Archive for style

HIVE MONKEY By Gareth L. Powell – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 14, 2015 by stanleyriiks

This review will likely start off like every review of Powell’s work I’ve written, saying how impressed I was with his first collection from the awesome and now hibernating/demised Elastic Press. It was filled to the brim with great stories and amazing ideas, and it was riveting. The books that followed sadly fell a little flat. That was until Powell hit his stride with his first monkey book, Ack-Ack Macaque. Although I don’t remember it in great detail, I remember it being an exciting steampunk thriller and I actually bought this second book in the series because it was so good. I rarely, if ever, buy books, as I get plenty for review, so that’s a pretty big recommendation.

This second book works perfectly well as a stand-alone novel, although it carries on from the first book and there is some history, it works well as backstory to in novel.

The skyliner that is home to the monkey who escaped from a game, and a brain-damaged captain and her holographic ex-husband, comes under threat when a man from a parallel universe is murdered. The investigation into the murder brings the skyliner crew into conflict with a hive-mind cult intent on take over the world. Can Ack-Ack, Victoria, Paul and K8 save the world again?

The plot doesn’t really capture the essence of the book, you miss out on the style and the characters that really raise this above your average SF steampunk thriller. Powell has created a really unique cigar-chomping spitfire pilot of a macaque who really brings the story to life, the other characters are mere background cast, this isn’t really an ensemble piece, despite Powell’s efforts.

And the world that Powell has created is filled with interesting ideas: a United Kingdom of France, Norway, UK and Northern Ireland; zeppelins; parallel universes; laser guns; Neanderthal assassins, and a whole lot more.

Great world, great character, great style, all put together with decent plot and some nice background characters. I will be back for more with the third book in the series soon, and recommend this for any fan of monkey fiction, and anyone who likes a bit of fun.

Great SF has never been so hairy.

Advertisements

THE DEPARTURE By Neal Asher – Reviewed

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 1, 2013 by stanleyriiks

A few hundred years in the future, the world is run by the Committee: an evil, faceless bureaucracy that punishes disagreeable thought, and polices the world with robotic killers, and the Inspectorate (a military police force who crack down on the populace without mercy). Earth is running out of food, resources are depleted after the world is raped and abused. Billions must die so that the Committee can continue to rule those that are left, those deemed societally valuable. Those not valuable to society or the Committee (zero-assets or ZAs) will be killed, slaughtered by a massive set of lasers orbiting the planet.

The small Mars colony is abandoned by a resource hungry Earth, the Committee set about planning the murder of those not valuable enough to continue living when one of them finds out about the Committee’s plans. A rebellion is about to take place on Mars.

Alan Saul wakes up on his way to an incinerator (where the Committee sends its enemies), and sets about causing as much pain as he can to the Committee and those responsible to turning him into the man he is today. The man who remembers nothing of his past over than it was wiped from his memory by pain.

This is Asher’s modern take on 1984.

I’m a bit of a fan of Asher, and I do mean a bit. I really enjoyed the adventure and exploration of The Skinner, but found the second book in the Spatterjay series, The Voyage of the Sable Keech to be repetitive and disappointing, so I was looking forward to trying a new series from the author. This one looked a little more action-packed, so I thought I’d give this a go. To a certain extent it is action-packed, but Asher’s writing style doesn’t lend itself to speed and pace, there is a lot of description, and everything is explained fully so the world we explore is finely detailed and exciting. But there’s a distinct lack of speed, the action is realised with Asher’s trademark adventure style (like paddling along a river in a row boat [albeit a river filled with flesh-eating monsters and surrounded on all sides from immortal pirates]), not the pace and drive of an Andy Remic novel (a rollercoaster thrill-ride that’ll take your breath away).

Having said that the book builds nicely towards the climax, even if the action sequences aren’t as action-packed or as fast-paced as you might expect. The world is a genuinely entertaining dystopia, and Asher’s characters are compelling, Saul in particular is someone who is massively memorable.

This is part of the Owner series, and do not misunderstand, this is in no way a stand-alone novel. It ends on a massive cliff-hanger halfway through the story, and you have to continue with Zero Point, the second book in the series which I will be reading shortly.

