Archive for January, 2014

The Iron Wolves

January 28, 2014 - 12:17 am No Comments

The Iron Wolves
Author: Andy Remic
Publisher: Angry Robot
Release Date: 29th Dec 2013
Size: 416pp
Reviewer: Andy Angel

It has been 30 years since The Iron Wolves won victory at the Pass of Splintered Bones and killed the Sorcerer Morkagoth and now a new threat faces the realm in the shape of Orlana the Changer!!

At first glance I thought this was going to be another “by the numbers” fantasy tale, and, to be honest, I couldn’t have been more wrong. The premise is simple enough – evil threatens the land, send for the heroes who won the day last time around, but it’s not going to be that easy! After saving the kingdom previously The Iron Wolves were well rewarded but all now seem to have fallen on harder times, some falling further than others. Their leader, General Dalgoran, thinks reuniting them will be the answer but whether they will be able to work together is a big question.

On the whole this was an enjoyable tale, although a lot more violent and horrific than I am used to reading in this genre. This is the nastiness of war, the violence of battle. The heroes are not your typical hero types. These are people who fight and kill because it is who they are and what they do, they are soldiers and mercenaries. As I started out I did not think I would be a fan but by the time I got to the end I found I actually cared about what happened to them. As is right with this kind of tale not everyone makes it to the end and when death arrives it is well done but not lightly done.

On the downside for me, and it is only a small quibble – The Splice. These are the books ‘monsters’. When first encountered these were a good idea – take an animal (usually a horse but also bears and lions were used), take a human and, quite literally, smash them together to make a deformed, distorted hybrid. A fantastic idea and a horrifying result but after reading about the making of the creatures for the third or fourth time they became a bit ho – hum. Thankfully this stopped fairly early on and they realized their full potential later on.

So, a bloody, violent, vicious fantasy romp. If you like your fantasy full of elves, unicorns etc this may not be your thing but if you like getting up to your ears in blood, gore and nastiness you’re in for a treat.

On a final note, the very last scene in this book was not at all what I expected, and even now, five days after finishing it still hasn’t left my thoughts. I am certainly looking forward to the next book.

Paul Kane Double Bill

January 27, 2014 - 1:35 am 1 Comment

Ghosts
Author: Paul Kane
Publisher: Spectral Press
Release Date: 31st October 2013
Reviewer: Andy Angel
This collection from Spectral Press brings together 17 short stories on the subject of ghosts and hauntings from one of my favourite modern horror writers, Paul Kane.
Also included here is the film script for Wind Chime as well as the story itself (which I’ll come to later.)
With the title and subject matter you may be expecting Terror and Frights all the way but the second piece ‘Kindred Spirits’ is actually quite a feel good tale which left me with a smile. The majority of the tales here though will leave you placed well and truly on the edge of the seat.
In amongst these 17 stories there are 2 Christmas tales (including a re-working of Dicken’s A Christmas Carol), some proper haunting stories (Grandpa’s Chair, The Procession) and the truly scary (The Suicide Room), but the stand out offering for me was Wind Chimes.
Sometimes, long after you finish a story, you find yourself recalling the events and Wind Chimes is a case in point. This is a truly disturbing tale that never lets go, but the highlight for me.
This is a corker of a collection, just what the long, cold Winter nights need – just don’t be hoping for a good nights sleep after 😉

The Rainbow Man
Author: Paul Kane
Publisher: Rocket Ride Books
Release Date: 15 Nov 2013
Reviewer: Theresa Derwin

This YA novel by Paul Kane features an introduction by Morganville Vampires author Rachel Caine and according to the blurb, “you will never look at a rainbow in the same way again.” After hearing what reviewer Andy had to say about Ghosts, Kane’s Spectral Press collection released for WFC 13 (see above) I was more than a little excited to read this book, especially as Caine likens it to Hitchcock in tone, more of a creeping build up than a Michael Bay bang.

