Archive for plotting

DEAD STREETS By Tim Waggoner – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 20, 2011 by stanleyriiks

You might have thought that our hero and narrator, Matt Richter, Private Investigator, having his head cut off would be the end of the story. But this is Nekropolis, and Matt’s a zombie, so having his head cut off is just the start of his problems. He then finds out that his body has been stolen.

This is, literally, the beginning of a series of events that drive us towards the obvious conclusion, deftly swerved by Waggoner.

To give you any more of the details would be a disservice, and it’s the richness of the exploration of the mystery, as well as the brilliance of Nekropolis, that keeps you coming back for more.

This second book in the Nekropolis series focuses more on plot, whereas the first book with a mystery wrapped inside a guide book to everybody’s favourite strange city of the dead, the strange, the alien.

For anyone who has never read Nekropolis, the first book in the series, the mystery of a stolen artefact offers our zombie detective Richter the opportunity to explore the magically twisted city of Nekropolis, and gives us a back history of this underworld and our hero/narrator. Not the greatest novel ever written, it’s the city of Nekropolis that makes the book. It’s difficult to describe, but a dark adult version of Tim Burton’s Nightmare Before Christmas might be the closest you could get. It’s inhabited by wizards, vampires, ghosts, werefolk, zombies and all manner of dark and mysterious creatures.

The second book moves on with the relationships and the world first explored in Nekropolis and moves it all forward. The plotting is better here, but there is still a distinct lack of tension, probably because Matt is already dead and that struggle for life is over. The mystery isn’t so much of a mystery, until the end, but it’s the getting there rather than the result which is the important part.

This is a fun book, it’s enjoyable for the very idea of the city, further explored here to great effect. But with a decent plot and some added tension, this would have been an amazing novel. There’s still the third book to hope for, but I’m not even sure Waggoner of capable of blowing us away.

DEATH’S HEAD By David Gunn – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 7, 2011 by stanleyriiks

Amazon suggested this book to me because of a previous purchase of one of Andy Remic’s books. Andy Remic writes the kind of fast-paced, action-packed SF and fantasy stories that thrill and entertain in equal measure, so I was looking forward to this one.

For once amazon got it pretty much spot on.

Sven is an ex-sergeant Legionnaire who is about to be lashed to death for insubordination, until a group of Ferox (unfriendly Wookie-type creatures) attack the out-post he’s stationed at, killing everyone but him. One of the massive alien beasts talks to Sven using telepathy and Sven is taken back to their camp where he lives with them as a kind of pet.

This is the beginning of Sven’s adventures.

When the cave system the Ferox live in is attacked and Sven is saved, he becomes a tool of the General, given mission where the army needs deniability. Sven’s unique abilities and his tougher than shit attitude not only get him into trouble, but also out of it, as he tackles prison, treason, war and command.

Ok, so Sven’s adventures feel very much organic, the plotting for the novel seems to have happened during the writing process and each episode doesn’t connect too much with what follows or what came before other than occasional details, but that doesn’t matter.

The haphazard plotting makes it feel like a real adventure, and you can’t help but enjoy Sven’s “fuck you” attitude. This guys got huge balls and isn’t afraid to display them for all to see. You want Sven to win, whatever it is he’s doing. He’s one of those grumpy bastards, like Kell, Conan and Druss, that we’re used to seeing in fantasy fiction, but a lot less so in SF. Here we have a true hero, who knows the difference between right and wrong, but does things he own ways, whether it gets him into trouble or not.

So the aliens involved in the final battle all become a bit confused, and you’re not sure quite who’s fighting who, but who cares!

Sven is what carries the story on, and Gunn gives us a great helping of action to keep things speeding along nicely so we don’t get too worried about the details. Great fun, the kind of book that puts a grin on your face. A boy’s own adventure in space.

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.

GARDENS OF THE MOON By Steven Erikson – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 28, 2010 by stanleyriiks

In the author’s introduction to this novel he says that he’s unapologetic for the “throw you straight in” style of the book and he leaves readers to either sink or swim. He also says that the book was always ambitious in scope, and readers will either love it or hate it. Well, I did both.

For the first hundred pages I loved this book, the richly portrayed fantasy world, the sheer depth, and the fast-paced action drew me in. Then we get to the second section of the novel, where the various factions and their plotting to take over the city of Darujistan come to the fore and things start getting complicated, very complicated, and I admit that I got lost. Not with the plot which is fairly simple, lots of factions attempting to take over the city or using whatever means necessary to stop someone else taking it over: from the Empress’ Adjunct; the Bridgeburners (Imperial Army but almost outcasts); a young girl being used as the pawn of a god; a thief, also being used; Captain Paran; the Council of Darujistan; the Ruler of Moon’s Spawn; the Alchemist Barak; The Guild of Assassins; and the list continues. It is the sheer scale of the story that gets in the way of its telling. Fantasy isn’t normally this plot-orientated, and in some ways this feels more like a science fiction epic.

