Archive for mcmahon

BEYOND HERE LIES NOTHING By Gary McMahon – Reviewed

Posted in Morpheus Tales Magazine, Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 16, 2012 by stanleyriiks

Review published courtesy of Morpheus Tales Publishing.

 

This is the third and final chapter in McMahon’s splendidly brooding Concrete Grove trilogy.

Reading the first two parts of this story isn’t essential to your enjoyment, as the third novel, like the other two, stands on its own, but they are interlinked, and knowing what’s going on beforehand will greatly enhance your understanding of the Grove and appreciation for the events unfolding therein.

This book has several cleverly woven plot strands, including: Marc Price, visiting the Grove for a funeral and investigating the Northumberland Poltergeist, discovers a lot more than he bargained for while delving into his dead friend’s archive; Eric Best, a gangland thug and  protective ex-boyfriend to Abby, will stop at nothing to keep his ex for himself, including murder; DS Royle is separated from his pregnant wife, who can’t live with him or without him, meanwhile, the policeman is investigating the disappearance of the Gone Away Girls, a series of unsolved kidnappings, and then scarecrows start appearing with photos of the missing girls attached… post-mortem photos.

Beyond Here Lies Nothing has the same heavy, brooding atmosphere of the first two books. It is stifling and you can’t get away from it, which adds to the increasing drama, both human and supernatural. Although the human beings in McMahon’s novels are horrible enough, he doesn’t rest there, inserting some strange and spookily unreal action along the way.

Although this is an ensemble piece and lacks the depth of characterisation of the stunning second book in the series, Silent Voices, it is more ambitious in scale and plot. Both previous books lead in to this catastrophic finale.

Although not as brutal and nasty as some of his other novels, this isn’t quiet horror; it still hurts, and that’s what horror is all about – making the reader feel. McMahon does this by drawing us into his story, creating realistically flawed characters and brutally punishing them.

McMahon has his finger firmly on the carotid artery of modern horror.  No horror fan should be without the entire Concrete Grove trilogy and the Thomas Usher novels.

www.solarisbooks.com

HELL TO PAY By Shaun Hutson – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 23, 2012 by stanleyriiks

This book from 2004, follows a similar pattern to Hutson’s other “horror’ thrillers of the time such as White Ghost.  Around this time, Huston seems to leave the supernatural horror of his previous books behind and head into this new “thriller” territory. Normally there would still be plenty of violence and disturbing gruesome descriptions (that Hutson’s known for) to up the ante on the usual thrillers out there.

Hell to Pay follows the same principles, including the various plot-lines intersecting towards the end for a climactic showdown.

Nikki Reed is in trouble, big trouble. Her and her husband owe the local gangster twenty thousand pounds, most of it spent down the bookies and gambled away, the rest spent on Playstation 2s and similar unrequired accessories. They have until the end of the week to find the money, or they’re likely to be killed by the loan shark, who is already threatening them with violence.

Roma Todd is having an affair. Her husband is virtually estranged, spending all of his time at work and providing little in the way of parental support for their ill daughter Kirsten.

Detective Inspector Fielding is called to another murder. A young boy found washed up by a lake. The third child to be killed. Is it a serial killer they are looking for or a paedophile? Or both? With few clues to follow the police are searching for any lead they can get.

So these three plot lines will eventually intersect, but the climatic action denouement that you would expect ultimately fails to be realised. There is a slight twist, but not enough to satisfy.

One of the great things about Hutson’s novels is the pop-culture references, but reading a book that’s eight years old mean searching through the annals of history. That’s not Hutson’s fault obviously, the fact the book has been lying on my shelf for eight years though is down to the dissatisfied feeling I had after reading White Ghost. That is Hutson’s fault.

Ultimately Hutson is a decent writer who has moved away from what he was good at, writing horror novels, to have a go at the more lucrative thriller market where he does not excel. Nowadays Gary McMahon does urban horror with a much better grasp of the intricacies of modern youth culture, and a better handle on violence and atmosphere.

To write off Hutson as a has-been based on a book written eight years ago is far too harsh. Some of his novels, those that I grew up with such as Nemesis, Death Day, and Relics, are classic British horror. I need to read a more recent Hutson novel to make a more informed decision, and because of his former skill he can’t be written off after a couple of decent, if not impressive, horror thrillers. Decision pending…

SILENT VOICES By Gary McMahon – Reviewed

Posted in Morpheus Tales Magazine, Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 8, 2012 by stanleyriiks

This review is published with the permission of Morpheus Tales.

