Tuesday, October 13, 2009

You Play, You Pay by B. L. Morgan

You Play, You Pay by B. L. Morgan
StoneGarden Publishing
ISBN: 1-60076-140-2
204 pages
(c) July 2009

I have read all of Bob's work. I have known this talented writer since 2001 (or was it 2000?) and was stoked to get a copy of his latest book: You Play, You Pay, in the post and I devoured it in to sittings (damn job lol).

I have one word for you: Fantastic.

This book is extremely readable and based on the premise of everyone's wish to find a bag filled with money. And Sheriff Hector O'Grady has done just that. He is thinking of his financial future after retiring and he knows that a cops retirement fund is not going to support him and his wife. Even now they are just getting by with two kids to feed and mortgage to pay.

Unfortunately, the money does belong to someone and that someone is a person you don't mess with and three men are sent out to find that money and get it back, regardless of the cost.

It is Hector who pays the greatest cost.

You'll fly through this book as the plot and characters carry forward from one page to the next. It is a short book and I really would have loved to see more.

Bob knows how to tell a tale and he spins the web so thick, one can't escape until the last page.


Patient Zero by Jonathan Maberry

Patient Zero by Jonathan Maberry
St Martin's Press
ISBN-13: 978-0-312-38285-8
ISBH-10: 0-312-38285-8
421 pages

This is the first Jonathan Maberry book I have read, though I've known of him a long time. I discovered him over at the Masters of Horror social site. I ordered Patient Zero for two solid reasons.

The first: It sounded like a zombie book, and I like zombies.
The second: It sounded like a zombie book, and I like zombies.

And yes, this is a zombie novel. The story is about Joe ledger, a cop who is recruited into a secret organisation called The Department of Military Science (DMS). They fight terrorists who are trying to release a new virus that turns people into zombies.

Joe is a smart-ass detective and is not interested at first, so Mr. Church has to find some leverage to get Joe to join them and lead a small team into the jaws of hell. They find that leverage in the form of Joe's close friend and shrink: Rudy.

Joe has a team of five and during their first training together, they get called out and attack a warehouse, where zombies are getting ready to feast on children, or infect them and send the blighters home. (That part is not clear.)

The book is told in first person when we read of Joe Ledger, and told in third person with all other characters. I believe Jonathan is far better at third person as I didn't really get into Joe's character, I found him clichéd and in need of an injection of life, a spark of something that was missing through out the book. I liked the terrorist, Gault, more than Joe. This character leapt from the pages.

I also found interest in this book waning as it seemed to take forever to get to the zombies. There was a LOT of explaining going on to entice Joe into the fold and it was told in a boring manner. Personally I didn't think all those details needed to be told. I know it was added to give flair and explain how the zombie virus worked, but for me, nope. I found myself skipping paragraphs and waiting to reach the end of the chapter and many chapters are really short.

When we finally got to the action, the first person POV killed the scene. Some parts were over-explained and others were not.

This book did not do it for me.


Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Z Day is Here by Rob Fox

Z Day is Here,
Journal of the Zombie Apocalypse
by Rob Fox
Publisher: Library of the Living Dead
Copyright 2009
ISBN 13: 9781448603077
209 pages

Wow. That's my initial reaction after finishing Z Day. I am not sure but I think this book started off as a blog book and was then picked up for a POD CAST and then publication. And it is well worth the read. Once you get past the formatting and typos (on purpose in some cases - it is meant to resemble a blog, not a book), you'll find yourself rooting for the MC and several of the stragglers he comes in contact with.

Our MC was in the city when the shit hit the fan. He has one goal, to reach his home and his fiancé. This book is a rush of action and interesting characters told after the fact. It is a blog, you have to keep reminding yourself of that, because the story will pull you in.

The book is a quick read (and I'm a slow reader), I finished it in three sittings. It is an account of the first 101 days of the Zombie Apocalypse and it starts with an interesting reason to how the world died. And it all started with a little boy. Read the first page, it is all explained in an excellent way -- as background to the story taking place. I loved that.

Zombies are the new vampires and this is the perfect book to set you on your travelling way through the land of the dead.

Once you finish this book, you're gonna want more and there is more. One of the characters continues the journal 280 days later. And you can find that blog HERE.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Deception Point by Dan Brown

Deception Point
A Corgi Book
ISBN: 9780552151764
583 Pages (c)2001

There's been a discovery. It's top secret and the president wants some private investigation into the thing. The president is struggling in the polls and is competition is hammering him over the errors that Nasa has made, and there are a hell of a lot of them.

It all sounds good, but the execution is poorly done. Brown feels the need to teach the reader science in a boring way, that drags on for pages and pages. Yes, his fiction is based heavily in fact but he doesn't pull this off like his other three books.

If most of the information he gives us could have been delivered in a more interesting way, like he did in Angles and Demons or Digital Fortress. If a hundred pages were cut, thing may have gone faster.

