Archive for Neil Gaiman

FRAGILE THINGS By Neil Gaiman – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 17, 2019 by stanleyriiks

I have a strange relationship with short stories. On the one hand they are fun, easy to read, short and can be read in one sitting. On the other hand they blend into each other, lack impact and are generally easily forgettable.

I read this collection a few weeks ago and apart from remembering that the final novella of the book is related to American Gods, I can’t really remember any of them. I know there were a few poems in here, none of which really stuck a chord for me (I’m not a big poetry fan).

So, how can I review it? If you like Neil Gaiman, or short stories, then you’ll probably enjoy this. I like his comics, I really enjoyed his novels, and some of his children’s stories.

This book was easy to read, and if you like short stories then you’ll relish this book from this master fantasist. But none of the stories really stands out. There is the usual sense of being told a fairy tale, but… I don’t know. The book seems to be lacking something. Definition may be. It’s all too vague, too limp, too directionless. I suppose that’s why most anthologies have a theme nowadays.

A nice stop-gap between novels, but hardly riveting reading and nothing memorable. A bit disappointing from Gaiman.

THE OCEAN AT THE END OF THE LANE By Neil Gaiman – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 30, 2015 by stanleyriiks

How does he do it?

As a reader he manages to captivate, inspire and surprise me. As a writer he terrifies me. How can I compete?

Our narrator is a middle-aged man who visits what’s left of his childhood home and remembers a brief episode: after he sees a man commit suicide in their family car, he runs away to the house at the end of the lane, and in that house is a family of women, including a young girl slightly older than him, who have been there since the Doomsday book was written (who have a duckpond that they call an ocean). After a magical trip with the young girl our narrator returns home to find things have changed… When he gets a new nanny, she turns out to be some form of magical creature and is intent on imprisoning him in the attic.

Gaiman weaves tales like no one else. This book most reminded me of Hansel and Gretel, it’s a modern-day fairy tale. It’s riveting, absorbing, poignant, intelligent, and captivating. It’s a fantasy like a Roald Dahl book. A book of memory and the fantastic, it’s beautiful and heart wrenching.

Mr Gaiman is a true genius. It’s impossible to review his books with any kind of critical eye because he just sweeps you up in the story and characters. This isn’t his best book, American Gods and Anansi Boys both have more depth, and I’m not sure any book could better The Graveyard Book. But this is an amazing book. It’s simple and straightforward and brilliant. It’s short and insightful and poetic.

The modern teller of fairy tales has created another masterpiece of fiction.

I will follow Mr Gaiman (not in the stalker sense, just his writing!) wherever he goes and I have no doubt I will enjoy every step.

Fantastical genius.

ALOHA FROM HELL By Richard Kadrey – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 6, 2013 by stanleyriiks

I hate Richard Kadrey. I hate his books. I hate Sandman Slim, one of the greatest anti-heroes to ever be captured on the page.

Kadrey writes books I wish I’d written. He had created a world and characters that I can only dream of creating. He has plots that make me want to read the whole book in one sitting because I want to find out what happens so bad. But also I want to read slowly, to savour every sentence, and respect every line because there is such a wit and darkness in these pages.

This is the third book in the amazing Sandman Slim series, featuring Slim who is a magician returned from hell after turning monster fighter and demon killer. He lives in an LA underworld ruled by Sub Rosa (old magical) families and factions. And finds himself involved as a bodyguard to Lucifer, a private-detective and monster hunter. Slim is my hero. The dude rocks my world, and I wish, I so wish, that he was mine. We would have such great adventure together. But what am I saying? We do have such great adventures together, but that bugger Kadrey creates them! I don’t want to share, I want Slim all to myself.

The third book in the series see Slim having to head down to Hell as his nemesis is having success building an army of hellions and plans to head up to Heaven to destroy it, and then destroy the rest of the world. Of course, there’s excommunicated priests, demons and gods, magic, fighting, betrayal, lies, and all manner of excitement to get in the way of things moving along smoothly.

Slim narrates with a unique voice that entertains with a brisk pace and style that you will find hard to match. The closest comparable voice stylistically would be Joe Lansdale’s East Texas drawl. But Kadrey goes further, where most are afraid to go. He seems unafraid to deal with difficult and controversial issues such as religion and faith, all the while having a wicked sense of humour, and one hellish, fetid darkness that sucks the reader in.

