Friday, August 22, 2014

Book Review: One By Conrad Williams

One By Conrad Williams

Paperback, 363 pages

Published June 1st 2009 by Virgin Books (first published April 2nd 2009) ISBN13: 9780753518106

British Fantasy Award for Best Novel (2010)

My favorite sub-genre of horror novel is Post-apocalypse. I love the classics like Alas Babylon and On the beach as well as more modern classics like Swan Song, The Road and the Stand. I had this one on the shelf for a long time and I’m sorry it took me so long to get to it. I know this will sound like hyperbole but One is much darker than any of those other novels even McCarthy’s the Road. Much like my experience reading Swan Song my heart hurt for the character’s experiencing the events of the novel. It doesn’t have the epic scope of Swan Song but in all the good ways this was a British Swan Song. That folks is my second favorite novel of all time so keep that in mind.

I went into this novel cold. I didn’t read much about the plot and for that I was glad I didn’t. If you trust me and you are a fan of post apocalypse novels then stop right here and order the book.

So in many ways ONE is a masterpiece of the subgenre. Ironically considering the title it is like two books starting off like a straight forward end of the world novel and then in the second half becoming an excellent supernatural horror novel that is really the novel I wanted Simon Clark’s Blood Crazy to be.

Jane, who is a father and deep sea diver is deep off the coast of Britian when the majority of the human race is cooked by a massive solar flame. The first half of the novel is a painful hike across the ash cover remains of a Scotland and England burnt to a crisp. Jane needs to make it back to London in an attempt to find his son, who in his heart he admits is likely dead.

Like the McCarthy’s The Road this novel explores the nature of the relationship between Father and son. ONE however does this through a series of beautifully written letters/journals Jane keeps for his son as he survives. In the second half of the novel Williams takes the story 5 years into the future. A disease that no one can understand is carried in the layer of ash that has coated the earth. It could be argued that the infected feral cannibal humans running around London know as Skinners in the novel are zombies. Not exactly and that sells Conrad Williams skill short. I never felt like I was reading a zombie novel, but something similar and more original.

This is my first novel by Conrad Williams but I am so impressed I plan to read everything as soon as I can get my hands on them. Best novel I have read all year and probably my second favorite reading experience behind Cody Goodfellow’s Repo Shark.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Book Review: The Bottoms by Joe R. Lansdale

The Bottoms by Joe R. Lansdale

Paperback, 336 pages

Published September 1st 2001 by Mysterious Press (first published January 1st 2000) ISBN13: 9780446677929

Macavity Award Nominee for Best Mystery Novel (2001), Anthony Award Nominee for Best Novel (2001), Hammett Prize Nominee (2000), Edgar Award for Best Novel (2001)

The Bottoms is one of those novels I have been saving for the right time. Joe R. Lansdale is one of my favorite writers best known for his series Hap and Leonard and the Movie Bubba-Ho-Tep based on his short story. If you are not familiar with Lansdale he is a master story-teller who grew up in east texas. He writes some southern gothic, some horror but really Lansdale is just Lansdale an effective story teller who normally makes me laugh a lot in the time I am reading his work.

The reason I decided now was the time to read this novel was the news that a film of the Bottoms was on the way. Not only that but it will be written and directed by the team that made Frailty. That movie was the best horror movie of the year it came out and also a serial Killer story set in Texas.

The Bottoms is less horror and more mystery than Frailty but I see now this is a perfect fit. The novel has it’s horror elements including the legend of the Goat Man who provides many moments for Lansdale to show his horror chops. That said this a mystery set against the rural poverty of east Texas in the depression.

I am not a fan of first person narrative, but Lansdale being a master pulls it off to the point of being invisible most of the book. You forget at times this is a story being told by a man in an old folks home. The story works on many levels, as a mystery, an exploration of racism, A coming of age story and the unintended truths uncovered by a mystery.

