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FLU By Wayne Simmons – Reviewed

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 4, 2011 by stanleyriiks

A few years ago zombie novels were like gold-dust. Now they’re ten a penny. Most are bog standard zombie rehashes, offering nothing new. The king of zombie fiction is Brian Keene, whose zombie novels create a sense of undeniable dread and looming, unstoppable danger. So the question is, does Simmons have anything to offer, and can be usurp the king?

Sadly the answer is both yes and no.

Flu is a post-apocalyptic zombie novel, focusing on the further spread of the disease which kills and then brings you back, and the few survivors in Belfast as they try to stay alive as long as possible, seeking out supplies, grouping together with other non-dead humans, and having to deal with the dead-fucks. The story uses sectarian issues and guilt, police, army and civilian survivors in a nice mix, which gives the book its edge.

This isn’t The Walking Dead rehashed in Belfast. Although there are clear homages to Romero’s trilogy and other zombie movies.

The story has some brutal and some disgusting moments, which help take it beyond the average, but what really put this book ahead of most of the rest is Simmons easy and efficient writing style (polished to within an inch of its life), and his characters, all of which suffer their own personal demons they have to battle along with the zombies. The humans really are the heroes of this novel, a tough sell, but one that works in this case.

The UK is bereft of zombie novels, the only decent one I can remember is the composite novel created by Stephen Jones and loads of others, Zombie Apocalypse, the exceptional London-based zombie novel told ingeniously in a series of documents.

While Flu isn’t an inventive as Jones’ effort, it still works very well and is a massively satisfying zombie novel that creates a dead world you want to explore further, and leaves enough questions for us to want to read the sequel, Fever, coming in the summer. And Flu definitely shows Simmons’ massive potential to become Great Britain’s crown prince of zombie fiction.

Not perfect, but a damn good try. Zombie fans will love it, horror fans will love it. Simmons writes like a demon, smooth and dangerous. Zombie fiction with an edge.

THE SKINNER By Neal Asher – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 18, 2011 by stanleyriiks

Three strangers meet on the way to the planet’s surface. That planet, which has little serviceable surface, is Spatterjay, a mostly water-filled world. And the seas of Spatterjay are filled with all manner of creatures all ready and willing to eat you and anything else that invades their watery home: including the strange leeches, whose bite, if not fatal, will change your body chemistry until you are immortal, or near as damnit.

One of the party of three is Sable Keech, several hundreds of years old, and finally returning to Spatterjay to complete his mission: to find the remaining survivors of Jay Hoop’s crew and execute them. They were an ancient gang who sold cored-human slaves to the alien Prador’s during the war. Despite the war now being over a Prador adult and adolescent have arrived on the planet in secret with one of Hoop’s old crew, intent on causing problems.

Another of the three is Janer, part of a hive mind that may have secret plans to colonize the planet.

Throw into this mix semi-immortal pirates; a monster that skins people alive; the various fauna that occupies most of the planet and is intent on eating everything else; an AI overseer that acts as the planet’s police and army; and a War Drone; and you get a massive amount of story, huge back-stories, and a huge amount of information that fortunately doesn’t slow down the plot too much.

It takes a little while to get into the book because of the sheer volume of stuff you need to know, but it’s so full of great ideas that you can’t help but keep reading. The book builds nicely, we have enough action and enough ideas to not only keep you entertained but make you want to discover more. Fortunately Asher’s produced not only more Spatterjay novels, but also Polity novels (based on the more organised part of the universe that only make a brief appearance here). Asher’s universe is massively detailed and cleverly put together, and the novel is the same. What it lacks in pace to begin with is swiftly made up for in the later stages, and you can forgive this because of the amount of detail expounded.

Full of great ideas, with a good solid story and plenty of twists and turns, this first book of Spatterjay is the ideal entry into this virgin territory, and I have high hopes for the other books in the series, which I will most definitely be seeking out.

CUBA LIBRE By Elmore Leonard – Reviewed

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Cuba, just before the Spanish/US war.

Ben Tyler’s friend asks him for some help taking some horses to Cuba to sell. Except Ben finds out that horses are not all they are selling, and the guns they are smuggling into the country are for the insurgents to fight the Spanish, and before he knows what’s happening, Ben is in prison for shooting a Spanish soldier who pulled a gun on him and being accused of espionage.

Factor in a wealthy American land-owner out to steal the horses, an evil Guardias, a beautiful woman, a police-force filled with insurgents, and an impending American-Spanish war and in a nutshell you have Cuba Libre.

This is an epic personal story of the struggles of Cuba, the beauty of the country and its people, and the inhumanity of its invaded and rulers. This is a side of Cuba not often seen, the pre-Castro era Cuba, but not the playground of the US.

Tyler’s struggles to survive in primitive conditions whilst in prison and later when hiding as he is tracked by a former slave-hunter, all the while falling in love with the beautiful Amelia, is expertly played out by Leonard. This book shows that Leonard is a splendid writer, with a talent far beyond his crime-novels.

Hot, dusty, and beautiful, Cuba Libre is a sentiment and an experience, expertly captured by a great fiction writer.

FATHER’S LITTLE HELPER By Ronald Kelly – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 3, 2010 by stanleyriiks

There are certain things about this book that I liked. But most of it is plain and simple and slightly stupid.

The book starts off with Richard McFarland finally having enough one Christmas morning in 1978, and, finding a shotgun, goes to a church near where his car has broken down and shoots half the parishioners.

Fourteen years later, Sonny Beechum’s fascination with true crime comes to a head when he realises he is the son of Richard McFarland and goes on a rampage, heading towards the small town of Cedar Bluff where he aims to finish his father’s work.

