Archive for tension

ACK-ACK MACAQUE By Gareth L. Powell – Reviewed

Posted in Morpheus Tales Magazine, Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 11, 2013 by stanleyriiks

Published with the kind permission of Morpheus Tales.

Powell’s first collection The Last Reef (available as an ebook from Anarchy Books (www.anarchy-books.com) was exceptional. A book filled with intelligent SF, bristling with ideas and clever stories. I was looking forward to reading Powell’s first novel The Recollection, a clever SF story based on some of the stories in that first collection. It wasn’t as good as I was expecting. Most of the brilliant ideas in the book came from the stories in The Last Reef. I’d expected more.

I wasn’t looking forward to reading this one. It sounded a bit… well, stupid. Also, I’d just finished reading the excellent Sandman Slim, a book filled with character, with attitude, with energy. Not something I would have expected from the “quiet” fiction of Powell.

Boy was I wrong!

Powell seems to be having a great deal of fun with this book, and fortunately the reader is right there alongside him all the way.

Britain and France merged in the 1950s. Nuclear powered airships travel around the world. Britain refuses to give back Hong Kong and is on the brink of war with China. The King is recovering from an assassination attempt. Victoria returns to London to deal with the murder of her husband, only to find the policeman who escorted her to the flat dead on the foot of the stairs and his murderer looking up at her, then heading straight for him, his knife poised to kill her too…

A Macaque is battling against Nazi forces during the Second World War…

This is powerful, action-packed stuff. The tension starts to rise from very early on, and as the twisted tale of treason, conspiracy and murder is revealed the tension continues to rise. The characters are unique, their voices clearly individual, and the monkey adding a level of attitude and humour that really jumps off the page. The one-eyed, pistol carrying, cigar chomping fighter pilot macaque is brilliantly refreshing in his no nonsense attitude, and animalistic simplicity amongst the complex plotting and treachery.

The tension rises throughout the book, creating an edge of the seat expectation that could only be satisfied with a powerful climax, so how about fighting and explosions, and crashing and… (I don’t want to give away too much!) but Powel delivers by the bucketload.

Powerful, intelligent, filled with ideas, clever touches and brilliant characters.

Powell has hit his stride, and produced a steampunk SF novel that delivers. I don’t know if Powell is planning a sequel, but when you have a character this good, he deserves another book. I can’t think of a story that could possibly live up to this one, but I hope Powell can!

Monkey magic.

www.solarisbooks.com

WHAT GETS LEFT BEHIND By Mark West – Reviewed

Posted in Morpheus Tales Magazine, Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 24, 2012 by stanleyriiks

With the kind permission of Morpheus Tales Publishing.

I’ve heard the name Mark West, but never read any of his work nor felt the need to pick up either of his novels. After reading this short story from Spectral Press though, I will be seeking out his work. West now has an ardent fan.

This is the story of Mike Bergen, who after thirty years, has gone back home to visit the warehouse where his best friend died in an accident.

The 1981 section of his story is what really drew me in; it’s not only nostalgic and warm, but also helps to set the stage for the present which immediately turns dark and brooding and nasty. The tension ramps up quickly as Mike revisits the warehouse, and West continues to drive forward, pouring on the tension and then pouring on some more.

Great characters, excellent atmosphere, stunning pacing for a short story – this is what I want. This is what I want to read and this is what I want to write. I can’t remember when I’ve read a short story this good. West has done a grand job and the usually excellent quality of the Spectral Press chapbooks is nudged up to stunning with this.

Best short story of the year, without a doubt.

http://spectralpress.wordpress.com/

ROLLBACK By Robert J. Sawyer – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 15, 2012 by stanleyriiks

A brilliant, emotional, human SF novel.

Dr Sarah Halifax decodes a response from a SETI sent message in a far-flung planet, 18.8 light years away. She is instrumental in forming the response, and sending it, having little thought that she might be dead by the time the message is responded to gain in 37 years time.

But, in her eighties, Sarah is still alive when the new message from the alien race arrives.  She is celebrating her sixtieth wedding anniversary with her husband Don when the news breaks.

A wealthy SETI contributor wants Sarah to be around when the next message arrives and pays for a rollback, a rejuvenation programme that costs billions, to make her young again. Sarah insists that her husband receive it too, but when it works for Don and not for Sarah they have to struggle with her aging and his youthful vigour.

