Sunday 31 May 2015

After The Fall - edited by Alex Davis (Boo Books)

First off, let me just make it crystal clear, I was given a copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review.

After The Fall is a collection of short stories on the theme of 'what will the world be like After The Fall of technology'. Would our lives be different? How much further back, in an historical sense, would we devolve? How much would we miss what we have come to depend on?

There is a good amount of variation among these 19 tales, some more apocalyptic than others, there is humour in here too (I especially liked 'Waiting For Google' - that one still makes me chuckle long after finishing it. Of the more apocalyptic type of story I think, if I had to pick a favourite it would be 'Hell Freezes Over, by Mike Chinn, set in a world where global warming has led to eternal winter and one man is walking, trying to keep warm and trying to find survivors or some kind of civilisation.

'Then and Now' by Delphine Boswell offers a different way of looking at things though when a technology purge by the government means that people have to get out, make their own real people!!

All in all this is a cracking collection, not a weak story among them. Alex Davis at Boo Books is doing a grand job of putting out good quality collections and this is certainly worth reading. An excellent book that might just make you think a bit about just how much you depend on your gadgets

9/10 stars

Thursday 28 May 2015

Sleepyhead by Mark Billingham - a review

Sleepyhead is Mark Billingham's first novel and the first in his Tom Thorne series (which is now on book 13). The thing is though, it doesn't feel like a first effort. D I Thorne is the wrong side of 40, marriage finished, lives alone, sometimes rubs his colleagues up the wrong way etc. etc. but in no way is this a run of the mill police procedural novel.

Three women have been murdered but the fourth victim survives. The method - manipulation of the victim to induce a stroke. It turns out though that the first three women were (in the murderer's eyes) accidents. The fourth was the one he got right. He was actually trying to get the victims to a point between life and death. Because of the damage done to the fourth victim she has 'locked in' syndrome, is wired up to machines in hospital and is unable to give Thorne and co any help whatsoever.

You don't get to know who the killer is until the end and there is enough to keep you guessing (I changed my mind probably 3 or 4 times along the way) and the story is gripping enough that it kept me up reading way past the time I should have been asleep and looking to get the next in the series ready for when Sleepyhead was done with. I sometimes get bored with detective series but can't see that happening here.

What I especially enjoyed here was the way the surviving victim kept having internal monologues which certainly changed the mood of the book. Although she couldn't communicate much (especially in the early days) with her doctors, nurses and Thorne the monologues let you see things from her point of view, at times sad, reflective, resigned but also gossipy, chatty, girly. For someone who couldn't really do anything but lie there in a hospital bed she was probably one of my favourite characters. This in itself puts Billingham up there with the best.

For a first novel this is a very good effort - not perfect but heading in the right direction. I shall certainly be looking out for the rest of the series (I'm on book 2, Scaredy Cat already)

7/10 stars

Tuesday 26 May 2015

25 Ways To Kill A Werewolf by Jo Thomas - a review

I ordered this book after meeting the author at an event in Sheffield at which she did a reading from it. I enjoyed what I heard so got the book hoping it would be more of the same - it was.

It is the story of Elkie Bernstein, a 15/16 year old girl living in Wales who finds herself fighting against Werewolves. She isn't a superhero or a Buffy The Vampire-A-Like 'Chosen One' just a regular teenager having to fight off something that common sense says shouldn't exist. Who is sending the Werewolves and why? You'll find that out for yourself when you read it ;-)

The way the book is set out is kinda given away by the book title - 25 Ways To Kill A Werewolf therefore 25 different chapters each one a different 'way' (and several intermissions too). As examples

Method 1 - With A Stake

Method 5 - Parvovirus

Method 17 - Nail Gun

You get my drift I'm sure.

The story itself reads (as it says on the back cover) as part survival guide, part diary. The only problem I really had with it was that with each chapter passing some of the methods blurred into one but I got round this by reading a chapter or two every couple of days which allowed me to appreciate it more and also meant, to my advantage, the book lasted longer and I got to spend more time with Elkie and her Werewolf killing ways

A very enjoyable read

4/5 stars

Monday 18 May 2015

The Scarlet Gospels by Clive Barker - a review and thoughts

This is the book horror fiction fans and, more particularly Clive Barker fans have been waiting for. And that wait has been a long one. The Scarlet Gospels is a major event in publishing but was it worth the wait? I finished the book this morning so I know what I think - loved the story but had some issues with the book itself.

I think the best way to review this is to do it in two parts so, if all you want is a review of the story aspect of TSG then feel free to just read the first part


What we have here is a final meeting between two of Clive Barker's greatest creations - P.I. Harry D'Amour and the Cenobite Hell priest Pinhead.

As it begins Pinhead is hunting down and killing all the great magicians of Earth and gathering all their knowledge with the intent of staging a coup and taking over Hell. While Harry is on an investigation a portal to Hell opens, Pinhead steps through and battle begins.

Pinhead offers Harry the chance to be his witness/chronicler of his grand coup but when Harry refuses he (Pinhead) takes Harry's friend and associate, the blind medium Norma, hostage and returns to Hell. Harry must follow but how will a mere mortal manage to survive Hell and beat Pinhead on his own turf?

