Archive for protagonist

SANDMAN SLIM By Richard Kadrey – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 26, 2013 by stanleyriiks

I saw Devil Said Bang in Forbidden Planet before Christmas and knew I had to read it. OCD sufferer that I am, I can’t start a series with book number four, so this one (Sandman Slim) went on my Christmas list. Fortunately Santa listened and I unwrapped this along with another twenty-odd books (Santa’s good!). I thought I’d start with this one because it’s fairly short, and I wanted to start working my way towards that fourth book in the series, the one I really wanted to read.

Fortunately the first in the series is a rock-hard, ultra-violent, action-fest!

Jimmy Stark was sent down to hell eleven years ago by his magic circle. Since then he’s been trying to survive as the play-toy of demons, and has managed to become a monster fighter and assassin. But when his ex-girlfriend is brutally murdered by the very same man who put him in hell, Stark escapes, killing one of Lucifer’s generals in the process. Now he’s in LA, looking for revenge on the magic circle that sentenced him to hell and their leader who killed the only woman he ever loved.

What follows is a cross between David Gunn’s Death’s Head (the attitude, the action, the raw brutality, and the protagonist from hell [this time literally]), and Tim Waggoner’s Nekopolis (a city [this time LA] riven with hellish creatures and magic), although it’s all under the surface here.

Stark is the perfect host (first person narrator), a revenge-driven psychopath, willing to kill himself and whoever gets in his way. The first person he encounters he cuts of their head. He doesn’t get any friendlier as the novel goes on, and it’s great! Hard-bitten, filled with venom and pithy comments, Stark is a true urban anti-hero with a bad attitude.

Kadrey has produced a real character in Stark, a unique individual you can’t help but remember, and may be not for all the right reasons. He’s fantastically caustic, and all the better for it in the urban sprawl of LA. An LA filled with angels, demons and Kissee, along with magicians, G-men from Homeland Security, murderers, skinheads and all manner of human-pus.

Sandman Slim is a unique and terribly entertaining mix, an urban fantasy that is vile and brutal and brilliant because of that. Stark is a hero that demands your attention, he has mine, and I’ll be back for the second in the series, and the third and fourth. I can’t wait!


SON OF HEAVEN By David Wingrove – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 21, 2012 by stanleyriiks

In 2043 the datscape (the new financial system the world is built on) is attacked by viruses that destroy everything. A series of assassinations, including the President of the United States, follow in the wake of the massive financial catastrophe. Society as we know it is destroyed as the value of money becomes nothing. Twenty years later England is a rural backwater, a middle-ages-like world of barter and trade, where you can only trust your neighbour and visitors are shot before they steal or rape or kill you.

Jake was there at the beginning, he was witness to the datscape’s destruction, he was one of those instrumental in the attempts to avoid its end. For that his friends and family were slaughtered and he barely escaped with his life, taken in by a small town near the ruins of Corfe castle. But their fearful and desperate lives are going to get much worse and the feared trouble will return once again to turn their lives upside down…

The more exciting parts of the book are the destructive flashbacks and the later section where the original danger returns. The rest of the book is a little too safe for a post-apocalyptic world, it’s more a rural idyl.

This is the first novel in a twenty book series, and it feels like it. Its epic story isn’t fully revealed, but we get a hint towards the end, the majority of the book acts as introduction, giving us the background of our protagonist and the world in which he finds himself.

More rural fantasy than SF for the most part, it’s safe to ssume that there will be moretroduction, giving us the background of oassume that later novels will involve much more SF related material.

Not a bad novel, but disappointing, and I doubt I will bother with the next nineteen novels. Judging from this one, it could have been written as a trilogy with some good editing.

STILL LIFE By Joe Donnelly – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 19, 2009 by stanleyriiks

Ooh, this feels like a long book. It’s not really that long, but you kinda know what’s going to happen from quiet early on.

Martin Thorton is a reporter, an award winning reporter, who is following up his most famous story. A story about a nurse who was shot during a domestic dispute. A beautiful nurse who fell over the balcony where she was shot and landed awkwardly and broke her back. A nurse called Caitlin who is paralysed from the waist down, that is until she meets Sheila Garvie, the local herbalist.

Murders, secret rituals, poison, missing persons, disappearing bodies, and trees and plants that attack people.

Because we know what’s happening, it’s just a matter of waiting to see how long it will take our protagonist to work it out. And that takes a while, quite a long while.

But the story is entertaining, and Donnelly imbues his villains with a subtle evil that gradually comes out. How we get to the logical conclusion is actually the most important part of the book, and it serves its purpose, it’s entertaining enough, and Donnelly writes well enough to keep you reading.

It’s not as exciting as Donnelly’s other novels, and the story is a lot weaker. If you haven’t read any of his novels then The Shee is probably the best, and Stone is well worth reading. I don’t remember Bane, so I probably haven’t read it.

