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LOOPER – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 23, 2012 by stanleyriiks

When I saw the poster for this I got excited. With the two figures holding guns in different directions, and a review quote stating the film was this decade’s The Matrix, nothing was going to stop me watching it.

Unfortunately the film is nothing like The Matrix. The 1999 Wachowski brothers’ classic is a SF action thriller. In no sense of the words is Looper an action thriller. It’s more a drama with SF at the heart of the story, but virtually ignored in visual terms.

Set in the near-future, the story follows Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a looper. Loopers are assassins working for some form of mob in the future, sent back in time (30 years) to await their victims, who are also sent back through time where they do not yet exist. The murders are therefore untraceable. Every now and then a looper’s older self is sent back to be killed by his younger self 30 years before with a nice big payoff, and 30 years of freedom until they are sent back in time to be killed by their younger self. You still with me? One thing the film does do well is explain this.

So, Joe’s older self is sent back in the form of Bruce Willis, and instead of killing him, older Joe escapes and tries to survive, and to change the future by killing the person he believes will grow into the murderer of his wife and himself. Meanwhile the mob are trying to track down both Joes to kill both of them to close the loop.

The film is set in a futuristic Kansas City, which is seen only briefly. Half of the film is set on a farm in the middle of nowhere, where younger Joe holes up, awaiting older Joe, and falling in love with the lovely Emily Blunt.

The story travels a fairly predictable path, apart from the premise there is nothing new here. Visually this is more of a farm story, it only gets a bit exciting when an old looking Willis goes on the rampage, which is fun.

Despite a mostly decent story, and some good actors, the film ultimately falls flat because at two hours it’s too long, too boring, too dull. The brief moments of action and excitement are too few. The future Kansas City is barely glimpsed instead of explored, too much time is spent with no action, and when you get to the end of the film you’re just a bit glad it’s all over.

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 CHOSEN CHILD By Graham Masterton – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 8, 2009 by stanleyriiks

THE CHOSEN CHILD By Graham Masterton

In Warsaw there have been a number of murders. The victims have all been decapitated. The police have no clues. When Jan Kaminski hears a child’s cries on a building site he goes to investigate, only to become the latest headless victim of the murderer they are calling The Executioner.

The building site that Jan is killed on belongs to Senate Hotels, an international company who will try anything to get round the various delays that having a murder on your site entail. Sarah Leonard, an American of Polish descent, is determined to pull out all the stops to keep the project on track and on budget. But as more murders take place Sarah finds that the only way to do that is to find out who the murderer is…

Masterton mixes in some history, a bit of gangster warfare, and a nice bit of fraud and treachery to spice things up.

Post-communist Poland is well realised, with lots of intricate detailing adding to the brooding atmosphere of the novel. Some of the best parts of the book take place in the pre-war sewers.

The characters are all present and correct, but don’t really touch you in the way a Stephen King character does. The focus here is on the story, the mystery that unravels as Sarah and her rag-tag bunch of investigators get closer and closer to the murderer, and the sources of other problems.

Despite a weak ending which feels like the publishers have demanded that every loose end is tied up, and what looks to be the Charles Bridge in Prague on the cover, and the strangeness of the villain, this is still a good read. Not many horror novels feature Poland, which is fascinatingly portrayed, and the sewers make one of their best appearances (claustrophobic, atmospheric, tight, stinky, perfect home for a murderer) in horror novel since The Rats.

Overall this is an above average novel that keeps you turning the page, but is ultimately forgettable.

THE KULT By Shaun Jeffrey – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 25, 2009 by stanleyriiks

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THE KULT By Shaun Jeffrey

www.leucrotapress.com

 

It’s rare that I get excited by a book, but Shaun Jeffrey’s The Kult really grabbed me.

The book was sitting on my sofa when my girlfriend picked it up and started flicking through, the next thing I know she’s over a hundred pages in and won’t let me have it back. My girlfriend doesn’t read horror, SF or fantasy, she reads romances and crime thrillers and she’s usually not willing to deviate despite my best attempts to educate her. She’ll gladly watch a horror film with me, hiding behind her hands, but I’ve not seen her manage ten pages of a novel before throwing it back at me and spitting, “that’s disgusting!”

So when I discovered she was a hundred and twenty pages in after only one day, I asked for it back so that I could review it and was a little taken aback when she said I could have it when she was finished and not until. I had to pry it from her cold dead fingers, but it was worth it!

Prosper Snow is a detective on the hunt for a serial killer called The Oracle. The Oracle is a nasty piece of work who sends photos of his mutilated victims to alert the police. He leaves no clues, no bodies, nothing for the investigating team to work with except the photos. And the photos of the bodies are starting to pile up.

When one of Prosper’s oldest friends enlists the help of their revenge group, called The Kult, he has little choice but to help out. But this time the retribution the group is seeking isn’t a simple beating to avenge a bullying as in the past, like when they were kids, when the group started. This time it’s vengeance for a rape. And the penalty for the perpetrator is death.

From the start this is a dark and atmospheric story that absorbs the reader. This is a mystery that keeps you guessing as Prosper and his friends are drawn further into the machinations of the serial killer, eventually finding themselves on the hit list. The tension continues to ramp up as members of The Kult turn up dead and we run out of suspects.

This is edge of your seat stuff and it’s difficult to put the book down as you haveto keep going. I polished the three hundred odd pages off in two days, and read the finale with a grin on my face, loving every minute of it. The final few pages will see you sighing with relief as you travel through the novel with the protagonist and feel his every effort to remain alive.

Just thinking about The Kult fills me with excitement, it’s like the feeling you get coming out of the cinema after watching a really good film, you feel alive. You just want to dive back in and experience it all again.

When I started reading this book I was thinking about making references to the British best-seller Shaun Hutson, whose novels are also fast-paced, action packed and furiously tension-filled. Jeffrey shares these attributes, his story is similar brutal and nasty as well, but The Kult leaves you not only deeply satisfied but also somehow wanting more.