Archive for subtle

RED By Jack Ketchum – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 9, 2010 by stanleyriiks

Avery Ludlow is an old man fishing with his dog. When three teenagers try to rob him he offers them all the cash he has, barely twenty dollars. The teenagers aren’t happy and shoot Ludlow’s dog, blasting off its head with a shotgun and laughing as they make their escape.

So far, so Ketchum. I was expecting a huge and hideously violent revenge tale.

Erm, that’s not what happens. Instead, we get Ludlow trying to get justice, but by traditional, conventional methods; visiting the boys’ parents, going to the police, appearing on TV. But Ludlow’s efforts come to nothing and each time he tries something new, they retaliate against him, with bricks through his window, and burning down his store.

This isn’t really a violent book, it doesn’t make your squirm. It’s a quiet novel from Ketchum, who doesn’t deliver the nastiness he normally does. This is a nice book, more subtle than regular Ketchum readers are used to. It’s good, Ketchum still provides the goods, but not in the way you expect. It’s a nice horror novel, more like a Richard Laymon or Dean R. Koontz book. A horror novel that turns out right in the end, not the bloody massacre of Off Season.

Obviously the publishers have realised that what Ketchum readers want is blood, violence and nastiness, and so they’ve provided us with the novella “The Passenger” in this edition. Classic Ketchum. When her car breaks down late one night Janet is pleasantly surprised to be picked up by a former classmate. So she wasn’t exactly friends with Marion, but she doesn’t have too far to get home. Then they crash into a group of murderers and rapists after Marion refuses to let Janet leave the car, and things start to get really nasty.

When humans goes bad, it could be the tag line of most of Ketchum’s work, and “The Passenger” is no exception. Think of all of the evil possibilities and them throw in some more and then ramp it up a notch, and that’s what Ketchum delivers.

Red isn’t Ketchum at his best, but it’s still a good novel, and nice and short. But “The Passenger” is classic Ketchum, and classic Ketchum always delivers. It’s not like reading, it’s like experiencing pain and torture. Somehow, you don’t know how, you managed to survive and you know that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

DIFFERENT SKINS By Gary McMahon – Reviewed

Posted in Morpheus Tales Magazine, Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 27, 2009 by stanleyriiks

I wrote this review a few weeks ago. I think it’s a good review, and it will be published in the first edition of the Morpheus Tales Review Supplement. Before putting it up here I wondered how the space and distant I’ve had since reading the book had changed my opinion. Actually, it hasn’t. I think that Different Skins is an amazing book, both the stories are moving and emotion-evoking. You can’t help but be sucked into the worlds that McMahon creates, the stories actually touch you emotionally and intellectually. That’s what I look for in my life, I don’t just want to read a book, I want to experience it. That what happens with Different Skins. I cannot recommend this book enough. Go do yourself a favour and buy this book:

This is one of those books that it is a pleasure to hold. It feels nice. It looks stunning, the cover and back cover by Vincent Chong are exquisite. Even the interior looks and feels nice, it feels like you’re holding a good quality book in your hands. It feels very similar to the limited editions from Blood Letting Press, except in paperback.

OK, so it doesn’t particularly matter what the book feels like, it’s the content that really matters. Right? But my point is that it does matter, holding a book that feels nice just adds to the pleasure. And this book can be judged on its beautifully subtle and disturbing cover.

Introductions are normally a waste of time unless they’re by the author, Tim Lebbon’s intro doesn’t stray too far from this. But he does mention that he read McMahon’s stories as a writer would. I completely agree with him on this, although I probably read as a writer differently to Mr. Lebbon. McMahon’s stories, two novellas in this collection, are packed with ideas and details and phrases that I wish I’d written, that I want to use in one of my stories. There are just so many “I wish I’d thought of that” moments!

The first story, Even The Dead Die, is a ghost story set in a London occupied by the dead, and it’s so rich and powerful that it made me feel like a teenager again, discovering my first horror story. Every page sparkles with ideas and brilliance, it’s like reading the very best of Neil Gaiman or Clive Barker. McMahon’s London is dark and nasty and brutal, but it’s also perversely beautiful. And so is his first story, dark, rich, tragic, powerfully and perversely beautiful.

The second story really shows the breadth of McMahon’s skill. In The Skin is a very different story, a personal tale of loss and neglect, a story of life. The story of Dan, who goes on a business trip to New York and upon his return, finds that his son is not quite the same, that his wife is slightly different. His family is not who they were before he left. The second story in the collection is as different as it possibly can be, this is a much more personal tale, without the glitter and glamour, the brilliance or the ideas of the first story. And yet it touches you more deeply, more subtly than the first story. Its horror is all the more real for its understated openness and its horrible sense of loss. My favourite story of the collection was Even The Dead Die, then I read In The Skin and had to change my mind.

OK, so the services of a proof-reader wouldn’t go amiss (although the typos have been spotted and will be fixed for the next print run), and there is no Charing Cross Road Station, but what you get when you buy this book is something much more than you will expect.

Despite its length and cost, it’s a 120 page book for the price of an epic novel at £7.99, that quality I mentioned earlier makes reading this book worth more than any price you can put on it. I was shaken putting this book down, mentally and emotionally shaken. Reading the first story made me feel alive, reading the second made me feel empty. It is that power that I search for as a reader. It is the quality of the production and the contents of this amazing collection which pushes it beyond insubstantial things like money, it’s like the Lord of the Rings, Anansi Boys, The Thief of Always, Weaveworld… reading this book is an epic experience that will touch you in ways that few experiences can.

I recommend Different Skins wholeheartedly and unreservedly, and will be seeking out much more of Gary McMahon’s work.