All well and good, we’re set up for a reverse revenge tragedy, an all-out action-fest with guns blazing. And to a certain extent that’s what we get. Sonny’s actions take him across country, killing whoever gets in his way, following the instructions of his dearly departed father, whether he appears is a ghost or a figment of Sonny’s fragmented reality.

The problem is that it’s all too easy. Sonny’s a teenager with a shotgun, and yet he’s outsmarting the idiotic police department, the FBI and all the other law enforcement officers. The FBI are unwilling to get more than a single agent involved for most of the book in case the town gets scared. When they do bring some more people in, one a highly trained former soldier, he gets killed almost instantly.

The fact is it’s too easy for Sonny to go around the country killing people indiscriminately. It’s not that easy, and this is where the book falls down. There’s barely any struggle, the teenager is running rings around the police. Our “hero” is meant to be the town Sheriff, but he’s as easily duped as all the rest, and you can’t help enjoying the idiots getting their just desserts. Sonny becomes the anti-hero and you don’t want him to caught until he’s finished with these muppets.

Also we have the problem of characters. There aren’t any worth caring about, which just makes you root for the murderer even more.

Apart from the complete lack of plausibility – throwing in the dad as adviser and Sonny’s true-crime obsession are just not enough to convince us he’s a criminal mastermind – this is a nice violent action novel. I’m not sure I’d go as far as saying it’s a thriller, but there’s enough here to keep you entertained if you can forgive it its problems.

Not bad, but certainly not good. If you find a copy it’s worth reading, but I wouldn’t for a second suggest seeking it out.

THE CHOSEN CHILD By Graham Masterton – Reviewed

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THE CHOSEN CHILD By Graham Masterton

In Warsaw there have been a number of murders. The victims have all been decapitated. The police have no clues. When Jan Kaminski hears a child’s cries on a building site he goes to investigate, only to become the latest headless victim of the murderer they are calling The Executioner.

The building site that Jan is killed on belongs to Senate Hotels, an international company who will try anything to get round the various delays that having a murder on your site entail. Sarah Leonard, an American of Polish descent, is determined to pull out all the stops to keep the project on track and on budget. But as more murders take place Sarah finds that the only way to do that is to find out who the murderer is…

Masterton mixes in some history, a bit of gangster warfare, and a nice bit of fraud and treachery to spice things up.

Post-communist Poland is well realised, with lots of intricate detailing adding to the brooding atmosphere of the novel. Some of the best parts of the book take place in the pre-war sewers.

The characters are all present and correct, but don’t really touch you in the way a Stephen King character does. The focus here is on the story, the mystery that unravels as Sarah and her rag-tag bunch of investigators get closer and closer to the murderer, and the sources of other problems.

Despite a weak ending which feels like the publishers have demanded that every loose end is tied up, and what looks to be the Charles Bridge in Prague on the cover, and the strangeness of the villain, this is still a good read. Not many horror novels feature Poland, which is fascinatingly portrayed, and the sewers make one of their best appearances (claustrophobic, atmospheric, tight, stinky, perfect home for a murderer) in horror novel since The Rats.

Overall this is an above average novel that keeps you turning the page, but is ultimately forgettable.

THE KULT By Shaun Jeffrey – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 25, 2009 by stanleyriiks


THE KULT By Shaun Jeffrey


It’s rare that I get excited by a book, but Shaun Jeffrey’s The Kult really grabbed me.

The book was sitting on my sofa when my girlfriend picked it up and started flicking through, the next thing I know she’s over a hundred pages in and won’t let me have it back. My girlfriend doesn’t read horror, SF or fantasy, she reads romances and crime thrillers and she’s usually not willing to deviate despite my best attempts to educate her. She’ll gladly watch a horror film with me, hiding behind her hands, but I’ve not seen her manage ten pages of a novel before throwing it back at me and spitting, “that’s disgusting!”

So when I discovered she was a hundred and twenty pages in after only one day, I asked for it back so that I could review it and was a little taken aback when she said I could have it when she was finished and not until. I had to pry it from her cold dead fingers, but it was worth it!

Prosper Snow is a detective on the hunt for a serial killer called The Oracle. The Oracle is a nasty piece of work who sends photos of his mutilated victims to alert the police. He leaves no clues, no bodies, nothing for the investigating team to work with except the photos. And the photos of the bodies are starting to pile up.

When one of Prosper’s oldest friends enlists the help of their revenge group, called The Kult, he has little choice but to help out. But this time the retribution the group is seeking isn’t a simple beating to avenge a bullying as in the past, like when they were kids, when the group started. This time it’s vengeance for a rape. And the penalty for the perpetrator is death.

From the start this is a dark and atmospheric story that absorbs the reader. This is a mystery that keeps you guessing as Prosper and his friends are drawn further into the machinations of the serial killer, eventually finding themselves on the hit list. The tension continues to ramp up as members of The Kult turn up dead and we run out of suspects.

This is edge of your seat stuff and it’s difficult to put the book down as you haveto keep going. I polished the three hundred odd pages off in two days, and read the finale with a grin on my face, loving every minute of it. The final few pages will see you sighing with relief as you travel through the novel with the protagonist and feel his every effort to remain alive.

Just thinking about The Kult fills me with excitement, it’s like the feeling you get coming out of the cinema after watching a really good film, you feel alive. You just want to dive back in and experience it all again.

When I started reading this book I was thinking about making references to the British best-seller Shaun Hutson, whose novels are also fast-paced, action packed and furiously tension-filled. Jeffrey shares these attributes, his story is similar brutal and nasty as well, but The Kult leaves you not only deeply satisfied but also somehow wanting more.