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KILLING PRETTY By Richard Kadrey – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 14, 2017 by stanleyriiks

There are some books you just can’t review, because you experience them. You don’t read them, you live them. They impact you and affect everything that follows. The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings are those kind of books. You don’t come across those types of books very often.

Most recently Kadrey’s Sandman Slim did that to me. This is the seventh book is the continuing saga of the man who escaped hell.

Jim Stark, AKA Sandman Slim, is hired as a Private Investigator to save the angel of death, who was forced into a human body and had his heart cut out. Stark’s investigations will lead him to ghost fights, neo-nazis and hedge-funds…

No summary of the Sandman Slim novels manages to capture the essential attitude of our anti-hero Stark, and the random collection of waifs and strays he calls his friends, including a former pornstar and zombie killer, his demon girlfriend, an immortal Frenchman, and Samael the ex-devil.

The impact of the novels, the freshness of the characters and the stories, continues to decrease ever so slightly in each successive instalment. It’s not new anymore. But it’s still a hell of a lot of fun. These are the kind of books you race through at the beginning of the story, glad to be in it, and you slow towards the end as you savour every page and don’t want it to end.

Kadrey has developed an amazing formula, brilliantly realised characters in a dark and gritty world of LA that is wholly recognisable, but strangely shifted beyond our reality. Death, danger, demons and hideously corruptible humans.
Anyone willing to give this series a try is likely to get their mind-blown. This is urban fantasy as it’s shocking best.
Keep up the good work, Mr Kadrey.

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THE SILENT ARMY By James A Moore – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 25, 2017 by stanleyriiks

OMG, this is how to finish a fantasy series! At last the final book in the series sees the culmination of years of planning as the Sa’Ba (a vicious, brutal and merciless war-like race) chase the City of Wonders as it flies through the air, killing everything in their path, and plotting the capital’s downfall.

In the flying city the Empress and her advisors attempt to stop the war by any means necessary, but at every step their plans are thwarted. On top of that the flying city isn’t safe, it’s been infiltrated, random murders are taking place, the refugees from the destroyed cities are homeless and desperate, food is being poisoned, and the city is heading directly for the mountains on a path of destruction that no one knows how to alter…

Wow. Fantasy doesn’t get much better than this.

Moore has managed to create a vivid, brilliantly realised world, he’s filled it with incredible characters, thrown in a ton of violence, brutality, murder and destruction, and then managed to build the tension throughout four books, ending in a compelling and riveting climax.

The Seven Forges books are immensely readable, totally absorbing, refreshing and absolutely brilliant.
Don’t read this book, read the entire series! Definitely one of the best fantasy series in decades. One that will live long in my memory.

A happy reader.

OUT OF THE DARK By David Weber – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 10, 2017 by stanleyriiks

How do I review this book without ruining the surprise ending that lets it all down? Ok, let’s start off with the good, there’ll be plenty of time for the bad in a minute.

Aliens decide to invade Earth.

This is an ensemble piece, following not only several human characters but also the aliens, giving us an insight into the politics of the Shongairi (a dog-like race) and their Hegemony (universe-wide coalition). The problem is that there is a little too much going on and none of the characters are well developed, or even developed a little bit.

Straight to the bad stuff. The characters are merely cardboard cut-outs. The world is half-destroyed by the alien race but who gives a shit, there is nothing in this book that really presents this as a bad thing and certainly nothing to make us care about it. For an “advanced” race the Shongairi are pretty stupid, and when they invade they are ill-prepared and equipment for infantry warfare, which is explained easily enough, but not entirely convincingly. Then we have Weber’s obsession with weaponry. Now this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, except when it overpowers the story. Instead of being told how a something grain bullet travels faster in one weapon than another, how about telling us why we should care about the marine in Romania, or the rednecks in the hills, or anyone in this book.

Ok, now for the spoiler alert: The Earth and whatever is left of humanity is saved from the alien invasion by Dracula about twenty pages towards the end, with no signposting or anything to make me believe this is in anyway real. I can accept alien races invading Earth, that’s fine, I can suspend disbelief because the author has sold me that story and I’ll willing to buy it. What I’m not willing to buy is a writer throwing in a deus ex machina. I feel robbed.

Not the story I was looking for, not the writer I was looking for. Disappointing on all fronts.

VANILLA RIDE By Joe R. Lansdale – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 29, 2017 by stanleyriiks

No matter how many Lansdale books I read I’m always pleasantly surprised at how easy they are to read and get into. This is another book in the Hap and Leonard series of crime novels (soon to be on your small screens), and the luckless couple find themselves in so far over their heads they don’t know what to do when they help a friend out by kidnapping his granddaughter and beating up her drug-dealer boyfriend and flushing his stash down the toilet. Now the Dixie Mafia is on their tails and the FBI are blackmailing them, and something is a bit hinky…

East Texas sounds like a dangerous place and Lansdale brings it to life as only he can. You can virtually smell the burning rubbish in the backyard of the trailer. Hap and Leonard’s sense of humour is infectious, despite the dangers they face the pair just won’t keep quiet, but their devil-may-care attitude is what’s so endearing.

A simple plot with a healthy dose of twists and turns, a whole load of action and danger, and laughs aplenty with this crew.

Lansdale does it again, providing his own unique style in a captivating crime thriller.

