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THE DAY OF THE TRIFFIDS By John Wyndham – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 28, 2019 by stanleyriiks

In my much younger days I watched the BBC dramatisation of this book. It gave me nightmares. I remember it to this day, many many years later. So I approached this novel with some trepidation.

The original, the book, is somewhat different to my memories of the mini-series though.

I think in my young mind it’s been partially merged with Arthur Dent in his dressing gown, but those deadly plants I remember far too well.

Bill Masen wakes up in hospital to silence. It’s strangely quiet. And while he waits for his blindfold to be removed after his operation he gradually becomes aware that things have changed overnight. The nurses are not at their stations, the hospital and outside are strangely quiet. When he heads out tentatively to investigate, his blindfold still in place, he realises that much of the rest of the hospital is blind too.

As Bill ventures outside he realises that the blindness is not restricted to the hospital, and that soon London will become an apocalyptic wasteland, run by gangs of criminals…

The Triffids, flesh eating man-sized plants that have a whip-like stinger are only part of his apocalyptic world. This is really the story of man’s descent when the world becomes blind overnight.

This is The Walking Dead but with killer plants instead of zombies, and set in 50s Britain.

I’m sure the TV series made more of the killer plants, in the book they are a mere part of the hysteria and menace of post-normal life. The Day of the Triffids is a classic SF apocalypse novel, and the precursor to virtually every post-apocalypse story ever since.

Tragic, quietly brilliant, and disturbing.

FRAGILE THINGS By Neil Gaiman – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 17, 2019 by stanleyriiks

I have a strange relationship with short stories. On the one hand they are fun, easy to read, short and can be read in one sitting. On the other hand they blend into each other, lack impact and are generally easily forgettable.

I read this collection a few weeks ago and apart from remembering that the final novella of the book is related to American Gods, I can’t really remember any of them. I know there were a few poems in here, none of which really stuck a chord for me (I’m not a big poetry fan).

So, how can I review it? If you like Neil Gaiman, or short stories, then you’ll probably enjoy this. I like his comics, I really enjoyed his novels, and some of his children’s stories.

This book was easy to read, and if you like short stories then you’ll relish this book from this master fantasist. But none of the stories really stands out. There is the usual sense of being told a fairy tale, but… I don’t know. The book seems to be lacking something. Definition may be. It’s all too vague, too limp, too directionless. I suppose that’s why most anthologies have a theme nowadays.

A nice stop-gap between novels, but hardly riveting reading and nothing memorable. A bit disappointing from Gaiman.

THE KILL SOCIETY By Richard Kadrey – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 29, 2019 by stanleyriiks

Ah, and Sandman Slim is back with a bang.

After the very slightly disappointing eighth book in the series, Kadrey throws Slim into hell, where he becomes trapped with a fanatical group of demons and other criminals, intent on taking a secret weapon to heaven and getting involved in the civil war going on there. Of course, they have to escape the tenebrae first, the desolate wasteland of the lost dead.

Will Slim be able to save his friend Father Traven? Will he be able to escape the dangerous clutches of the ruthless Magistrate? Will he be able to escape hell itself for a second time? And is being dead going to help or hinder his adventures?

This nice departure from Slim saving the world yet again in his magic-fuelled world of LA is Kadrey back to his best. Slim is the perfect anti-hero, he has a terrible attitude, and his kill-first-and-ask-questions-later mentality are on full show once again.

A great addition to the Slim chronicles, and definitely essential reading if you like your urban fantasy with a boot up the arse.

ANATHEM By Neal Stephenson – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 20, 2019 by stanleyriiks

What a long, boring book. It took me about four months to finish reading this SF/fantasy epic, in which very little happens for the most part.

The world in which it is set is vividly described, a strange world in which those who want to learn live in conclaves away from the rest of civilisation and once a year venture outside. When an alien starship is noticed edging close to the planet their world erupts, the avout are forced out in unheard of numbers, and must venture across the outside world to another Concent, meanwhile finding out that saving the world is now down to them.

This book is just too long. There is a lot going on, but not actually much in the way of action. There are philosophical debates and arguments, politics aplenty, and even some interesting discussions and dilemmas. But I can’t help thinking this book should have been heavily edited. At least half of the waffle could have been removed without massively affecting the quality of the story.

Perhaps I’m just annoyed I spent so so long reading this, only to be disappointed by the weak ending.

Whatever, I will be steering clear of Stephenson’s books from now on.

