Archive for novels

THE DAY OF THE TRIFFIDS By John Wyndham – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 28, 2019 by stanleyriiks

In my much younger days I watched the BBC dramatisation of this book. It gave me nightmares. I remember it to this day, many many years later. So I approached this novel with some trepidation.

The original, the book, is somewhat different to my memories of the mini-series though.

I think in my young mind it’s been partially merged with Arthur Dent in his dressing gown, but those deadly plants I remember far too well.

Bill Masen wakes up in hospital to silence. It’s strangely quiet. And while he waits for his blindfold to be removed after his operation he gradually becomes aware that things have changed overnight. The nurses are not at their stations, the hospital and outside are strangely quiet. When he heads out tentatively to investigate, his blindfold still in place, he realises that much of the rest of the hospital is blind too.

As Bill ventures outside he realises that the blindness is not restricted to the hospital, and that soon London will become an apocalyptic wasteland, run by gangs of criminals…

The Triffids, flesh eating man-sized plants that have a whip-like stinger are only part of his apocalyptic world. This is really the story of man’s descent when the world becomes blind overnight.

This is The Walking Dead but with killer plants instead of zombies, and set in 50s Britain.

I’m sure the TV series made more of the killer plants, in the book they are a mere part of the hysteria and menace of post-normal life. The Day of the Triffids is a classic SF apocalypse novel, and the precursor to virtually every post-apocalypse story ever since.

Tragic, quietly brilliant, and disturbing.

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 KILL SOCIETY By Richard Kadrey – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 29, 2019 by stanleyriiks

Ah, and Sandman Slim is back with a bang.

After the very slightly disappointing eighth book in the series, Kadrey throws Slim into hell, where he becomes trapped with a fanatical group of demons and other criminals, intent on taking a secret weapon to heaven and getting involved in the civil war going on there. Of course, they have to escape the tenebrae first, the desolate wasteland of the lost dead.

Will Slim be able to save his friend Father Traven? Will he be able to escape the dangerous clutches of the ruthless Magistrate? Will he be able to escape hell itself for a second time? And is being dead going to help or hinder his adventures?

This nice departure from Slim saving the world yet again in his magic-fuelled world of LA is Kadrey back to his best. Slim is the perfect anti-hero, he has a terrible attitude, and his kill-first-and-ask-questions-later mentality are on full show once again.

A great addition to the Slim chronicles, and definitely essential reading if you like your urban fantasy with a boot up the arse.

DELIVERANCE LOST By Gav Thorpe – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 19, 2019 by stanleyriiks

The legend of the Horus Heresy continues. In the 30th Century the Empire of Man is under threat from the vilest villain it had ever faced, not the orks or any other alien invaders, but from the Emperor’s favourite son: Horus.

The remaining Raven Guard of the Isstvan V slaughter manage to escape the awful violence caused by the Space Marines traitor legions, and head back to Earth to heal their wounds and regroup.

This is the story of the troubles they face, the machinations of the traitor legions against them, and the internal politics and paranoia of an empire under siege.

To describe what happens in book 18 of this series any further would do it a disservice, as there are shocks and surprises throughout.

This is the Heresy in all its wonderful glory: epic scale, brilliant characters, brother fighting brother and you, the excited reader, torn as much as the characters are by the intricacy of this brutal war.

Gav Thorpe is does an outstanding job in his first Heresy book, this is exciting stuff, and a great insight into one of the less well-known but still very interesting Primarchs.

One of the best Heresy novels and definitely worth a read.

URBAN GOTHIC By Brian Keene – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 20, 2019 by stanleyriiks

Does this book represent horror? Probably not present day horror as the book is now nearly ten years old. It certainly feels of a time, although is that because it feels so familiar? There’s nothing in the book to date it, no trademarks or brands that are now defunct. No historic attitude or clothes. Cellphones, that most telling of recent items, are present.

So what are we looking at here? A haunted house story… Essentially. But one with a twisted sense of realism. The house is only haunted by hideously deformed human beings, cannibals, rabid and misshapen.

A group of teenagers enter the house, having been chased through a bad neighbourhood by a gang of not-so-ruthless “thugs”, little knowing the rumours and stories about it. Then they find themselves trapped inside, the prey of dangerous, mutated cannibals in a desperate struggle to survive.

Keene gives us familiar tropes and twists them, much in the same way Edward Lee does, so keeping a realism that is shocking and nasty, in the same way Ketchum managed with Off Season. The horror here is the brutality of humanity rather than actual monsters.