Don't get me wrong, the book is still a good read with several story lines coming together nicely. It's just unfortunate the main plot didn't work and bored me.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

One by Conrad Williams

One by Conrad Williams
Virgin Books 2009-07-29
ISBN: 978-0-7535-1810-6
363 Pages

Richard Jane is a deep sea welder. While at work the end of the world happens.

This is a hard book to explain but the basic storyline is: Richard Jane gets to shore and walks the long road back to London. He wants to see his son, he is sure his son is still alive and through out the book we get to experience his life with his son.

Along the way he meets up with a number of survivors, an Australian couple who constantly bicker and the wife goes nuts; an elderly British couple (their role in the book is short lived but required); Becky and her young ward, Aiden (who has a blood disease). There are thugs and druggies, a strange girl in white who decides to follow Richard and a few other people along the way, including zombie! Yay! But these zombies are called Skinners and I won’t say what they really are.

The book is broken into two parts: Births, Deaths and Marriages and Lazarus Taxon.

Book one is all about Richard Jane’s (herein after called Jane as in the book) trek to London and the many problems that arise. Book two (ten years) Jane is in London as part of a resistance kind of outfit. Skinners are the main problem. They are blind but all other senses are heightened. Oh, and there’s a Lion on the loose, rats are not afraid of humans and will feed on sleeping adults. There is rumour of a raft and once confirmed a huge exodus take place. It seems as if there are hundreds of hundreds of people still kicking around in London.

Conrad Williams is an awesome writer, his words flow smoothly and hours can pass without your knowledge as the pages keep turning. But, and it’s a big one. Stuff just happens in the middle of a paragraph. Other scenes are not described clearly, especially the last scene leading to the war and the explosion, because stuff just happens off the cuff, in the middle of something else. There’s no lead up, no build up and maybe that is what Conrad was going for, but to this reader it was confusing and many times I had to go back and re-read the last few pages trying to find the start point that hints at the coming event--but there is none.

Jane is a man driven to keep breathing in the hope of one day seeing his son. He won’t accept the fact the boy could be dead, he refuses to accept it. He has hallucinations and dreams of his son and he talks out loud to the non-existent child.

The end is as you would expect, but it is a chocker moment (yes a near tear jerker), because Jane is such a rounded character driven by a basic need to find his son.


Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Strain, Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan

The Strain
Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan
© 2009
401 Pages

The Strain is book one in a three book series planned. Most books about writing will tell the learner to never, never, never use “Once upon a time” to open a story. And that’s exactly how this book opens. Del Toro takes us straight in to the fantasy aspect of the story by introducing us to our first main character, who becomes the one with all the information.

Abraham Setrakian’s grandmother used to tell him of tales surrounding a giant, Jusef Sardu, who becomes a monster. Many years later, Abraham meets this monster face to face in a POW camp. Strigoi, AKA The Master, is a vampire centuries old. Abraham decides to kill the monster and it becomes his life long pursuit.

Sixty years later, he is an old man, a pawnbroker in the Spanish Bronx. One afternoon, watching TV he sees a plane land. It doesn’t move off the tarmac. The plane is dark and all electronics and coms are dead. Boarding the plane, authorities find everyone dead, save five.

The CDC are sent in to investigate. Eph Goodweather is called, but he doesn’t want to answer the phone and tries to ignore it. He is spending time with his son and in the middle of a custody battle with his Ex. There are other things going on as well, giving the character depth -- but, I never felt for Eph. The other minor characters are so well drawn with just enough to gives a hint of whom they are. I liked them better, especially the exterminator, Fet, who starts noticing a difference in Rats behaviour in the underground (unused) tunnels running under NYC; and Gus is a great character as well.

The start of the book is a little slow as the vampire virus gets free, starting with the dead passengers on the plane, who go to their homes and kill family members and neighbours, turning them all into vampires.

The five uninjured passengers are released from hospital via a lawyer (one of the passengers) and guess what they do... (see above paragraph)

Abraham meets up with Eph, who naturally doesn’t believe him and Abraham gets arrested. In jail he meets Gus and Gus’s friend who was attacked by a vampire. He tells Gus to kill his friend. His friend is turning. Gus can’t.

Eph gets Abraham out of jail as the virus has him and everyone baffled. Only Abraham seems to have any idea of what’s going on. He tells them the story of Strigoi, The Master, and takes them to his pawn shop. In a hidden basement, he shows them proof of the vampire virus. And in the course of a week, Eph goes from healer to slayer.

And yes, they do run into Strigoi.

There are a lot of sub plots going on at the same time that all tie in near the end of book one, but there are other plots that I am sure will link in to the next book: The Fall.

A great undertaking, this book has moments of greatness and moments of bored horror. Some of the first attacks are filled with way too much detail that the killings are--yes--boring. But all that changes once the virus is fully understood; the reactions of those turning are realised and how these vampires feed is awesome.

As mentioned there is a bit too much explanation going on but the last 200+ pages fly past and before you know it, the sun is rising, the book is done and it’s time to start the day.

Looking forward to The Fall.


Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Edge of the World by Kevin J. Anderson

The Edge of the World
Book One of Terra Incognita
Kevin J. Anderson
Publisher: Orbit
ISBN: 978-1-84149-663-4
574 pages

This is a big book. Roughly 140,000 words, and it is the first book in Kevin J. Anderson’s Terra Incognita series. As with Epic Fantasy’s there are a host of characters (thankfully all names are pronounceable--unlike a lot of fantasy books I have read), so many that there is an eight page glossary in the back.

With so many characters it could be easy to get lost, correct? Nope. All up there are only a few main characters: Criston Vora and Adrea Vora (his wife), Prester Hannes, Aldo (chartsman), Princess Anjine Korastine and her childhood friend, Mateo Bornan.

The story revolves around the aforementioned characters with a lot of extras that add weight to the plot and help head the book in the direction it is intended. In Edge of the World, there are two nations trying to live in peace, but an unfortunate death of an officials son and a fire that burns down a main city, sparks a war that both sides fear they cannot win.

For 13 years the two nations take pot-shots at one another, attacking small villages and ports. The two nations: Uraba and Tierra follow the same god: Ondun. The Aidenists (Terraians) are blamed for the fire in Ishalem (though it wasn’t them) and when the Aidenists return to Ishalem they are murdered by Urecari (Urabaians). There is no turning back. Each side starts preparation for the war to come, they build ships, they build armies, the Urecari kidnap children for a special project, that in the end pushes the war forward.

What’s special about this book are the characters. You will come to be addicted while reading about them and the lives they lead during the 13 year build up for war, and the changes they all go through, some are major, some are minor but they all work to form strong characters with a distinct voice.

Although I did not like the style of writing at first (the ‘show don’t tell’ ratio doesn’t match), it slowly grew on me and once several of the characters had been formed, I was flying through this book.



Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Gladiatrix by Rhonda Roberts

ISBN: 9780732288556 ISBN10: 073228855X;
On Sale: 1/05/2009
Format: Paperback
Trimsize: 181 x 113 x 37 mm
Pages: 592; $20.99

From HarperCollins: Book Description

When time travel was invented, everyone thought it would solve their problems.
But for 22-year-old Kannon, it′s about to turn her life upside down.

Left for dead in the Blue Mountains when she was just a baby, Kannon has now discovered that an American Time Marshal, Victoria Dupree, could be her real mother. But Victoria has gone missing in ancient Rome while investigating the Hierophant, the mysterious leader of the Isis cult.Kannon desperately wants to find Victoria, but the US National Time Administration is standing in her way...

Not exactly the type of book I would pick up, but in my quest to discover new writers and fresh takes on tired ideas, I read this new release.

Gladiatrix is an interesting book. Old, overused idea with a fresh take. That sums up this book in a few words. But, I liked it. Kannon is 22, when she was a kid, she was kidnapped and taken to Australia, where she nearly died but was stumbled upon by a Japanese tourist, Yuki, who in the end became her adoptive guardian and taught her to be strong via martial arts.

The book opens explosively with a confrontation that (in-between paragraphs) explains a lot of background. Very well done and a great opening scene, it shows Kannon and her martial arts skills and tells us, she can handle herself very well.

There is an assortment of characters that all seem pretty real, like someone I know. I especially liked Des, a retired copper who sees an International news item and notices a resemblance between a Time Marshal (a time machine was built in the 60's, it's common knowledge in this reality) and Kannon. A very strong resemblance. And he tells Kannon and in the end she flies from Australia to the USA, to check whether this woman is her mother.

This book has a great idea regarding time travel, one can only go into the past, not the future. When one returns from the past, the past warps back to its original form as if the Time Marshal had never been there. Extremely fantastic idea, I had never considered until now.

Having convinced the National Time Administration of who she is, Kannon is granted an opportunity to speak with Victoria Dupree (but only if the Time Marshal allows it). She is waiting in Victoria's office when a group of armed extremists attack the centre and start smashing the time machine. They capture Kannon and she is thrown into the time machine and sent back to Rome 8AD.

This is a neat Rome, very real-life like where life is cheap and people are stabbed for being in the way, the poor sectors are exactly that--poor, and Gladiator sport is booming.

Kannon has a translator machine in the form of jewellery. Very Star Trek.

The book moves at a decent pace, though I thought the descriptions were a little on the heavy side, everything was detailed, perhaps a little too much. But I was okay with that. What I was not okay with (and it ruined the book for me) was the translations with the working class. The translations would start off fine and then characters started using: Oi, Ya, 'e, shit like that. Oh, and shit, crap and fuck translated perfectly as well. I find it hard to believe that a translator would understand a slang term like fuck and translate it perfectly. I once saw a movie based in a similar time where a character called another "A Sponge" -- translating (in my head) to: "A Twat". I thought the translator should have translated: Oh for fuck's sake into: oh for sponge sake. There was a brief explanation of how it worked nurologically and I may have missed something.

