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THE COLD COMMANDS By Richard Morgan – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 22, 2013 by stanleyriiks

I read the first book in this series around two years ago, and you know what, I can barely remember any of it. I remember the three main characters (after my memory is jogged reading about them again), who are all here, present and correct. I vaguely remember feeling like the book ended on a cliff-hanger and feeling a little bit cheated, but I still enjoyed it enough to put the second book in the series (trilogy?) on my Christmas list for Santa to buy me. So in amongst my stacks of drugs and porn and alcohol (ok, so it was pretty much all books that Santa brought me!), I found this SF/fantasy novel (and it’s got a nice cover which always draws me in) and sat down to read it.

Ringil Eskiath is a true antihero, although we find him rescuing slaves after his cousin was imprisoned by a slave-trader. He’s a tough, no-nonsense S.O.B. who demands your attention, a mean man with a massive alien sword.

Archeth is a half-alien female who works for the new emperor, a paranoid young man intent on ridding his empire of enemies by having them flayed alive by octopi.

Egar the Dragonbane is having an affair with the wife of a war hero, but his adventures into a religious fortress will bring the three old friends back together, whether they like it or not, with magic, death, and betrayal to get in their way.

This book (I think like the first, my memory is not what it once was!) takes a long time to gather speed, there are almost three hundred pages of build-up as the story meanders along, setting everything up for the inevitable climax. When it does comes there’s plenty of action and intrigue, although Ringal is a little too superheroic and never appears in danger of being hurt, let alone losing a fight. He’s a bit too invincible, like Judge Dredd with a sword.

Morgan’s writing is good, he manages to draw you in without you realising, the atmosphere and world are vividly portrayed, but there’s a lingering sense of missing something. Perhaps it’s been too long between instalments, but I felt like I missed the oft-referred to war (did it appear in the first book?).

Despite confusing the hell out of me, the grey lands are strange and mysterious and make everything seem a bit too easy at the end. I couldn’t help but enjoy Egar’s tough steppe barbarian, Archeth’s frustrated diplomat and Ringal’s menacing killer. The characters are really what make this book, and Morgan has done a first rate job with them. I’ll be back for more despite my misgivings, fantasy doesn’t get much more original or compelling than this.

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