Archive for March, 2014

The Darkness Within

March 14, 2014 - 6:22 pm No Comments

The Darkness Within: Final Cut
Author: Sam Stone
Publisher: Telos Publishing Ltd
Size: 136 pp
Release Date: 27th Jan 14
Reviewer: Theresa Derwin

First published as an audio book, this 2014 is an extended edition, which, according to author Sam Stone contains more gruesome and graphic elements. In the introduction to this edition, Stone relays how the concept of ‘Zombies on a spaceship’ grew into this short novel an expanded version of the novella The Darkness within.
Madison Whitehawk is Chief Engineer on board the ship freedom bound for New Earth and has Native American heritage. Looking out at the planets thinking about the fact that Earth would die soon and humanity had played a big part in making it happen, Madison is reflective. The colonists on board had all been chosen for their DNA, intelligence and ability to breed. First Officer Simon Chrichton calls Madison to his office to talk about the problems with equipment, but can’t help the simmering tension he feels when he sees her at the memory of a kiss they’ve once shared. But will it lead anywhere? For all of the colonists and crew on board, the expectation is that they will form a pairing and mate to ensure the future of the colony. For Syra Connor, her pairing with Ben Walsh is not ideal, but compared to living in her London ghetto it’s a preferable choice. Priddy the engineer has a problem with the colonists; their higher status, nicer quarters, and for some, their arrogance. After the initial set up where quite a bit of the background and some key players are introduced, the action switches to a year later. Joe Banks is outside the ship taking rock samples to see if anything might be harmful to the colonists. The glittering piece of ore leads to unexpected danger for the ship, its crew and passengers.

Part SF, part horror, although this territory has been done before, Stone’s exploration of the male and female relationships and transference of power is interesting here. Syra is initially trapped in her pairing with a man she doesn’t like to be around and who treats her like his property, but she accepts it to begin with because it is better than the life she had. As for the zombies, they aren’t zombies in the traditional sense but are more zombie-like than anything. There is definitely a virus loose on board the ship that starts with Banks, and when things start to kick off, Stone relishes in her descriptions bringing the gross and sickening action to a head. There is a certain feeling of claustrophobia about the text. Though generally confident and a strong character, Madison wears her overalls almost like a suit of armour, or camouflage to protect her and rebuild her confidence when things start getting hairy. It’s also refreshing that the characters are not all white, middle class.
There are list of ‘eew’ moments here! I do believe this is the darkest thing Sam Stone has written. A good solid, visceral dose of SF horror.

This Monkey Kicks Ass

March 11, 2014 - 9:24 pm No Comments

Ack Ack Macaque
Author: Gareth L Powell
Publisher: Solaris Books
Page size: 340pp
Release Date: 25th Dec 2012

“What are you gonna do?”
“Same as I always do, blow shit up and hurt people.”
Meet Ack Ack Macaque, a wise cracking, cigar chomping, gun toting monkey, fighting the Germans in his spitfire and downing daiquiris in the soldiers mess when he has time for respite.
The thing is, Ack, let’s call him that for short, isn’t real. At least players of the Ack Ack Macaque cyber game in 2059 believe so. That is until Prince Merovech is cajoled into breaking into his mothers company Celeste Group intent on freeing a sentient AI until they find the actual live monkey hooked up to wires and plugged into the game. Fleeing from the complex, Merovech and girlfriend Julie are on the run. With the monkey on a mission to find out who’s been messing with their brains. Their as in, yes, plural, because the monkey isn’t the only victim of abuse from the Celeste Group; the doctors have also been messing around with the Princes brains since before birth and they’ve also been messing with
Victoria Valois, an intrepid reporter who was saved a year ago by the technicians at the complex installing gel ware into her head. They’ve also murdered her husband Paul, or so he tells her from the implant in her head as they work together to find out what is behind a series of murders taking place across the world, where the victims soul catcher has been removed.
The cult of the Undying are deliberately trying to provoke war with China. Soul catchers enable the personality on the deceased to be downloaded into a new body or machinery. Threat of nuclear war.
Included in this book is the original 2007 short story that introduced Ack to readers of Interzone. And this book is worth every penny for that story alone.
Bursting with vibrant, lively characters, a profound backstory involving a future culture revealed through snippets of newscasts and a deliciously sarcastic lead character, this novel is a sumptuous read. Full of adventure, battles, romance, betrayal and mind boggling SF concepts, this novel breaks down boundaries in the genre and is an amazing romp. I fell in love with Ack Ack Macaque and if he wasn’t a, er, monkey, I’d want to marry him! I can’t wait to read the next installment Hive Monkey, and let you know what I think. Sheer brilliance.