Apart from that, this book is an excellent read and fun as well. Rhonda ties all the streams together very nicely, including the dog she has LOL. That was so neat, the book is well worth your time.

The book is large but I finished it in a week. The pages practically turn themselves.

Overall: 83%

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Anomalous Appetites -- John Irvine / Dave Freeman

When John asked me to review Anomalous Appetites, a SpecFic book of poetry, I had to pause and consider it. I have never reviewed poetry before. I have written it, had some published and occasionally enjoy hearing it, but this is the first time I've been asked to review it.

I accepted the challenge and the book arrived in the post four days later.

First off: It's a beautiful book, printed by Lulu. There are three introductions, first from Editor: John Irvine, then from art director: Dave Freeman and finally from Vlad Dracul (nice touch).

All the specFic poems inside the covers are good, some are exceptional and many are from people I know (on the net). I was surprised to say the least.

This book is amazing, the layout is second to none, some parts are like an Art Coffee Table book, with poems inside images, or surrounded by them. The art is just so well done, the layout is simple and easy to read, each author has there own section and each line echos SpecFic of a darker side. There are ghosts, vampires, werewolves, the ferryman, and a Goth girl with a snake tattoo.

My picks, in no particular order are:
All the work in this volume of Ken Head, especially Camera Lucida.
Cracking eggs by Maureen Irvine.
Jamaris Vu by Kurt Newton.
Disinfecting the tourist & Beadwork by Kristine Ong Muslim
Toll Call by Ken Goldman
Audition & Who's there by Guy Belleranti
Your love tears me apart & Axiomatic by Dave Freeman
Never to late to learn by Erin Mackay
Goth Girl & Shifter by Morgan Bloodaxe
The Sailor & Pale Dawning by John Irvine
Wood Shed & Harvest moon by Greg Schwartz

Those are my picks, you may like others. At 187 pages you're sure to mind several that will whet your appetite. The bios are also fun to read.


Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Cuts by Richard Laymon

Cuts by Richard Laymon
301 Pages
Leisure Fiction
This edition ©2008 March
Copyright 1999 © Richard Laymon
ISBN: 0-8439-5752-2

Richard Laymon does it again. This book rocks right from the outset. The story takes place in 1975 and is about Albert Prince a dude who likes to cut people. At the start he wants to get laid and thinks he is in with a chance until the girl asks for cash. Not having the money, he takes her home, but he’s not happy about it. Later he spots a puppy, “Here boy...” Classic situation, killers starting with animals and moving to humans, only Albert moves very quickly to humans.

This book is about Albert, how he started killing and the ride he had. It starts with a break-and-enter job to get some cash for the high school hooker (mentioned earlier), when the owners return home. So starts his run across the country, and his killing spree.

This book has several storylines. We meet Janet Arthur, a pregnant woman who has just broken up with her dork of a boyfriend after he tells her to abort the foetus. She refuses and moves in with her friend, Meg. Meg is a complex character, so I won’t bother trying to explain her, the book does a good enough job of painting her.

Then there’s Ian a college professor who writes books in his spare time. We are introduced to Helen, the Ice Queen and Royal bitch to her long suffering husband, Lester, and she’s cheating on him with a student and he wants to cheat on her and finally manages. And there is a host of secondary characters, mostly they die.

Richard expertly ties all the storylines together and logically points Albert in the direction that the plot requires. I like how he weaved them together.

I found the sections with Albert exciting and fantastic and the scenes with Lester and Ian, great reading, but I felt bored and tired with the exploits of Janet and Meg, though they are needed scenes and helped move the book along with the perfect way for Ian and Janet to meet up.

The ending is a bit of a shocker and I don’t understand Janet’s reasoning. Why she did what she did. So, the first ending was a surprise and I enjoyed it. That’s the end of part one. Part two is twenty years later and Albert is a free man. He has one place he wants to visit with his switchblade. This ending was kind of what I expected. Although Mr Laymon did cover it up very well. A couple of times I doubted my belief of events to transpire.

This is a fantastic book and along with Triage and Island and Funhouse, it ranks as one of my favourites in my Laymon collection.


Sunday, May 31, 2009

Terrorbyte by Cat Connor

Note: This review is from the unedited Manuscript version of Terrorbyte.

Having read Killerbyte and enjoying it enough to pop over to mobi-pocket and post a quick review, I was offered the opportunity to read Terrorbyte in it's final manuscript format. And it was a very interesting ride. I have never read a book in MS form (apart from my own) but I wanted to know what was going on with Ellie and Mac and Lee.

In Terrorbyte we meet a killer who uses Ellie's published book of poetry and leave lines at crime scenes. Personally addressed to her.

We see a slightly different side to Ellie in this book, there is a profound fear deep inside her; scaring her enough to ask to be withdrawn from the case. Her request is denied by Caine, he needs her on this one.

This book is more emotionally charged that the first book, Killerbyte.
Ellie's sharp wit is still intact and her inner dialogue is interesting, eye-opening and humorous at times, which is placed perfectly in the book to break the tension from the scene or to spice up needed conversation sections.

