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David L. Brzeski "cosmic_jukebox"
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Honey West and T.H.E. Cat: A Girl and Her Cat
Honey West and T.H.E. Cat: A Girl and Her Cat

5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent fast-paced adventure., 1 July 2014
I’d been looking forward to this one for a while, so I was pleased to be offered an advance pdf to review.

Honey West is a female PI, originally introduced in ‘This Girl For Hire’ (1957), by Gloria and Forest Fickling under the pseudonym "G.G. Fickling". This was the first of a series of nine novels written between 1957 and 1964 (followed by a two book revival in 1971/72). Most people will be more familiar with the short-lived 1965-66 TV series, starring Anne Francis in the lead role. The entire 30 episode run is now available on DVD. Apart from a one-shot comic book from Gold Key in 1966, that was pretty much it, until Moonstone revived the character for a series of comics, including several crossovers with other classic characters. Moonstone have also reissued omnibus volumes of some of the original novels, and this is the first of several projected new prose adventures. One of the strengths of the Moonstone version of the character is that they cleverly combine the best features of the original novel version, and the TV series version. For instance, the books, as would be expected, are raunchier than the TV show, but Honey’s pet ocelot, Bruce, was an invention of the TV version. Both are featured in this novel, to great effect.

Ex cat burglar turned bodyguard, T.H.E Cat is possibly less well-known, as there were no books. The TV series, starring Robert Loggia, ran for just 26 episodes in 1966/67. Sadly, it’s much harder to come by than Honey West, as there has so far been no DVD release. Bad quality, but just about watchable copies of some episodes can be found on YouTube. Other than that, there was just a four issue comic book series, published by Dell in 1967. That is, until Moonstone recently published a 3 issue comic miniseries, featuring both Honey and Cat, which details the first meeting of the characters.

Honey is hired to track down some stolen property, but her employer also seems to want to kill her, and there are definitely more than two agendas at work. When her friend, CIA agent Johnny Doom, is infected with a deadly disease, she shakes off his Mother’s Brother and seeks out the help of another old friend—Thomas Hewitt Edward Cat.

As those familiar with the previous works of Win Scott Eckert would expect, the crossovers do not stop with the main two characters. There are quite a few other characters and places from assorted print, television and film sources, albeit thinly disguised for copyright reasons. The name by which Doctor Shan Ming Fu is better known shouldn’t give most readers any trouble to work out. I won’t mention any others here, as that would spoil the fun to be had spotting them for yourselves. It would be easy, when shoehorning in these various pop-culture references, to mar the flow of the story. Thankfully, Eckert and Baugh are far too experienced to fall into that trap. All the extra character cameos are perfectly logical and, more importantly, it won’t harm the story in the slightest if the reader doesn’t manage to spot some, or even all of them.

I really don’t want to say too much about the actual story. I hate spoilers. Suffice to say that it’s an excellent fast-paced adventure, and one that left me looking forward to more. As I have come to expect from both authors, the writing is of a high quality.


Weird Shadows Over Innsmouth
Weird Shadows Over Innsmouth
by Stephen Jones
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.19

4.0 out of 5 stars A varied and entertaining collection of stories., 10 May 2014
Review based on an ARC, supplied by the publisher.