The SETI alien contact is only a part of this novel, the tension and emotional rollercoaster of the two main characters in the happily married couple tugs at the heart-strings. The moral dilemmas, the guilt, the hope, the sadness and loss are truly heart-felt. This is an emotional novel. The background of technology enhances the love story, twisting it and stretching it to breaking point. As much as this is a story of first alien contact, this is a story of family, of history, of love and respect, of youth and aging and old age.  Sawyer has written a truly insightful and inspirational novel.

This is SF with a human side, a brilliantly realised story of love set in a future world with robots and aliens. Intelligent, insightful, emotional and amazing.

DEATH’S DISCIPLES By J. Robert King – Reviewed

Posted in Morpheus Tales Magazine, Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 28, 2011 by stanleyriiks

Printed with the permission of Morpheus Tales. This review will appear in the Morpheus Tales #12 Supplement, out in April 2011.

I do enjoy a novel that starts with a mid-air explosion, and continues with the action, developing twists and turns that keep you entertained and off-balance all the way to the end. A book that doesn’t hold back, a writer unafraid to go places you don’t expect.

Susan Gardner is the only survivor of the aeroplane crash, the sole witness to the destruction of the plane by terrorists calling themselves Death’s Disciples. There’s only one problem: Susan has amnesia and can’t remember anything before the incident. There is another small problem: the Death’s Disciples aren’t finished yet, and Susan’s about to be attacked, from every possible direction…

To give away any more of the story would take us deep into Spoiler City, and with a novel like this – where half the enjoyment is the discovery of the next plot twist – that’s not a place you want to go.

King ramps up the tension steadily, drip-feeding the twists and turns of the plot, and despite the incredible and almost impossible leaps of faith the reader is expected to take, it actually works. You’re happy to go along with the continuing craziness of the plotting because it’s so much fun, and your suspension of disbelief hangs on (just) throughout.

A quietly incredible novel on a grand scale.

www.angryrobotbooks.com

TRIUMFF: HER MAJESTY’S HERO By Dan Abnett – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 7, 2010 by stanleyriiks

Set in an alternative England, where Queen Elizabeth the first married Spain’s King Philip the Second, setting in motion a series of Queen Elizabeths to follow, leaving England and the Empire to discover the joys of magic, but not those of the industrial revolution or mechanisation.

Sir Rupert Triumff is an adventurer who has recently discovered Australia for the Queen, but refuses to give her back his letter of passage and return the country back to her.

This is used by plotters to set Triumff up as a traitor in their own attempts to kill the Queen and take over the Empire in the name of Spain.

Fans of Dan Abnett’s gamesworkshop novel should be made fully aware this is nothing like the full-on action-packed adventures of the Space Marines. The king of battle-writing tones down the action for much of this novel, although the intrigue and scheming are ramped up to compensate.

The style of the writing also shows Abnett’s depth, as our narrator, one William Beaver, continues to pop up at odd moments and imbues the proceedings a little light relief.

The plotting is well worked, and the tension continues to grow as the plot to kill the queen gets closer, and Triumff and his friends get closer to discovering the truth behind it.

Although not as action-packed as Abnett’s 40K Universe books, and despite a swashbuckling start, the novel is heavier on machinations and tension. Abnett’s talent doesn’t go to waste, and the world he creates is cleverly portrayed with many layers. Nothing like his tie-in novels, but providing an equal amount of enjoyment and entertainment.

If there is a sequel, I’ll be there.

DISTURBIA By Christopher Fowler – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 2, 2010 by stanleyriiks

This starts off magnificently, Fowler’s richly styled first chapter promises much only to fall away and concentrate on the story. A story that reminds me of a cheap version of The Da Vinci Code, despite being written fourteen years ago.

Vincent Reynolds (working class writer) meets up with Sebastian Wells (son of Lord, never worked in his life) to research a piece he’s writing on the class struggle in London. He soon becomes involved in a race for his life, as he delves too deep into the secret society of the Prometheus Club, a group of power-hungry rich aristos. Vince must follow the clues, enlisting a strange group to help him discover the truth, otherwise he will be killed, as he plays a deadly game set by the Club.

This starts off well, but then the style and the violence fall by the wayside to be replaced by the chase. And although the tension remains high throughout, that’s not enough. Vince is well drawn, and Fowler obviously knows his city, exploring it with skill, but I’m afraid it’s just not enough after the great start. This feels like a poor-man’s The Da Vinci Code, with sprinklings of China Mieville’s socialist slant.

Not a failure, this is more a missed opportunity. The clues aren’t as exciting or as solvable as The Da Vinci Code, and you end up witnessing the bizarre clues rather than following along and solving them yourself.

Could have been so much better. Promised much but ultimately failing to deliver, still not bad, but Fowler has done better.