Archive for london

THE NECROMANCER By Douglas Clegg – Reviewed

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 16, 2017 by stanleyriiks

This book feels very similar to the previous Cemetery Dance book I read by Chet Williamsons, except where The Story of Noichi the Blind, the set-up feels strained and overdone, here it works.

This book is based on the diary of a young man on his journey to becoming the apprentice of The Necromancer of the title. Justin Gravesend is born and brought up in a mining town in Wales in the mid-1800s, believing his father is a murderer who killed his twin brother as a baby, James heads off to London, as much to escape his family and life down the pit as to seek his fortune. At University he becomes friends with some toffs who take him to a brothel, where a man is waiting for him, the owner of the brothel, and the Necromancer.

Will James survive the initiation?

It all ends rather abruptly just as the story starts getting interesting. Perhaps that’s because this is part of a series of books, but I still felt a little cheated. I expect a book to be a whole story, and to a certain extent it is, that of James’ discovery and initiation and maturation into an apprentice, but at that point it ends. The rest of the story is told in Clegg’s other books in this series, which are currently only available on the Kindle (yuk yuk yuk, technology!).

A traditional and well told tale of horror, which ends too quickly. More a prelude than a proper story, but I guess that’s what you give with chapbooks.

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PRIVATE LONDON By James Patterson and Mark Pearson – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 16, 2012 by stanleyriiks

Eight years ago Hannah Shapiro and her mother were abducted in Los Angeles. When Hannah’s father, a multi-billionaire refuses to give the kidnappers their ransom Hannah’s mother is raped and killed, and Hannah is saved by Jack Morgan minutes before she would have been murdered.

Now Hannah is studying in London, and Jack Morgan’s international Private Investigation Agency’s London office, with Dan Carter taking the lead, are heading up the protection. Until Hannah is kidnapped, and Dan Carter’s goddaughter is put in hospital with a smashed skull in the attack.

Also, a series of bodies are turning up with organs missing along with half of their wedding-ring fingers.

This is a fast paced thriller, and great fun. The London setting is well-thought out, and actually adds to the action, the capital’s various transport links used to perfection as part of the story. The secondary plot of the missing-organ bodies seems unrelated, and strangely tacked on. I continued to await a development which would link the two plots, but found nothing to indicate any relationship.

Dan Carter is a hero with a heart, and not your normal tough-guy, he’s a big softy deep down, but also doesn’t pull his punches. Apart from that the Private London crew are a series of clunky non-standard stereotypes barely fleshed out.

This is the second book in the series, but I didn’t feel like I was missing anything. There is some back story, but it works to flesh out some of the characters.

Good, fast paced action. Nicely entertaining, but nothing of substance, still a great book to read on a plane or a beach, and I’ll certainly be back for some more light reading with Private Games the third in the series. Good middle of the road fun.

DROOD By Dan Simmons – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 11, 2011 by stanleyriiks

This is Wilkie Collins’ journal of some of his adventures with Charles Dickens during the last few years of the great writer’s life, including the mysterious encounters with Drood, and Wilkie’s increasing dependency on opium.

The authenticity is the book’s downfall, this reads very much like a mid-nineteenth century novel, it’s over-wordy and over-long, and yet you’re enveloped in a fog-filled London full of opium dens, whores and private policeman.

Drood is either a dangerous criminal mastermind, a mesmerist, or a figment of either Wilkie’s or Dickens’ imagination. At the end of the novel you’re still not sure.

Massively detailed, and perfectly acceptable as an alternative history, the book fits perfectly into the real world of facts we have about both writers. Its entertaining, in its way, but suffers for being so long, and wrapping itself, as well as the reader, in circles of mystery that there is no escape from.

Fascinating, but ultimately too much like hard work, for those willing to sacrifice the weeks needed to read all seven hundred pages you will feel faintly rewarded. Not one of Simmons best book, his Hyperion quartet is amazingly brilliant, and this suffers, like Ilium, from being over-written.

A brilliant writer again not at his best.

DISTURBIA By Christopher Fowler – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 2, 2010 by stanleyriiks

This starts off magnificently, Fowler’s richly styled first chapter promises much only to fall away and concentrate on the story. A story that reminds me of a cheap version of The Da Vinci Code, despite being written fourteen years ago.

