Archive for moving

IMAJICA By Clive Barker – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 10, 2010 by stanleyriiks

Wow, this is a big epic. I mean huge. 1136 densely packed pages. It’s a marathon of a novel. It feels long. It took me six solid weeks of reading to finish it, and by the time I had I was exhausted and numb.

I understand that Barker and his publishers want to give the readers value for money, but this would have worked so well as two novels. The first would chart the plots and conspiracies surrounding Gentle, his former girlfriend Judith, her husband, the assassin he’s employed to kill her, and the mysterious world of the other four dominions. It would follow the story of their travelling through the wondrous worlds of the other dominions, as they attempt to discover what the Reconciliation is and their part in it. Would have been a good book at about 500 pages.

Book two would have seen the return to the Fifth Dominion, Earth, by those involved, and their attempts and machinations to Reconcile all of the Dominions, struggling to stay alive and one step ahead of the mysterious and dangerous Maestro of Yzordderrex, and discovering how the equally dangerous and mysterious Goddesses fit into things.

Instead we get two books for the price or one, and who can argue with that? Well, I can. (Some later editions were split in two!)

Reading any novel should be fun. It should be exciting, entertaining, and with an epic it should be even more so. More involving, more moving, more of everything.

Except here it’s not. Don’t get me wrong, I love epics. The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Peter Hamilton’s Night’s Dawn trilogy, the Dune Saga… I like to read collections and trilogies in one go, so the depth of this novel doesn’t terrify me at all, I was actually looking forward to it. But it felt like a marathon, and one I wasn’t prepared for. It took longer than expected, it felt longer than it was, it was damn hard work, and I was already prepared for a lengthy read.

The book is not unenjoyable, it’s just that it’s inability to keep you entertained at a sufficient level means that half way through you feel as though you have finished and should be rewarded with a nice ending. And that’s what you get, the book clearly ends and loses energy before getting its second wind and then the book continues and the second half just feels like a very long, drawn out epilogue that never ends.

So is it rubbish? No, the characters, particularly for an epic of this length, are barely more than cardboard cut-outs, and the plot is simple enough, but its the telling of the story, the complexity and depth of the five dominions that really keep you reading, (ok, the only thing that keep you reading). Just about entertaining enough, or perhaps that’s just stubborn determination that kept me reading till the end despite it feeling like a chore.

If you haven’t read Weaveworld try that one instead, the same depth but for a third of the time and effort.

Probably the weakest Barker novel I’ve read so far. A hard slog, and unfortunately not really worth it.

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.