Archive for March, 2012

Babylon Steel Kicks Arse

March 20, 2012 - 10:35 pm No Comments

Babylon Steel
Author: Gaie Sebold
Publisher: Solaris Books
Page count: 431pp
Release date: 5th Jan 2012
Reviewer: Theresa Derwin
Babylon Steel has a secret past; one which she hides from her crew at the Red Lantern brothel in Scalentine. Her crew includes twins Cruel and Unusual, who enjoy giving and receiving pain to/from their clients and Flower, a giant ogre-like creature who works in the kitchens and is the best cook in Scalentine.

Whilst the local religious contingent ‘The Vessels’ are hanging around the Red Lantern chasing Babylon’s clients away, Babylon is called to a meeting by the devastatingly handsome Darask Fain. Fain is willing to pay Babylon a rather nice sum of money to find a missing girl. Unfortunately, Babylon has a soft spot for girls in danger, probably because of her hidden past that is slowly revealed throughout the novel.

Scalentine and the world Sebold creates is what make this novel so entertaining. A myriad of creatures and races populate Scalentine; furred creatures, scaled creatures, blue creatures and fey. Sebold has created a believable local dialect for her inhabitants, which adds a sense of realism to an otherwise fantastical novel. The characters are vibrant and realistic, the streets of Scalentine likewise and the overall atmosphere of this novel is one of adventure and fun. The novel ended far too soon and I definitely want to spend more time in the company of Babylon and her ‘crew’. Great stuff!

Review: Grave Minder

March 14, 2012 - 8:59 pm No Comments

Grave Minder
Author: Melissa Marr
Publisher: Harper
Page count: 324pp
Release date: 7th Jul 2011
Reviewer: Theresa Derwin

This is Melissa Marr’s first adult novel following a string of teen genre stuff. With a seal of approval from Charlaine Harris of True Blood fame, you know what you’re getting here.

When Rebekkah Barrow receives a call telling her that her Gran Maylene has been murdered, she returns to the small town of Claysville; a town that has always drawn her for inexplicable reasons. Unfortunately for her, she is also drawn to Byron, the local Undertaker with whom she has had on/off dalliances in the past. Things are complicated with Byron as he was originally the beau of Ella, her sister, who committed suicide some years ago. So going home following Maylene’s death brings with it a whole host of problems, particularly as it turns out that for centuries the Barrow women have been ‘Grave Minders’ and Rebekkah has now inherited the job.

A pact was made in the 16th century between the town council at Claysville and a certain figure known as Death. Without the help of the Grave Minder working with the local Undertaker, the dead have a habit of rising in the town, and from now only, only Rebekkah can stop them. The job comes with its perks of course. Apart from never having to pay bills, Rebekkah can take trips to the land of the dead for a little sight seeing, and the world which Marr has created is definitely worth exploring. The local bar in the land of the dead is particularly entertaining.

There are no real surprises her if I am honest, and while the novel itself is enjoyable, it is rather a breezy affair with the culprit of the piece being very obvious. However, the characters are believable, there is a fair amount of humour and all together it is a nice adult debut. I think Marr has more to offer and I would like her to examine her land of the dead in more detail. All in all, this novel is a decent enough diversion.

Hammer Horror Homage

March 11, 2012 - 7:08 pm 2 Comments

Hell Train
Author: Christopher Fowler
Publisher: Solaris Books
Page count: 270pp
Release date: 5th Jan 2012
Reviewer: Theresa Derwin

“When the Devil was summoned to Earth, he built a train to take the damned to Hell”.

Deliciously devilish and thoroughly nostalgic, Hell Train is an old style Hammer Horror homage set initially in the Fall of 1966 as American screenplay writer Shane Carter is drafted in to writing a script for the failing Hammer studios. In typical portmanteau style, the 1966 scenes at Bray studios featuring appearances by Hammer regular creators and Cushing & Lee, cleverly frame the actual story which is Carter’s script.

The predominant story then is set in Eastern Europe, Carpathia, in 1916 during the height of WWI. Four passengers find themselves inadvertently trapped by fate on a train tearing through Eastern Europe to an unknown destination. To survive the journey with their souls intact they must face a trial against their own inner demons. Only the mysterious Conductor really knows where the train is travelling to.

Firstly, the intermittent scenes with Shane and other Hammer employees include interesting dialogues on the subtext of the ‘film’ within the novel including discussion about the portrayal of the different classes. And all of the Hammer tropes are here; the priest, the virgin, the arrogant aristocrat, the peasants who are revolting (maybe they should’ve had a bath heh heh) and the spooky European tavern. There is also a fare share of visceral gore for those who like a bit of blood, as well of the occasional dose of humour to lighten the mood.

