Archive for narrator

THE SPY WHO LOVED ME By Ian Fleming – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 24, 2013 by stanleyriiks

Those expecting nuclear submarines and dastardly spy shenanigans are likely to be disappointed, as Fleming experiments with an almost non-Bond Bond novel. Here we have a book narrated in the first person by a young Canadian woman in an empty motel, Vivienne Michel, reliving her past loves (basically abuse at the hands of men), and whiling away the hours until dawn arrives and she can leave. But half way through the night two men (gangsters) turn up and things get nasty. They seem intent on giving Viv a hard time and one even beats her, the threat of rape and murder hangs in the air, and when Viv tries to escape she is shot at.

Fortunately, about three quarters of the way through the novel, Bond turns up and takes matters into his own hands.

So, not your standard Bond novel then. The use of Viv as a filter for the hardened Bond character works well, and was probably a nice change for Fleming, but it could be seen as a strange departure by fans expecting a typical Bond novel.

Although there is the subtle hint of menace throughout the book, this is a strange kind of love story, with Viv becoming besotted with her hero almost as soon as he arrives. The book is enjoyable enough, Bond is on hand to help ramp up the action for the final quarter, and the book is short enough and well-written enough, to keep your attention. But this seems like a step too far from the traditional Bond stories, Fleming’s evocative and stylish prose isn’t as effective here, and the lack of action and tension that normally drive the books is missing.

Fleming was by this time moving away from his pulp fiction beginnings and into detective/mystery territory with the novels, but apart from the love-story echoes this is pure pulp. The gangster criminals in the shape of Sluggsy and Horror could easily have come from a Charlie Chan or Spider novel. A departure from the Bond canon, but not a bad book, a more female view of the action hero that is James Bond, license to thrill.

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KILL THE DEAD By Richard Kadrey – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 9, 2013 by stanleyriiks

It’s not often that a book comes along that excites me. It’s not often that anything excites me. In fact, it’s a very rare occasion that anything wakes me from the tortured stupor that is my day to day life. I read almost constantly to escape the dull oblivion that is my pitiful existence.

And then a book like this comes along…

James Stark (demon fighter and part-Angel celebrity) is dragged into LA’s zombie while being Lucifer’s bodyguard. And that’s barely scraping the surface of this story, but I don’t want to ruin the surprises in store for you.

This is the second book in the Sandman Slim series, and if I haven’t read the first book then go read it. Go now. What are you waiting? Go, just go. No, don’t read any further, get it now! Right now I tell you!

You could probably pick this book up and struggle along to catch up, but don’t. The first book is a hell of a story (literally), and there’s far too much you’ll have missed out on if you start the series with book two. Although this is pretty much a stand-alone story, this is very much the second part of a series, and there’s a ton of background (and it’s really fun background!) that you’ll miss out on if you skip the first book. Do not skip the first book! DO NOT!

Stark is a serious piece of work, an alcoholic, chain-smoking, demon assassin, murderer, kick-ass detective; just the kind of dude Lucifer wants as a bodyguard. Our hellish anti-hero is a brilliantly humorous, angry young man, killing vampires and zombies with witty asides, and inventive techniques.

Kadrey has produced an LA dripping with monster filth, which works so well. This is a city bound-up with demons and hellions, drowning in Sub-Rosa (magical families), and is an antidote to those good folks in the Harry Potter novels. These magicians would cook up Harry and his pals for breakfast and then shit them out as zombies. This is hardcore witchcraft, terror and death.

This book is demented genius. Kadrey raised the bar for urban fantasy with Sandman Slim, and the expectations were high for the second book in the series. Not only does Kadrey gives us another exciting episode, but he continues to explore one of the most fascinating and engaging narrators/creatures in modern genre literature.

Sandman Slim is dead. Long live Sandman Slim!

THE FURTHER ADVENTURES OF SHERLOCK HOLMES: SÉANCE FOR A VAMPIRE By Fred Saberhagen – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 17, 2012 by stanleyriiks

What could be better? The world’s greatest detective and vampires. In fact, better than just your average vampire, Dracula himself.

The story starts in 1765 at a pirate hanging, told to us by Prince Dracula himself, in the prologue.

The story proper starts with the irascible Dr Watson’s narration as he and the great detective are requested to attend a séance where a wealthy family’s eldest daughter has previously been conjured. Their daughter died weeks ago of drowning while out with her fiancé and sister.

