Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Carpet Diem by Justin Lee Anderson

If you locked Tom Holt in a room with Douglas Adams, Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett with a PC and gave them Tequila for long enough the resulting novel would probably be something like Carpet Diem.

The permanently befuddled main character Simon is extremely reminiscent of Adams Arthur Dent. I liked him immediately. It's clear that Justin Lee Anderson is also a fan of some of the greats I mentioned above.

Carpet Diem has everything that the fan of comic fantasy could possibly want. We have angels, demons, witches, assassins, pirates and ninjas! There is a deadly battle that will decide the fate of the world and our hero Simon must step up to the plate and make the final decision about who will be the victor. Confused? You will be. I loved it.

Monday, 5 October 2015

Satan's Sorority by Graham Wynd

New beginnings are tough. So it is for Sandra, dragged to a Connecticut University against her will by a disapproving Father following what is referred to simply as an incident.

Sandra is shy, quiet and naive. She's an innocent and socially awkward girl. The last place she'd feel welcome is a rowdy sorority.  However, her new room mate drags her along to choose one. She's naturally drawn to the outsiders, the mysterious Sigma Tau Nu and their beguiling sexy leader, Trixie.

Having read some of Wynd's shorter fiction I had a good idea what to expect.  I wasn't disappointed.  Dark humour, the occult, loss of innocence and sex are all themes that featured strongly in this novella. Wynd has well developed, intelligent and believable characters. The flow of the story is perfectly paced with no overly verbose passages which made all the action and tension so much more effective.

The novella is not for the faint of heart with a couple of quite graphic scenes and sexual references, but these are neither gratuitous or overdone. I read through the quickly - a sure sign that it's a thumping good read. Top marks here Wynd is a talent I'd love to read more from.

Monday, 14 September 2015

Daydreams and Devils by Robert Cowan

Robert Cowan has improved upon his excellent first novel, The Search for Ethan. He's brought something I've always hoped to convey in my own fiction - believable characters. Like his first novel this is also a coming of age novel. The story of a young band just finding their feet and trying to have fun, despite all of the fear and anxiety that performing brings.

In a separate plot strand a would be gangster is also finding his feet but for him the consequences of failure are a very real thing to be feared. His boss, Vincent, is not a patient man.

Cowan brings the plot strands together slowly, but thoroughly. There's a playfulness here that wasn't present in the first novel. The dialogue is interesting and at times very cleverly conveyed. Cowan plays about with the word structure often in a comical and entertaining way and it adds a sense of fun to the book.

There are lots of musical references and it's clear this is a particular passion of the author. In short it was a great read. The author has paid attention to the little details to bring a polished and engrossing read. A fantastic novel that can be enjoyed by all, no hesitation in rating this five stars.

Thursday, 25 June 2015

Elysian Wonderland by Stuart Ayris

There's one guarantee with any novel by Stuart Ayris - it will always make me smile. Ayris is never a preacher but always a guru. Elysian Wonderland is like a fairy tale for adults.  Alice in Wonderland if you like for the tired, cynical and jaded. Stuart would be the first to admit that he keeps no strict narrative or structure to his novel, he makes up words, throws in rhyme and the result is somehow...magical.

In his latest offering a married couple worn down by the grind of normal, boring everyday life seek out a little excitement, an adventure in order to rekindle their lost spark. What they find is their inner child along with swearing hedgehogs, chain smoking gurus, a magical chef and a strange old man who cries black tiers. In short the usual Ayris magic, as I call it.

Good humour and sharp observation can be found throughout this novel alongside Stuart's true gift of making a tall tale truly entertaining. You can find the magic if you read this book with an open mind and a loving heart. Keep on keeping on Mr. Ayris you sir are a legend.

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

News From the Clouds by Robert Llewellyn

I have been looking forward to the third instalment in the trilogy for ages. In this novel Gavin Meckler finds himself once more in a strange and futuristic world. Imagine a world where the surface is deadly and uninhabitable.  Winds of up to five hundred miles an hour and huge storms that are tens of kilometres wide daily sweep the surface of the Earth. What option would mankind have but to live underground or in the sky? They choose to do both. 

All of the books in this fantastic series cover ecological issues and without ever preaching. You will find Llewellyn's writing is thoughtful and civilised from the outset. There is no excessive language, sex or violence. Just an interesting and intelligent narrative exploring not only the larger issues that face us all but Gavin’s own personal journey to get in touch with his emotional side. 

There’s a gentle touch to the author’s work that is not often found and very appealing. Like Pratchett and Adam’s it seems quintessentially British. Perhaps the best compliment I can give Llewellyn is that I could imagine Gavin Meckler in a dressing gown bumbling around much like Arthur Dent! This trilogy was a thoroughly entertaining read with depth, heart and a subtle moral message. More of the same please Robert!