This is the third book in a trilogy of anthologies based on H.P. Lovecraft’s Innsmouth sequence of tales, within his Cthulhu Mythos. I don’t, as yet, have the first two books, but that’s not really an issue, as the stories are connected by the theme, rather than being a chronological series.
The book opens with a poem by Lovecraft himself - ‘The Port’, which is as good an introduction as any to the theme of the book. The first story is by John Glasby, a writer who was best known (along with R. Lionel Fanthorpe) for penning most of the output of John Spencer and Co.’s Badger books imprint in the 60s, under a variety of pseudonyms. It’s a nice change of pace to see what he can do when he can devote a little more time to his stories. It’s not bad, although it’s very much in the vein of those Lovecraft pastiches that rely heavily on slavishly copying elements of the master’s own writing. ‘Innsmouth Bane’ is a prequel to HPL’s ‘The Shadow Over Innsmouth’, in which we learn more details of the events leading up to that story. The protagonist is searching for news of his artist friend, a relative of the Marsh family of Innsmouth, and the results of his inquiries are not pleasant. The story ends with a common Lovecraftian device, the Protagonist setting down his story on paper as he awaits his inevitable end at the hands of the Deep Ones.
To say ‘Richard Riddle, Boy Detective, in “The Case of the French Spy”’ by Kim Newman is a change of pace is an understatement. The heroes, if we can call them that, are a pastiche of the Enid Blyton children’s gang, as seen in the ‘Famous Five’ books. In fact I found the ‘Comic Strip Presents’ TV parodies of those stories came to mind a lot during my reading. The villain is a lunatic, book-burning style clergyman, who spends his free time smashing fossils. It is his belief that they were planted by Satan to dissuade the unwary of the literal accuracy of the Bible, by suggesting that the Earth had been around much longer than stated in the good book. In their conflict with this religious lunatic, Newman has his heroes do something that may possibly be very bad, for the right reasons.
Third up is one of the original tales - Innsmouth Clay, by H.P. Lovecraft and August Derleth. It’s a direct sequel to ‘The Shadow Over Innsmouth’, and it inspired me to take a break at this point to reread that original story.
Reggie Oliver’s ‘The Archbishop’s Well’ tells of an ancient pre-Christian well in the grounds of a cathedral, which had been sealed off centuries ago and not opened since. The Bishop decides to have it demolished and replaced with a modern drinking fountain. Regular readers of horror fiction, let alone that of a Lovecraftian nature, will know that this couldn’t possibly end well (pun intended).
Back when I reviewed ‘The Alchemy Press Book of Pulp Heroes’, I stated that I sincerely hoped Adrian Cole’s story in that book was the first of a series featuring his hard-boiled occult detective, Nick Nightmare. I was very pleased to discover that my wishes had been answered with ‘You Don’t Want To Know’, in which Nick finds himself caught between his employers and the FBI, who are both hunting the same man. In fact, it appears that this is actually the first story, but the second managed to see print first. Excellent stuff, as I expected. More please, Mr Cole.
‘Fish Bride’ is the first of three stories by Caitlin R. Kiernan. In a fascinating mix of genres, she applies the trope of the forbidden lovers, their relationship doomed due to their separate destinies, to a normal young man and his Innsmouth-spawn bride.
Conrad William’s ‘The Hag Stone’ is the story of a dying old man, recently widowed, who takes what is intended to be a peaceful holiday on Alderney. What with the really foul weather; a house converted from the barracks used by the occupying German soldiers in 1940; a serial killer, who targets women in coastal resorts all over the country and the mysterious, repellent “fisherman”, Gluckmann, who swims naked in the sea every day, even in winter—this was never going to be the typical picture postcard holiday, now was it?
Caitlin R. Kiernan’s second story, ‘On the Reef’, is next up. Here, she tells of the annual visits to Devil’s Reef by legions of pilgrims for their annual religious event. It’s an excellent, atmospheric piece.
One of the highlights of the book, for me, was ‘The Song of Sighs’, by Angela Slatter. Vivienne Croftmarsh is a teacher at an academy for orphans. She suffers from selective amnesia, in that she remembers everything she needs to know to teach, but her past is blank. In tone, it reminded me somewhat of ‘Rosemary’s Baby’. Vivienne appears to be the focus of some sort of malign plot, but not in the way the reader might expect.