Daniel Routh would never forget the day they found the body. This book is refreshing in that its teenage characters aren’t all angsty with more excess baggage that Paris Hilton going through airport control. Daniel’s little brother Mikey is always tagging along with Daniel and his best friends, which isn’t surprising given that they live on an island with little to do. So the teenagers with Mikey in toe set off on an adventure following the storm of the previous night. On the beach the next day as the kids explore, the enthusiastic collie Vincent appears to be chasing the left over rainbow that leads to the body of a man, barely alive. But there is something about the man, whose only name he can remember is John, that makes Daniel distinctly uncomfortable. Strange things are happening in the village, which Daniel believes could be linked to the mysterious newcomer John Dee, the Rainbow Man.

As usual with Kane’s writing there is a great deal of atmosphere from the outset. The ghost of the boys losing their father hovers around the text. There is an almost Stephen King vibe to the novel, with the small town environment, intimate locals and a sense of the supernatural. Kane keeps the tension building as Daniel, then his friends investigate exactly who, or what The Rainbow Man is. This is a compelling story of Daniel’s growth into adulthood and the nature of humanity and the grip do something inherently evil on a small community. And when the mythology is finally revealed, well, what a cracker. Brilliant YA Fantasy in action.

William Meikle Double Bill

January 21, 2014 - 12:24 am No Comments

The Ravine
Author: William Meikle
Publisher: Dark Regions Press
Page count: 218pp
Release Date: 19th November 2013
Reviewer: Theresa Derwin

Written by prolific author William Meikle, The Ravine is a period Western horror in Meikle’s inimitable style.
Captain David Stevens has been on tour of duty for nine months now and is getting antsy for action or home. Hoping for rest that was unlikely, Stevens was sent out to investigate something strange happening in the west badlands. On his mission, he sees a vortex whirling black in the distance but it is no natural phenomenon; the vortex sucking the platoon deep inside. When they emerge from the vortex it’s night and one of the men is dead. And the night sky, which Stevens should’ve known, is unfamiliar to him. And then the group of soldiers hear a scream, and find their dead friend being tortured by a winged ten foot creature enrobed in blackness. So begins a dark journey into the old west blending the best of horror with the vibe of The Valley of Gwangi.

Further down stream, on a trail in the ravine herding cattle, when Joe, Doyle and Joe’s son Tommy find water, it appears to be a life saver for them and their town, but there is something strange about the water and the fish that swim there.

As always, Meikle’s writing is emotional and incredibly visual. The story itself is wonderfully apocalyptic and dark, perfect for fans of old school horror and adventure. And some of the descriptions Meikle uses are gross enough to cause nausea in the reader, and the monsters in this novel are almost Lovecraftian in their perversity and reminiscent of Carpenters The Thing

Samurai and other Stories
Author: William Meikle
Publisher: Crystal Lake Publishing
Page count: 132pp
Release Date: 25th January 2014
Reviewer: Theresa Derwin

Prolific writer William Meikle here reprints a collection of previously published short stories together in one volume with Crystal Lake Publishing. The collection starts with the lead story Samurai, and Cap’n Duncan on a Japan Run. When his boat is lost only five of fifty five men make it out alive. On an island they take refuge in what appears to be a temple, a welcoming temple with food and warmth, but what’s the catch?

Meikle’s stories are imbued with a sense of old codes of conduct and honour, the sins of man and greed, the supernatural and the just plain weird. His stories are also visual and full of literal and metaphorical colour. Rickman’s Plasma, an unusual piece about a form of music devouring all those in its way is almost an homage to The Blob. Meikle’s turn of phrase is entertaining and also grim and visceral. In this story anaphora is used to comic effect.
Home is the Sailor is the story of a cursed hotel, occupied by pensioners gradually decaying away and is perhaps the most darkly humorous of the stories in this collection. Turn Again, in contrast is a short piece but the least satisfying of the collection.

