Posts Tagged ‘Solaris Books’

The Sand Men

January 27, 2016 - 2:00 pm No Comments

The Sand Men
Author: Christopher Fowler
Publisher: Solaris
Page count: 334pp
Release date: 2015
reviewed by Chris Amies

Lea follows her husband Roy from Chiswick to Dubai, where Roy is working on a building project designed to bring in wealthy holidaymakers. With their 15-year-old daughter Cara they move to a gated community, where there is little for journalist Lea to actually do. Determined to write about things other than shopping and celebrity she begins to confront the nature of the place she must now call home. Sure enough, there have been mysterious deaths. People vanish.

If it sounds like something written by JG Ballard, the resemblance is intentional. Fowler has referred to this novel as his Ballard tribute and the epigraph is from Ballard’s “Super-Cannes.” If you wanted a symbol of first-world alienation this would be your first port of call: a wealthy elite rich on oil revenues, a servant class of expatriate experts, wives kept at home (because practically everyone is straight, and married), and a shadow army of underpaid workers mostly from India and the Philippines, whose lives and deaths are largely unreported – “the pleasures of the few, built on the burdens of the many”. It is possible that his protagonist is an unreliable narrator, finding a conspiracy where there isn’t one – but then if someone says ‘there is no conspiracy,’ is this because they are part of it? Or because there really isn’t one? The refrain “just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t out to get you” is aired at least once. That I didn’t buy her perception of the conspiracy (despite the suspiciously gendered nature – for the 21st century – of the project) doesn’t mean it didn’t exist, either. Appropriately, Dreamworld is already a white elephant, there is doubt that it will be completed or be a commercial success and it might exist “one day only as a memory,” the desert reclaiming it rather than the other way about.

‘The Sand Men’ reads like part JG Ballard, part Brave New World. Then there are the hints at a further darkness underlying: “there were dark corners here” and a need to appease the land. It could in fairness have done with a bit of editing – 46 missing people plus the three you already knew about is 49, not 46 – and the nature of the Sand Men is unexplored, deliberate ambiguity left at the end. In a way if he’d stuck closer to what actually goes on in the Middle East it might have come across as angrier, but would that necessarily be a good thing? This would bear comparison with Le Carre’s ‘Constant Gardener’ about the iniquities of drug companies in Africa, and Torday’s ‘Salmon Fishing in the Yemen’ which stitched up the venality of Western interests in the Gulf (the film however missed the point entirely). As it is ‘The Sand Men’ is a departure for Fowler who normally writes about London – and I suspect he will return there.


January 21, 2016 - 8:11 am No Comments

Deadly Curiosities Book 2
Author: Gail Z Martin
Publisher: Solaris
Page Count: 327pp
Release date: 29th Dec 2015
Reviewer: Theresa Derwin

Trifles and Folly isn’t your average antique store. Cassidy Kincaide, the current owner of Trifles and Folly has had the store in her family for over three hundred years, in haunted Charleston South Carolina. In the first book she discovers the store’s real purpose, and her destiny. It’s her job to keep magical curios and antiques safe from the public. Sometimes a jewellery box is just that, and sometimes it houses a blood-sucking demon. Either way, it’s a dangerous job, but someone has to do it, and it appears that someone is Cassidy and her employee Teag. She also works with her silent partner Sorren, a six hundred year old vampire with a few powers of his own. Think a quaint, old fashioned version of Warehouse 13.
To help her with her job, Cassidy’s talent is psychometry, the ability to read objects through touch.
When Cassidy touches the latest acquisition, the emotions are rife. Martin is expert at filling in the gaps and creating the mystery to progress the story through Cassidy’s visions; sights, sounds, feelings, atmosphere. It’s all here. And each artefact is a little glimpse into history, and a case for the Trifles team to solve. Cassidy is literally plunged into the past as the person who owned the object narrates their death and the circumstances surrounding it; moving and engaging stuff.
Emerging, shaking and upset from her vision, Cassidy tells Teag the bad news. There is a ghost attached to the jewellery box. But that’s not the bad news. It’s the wraith that eats ghosts, now in the most haunted city in North America that’s the problem. And something even bigger is on its way.
Cassidy has an interesting cast of characters to assist her in her endeavours. Teag himself is a Weaver, who can weave magic into fabric or find out anything by weaving information on the web. Lucinda is a Voudon mambo (root worker) who can offer protection through herbs and channel Baron Samedi. Valerie is a medium who runs the local ghost tour, Chuck, a retired Supernatural Black Ops Agent, Bo, the ghost of her dead dog and Father Anne, a tattooed and powerful priest who frees spirits helping them into the next world. Amidst the urban fantasy Fayre, the adventure, intrigue and humour, there is darkness galore and even a Lovecraftian vein. We also get to know Sorren a little better, and that knowledge is poignant.
Martin doesn’t shy away from the darker history of the South, being open and honest about slavery and the like. Her cast of characters is also wonderfully diverse including sexuality, race and colour. Martin is also adept at handling exposition and back story through conversation with other characters that feels natural.
There’s a lot of battles and blood in this novel and a few losses along the way, which makes the final showdown with the ‘big bad’ all the more dramatic and fraught with tension. Cassidy, Sorren, Teag and the rest of the team fight well together, but their adversary is strong. Will they survive intact? That’s not for me to tell. What I will say though, is its one helluva finale and this book had me gripped from start to finish.
Great characters, brilliant back story, emotional resonance, big bad monsters and a multitude of magic. This blockbuster of a book has it all. Highly recommended.

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

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 site I’ll also regularly blog about my plans for KnightWatch Press and about formidable Women in Horror

Saxon’s Bane

November 7, 2013 - 4:49 am No Comments

Saxon’s Bane
Author: Geoffrey Gudgion
Publisher: Solaris
Page count: 288pp
Release Date: 25th Aug 2013
Reviewer: Andy Angel

There are good books, there are very good books and then there is a small sub set of books that are so good and so believable in their characterisationand sense of place that you don’t just read them, you live them and miss them when you are finished. This first novel by Geoffrey Gudgeon easily falls into this later catagory.

The story starts with two life changing events. On the road above the village of Allingby Fergus Sheppard and his colleague Kate are involved in a terrible car crash, while at the same time, in the village itself archeologist Clare Harvey uncovers the body of a saxon warrior preserved in a peat bog.

As Fergus begins his recovery he returns to Allingby where the sedate pace of life seems to suit him, he makes friends and also meets up with Kate. Kate is having problems though, the saxon warrior and the partial skeleton of a woman found near it are troubling her dreams, she seems to be living out their story in her sleep.

The story is very much in the style of classic English countryside style horror/suspense (think The Wicker Man or Children of the Stones) where you have outsiders coming to what is often a very insular way of life. In the village itself you have both the christian community an the followers of ‘The Old Ways’ both of which rub along together very easily but there is also local bad boy Jake Herne who, along with his cronies is practicing a darker way.

The paths of Fergus, Kate and Jake will cross around the May Day ceremonies in a chain of events that will affect many in the village.

As someone who holidayed in a small English village as a youngster I can honestly say the author has got the way of life spot on in this enjoyable but at times unsettling debut 5/5