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33AD: A Vampire Novel By David McAfee – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 24, 2013 by stanleyriiks

I can’t remember the last time I enjoyed a book that has so many problems. But I did rather enjoy this.

The Romans have taken control of Jerusalem, but the Jewish population aren’t happy about it. A young rabbi named Jesus is causing problems. And a vampire assassin is loose in the city…

Romans, vampires and Jesus. What more could you ask for?

The story begins as a kind of murder mystery as Roman Legionary Taras sets out in search of the murderer of two city guards. He comes across a Vampire Gatehouse, although he doesn’t know what it is, when he follows a man suspected of the murders. That man isn’t a man at all, but a vampire assassin, sent out by the Council of Thirteen to rid the world of any that know about their secret.

What follows is conspiracy, betrayal, murder, lies, more conspiracy, bloodshed, torture, another conspiracy, and treachery.

McAfee doesn’t lack ambitious, the plot involves various nefarious doings and plots by the main characters, and he manages to imbue this ancient world with a realism that holds. The action is plentiful and keeps the pace of the story going along fast enough to take your mind from the various small problems the book has.

And now we come to those problems… As a small-press book you don’t expect the sheen and polish you would expect from a major publisher, so the many typos can be forgiven. The stupidity of some of the characters and their actions becomes a little tedious as it continues throughout the book. The predictability of many of the plot “twists” and ease with which everything falls into place, calling into question the presence of an editor’s firm hand, become sigh-worthy by the end of the book.

There are times when this book will make you groan, as the writer writes himself into a corner and then must abuse his plot to find his way out; there are times when you will sigh with frustration, knowing what is going to happen before the hapless characters falls into the obvious trap or plot twist; and there are times when you will want to scream at the writer to not repeat himself, again, and just get on with telling the story.

And yet these are minor foibles that do take away from the book, but don’t ruin it. This is still an enjoyable romp. With the steading hand of a good editor and a bit of rewriting, this could be a bloody excellent book.

Action, violence, vampire conspiracies, Roman soldiers, lust, murder and Jesus. Surely you can’t want more than that? Shows great promise, and it’s not too difficult to look past the problems and enjoy this lusty, bloodthirsty tale.

THE SKY ROAD By Ken MacLeod – Reviewed

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

THE SKY ROAD By Ken MacLeod

Lately I’ve been spending a lot of time reading, trying to get through the huge stockpile of books I’ve managed to build up over the last twenty years. I’ve told myself I can’t buy any new books until I’ve made a dent in the three huge bookcases full I already have. I have a list ready of new books I want to buy: Drood, The Umblemished, Patient Zero… The list goes on. And on.

As Stephen King, and nearly every other successful writer, says: If you want to be a writer, you have to read a lot and write a lot. OK, so at the moment it’s a bit easier to do the former than the latter. I’m watching almost no TV, the house is a mess cos I’m not doing any chores (any excuse!), and I’m only watching about one film a week instead of one a day! Every spare minute seems to be taken up with reading, and I’ve been on a bit of a roll. In the last three months not one book has taken more than four days to read.

And then I come to The Sky Road.

This isn’t a book that can be read quickly. Unlike most modern novels it actually takes a bit of concentration, but when you put in the effort you do feel you’ve achieved something.

Set against the background of a post-apocalypse world, the people of the future are building a spaceship, their vehicle to travel The Sky Road of the title. Society consists of two very separate peoples, the Tinkers, a strange set of individuals who travel round the country and live free of care, but also use that strange technology called computers. No one else in normal society uses computers, afraid that they might be infected by the dark power.

When one of the normal citizens, Clovis Colha Gree, the narrator of half the book, meets and falls in love with a beautiful Tinker, he sets himself on a path of change and discovery he never could have imagined.

Interwoven with this is the story of the Deliverer, the person responsible for the almost-end-of-the-world that set humanity back on its chosen path.

Redolent with leftist politics and with MacLeod’s writing tight and concise, and filled with ideas, this book is a bit of a struggle to begin with. There’s so much in the densely packed pages that you need to concentrate a little more than you average SF novel.

King should take note of MacLeod’s use of adverbs; he’s a bit of a master and really shows what can be achieved with their careful use. It just goes to show that every writer has their own way of using language and we have to find the one we are most comfortable with.

At its heart this is a love-story and a tale of discovery. The backwards and forwards of the narration can be a bit herky-jerky and I felt the Deliverer’s story was a bit more exciting that the post-apocalyptic vision of Earth, but ultimately MacLeod delivers once again in his own unique style.

This doesn’t have the more futuristic setting of his other books, and I preferred The Cassini Division, but it made me look up Kazakhstan (where some of the book is set) on wiki and it actual made me think, something very few books (or anything else for that matter!) can do.

MacLeod is a strange but fascinating writer whose books compel you to continue reading and The Sky Road is no exception.