I'm taking it that if you are going to read TSG you will know of  Mr Barker's work either from his fiction or his films so you will know what to expect - you will not be disappointed. If this is your first time in his company then be warned - this is gruesome, visual, visceral horror of the highest calibre - "We have such sights to show you."

I'll admit that I am a big Barker fan and I awaited this volume with both excitement and a hint of trepidation, I knew what I wanted it to be and I had an idea, also, of what it could be. I'm happy to say I had nothing to worry about - this is so much better than I ever hoped it could be.

The biggest selling point with Clive Barker is his imagination. The creatures and demons he concocts are of the most horrific, fantastic and horrifically fantastic ilk. There are creations and places here that you would think had come from the mind of a madman but there is also beauty in the madness. Barker is wordy enough with his descriptions and visualisations to give his creations life on the page, indeed his version of Hell is up there with the best of worldbuilders.

Where, for me, Barker stands out  though is with the creatures of Hell. They are not just 'token evil', they have character, they have story and, most importantly they have fears. They feel real. I will not spoilerise things for you but there was one character makes an appearance in the later section of the books that really surprised me. I would have expected to hate or at least dislike but ended up feeling sorry for in a way and understanding the way he feels (I may well come back to this in another blog post when everyone has had a chance to catch up.

So, in short, good storytelling, good story, excellent characterisation and a satisfactory ending

5/5 stars

which brings us to part 2 of this post


Okay, I'm going to take you back to a point I made right at the start - this is Major Event Publishing, The Scarlet Gospels is a BIG DEAL. This is something people have been waiting a long time for. As  fellow blogger Jim McLeod (and if you haven't checked out his Ginger Nuts of Horror site) said - with a book as important as this every man and his dog should be all over the proofing of this. Alas they were not.

The biggest, I guess, and most noticed point was on page 33 so I'll use that as an example - spacing matters!!!! tomovewithaferalfelinegrace is not a word. Even an entry level proof reader should have spotted that.

There are others too, often just a wrong word (what I think of as spell checker laziness ie same/some where a word is misspelt but still a real word, although not the word you need). These things should have been picked up before the book went to press. I would expect things like this from a small press publisher but not a giant like MacMillan,

The second point here is the cover (UK version) itself. If you have just bought this book or are planning to please remove the cover before and during reading. The gold lettering on the front does not hold up well to constant handling and may be rubbed away with regular contact.

I have one other issue but that is something I am going to go back to and look again so I will not go into detail here but sufficient to say there should not be this many issues with a book of this magnitude.

Right, rant over. If you've read through this far please don't let my misgivings in the second part of the review put you off. The Scarlet Gospels is a great read, Barker at his best

Wednesday 6 May 2015

Only The Good Burn Bright by Dan Weatherer - a review

First things first, let it be known I was sent a copy of this as a review file for my kindle in exchange for a fair and honest review - and here's the first honest bit..........I enjoyed it so much I went to Amazon and paid for a proper copy - it really is that good.

This is  the second short story from Dan Weatherer  (the previous being 'The Soul That Screamed')  and is pretty much what I was hoping for.

The author has a really good touch when it comes to telling a tale and shows his skills by mixing things up a bit. You get what is almost a novella to kick things off with 'Behind Every Door', proper short stories and the occasional bit of Flash Fiction. Dan tells historical tales, downright nasty tales and even one (Mad About Marcy) which is told in telephone transcript (this was possibly my favourite of the whole collection). He also has many 'story telling voices' which is quite refreshing. You never quite know what you are getting next........well..........most of the time...........

One character makes a return appearance from 'The Soul That Screamed' and it was one of the stand outs from that collection (so, yeah, in that one instance I did know exactly what I was getting). That character is Agnes Ferry, aka The Butchers Wife, who gets a visit from her sister in 'A Butcher's Wife Interrupted. This was the first story I looked out for and I wasn't disappointed.

All in all, this is a good collection that will keep you entertained while also keeping you watching over your shoulder. The only thing letting it down is that there are a few typo's (but not too many - I've seen a lot worse) so for that I am giving it 9/10 stars

I leave you with one thought - remember the name Dan Weatherer. One day the world will wake up and take notice of this guy's talent.

Friday 1 May 2015

And The Fox Crows by V C Linde - a review

Throughout history, as long as man has been telling tales, the fox has featured a lot. Many cultures have told stories of the crafty fox, the wily fox, the hunted fox and this poetry collection by V C Linde takes us on a journey through the ages from ancient to modern. There are some you may know (from Aesop's fables) but also many you will not, tales from Russia, Ancient Japan and Native American culture right up to the modern day where the last three poems, City Life, Operation Foxglove and The First Field show how much life has changed for the fox.

And all these are framed by Pan which breaks it up nicely. The whole thing has a lovely feel to it, bringing the adventures of the fox to life. It is a short book, coming in at just 54 pages, but for me it feels just the right length. Much more could have been 'fox overkill' but the author has judged it just right.

I will say at this point that I do not read vast amounts of poetry but I know what I like and I like this very much indeed. And The Fox Crows is a book I am happy to have on my shelf and one that I will dip into for many years to come.

5/5 stars