book feels like, it’s the content that really matters. Right? But my point is that it does matter, holding a book that feels nice just adds to the pleasure. And this book can be judged on its beautifully subtle and disturbing cover.

Introductions are normally a waste of time unless they’re by the author, Tim Lebbon’s intro doesn’t stray too far from this. But he does mention that he read McMahon’s stories as a writer would. I completely agree with him on this, although I probably read as a writer differently to Mr. Lebbon. McMahon’s stories, two novellas in this collection, are packed with ideas and details and phrases that I wish I’d written, that I want to use in one of my stories. There are just so many “I wish I’d thought of that” moments!

The first story, Even The Dead Die, is a ghost story set in a London occupied by the dead, and it’s so rich and powerful that it made me feel like a teenager again, discovering my first horror story. Every page sparkles with ideas and brilliance, it’s like reading the very best of Neil Gaiman or Clive Barker. McMahon’s London is dark and nasty and brutal, but it’s also perversely beautiful. And so is his first story, dark, rich, tragic, powerfully and perversely beautiful.

The second story really shows the breadth of McMahon’s skill. In The Skin is a very different story, a personal tale of loss and neglect, a story of life. The story of Dan, who goes on a business trip to New York and upon his return, finds that his son is not quite the same, that his wife is slightly different. His family is not who they were before he left. The second story in the collection is as different as it possibly can be, this is a much more personal tale, without the glitter and glamour, the brilliance or the ideas of the first story. And yet it touches you more deeply, more subtly than the first story. Its horror is all the more real for its understated openness and its horrible sense of loss. My favourite story of the collection was Even The Dead Die, then I read In The Skin and had to change my mind.

OK, so the services of a proof-reader wouldn’t go amiss (although the typos have been spotted and will be fixed for the next print run), and there is no Charing Cross Road Station, but what you get when you buy this book is something much more than you will expect.

Despite its length and cost, it’s a 120 page book for the price of an epic novel at £7.99, that quality I mentioned earlier makes reading this book worth more than any price you can put on it. I was shaken putting this book down, mentally and emotionally shaken. Reading the first story made me feel alive, reading the second made me feel empty. It is that power that I search for as a reader. It is the quality of the production and the contents of this amazing collection which pushes it beyond insubstantial things like money, it’s like the Lord of the Rings, Anansi Boys, The Thief of Always, Weaveworld… reading this book is an epic experience that will touch you in ways that few experiences can.

I recommend Different Skins wholeheartedly and unreservedly, and will be seeking out much more of Gary McMahon’s work.

CHI By Alexander Besher – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 1, 2009 by stanleyriiks

CHI By Alexander Besher

This is a hard book to read. It’s difficult to explain why it’s so difficult to read. The lack of justification of the text sets off my OCD, but shouldn’t make it any more difficult to read. The complete inability of this reader to gain more than a temporary understanding of what’s going on during the first hundred pages, also shouldn’t make it difficult to read. I’ve read entire books not quite knowing what’s going on. It’s not like I haven’t visited this world before, I’ve been with Frank Gobi since Besher’s first book, and only read the second a little more than a year ago, so why oh why is this book so hard to read?

The first third of the novel, set in a futuristic world of the 2030s, basically sets up the actual story. Chi is being siphoned from a Thai Transsexual called Butterfly by the evil Wing Fat, a 650 pound porn king, who’s also the biggest chi trader in the world. It isn’t until the second third of the novel that we meet our protagonist Frank Gobi, who’s trying to find out about Wing Fat and being sucked into the plans of one Trevor Jordan.

There’s also a pair of orang-utans who have been given plastic surgery to look human and brought up as children of sterile humans, who are now reaching puberty and discovering that they’re not what they thought they were.

The plot is ridiculous, but that isn’t what makes it bad. The fact that virtually nothing happens, the writer doesn’t even appear to be aware of when to finish the book as much of the action happens in the Epilogue, and it all turns out to be one big joke in the end anyway.

This reader can’t help but feel cheated, especially as this 300 page novel feels at least double that length. To say it’s an effort to read this codswallop is an understatement. Besher’s worst novel, this really shouldn’t have been forced on the public. Editors should certainly have taken a look at this and sent it back for some serious revision.

Mir, Besher’s second book, took a hell of a while to warm up, but eventually it did and then it had some kind of plot. Chion the other hand lacks plot, story, characters, it’s big on ideas, there are a couple of nice ones in here, and for anyone familiar with Bangkok you’re feel all warm and fuzzy with some reminiscences. Other than that this is a pretty pathetic effort on the part of Besher, his editor and his publisher.

It’s a travesty that a novel (I use the word very loosely) of this quality (again loosely) is allowed into the marketplace when there is so much better that’s not being published.

Inspiration! The Seeds of a Story…

Posted in Uncategorized, writing with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 5, 2009 by stanleyriiks

Inspiration hit me in the face like a brick this weekend, repeatedly bludgeoning me into submission. It was a bank holiday in the UK, so a nice long weekend. Perfect, you would have thought, for doing some writing…

I’d just finished editing my review of Emma Westwood’s Pocket Essentials Monster Movies (coming soon to Morpheus Tales #5!), bloody good book btw, and was well into reading Joe Hill’s Heart-Shaped Box, more of that later.

I’d done my shopping and preparation for the rest of the week, a handful of ham and mustard sandwiches for lunch at work, and I’d made sure I had enough food for breakfast, so the chores were out of the way.

On the train on my way home on Saturday from my nephew’s second birthday (the joy, a kid’s party! at least I got a goodie bag so not a completely wasted journey down to Kent) I went past this house with a huge Union Jack and massive shed at the bottom of the garden. [Inspiration 1.]

Perfect place for the Unibomber, I thought. [Inspiration 2.] While listening to Papa Roach’s Had Enough on my ipod, connotations of Columbine planting seeds in my brain. [Inspiration 3].

You can’t ignore a trilogy of ideas. Although I did try. Monday was virtually clear, so I could write all day, after letting my inspired ideas become more fully formed on Sunday. Except I swapped things around and decided to go to the cinema to see Wolverine: Origins. Similar to the other X-Men films I was left reasonably entertained but mildly disappointed, I’m more a Sandman or Preacher fan myself. Although his wife is bloody gorgeous! I think I’m in love!

So the cinema, then some more reading Hill’s Heart-Shaped Box. It is one of those really annoying books. One of those you pick up and don’t want to put down. One that for a writer is hideous, in that it doesn’t provide any inspiration or ideas that you can steal, instead it gives you the fear. The fear that you will never ever be able to write that well, that you will never be able to evoke emotion and tension and excitement like that. The same effect that Neil Gaiman, Clive Barker, Joe R. Lansdale and Stephen King all give me.  They make me want to give up because I can never be that good. Can I?

Having put off writing anything for long enough I decide to watch some porn and then have dinner. It’s now half way through the evening and it’ll be bedtime before I get any writing done. I’ve almost managed it, I’ve nearly procrastinated long enough!

Then I stop. I sigh with resignation and open up a blank word document, I take a sip of my cloudy lemonade, turn 30 Seconds to Mars up until my ears bleed and I start to type. Half a page in my word document dies on me. Some kind of fucking error. I almost give up right then and there. I open another document, listening to The Pretender by Foo Fighters. [Inspiration 4.] I have a title. I type, I save after every breath.

A hour later I have a 1000 word story called The Pretender: two school kids shoot up their school and then go back to the arms dealer who sold them the gun to get help. Only he’s not as helpful as they’d hoped….

Now all I gotta do is edit the bugger!