So far so good.

Saberhagen has Watson’s style down pretty good, and the story rolls along in the traditional style. But somewhere towards the middle of the book things begin to go awry.

The book switches narrator between Watson and Dracula, which far from adding to the story, is jarring and confusing. There is some overlap between the stories being told, and there is the constant “I, Dracula take over the story” every time there is a change, which grates. At times both narrators use the third person to describe themselves, adding to the confusion.

Holmes is a facsimile, a mere name, without any of the characteristic genius, the clever detection, or humour of the original. Dracula, although an aristocrat, was never a gentleman. Beneath his suave exterior lies the rotting heart of monster. Even at his best he is a creepy and chilly individual. Not so here, Dracula rivals Watson for pompous Victorian etiquette.

Despite the ruinous use of two of my favourite characters, I persevered to the end, only to find one of the weakest climaxes in the history of the novel, and everything tied up so easily it hardly felt worth the effort, without any ingenuity or integrity.

Although I have savaged, quite comprehensively, this book, I still found myself enjoying some small parts of it. It is after all, Dracula and Holmes, even if they are poor copies.

This could have been such a brilliant book, perhaps my expectations were too high, or perhaps this book doesn’t deserve the name of Holmes associated with it. I might try another in the series to check, but this definitely does not live up to the originals.

DAY OF THE DAMNED By David Gunn – Reviewed

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 3, 2012 by stanleyriiks

I’m a huge fan of the Death’s Head trilogy, and particularly our reluctant hero, soldier and narrator Sven Tveskoeg, but despite Gunn’s unique and thrill-a-minute story telling, this is the weakest of the three novels.

For a start Sven is almost too utilitarian, the ultimate soldier is without his humanity (the Aux) for most of the book, and when they do turn up nothing much happens for them to be of any use. The plots of previous novels, Sven going from mission to mission, or sent on a huge suicide mission, here give way to political (high clan) intrigue. Sven feels out of his depth, and the reader awaits the action. Alas, it does not arrive. The damp squib of an ending is let down all the more because there is no fight, the “baddy” gives in, and the battle that should be hard-won is escaped.

Where’s the fighting, the action, the battles and near-death experiences? Where’s the edge of your seat/seat of your pants sequences that leave you dripping with sweat and physically exhausted? The first book int he series delivers and then some! It’s a full-on, over-the-top, action-fueled SF adventure! The third book… not so much. A couple of good action scenes, but poor plotting and a wasted opportunity of an ending just didn’t do it for me.

Not the best of a great set of action-packed SF thrillers. Sven deserves better, and I hope Gunn isn’t finished with his brilliantly-realised grumpy supersoldier.

DEATH’S HEAD: MAXIMUM OFFENCE By David Gunn – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 5, 2011 by stanleyriiks

Futuristic warfare is brutal. Just ask SvenTveskoeg, Lieutenant in the elite Death’s Head regiment of the Octovian Army, head of the go-to squad for General Jaxx, and seconded to the U/Free (superior alien race) to search for a missing ambassador on the artificial world of Hekati. Except nothing is ever as easy as it first appears for Sven, as his mission is a cover, and he doesn’t even know what his real mission is as it’s on a “need to know basis” and despite him being in charge of carrying out the mission, his superiors don’t believe he needs to know. Sven and his small team, the Aux, have to do their best to be diplomatic as they search for the missing U/Free on a world inhabited by bandits and gangs, all the while being chased by the Enlightened (humanity’s greatest enemy), and having to cope with a nineteen year old colonel who thinks he’s in charge.

But the Death’s Head series isn’t so much about plot as it is about action, here it’s delivered by the bucket-load. Fighting, battles, warfare, snipers, talking guns, spacecraft, treason and treachery, missing arms and all sort of action, excitement and adventure. There aren’t many books that could even keep pace with this face-stomping, arm twisting, rip-roaring riot of a novel. There’s little room here for developing characters (except for Sven who is our trusty narrator as well as our hero), clever plotting, or realistic futuristic worlds, all of these are secondary to the action-packed fun.

That’s not to say they’re missing, the second book in the series shows a slightly more complex structure than the first novel, there’s even a twist at the end. And the general narrative has a lot more depth, but this never takes away from the speed and excitement of the journey we’re on with the Death’s Head squad.

