Archive for short stories

DARK HARVEST By Norman Partridge – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 6, 2017 by stanleyriiks

I first discovered Partridge in a Cemetery Dance magazine probably in the mid-nineties, and his writing immediately drew me in. His short stories were compelling and unforgettable. It’s not often I remember the author of a short story as I read quite a few, but his name stuck and I eagerly awaited his novels. But that never happened. While I was expecting the new Richard Laymon to start writing a series of horror novels that would captivate and delight me, Partridge continued to write short stories and novellas. (While writing this review I found that Partridge has written at least 5 novels, but can’t find any trace of them on Amazon!)

This is Partridge’s version of Children of the Corn. Halloween, 1963, a small Midwestern town. The pumpkin-headed October Boy is out stalking his prey, as are all the boys between 16 and 19, who haven’t been fed for the past five days and must kill the October Boy before he kills them and before he reaches the church. They have until midnight…

What follows is fairly predictable. The “twists” are familiar to a seasoned horror reader, but Partridge still manages to imbue the story with a little bit of shock, and decent enough characters.

This isn’t the breakout book I had been expecting. There’s nothing new here, and while Partridge does a decent enough job, this fairly short book doesn’t pack much of a punch.

Ultimately unsatisfying, Dark Harvest is perhaps an indication why Partridge isn’t the new/next Richard Laymon. Not Partridge at his best.

BROTHERS OF THE SNAKE By Dan Abnett – Reviewed

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

This is a bit of a weird one, part circular short story collection, part novel, with the Iron Snakes of Ithaka as its heroes. The story starts with the primuls (dark Eldar) attacking the backward world of Baal Solock who can barely attempt to stave off the aliens and must call upon the Iron Snake Space Marines to aid them. The Iron Snakes send a young marine called Priad to deal with the problem. A few short stories later and Priad is now Brother Sergeant and back at Baal Solock to finish what he thought he’d finished all those years before. The stories in between may seem disconnected, but all of them are tales of the growth and development of the Iron Snakes.

Again, I’ll repeat, this is a bit of a weird one. Not really a novel, it doesn’t have the drive, energy or depth of a longer piece, although the novella at its end, which ties some of the stories together, makes up for some of that. The separate stories feel disjointed, despite sharing the Iron Snakes as a major theme they are often too dissimilar to feel like part of a single story.

Abnett creates some great set-piece battles, and his action sequences are top-notch, but here the structure of the book fails to draw the reader in enough.

Not quite a themed short story collection and not quite a novel, this book fails before it even begins.

Other novels by Abnett in the 40K universe are much worthier of your attention.

THE OFFICE OF LOST AND FOUND By Vincent Holland-Keen – Reviewed

Posted in Morpheus Tales Magazine, Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 6, 2011 by stanleyriiks

Published with the permission of Morpheus Tales. Soon to be featured in the MT Supplement.

It’s not often you pick up a book and think to yourself the writer is either insane or a genius within the first five pages. You see, this book is strange. I like strange, strange for me is pretty normal. I’ve been reading fantasy, sf and horror for twenty-odd years. Strange is my bread and butter. And yet, this novel is very, very strange.

It’s not often a book comes along that completely throws me, and to a certain extent that’s a good thing. The first bizarro fiction I read (Jeremy Shipp) made me think I’d been reading with my eyes closed; it made normal fantasy look meek and mild. It turned reality on its head, it messed with how you think and what you think. It’s disturbing in its lack of reality. And that’s what this book does too.

Within the first few pages we’re introduced to Locke, who’s in charge of the finding part of the Office of Lost and Found, and Veronica, who has killed her husband and needs to find him. When Locke refuses to help, Veronica shoots him in the head. Only then does Locke decide he’ll help Veronica find her dead husband.

This starts the first chapter, and things just get weirder and stranger as the book continues.

The first few chapters read like interwoven short stories, and Holland-Keen admits at the back of the book that the first chapter was written as such. This makes for an interesting experiment in novel writing. On some levels it works: the first chapter is immediate, quick, self-contained, but in others it doesn’t. It feels independent, there’s no continued theme or tension, the links between the stories are too slight to give it the impact or immersion of a novel.

The fact that one of the main characters dies and comes back to life with no explanation, and that there are so many things going on that are unexplained (you can understand Veronica’s frustration as Locke tells her once again that it “just is”), can sometimes make you want to throttle the writer. And sometimes what is explained doesn’t make any sense, but you have to go with the flow. The craziness is part of the attraction.

And the book does improve the further into it you get. The first two or three chapters have this short story feel to them as Locke, Veronica and Lafarge (in charge of the losing part of the Office) go around discovering all the lost things. All nice and fairly easy, despite the reality-warping of it all. Offices that move, doors that open to other realities, monsters that are real, nightmares that come alive… You may think you do, but you really have no idea. I read the book, and I’m still not sure I do!

The first part of the book takes up the majority of the nearly seven hundred pages, and it’s epic. End of the world scenarios, taking elements from all the previous stories, and beautifully weaving them into a madness of unending proportions. I doubt you have ever read anything like it, or will again. It’s a spectacular insanity, a brilliant non-sense, but perfectly in keeping with the rest of the book.

The failures of this book are clearly outweighed by the demented genius of Holland-Keen’s world. Be patient, be careful, and go with it. Let the madness flow over you and be absorbed by it, and you’ll enjoy your strange visit to the Office of Lost and Found.

www.anarchy-books.com

The Morpheus Tales Supplement is available completely free of charge from their website: www.morpheustales.com