Archive for undead

THE VOYAGE OF THE SABLE KEECH By Neal Asher – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 6, 2012 by stanleyriiks

This is the second book in the Spatterjay series, and sees us returning to the water-filled planet where the Hoopers or Old Captains (near indestructible, near immortal, super-strength men) run the planet, alongside the sentient sails they use for their ships. The waters of Spatterjay are filled with all manner of dangerous fauna, including virus-wielding leeches which burrow into their victims but pass on the virus which causing the superhuman strength and longevity.

It is ten years since the first book ended by riotous climax, and not a great deal has changed. Those familiar with the first novel will find this one remarkably similar, the same characters, the same style, the same snippets to let you know about the wildlife that inhabits the planet, virtually the same plot! The riotous finale where everything all comes together is lacking, as the various plots are this time individually wrapped-up, leaving the reader with an unsatisfactory bump in the excitement, rather than a mountain.

The Sable Keech is a massive ship aiming to re-run the epic journey of its name-sake as he ventured to the place where he was brought back to life using the virus. Bloc, the reification (a kind of technologically undead) in charge of the voyage, employs the old Captains to help out and a Golum sail (a crazy one intent on destroying death) to lead them. But there are also aliens and the deadly creatures of the deep intent on stopping them.

The first two hundred pages of the novel seem to go nowhere, feel like padding and could quiet easily be removed without any ill effect. The final hundred pages see almost a re-run of the climax of the first novel, but spread out so that there is little impact.

The ways in which this novel goes wrong are many: it is too similar to the first book, but fails where the first book succeeded. This isn’t a rubbish book by any means. It’s still pretty good, and only really falls down when compared with The Skinner, the first book in the series. Asher can write, the world of Spatterjay is epically explorable, and the old Captains are like cosmic super-pirates. But this doesn’t have the danger or the anger of The Skinner, despite similar plotting, and we’ve already visited this world. For those who haven’t read The Skinner you’ll enjoy this a great deal more than fans familiar with the first book.

Let’s hope Asher can redeem himself with the third book in the series.

THE STRAIN By Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 8, 2010 by stanleyriiks

Mmmm… A modern re-telling of the Dracula story, moved to New York, and with vampirism a mutating virus, turning its victims into blood-sucking fiends with proboscis-like extra tongues that act like blood-seeking whips.

For all its modern-twists, this is a basic vampire story in which the Master plots his domination of the new world, and travels on a plane which is the centre of the story for about half the book. The build up is very well done, but feels like the first part of a trilogy, as the plane lands dark, no lights, no power. When investigators go in to see what’s going on they find the entire plane is dead, including all the passengers. The CDC (Centre for Disease Control) is called in and the investigation begins with Dr Ephraim Goodweather in charge, that is until he is set-up by the Master’s mysterious human aids, and the entire planeful of bodies goes missing from the morgue, returning home to kill their families.

Some parts of the book work well, the build-up with the plane is intense and completely feasible. The second half of the book, as a rodent-killer traces the vampires to the World Trade Centre ruins, and our heroes suddenly become much better as handling the deadly undead, and the vampires act more like rodents or zombies than traditional vampires, and things start to get a bit stretched. Even more so when our unlikely squad of heroes head down into the vampire’s nest and kill most of them with a light-bomb, and almost everything goes back to normal. A rather weak ending.

For all its clichés, and reinventions, it’s still a fairly exciting book to read. With such a lack of originality in vampire fiction, this still rates as one of the better modern takes on the evil breed in many years, despite it feeling a little like a remake.

Not quite up there with Anno Dracula, possibly the best vampire novel since Dracula, but The Strain holds a lot of promise, despite its problems, and I certainly look forward to the second and third instalments to see where this will go.

ANNO MORTIS By Rebecca Levene – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 8, 2010 by stanleyriiks

Zombies in ancient Rome? Gladiators and zombies? I bet the publishers were wetting themselves hearing the idea for this. Unfortunately somewhere along the line the idea got a little watered down as the plot developed.

A female gladiator, a rich young playboy, a pampered slave and a mysterious red-headed man join forces when they discover there is an ancient Egyptian Sect planning on opening the gates of death in Caligula’s Rome. Fighting not only the all-powerful sect, which has infiltrated all of high society, but also staying out of reach of the crazy Caesar, will keep our company occupied.

Ok, so the passion and excitement that swelled with the idea is a little tempered. But it could still be a pretty good book.

And it is, until the end, when all goes to hell, literally, when our heroes have to go to the land of death, visiting with the Gods themselves in their efforts to put things back to normal. While the Roman zombies are set up nice and plausibly, the ending just goes too far, breaking through the thin web of believability, heading into unknown realms. It just goes too far, the “twist” ending, which takes up the last fifty odd pages, just makes all of what happened previously a waste of time.

The characters are pretty good, and the book starts well, but the ending virtually ruins it.

Abaddon Books can be praised for virtually starting the current trend of historical zombie stories, but unfortunately for them other people are doing it much better.

So much promise, so much disappointment. A worthy effort, but only for those obsessed with the undead, otherwise there is better on offer.