Only Andy Remic can hold a candle to the sheer blood-fuelled adrenaline shot that the Death’s Head books give you. There are few books as pacey or as exciting, and the second book leads so well into the third that you can’t help but leap up after finishing it, ready for more. Bring on the third book!

TRIUMFF: HER MAJESTY’S HERO By Dan Abnett – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 7, 2010 by stanleyriiks

Set in an alternative England, where Queen Elizabeth the first married Spain’s King Philip the Second, setting in motion a series of Queen Elizabeths to follow, leaving England and the Empire to discover the joys of magic, but not those of the industrial revolution or mechanisation.

Sir Rupert Triumff is an adventurer who has recently discovered Australia for the Queen, but refuses to give her back his letter of passage and return the country back to her.

This is used by plotters to set Triumff up as a traitor in their own attempts to kill the Queen and take over the Empire in the name of Spain.

Fans of Dan Abnett’s gamesworkshop novel should be made fully aware this is nothing like the full-on action-packed adventures of the Space Marines. The king of battle-writing tones down the action for much of this novel, although the intrigue and scheming are ramped up to compensate.

The style of the writing also shows Abnett’s depth, as our narrator, one William Beaver, continues to pop up at odd moments and imbues the proceedings a little light relief.

The plotting is well worked, and the tension continues to grow as the plot to kill the queen gets closer, and Triumff and his friends get closer to discovering the truth behind it.

Although not as action-packed as Abnett’s 40K Universe books, and despite a swashbuckling start, the novel is heavier on machinations and tension. Abnett’s talent doesn’t go to waste, and the world he creates is cleverly portrayed with many layers. Nothing like his tie-in novels, but providing an equal amount of enjoyment and entertainment.

If there is a sequel, I’ll be there.

THE SKY ROAD By Ken MacLeod – Reviewed

Posted in Life..., Reviews, Uncategorized, writing with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 8, 2009 by stanleyriiks

THE SKY ROAD By Ken MacLeod

Lately I’ve been spending a lot of time reading, trying to get through the huge stockpile of books I’ve managed to build up over the last twenty years. I’ve told myself I can’t buy any new books until I’ve made a dent in the three huge bookcases full I already have. I have a list ready of new books I want to buy: Drood, The Umblemished, Patient Zero… The list goes on. And on.

As Stephen King, and nearly every other successful writer, says: If you want to be a writer, you have to read a lot and write a lot. OK, so at the moment it’s a bit easier to do the former than the latter. I’m watching almost no TV, the house is a mess cos I’m not doing any chores (any excuse!), and I’m only watching about one film a week instead of one a day! Every spare minute seems to be taken up with reading, and I’ve been on a bit of a roll. In the last three months not one book has taken more than four days to read.

And then I come to The Sky Road.

This isn’t a book that can be read quickly. Unlike most modern novels it actually takes a bit of concentration, but when you put in the effort you do feel you’ve achieved something.

Set against the background of a post-apocalypse world, the people of the future are building a spaceship, their vehicle to travel The Sky Road of the title. Society consists of two very separate peoples, the Tinkers, a strange set of individuals who travel round the country and live free of care, but also use that strange technology called computers. No one else in normal society uses computers, afraid that they might be infected by the dark power.

When one of the normal citizens, Clovis Colha Gree, the narrator of half the book, meets and falls in love with a beautiful Tinker, he sets himself on a path of change and discovery he never could have imagined.

Interwoven with this is the story of the Deliverer, the person responsible for the almost-end-of-the-world that set humanity back on its chosen path.

Redolent with leftist politics and with MacLeod’s writing tight and concise, and filled with ideas, this book is a bit of a struggle to begin with. There’s so much in the densely packed pages that you need to concentrate a little more than you average SF novel.

King should take note of MacLeod’s use of adverbs; he’s a bit of a master and really shows what can be achieved with their careful use. It just goes to show that every writer has their own way of using language and we have to find the one we are most comfortable with.

At its heart this is a love-story and a tale of discovery. The backwards and forwards of the narration can be a bit herky-jerky and I felt the Deliverer’s story was a bit more exciting that the post-apocalyptic vision of Earth, but ultimately MacLeod delivers once again in his own unique style.

This doesn’t have the more futuristic setting of his other books, and I preferred The Cassini Division, but it made me look up Kazakhstan (where some of the book is set) on wiki and it actual made me think, something very few books (or anything else for that matter!) can do.

MacLeod is a strange but fascinating writer whose books compel you to continue reading and The Sky Road is no exception.