Archive for October, 2014

Mutated

October 25, 2014 - 3:48 am No Comments

Mutated
Dead World Book 4
Author: Joe McKinney
Publisher: Kensington Publishing Corps
Release Date: 4th Sept 2012
Reviewer: Theresa Derwin

The fourth book in the Dead World Series by McKinney starts with Ben Richardson trapped in an oven in an abandoned pizza joint in St Louis, looking for food, when a few zombies turn up. But a few can soon become a swarm. However the three zombies are distracted by a woman who calls out to them, and not having seen a person for a very long time, Richardson decides to investigate. Thing is, for some reason he’s sure he knows her. But from where? Then it hits him; it’s Sylvia Carnes, English Professor.
Eight years ago hurricane Mardell tore apart the city of Houston, and from the soup of the floodwaters the zombies rose, not dead, still alive somehow but infected with a deadly virus. Carnes had been a member of a group that believed in helping the infected. So with forty students she went into the quarantine area of San Antonio to look for a cure. And Ben Richardson accompanied them.
Now, in a dead St Louis, Richardson watches as Carnes joins a group of four other survivors seemingly on a mission. He watches as they are suddenly attacked by a large number of zombies. Obliged to help Richardson moves toward them but is soon shocked to see four trucks pull up towards the group. The Red Man emerges from one of the trucks. And to Richardson’s astonishment, the zombies don’t attack.
From the off, McKinney’s writing is punchy, fast paced and engaging. He draws his characters with effect in just a few pages establishing hopes, dreams, fears and relationships then gets straight into the action. And for the gore hounds there are plenty of moments to enjoy as zombies rip out innards and the blood flows. McKinney has also created variations in the zombies, stages one to three, with one being the slow dumb shamblers and three being the intelligent fast movers. We have a particularly strong female character in Niki Booth especially her awareness, and McKinney’s acknowledgement, of how predictable men can sometimes be. He also makes some wry observations about some of the inherent differences between men and women using Sylvia and Ben as examples. And as for Niki, she has a mission. She is intent on finding a cure for the necro filovirus and might just know where to find it. Amidst the gore we also have debates about humanity and about the zombies, philosophical discussions and reflections on poetry; it makes for an unusual yet powerful read.
It’s also nice to have the return of regular characters from previous novels in the Dead World Series, such as Nate Royal and Ken Stoler. With Richardson, as he records the experiences of those in this dead world, it’s all about sharing those stories and rebuilding from it. He still sees his primary role as a reporter as being of vital importance as the novel begins, but as it progresses it’s clear he’s tired of it all and doesn’t intend to finish his book. For some survivors, like Nate, the apocalypse has given them a new life, something worth clinging to.
With a cast of engaging characters and a terrific ending, this is one to read.

Zombie Apocalypse: Horror Hospital

October 18, 2014 - 9:01 am No Comments

Mark Morris
Created by Stephen Jones
Robinson
June 2014
347pp

Created by prolific genre editor Stephen Jones, the Zombie Apocalypse series of books have been very popular and contain fake news reports, diaries and stories detailing the apocalypse from a number of writers. The series now continues with a number of spin off novels; this one by Mark Morris and Washington Deceased by Lisa Morton.
For Staff Nurse Cat Harris, busy preoccupied with planning her wedding, the night shift at her hospital in London starts off like any other . . .
Morris hints at a Britain rife with problems; NHS Cuts, a bad economy, armed police, night time curfews following the Trafalgar Square massacre.
Cat’s thoughts are interrupted by what appears to be a drunk woman stumbling in front of her car as she’s driving to work. But as Cat tries to speak to her, she realises the woman isn’t drunk, and she hasn’t been attacked either. There is something seriously wrong with her. She is bestial, feral almost as she lunges to attack Cat in her car.
Still shook up, Cat drives to the hospital for her shift.
The hospital is soon descended on by a variety of people; a young gang after a shoot out and a hen night organised by Lisa that’s invaded by a scary ‘holy’ man with a story of doom who bites a night clubber on the cheek.
The cover art by Joe Roberts is gloriously pulpy and oozes horror vibes, a perfect accompaniment to the content. There are also a couple of nice photographic designs in black and white to illustrate the text.
Morris doesn’t shy away from political opinions here and criticism of the lack of funding and staff for the NHS, but whether it’s just from a character POV or Morris’ own thoughts, it’s hard to tell.
Amidst the mayhem we also have Melinda, just going into labour and her husband Steve, who are heading to the hospital, where all he’ll has broken loose and Cat and the other staff are forced to restrain patients showing rabies-like symptoms.
The action is tightly paced as each chapter spans less than a thirty minute period and each chapter is headed with the time to increase the sense of tension. The virus itself is well played out with authentic medical descriptions of necrosis and the violence is visceral and bloody

Orbit Urban Fantasy Trio

October 9, 2014 - 6:28 pm No Comments

Cursed Moon

Author: Jaye Wells
Release Date: Sept 14
Publisher: Orbit
Page count:
Reviewer: Theresa Derwin

Described as The Wire with wizards, Cursed Moon is the second book in the Kate Prosperous series, and only two books in, author Jaye Wells proves she is an Urban Fantasy force to be reckoned with.
Kate Prosperous is a cop and a magic user, but unlike most magic users, Kate is ‘off’ the magic; she is recovering AA (Arcane Anonymous) member who hasn’t used magic for ten years. Or at least that’s what her sponsor and her team believe, because Kate was forced to ‘cook’ a spell in the first book of this series in order to save her little brother, whom she is now sole carer for. With a complex history including a problem ex, spelling abuse and the death of her parents, and now the new moon, or the ‘cursed moon’ is coming to her town of Babylon, causing all sorts of disruption and mayhem; sex potions thrown about by Leprechauns, temples being robbed and murder.
This was my first experience of Wells’ fiction, and wow, what an introduction! Her narrative virtually leaps off the page; Prosperous is an engaging, and real heroine, the humour is rife within the text and the action doesn’t stop. Wells is also very respectful towards her transgender characters and the subject of addiction, which is prevalent throughout this novel. A cracking new Urban Fantasy series. I can’t wait to read more.