MONSTER HUNTER INTERNATIONAL By Larry Correia – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 10, 2017 by stanleyriiks

I came across Correia’s name on social media in regard to the Puppies and the Nova awards. I didn’t particularly take much interest in the goings on, Correia may have had a point, but George RR Martin also wrote very eloquently about it. In the end I wasn’t bothered one way or another; that awards can be manipulated, or unfairly given to cronies isn’t a surprise to a former member of the British Fantasy Society.

Whatever politics were involved didn’t particularly interest me. I like to read lots of different types of books, different types of SF and fantasy, and I was looking for something action-packed and I remembered something I’d read about Correia’s novels and thought I’d give him a try.

This is the first book in the Monster Hunter International series, and here we meet Owen Zastava Pitt, a former bare-knuckle fighter and now accountant, whose life is turned upside down when his ass of a boss turns into a werewolf and tries to eat him.

As Owen recovers from his injuries, having managed to fight off and kill the werewolf, he’s offered a job as a mercenary monster hunter and that’s when the real fun begins. What follows is a quick boot-camp and then a race to save the world from a group of master vampires and a mysterious figure known only as the Old One…

If you like guns and action and urban fantasy set in a B-movie then you’ll love this. It’s straight-up action, no holds barred, but with decent characters, enough attention to detail to make it realistic, and a few twists and turns to keep things extra interesting. I liked this book. Is it likely to be award winning? In the same way that if it were a film it wouldn’t get an Oscar, no it’s not likely to win awards, but does it fulfil the role of entertainment, will it appeal to a mass market audience (like Fast and the Furious or Star Wars), damn it, yes it will!

Correia may be as well known for the wrong reasons, but try his books. Monster Hunter International is a powerhouse of a novel, it’s exciting, it’s intelligent, it’s fun.

Great stuff and I’ve already bought the second book in the series.

THE GETAWAY GOD By Richard Kadrey – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 27, 2017 by stanleyriiks

James Stark, Sandman Slim, is working for a secret Christian agency that is intent on keeping the demons and magically infused citizens of LA in check. Meanwhile the entire world is falling apart, under a deluge of never ending rain LA is flooding and emptying out. God, the actual god, has had a breakdown and his split personalities have literally split him into various pieces, and are fighting each other. Stark trapped one part of the fractured deity down in hell, to get out of being Lucifer.

The Angra Om Ya, a powerful set of old gods, are attempting to come back while the chaos continues, and only Stark and his magic eight ball (a powerful weapon he doesn’t know how to use) can stop them.

There’s also a serial killer on the loose, cutting people up and putting them back together as vessels for the ancient gods to possess.

Can Stark work out the eight ball in time? Can he stop the serial killer? Will his girlfriend leave him? Will heaven collapse?

If you’re coming to a series six books in then I think you should be a bit lost, but Kadrey kindly provides enough explanation of the back story so that every makes sense.

The fact is, as a reader of the series, I remember all of it. I read a lot, I watch a lot, and most things pretty much trickle out of my sieve-like brain. But not Kadrey’s books. They stick in there, their weird scenes, characters and a hellish LA are imprinted on my memory. Sure, I don’t remember everything, but I remember most of it. These books are memorable, and that’s a lot more than I can say for most books.

Kadrey’s characters and writing has attitude. Stark would pick you up, slam your head against the wall, and kick you while you’re down.

The filmic quality of the books is finally realised with the new style covers for the paperbacks.

The Stark books are not likely to be anything like the books you’ve read before, and that’s more than a good thing, that’s a great thing. You don’t often find a writer who can quite tap into your nastiness and bring it out in book form, but Kadrey’s done just that.

The man is a genius, and while this isn’t the best of the Stark novels (the series does seem to be losing a bit of momentum), I’ll be sticking with it until the end, because it’s still the best urban fantasy ever.

Read and beware, you may well become addicted.

THE ABOMINABLE By Dan Simmons – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 7, 2017 by stanleyriiks

I thought this would be Simmons back to his roots with a horror novel featuring the Earthly form of the Wookie: the abominable snowman, the yeti. But the “baddie” here is pretty much the mountain, the mountain: Everest.

It’s the early thirties, and three climbers set out to climb the largest mountain in the world, the unconquerable Everest. They find funding, their excuse to go there being to recover the body of a former friend, but they must take his cousin with them. The mountain quickly proves treacherous, and when they find out the body is of a spy, and they are being chased by Germans intent on collecting the secrets his body carries, things go from dangerous to even worse…

As with all Simmons’ novels he manages to capture the essence of the place he’s writing about, in this case the wind-blown peaks of the Himalayas, the jagged rock-faces, and the desolate and airless ridges of ice and rock.

The build-up is slow and gradual, giving the reader the information necessary to respect the struggle that these early pioneers had to endure, and giving you essential knowledge about climbing and the primitive but revolutionary equipment they are using.

Sadly, although he manages to imbue the characters with the same sense of depth, for some reason there is just a lack of feeling towards any of them. I’m not entirely sure what’s missing, but something definitely is.

This is a long book, and takes a while to get into, it being book-ended with the set-up for the actual story.

Simmons is a craftsman, his books really do capture you and take you to someplace else. This one is no exception, it, like all his books, is exceptional.