That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but the complete lack of characterisation means that none of the characters is even noticeable. The scale of names to remember and the fact that several characters have more than one name, and it just gets confusing.

As the various threads of the story begin to come together for the denouement, everything begins to make sense again, but Erikson chooses then to get the gods more heavily involved than they already were. A couple of hundred pages towards the end everything suddenly becomes clearer, although still muddied.

Ambition is no bad thing, but here the ambitious scale has meant good characterisation is sacrificed. Yes, we have one of the most in-depth worlds ever created, possibly due to Erikson’s gameplaying background, a world with several sets of humans, other species, gods, and a full background history. But we have no good characters to follow other than standard cardboard cut-out stereotypes, a young love-struck thief, a world-weary Sergeant, a ruthless Empress… Again a victim of Erikson’s gamer background?

For every plus with this first book of the tales of Malazan there is an equally important minus. Erikson’s sacrificed character for scope, he’s thrown away clever plotting, and thrown in everyone (including the kitchen sink) in an attempt to make the story more complex than it really is, just confusing everything.

The fact is this book shows great potential. I’m just not sure I’ll be willing to put in the effort to read another of the Malazan books to find out if Erikson can reach that potential.

Not the best introduction to a world, and not the worst. A shame that it wasn’t better, as I could have been completed hooked.

Some Tips for Writers

Posted in Morpheus Tales Magazine, Uncategorized, writing with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 18, 2009 by stanleyriiks

I’m fortunate enough to have a friend who edits a small press magazine, it’s called Morpheus Tales Magazine and it’s bloody excellent. Go check it out: He’s owes me a fiver now!

I’m also friends with a couple of other editors, as well as editing the reviews section of Morpheus Tales Magazine myself. Occasionally we have moans about writers, just as writers tend to moan about editors. During the course of these moans though certain useful pieces of information come to light. Practical information that will help your writing career. I’ve also used some of my own vast experience, and the experiences and advice of other writers that I’d read or interviewed.

Obviously this isn’t a definitive guide to writing, it’s just some tips, so feel free to add any.

In no particular order:

Be professional: Always read the writers guidelines. Nothing annoys an editor more than a story that’s too long, or not long enough, or simply the wrong genre. Don’t waste your time or theirs.

Learn to format a manuscript correctly. This means using the format menu and the paragraph settings to change the document’s indentations and line spacing, not using the tab and tapping enter twice at the end of every sentence to get it double space. If you format a story properly it’s much easier to manipulate.

Using the correct format, ok this is different from the previous paragraph. Most magazines/editors/publishers require standard manuscript format, find out what it is and stick to it. Some publishers require certain fonts and font sizes (normally 12), most prefer double spaced. If you can’t be bothered to find out how a publisher/editor wants to receive your work, why should they be bothered to read your work?

Write a simple, shortly covering letter/email. Include a brief description of the story too, and possibly a short bio. Some publishers want a synopsis, so include that. Include whatever it specifically asked for, that’s why you read the writers guidelines properly. Don’t include your life history, what inspired you to write the story or any other irrelevant information. Most editors will judge the story on its own merits and won’t even read your covering email unless the story is good enough anyway.

Do your homework. Read the magazine before you submit anything. Do you know what sort of material they publish just be reading the title and looking at the website? No. Find out the editor’s name too, it always helps if you approach the correct person. Some magazines and most publishing companies have specific editors dealing with specific areas.

Don’t give up. Stephen King was rejected hundreds of times, he collected his rejection slips on a large nail in his bedroom. Rejection happens to us all, even me, and although its harsh try to learn something from it. It you get some criticism listen to it.

Proofread your masterpiece, spell-check it and check it for grammer. If you want to be taken seriously then take your work seriously, this is part of being professional about your work. Check it for mistakes and typos. Not everyone’s perfect, including, on occasion, myself, but at least try to send your piece error-free. An editor will reject your work if it will take them some time to make it publishable. If there are too many typos they might not even read the whole thing.

There are more tips on the writers guidelines page of Morpheus Tales Magazine, right down at the bottom. It’s worth taking a look at these too.

Don’t think I’m going to give you the big secret about how to write a masterpiece, that I’m still working on. I can’t give you tips on characterisation or plotting either, I’m developing those skills as you read this! Read a lot and write a lot. As the saying goes practice makes perfect.