Archive for realism

33AD: A Vampire Novel By David McAfee – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 24, 2013 by stanleyriiks

I can’t remember the last time I enjoyed a book that has so many problems. But I did rather enjoy this.

The Romans have taken control of Jerusalem, but the Jewish population aren’t happy about it. A young rabbi named Jesus is causing problems. And a vampire assassin is loose in the city…

Romans, vampires and Jesus. What more could you ask for?

The story begins as a kind of murder mystery as Roman Legionary Taras sets out in search of the murderer of two city guards. He comes across a Vampire Gatehouse, although he doesn’t know what it is, when he follows a man suspected of the murders. That man isn’t a man at all, but a vampire assassin, sent out by the Council of Thirteen to rid the world of any that know about their secret.

What follows is conspiracy, betrayal, murder, lies, more conspiracy, bloodshed, torture, another conspiracy, and treachery.

McAfee doesn’t lack ambitious, the plot involves various nefarious doings and plots by the main characters, and he manages to imbue this ancient world with a realism that holds. The action is plentiful and keeps the pace of the story going along fast enough to take your mind from the various small problems the book has.

And now we come to those problems… As a small-press book you don’t expect the sheen and polish you would expect from a major publisher, so the many typos can be forgiven. The stupidity of some of the characters and their actions becomes a little tedious as it continues throughout the book. The predictability of many of the plot “twists” and ease with which everything falls into place, calling into question the presence of an editor’s firm hand, become sigh-worthy by the end of the book.

There are times when this book will make you groan, as the writer writes himself into a corner and then must abuse his plot to find his way out; there are times when you will sigh with frustration, knowing what is going to happen before the hapless characters falls into the obvious trap or plot twist; and there are times when you will want to scream at the writer to not repeat himself, again, and just get on with telling the story.

And yet these are minor foibles that do take away from the book, but don’t ruin it. This is still an enjoyable romp. With the steading hand of a good editor and a bit of rewriting, this could be a bloody excellent book.

Action, violence, vampire conspiracies, Roman soldiers, lust, murder and Jesus. Surely you can’t want more than that? Shows great promise, and it’s not too difficult to look past the problems and enjoy this lusty, bloodthirsty tale.

FOR YOUR EYES ONLY By Ian Fleming – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 8, 2011 by stanleyriiks

I love James Bond, he’s my hero, a womanising action man, with a license to kill and an adventurous lifestyle. I love Ian Fleming too. Bond’s creator lived almost as exciting a life, although he was incredibly human in his weaknesses and failures, whereas Bond is the perfection of Fleming’s misdeeds.

What gets me every time I pick up a Bond book is the writing, the richness, the sheer imaginative grace that exudes from every sentence. There is a vibrancy in Fleming’s work that makes you forget about some of the ridiculous plots, the super villains, and the vehicles turned into dragons (Dr. No).

I still consider the Bond books the essential step away from pulp and into the modern thriller, they are the (not so) missing-link between the pulp action crime thrillers such as The Spider, and the cold-war heroes of the seventies and eighties, Bourne et al. The not quite perfect combination of action, hi-jink, over-the-top entertainment, and that essential ingredient, realism.

The eighth book in the series, For Your Eyes Only is the first short story collection, featuring some familiar titles such as the title story, and “Quantum of Solace” and “A View To A Kill”, and two other less familiar titles. Although the stories contained in the books will be much less familiar, having little or nothing to do with the films that followed.

An incredible collection of tales, diverse and entertaining in their own ways, each of the stories stands out as individual and unique. Bond works so well in short fiction, but only rarely do you get the full character of Bond, sometimes he is there merely as background such as in “Quantum of Solace”, a story told to Bond by a senior civil servant.

A nice little book at just over two hundred pages, I finished it in a couple of days and hankered for more. Not necessarily Bond at his best, but Fleming’s writing here is not as overwhelmed with fabulous plotting, and some of these stories are perfectly, brilliantly exciting. Another Bond fix that delivers.

DOCTOR NO By Ian Fleming – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 27, 2009 by stanleyriiks

It’s difficult to read a James Bond book and think about it critically. Bond is a character I grew up with, and still want to emulate! I couldn’t help but watch the true James Bond (Roger Moore, come on people!) seducing women, killing baddies and quipping while they die, an eyebrow raised mischievously. Having grown up with the films, in the same way I grew up with the Conan novels, I can’t help but cherish them and know that no matter how life changes, they will always have a place in my heart.

I’ve probably seen the Doctor No film, or at least bits of it, dozens of times. Some of the scenes are so familiar they are instantly recognisable, although I’m pretty sure I’ve never actually watched Ursula Andreas walk up the beach in her bikini.

But the books are slightly different, as you would expect. Moonraker bares little if any resemblance to the original novel.

I can’t remember the film enough to do a critique of the development of novel into film and I’d prefer not to. People with too much time on their hands can do that while I simply offer my opinion on a book that cleverly encompasses the extremes and thrills of the pulp era, whilst nodding towards the realism and action of the modern thriller. That’s what sets the Bond novels apart from many of their contemporaries, such as Chandler. There’s still a healthy dose of nostalgia for earlier times, a retro pulp action-thriller feel to the novels.

When two secret agents go missing in Jamaica, Bond is sent in to investigate, with the help of Quarrel Bond finds himself on an isolated island owned by the mysterious Doctor No, who protects his privacy by murdering all trespassers. Bond meets up with a young innocent girl, Honeychile, who turns up naked on the beach searching for shells in the area. Unfortunately Doctor No’s troops are alerted to their presence and set out to find them, and the poor girl is dragged into a cat and mouse chase across the island, until they are eventually caught by a dragon!

The pulp tradition is strong in this novel, our hero is tortured by the mad genius, and must go through a series of hideously painful challenges, which even include fighting a giant squid. But where Bond moves the genre forward is the level of detail and the general realism that Fleming uses to describe his hero and the situations he faces, and his weapons.

Bond is the essence of the modern pulp hero, he’s courageous, he’s strong and intelligent, and despite the backing of the British Secret Service, he’s on his own fighting all manner of super villains. In the same way that Batman or The Spider fight crime, with his hands, his ingenuity and his weapons, Bond is also a superhero in the same league, having no special powers (apart from his own God-given abilities) and fighting crime simply because it’s wrong and must be stopped.

Fleming’s original books have dated, just as the original Batman comics and the adventures of The Spider, Fu Manchu and Charlie Chan have also dated, but they were a product of their time, and that’s what still makes them so powerful. Because back then there was hope that one man could make a difference, and that’s why I find these pulp characters so appealing. There’s no modern cynicism to get in the way of the innocent enjoyment of the books and comics and films.

Bond lives forever, unstoppable, in the hearts of his fans, and that’s why he continues to live on through his many different incarnations, but the original books will also live on forever.