Archive for January, 2013

NewCon Press Sampler

January 18, 2013 - 2:19 pm 1 Comment

NewCon Press Sampler
Author: Various
Publisher: NewCon Press
Page count/size: 292KB
Release Date: 6th Jan 2013
Reviewer: Theresa Derwin
What can you buy for 77p these days? Not a bottle of coke, not a tub of butter and certainly not a loaf of bread. So, what can you buy?

This excellent collection of short stories A deliberately low-priced anthology providing a taster of what NewCon Press is all about.

Showcasing publications from 2012 and 2013, seven stories from seven premier genre authors: Nina Allan, Tony Ballantyne, Chris Beckett, Gary McMahon, Mercurio D. Rivera, Lisa Tuttle, and Adrian Tchaikovsky. Science fiction, fantasy, and horror at their best.

There are a couple of stand out stories in this piece; Mercurio D. Rivera’S story about a bird-like alien race, a protected species abused by humanity, with a key environmental message. The less I reveal about this story, the better.
Then we have Lisa Tuttle’s ‘The Ragged Claw’ and interesting piece about a so called Utopia and the challenging ten year journey to reach paradise and what the consequences of signing up could be. In Tony Ballantyne’s ‘Janet Verdigris’, we meet his Penrose citizens. This is a new and original slant on the robot sub-genre. Thinking ahead of business relations, Ravel & Benton come to an agreement that they will both produce a child (Goethe & Janet) woven in such a way as to be determined to marry each other. But was ‘love’ inserted into the contract?

In Nina Allans story, ‘The Phoney War’, we meet Nicky, who is waiting endlessly for a train to take her to Dungeness amidst the turbulent world where any day the Earth excepts alien invasion. But is the world worth living in with all of its constrictions? And is the threat real?

I won’t say any more about these stories (I hate spoilers), but needless to say, this is a top notch anthology with some of the most respected authors in the genre. A must buy.

What Gets Left Behind

January 18, 2013 - 1:55 pm 1 Comment

What Gets Left Behind
Author: Mark West
Publisher: Spectral Press
Page count/size: 26pp
Release Date: Sept 2012
Reviewer: Theresa Derwin

One of the chabook specials, open for subscription from Spectral Press, What Get’s Left Behind is a short, dark take of what happens to family man Mike Bergen, when he attempts to bury the ghosts of his past on a return trip to his home town Gaffney.
The story starts with Mike in the local cemetery, worried that Mrs Oram will spot him, because she blames him for the death of her son, aged 12, in 1981. Interweaved through the present, Mike remembers the past, as he visits the warehouse where young Geoff died, reliving the memories of the teenage girls who went missing that year at the hand of the Rainy Day Abductor. It is young Mike & Geoff who discovered the hiding place of the victims, deep in the warehouse, where Geoff died.
Despite being thoroughly dark, poignant and tinged with a sense of loneliness, the story is also nostalgic, reminding the reader of the more adventurous days of childhood.
Tragic and moving, yet at the same time creepy and atmospheric, this chapbook is a true joy for horror readers and readers of intriguing fiction, particularly as the ending has a great little twist.
Mark West has a future in genre fiction that cannot be ignored. Watch out for more from West, and Spectral Press’ superb quality chapbook series.

Zom-B & Zom-B Underground

January 11, 2013 - 11:42 pm No Comments

Zom-B & Zom-B Underground
Author: Darren Shan
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Page count/size: 217/212pp
Release Date: 27th Sept 2012 & 3 Jan 2013
Reviewer: Theresa Derwin

Darren Shan, successful children’s horror author, has launched this new zombie 12 part series for kids (and discerning adults). The first novel, Zom-B, starts in the Irish village of Palliskenry as young 11 year old Brian Barry searches amidst the zombie attacks for a responsible adult to save him, instead coming across a horrific creature whose version of salvation is to kill the boy. That is ‘Then’.
‘Now’ finds teenager B watching the outbreak disbelievingly on the TV news, scorning the news with Mom & Dad. And Dad is a class act by the way; regularly beating up Mom & B and supporting racist and bigoted political groups. Because of B’s Dad’s racism, B has a ‘secret friend’, Vinyl, a black boy named as such because his Dad works in a retro record store.
A good portion of the book is spent building up the tension as B tries to avoid falling into the same racist trap as Dad, whilst still ending up bullying kids. B is a confused character, loving and hating Dad at the same time, ashamed of Dad’s racism, whilst also longing for acceptance. This brings a whole new and interesting dimension to the novel, which surpasses the level of a good zombie romp, whilst still retaining this vibe.
There are some great visual horror touches to the book, particularly in B’s dream sequences, which are really quite creepy and in Zom-B Underground, the teenager’s first encounter with the strange Mr Dowling.
Visually, both books are strong as well, boasting fine interior artwork to illustrate key passages.
B Smith is, as mentioned earlier, a complex character, reminiscent of the likes if Danny McCoyne from David Moody’s Hater series; flawed, yet likeable.
There is so much more to this book than I expected there to be. With a couple if neat twists, some age appropriate visceral horror and laugh out loud humour, Shan again proves he is a top notch children’s writer.