An intricate plot forms quickly (especially if you have read Killerbyte) as body bags mount up and the clues come dribbling in.

If you loved Killerbyte (and judging by the top ten ranking quite a lot of you did) then you'll love Terrorbyte as the stakes are raised and things get personal.

The book is currently with her publisher and soon to be released in the coming months. I think I will repost this review when the book comes out, just to refresh your memories.


Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Mindset by Pat Whitaker

Mindset by Pat Whitaker
ISBN: 978-1-877513-36-7
First Edition, Wellington
Pages: 287
Copyright: Pat Whitaker (c) 2008

Mindset is a story basically of us. A future us where the world is divided between those with telepathy and those who don't (AKA The Blanks). Most of the world is link by this telepathic ability, the internet is gone and so are most things, the world is almost a utopia where everyone can read the others mind. Basic communication needs are not required.

Then there's those without telepathy. They are looked on with suspicion as their minds cannot be read. They are the undesirables. And the telepathic society has decided to put them aboard a ship and send them off to Mars.

Several ships to be exact and we meet this futuristic story with those being bundled to the final ship. Everything is automated, they have nothing to worry about, they are told. And they have not been lied to. Kind of. There are things they are not told, but they shan't be mentioned here.

Mindset is a story of like-minded humans trying to survive. The story delves into social commentary but in a way that tells the story and doesn't subtract from it. There is no Soapbox action going on in here.

For the most part, the story is tight and follows a set plot driven path. There is little characterization, but for the most part it is not needed. Although I do think that when they reached Mars and met some of the remaining members of a previous crew, the story dragged on a bit as the characters made up their minds and set a course of action, which led to a very satisfying conclusion.

This book is hard SF and will be an interesting read for into this genre.

Pat Whitaker has two books in this years short-list for the 2009 SJV awards; Mindset is one of them.


Monday, May 4, 2009

The Rising by Brian Keene

The Rising
By Brian Keene
Leisure Horror Books
ISBN: 0-8439-5201-6
321 pages

I stopped at page 138. This is the first book of Keene’s that I have read. The book is basically about a father heading hundreds of miles to get his son after something turned the dead into zombies. Not sure what the something was, scientists were blaming themselves and the thread seemed to disappear.

This book from start to finish lacks emotion, power, energy. There’s no excitement that forces me to continue reading. Maybe I’m missing something. Brian is intent on telling us what is happening. The book, I believe, won the Bram Stoker Award. It must be good, a couple of my friends side it was good but the ending was a let down. I found the first 138 pages to be a let down.

I wanted to keep reading. Laymon says, “It’s top-notch”. Cemetery Dance claims: “...the arrival of a new horror novelist” and “...epic packed with violence and gore”. Ramsey Campbell: “...horror fiction can deal with fear, not just indulge it”.

And there’s several more.

What did I miss? Keene has authored 20 books. Surely The Rising is not his first. For me; the found the characters flat and one dimensional. The style was very ‘tell not show’. The prose was flat and their emotions raged a second and then were gone. No inner conflict. Most characters were little more than props. The scenes and action was not clear and hard to follow. And only one driving goal: for Jim to reach his son who is still alive in the attic of his ex-wife’s house, hundreds of miles away.


Friday, May 1, 2009

Use once the destroy

Use once the destroy
Hardcover: 240 pages
Publisher: Night Shade Books (June 29, 2004)
Language: English
ISBN: 1-892389-67-3
Hardcover Editing from WGTN central Library

A collection of literary horror short stories.

That’s the best way to describe this collection of stories from Conrad Williams. It’s a mix of old stories and new-ish (1992-2004), all previously published. Sixteen short stories and one novella in this collection.

From the descriptions on the back I thought I was in for a hell of a ride through a nightmarish landscape of the weird and extreme. I was not. I was disappointed. Conrad Williams is a great writer, he describes so much with intense and carefully placed words that form their own illusion. Sometimes this overshadows the plot and a few times I got lost and had to reread. Everything is described beautifully but unfortunately I feel it was over-described and my imagination had little to run on. Like watching a movie the imagination is on a break, so it was with this collection.

I found only two stories that gripped me: The Owl (2004) and The Suicide Pit (1999). Literary and Drama are two forms of writing that I can’t grasp, save a select few, my mind wanders when I can’t grasp the plot or clearly see the direction the story is taking, and in most of these stories my mind wandered.

Forcing oneself to concentrate on a story is not relaxing reading. This book found a wide audience of lovers, the reviews I have read before getting this book were all positive bar a few.

The collection is a good introduction to Conrad Williams and I still plan on getting his book, “One”.

This book is for those who like their horror less visual and more internal. In this collection the horror is often mentioned or suggested but not actually in-your-face. I prefer the latter version.


Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Dragging Wings by Jennifer Caress

Dragging Wings
Jennifer Caress
Publisher: Stone Garden
ISBN: 1-60076-117-8
Release date: TBA

Dragging Wings is book two in the Perverted Realities series, but it stands as a single, separate book.