Fun, entertaining, and a rare treat of tree horror. But nothing really special, and not the best that Donnelly has to offer.

CHASM By Stephen Laws – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 30, 2009 by stanleyriiks

Apocalypse and post-apocalypse novels really float by boat. Armageddon is often a beautiful mix of sf and horror, superbly blended to create novels and stories that are at once horrifyingly realistic, and just a stretch of the imagination away. The end of the world scenario allows a freedom that plain horror just doesn’t.

So as I started reading Chasm, I was getting excited. Laws is one of British’s best horror writers, he started out in the nineties, when I was still young and discovering horror novels for the first time. He brought a Britishness that was sadly lacking from the majority of the novels I read by the likes of King, Laymon, Koontz, etc. Laws was setting a trend, along with Steve Harris, for the British horror novel that has not yet been matched.

Edmonville is a small town which is ripped apart by a massive earthquake that leaves the town in ruins, chasms on all sides. A rag-tag group of survivors band together, hoping that there’s safety in numbers. But then something strange happens. A man in an off-license explodes in a mess of black fluid that chases a couple down to the local survivor centre, and most of the remains of the town’s population are blown to pieces.

Jay, a school cleaner; a lesbian couple who ran the hardware store; a married couple whose son has died; two teenagers from the local school; a young man with a stutter; and a young boy who lost his parents; are all that’s left of the town and must make their way in the new world, trapped as they are on a small piece of ruined town, surrounded by nothing but mile-deep chasms.

So far so good, but Laws tries to do too much. His over-ambition just piles on the horror, and then some more horror, and towards the end, a whole new set of horror in the form of lawless Mad Max/Doomsday type gangs.

Some of its good, but some of this just feels like Laws has been told apocalyptic novels have to be 600 pages long and he’s struggling to get there until inspiration sets in two thirds of the way through. The book just feels too long, it drags through the middle when a nice bit of rewriting would have cut out a couple of hundred pages, shifted the final third of the book forward to the middle and made everything hunky dory!

I’m not saying this is a bad book, Laws is a good writer, the plot is mostly good, and it’s a decent idea. But the end falls a little flat and the “happy ending” is a bit forced. And the biggest problem is the lack of characters. Ok, so this is an ensemble piece, but Jay (our protagonist) has his own diary every few chapters to give us an insight into his character, and even if he died I couldn’t have cared less. The lack of decent and significant characters in a book which is over five hundred pages long just screams rewrite. The characters are fairly clearly defined, they all have backgrounds, albeit brief ones, but none of the characters is more than a cardboard cut-out.

I can’t remember facing this problem with any of Laws’ other novels, and although I’ve only read about four of them, Something South of Midnight was only read just over a year ago.

I wish I could say that Chasm was good, but it’s not. It’s not bad. And it’s certainly got good bits, but with weak characters and being over-long at neatly five hundred and fifty tightly packed pages, Chasm is a wasted opportunity. Such a shame.

Reading, Controversy and Horror

Posted in Life..., Uncategorized, writing with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 16, 2009 by stanleyriiks

Wow, I’ve just finished a marathon session reading The Kultby Shaun Jeffery, which is definitely one of the best books I’ve read this year. A brutal thriller. I felt exhausted after the finale, like I’d experienced it right alongside the protagonist.

The reading part of being a writer is going well! It took my only two days to polish offThe Kult. Before that I dug deep into my book pile and got out The Gobbler by Adrian Edmondson, which was pretty good. Comedic novels aren’t my favourite genre, but it’s good to have a laugh every now and then to relieve the horror and terror that are my usual entertainments.

Before that the Eyewitness Guide to Stockholm, which is a bit of a strange one, trying to take on all these facts and marking off almost everything in the book because I want to see it when I go visit with my girlfriend next month. Woohoo! A holiday! Desperately needed, I must say.

In between the reading I managed to write one story. It’s pretty raw still, needs major editing, but I think it’s pretty good. Bit controversial. It’s about a young teenage boy who kills his thirteen year old sister by accident when playing an erotic asphyxiation game. The fact that both of them are underage I consider a problem ethically. Normally I’d steer clear of anything underage, just because it makes me feel uncomfortable. But I felt the story needed something extra to make it more… horrifying.

And then I got to thinking about what makes a horror story. Some of them make us feel disgusted, some of them make us feel pain, hurt, horror, lonely, neglect, uncomfortable… Horror is such a limited categorisation in some ways. I think the point of all art is to make the reader/viewer feel. The works that have impacted most upon me: The Lord of The Rings, Star Wars, Dracula, are the ones which had the biggest emotional impact.

So, if a story makes you feel uncomfortable, if the point is for you not to enjoy it, does that mean it works? And does that make it legitimate? Or is it just best to steer clear of controversy?