Archive for May, 2016

Fellside

May 28, 2016 - 10:47 am No Comments

Author: M.R. Carey
Publisher: Orbit
Page Count: 486pp
Release Date: 7th April 2016
Reviewer: Steve Cotterill

M.R. Carey’s second novel, Fellside, comes hot on the heels of The Girl With All the Gifts, his zombie near future novel. Carey, of course, is better known to fans of the genre as Mike Carey, the author of the Lucifer comics series, and the Felix Castor novels, and while the reader will detect a definite strengthening of his prose style, the ‘Carey’ voice is familiar and welcoming.

The novel follows Jess Moulson, the so called Inferno Killer, as she is convicted of murder and shipped to a private prison on the Yorkshire moors, Fellside. From the start the feeling of Gothic seeps into prison, a vast, unknowable place that is only humanised by the people using it, whether that’s the petty foibles of the prisoners and guards or the colloquial names the prisoners have applied to the different wings of the prison. Like the Gothic castle too, the past of Fellside presses on the present, and there are secrets to uncover. When Jess nearly dies, she encounters something else, an unquiet spirit that refuses to rest and asks for help.

Despite the presence of the ghost, who guides and helps Jess, and who torments the prisoners, this is a very human horror story, a story of addiction, and corruption. Carey paints a picture of how dirty the prison is, from the illicit trades to the casual violence, made all the worse by the fact that Fellside is a women’s prison; he cuts against our perceived wisdom that women are kinder, gentler beings by making the prisoners crude, violent, thuggish, and ultimately very human. The warders and medical staff are just as flawed, only the Governor is held up as being able to keep his hands clean, mostly because he is a remote figure who scarcely seems to be in touch with his own prison.

As Jess’ story continues, from medical centre, to prison cell, to court as she appeals against the judgement she is forced to be a part of this world, to deal with the problems that it throws at her, and to try to survive as the corruption threatens to overwhelm her. It is perhaps to Carey’s credit that he makes no attempt to spare her feelings, or to make her in any way tough. She’s intelligent, determined, and highly imaginative, but she also gets beaten up a lot. Carey makes you care about her, my heart was in my mouth during the appeal hearing and I almost cried at her actions at the end of the trial.

It is hard to feel as sympathetic for the other chief protagonist in the novel, Liz Earnshaw. A lifer, and an incredibly violent woman, who despite a history of abuse, is never really portrayed sympathetically and acts as a lieutenant, servant, and general leg breaker, for the maximum security wing’s Boss, Grace. For much of the novel she is presented as Rotweiller, a weapon to be used against the weaker members of the wing, and it is only late in the day that you realise, as a reader, that her story is unfolding in front of you.

Fellside is a powerful novel, one full of pathos and emotion. The Gothic setting adds to its power, and to the theme of corruption that runs through it. The structure of the book lets it down on occasion, chapters feeling too bitty at times, as if they could use a bit more meat, but in the large construct of the novel, they work well, keeping the narrative moving. Despite this I found the short chapters sometimes felt as if they could be integrated into another chapter, and that leaving them out on their own felt unnecessary. The other fault I would pick is that it feels as if part of Jess’ potential wasted, there’s something we’re told about but it never really feels as if we’re allowed to see it properly, despite it being presented as a linchpin of who the character is.

Despite this I would recommend Fellside to anyone who likes a more Gothic type of horror, with strong female characters and a good pace.

Steve
Writer and Blogger
My blog is here: http://shoresofnight.blogspot.com/
Explore the world of Sharoban with me at: http://sharoban.blogspot.co.uk/
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The Willow Tree

May 10, 2016 - 2:07 pm No Comments

The Willow Tree by Bekki Pate
Published 5th January 2015 by Britain’s Next Bestseller
Page count: 240 pages
Reviewer: Yvonne Davies

This is the 1st book from The fragment trilogy. It focuses on three main characters. Nick, a young man with a gift of visions; When he was younger his big brother went missing trying to protect him and due to his gift he ended up working for a facility built to help others in the same situation. He loves his job until one night, monsters attack the building, killing anyone who get in their way whilst they try to find a girl called Jenny. The monsters track Nick down hoping he will lead them to her, but Nick is smart and will stop at nothing to find her.
Aria is a girl who’s only memory is being in a building trying to escape the monsters. Helping her escape was a Willow tree who’s branches cut down her attackers. Battered and bruised she is rescued by Beth and Ash. They recognise straight away that there is something special about her and bring her into their home. All she hopes is that she is safe and wants her memory back.
Freya was a young girl in 1852 with a gift which she kept hidden from her family and community. She was a happy child wanting nothing more but to read in her favourite spot under the branches of a Willow tree. Although she was bullied it never seemed to bother her until after her brother died then she retaliated against the girls and ended up killing one. Due to her evilness she was stripped of her powers and sentenced to a lifetime of imprisonment. She wants to escape her jail and knows that to do so she must get her powers back. By creating these monsters she can track Jenny whilst having a bit of fun for herself
This a good start to the trilogy and keeps your interest from the first page. Each character has their own story and issues but link together to make a good read. Whilst reading this I could feel the frustration with Aria and Nick to find answers. Whilst at the beginning of the book I felt sorry for Freya, but the way she grew to be evil and sadistic I was willing Nick and Aria to get their revenge.
The second book The Shadow Beneath is already out so you don’t have to wait long to find out what happens next and were does Lucy fit in.

Calamity

May 9, 2016 - 3:55 pm No Comments

Title: Calamity

Author: Brandon Sanderson
Publisher: Gollancz
Pages: 432
Released: February 18th 2016
Reviewer: Andy Angel

Calamity is the third and final book in Brandon Sanderson’s ‘Reckoners’ series. The series is aimed at a younger market I guess but please don’t let that put you off.

The main gist of the story so far is that after an ‘event’ certain individuals develop super powers but the difference with other Superhero stories is that these individuals (known as Epics) use their powers to subjugate and rule the people of what is an America but an America ‘moved on’. Up against these Epics are small bands known as Reckoners whose main aim is to bring them down.

When the first book started, our hero David had lost his father to an Epic (Steelheart) and was studying ways to defeat what was, at that point, the undefeatable. Long story short he was taken in by a group of Reckoners, won the day, lost the girl……..the story moves on.

By the time we reach ‘Calamity’, the leader of David’s group of Reckoners (known as Prof) has been revealed as one of the most powerful of all the Epics and it is up to David and his friends (but mainly David) to either defeat him or bring him back to being the Prof he was before.

And then there is Calamity to face………………….

As much as I enjoyed the characters and the pace of the book, where Sanderson excelled for me was in the world building. The cities in the new version of USA are kind of recognisable but different enough to be interesting and keep the reader wondering what he is going to show you next. This is an anti-superhero tale with plenty of action and battle scenes but (as always with Sanderson) plenty of room for character development and a liberal dose of humour.

As always with Sanderson this was a treat. As I said before this is aimed more at the teen/young adult market but reading as an adult of nearly 50 I didn’t feel like it ‘wasn’t for me’. The only down side to it all for me is that this is the end. The tale is told and I don’t think it is one he will come back to (although I will be more than happy to be proved wrong).

If you read and enjoy this, may I recommend Sanderson’s ‘Alcatraz’ series, aimed at the same audience and a really fun read