Wow! It’s very rare for me to be this impressed by a book. McMahon has produced a fantastic novel, a book of friendship, loss, heartache, and sacrifice.  If you have not read McMahon before, then this is the perfect book to start with.

The second book in the Concrete Grove Trilogy (but a stand-alone novel that works just as well if you haven’t read the first book in the set, although I would recommend it as the first book really sets the changes and starts things off with a bang), sees the reuniting of a group of childhood friends, who twenty years ago went into the abandoned tower block known as the Needle and lost a weekend, only to be found abused and bloodied with no memory of what happened. Finally back together, they head back to where their lives changed, the Needle, to fight whatever demons are there and try to remember what happened that fateful weekend.

The Grove is a hellish place, and if you grew up on a council estate it may ring a little too true, and feel a little too close to home. The unease McMahon creates with his setting is perfectly and sadly authentic.

McMahon’s novel is so well put together, the sense of foreboding, the creeping unease, and the disturbed atmosphere McMahon gradually builds, grow through the novel towards a heart-wrenching climax that leaves you torn and wounded. The characters here are real, you know them.

This is not just a horror novel, this is an intelligent and insightful social commentary; a literary, character-driven novel that delves deeper into our hopes and fears, our shame, guilt and pain, than many other writers dare look.

I always come to a McMahon book with high hopes; his Pretty Little Dead Things is a brutal and twisted vision of genius that is in my top ten books of all time. But that means expectations are high, and that can be a double-edged sword. I look for failures and weaknesses in everything, and usually have no problem finding many, but Silent Voices is good. Really good. Bloody good.  McMahon has done it again; he’s impressed the hell out of me. He’s written an extremely accomplished, intelligent and insightful novel that goes far beyond the genre boundaries.

All horror writers should read McMahon; he shows them how it’s really done. Silent Voices is a disturbing tale of friendship and sacrifice, and McMahon is a master craftsman.

www.solarisbooks.com

PRETTY LITTLE DEAD THINGS By Gary McMahon – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 11, 2011 by stanleyriiks

Harrowing. If I had to sum up this book in one word it would be that one. Disturbing, horrifying, terrifying, creepy, gruesome, unsavoury, rotten, nasty, filthy would all work too. This is the kind of book that makes you want a shower afterwards. The kind that leaves a lingering sense of decay, one that takes a little part of your soul with it. There are horror novels, and there are Gary McMahon horror novels. He is simply in a different class.

Thomas Usher’s was driving when a car crash killed his wife and daughter. He survived, but quickly found he had been left with a terrible, horrible gift. Usher can see the dead. But if you think this is going to be Haley Joel Osmond in The Sixth Sense, or Jonah Hex or Odd Thomas, then you are so very wrong. Usher’s guilt-filled existence is horrible enough, but he happens to be following a young woman who is murdered (the third to be hung), and his friend is related to a young girl who is abducted. How are the abduction and the murders related, and can Usher uses the powers that he’s been trying to suppress for the past year to help solve the cases?

McMahon builds a gritty world of urban decay, his human characters are just as revolting, gruesome and disturbing as the supernatural elements. Our narrator and protagonist, guilt-riddled as he is, is the only faint hope we have.

As depressingly realistic, as nasty and brutal as this novel is, you have to read on. You must. There is a grinding darkness that saps your will to escape. McMahon’s first Usher novel is a stupendous feat of hideousness. In the best possible way. This is horror as it’s most revealing. You cannot read this book and not feel unclean, untouched. McMahon does what the best writers do, he makes you feel. You feel disgust, you feel slightly sick, you feel relief. McMahon makes you hurt. Pretty Little Dead Things should be McMahon’s break out novel, this should be a best seller, every horror fan must read this book. They will find out what they’ve been missing all these years. Pretty Little Dead Things is hardcore. Unrelentingly dark and terribly atmospheric, you have not read a horror novel until you have read a McMahon horror novel.

Never, in over twenty years of reading horror, have I been so intensely disturbed by a novel.

Pretty Little Dead Things is sublime. Real horror at it’s very worst (meaning best). Hardcore horror. Not for the faint of heart.

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.