Is it the most fun I have had reading Lansdale? Probably not I laugh a lot reading Hap and Leonard novels but this is the best Lansdale I’ve read. This is modern classic and a must read novel.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Book Review: Luther - The Calling by Neil Cross

Luther: The Calling by Neil Cross

Hardcover, 336 pages

Published September 4th 2012 by Touchstone (first published 2011)

ISBN13: 9781451673098

Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Crime Novel (2012) In the last few years my viewing habits have switched from movies to TV more and more. This is mostly a result of TV networks and producers finally realizing the thing they have that movies don’t is the ability expand a story like novelist would. That is also why True Detective was such an effective crime show – written by a novelist it has a fine ability to tell a slow burn mystery.

Luther as a show is a bit closer to the traditional police procedural set in modern London. Cross who has written several fantastic novels (I reviewed Burials here on the blog) and two of my favorite episodes of Doctor Who does an amazing job. For my money I think Luther is a pretty well written show over-all. Effective drama, horror and mystery written an amazing detail to plotting. All three series of Luther blew me away and quickly it became one of my favorite shows. I often point as trendy as True Detective is I think Luther is a better cop show over all.

There are not a ton of episodes, but each and every one of them is written by Neil Cross who wanted to fill in the back ground of his main character in this novel –prequel.

DCI John Luther is a well intentioned cop, but he is not exactly good cop. He breaks the rules constantly because of the stress of the major homicides and kidnappings that he deals with. East London is a character in show as much as his partners and wife are. In the show he is divorced, trying to deal with the loss of his wife, here we watch the marriage fall apart and the novel sets up the events that take place in the first series.

I think this novel is fantastic and captures the feeling of the show. The story of a killer who murders pregnant women and steals their babies is as horrible as it sounds. The novel has many cringe worthy moments. It doesn’t feel like a tie-in but an extension of the story. I was glad to know this part of Luther’s story. The mystery is effective, scares delivery and none of it sacrifices character development. I think it is better to start with the Series and then read the novel. But I suppose it doesn’t ruin the show.

Oh yes you need to read this novel, and watch the show both are top notch crime fiction.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Book Review: The Detainee by Peter Liney

The Detainee by Peter Liney

Hardcover, 352 pages Published March 11th 2014 by Jo Fletcher Books

I am a sucker for a good Dystopia. I mean me of all people, I often complain about end of the world stories that do not have enough gloom. So what went wrong here? Plenty of other people liked this novel. It is doing well on good reads for ranking. I am not going to say this is a horrible novel, because there are few elements of good here, but I have to admit it didn't connect with me.

This first person narrative was the first strike against novel for me, certain novels lend themselves to this kind of storytelling. The Shawshank Redemption, A Simple Plan or American Psycho are stories that are told, but I felt this was a story that needed to be happening. 70 pages in I, as the reader had no idea who the main character was. He was an amorphous I. The book went on at length about his setting, and a few of the unfortunate events he had to deal with but I didn't learn his name until I looked it up in an online review of novel. That is a bad sign.

I mention this because my habit as a reviewer at this point is to say "This novel is the story of..." but I never got a strong sense of who the narrator was. Now I know he is Clancy, some people call him "Big Guy" that he is considered unproductive and has been exiled to a giant trash heap of an island. This is where this hyper-capitlist future sends the "unproductive." Thus the island population contains many people of an advanced age thus making it kind of an opposite to Logan’s Run. It is a great concept; I like the point of view and the message. As a concept it has potential to be a fantastic dystopia warning novel, my favorite kind of science fiction- Horror crossover really. Basically a warning of what could happen if the right wing’s stance against social programs and welfare were taken to an extreme.

This is not an essay it is a novel, and no matter how interested I am in seeing a dystopia make this point it has to function as a novel or story. I admit I found myself skipping entire paragraphs, I know lots of people read this way but I do not. I was bored most of the time I had this book in front of me.