Like the very best fantasists, Clive Barker and Neil Gaiman at the top of their game, Kadrey creates a magnificent world that drips reality, characters that ooze personality, and plots that truly capture the imagination.

The third book in the series continues on the success of the previous two books. You must read the Sandman Slim novels. You MUST read one of them.

I hate Richard Kadrey, I want to be Richard Kadrey. I love Sandman Slim. I look forward to most adventures together.

Darkly brilliant.

Demented genius.

MARVEL ZOMBIES By Kirkman, Phillips, Suydam – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 5, 2012 by stanleyriiks

I have a decent comic collection, but unlike books or films, they are a kind of take ‘em or leave ‘em thing for me. I’ll get into comic books for a few months, buy a load of graphic novels (stand-alone stories or mini-series are much preferable to the unending arcs of the regular issues), read most of them and then put them away in a box under the bed and not bother going to the comic shop for a few years.

I generally don’t read Marvel comics, I prefer my superheroes darker and more mature, like Batman and the Vertigo line. I like Frank Millar, Neil Gaiman, Grant Morrison, Warren Ellis and Garth Ennis. Traditional superheroes, like the Marvel characters, I prefer to watch now that films have surpassed the drawn page.

But Marvel Zombies intrigued me. The very idea is genius. Mix popular superheroes with zombies and see what happens.

This is not your average Marvel superhero story, and Marvel brought in none other than The Walking Dead’s Robert Kirkman to write it. The story seems to have already started when we enter the action, Magneto (normally a villain) is fighting for his life against the rest of the Marvel Universe who have been turned into zombies. They want to eat him. The Fantastic Four have been banished to an alternative dimension, and only The Black Panther (who is being held captive and slowly eaten) is available to stop the ravening hordes.

The Silver Surfer appears briefly, only to become more food.

Like The Walking Dead TV series (I’ve not read the comics), this is mostly about the character interactions and exploring (slightly) the zombie mythos.  It’s all fairly good stuff, nothing massively exciting, but it builds nicely towards a massive zombie battle and then, typical of comic books, leaves a nice cliff-hanger for the story to continue in the next episode (collected together in the appropriately titled Marvel Zombies 2) surprisingly enough.

The gruesome artwork and some quite shocking scenes beat out the weak story to make this book worthwhile. It’s the perfect introduction to horror comic books for those uninitiated and for fans of Marvel’s superheroes it is a stark and brutal reminder of the horror of zombies.

Good, but not great, the idea behind it is sheer genius. The execution is entertaining, and very dark, not what you would normally except from the house of ideas. Zombies rule, in the Marvel Universe too.

SMOKE AND MIRRORS By Neil Gaiman – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 17, 2012 by stanleyriiks

This collection of short stories by master story teller Gaiman is even more like a collection of fairy tales than his long works. His novels may have depth and scope that the short form lacks, but you still get hints of that here, along with variety.

Gaiman’s style is incredible, he is able to conjures worlds and characters with his words that spring up in their mind’s-eye. For me “Babycakes” and the final story in the collection “Snow, Glass, Apples” stood out. The first a brutal and unforgiving look at humanity, powerful for a single page story, the second a retelling of Snow White with a twist.

Even in his early fiction Gaiman has the ability to draw you in.

A beautifully imaginative and diverse collection from one of the world’s finest story tellers.

ODD AND THE FRONT GIANTS By Neil Gaiman – Reviewed

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

This short book was made available for World Book Day in 2008, and sold for a £1.00. Worth every penny.

It’s now being re-released.

Odd is a young Viking boy who runs away from home after another argument with his step-father, and sets off into the forest, only to find himself helping out a bear trapped when trying to get some honey. After Odd helps the bear he finds out that not only can the bear, and his companions the fox and the eagle, talk, but they are also Norse gods trapped in animal bodies by a Frost Giant. They ask Odd to help them out, and with nothing better to do the young boy sets off with them to enter Asgard to help them take their rightful place.

This is part myth part fairy-tale, it’s exactly the type of story that Gaiman seems to revel in. Familiar enough, but new and fresh enough to make us keep reading. You have to find out what happens to Odd and his friends, and you can’t help but enjoy the simple tale. Gaiman is a great story-telling, his created world is brilliantly portrayed, and his characters are pretty much as real as you can get.

Gaiman tells stories like no other, and his unique ability is perfectly showcased in this brief story.

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.