This book took me by surprise as it is a collection of stories all interlocked by two characters: Sammy and Frankie, who seem to be trying to understand the world they live in and try to make connections with people they come across.

Jennifer Caress has brought together an interesting book with an interesting format. This book is a marketer’s worst night as it contains the genres: science fiction, horror, and dark fantasy. But together, as a whole, this book is simply: good.

The book kicks off with a great story (the best in my opinion) Take me with you, Thomas Manner. This story flows so smoothly it’s over before you know it. I cleaned this story in one sitting. The second story I struggled with, really not my cup of tea. Dandi is struggling with a her past and ends up battling her demons -- actually battling them to get back what she had lost. The third story is Noble the energy sucking vampire...and there are more amazing characters in this book. I’ll leave the rest for you to discover, but look out for Iliad, I liked this one as well.

There is a strange feel to this book as it touches several genres without choosing one and sticking with it.

Dragging Wing encompasses SpecFic full on and takes the reader on a ride into realistic characters and the lives they live.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Bloodline by Michael Green

Bloodline by Michael Green
Copyright 2008
An earlier edition first published 2006 as The Crucial Gene
An Arrow Book
Random house NZ
ISBN: 978 1 86941 980 6

First off, Michael Green can tell a story. The tag line of the book is: What if your family was the last left alive? And this story is about the Chatfields and their family is the last left alive after a ‘super-SARS’ virus ravages the planet. It kills quickly and with the advent of worldwide travel, it has no borders.

The book kicks off right in the middle of the action. Mark Chatfield and his wife are aboard a plane after visiting relatives in England, when the wife gets sick. Other people on the plane are sick as well and as the plane comes to land in Singapore, the passengers are not allowed off. The plane is refuelled and sent to New Zealand.

Mark’s wife gets sicker and sicker. By the time they land, many passengers are ill and on the ground the army is in full swing. No one is allowed to leave and as Mark is the only person not sick, he is constantly tested; blood, temperature, etc.

Everyone around is dying. Mark makes a daring escape and reaches his daughter’s house in Auckland. Jane is alive and well. His son Steven is also there and the two kids. All partners are dead.

They escape the army and road gangs as they looked for somewhere else to live and decided on Gulf Harbour.

And that’s just part one. It’s hard out, full-on, and uses a lot of flashbacks. I’m not a fan of flashbacks but to get a grip on the storyline, they are needed. There are four parts to this book. Part two is a search for a relative living in Wellington. Part three is heading to England on the premise that if they survived the English branch of the family may have survived as well. But the community they find on the other side of the world is a very different one, based on the rule of fear. Not only does it look impossible to take anyone back to New Zealand, but it may also be impossible for them to escape themselves.

It is from part three that the book gathers amazing speed and really kicks into gear. I won’t describe that happen from here, suffice to say: It’s one hell of an idea and executed well.

As I have mentioned, Michael Green can tell one hell of a story and it seems almost plausible as pieces of the jigsaw come together. But I must say I wasn’t impressed with ‘tell’ style employed to ‘tell’ this story. This happened and then this happened and so forth. Quote: He fell back in fear. Would something a little more intimate be better? For example: The knowledge burned into his soul forcing him back a pace as wide eyed, he stared at... In all the writing books and all the courses writers are told not to do this. Show don’t Tell is yelled at every new author the moment they hit the block. Was Michael told? Also there was a few terrible to read pages at the start of part four. These were told in omnipresent view and destroyed the mood of the story. It didn’t last long and I think it was the only way to let the readers know the story had passed through winter.

Once I had become accustomed the Michael’s style, I found the book fast paced, and enthralling and was a little disappointed in the ending. It came too soon!

Bloodline is a book that you are either going to love or hate. I don’t think there is a middle ground. I also think this book will appeal more to men.

Michael Green is noted for his humourous book: Big Aggie sails the Gulf and for a non-fiction book: Successful Speechmaking.


Monday, April 13, 2009

The Kill Crew by Joseph D'Lacey

The Kill Crew
Joseph D’Lacey
Publisher: Stone Garden
Format: Novella 80 pages
Release date is August 10th from www.stonegarden.net
ISBN: 1-60076-141-0

This is Joseph’s first US release and it is a kicker. Usually I am not fond of first person, and present tense makes me feel like an observer, but Joseph has executed this piece of writing artistically and with grace. It didn’t read like most first person accounts and being character driven the story moved at a quick pace.

The kill crew are a group of survivors who search the city at night killing Commuters, a term given to those who didn’t survive but are still alive in a way. They are not zombies, they don’t eat flesh, and they weep as they reach for you.

Sherri is a member of the crew and she loves it, going out almost every night. And the one who narrates this story.

No one knows what happened to the world, there are theories but no one has any concrete evidence or knowledge, most just speculate. The number of survivors has dwindled to roughly two hundred and those numbers are going down but not in a way you’d expect, Joseph touches on subjects I haven’t read in most other books of this nature.