Back to my original question, does this book represent horror? To a certain extent, yes, it does. There isn’t anything new here. The entire problem with the genre is that it’s stuck with a single and simple premise, the evocation of an emotion: fear. Sure, it’s actually pretty difficult to achieve. And it’s the same things that make us scared, like haunted houses, crazy killers, and this book plays on those stereotypes. The failure of the book, as the failure with most horror novels, and the failure of the genre, is that in order for us to feel fear, to be scared, to be horrified, is that we need to feel.

Keene does a good job, this is by no means a bad horror novel. But it failed to make me feel. SF often does a similar job of not making me feel anything for the main characters, but SF is about ideas. If I’m not emotionally involved in the characters in an SF novel it doesn’t mean the book fails. For me, now, horror fails if I don’t feel. If the main characters are brutally tortured and killed and I don’t care, then they might as well not have been killed and I might as well not have bothered.

I’ve read far too many books in my forty odd years for everything to touch me. I’m jaded. I’m cynical. I don’t care about real people most of the time, why would I care about some words on a page. But that’s what good horror makes me do. It doesn’t have to be a whole novel, sometimes it’s a scene in a fantasy. The torture scene in an Andy Remic fantasy novel had me cringing for several pages, because I cared about the characters. Without that engagement horror is dead.

That is the main reason Stephen King is successful, he draws you into the story, gets you involved with the characters and then he hurts them, and by extension, he hurts you too.

For all his stereotype twisting and all his brutality (which I did enjoy), Keene failed to make me feel anything. This isn’t a bad book by any means, and like the genre itself, I feel I’ve grown out of it a little. Not by choice, I wish I jumped at the scary parts of films, I wish I loved every character I read about, but I don’t. The novelty has worn off.

May be horror is not my genre any more.

RUIN AND WRATH By John Gwynne – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 20, 2018 by stanleyriiks

The third and fourth book in this epic tale of war see our various heroes finally coming together to battle against the evil that is Calidus, and his puppet, King Nathair. Giants, traitors, hunters, warriors, soldiers, betrayal, demons and angels, the tales of the wars of the Banished lands has it all.

You can’t join a story of this size anywhere but the beginning, so go out and pick up a copy of Malice. This is where we meet Corban and his friends, and we find out the myth of the seven treasures, the Bright Star, the battle between the gods and the players that side with them.

This is a story of hardship, of battle, of love, and loss. Gwynne portrays his world brilliantly, and his characters live and breathe, capturing your heart and tearing at it as they are plunged into deeper and deeper dangers.
Any fans of epic fantasy will enjoy this.

If you’re not a fan of epic fantasy, and why not, this is a great place to start. Don’t be daunted by the size of this truly epic tale, it is easy to read, easy to get into, and you’ll find the pages just turning as you devour the story.

Gwynne has himself a long-life fan after this set of novels. I can’t wait to read his next book.

PROSPERO BURNS By Dan Abnett – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 2, 2018 by stanleyriiks

Book 15 in the Horus Heresy series. If you’re coming to this book having not read any of the previous books in the series then it might be a bit of a struggle, although much of the book can be read as an individual story, you’ll miss out so much of the context that it might be confusing.

For those who have been following the series, this book is the other side of book 12 (A Thousand Sons), and follows directly on. The first forty pages or so is pretty confusing and doesn’t really seem to relate to anything, but is essentially our introduction to Hawser, a historian, who has travelled to Fenris (the home of the mighty Space Wolves) and becomes their archivist. As such he is privy to secrets beyond the scope of mere humans, and is there at the trial of Magnus the Red. After Magnus tries to warn his father using the void that he has been told not to use, it is the Space Wolves who must travel to Prospero, the home of the Sons, and sanction them using every deadly measure available to them.

Despite an annoyingly opaque opening, this book really develops. It shows the intrigue and genius of the plotting of chaos against the Emperor and his space marines. It shows the struggles of brother being pitted against brother, and there is a whole heap of action as the space marines fight against their only true opponent: their brother space marines.

Abnett is one of the best writers working for the Black Library, and his Horus Heresy books are essential reading. The Heresy series sometimes seems to stretch the story a little too far, giving more context than substance in some of the novels, but here we are really at the heart of the story, but told in a slightly different way.

One of the better Horus Heresy books, Dan Abnett does it again.