Archive for writers

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.

RUIN AND WRATH By John Gwynne – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 20, 2018 by stanleyriiks

The third and fourth book in this epic tale of war see our various heroes finally coming together to battle against the evil that is Calidus, and his puppet, King Nathair. Giants, traitors, hunters, warriors, soldiers, betrayal, demons and angels, the tales of the wars of the Banished lands has it all.

You can’t join a story of this size anywhere but the beginning, so go out and pick up a copy of Malice. This is where we meet Corban and his friends, and we find out the myth of the seven treasures, the Bright Star, the battle between the gods and the players that side with them.

This is a story of hardship, of battle, of love, and loss. Gwynne portrays his world brilliantly, and his characters live and breathe, capturing your heart and tearing at it as they are plunged into deeper and deeper dangers.
Any fans of epic fantasy will enjoy this.

If you’re not a fan of epic fantasy, and why not, this is a great place to start. Don’t be daunted by the size of this truly epic tale, it is easy to read, easy to get into, and you’ll find the pages just turning as you devour the story.

Gwynne has himself a long-life fan after this set of novels. I can’t wait to read his next book.

PROSPERO BURNS By Dan Abnett – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 2, 2018 by stanleyriiks

Book 15 in the Horus Heresy series. If you’re coming to this book having not read any of the previous books in the series then it might be a bit of a struggle, although much of the book can be read as an individual story, you’ll miss out so much of the context that it might be confusing.

For those who have been following the series, this book is the other side of book 12 (A Thousand Sons), and follows directly on. The first forty pages or so is pretty confusing and doesn’t really seem to relate to anything, but is essentially our introduction to Hawser, a historian, who has travelled to Fenris (the home of the mighty Space Wolves) and becomes their archivist. As such he is privy to secrets beyond the scope of mere humans, and is there at the trial of Magnus the Red. After Magnus tries to warn his father using the void that he has been told not to use, it is the Space Wolves who must travel to Prospero, the home of the Sons, and sanction them using every deadly measure available to them.

Despite an annoyingly opaque opening, this book really develops. It shows the intrigue and genius of the plotting of chaos against the Emperor and his space marines. It shows the struggles of brother being pitted against brother, and there is a whole heap of action as the space marines fight against their only true opponent: their brother space marines.

Abnett is one of the best writers working for the Black Library, and his Horus Heresy books are essential reading. The Heresy series sometimes seems to stretch the story a little too far, giving more context than substance in some of the novels, but here we are really at the heart of the story, but told in a slightly different way.

One of the better Horus Heresy books, Dan Abnett does it again.

YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE By Ian Fleming – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 16, 2018 by stanleyriiks

Bond is sent to Japan to liaise with their head of security and finds himself sent on an assassination mission. His target turns out to be Blofeld, and Bond must infiltrate a castle of death to finally avenge the murder of his wife.
The Bond novels chart the move between the pulp fiction of the thirties and forties, to the noir novels of the fifties, and the superhero comics of the sixties, containing elements of all of them.

We have a Bond on the edge of a breakdown, suffering from the death of his wife and PTSD (before they had a phrase to describe it). He’s sent on a mission by M, as his final chance to redeem himself, and then blackmailed into killing by a Japan secret service head. Only to find his target is his archenemy…

Bond is a superhero in a noir world of pulp supervillains, with Fleming providing enough detail and depth to really draw us into that world.

Containing all the elements of a classic Bond story; luxury, wealth, exotic locations and even more exotic woman, it’s a playboy fantasy with a measure of action and excitement thrown in. A boy’s own adventure for adult males. Fleming gives us exactly what we’re looking for: adventure, sex, and thrills. No wonder the books and the character continue to be so successful.