Sherri has a boyfriend, Ike, she doesn’t really like him. He was the in-between guy, the guy she was with until someone else came along. Only no one is coming anymore. Never. Sherri also has a young charge Trixie who is damaged and Sherri is trying to help fix.

In this new world, nothing works: computers, electricity, cars, watches, anything with a battery died. Then, one day out in the city (daylight is safe) looking for games for Trixie, Ike sees a Hi-Ace and for the hell of it, he climbs in...and it starts up.

This evolution of the story comes across so smoothly it seems almost natural. Joseph is an excellent story creator. I wanted to say ‘story teller’ but nothing is told in this book, everything is created around the characters, thoughts, emotions and needs.

Joseph’s style will sit well with everyone and the 80 pages will just fly by.


Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Blood on Celluloid by B. L. Morgan

ISBN: 9781600760693
ISBN-10: 1600760694
Number Of Pages: 196
Publisher: 10320775
Format: Paperback
Language: English
Dimensions (cm): 8.0 x 5.0 x 0.45

I am a fan of the John Dark books. John is a hard-ass PI. He lives and investigates rough on the mean streets of East St. Louis. In the first book, 'Blood and Rain', John took on the supernatural and kicked ass. In the second book. 'Blood for the Masses' he kicks Roman ass (in ancient Rome). In this book, John takes on the child sex trade.

When we open the book and find John in a morgue to identify a body. That of his lover Sherry St. Claire. The woman who saved him--from himself.

Sherry was tortured and killed.

Guess who has revenge on his mind. Yep, John Dark. In the course of his investigation blood is spilt and people are shot. This makes John happy and his best friend Johnny ecstatic.

A video tape is found at a paedophiles residence. It is a video of Sherry's last moments. And it fires John up; leading his investigation into the murky waters of child sex slavery.

Dark heads to Thailand to a fictional town, where 'The flesh Pit' is. It is a place where rich foreigners get to...well, let's not go there. We know what goes on.

This is the shortest John Dark book to date and it seems to touch on a very personal level with the author. This book from a reader's point of view (well mine) is disjointed and jumpy. The story is plot driven with a lot less characterization than usual. In places it is jerky and not like the other John Dark books that seem to flow from sentence to paragraph. I didn't feel the usual connection that I have with the other books. Something was missing, but I can't put my finger on it.

So much more could have gone into this book. The author chose a subject that is not mentioned recently and I give him major kudos for bring this back to the foreground. Reminding us that this shit goes on still, today. The media does not mention this and for that we forget. I thank Bob for bringing this issue back to our attention. It took balls. It is a very touchy subject to write about and one must be very careful of how such work is presented.

I did not fully enjoy this book. Perhaps the subject matter was a little too much for this reviewer.

However, in saying that -- The last half of the book is explosive and in your face. It shows what action and power this author has at his disposal. And I recommend you check out the John Dark books and the other books, this awesome author is having published later this year.


Saturday, February 14, 2009

My Bloody Valentine 3D

WOW! Fucking WOW! This movie (a remake of a decent slasher film) starts off hard and fast and it doesn't let up. You know most movies start off hard and fast and then slows down as the characters are developed so you feel for them and want to root for them. My Bloody Valentine is not like that at all. The characters are developed as the movie progresses. However in saying that, 'Tom's' character needed a bit more development, apart from that everything else flowed smoothly.

It was a basic script, basic story line, nothing too complex here but there are enough twists and enough gore spread out in perfect placement (time) that gel together to create an enjoyable movie....in 3D.

The 3D in this film was so well done. It looked really good through out the movie. I think the lack of CGI helped make the 3D more real. Twice I dodged a flying pickaxe. I recall seeing Journey to the centre of the Earth 3D. The effects were good and clean but there was so much CGI that it still looked neat, but ultimately fake.

Seeing this movie in standard format, just won't have the same impact. Please enjoy it in 3D, it's given horror the kick in the pants it needs.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Berserk by Tim Lebbon

This is the first Tim Lebbon book I have read and I liked it. The storytelling flow is smooth and easy to follow. I found I had read 50+ pages in one sitting and the story was still building up.

The book is about a 50ish year old guy whose son died 10 years ago in an army accident. He's never really believed it, thinking there was some kid of cover-up.

He was right.

One night at the local pub he overhears to men talking about Porton Down. That's where Steven was stationed. "They kept monsters." one of the men says in hushed tones. And before he knows it, Tom is on a journey of discovery and change; and digging up a mass grave, digging deeper and deeper looking for the body of his son.

A mummified corpse of a little girl touches his leg...
An ex army office who knows what happened in Porton Down is on Tom's trail and he has one idea in mind -- kill Tom and keep the girl buried.

I felt the ending was dragged out and quite long winded. I mean, the lead up to the ending. In saying that, it wasn't boring reading and the extent of Cole's sickness is well detailed and his reasons would seem logical to man such as him. Cole is the ex-army guy who buried Natasha alive, just so she could suffer.

