Saturday, July 16, 2016

SHADOWMAN by Garth Ennis and Ashley Wood

This darker version of Shadowman bares little resemblance the first (early 90's) and current (2012-) iterations of the character and title. The series was published following the Acclaim buyout of Valiant resulting in a shifting of substance; moving away from the super-hero nature of its predecessor to focus on mature and violent content. It worked for the first 4 chapters (issues) of Shadowman with story and art reminiscent of Frank Miller in full flight before loosing it's way a little with the Deadside chapters.

For the most, those Deadside chapters (1-3) are visually stunning; obscure and obscene styling that compliments the violent and hellish afterlife of the Deadside. Credit to Ashley Wood, his Deadside and characters are truly horrifying. Where this 'act ' drops the ball, so to speak, is with Paul Jenkins' storytelling. There is little to link Deadside with the early story (setting aside) which left the first act (Shadowman 1-4) reading a tad incomplete. While still enjoyable, Deadside (1-3) largely reads as three distinct standalone chapters highlighting the horrors of the Deadside and it's murderous inhabitants. I'd feel better about the Deadside act had chapter 4 been more than an unpublished script. I don't know what the people at Valiant, in reprinting these stories, didn't invest in an artist to ink the script for the purpose of this collection. 

The Garth Ennis and Ashley Wood Shadowman is a must read for Shadowman and horror comics/graphic novel readers. This collection is dark and violent with characters that leap off the page full of murderous intent. 

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

Would I re-read? Yes

Fiction Filed under: Horror, Deadside, Shadowman, Graphic Novels

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Review: BLACK SAILS, DISCO INFERNO by Andrez Bergen

30282257BLACK SAILS, DISCO INFERNO is a criminally good novel that ripens the rotten forbidden fruit of romance amid the slippery red violence of the underworld in a classic retelling reminiscent of star-crossed lovers Romeo and Juliet.

Competing crime families Holt and Cornwall fire pot shots at one another with little remorse, populating morgues and spreading grief as easily as they fill disco's and line the pockets of their henchmen. In an unnamed city, this plight for power is omnipresent yet it's one young female character who stands omnipotent through it all; Trista - a flawed yet endearing protagonist who, despite her easy acquiescence to murder shows a softer side with a caring and needful nature  yearning to indulge in love and the more harmonious side of life. Yet the bullets fly, killing friends and dreams alike.

Author Andrez Bergen has crafted a distinct literary noir oozing all that is sullen and grey while knifing his fictional reality with slithers of color and hope. From the outset there is little chance of a happy ending yet it's one hell of a ride arriving to that forgone conclusion. 

I was provided a copy by the author in exchange for an honest review. 

Monday, July 4, 2016

Review: ALL THE BIRDS IN THE SKY by Charlie Jane Anders

A weird and wonderfully crafted fantasy seeped in the lore of love and imbued with the destructive desires of the scientifically mad. 

ALL THE BIRDS IN THE SKY is a confusion of genres. Evolving from young adult, to magical fantasy, to sci-fi, to post apocalyptic without settling on either one. It's an approach that could garner criticism as easily as praise. In this instance, it's praise. I like books that keep the narrative fresh and unpredictable, as was the case here. The surreal nature of the book called for this approach and I'm glad the author delivered.

The story revolves around a magical girl who blossoms into a fully fledged witch in adulthood and a young nerdy somewhat reclusive boy with a penchant for technology who turns into a tycoon of the industry. Their history binds them but circumstance and world shattering events are the glue that holds them together, despite being shaky at times. The characterisation is both distinct and apt. I felt like I was reading a tech-fi on one hand, and a magical fantasy on the other. Plaudits to the author for the cleverly crafting.

ALL THE BIRDS IN THE SKY is a book readers of the surreal will definitely want to check out though the appeal will reach a broader audience, such is the weird and wonderful nature of the plot. 

Rating: 4/5 stars

Would I re-read? Yes

Fiction Filed under: Fantastical, end-of-the-world, magic, witches

I was provided a copy of the book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Review: The Weird Tales of Conan the Barbarian

25759733This collection of short stories originally published in Weird Tales from 1934 through 1936 serves as a great introduction to the Conan sword and sorcery epics. 

Magic, bloody battles, dark arts, and a healthy dose violence and adventure populate each of the short stories and that of the novel, THE HOUR OF THE DRAGON which rounds out the collection. Whilst there is an element of repetition to each of the stories, they are all entertaining, with THE PEOPLE OF THE BLACK CIRCLE and RED NAILS being standouts.

Conan, more a king than barbarian for the most part cuts his way through all manner of enemies in search of a damsel in distress, a Jewell that hold magical power, or a kingdom in need of taking. There's not a lot of depth and, novel and RED NAILS aside, little by way of supporting characters. This is ok though, Conan isn't meant to be a deep and meaningful read - it's meant to be greedily consumed whilst loosing yourself in the fantastical world he resides and conquers. 

I've used the term 'popcorn pulp' many times in other reviews and THE WEIRD TALES OF CONAN THE BARBARIAN is just that, albeit a little more meaty given the number of short stories and bonus full length novel readers are treated to. 

I was provide a copy of the book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. 

Friday, June 17, 2016

This Just In!

