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.

Vendetta

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.