Archive for powerful

ACK-ACK MACAQUE By Gareth L. Powell – Reviewed

Posted in Morpheus Tales Magazine, Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 11, 2013 by stanleyriiks

Published with the kind permission of Morpheus Tales.

Powell’s first collection The Last Reef (available as an ebook from Anarchy Books ( was exceptional. A book filled with intelligent SF, bristling with ideas and clever stories. I was looking forward to reading Powell’s first novel The Recollection, a clever SF story based on some of the stories in that first collection. It wasn’t as good as I was expecting. Most of the brilliant ideas in the book came from the stories in The Last Reef. I’d expected more.

I wasn’t looking forward to reading this one. It sounded a bit… well, stupid. Also, I’d just finished reading the excellent Sandman Slim, a book filled with character, with attitude, with energy. Not something I would have expected from the “quiet” fiction of Powell.

Boy was I wrong!

Powell seems to be having a great deal of fun with this book, and fortunately the reader is right there alongside him all the way.

Britain and France merged in the 1950s. Nuclear powered airships travel around the world. Britain refuses to give back Hong Kong and is on the brink of war with China. The King is recovering from an assassination attempt. Victoria returns to London to deal with the murder of her husband, only to find the policeman who escorted her to the flat dead on the foot of the stairs and his murderer looking up at her, then heading straight for him, his knife poised to kill her too…

A Macaque is battling against Nazi forces during the Second World War…

This is powerful, action-packed stuff. The tension starts to rise from very early on, and as the twisted tale of treason, conspiracy and murder is revealed the tension continues to rise. The characters are unique, their voices clearly individual, and the monkey adding a level of attitude and humour that really jumps off the page. The one-eyed, pistol carrying, cigar chomping fighter pilot macaque is brilliantly refreshing in his no nonsense attitude, and animalistic simplicity amongst the complex plotting and treachery.

The tension rises throughout the book, creating an edge of the seat expectation that could only be satisfied with a powerful climax, so how about fighting and explosions, and crashing and… (I don’t want to give away too much!) but Powel delivers by the bucketload.

Powerful, intelligent, filled with ideas, clever touches and brilliant characters.

Powell has hit his stride, and produced a steampunk SF novel that delivers. I don’t know if Powell is planning a sequel, but when you have a character this good, he deserves another book. I can’t think of a story that could possibly live up to this one, but I hope Powell can!

Monkey magic.

DEPARTMENT 19 By Will Hill – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 18, 2012 by stanleyriiks

Jamie Carpenter’s dad is a traitor who was killed in front of his very eyes. The murder of his father still haunts him when he returns home to find a vampire kidnapping his mother.

Then Frankenstein appears and saves his life.

Swiftly, Jamie finds himself in The Loop, a secret hidden base of operations for Department 19, the most secret service in the UK. A vampire-hunting group who his father worked for before his death.  Jamie is desperate to find his mother and with the help of Frankenstein, his father’s loyal companion, and a young female vampire who failed to kill him, Jamie will stop at nothing, including hunting down the second most powerful vampire to ever live…

Anyone who is familiar with the Hellboy comics or films with find similarities with the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense, this is very much the English version of that, with a hint of James Bond thrown in for good measure.

The story is simple enough, the set up is well thought out, with some nice touches such as the t-bone weapon, and there’s plenty of action here to keep you entertained.

Despite some miss-direction it’s clear from the start who the goodies and baddies are, there’s no shock when the traitor is finally revealed. There is also rather a lot of crying at the end of the book, fair enough there might be some crying, but it just feels a bit forced and fake after the twenty-seventh person in the last thirty-odd pages balls their eyes out. If this is an attempt for us to engage with the characters emotionally then it fails, miserably.

The biggest problem with the book is the distinct lack of decent characters, ok, we have some work put into this area for Jamie, but there’s nothing to flesh the rest of them out. A shame because a little more work in characterisation and this would have been a great book.

Exciting and entertaining, the world of Department 19 is interesting and needs further exploration. The plot works well enough and the action and story carry it through, although it feels a little long, a bit contrived at the end, and the characters are pale facsimiles.

The second book is the series is out now, and I enjoyed the first enough to give the second a try, but I have high standards and expect them to be met, otherwise I will abandon the series after that. Shows promise.

WHAT THEY HEAR IN THE DARK By Gary McMahon – Reviewed

Posted in Morpheus Tales Magazine, Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 22, 2011 by stanleyriiks

This review is published with the kind permission of Morpheus Tales, where it will appear in the FREE Morpheus Tales Supplement.

Following the murder of their son, Eddie, Rob and Becky decide to renovate a house, to try to take their mind off things, and to give them some time to heal and a project to work on together. But there is a room in the house that is completely empty of noise. The quiet room.

And the parents of the dead child are haunted, and in the quiet room the ghosts come in silence…

McMahon does this kind of story so well it’s quite sickening. How he manages to tug at the heart-strings and draw you in so deeply in the space of a few pages (in this case just twenty two), is nothing short of remarkable.

This is quiet horror in every sense, the theme echoing the contents of the story. Subtlety reins as we watch the characters attempting to deal with their loss, haunted (literally and metaphorically).

This is another haunting story from McMahon that sticks with you long after reading it. One that plays on your mind and touches a sadness inside all of us who have ever lost anyone.

Spectral Press have launched with this stellar title by McMahon, and with only one hundred copies available, I should imagine they will disappear fast. I’d like to see a printed version to see the quality of the finished product (one of the difficulties of reviewing an ebook version), but obviously one of the problems with limited editions prints is availability.

An evocative and compelling story that really gets you in the gut. Powerful and touching, McMahon delves into the true darkness of our hearts.

For more information on Spectral Press or to order a copy of the book visit their website:

INNOCENCE PROVES NOTHING By Sandy Mitchell – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 11, 2010 by stanleyriiks

They’ve done it a-bloody-gain! I bought this book after reading the first instalment, Scourge The Heretic, which, with one plot only half complete, leads directly into this book. The problem is that the story doesn’t actually finish here either. This seems to be an ongoing series. The problem is certainly is not the length of the story, but the way the books are marketed. There is nowhere on any of the books to let you know this is not a whole story, and neither of these books is an entire story. There are plot lines that are completed, but these are smaller parts of the whole, which continues throughout both novels, and continues at least into a third, as yet unreleased book.

Nowhere is there any information saying that this is the second instalment in a series, and I have to say I feel even more cheated having thought this was the final chapter in the story.

And it is a good story, as we follow Inquisitor Finurbi’s team of investigators back to the Inquisition’s home world of Scintilla only to find Finurbi’s gone AWOL and that there are those in the Inquisition that cannot be trusted. The group must go underground, hiding as they are chased by parties unknown, meanwhile investigating the wyrd supply-chain which is moving illegal psykers across the galaxy.

It’s another good book, plenty of action and even more intrigue than the first novel, although it lacks the new adventure punch of the first. The problem again lies with the book not completing the story, even more so because it ends with a powerful cliff-hanger.

A shame that this book can’t be cleared marked as the second in a trilogy or series. I have no idea which because there’s nothing at all to indicate what it is, but an average reader picking this book up expecting a complete novel will not only find themselves floundering as they attempt to catch up with the whole missing first instalment, but will be wracked with frustration when they find out they’ll be expected to pay out for another book to find out the end.

A sad and sorrowful mistake. Not the book, the book is fine, but I really am getting sick of it. I think I may stick with the Horus Heresy, I know that’s a series because it’s clearly marked as such, and despite that each of the books is a stand-alone story. Must do much better gamesworkshop!

Sorely disappointed. Again.

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:

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.