After I reread Lovecraft’s original, ‘The Shadow Over Innsmouth’, I got to wondering about that famous FBI raid in 1928 and the depth charges dropped in Devil’s Reef. I wondered if anyone had ever really followed up on that. The authorities would obviously have some sort of sealed records on the events at Innsmouth. What happened after the raid? Brian Hodge answers these questions in ‘The Same Deep Waters as You’, in which Kerry Larimer, ‘The Animal Whisperer’ finds herself enlisted by the Department of Homeland Security to help communicate with the survivors of that raid, who have been kept under wraps in a secret prison since 1928. I recently read Brian Hodge’s excellent Cthulhu Mythos novella, ‘Whom the Gods Would Destroy’, and this story certainly holds up in comparison. The best story in the book, in my opinion.
Ramsey Campbell’s early work will be familiar to any fan of Lovecraftian fiction. He’s been revisiting that particular sub-genre of late, and ‘The Winner’ is one of the results. This creepy story was originally published in 2005, but in a fairly obscure collection, so it’ll be new to most readers, as it was to me. The basic premise is a horror favourite. The traveller, delayed by circumstances beyond his control, finds himself in a squalid backstreet establishement, in this case a pub, and very soon wishes he’d never set foot in the place. I guarantee that the next time the reader finds themselves in a pub, with offish, slightly menacing locals, and filthy toilets, they’ll feel even more uncomfortable than usual.
Next is my favourite of Caitlin R. Kiernan’s three stories in this book. ‘The Tradition of Elizabeth Haskins’ gives us the tragic story of a less than enthusiastic scion of Innsmouth. All three of Kiernan’s tales are from the point of view of the reluctant monster. It makes for an interesting variation on the theme.
Michael Marshall Smith is an author I constantly hear great things about, but had yet to try, so it was especially interesting to read, ‘The Chain’. His reputation is deserved. It’s an excellently written story of an artist who comes to a small, exclusive, coastal town to find his muse. In his search for inspiration for his work, he soon comes to the conclusion that Carmel is just too perfect. There are overtones of ‘The Stepford Wives’ in this story. Albeit, it’s not the people who live there that are off-kilter. The problem is with the sort of people who don’t seem to be there at all.
Simon Kurt Unsworth goes for a very topical setting for ‘Into The Water’. His story follows a film crew, reporting on devastating floods. One of the locals suggests that the cause might not be as simple as global warming. This is one of those tales that, once the coming horror has been amply suggested, ends with no attempt at showing how humanity is going to hold it back. I generally find that sort of thing slightly annoying, but in this case it’s very effective.
I really liked Angela Slatter’s first story in this book, but ‘Rising, Not Dreaming’ didn’t appeal to me quite as much. It’s not that it isn’t beautifully written—it is. Sadly, the premise just didn’t work for me. The Great Old Ones, are held fast in their eternal slumber, under the ocean, until the chosen one, whose task it is to keep playing the music that keeps them that way, decides he’s had enough. It appears he hadn’t read the small print and hadn’t realised the job was a permanent one.
Brain Lumley’s ‘The Long Last Night’ is as much an “after the holocaust” story, as it is a Cthulhu Mythos tale. The holocaust in this case being the return of the Great Old Ones, and the subjugation of what’s left of the human race. In a way, it could be considered a sort of sequel to either of the two previous stories. The bleak future that would logically follow the events in those stories has come to pass. Henry Chattaway has lost everything, including his wife and two daughters. All he has left is revenge, and he’s set out on the final of several dangerous treks through what’s left of the London Underground system to enact it.
This is a varied and entertaining collection of stories. The book has a great Les Edwards painted cover, and is full of superb black and white illustrations by Randy Broecker—albeit they don’t appear to be directly tied to the stories. The half-dozen full page illustrations would certainly be worthy of reprinting in a high quality portfolio. There are also lots of smaller illustrations, although the ones at the top of the first page of each story are just the same three, repeated in rotation.


