Archive for shame

LEGION OF THE DAMNED By William C. Dietz – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 18, 2015 by stanleyriiks

Set in a far flung future where the Human Empire has colonised a number of planets, including the Legion’s adopted home planet of Algeron, and lives in a cosy and comfortable peace. Until the war-like Hudatha race obliterate an entire planet, the first in their deadly space-bound march towards Earth, intent on destroying every human being on their way.

Baldwin is a traitorous human guiding the enemy’s hand in his lust for vengeance; Booly is a Legionnaire injured on Algeron and left for dead but really a prisoner of war captured by the indigenous population; Chu Chien is a rich merchant intent on bringing his son home safe from one of the rim planets soon to be hit by the Hudatha’s deadly swathe; Scolari is the head of the Navy, hoping to persuade the Emporer to pull his troops back to defend Earth against invasion…

So Dietz provides various political intrigues and power-plays to go along with the more meaty action of the fighting and battles. Well, when I say more meaty, I mean more interesting, but Dietz spends a little too much time developing the machinations of not only the human powers but also those of the Hudathan, and the Naa (the natives of Algeron).

But the Legion and its history is much more in keeping with this book of battle, and really helps with backstory and characterisation (of which there is little). There is a lot going on and the lack of decent characters to grasp on to mean you can flounder around wondering who is what for the majority of the novel. Having characters called Booly and Baldwin doesn’t help, how about characters with names beginning with a different letter for a start.

If anything this book is a little too ambitious. Likely it is the set-up book for a possibly long-running series, and Deitz wanted to get as much in and introduce as many characters as possible in the first book. But ultimately there is too much in here, and it feels crammed in, and a little crammed down your throat, and it makes it a little hard to chew.

There are good bits, particularly the Legion’s history, and the story builds nicely but to a climax that takes just a couple of pages and feels a bit of a let-down.

It’s such a shame, I was so looking forward to this book, and it failed to enthral me, although it did marginally entertain it. I won’t be back for any more.

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.

SCOURGE THE HERETIC By Sandy Mitchell – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 14, 2010 by stanleyriiks

Disgusting. Absolutely disgusting. I’m not often disgusted, very rarely so upset and astounded, but having just finished this book, I have to say I am astonished and disgusted and confused.

You see, this isn’t a book. It’s half a book. Except that nowhere on this book does it say it’s half a book, there is no indication at all anywhere on the cover, or on the pages within, that this is the first of two books. One story.

But is most certainly is.

As I approached the end of the book, I was thinking there wasn’t much room to finish the story. As I read the final few pages I wondered what had happened to half the plot because it clearly wasn’t finished. It was only half way through. Then upon reading the Epilogue the confusion grew as I realised this wasn’t an Epilogue at all, but should more appropriately have been called the Prologue of the next instalment.

I feel tricked. I feel dirty and I feel used. This isn’t clever marketing by Gamesworkshop, although I did buy the second book in this “series”, it’s put me off buying any more of their books.

This is hideously cheeky and just plain wrong. One book, one story. If you want to do a trilogy, a series, or a multi-part set, you put something that identifies the book as such on the fucking cover. I am outraged!

The most annoying thing is that I actually liked this book.

Unlike Ravenor and Eisenhorn, this story of the Inquisition, the ruthless enforcers of the Emperor’s word, follows the Inquisitor Finurbi’s team of investigators as they attempt to track down a highly organised group of heretics who are smuggling psychers off-world, and a group of chaos-worshipers. The investigators have to split up to follow their separate leads, two of them actually about to be smuggled off-world when the book ends.

This isn’t a bad book, it’s nice to see the 40K universe further expanded away from the superhero Space Marines. The characters in the book are much more “normal”, and have the traits and weaknesses modern readers expect. This isn’t quite Eisenhorn, and doesn’t have the powerful action of Dan Abnett’s novels, but it’s still pretty exciting stuff. The book kept me interested enough to order the second book, despite the complete and utterly ineptitude of the marketing department and their failure to realise how much of a gross error they’ve made by not stating that this is book one of two.

Although looking forward to the second book in the series and completing the story I started, this still leaves me with a very sour taste, and I feel manipulated into buying a second book. If I’d have known I probably wouldn’t have bought either of them.

Gamesworkshop rip-off, makes me feel abused and cheated, and outweighs any enjoyment I got from the book. A shame, a sad, desperate and pathetic shame.

Free Books

Posted in Life..., Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 8, 2009 by stanleyriiks

The main reason I got into reviewing in the first place was to get free books. It worked a treat! In the mid- to late-nineties I was getting about three books a week. Most I managed to read, but some are still on my bookshelves now.

I love books. And I love getting free books. I love getting books in the post, it’s like a mini-christmas every time one arrives. What could possibly be better? Ok, may be Lego!

In the past two weeks four books have arrived for me to review. Which is a shame because I’ve been having a rest from the power-reading I’ve been doing lately and I took a time-out to read Four Past Midnight By Stephen King (short review coming soon!).

I did enjoy my brief period of restful reading, I watched more TV than I have done in a while and I’ve even had time to get a little bored (which is the sign of an active mind according to some expert).

When I used to get free books in the old days it was mostly the big publishers who sent them. Always through a magazine of one form or another, I never approached the publishers directly. I wrote reviews for Black Tears Magazine, the British Science Fiction Association Newsletter, Comics International, and a load more I can’t even remember.

Now I’m the Reviews Editor for Morpheus Tales Magazine, and from the next issue we’ll be producing a Reviews Supplement, so plenty of space for me to share my opinions!

But now it seems to be the small-press publishers who send the books, Elastic Press, Swimming Kangaroo Books, Comet Press… If you get the chance check them out, they all offer stuff that puts the big guys to shame, inventive, well-written and imaginative. The small-press is the cutting edge of genre fiction.

So, the marathon that was the King collection is over and the power reading is back in action! Bring on the books!

First up, the Blood Red Sphere By Lawrence Barker.

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.