Who doesn't love getting new books? Here are a couple that have come my way recently thanks to a pair of awesome publishers! Better yet - they are written by two authors are very talented and always write a good yarn. Hit up the search / tags of this blog to read reviews of their early works.

BLACK SAILS, DISCO INFERNO

Written by Andrez Bergen

Publication Date: 30 June 2016

Publisher: Open Books

The Blurb:
An unnamed city, in which crime families flourish and the police pinch pennies from those with most power...
'Black Sails, Disco Inferno' is a retelling of the classic medieval romance of Tristan and Isolde, turning things on their head by reversing the sex of the chief protagonists and placing them in a '70s pulp/noir world — amidst a sensual, disco-infused narrative overflowing with shady schemes, double dealings, cruel brutality and a spellbinding mystery. 

GUNSHINE STATE

Written by Andrew Nette

Publication Date: 12 September 2016

Publisher: 280 Steps

The Blurb:
A heist thriller set in Queensland, Melbourne and Thailand. Think Richard Stark's Parker, Garry Disher's Wyatt, and Wallace Stroby's Crissa Stone. Add a touch of Surfers Paradise sleaze and a very dangerous stopover in Asia.

Gary Chance is a former Australian army driver, ex-bouncer and thief. His latest job sees him in Queensland working for Dennis Curry, an aging Surfers Paradise standover man. Curry runs off-site, non-casino poker games, and wants to rob one of his best customers, a high roller called Frederick 'Freddie' Gao.

While the job may seem straightforward, Curry's crew is anything but. Frank Dormer is a secretive former Australian soldier turned private security contractor. Sophia Lekakis is a highly-strung receptionist at the hotel where Gao stays when he visits Surfers. Amber is Curry's attractive female housemate and part of the lure for Gao. Chance knows he can't trust anyone, but nothing prepares him for what unfolds when Curry's plan goes wrong.


Do yourself a favor and pre-order these!

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Review: NOD by Adrian Barnes

25733548Nod explores the slow disintegration of humanity through sleep deprivation. Reality is distorted as the conceptual fiction of the world of Nod turns fact in the eyes of the Awakened. A harsh insomnia overthrows the daily grind, replacing it with a hazed infused horror fun-house that strips the characters down to their basic need to just survive.  

While I was expecting a different story, Nod delivers in establishing a truly atmospheric semi-dystopian infused survival horror. 

Yet the most endearing element comes from the death of a long term relationship between Paul (one of the few Sleepers - people who are able to maintain nightly sleep) and his is partner Tanya (one of the many Awakened, those in a perpetual state of insomnia). Their close bond pre the end of the world balances on the edge of ending before falling over the void into nothingness. Add cult-like theorists and an easy manipulation of will, and Tanya and Paul's life together was going to always take a turn for the worse. Not forgetting the fact that the Awakened have a vastly shortened life span as it is. 

I can understand while some readers are put off by Nod. The story ends without providing full closure and there are a couple of plot holes that aren't filled. I didn't find these complains overbearing and still enjoyed the book for the most part. 

I was provided a copy of Nod by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. 

Thoughts on The Passage trilogy pre reading THE CITY OF MIRRORS

30241499Today I finally got my hands of the final installment to Justin Cronin's epic The Passage trilogy in The City Of Mirrors. It's been a long time coming and I can't wait to delve in. So much so that I'm putting my current read on hold (something I rarely do). 

I read The Twelve in October 2012 (the 18th through to 25th - thank you Goodreads) so I'm a little hazy on the action that's taken place to this point. What better way to get reacquainted with the story than to re-read right? Well, one look at that rather large page count (including the 1st book, The Passage) and I had second thoughts. The next best thing? Revisit my review of The Twelve, familiarize myself with the landscape and prepare to jump back in. 

16090340
The Twelve is vastly different from The Passage in terms of plot focus and central theme. Apart from being set in the same world as its predecessor, The Twelve reads as an entirely different book - conceptually. The virals and humanity's struggle to thrive in a limited existence was bound to evolve; yet it may have been to the detriment of all that the author had achieved in The Passage. 

Where The Passage excelled in elements of survival horror, post apocalyptic dread, horrific creatures and a truly depressing and desperate setting, The Twelve is more thriller, action, almost special ops orientated. This approach, while decent in its own right, paled in comparison to the The Passage. I was hoping for something that picked up the bloodied pieces of the shocking conclusion and maintained the same horror of the first installment.

The Twelve in turn, focuses more on the human dynamic and less on the virals themselves. Amy, the mysterious thirteenth test subject becomes something much more than an everlasting, slow ageing viral cousin so to speak. Her story is one of the highlights, along with the expanded sub plot given to Alicia Donadio. 

You could easily be excused for thinking The Twelve was written by Stephen King. All the hallmarks of a popular King horror are present throughout. Characters are given ample time to develop, past and present conflicts morph as one, the slow burning plot cruises along leisurely at times taking a back seat to dialogue or less critical narrative, and the overall feel is in tune with Kings' craft. 

If not for The Passage, The Twelve would read much better (given the expectations and overall theme of the preceding story). That said, The Passage is essential in defining the world and establishing the core characters. As much as I enjoyed The Twelve, I couldn't help but think it would've been much better if had resembled The Passage more. 


I rated The Twelve 3 stars on Goodreads, and have little doubt The City of Mirrors will surpass that. 

Check back on the blog for my review of The City of Mirrors soon-ish.