Hive Monkey
Author: Gareth L Powell
Publisher: Solaris Books
Page size: 340pp
Release Date: 23rd Dec 2013

Following on from Ack Ack Macaques earlier adventures, the monkey of mayhem returns in the sequel Hive Monkey. Ack is busy working on the Tereshkova for Victoria Valois, with his engineer K8 and being interviewed by all manner of journalists whilst regularly chomping cigars and drinking himself into a stupor. But things don’t stay relaxed for long. Reluctantly Victoria agrees to give a job on the airship to novelist William Cole who believes someone is out to kill him. Victoria isn’t convinced until Coles doppelgänger from a parallel world turns up on board the ship and dies within minutes. Ack also has to deal with a visit from the Gestalt; part religion, they use wireless technology to link it’s members soul catchers to a networked web, sharing thoughts and identities. And they want Ack to join their party and meet their hive leader. They promise him he will never be alone (shudder). Valois is still physically and mentally scarred following the surgery and her implants but at least she has company, even if it’s a talking monkey and a hologram of her dead ex husband. But at least one she has a murder investigation to keep her occupied. Written with same burst of energy and verve, Hive Monkey treads new territory but the monkey is still the same fun loving, foul mouthed self. This Anglo French world that Powell has created is intriguing with boulangeries, bars, patisseries and rickshaws, all adding to the sense of otherness or otherworldliness that pervades the novel. My favourite line? Ack spouting truths about SF Writer Cole “Remember, he writes Science Fiction. Those guys are all nuts. They’ve all got a screw loose somewhere.” And if Hive Monkey is anything to go by, Powell is right.

Reviews Coming Soon

March 5, 2014 - 10:21 am No Comments

As you can imagine my reading list is quite full, but to intrigue you and entice you into reading my blog, here are some of the reviews you can expect to read over the next two months:

The Darkness Within: Final Cut
Sam Stone

Snowblind
Christopher Golden with

The Pretenders: Book One (Graphic Novel)
Christopher Golden and Charlaine Harris

The Language of Dying
Sarah Pinborough

The League of Sharks
David Logan

The Axe Factor
Colin Cotterill

Once Upon a Time in Hell
Guy Adams

Stuck on You
Jasper Bark

Best British Horror 2014
(Ed) Johnny Mains

Straight to You
David Moody

Ack Ack Macaque & Hive Monkey
Gareth L Powell

Where You Live
Gary McMahon

And that’s just for starters! I’ll also be posting reviews for DVDs and book reviews by Andy Angel. on my www.theresa-derwin.co.uk site I’ll also regularly blog about my plans for KnightWatch Press and about formidable Women in Horror

Last God Standing

March 5, 2014 - 10:07 am No Comments

Last God Standing
Author: Michael Boatman
Publisher: Angry Robot
Page count: 416pp
Release Date: 25th March 2014
Reviewer: Andy Angel

An interesting premise here, and one that works really well. After 2000 years doing “the job he was created to do” God has quit and come to live among humanity. He is now Lando Cooper, living in Chicago and working in his Dad’s Auto supplies shop…….he also aspires the make it as a stand up comedian.

Unfortunately for Lando he is being regularly challenged by God’s from the elder pantheon (think Greek, Roman, Indian God’s and you get the idea) who want to take his place as Supreme Being. On top of all this a murderous new God known only as The Coming is on the horizon and getting closer.

This novel has a lot going for it. The idea on it’s own is a good one – God lives among us (as do other God’s and even Lucifer) but he is just a regular guy! There are several battles between Lando and other Gods and at times these can be quite epic but there is also home life (the interactions between Lando, his parents – both separated – and their partners are, at times funny enough to make your sides ache) and his love life.

So, all Lando has to do is face and beat an array of God’s, The Coming, and win the girl’s hand while not letting anyone know who he is/was. Oh, and win a slot at the comedy club night and host a TV customers show. There is, needless to say, quite a lot going on but it is to the author’s credit that at no point does it feel rushed or crammed. There are moments that will make you chuckle, touching moments and one’s to make you laugh out loud (the restaurant scene with his girlfriend and her family is a work of comedy genius in my opinion).

The other plus for me is that although the main character is God the book itself is not overly religious or preachy – just a good fun read that I will happily recommend to anyone