Monday 29 June 2015

Wye by Jack Croxall - a review

Wye is a Young Adult Dystopian Novel, set in The U K in the time following The Sickness and The Spread. The Sickness was a virus type thing that hit a lot of the population and The Spread - well, that kind of speaks for itself.

The story is told in journal form, by the titular Wye (not her real name) and tells of her attempt to get to safety with her small group of friends and their pursuit by 'a monster' (type unknown). Chuck into the mix that The Sickness/Spread leaves a trail of the walking dead and it's so far, so yeah, yeah, all been done before.

But here's the twist, right from the very first line you are left in no doubt that not everything is maybe what it seems to be. There are little clues and hints that make the reader skip back a sentence or two just to check what they've just read. Putting it all together bit by bit is all part of the fun with this story and I enjoyed it immensely.

If you have a Young Adult reader in your family I would highly recommend this for them (and for yourselves too). Personally I can see this being Jack Croxall's break out book, the one that gets him the notice I believe he deserves so remember the name and keep an eye out for him

4.5/5 stars

Sunday 28 June 2015

The Mall by S L Grey - A Review

S L Grey is a collaboration of Sarah Lotz and Louis Greenburg and The Mall is, in its' own way, a book of two halves. The chapters are told from two different character perspectives (I'm guessing the authors took a character each and wrote alternate chapters). The story itself can also be put into two parts - 'during' and 'after', but we'll get to that later.

The two lead characters are Dan, an emo type who works in a shopping mall near his South African home and Rhoda, a junkie who is at the mall to score her next fix - accompanied by the young boy she is babysitting. Neither are nice people but as characters they work well together.

Dan and Rhoda are put together when her babysitting charge runs off into the back corridors of the mall. Rhoda bullies Dan into helping her look for him, they themselves head off into the back corridors and enter an alternate mall, deep in the bowels underneath the 'original' mall. And that alternate mall is like nothing you would expect (and certainly not somewhere you would want to find yourself. As they continue in their search they get messages on their mobile phones, even when those phones batteries have stopped working.

The alternate mall is very much reminiscent of computer game environments, most especially Silent Hill. There are people in the alternate mall whose sole reason for existing is to shop, shop, shop and others who are their solely to work in the shop, chained to their work counter for hour after hour. The first part of The Mall, the part set in the alternate mall, is some of the best horror I have read in a long time, there are scenes that will have you (forgive the cliché) on the edge of your seat and scenes that are so grotesque they are proper stomach turners. When it becomes clear they are not going to find the young boy the focus turns to trying to escape. The alternate mall is Hell on Earth, all they want is to get out but it seems no-one ever gets back to the surface.

So far, a cracking horror and if we were finishing here 5/5 stars........

But we aren't done yet.

It won't be too much of a spoiler to say Dan and Rhoda manage to escape, the young boy she Rhoda was babysitting is back home safe and sound and all is well with the world. This for me is where The Mall fell down a bit. Dan and Rhoda get on with their lives, with Rhoda moving in temporarily with Dan and his mother.

The thing is, they were terrified while they were in the alternate mall, all they wanted was to get away from the horror but by the end of the story they decide life is boring 'up top' so decide they have to head back to the mall and find their way back into the alternate mall - you know, the one they spent the first two thirds of the book desperately trying to get away from.

Don't get me wrong, the alternate view point chapters worked well, the story telling is tight for the most part and the alternate mall environment is truly one of the scariest in a long time. It's just the end that felt off to me, that I didn't really 'get'. The alternate mall is a horrible, disgusting, terrifying place and I can't imagine any situation that would be so bad that it would make anyone want to go back once they had escaped

So, for the alternate mall section - 5/5 stars

for the 'after' section - 3/5 stars

Final rating - 4/5 stars

There are two more in the series 'The Ward' and 'The New Girl' and the nasty, visceral horror of The Mall means I will be reading those soon....I just hope I enjoy their respective endings a bit more.

Thursday 25 June 2015

Monsters by Paul Kane - a review

First things first, just for purposes of clarity, I received an electronic pre publication copy of this from the author in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Question: What is the first thing you think of when the word 'monster' is used? Is it the old black and white hammer films? Video nasties of the 80's? Or something else completely? Whatever it may be there will be something in this collection for you.

There are 18 stories here, 17 reprinted from other sources and one original to this collection, covering 1999 to the present. Some I have read before but most are new to me - and each one I enjoyed for it's own reasons.

The thing I find with anthologies (and this is just a personal view) is that sometimes the stories can run into one another, especially if the focus is just the one author. Thankfully this is not the case here. There is enough diversity to keep you hooked for "just one more" and you can't always be sure where that "just one more" will be taking you. There is humour here, in places, but the darkness is never far away. A prime example being 'Guilty Pleasures' which tells of a Guilt Demon visiting people with, as you might expect, guilty secrets, whispering in their ears. The demon itself came across, to me, as a more of a cheeky rascal type than an evil hellspawn but the ending certainly dried up the chuckles. 'Guilty Pleasures' is followed by 'Speaking in Tongues' which, again, had a vein of humour in the way the lead character interacts, unwillingly, with people but the reasoning behind it all is Body Horror at its' best (see what I mean about diversity).

There is 'old school' horror here (Nightlife, Dracula in Love), Body Horror (the aforementioned Speaking in Tongues, The Disease), and all points in-between. Plenty for everyone - and cover art by Clive Barker!

If I were to have one complaint it is that there is one story of Mr Kane's that I would have included in this collection that is not here, but that is just my opinion. I think it is safe to say Paul Kane is one of my 'go to' guys for horror shorts and this is a worthy addition to his oeuvre. If you've read his works before you will want to own this and if you are new to him this is as good a starting point as any.

5/5 stars

Enjoy ;-)

Tuesday 23 June 2015

John Dies At The End by David Wong - a review

Here's the thing with reviewing books (or anything else for that matter) - most times you are able to say "I really enjoyed it", "I disliked it" or maybe "Meh, it was okay". On finishing John Dies At The End the overlying thought I was left with was "What in the 17 holy hells have I just read!!!"

John Dies is not an easy book to review but I'll do my best. The general gist of the story is that our 'heroes' are two slacker types Dave and the titular John are in the middle of a whole world of weird. There are parallel universes, monsters made of joints of meat, a dog that dies and reappears again, horrific creatures that almost defy description and all is told in a mainly humorous style that leaves it seeming like it is Bill and Ted's Awesome B Movie . The horror is all at the top end of the gross out scale and there are a lot of poo and knob jokes that can become a bit trying after a while but if those are your 'thing' you'll probably enjoy it. Maybe I'm just not the audience age group it's aimed at.

For the story I would have given it 3 1/2 out of 5 stars but there were other issues.....

I read this on my kindle and, to be frank, found the text layout to be very poor in places. On one page alone, for instance, there was,

    1) two el der ly (three separate words) security guards

    2) En glish (two words!)

    3) Notthe (one word)

    4) house hold (two words)

You get the idea! This looks like it has not been proof read or, if it has, then whoever did it only did a half arsed job. There are similar occurrences all through the book and it really does detract from the narrative flow at times. Just because the kindle isn't seen as a 'real book' it doesn't mean there is any excuse for this poor level of presentation and for this I have to take an extra mark so .......

John Dies At The End - 2 1/2 out of 5