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33AD: A Vampire Novel By David McAfee – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 24, 2013 by stanleyriiks

I can’t remember the last time I enjoyed a book that has so many problems. But I did rather enjoy this.

The Romans have taken control of Jerusalem, but the Jewish population aren’t happy about it. A young rabbi named Jesus is causing problems. And a vampire assassin is loose in the city…

Romans, vampires and Jesus. What more could you ask for?

The story begins as a kind of murder mystery as Roman Legionary Taras sets out in search of the murderer of two city guards. He comes across a Vampire Gatehouse, although he doesn’t know what it is, when he follows a man suspected of the murders. That man isn’t a man at all, but a vampire assassin, sent out by the Council of Thirteen to rid the world of any that know about their secret.

What follows is conspiracy, betrayal, murder, lies, more conspiracy, bloodshed, torture, another conspiracy, and treachery.

McAfee doesn’t lack ambitious, the plot involves various nefarious doings and plots by the main characters, and he manages to imbue this ancient world with a realism that holds. The action is plentiful and keeps the pace of the story going along fast enough to take your mind from the various small problems the book has.

And now we come to those problems… As a small-press book you don’t expect the sheen and polish you would expect from a major publisher, so the many typos can be forgiven. The stupidity of some of the characters and their actions becomes a little tedious as it continues throughout the book. The predictability of many of the plot “twists” and ease with which everything falls into place, calling into question the presence of an editor’s firm hand, become sigh-worthy by the end of the book.

There are times when this book will make you groan, as the writer writes himself into a corner and then must abuse his plot to find his way out; there are times when you will sigh with frustration, knowing what is going to happen before the hapless characters falls into the obvious trap or plot twist; and there are times when you will want to scream at the writer to not repeat himself, again, and just get on with telling the story.

And yet these are minor foibles that do take away from the book, but don’t ruin it. This is still an enjoyable romp. With the steading hand of a good editor and a bit of rewriting, this could be a bloody excellent book.

Action, violence, vampire conspiracies, Roman soldiers, lust, murder and Jesus. Surely you can’t want more than that? Shows great promise, and it’s not too difficult to look past the problems and enjoy this lusty, bloodthirsty tale.

ON WRITING By Stephen King – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 29, 2009 by stanleyriiks

ON WRITING By Stephen King

An insight into writing from one of the world’s best selling authors? What more could a writer want?

Well, quite a lot actually.

I like Stephen King, I like his work (mostly), and although I don’t know him I hear good things and I respect him as a man. His books are sometimes a little hit and miss, Different Seasons which includes the novella “The Body” is probably my favourite of his books. Rose Madder, which is pretty good up until the ridiculous ending, is my least favourite, and the last book of his I read.

Sometimes the length of King’s books puts me off, but On Writing is fairly brief at just over two hundred pages in hardback.

The first half is a nice and gentle introduction to the Stephen King that many of us are not so familiar with, his poor childhood, his alcoholism, and how he started writing. This memoir is in no way an autobiography, it’s a series of short chapters from King’s life that he wants to share with us and that he believes helped to shape him into the writer he is today. Nice, interesting, but not exactly insightful.

The second part of the book is actually about the process of writing, and there are a couple of hints about how King writes, including his dislike of adverbs and the passive voice, and some tips on revision. This is in no way a manual, but while writing it you are swept away by King’s ability to tell a story, even the story of how he writes. As he says himself he doesn’t have a magic wand he can give to other writers, and a lot of how he writes just comes so naturally that he couldn’t even put it into words. And that’s the main problem with the book. For those seeking guidance there are may be four or five useful tips that can be used and that’s it.

Yes, this is a nice book for Stephen King fans, and despite myself I was swept along for the ride too. But it’s like a rollercoaster, you enjoy it while you’re on there, but as soon as you get off you can’t help thinking: “Is that all there is?” Perhaps other writers will get more out of it. I’m not saying it wasn’t helpful, the tips that are in there are pretty good, although I’m not entirely convinced that not plotting when writing a novel is a good idea. It certainly explains King’s character-driven writing style though.

Writers desperate for some guidance and Stephen King fans will no doubt love this book. King says this isn’t a writer’s manual, and it’s certainly not. It’s a very personal insight into one of the world’s best selling writers.