I found myself grinning with childish delight the whole way through this novel, which really needs to be filmed. Are you listening Mr Fowler? In fact, after I finished it I was compelled to access my DVD collection and watch Dracula Prince of Darkness.

Quite simply, this is the best Hammer film that was never made! Get on board this gravy train.

Steampunk Double Bill

March 7, 2012 - 11:46 pm No Comments

If you like your Steampunk, check out these two fun titles recently released.

Author: Lavie Tidhar
Publisher: Angry Robot
Page count: 416pp
Release date: 2nd Feb 2012
Reviewer: Theresa Derwin

The third instalment of The Bookman Histories, The Great Game is perhaps the wildest of the trilogy. In a vivid Steampunk environment, the novel continues the series as The Bookman attempts to insidiously overthrow the royalty of the British Empire, who in this series happen to be lizards, possibly from another planet. A number of spies work against him to thwart his plans; and what a collection of characters they are!

From Prime Minister, to petty thieves, to government employees and the hierarchy of ‘Victorian’ society, the characters are a ‘who is who’ from 19th century fiction and historical fact. We have Bram Stoker, Lucy Westenra, Harry Houdini and Mycroft Holmes. And that’s just for starters.

Smith, an expert operative is cajoled out of retirement from ‘The Village’ in order to investigate the deaths of two former operatives; his ex beloved Alice & the infamous Mycroft Holmes. At the same time a strange observer wonders the globe ‘collecting’ samples from various characters. Smith is hunted throughout the novel as he jumps from ‘car’ chase to airship chase and Lucy Westenra, sent on a similar mission also finds herself ducking for her life. And whilst we’re at it, what are those giant tripods trampling throughout Paris on the Champ de Mars?

Tidhar’s world is energetic and a tad confusing as he switches from points of view and narrative styles, but nevertheless it is a thoroughly fun book and a lively adventure. It is a literary visual feast, if that isn’t an oxymoron, and is worth investing your time and money in to join the adventure.

Come and play The Great Game with Lavie Tidhar.

For your next dose of Steampunk you could no worse than Timeless, the 5th Parasol Protectorate novel.

Author: Gail Carriger
Publisher: Orbit
Page count: 328pp
Release date: 1st March 2012
Reviewer: Theresa Derwin

Following on between one and two years after the fourth instalment in the Parasol Protectorate, Timeless sees toddler Prudence, daughter of Connall and Alexia Maccon dashing about and causing all manner of mayhem through her preternatural state. After the agreement come to at the conclusion of the previous novel, the Maccons reside in Lord Akledama’s third closet using a bridge between their own home and his to sneak in, so as to keep up appearances and appease the vampire community. For Connal is a werewolf, his wife is a metanatural who ‘sucks’ the powers from supernaturals and Akledama is a foppish vampire running a house full of ‘drones’.

This happy household receives a visit from Sidheag Maccon, Alpha werewolf who is missing her werewolf Beta, last seen in Egypt, and is asking for Lord Maccon’s help. At the same time, Vampire Queen Matakara has requested that the Maccons deliver young Prudence, the abomination, to Egypt, so the vampire queen can meet her.

As with all of this series, it isn’t the plot that matters. These novels are more comedy of manners, meets paranormal romance without the sex, with a dash of Steampunk, than anything, which make them jolly good fun, even laugh out loud at times. And with the antics the bluestocking Lady Maccon gets up to this time, there is plenty to keep the reader amused.

Definitely worth a look.

Review – A ‘Great’ Empire State

March 6, 2012 - 2:54 pm 1 Comment

Empire State
Author: Adam Christopher
Publisher: Angry Robot
Page count: 416pp
Release date: 5th Jan 2012
Reviewer: Theresa Derwin

Set amidst a Depression era New York and its alternate reality Empire State, the novel of the same name boasts bootleggers, criminals, femme fatales and robots. Yes, robots. This energetic foray into SF is Christopher’s debut novel, and if this is any indication of the way his mind works, I think future readers are in for a fun time.

Thoroughly noir in tone, the novel is split between the ‘real’ NY and its doppleganger of Empire State. In NY, Rex is a low down criminal who plans to make money by bringing in the ‘Sky Pirate’, a super heroine/super villain. Whilst in Empire State, Rad a hard boiled private detective type is busy looking for a disappeared woman Sam Saturn who is the lover of the mysterious Katherine Kopek. You also have the enigmatic ‘Pastor of Lost Souls’ who runs the local religious cult. On top of that, we have a war no side can win and the return of an ironclad populated by murderous robots.

To say this book is enigmatic is one hell of an understatement. A little erratic and confusing at times as the reader switches between worlds, this hardly matters. It is a fun fuelled journey into an alternate reality I’d like to see more of.

Hard to define but definitely genre, this alternate reality piece is well worth checking out. Do so now unless you want the hoodlums of Empire State to descend on you!