Also Tom's reason for picking up a mummified girl seems a little too easy.

This book scores a 3 out of 5 for me. Frankly I was expecting more and this books idea had so much scope for more.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Triage by Laymon, Lee and Ketchum

Triage by Richard Laymon, Edward Lee and Jack Ketchum Publisher: Leisure Books
January 2008
ISBN-10: 1587670429
ISBN-13: 978-1587670428

Copyright © 2001 by Matt Johnson
Triage © 2001 by Richard Laymon
In the Year of Our Lord 2202 © 2001 by Edward Lee
Sheep Meadow Story © 2001 by Dallas Mayr
Review © 2008 by Lee Pletzers

This book is 3 novellas based on one idea. The idea: a mystery person comes into a place, hell bent on killing someone who has no idea why they’re being targeted or who the killer is.

Richard Laymon’s story: Triage starts us off and it is a rip-roar of a story. It starts off with a bang and never lets go. It is a super fast read and has some surprises in it. This is Laymon going hell for leather and ripping your eyeballs out. It is 90+ pages and I finished it in one sitting.

Laymon’s story keeps the premise of the killer chasing Sharon, an office worker. She gets a phone call. The caller says: “I’m going to get you.” “I’m going to get you now, Sharon.” He hangs up the phone. Next second a man walks in carrying a pump action shotgun, he asks for Sharon. The receptionist points her out. He says, “Thank you.” And he blows her brains out. All this on page 3.

I would love to tell you about this fantastic story but letting even a little bit out will dull the read. I can say that you will be smiling at the end of it. This story is a kicker as well worth the price of the book alone. The twist is a kicker as well, although a little blunt. Other reviewers claim this is Laymon’s weakest story to date. They are wrong.

I wish I could say the same for Edward Lee’s story: In the year of our Lord 2202. It starts off the same, a girl getting a call from someone wanting to kill her and that person enters the area a moment later. Apart from that, the rest of the novella is an SF story in the vein of a mystery.

This Sharon is a nun, or somehow in the nunnery and she is a virgin. A big point is made about this. Lee also goes on and on and on filling pages with unneeded padding. I still have no idea why the guy in the beginning tried to kill Sharon. The rest of the story is quite neat if you like mysteries.

The story is about a spaceship on a secret mission. Apparently no one knows about this mission thinking it is just a standard run. (The future Lee painted is awesome. Damn awesome. Buy the book just for this vision of the future.) The guy who tried to kill Sharon is killed and soon revealed to be from a secret sect called ‘Red Sect’; a group that tortures and kills without reason. Sharon becomes fascinated with learning more about this group and their god, and she tries to learn all she can, but the information is blocked or deleted. The only source of info she has is in the soldier who killed the guy.

But why would a ‘Red Sect’ member be on board? Because it is not the usual run-of-the-mill trip. This is revealed when the ship stops and all but a few keys personnel are ordered off.

What’s the secret mission? Why, Man has finally found the location of Heaven. And it’s time they paid a visit.

Saying more would almost destroy the wonderful ending.

The third novella in this is book is: Sheep meadow story by Jack Ketchum (writing as Jerzy Livingston). It starts off the same, only the main character’s name is Carla, not Sharon. And I may be wrong, but I think Jack just added this scene to conform to the book’s main theme, ‘cause the story goes way out of whack with the rest of the book.

Jack though, is a pretty good writer and I polished off his story in a couple of hours. It is only 43 pages long.

This story is about a guy who works for an agency as a reader and he gets 10% of the price writers pay to have their work evaluated. He is not happy. Lost his wife, lives off booze and cigarettes, has no direction in life, early fifties and dreams of being a writer. (Loved the Maxwell Perkins mention. Nice one.)

Stroup is going through the motions of life. He has a favourite bar, a couple of girlfriends (one who dumps him for another guy), a friend he doesn’t like who tells constant jokes and a bar tender he’d like to shag but that ain’t ever going to happen. Then his ex calls and demands he pay her the money he owes. He tells her to fuck off and she sends him a summons to appear in court. On top of that he loses his job. He’s not fired – he’s ‘Downsized’.

Still, it’s not all bad. He does have a .38 revolver with a full chamber…and he knows where his ex-wife is enjoying the sunny day…

All in all, this tiny anthology of 310 pages is a fast read. I feel only Laymon stayed true to the theme and in doing so, he created one of his best stories I’ve read since Island. I wish Edward Lee’s story was horror more than mystery as he is pretty good with the blood and guts genre. And Jack Ketchum…I’ve said all I can say. I like his writing in this story, and it’s the first bit of his writing that I’ve read.

Three different novellas, all based on one premise.

Sounds like a themed book to me, but it isn’t and that is mentioned on the back cover and in the introduction by Matt Johnson. For some reason I thought they were all themed, but apart from a killer and a girl, they have little to no resemblance to each other. Still, this is a good book to pass four afternoons enjoying.