DELIVERANCE LOST By Gav Thorpe – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 19, 2019 by stanleyriiks

The legend of the Horus Heresy continues. In the 30th Century the Empire of Man is under threat from the vilest villain it had ever faced, not the orks or any other alien invaders, but from the Emperor’s favourite son: Horus.

The remaining Raven Guard of the Isstvan V slaughter manage to escape the awful violence caused by the Space Marines traitor legions, and head back to Earth to heal their wounds and regroup.

This is the story of the troubles they face, the machinations of the traitor legions against them, and the internal politics and paranoia of an empire under siege.

To describe what happens in book 18 of this series any further would do it a disservice, as there are shocks and surprises throughout.

This is the Heresy in all its wonderful glory: epic scale, brilliant characters, brother fighting brother and you, the excited reader, torn as much as the characters are by the intricacy of this brutal war.

Gav Thorpe is does an outstanding job in his first Heresy book, this is exciting stuff, and a great insight into one of the less well-known but still very interesting Primarchs.

One of the best Heresy novels and definitely worth a read.

OCTOPUSSY AND THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS By Ian Fleming – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 28, 2019 by stanleyriiks

This is a short final collection of four stories featuring the world’s most famous spy, James Bond. The original stories offer little that will be familiar to film fans other than the titles. The stories offer little of anything really, they are equally forgettable, offering some of the stylish flare of the longer books, but none of the characterisation or pace.

Reading these stories it’s more noticeable what is missing, and in some of them that includes the exciting and dangerous presence of Bond. In “Octopussy” for example Bond has a conversation with a Nazi, but doesn’t appear in the story until three quarters of the way through and only for about ten pages.

Worth reading if you want to complete the collection, but not really worthy of your attention for any other reason, sadly.

URBAN GOTHIC By Brian Keene – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 20, 2019 by stanleyriiks

Does this book represent horror? Probably not present day horror as the book is now nearly ten years old. It certainly feels of a time, although is that because it feels so familiar? There’s nothing in the book to date it, no trademarks or brands that are now defunct. No historic attitude or clothes. Cellphones, that most telling of recent items, are present.

So what are we looking at here? A haunted house story… Essentially. But one with a twisted sense of realism. The house is only haunted by hideously deformed human beings, cannibals, rabid and misshapen.

A group of teenagers enter the house, having been chased through a bad neighbourhood by a gang of not-so-ruthless “thugs”, little knowing the rumours and stories about it. Then they find themselves trapped inside, the prey of dangerous, mutated cannibals in a desperate struggle to survive.

Keene gives us familiar tropes and twists them, much in the same way Edward Lee does, so keeping a realism that is shocking and nasty, in the same way Ketchum managed with Off Season. The horror here is the brutality of humanity rather than actual monsters.

Back to my original question, does this book represent horror? To a certain extent, yes, it does. There isn’t anything new here. The entire problem with the genre is that it’s stuck with a single and simple premise, the evocation of an emotion: fear. Sure, it’s actually pretty difficult to achieve. And it’s the same things that make us scared, like haunted houses, crazy killers, and this book plays on those stereotypes. The failure of the book, as the failure with most horror novels, and the failure of the genre, is that in order for us to feel fear, to be scared, to be horrified, is that we need to feel.

Keene does a good job, this is by no means a bad horror novel. But it failed to make me feel. SF often does a similar job of not making me feel anything for the main characters, but SF is about ideas. If I’m not emotionally involved in the characters in an SF novel it doesn’t mean the book fails. For me, now, horror fails if I don’t feel. If the main characters are brutally tortured and killed and I don’t care, then they might as well not have been killed and I might as well not have bothered.

I’ve read far too many books in my forty odd years for everything to touch me. I’m jaded. I’m cynical. I don’t care about real people most of the time, why would I care about some words on a page. But that’s what good horror makes me do. It doesn’t have to be a whole novel, sometimes it’s a scene in a fantasy. The torture scene in an Andy Remic fantasy novel had me cringing for several pages, because I cared about the characters. Without that engagement horror is dead.

That is the main reason Stephen King is successful, he draws you into the story, gets you involved with the characters and then he hurts them, and by extension, he hurts you too.

For all his stereotype twisting and all his brutality (which I did enjoy), Keene failed to make me feel anything. This isn’t a bad book by any means, and like the genre itself, I feel I’ve grown out of it a little. Not by choice, I wish I jumped at the scary parts of films, I wish I loved every character I read about, but I don’t. The novelty has worn off.

May be horror is not my genre any more.