The collection spans centuries and cultures adding diversity to the readers enjoyment. However Meikle seems rather fond of the name Duncan, perhaps because of his Scottish heritage. Yet this heritage adds a depth of culture to much of his work, particularly The Scottsmans Fiddle. He is adept at using lyrics, limericks and shanti songs to add flavour to his stories. A particularly strong story is The Havenhome, the tale of a ship that arrives in a deserted town where all of the inhabitants have been frozen to death beyond all reason. Meikle brings out a much darker style in Living the Dream, a story of obsession and kidnapping.
Overall, this is an engaging insight into Meikle’s work and I would say I enjoyed 99% of the stories, with their variety of flavour and Meikle’s obvious talent. Great value for money.

Addicted to the Dead

January 10, 2014 - 4:47 pm No Comments

Addicted to the Dead
Author: Shane McKenzie
Publisher: Dark Regions Press
Page count: 278pp
Release Date: 22nd October 2013
Reviewer: Theresa Derwin

Featuring an introduction by Joe McKinney about violence making sense in horror, he talks about the relevance of Night of the Living Dead and race relations of 60s. America. McKinney describes Addicted to the Dead as shocking and in some senses extreme but the discussion of addiction relevant to current society. He declares it to be the cutting edge of zombie fiction, an in some ways he isn’t far wrong.

The novel starts with main protagonist Calico (a black man with pink skin birth marks/blemishes) dragging an addict girl by her hair, as she begs ‘like they always do’, then dumping her on a film set of what appears to be a ‘Corpse Snuff’ film preceded by the girls violent rape. Then the girl wakes up – dead. As the assailant continues to rape the dead girl he bites a piece of her flesh and starts to eat. This then is the violent and graphic beginning of Addicted to the Dead.

In the next ‘scene’ masses of people are queuing at the store for their daily dose of meat, squirming, wriggling pieces of dead flesh, that ironically, will prevent the eater from rising after death but will also cause addiction if eaten too much. Everyone apart from young Paco’s family is queuing for their dose of meat from Ted Fleet.
In this new world there are hardly any children and young Paco wants to know why. But a TV program informs him it’s because the meat makes people infertile. Paco would buy the meat if he could so he wouldn’t have to worry about what happened to him after he died, but his family can’t afford it and hunt instead. Paco learnt all about the addicts from the TV. The right meat means you won’t come back from the dead.
Primarily, my issue with the concept is that eating dead wiggling zombified meat actually prevents the eater from coming back from the dead, which I couldn’t quite get my head around to start with, but as the novel progresses so does the logic.
“Eat your portion of Ted Fleets Dead Meats every day, year round, and keep your body in the ground.”
When Pacos Dad finds a shambler in the woods and prepares it for his family, Paco is the only one who doesn’t eat the meat, so is the only one left alive whilst his family turn into shamblers themselves, but something is different about Sophia.
McKenzie’s depiction of addiction is on the money but without the inherent sympathy; Calico is not a nice guy. Or at least he appears to be to start with, until you realise he is very much the anti-hero with his own code of honour and morals.
The text is quite harsh in places as Calico us a hard aggressive character and his opinions are less then savoury. If harsh language and crude sex offends you this is not a book for you. The text is lively and visceral.
I was also uncomfortable with the portrayal and representation of female characters in the novel who seemed shallow and addicted to sex and there are quite a few scenes of female masterbation, rape and gang rape. Saying that, Calico’s daughter Beauty is a strong female character.
The image of meat addicts who are living but eat the dead is an interesting inversion of the zombie horde. The city itself is a post apocalyptic nightmare, all tortured and decayed buildings swarmed by shambling addicts. McKenzie also has a knack for ending chapters on cliffhangers then swapping perspective to keep you hooked. There’s an enjoyable noir gangster vibe to the novel. Unfortunately the ending itself leaves the reader a little short changed, because although you can guess the ending is bloody, the question of Calico and his daughter Beauty is not fully resolved.
However, this is a challenging book that certainly breaks new ground in the zombie genre. Well worth a read.