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KILLING PRETTY By Richard Kadrey – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 14, 2017 by stanleyriiks

There are some books you just can’t review, because you experience them. You don’t read them, you live them. They impact you and affect everything that follows. The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings are those kind of books. You don’t come across those types of books very often.

Most recently Kadrey’s Sandman Slim did that to me. This is the seventh book is the continuing saga of the man who escaped hell.

Jim Stark, AKA Sandman Slim, is hired as a Private Investigator to save the angel of death, who was forced into a human body and had his heart cut out. Stark’s investigations will lead him to ghost fights, neo-nazis and hedge-funds…

No summary of the Sandman Slim novels manages to capture the essential attitude of our anti-hero Stark, and the random collection of waifs and strays he calls his friends, including a former pornstar and zombie killer, his demon girlfriend, an immortal Frenchman, and Samael the ex-devil.

The impact of the novels, the freshness of the characters and the stories, continues to decrease ever so slightly in each successive instalment. It’s not new anymore. But it’s still a hell of a lot of fun. These are the kind of books you race through at the beginning of the story, glad to be in it, and you slow towards the end as you savour every page and don’t want it to end.

Kadrey has developed an amazing formula, brilliantly realised characters in a dark and gritty world of LA that is wholly recognisable, but strangely shifted beyond our reality. Death, danger, demons and hideously corruptible humans.
Anyone willing to give this series a try is likely to get their mind-blown. This is urban fantasy as it’s shocking best.
Keep up the good work, Mr Kadrey.

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VANILLA RIDE By Joe R. Lansdale – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 29, 2017 by stanleyriiks

No matter how many Lansdale books I read I’m always pleasantly surprised at how easy they are to read and get into. This is another book in the Hap and Leonard series of crime novels (soon to be on your small screens), and the luckless couple find themselves in so far over their heads they don’t know what to do when they help a friend out by kidnapping his granddaughter and beating up her drug-dealer boyfriend and flushing his stash down the toilet. Now the Dixie Mafia is on their tails and the FBI are blackmailing them, and something is a bit hinky…

East Texas sounds like a dangerous place and Lansdale brings it to life as only he can. You can virtually smell the burning rubbish in the backyard of the trailer. Hap and Leonard’s sense of humour is infectious, despite the dangers they face the pair just won’t keep quiet, but their devil-may-care attitude is what’s so endearing.

A simple plot with a healthy dose of twists and turns, a whole load of action and danger, and laughs aplenty with this crew.

Lansdale does it again, providing his own unique style in a captivating crime thriller.

MONSTER HUNTER INTERNATIONAL By Larry Correia – Reviewed

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

I came across Correia’s name on social media in regard to the Puppies and the Nova awards. I didn’t particularly take much interest in the goings on, Correia may have had a point, but George RR Martin also wrote very eloquently about it. In the end I wasn’t bothered one way or another; that awards can be manipulated, or unfairly given to cronies isn’t a surprise to a former member of the British Fantasy Society.

Whatever politics were involved didn’t particularly interest me. I like to read lots of different types of books, different types of SF and fantasy, and I was looking for something action-packed and I remembered something I’d read about Correia’s novels and thought I’d give him a try.

This is the first book in the Monster Hunter International series, and here we meet Owen Zastava Pitt, a former bare-knuckle fighter and now accountant, whose life is turned upside down when his ass of a boss turns into a werewolf and tries to eat him.

As Owen recovers from his injuries, having managed to fight off and kill the werewolf, he’s offered a job as a mercenary monster hunter and that’s when the real fun begins. What follows is a quick boot-camp and then a race to save the world from a group of master vampires and a mysterious figure known only as the Old One…

If you like guns and action and urban fantasy set in a B-movie then you’ll love this. It’s straight-up action, no holds barred, but with decent characters, enough attention to detail to make it realistic, and a few twists and turns to keep things extra interesting. I liked this book. Is it likely to be award winning? In the same way that if it were a film it wouldn’t get an Oscar, no it’s not likely to win awards, but does it fulfil the role of entertainment, will it appeal to a mass market audience (like Fast and the Furious or Star Wars), damn it, yes it will!

Correia may be as well known for the wrong reasons, but try his books. Monster Hunter International is a powerhouse of a novel, it’s exciting, it’s intelligent, it’s fun.

Great stuff and I’ve already bought the second book in the series.

THE BIG SLEEP BY Raymond Chandler – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 3, 2016 by stanleyriiks

Chandler’s classic novel introduced us to Philip Marlow, a no nonsense ex-soldier turner Private Investigator, who is called to the home of the Sternwoods, a rich family living the highlife in LA.