Vincent Reynolds (working class writer) meets up with Sebastian Wells (son of Lord, never worked in his life) to research a piece he’s writing on the class struggle in London. He soon becomes involved in a race for his life, as he delves too deep into the secret society of the Prometheus Club, a group of power-hungry rich aristos. Vince must follow the clues, enlisting a strange group to help him discover the truth, otherwise he will be killed, as he plays a deadly game set by the Club.

This starts off well, but then the style and the violence fall by the wayside to be replaced by the chase. And although the tension remains high throughout, that’s not enough. Vince is well drawn, and Fowler obviously knows his city, exploring it with skill, but I’m afraid it’s just not enough after the great start. This feels like a poor-man’s The Da Vinci Code, with sprinklings of China Mieville’s socialist slant.

Not a failure, this is more a missed opportunity. The clues aren’t as exciting or as solvable as The Da Vinci Code, and you end up witnessing the bizarre clues rather than following along and solving them yourself.

Could have been so much better. Promised much but ultimately failing to deliver, still not bad, but Fowler has done better.

FIREFIGHT By Chris Ryan – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 26, 2010 by stanleyriiks

A kind of grown-up boy’s own adventure. A gritty, urban, modern James Bond, without the sexy women, the hot gadgets, or Fleming’s style. In fact without the panache, without the fast cars, and the big bad villain. Without any of the accessories that make Bond such a great character. So what do we have?

Former SAS Captain Will Jackson is a drunk, having left the regiment two years ago after the brutal murder of his wife and child in a terrorist attack. But Jackson is called in by MI5 for one last mission, to seek out Faisal Ahmed, a former CIA operative who has gone rogue and intends to target London in a massive terror attack. Jackson must put together a crack team to follow the only lead they have, to Afghanistan to attempt to save Ahmed’s sister from the Taliban in the hope that she will lead them to him.

Ryan’s writing style is basic, and even a little clumpy in areas. His characters are cardboard, his plots are weak and predictable. What he does bring to the table is authenticity, and he does that by the bucket load. Despite the failures of many parts of the book, it still manages to hold up (just), because of the small details that make you think, yes, that’s right.

There are better thrillers, there are better books, better characters, better plots, but you won’t get authenticity much better than this. For purists and fans only, the bloke is a true hero, but he’s not a novelist.

Credit Crunch: A Survivor’s Guide – Shopping Intelligently: False Economy, it’s not cheaper!

Posted in Life..., Personal Finance, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 21, 2010 by stanleyriiks

Don’t buy smaller than you can use.

A small tub of butter/spread is more expensive than a large one in terms of weight (per gram the smaller tub is more expensive). If you’re going to use a kilo tub before it goes off, which is fairly likely, then you are better off buying the larger one.  Buying the smaller one because it’s cheaper (although more expensive per gram, and therefore worse value) is false economy.

This works for almost all products, and supermarkets are now being quite helpful by giving the price of items and the grams, rolls, sheets, litres, cost.

Buy sixteen or eighteen rolls of toilet paper rather than four. (Can save £2.00 a month on average)

Buy a five-litre bottle of mineral water, or a six-pack instead of individual bottles. If you need to use smaller bottles for work or ease of use, buy a big one and a funnel and pour it in. Ok, so it’s slightly more work, but it’s less money. The average family can save over £100.00 a year by giving their kids small bottles filled with water from larger bottles. (Of course investing in a water filter jug and several filters will be even cheaper, it costs about 2p a litre. If you live in London and have to drink the hideously cloudy and foul-tasting recycled liquid, it may take a while to get used to it after Evian [trust me!]).

This also uses less packaging, which is good for the environment. Good for the environment can be good for you!

Use this technique for everything that doesn’t have a short shelf life, soft drinks, bottled water, toilet rolls, butter/spread, tinned goods, frozen goods. Doesn’t work so well for short-life products like milk, but work it out. If you can use a six pint bottle then it’s still better value than a four and a two pint, or three two pints.

You can save hundreds of pounds shopping this way.

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:

http://www.screamingdreams.com

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.