Archive for August, 2012

The Last Reef

August 31, 2012 - 5:24 pm No Comments

The Last Reef
Author: Gareth L Powell
Publisher: Anarchy Books
Page count/Size: 355KB/182 pp
Release date: 1st April 2012
Reviewer: Ken Norman

I have a confession to make: I think I may have turned into something of a luddite. Despite (or possibly because of) working in I.T., I’ve spent the last decade eschewing the latest phones and whatnot for a more old-fashioned experience. As a result, this is the first time I have read a book in any format other than physical paper. I was expecting it to be a somehow disjointed experience, devoid of the comfort and tactile feedback that a weighty tome produces. The shameful act of reading the book on a tablet was forced upon me and filled me full of foreboding… but in the end I kind of enjoyed it.

The Last Reef is a collection of stories, most of which are centred around a theme of technology nightmares. When and how a computer might be capable of going sentient (and what it would do if it did) is a premise of some of the stories here, but not in the way you might think. These tales are more involved with what happens to the unfortunate humans that get in the midst of the technological dystopia. This allows the author to explore the consequences of bad tech without getting too bogged down in the mechanics of how this might happen and without getting involved in explaining the science in too much detail. There are a few stand-out stories in here, ones that really made me forget the physical format of the book and live in the narrative. Some of the stories didn’t quite seem to inhabit the same universe as the rest of the book and felt like extras; they aren’t bad in any way, but I really wanted the entire collection to be linked together.

This book is worth reading for the one page horror story “The Long Walk Aft” alone and for the fun in stitching the threads of the related stories together as the collection becomes something whole. The prospect of a computer near me becoming self-aware and disappearing up its own parallel port is something I’m waiting for with baited breath. Any minute now…

Supernatural Activity

August 27, 2012 - 11:25 am No Comments

Supernatural Activity
Studio: Signature Entertainment
Running time: 90 min
Release date: 13th Aug 2012
Reviewer: Theresa Derwin

This spoof by the makers of Scary Movie, introduces us to Damon Dealer, a paranormal investigator who works on the number one ‘hit’ show Supernatural Activity. With his crew of misfits, he embarks on a mission to the small town of Hicksville to disprove the existence of the Smallsquatch.
Filmed in a ‘mockumentary’ style, a documentary director follows Damon and his crew around intent on exposing the show as a hoax, but strange things are afoot in Hicksville.

Damon Dealer is suitably cheesy in a Ben Stiller way, as one would expect, and though some of the jokes fall flat and the séance scene runs on far too long, there are laughs to be had in this film. There are Patrick Swayze jokes, Blair Witch jokes, digs at The Exorcism of Emily Rose among other films and every supernatural stereotype is poked fun at.

Although it’s not the best of the spoofs, it is funnier than Scary Movie and I did find myself laughing out loud at some of the one liners. There is a certain guilty pleasure here and I have to admit that I enjoyed this film. The actor playing Damon Dealer was particularly good. Not a five star film but definitely worth a look, especially if you know your horror genre and can get the in jokes. Silliness, extreme silliness, and fun!

Bad Blood

August 27, 2012 - 11:03 am No Comments

Bad Blood: A Double Dead Novella
Author: Chuck Wendig
Publisher: Abaddon Books
Page count/Size: 107pp
Release date: 3rd May 2012
Reviewer: Theresa Derwin

This novella is a sequel to the novel Double Dead released from Abaddon last year featuring vampire Coburn who wakes up after a five year ‘nap’ very hungry, to find the apocalypse has happened and zombies roam the earth. At the end of Double Dead, Coburn discovered that his blood brought about the birth of zombies, and carrying around the blood of miracle child Kayla, who sacrificed herself to save Coburn, he may have the cure for the virus in his blood. With Gil, Kayla’s father and a small terrier called Creampuff, Coburn sets out on a trip through America to find a lab where he hopes they can manufacture a cure. After all, a vampire needs a steady supply of food.

As part of the powers Coburn inherited when ingesting Kayla’s blood, he can walk out in the sun and hear Kayla’s voice in his head. Their trail now takes them to San Francisco and Coburn is kidnapped by a female vampire doctor intent on using his blood for nefarious purposes. Only Gil and a tribe of human orphan children can save him.