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Paul Carter is A Dead Man by Ryan Bracha

As I often do when purchasing Kindle books I downloaded Paul Carter is A Dead Man with no preconceptions and having only briefly read the blurb. I wasn't disappointed.  This was a refreshingly different read. The novel, the first in a trilogy, is set in a dystopian Britain of the very near future. A worryingly bleak near future.  A vision of the future that felt frighteningly real. So England has gone ultra-nationalist, it has closed its borders, isolated Scotland and turned in on itself. UKIP voters - you'd love it! Technology has gone a step further and everyone is addicted to the network - A state sponsored Internet feed. Swearing is outlawed and anyone showing anti-British sentiment is likely to be hauled up for judgement by a state-sponsored crew, who are essentially a privatised police force. Chillingly the general public decides the fate of offenders and that fate is usually death.

Bracha's point with the novel is, I think, largely about the damage social media and new technology is doing to us as individuals and to society as a whole. It so easy to judge others online without being in possession of the full facts. The Internet is the ultimate mob, bullies and cowards can easily hide behind a keyboard where anonymity is king. 

The novel flowed very fast and the author let the reader fill in a lot of blanks for themselves, which was refreshing and helped the flow of the book. I found it exciting and I really cared for the little band of outlaws that Carter assembles. Five well deserved stars.

Friday, 20 February 2015

This is How You Disappear by Allen Miles

I've said this about Allen's short stories before - there is an innate, uncontrived emotional intelligence to them. It feels like you're sharing something intimate with the author about himself,  such is the feeling of honesty in his fiction.

Yes, you were right there is a "but" coming! Allen's work is downbeat, sad, melancholic. There is little or no joy to be found here, but isn't that realistic - like the daily grind of life sometimes? It's an arguable point and it's perhaps one reason his work is a bit like marmite. You'll either love it or hate it.

If, like me, you see beauty in the melancholy lyrics of Nick Cave or you understand where Cohen and Waits are coming from then you'll get the brillance here and give it 5 stars like me.

Monday, 9 February 2015

The Long War (Long Earth 2) by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter

An interesting sequel to the Pratchett and Baxter’s The Long Earth. We return to the character of Joshua a generation after the events in the original novel. Joshua has a family now and mankind has spread across the Long Earth like some deadly violence. This has repercussions on the trolls and we see the emergence of a new species, the Beagle’s, to the series.

As with the first novel in the series it was, perhaps, a little over long and overly ambitious. There were lots of plot strands and just when you are settling into one, it jumps back to another. However, with two writers of such a high calibre it’s still a very enjoyable read and I’m hoping some of those stray plot strands are tied up in book three, The Long Mars. If you’re looking for an enjoyable sci-fi epic this is a decent and intelligent read.

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Who is Killing the Great Capes of Heropa? by Andrez Bergen

Who is Killing the Great Capes of Heropa is a fantastically different and entertaining novel. Set in a dystopian post apocalyptic future where there is only one city left on earth. Therefore is it any wonder that the oppressed citizens of this city seek escape within a virtual world? Our hero, who is just fifteen, lives alone his parents long ago dragged off by the fascist police. He ekes out a meagre existence by scavenging for food. It's on one of these food hunts that he discovers a hoard of ancient comics. From that moment on he is hooked. Later, his knowledge of comic books will lead to him securing a place in a virtual world that is quite unlike any other. As with any virtual realm there are defined rules. Andrez Bergen is clear in outlining these: No swearing and no drinking among others. Breaking these will result in our player being kicked from Heropa with a two-day penalty.

I'm no reader of comics. I grew up reading the classic sci-fi novels so just about all of the author's carefully crafted references and in jokes probably flew right over my balding head. However, I enjoyed the witty comic book banter, which was always effective, and it was great to read a book with no swearing in for a change! In my own fiction there's foul language on almost every page.
What I enjoyed most about this novel is the interplay between the characters. Humour is very much the backbone of this Chandler style who dunnit. Our hero, Southern Cross, attempts to find out who is killing the great capes of Heropa. It’s not a perfect world and relationships are flawed, things start to go wrong in the game with sometimes comic and even sinister consequences.

Bergen has created a spectacular world here and I could easily see it running to a series of novels, comics and spin offs. Interesting artwork enriches the kindle edition I read. A very different read that I enjoyed from page one until the conclusion. The author has researched his subject painstakingly and meticulously and the novel flows like warm butter from a pan. A well deserved five stars from me.