Although the mission Marlow is given by the ailing old patriarch is to resolve a case of blackmail, he rapidly becomes involved in a series of murders, and must wade through the seedy underbelly of the city to find out what he needs to know.

This all seems very familiar, probably because it’s been copied to death, and has influenced pretty much every crime novel and movie ever since it was published.

Marlowe is the quintessential gum-shoe. What more can you say about a novel that inspired a genre?

Well, how about the Sternwoods are about as lifelike as the Kardashians, rich cardboard cut-outs, the dying old wheelchair-bound man is the most life-like and likeable, his daughters are a pair of spoilt rich sluts, alternatively using their money or their bodies to get what they want.

Marlowe, our hero (of a sort), doesn’t fare much better, although I suppose we have to give Chandler the credit for creating the stereotype. I guess I expected more, a bit of attitude, a bit of flair, a down at heel, hard on his luck James Bond type (you can clearly see where Marlowe inspired Bond). What you get is a man following his nose into trouble, with little wit, energy or intelligence.

And the plot hobbles along, following the barest morsel of investigation to a weak and ultimately unsatisfying ending.

It seems Chandler’s novel hasn’t fared as well as the pulp heroes before it, or the superheroes and Bond-villains who followed. May be the realism of Marlowe is what made him great and has made him age just as badly.

Chandler’s unique style isn’t noticeable present here either.

Perhaps the film version is better?

Disappointingly pedestrian.

THE TECHNICIAN By Neal Asher – Reviewed

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

This is the book that got me reading Asher’s books. Jon Sullivan’s cover of the titular beast is incredible, and his other covers for Asher’s other books are pretty damn good too. Can you pick a book by its cover?

Although this book is set in Asher’s familiar Polity world it is a stand-alone novel and can be read independently. But, if you have read some of his other novels this will inform the backstory of some familiar characters.

Masada is home to the hooders, a set of deadly creatures, the Theocracy (a strictly religious group who have enslaved some of the populous), the gaggleducks, and the Technician, a near mythical creature who not only attacks humans but turns their bodies into works of art.

When the Technician allows one of its victims to live, Jeremiah Tombs, a member of the Theocracy, it changes him in ways that even the advanced technology of the Polity cannot determine.

Twenty years later the Theocracy is no more, Tombs escapes his Polity captors and goes in search of the truth, a band of rebels called the Tidy Squad are out to kill him, and the Technicians is still out hunting…

Apart from that there are war drones, a dragon and his ancestors, a modified human studying the Technician, and alien races that have destroyed themselves to muddy the waters further.

There’s a lot going on here, as there is with most of Asher’s novels. His intricate plots draw you gradually deeper into his worlds. The characters are barely memorable, but it is the story, the plot and the incredibly well crafted world that really drive this novel.

Asher writes proper SF, intelligent, insightful, and passionate. The world he has created in this novel and the other Polity books (and the Scatteray series) are incredibly complex and detailed and yet don’t overwhelm the intense and sometimes complicated plots. The story drives along swiftly, there are multiple layers, and everything comes together in a riveting but mildly disappointing climax. Can any ending really live up to the rest of the novel?

Asher is the master of intelligent SF. The Technician is a great novel to start your Polity education: jump straight in, the water is thrilling.

THE OCEAN AT THE END OF THE LANE By Neil Gaiman – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 30, 2015 by stanleyriiks

How does he do it?

As a reader he manages to captivate, inspire and surprise me. As a writer he terrifies me. How can I compete?

Our narrator is a middle-aged man who visits what’s left of his childhood home and remembers a brief episode: after he sees a man commit suicide in their family car, he runs away to the house at the end of the lane, and in that house is a family of women, including a young girl slightly older than him, who have been there since the Doomsday book was written (who have a duckpond that they call an ocean). After a magical trip with the young girl our narrator returns home to find things have changed… When he gets a new nanny, she turns out to be some form of magical creature and is intent on imprisoning him in the attic.

Gaiman weaves tales like no one else. This book most reminded me of Hansel and Gretel, it’s a modern-day fairy tale. It’s riveting, absorbing, poignant, intelligent, and captivating. It’s a fantasy like a Roald Dahl book. A book of memory and the fantastic, it’s beautiful and heart wrenching.

Mr Gaiman is a true genius. It’s impossible to review his books with any kind of critical eye because he just sweeps you up in the story and characters. This isn’t his best book, American Gods and Anansi Boys both have more depth, and I’m not sure any book could better The Graveyard Book. But this is an amazing book. It’s simple and straightforward and brilliant. It’s short and insightful and poetic.

The modern teller of fairy tales has created another masterpiece of fiction.

I will follow Mr Gaiman (not in the stalker sense, just his writing!) wherever he goes and I have no doubt I will enjoy every step.

Fantastical genius.

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.