Asher has created an amazing world and some great characters, but the promise of an action-lead novel doesn’t quite materialise. This is more of the same, adventure and excitement, not a full, in-your-face action-a-thon.  Still enjoyable, and I’ll be reading Zero Point to make sure I find out how the stories continues, as it just gets really interesting at the end of this book.

THE FURTHER ADVENTURES OF SHERLOCK HOLMES: SÉANCE FOR A VAMPIRE By Fred Saberhagen – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 17, 2012 by stanleyriiks

What could be better? The world’s greatest detective and vampires. In fact, better than just your average vampire, Dracula himself.

The story starts in 1765 at a pirate hanging, told to us by Prince Dracula himself, in the prologue.

The story proper starts with the irascible Dr Watson’s narration as he and the great detective are requested to attend a séance where a wealthy family’s eldest daughter has previously been conjured. Their daughter died weeks ago of drowning while out with her fiancé and sister.

So far so good.

Saberhagen has Watson’s style down pretty good, and the story rolls along in the traditional style. But somewhere towards the middle of the book things begin to go awry.

The book switches narrator between Watson and Dracula, which far from adding to the story, is jarring and confusing. There is some overlap between the stories being told, and there is the constant “I, Dracula take over the story” every time there is a change, which grates. At times both narrators use the third person to describe themselves, adding to the confusion.

Holmes is a facsimile, a mere name, without any of the characteristic genius, the clever detection, or humour of the original. Dracula, although an aristocrat, was never a gentleman. Beneath his suave exterior lies the rotting heart of monster. Even at his best he is a creepy and chilly individual. Not so here, Dracula rivals Watson for pompous Victorian etiquette.

Despite the ruinous use of two of my favourite characters, I persevered to the end, only to find one of the weakest climaxes in the history of the novel, and everything tied up so easily it hardly felt worth the effort, without any ingenuity or integrity.

Although I have savaged, quite comprehensively, this book, I still found myself enjoying some small parts of it. It is after all, Dracula and Holmes, even if they are poor copies.

This could have been such a brilliant book, perhaps my expectations were too high, or perhaps this book doesn’t deserve the name of Holmes associated with it. I might try another in the series to check, but this definitely does not live up to the originals.

EXPEDITION TO EARTH By Arthur C. Clarke – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 26, 2012 by stanleyriiks

Clarke is one of SF’s foremost thinkers, so it’s not a surprise to find his first short story collection to be filled to the brim with ideas. Originally published in 1953 this collection of eleven short stories is remarkable not just for the plethora of ideas it contains, but the fact that almost sixty years after its publication hardly any of it has dated.

Having never read Clarke before, but having heard of his collaboration on 2001: A Space Odyssey with Kubrick, I was quite looking forward to reading this short book (only 180 pages).

The first story is the longest, and the collection ends with “The Sentinel”, which is one of the stories 2001 was based on. Full of great ideas, Clarke writes with a clean, crisp style most SF writers nowadays tend to adopt, which leaves characters as mere pieces to discover or be endangered by the idea that is the heart of the story.

The perfect introduction to a legendary writer, this collection made me want to read more, and I’ll likely pick up Rendezvous with Rama before too long.

SERIAL KILLERS INCORPORATED By Andy Remic – Reviewed

Posted in Morpheus Tales Magazine, Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 9, 2011 by stanleyriiks

This review is printed with the permissions of Morpheus Tales Publishing. The review originally appears in the April issue of the Morpheus Tales Supplement.

It’s not often you finish a book sweating, panting and in need of a shower. Andy Remic writes such books, exhilarating thrill rides, the perfect combination of excitement and danger. Remic’s books are not read, they are experienced, and when you get out the other side you feel like you’ve just parachuted yourself out the back of a plane or ridden a motorbike at a hundred and twenty miles an hour down a motorway. It feels like you’ve just gone three five-minute rounds (MMA style) with a huge gorilla and you’re lucky to be alive. But in a good way!