When I looked at online reviews I was surprised how many people liked the book. This book has been promoted as Hunger Games for adults and certainly many responded to the book’s take on ageism. I think libraries should collect this book and make it available despite my personal dislike for it. Certainly the themes are worthy.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Book Review: Repo Shark by Cody Goodfellow

Repo Shark by Cody Goodfellow

300 pages

Broken River books

Broken River is a new bizarro publisher focused mostly but I don't believe exclusively on weird crime novels. This imprint is the brain child of J David Osbourne the author of "By the Time We Leave Here We'll be Friends" a novel surreal novel published by Swallowdown and one of the best books I read the year it came out. Swallowdown to me had put out a chain of books that I considered instant classics. So I was excited when Osbourne put out a novel by fellow Swallowdown alum and diabolical genius Cody Goodfellow fresh off his Wonderland award for All Monster Action.

The novel in question is the most straight bizarro of Goodfellow's novels. Every single one of his novels are on the bizarro side of horror. It is not to say that this novel lacks horror elements, in fact it has more horror elements than I expected. However this is a bizarro crime novel. Goodfellow himself described it as “It’s about a repo man who goes to Honolulu to repossess a classic Harley from a were-shark. If you’ve ever enjoyed the quirky detective novels of Charles Willeford, Joe Gores or Elmore Leonard while flying on mushrooms, then this will come as a sensible value. Zef DeGroot is a tarnished White Knight private eye in the classic Spade-Marlowe tradition, but with black belts in karaoke and auto-fellatio.”

The story of vegas based repo-ninja named Zef. He has just taken a job to re-claim a Harley Davidson sold to gambler on a roll in Vegas. Before the sellers realized this Hawaiian man named Donny Punani whose money was not good for it the classic bike was on it's way back to the islands. Punani is serious criminal but he is also the ghost-god son of the King of All Sharks.

As Zef navigates the island he has to sift through the criminal underworld and deal with the possible legends. I laughed through-out the novel, but enjoyed the story and setting as well. Zef is the kinda hapless hero. As weird as it is Goodfellow doesn’t skimp on the quality story-telling and razor sharp prose. It ends with a finale as disgusting as anything in the World Horror convention’s annual Gross-out contest, but it was not forced. It was perfectly weaved in the story and had me laughing and marveling at its genius.

The best thing about this novel? It is like nothing this author did before. I hope you buy it and read it. You’ll enjoy it and then we should all get more weird as hell crime novels from Cody Goodfellow.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Book Review: When Gravity Fails by George Alec Effinger

When Gravity Fails by George Alec Effinger

Paperback, 288 pages

Orb Books (first published 1987) Hugo Award Nominee for Best Novel (1988), Nebula Award Nominee for Best Novel (1988)

As a going away gift from my homey Bru-dawg this cyberpunk classic was right up my alley. Taking place in a middle east (a setting I have yet to see in sci-fi) where the Islamic world is the dominate seat of power in this future. Automatically this makes for a very different and intesnse environment that makes this a special read.

The main character is Marid Audren a detective working the mean streets of Budayeen. This city has a violent underground run by a two-hundred year old godfather named Friedlander Bey. In this ghetto you’ll find people wired to be hyper intelligent who also download personalities and avatars that include James Bond and a vicious killer named Khan. Audren is trying to find the person behind the murder of a prostitute that he was friends with.

This is a fantastic Cyberpunk novel, perhaps one of the best I have ever read. The setting is fully realized and the characters are dynamic. The power of the setting is highlight but also Effinger also has a great wit that slices through a key moments.

That helps as this is a brutal setting, that makes blade runner’s LA look a little Disney. This was a quick read for me despite reading it at a busy time. I liked Effinger’s style and found the inventiveness of his world compelling and gonzo. If you like weird sci-fi then you can’t miss this one.

Wuxia film you should see! Young Detective Dee and the Rise of the Sea Dragon

Hong Kong master director Tusi Hark is back with a prequel that is even better than his last Dee movie!