Blending darkness, blood, gore and Wendig’s typically wry sense of humour, Bad Blood is a marvellous gap filler to keep you going until Wendig’s next book comes out, which shouldn’t be too long as he is a prolific writer. This is a great outing for Coburn and Gil and at times I found myself laughing out loud. Wendig does black comedy like no other writer and this novella entertains the reader thoroughly. Brilliant stuff. I want more Wendig!

Rocket Science

August 25, 2012 - 6:20 pm No Comments

Meet Ken Norman . . . Ken read every single S.F. book in Rotherham library during the period 1987-1989. Running out of books to read was so traumatic that he had to read some fantasy. Fortunately, he realised that other books could be good too and his horizons were expanded. Now he can read almost any kind of book, but still falls back to S.F. from time to time. Ken holds down a job, has hobbies and even managed to reproduce in his spare time.

Reviewing an anthology seems a tricky task; there are many stories and I’m hardly going to give you a short synopsis of each one in turn. However, there is a convenient theme throughout this collection of tales that gives you a clue about what you, the reader, are in for. If all you ever dreamed of revolves around getting into orbit and visiting one of our neighbouring planets, specifically Mars, this is the anthology for you.

The introduction promises stories about space travel without the kind of guff you’d get in your average “sci-fi” movie. This type of hard science based fiction typically draws from current real science, of which there’s plenty here, but there’s also some more historical stuff. Several of the stories are concerned with the business, both practical and political, of getting people off this rock and onto another one. We are exploring the possibilities of the Number 45 bus to Mars here. Despite the lead story being a little whimsical, the promised space-faring tales come thick and fast. There are also several interludes scattered through the book: these more technical accounts are almost a historical backbone that put flesh on some of the fictional constructions. It’s been a while since I read an anthology using this device and it really works quite well here, despite one of them needing at least a diagram or two. There is an engaging mix of alternate history, near future and techno space opera, and almost all of it tries to explain itself in a technical fashion. There’s even a bit of fortune telling: one plucky author tells us of “the billion dollar crater made by the SkyCrane”. Unfortunately for this author, that crater didn’t happen, so I think another alt-universe may have just sprung into existance.

The stories tend to come up on the short side; there’s no novella length prose to get your teeth into here. As a holiday read, or just to dip in and out of on the bus, each tale has the advantage of brevity, so at least you are less likely to miss your stop.

Body Horror

August 20, 2012 - 7:30 pm No Comments

Mammoth Book of Body Horror
Editors: Paul Kane & Marie O’Regan
Publisher: Robinson
Page count/Size: 512pp
Release date: 1st March 2012
Reviewer: Theresa Derwin

Body Horror – not dead bodies, your body. And something is going very wrong inside it. So Stuart Gordon, director of Re-Animator, explains in his introduction to this mammoth anthology.
Paul Kane and Marie O’Regan who have edited this anthology together, have more than earned their editorial stripes over the years. In this anthology of body horror, they bring together some if the biggest names in horror writing along with new names to scare and thrill the reader. The collection contains classics such as ‘The Tell Tale Heart’, ‘The Fly’ and ‘Who Goes There?’, the novella, which was the basis for a number of films including John Carpenter’s 1982 ‘The Thing’.

From a deformed dwarf in ‘Transformation’ by Mary Shelley, to ‘Herbert West – Re-animator’ by H P Lovecraft, stories by Richard Matheson, Stephen King and Robert Bloch, this collection boasts the best. The editors have done a great job with their selection.

These stories are gross, creepy and funny. The stand out story for me is ‘Body Politic’ by Clive Barker. I remember reading this from Books of Blood as a teenager and being awed by Barker’s originality. I am still awed today. Other stories which stand out are ‘Fruiting Bodies’ by Brian Lumley, ‘Dog Day’ by Graham Masterton and ‘Polyp’ by Barbie Wilde, who incidentally played the female coenobite in Hellraiser II.

What impresses me most about this anthology, is the fact I liked or loved eighty percent of the stories, which is a rarity these days.
A great collection well worth investing in.