Serial Killers Incorporated follows Callaghan, a hard drinking, hard smoking, hard fucking, hard living photo-journalist for a tabloid. When he and his partner get a tip-off of a hot story they don’t expect the skinned body of a woman with her legs cut off, but that’s what they find. And there is a note to Callaghan on the course. The police want to arrest them both and interrogate them despite the evidence proving their innocence, but then Callaghan has had some run-ins with the DI and they’re not exactly friends. Callaghan’s girlfriend is also proving a problem. Or rather her Romanian gun-runner husband is about to become a problem if he finds out Callaghan is fucking his wife. Then another tip-off sends them into a dark, desolate warehouse with another body awaiting them.

The first hundred or so pages set up the characters and the scenarios, but it’s once the action starts that this book really takes off. There’s plenty of action, including multiple murders, shootouts, fighting, and car-chases.

The warehouse scene is suitable frightening and will send chills down even the hardiest of spines. Even Callaghan becomes somewhat likeable, despite being a selfish bastard.

The climax is a bit… weird… But it works because Remic’s prose style punches you in the face until you submit. Here, unlike his Clockwork Vampire series, he seems even less inhibited and more in your face than normal, which is no bad thing, but does take some getting used to. There’s not the subtlety of the Clockwork Vampire series, this is stark and brutal, and works fine for a dark, noir crime-thriller.

There are a few niggling typos and a least one continuity issue, but with a book this size (400 plus pages) it’s hardly surprising, and all can be forgiven when a book is this much FUN!

Remic has produced another fine example of how to thrill a reader. This crime thriller is dark and nasty, and that’s what makes it so good. Remic is a no-holds-barred writer and Serial Killer Incorporated is a no-holds-barred novel; massively entertaining, scary, exciting, and brutally nasty. I defy you to read it and not have a grin on your face when you’re finished.

http://anarchy-books.com

PYGMY By Chuck Palahniuk – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 13, 2011 by stanleyriiks

Pygmy is a diminutive teenager from an unnamed totalitarian state, who arrives in the United States, with several of his comrades, to infiltrate and destroy the corrupt nation of America. Having been fully trained and brainwashed from a young age, Pygmy is an assassin and terrorist, who one family of Americans takes into their home.

Not really material for a comedy you may say, not exactly something that sounds like a social satire. But that’s exactly what this is. When Chuck isn’t poking fun at the totalitarians, he’s poking fun at the Americans. There’s also some teenage angst and hi-jinks involved.

Not only does Chuck provide a few laughs, but some brutality (made all the more disturbing by the humour), and some poignancy. This isn’t comedy or horror or sf, although it could claim to be any of those. This is literature, a marvellous mix of all of them, told stunningly well.

Despite the initial difficulty in getting into the first person prose (in broken English by Agent Number 67, otherwise known at Pygmy), you find yourself involved and urging him on, or not, as the case may be.

There has probably never been a funnier terrorist novel, and as Chuck goes where few writers have gone before – a Walmart toilet anyone? – he does it with style, substance and a light touch that makes it all worth while.

FIREFIGHT By Chris Ryan – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 26, 2010 by stanleyriiks

A kind of grown-up boy’s own adventure. A gritty, urban, modern James Bond, without the sexy women, the hot gadgets, or Fleming’s style. In fact without the panache, without the fast cars, and the big bad villain. Without any of the accessories that make Bond such a great character. So what do we have?

Former SAS Captain Will Jackson is a drunk, having left the regiment two years ago after the brutal murder of his wife and child in a terrorist attack. But Jackson is called in by MI5 for one last mission, to seek out Faisal Ahmed, a former CIA operative who has gone rogue and intends to target London in a massive terror attack. Jackson must put together a crack team to follow the only lead they have, to Afghanistan to attempt to save Ahmed’s sister from the Taliban in the hope that she will lead them to him.

Ryan’s writing style is basic, and even a little clumpy in areas. His characters are cardboard, his plots are weak and predictable. What he does bring to the table is authenticity, and he does that by the bucket load. Despite the failures of many parts of the book, it still manages to hold up (just), because of the small details that make you think, yes, that’s right.

There are better thrillers, there are better books, better characters, better plots, but you won’t get authenticity much better than this. For purists and fans only, the bloke is a true hero, but he’s not a novelist.