Whom the Gods Would Destroy
Whom the Gods Would Destroy
Price: £2.20

5.0 out of 5 stars An author to watch out for., 10 May 2014
Review based on an eARC downloaded from NetGalley

It’s never a good idea, I feel, to give away too much of the plot, especially when reviewing a fairly short book, so I’ll try not to say too much here.

Damien is an astronomer. Brian Hodge does a great job, in the scene where Damien explains to his non-geek girlfriend, exactly what his vocation means to him. He touches heavily on the concept of the insignificance of humankind in the vastness of the Universe—a concept that is integral to Lovecraft’s fiction. He has a dark and mysterious past. His vague memories of being dragged along to some sort of ritual, performed by his uncaring mother and his half brother still disturb him. Then, one morning, after several years in which he’s managed to get his life on track, he finds his estranged half-brother asleep in his car. The first in a chain of events which lead him towards the terrible truth about his mother.

Some Lovecraft scholars have stated the opinion that, had Lovecraft lived longer, his work would likely have veered more towards science fiction than supernatural horror. This book is a good example of the direction he may have taken, and indeed had already taken in tales such as, ‘The Colour Out of Space’. “Magic's just science that we don't understand yet.” is a famous quote by Arthur C. Clarke, and it certainly applies here.

Not only does Brian Hodge get the “Cosmic Awe” concept nailed down, but his characters, and the way he describes the relationships between them, are expertly drawn to a degree that Lovecraft, himself could never have achieved.
This was my introduction to the writing of Brian Hodge. I’ve since read another of his excellent tales in ‘Weirder Shadows Over Innsmouth’, which has firmly solidified his position on my personal list of authors to watch out for.


The Aylesford Skull (Langdon St. Ives) (Tale of Langdon St. Ives)
The Aylesford Skull (Langdon St. Ives) (Tale of Langdon St. Ives)
by James P. Blaylock
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.40

4.0 out of 5 stars The climactic scenes are spectacular., 10 May 2014
Review based on an ARC, supplied by the publisher.

I broke one of my rules for this one. I generally hate to start a series anywhere but book one. I'm not even completely sure what number in the series this one is. The villain has appeared in at least one book without the hero, and I believe the hero is in at least three previous novels and several short stories. I had, however, accepted an actual print copy of this one for review, and to catch up on all the previously published material would've taken too long, especially as Titan Books don't plan on reissuing the two previous Langdon St. Ives books they have on their schedule until one and two months respectively after this one. In any case I'm pleased to report that it isn't necessary to have read the others to follow this one.
The first thing I noticed upon opening the book was that they'd printed the text in sepia. I'd have missed that clever detail on my Kindle. It sets the tone nicely.
James P. Blaylock is one of the literary pioneers of the Steampunk movement. Some would claim he pretty much invented that hybrid genre. Perhaps this explains why he is able to employ such a degree of subtlety to his steampunk world-building. Certainly this novel (I can't speak for the others) is not overwhelmed by the trappings of Steampunk. There is an airship in the book, but it's not employed until fairly late on and apart from a fascinating cross between steampunk technology and necromancy, employed by the villain Narbondo, that's about it! The rest could pretty much take place in the real world of the late 19th Century.
It's a fairly long book, with a lot of characters on both sides of the conflict, but I never found it less than gripping. In fact I sped through it in just two sittings. I especially enjoyed the way Blaylock split his heroes up and had them all working vaguely towards the same end, while having no clear idea where the others were, or what they were up to. Even so, he managed to keep a tight control on who was where and when, so that the action ties up properly in the end.
Scientist and explorer Langdon St. Ives is a pretty laid back sort of hero. He shrugs off an attempt by Narbondo to poison his entire family remarkably easily and doesn't get really riled up until his four year-old son is kidnapped.
St. Ives' son, Eddie is an unusually capable child for his age, adapting easily to strange situations and generally keeping his head. I can see that some readers would find that somewhat unrealistic. I found myself wondering if we weren't witnessing the birth of a new hero, whose life might be explored further in books set at the turn of the Century (this one takes place in 1883) through the 1920s and 1930s?
Narbondo is deranged, as all such villains should be. His plot to overthrow the throne and government would leave even the likes of Fu Manchu speechless. Off-the wall doesn't cover it!
I actually found the female characters generally more interesting than the males and would like to see more of Alice St. Ives and Mother Laswell. I feel they could even carry a book on their own, without the help of their menfolk.
The climactic scenes are spectacular to say the least, and I found it hard not to visualise it in terms of a Hollywood Blockbuster. The treatment given Sherlock Holmes in the Robert Downey Jr. movies would probably work much better (or at least offend fewer purists) with Langdon St. Ives as the male lead character.