This brings me on neatly to Zom-B Underground, the second book in the series released Jan 2013. This book starts with a quick summary of the events in the first book, before launching in with B Smith awakening after these events. In the interest of avoiding spoilers, I’m keeping this short & sweet. B wakes up in some sort of military complex, held prisoner underground and interrogated by doctors and the military. Eventually let into a relaxation area, B meets similar teenagers trapped in the underground complex. B has some difficult choices to make as the book progresses, and as with the first book, there is plenty of action, horrific moments and great character development.
I look forward to the next installment.

Remains of the Dead

January 7, 2013 - 1:16 am No Comments

Remains of the Dead
Author: Iain McKinnon
Publisher: Permuted Press
Page count/size: 236pp
Release Date: 13th Oct 2011
Reviewer: Theresa Derwin

Featuring an introduction by horror author Joe McKinney, this post zombie apoc novel jumps right in with a reminder of the action in Domain of the Dead, reminding us of what is happening to key characters.

In the foreword by Joe McKinney, he says that this sequel to Domain . . . is “just what you need . . . more cool zombie shit”, and this is exactly what Iain McKinnon delivers with this novel.

The novel starts with the helicopter from Domain, and expands on the beginning scene with the occupants of the warehouse retreating to the roof. We get to know more about Cahz, the leader of the impromptu rescue party, from the research ship Ishtar. The majority of the helicopter crew give up their seats for the civilians, taking their chance on the ground until the helicopter can return. We get to see what happens to the ground survivors.

Tightly paced, action filled, emotional and boasting some surprises, McKinnon’s second outing is a quick read and thoroughly enjoyable. Given the cliff-hanger, I expect to see more!

Planesrunner

January 4, 2013 - 11:22 am No Comments

Planesrunner: Book 1 of the Everness Series
Author: Ian McDonald
Page count/Size: 320pp
Publisher: Jo Fletcher Books
Release Date: 3rd January 2013
Reviewer: Ken Norman

Planesrunner is a rollercoaster in a panoply of ways. There’s influences from everything and everywhere shoehorned into the first part of a series that could run forever. The mood of the story could best be described as an adventure story in the old fashioned sense – it reminded me of the pulp SF books I read when I was young, but none of those books contained the level of detail nor breadth of scope that this does. I looked up the author about halfway through the book, to find that the story has been targeted at the young adult reader. This shouldn’t put you off though! It is still an entertaining read from start to end and doesn’t shy away from the more adult themes that come up from time to time, though the hardened adults might find it feeling a bit watered down in places.

The adventure revolves around a boy (don’t they all) who has to man up and go searching across parallel universes looking for his missing dad. This makes him the Planesrunner of the title. And no, it’s got nothing to do with Bladerunner. He encounters girls, nasty politicians, policemen, generally bad people and pawnbrokers, but never gets into serious trouble. Some of the characterisation is a little two dimensional but, in the context of the target audience, isn’t much of a big deal, as there is lots of fun looking for just how many big ideas are crammed in here. There are elements of Steampunk, polari, nanotubes, multidimensional mathematics, parallel universes, social networking and Asian cooking. What? Asian cooking? For some reason, our intrepid protagonist is Punjabi. I waited for a specific reason for this to be the case, but couldn’t really find one. Maybe I’ll find out later in the series.

Overall, a good fun read that won’t tax you too much and rolls along like an action film. I hope that the series continues with a bit more grit to suit its aging target audience and stay in line with the age of the characters. Perhaps the author is going to expand on some of the initial themes presented here, or run off into the distance with this years set of big ideas. Victorian-style Airships vs Extreme Weather maybe?