The Ripper Affair
Bannon and Clare Book 3
Author: Lilith Saintcrow
Publisher: Orbit
Page count:
Release date: 19th Aug 14
Reviewer: Theresa Derwin

Debuting in The Iron Wyrm Affair two years ago, Emma Bannon and Archibald Clare are
the ‘Sapphire and Steel’ of Steampunk; intrepid adventurers, explorers and investigators who rely on each other in extreme circumstances to fight for Queen, country and the ‘good’. In their third adventure, things literally start with a bang, as mentath Clare is the only survivor of a court explosion, where he loses assassin and companion Ludovico, shattering his confidence and logic. Equally moved by the event, sorceress Emma Bannon takes Clare under her wing in an attempt to return his stability. But they aren’t given time to sit on their laurels and rest, for Londinium (an alternate historical London) is in danger. There is a violent serial killer lurking in Whitechapel and their Queen, Victrix, needs them to put aside all fear, doubt and anger and help her hunt down the killer. But Clare has been through much; following the events of The Red Plague Affair, the second novel, he is a changed man now immortal, and Bannon has moved heaven and earth to ensure his safety. But how can he deal with the changes she has wrought on him?
Delivering a delightfully original Steampunk universe, Saintcrow has created a duo to equal that of Holmes and Watson, Challenger and Roxborough, or a nineteenth century Mulder and Scully. Bannon is supported in her endeavours by her ‘Shield’ Mikal, who has an unswerving loyalty and love for her. As well as Mikal, Bannon has a number of diverse ‘souls’ in her employ, and she feels honour bound to protect them all.
To the best of my knowledge, Saintcrow isn’t English, yet her recreation of a Victorian alternative England feels very authentic, with dingy, fogged streets, an overwhelming stench and poppy dens.

Night Broken
Author: Patricia Briggs
Release Date: Sept 14
Page Count: 341pp
Publisher: Orbit
Reviewer: Theresa Derwin

Number eight in the ever popular Mercy Thompson/Hauptman Urban Fantasy series, Night Broken takes mechanic, coyote shifter and wife of local werewolf Alpha Adam, to much darker territory. Adam’s ex wife Christy and mother to their daughter Jesse, has been in veritable pan in the ass for Mercy for quite some time, but she becomes even more if a pain when she phones her ex husband in the middle of the night begging for help. Christy has a stalker, handsome one night stand Juan Flores, who just won’t take no for an answer and sets fire to her apartment complex.
Christy has a way of manipulating people, making them desperate to protect her, so it isn’t long before she’s ensconced in the Hauptmann household, the werewolf pack at her beck and call, as she hides away from her dangerous stalker. If that wasn’t bad enough, Mercy is called upon by cop Tony to help investigate a number of brutal ritualistic murders of blonde women; women who bear more than a passing resemblance to Christy.
Sassy and strong, Mercy has retained her status as a powerful pack member and independent woman throughout this series. Briggs’ dialogue is sharp and witty, Mercy is a fully realised character and the other characters within the novel are equally well drawn. Christy is crafty in her attempts to win back her ex husband, Mercy’s half brother Gary Laughingdog is enigmatic and funny, the father/deity Coyote is mysterious and threatening, and the whole cast is more enjoyable through its sheer diversity. After all, Mercy herself is mixed race as well as being mixed species, Gary is similarily blessed, Tad is part fae, and Warren is a gay werewolf. And Briggs doesn’t shy away from exploring the hatred such diversity can engender. On top of that, her books are wonderfully entertaining, fast pased, emotional and fun.
Whilst I love the whole series however, Night Broken does flag in the middle a little but this does not detract from another satisfying addition to the series, with a cracking battle or two. Overall, I got a lot from this book, as I always do with Mercy, who is both a woman and a character I can relate to. I thoroughly look forward to Shirting Shadows, the new collection of Mercy stories coming this month from Orbit.

The Rabbit Back Literature Society

October 3, 2014 - 2:32 pm No Comments

Publisher: Pushkin Press
Release Date: 2013
Author:
Reviewer: Andy Angel

In the town of Rabbit Back strange things are afoot.

Ella Milana, a substitute literature teacher at Rabbit Back High School decides to investigate when she finds books from the school and from the library have different endings to the ones she remembers. Her investigations lead to the titular Rabbit Back Literature Society an elitist(ish) group of writers lead and mentored by Laura White, an extremely popular and respected author. At the time of her father’s death Ella is invited to join the Society and this is where things start to both pick up and get really weird.

At a celebration to mark Ella joining the RBLS Laura White disappears in a snow storm and this becomes the central mystery (but not the only one – not by a long way)

This is a very different kind of fantasy novel for me. I am a big fan of Nordic crime so the idea of Nordic fantasy had me drawn in from the get go. If I had to compare it to anything I guess the obvious choice would be Twin Peaks – it has that kind of weird quirkiness. It takes some concentration to get into but the pay off is well worth the effort.

The only downer for me (and it is only a little one) is that the book, at times, reads like just what it is – a translation, so the flow is lost a little in places but not enough to ruin the story.

So, if you like your fiction slightly weird but well told this could be just what you are looking for. It has also just been selected for the Waterstones Autumn Book Club (one of only twelve chosen from thousands) and these people know what’s what. The night’s are drawing in so go pay a visit to the town of Rabbit Back and prepare to lose yourself in the weird.

8.5/10 stars