Sgt. Janus Returns
Sgt. Janus Returns
Price: £3.65

4.0 out of 5 stars I liked this book a great deal, maybe even more than the first volume., 10 May 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I’d very much enjoyed the first volume, ‘Sgt. Janus, Spirit-Breaker’, which I previously reviewed. So much so that I bought myself a Kindle edition of the follow up as soon as I saw it was available.
Many readers, myself included, loved the storytelling form of the first volume, which had each tale told from the point of view of a different character. In his afterword, Jim Beard states that he was a little worried that he’d decided not to approach this second volume in that way, but rather have the entire book narrated by one person. I have to say, I don’t think it’s as big a change as one might expect. You see, this volume is actually a novel, albeit an episodic one. Granted some of the stories within would work individually, but not all of them.
The last book left Sgt. Roman Janus in no fit state to continue his “spirit-breaking” career, so I was intrigued to see how Jim Beard would continue his saga. As it turns out, the Sgt. doesn’t even appear for most of the book. Instead, we follow the adventures of the mysterious “dark lady”, who previously acted as the major domo of Janus House. With the loss of Janus, she finds herself disconnected from the world; she has no memory of who she is, but she feels compelled to attempt to fill Janus’ shoes and carry on his work.
We pick up the story when the narrator of the book, Joshua Hargreaves, first meets her. Joshua, an almost Wodehousian upper class layabout, had done little since his graduation from university other than listen to his beloved Jazz music. In the dark lady, who he eventually dubs “Lady Janus”, he finds a strange new purpose in life. They move into the weird and wonderful Janus House, and Lady Janus proceeds to answer various requests for help, which doesn’t always go down well with the clients, who were expecting Sgt. Roman Janus. As their adventures continue, she begins to become more and more like Roman Janus.
I won’t say much more. We do eventually discover who she actually is, and it’s no real spoiler to mention that the real Janus does eventually return, and I suspect most readers won’t work it out before they get to that point.
However, I can’t be totally positive. As is so common with the smaller presses, there are a few more typos than I would like. The biggest problem, however, was the Kindle formatting. It’s by no means so bad you can’t read it, but it looks like it was never checked on an actual Kindle before publication. I’ve looked at the book on my computer, in the ereader that comes with Calibre, and some of the problems don’t look as bad as they do on the Kindle itself. For instance, the font size for the contents page is huge, compared to the main text. While they looked fine on the computer, the drop-caps on the first letter of each chapter were positioned too low when viewed on the kindle. For the most part though, the book simply would have looked much neater with a few formatting tweaks, rather than there being any faults that actually affect the reading.
The cover and internal illustrations are nice enough, although I much preferred the style of the cover art on the first volume.
The story is the main thing, though, and I liked this book a great deal, maybe even more than the first volume. I’m genuinely looking forward to volume 3, and hope to see more of Joshua Hargreaves, as well as the good sergeant.


The Scarlet Jaguar: The Memoirs of Pat Wildman, Volume 2
The Scarlet Jaguar: The Memoirs of Pat Wildman, Volume 2
Price: £2.84

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sheer fun adventure!, 10 May 2014
Review based on the limited edition, purchased directly from the publisher.

