Archive for sacrifice

SILENT VOICES By Gary McMahon – Reviewed

Posted in Morpheus Tales Magazine, Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 8, 2012 by stanleyriiks

This review is published with the permission of Morpheus Tales.

Wow! It’s very rare for me to be this impressed by a book. McMahon has produced a fantastic novel, a book of friendship, loss, heartache, and sacrifice.  If you have not read McMahon before, then this is the perfect book to start with.

The second book in the Concrete Grove Trilogy (but a stand-alone novel that works just as well if you haven’t read the first book in the set, although I would recommend it as the first book really sets the changes and starts things off with a bang), sees the reuniting of a group of childhood friends, who twenty years ago went into the abandoned tower block known as the Needle and lost a weekend, only to be found abused and bloodied with no memory of what happened. Finally back together, they head back to where their lives changed, the Needle, to fight whatever demons are there and try to remember what happened that fateful weekend.

The Grove is a hellish place, and if you grew up on a council estate it may ring a little too true, and feel a little too close to home. The unease McMahon creates with his setting is perfectly and sadly authentic.

McMahon’s novel is so well put together, the sense of foreboding, the creeping unease, and the disturbed atmosphere McMahon gradually builds, grow through the novel towards a heart-wrenching climax that leaves you torn and wounded. The characters here are real, you know them.

This is not just a horror novel, this is an intelligent and insightful social commentary; a literary, character-driven novel that delves deeper into our hopes and fears, our shame, guilt and pain, than many other writers dare look.

I always come to a McMahon book with high hopes; his Pretty Little Dead Things is a brutal and twisted vision of genius that is in my top ten books of all time. But that means expectations are high, and that can be a double-edged sword. I look for failures and weaknesses in everything, and usually have no problem finding many, but Silent Voices is good. Really good. Bloody good.  McMahon has done it again; he’s impressed the hell out of me. He’s written an extremely accomplished, intelligent and insightful novel that goes far beyond the genre boundaries.

All horror writers should read McMahon; he shows them how it’s really done. Silent Voices is a disturbing tale of friendship and sacrifice, and McMahon is a master craftsman.

HARBINGER OF THE STORM By Aliette de Bodard – Reviewed

Posted in Morpheus Tales Magazine, Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 2, 2011 by stanleyriiks

With the kind permission of Morpheus Tales. This review will appear in the April issue of the  MT Supplement.

You know how sometimes when you meet someone for the first time, for absolutely no reason that you can put your finger on, you have an instant dislike – like a kind of anti-chemistry – and as you get to know them a little better you find out your initial instinct was complete and absolutely correct? (Lots of people who meet me for the first time get this impression.) That’s what happened with this book.

It should have been fine. A murder mystery set in Aztec Mexico at the height of the Aztec empire, somewhere around the fifteen century. Sounds interesting enough. Except that it’s really not. It’s not a murder mystery for a start; it’s more a political drama with a few deaths and murders thrown in. This is not Poirot. The story is much more reminiscent of Macbeth or Hamlet as it follows of the political intrigues when the ruler dies and his replacement must be found.

The minutiae of finding the new leader is epic, on a scale that even those not taking an instant dislike to, will find hard to bare. De Bodard, in her afterword, says herself that the process would likely have been shorter than she’d written it. Of course it would. The only things that would feel longer would have been having my fingernails removed with pliers, or my testicles boiled on a low heat.

One of the problems with the book is that you just don’t care. The characters, with their incomprehensible and mispronounce-able names, are interchangeable, having no distinguishing characteristics. The fact that half of them are priests and the other half are imperial family doesn’t help matters. There’s so little tension that a couple of deaths acts only to wake you up a little.

The fantastic Aztec Mexican setting is ruined by keeping everything within the courtly areas of the temples. There’s no jungle, no danger, no atmosphere. The Aztec setting, rather than spicing things up just adds to the confusion with the many-syllable names and a little of their religion. For one of the most blood-thirsty warrior nations in the world there’s little blood-shed, only once is sacrifice mentioned, and there’s absolutely nothing to help alleviate the boredom.

Can a book really be that bad? Everything good you might imagine should be contained in this book has somehow been removed. It’s rather like my mother’s cooking, when at her worse she manages to remove everything that’s good from every single ingredient until what you end up with is a vapid, insipid, flavourless slop. De Bodard seems to have fashioned this book in the same way. What should work just does not, and it doesn’t work unrelentingly. A failure of epic proportions, but a book that can be read. Probably the worst book I remember finishing, but finish it I did, and I feel quite proud to have suffered such torment and survived. I can only hope that Volume 1 in the Obsidian and Blood series was very different, and that the following third volume won’t make the same mistakes as the second.

Of course there are worse fates than having to read this book again, waterboarding or the aforementioned bollock boiling. Both of which I would recommend before attempting to read this.