This is the second original Pat Wildman adventure. The first was 'The Evil at Pemberley House', from Subterranean Press, which Win Scott Eckert co-wrote with the late science fiction Grand Master, Philip José Farmer. It's a limited, signed edition of 225 copies, so if you're interested grab it fast!
Pat Wildman is the daughter of 'Doc' Wildman, whose many adventures were published under a slightly different name. Most people will immediately figure out what name when they read of Pat's bronzed skin and gold-flecked eyes.
As one would expect from Win Scott, Eckert and Meteor Press, especially in a book in a series which Philip José Farmer had a hand in, it's full of references to Farmer's 'Wold Newton Family'. As well as Pat, we meet one Helen Benson, who has inherited some of her father's powers of disguise. Fans of sixties TV will also recognise a certain bird-named organization, whose soldiers are now mercenaries since a certain United Nations based task force put their leaders out of business. There are quite a few other references to other characters and stories by Farmer, Eckert and others. I won't spoil the fun by listing them.
Indeed, all the influences at work in this book—pulp heroes, old movie serials, classic sixties spy shows etc.—have one common factor; sheer fun adventure! There's certainly no shortage of that in this book. We have a mysterious villain, the Scarlet Jaguar of the title—with his equally mysterious weapon, which turns objects and people into red glass and shatters them into thousands of shards—not to mention a dastardly plot to destroy the Panama Canal, unless the South American country of Xibum (the pronunciation of this will bring a smile to the face of many readers) is ceded to his absolute control.
The cover, by Mark Sparacio, is excellent, but I actually liked the black and white illustration on the signature page even more. It's a short book, but there's much to be said for leaving the reader wanting more. I'm very much looking forward to the next adventure of Pat Wildman and Empire Investigations.


Queen of Nowhere (The Hidden Empire Sequence Book 5)
Queen of Nowhere (The Hidden Empire Sequence Book 5)
Price: £5.99

4.0 out of 5 stars A very enjoyable book., 10 May 2014
Review based on an ARC, supplied by the publisher.

I generally don’t like coming in in the middle of a series, and this is book five of Jaine Fenn’s ‘Hidden Empire’ series, so I contacted the author and was assured that ‘Queen of Nowhere’ was a stand-alone novel within the series.
Bez is a somewhat paranoid character, but then she has reasons to be. She’s fighting a secret war against a malign alien influence that was thought to have been long dead. Humankind had suffered the oppression of the Sidhe for millennia, but they were finally defeated a thousand years ago. Now few people believe they are still around, but they are. They can look like us, and they have agents placed in key positions all through human ruled space.
Bez, a supremely talented hacker, works alone. She has agents who supply her with intel, but these agents don’t know who she is, or even exactly what cause they’re working for. None of them even know Bez’ real name, as she has created dozens of aliases, fully realised identities, with their own backgrounds. She is the classic underground spy, working without any government backup, breaking laws to survive.
This is how Bez likes it. Her life is dangerous, but as long as she is careful, she might just survive long enough to see the Sidhe influence eradicated completely.
Then things start to go out of control. The only person she has ever trusted with her real identity and the details of her mission may not be trustworthy after all. And who is this person, who reveals himself to be not only aware of who she is and what she’s doing, but claims to have been helping her in the background all along?
While it certainly worked as a stand-alone story, it definitely made me want to pick up the previous four volumes to fill in more details of the background. If I force myself to be critical, I would say that it gets a little slow in the middle, but that genuinely is me trying my best to pick fault with a very enjoyable book.


Morpheus Tales #23
Morpheus Tales #23
Price: £2.18

4.0 out of 5 stars I’d call it downright peculiar!, 10 May 2014
I’ve been meaning to check out an issue of this magazine for a long time now. Apparently, Christopher Fowler calls it “edgy and dark”. Judging from the first story in this issue, I’d call it downright peculiar!
Imagine a version of ‘The Twilight Zone’ which could only exist in a David Lynchean dream sequence. Charlotte Johnson’s ‘The Body Bank’ tells us of a woman who needs a kidney for her son. She finds an advertisement for a drive-through body bank in the ‘National Enquirer’. Allison, the manager of this business is the sort of person you might see featured on ‘Watchdog’, if they broadcast it in the land of nightmares!
In ‘Double Ganger’, E.B. Hoight gives us the tragic story of a young boy, who simply tried to be rid of his evil doppelgänger. It’s very effectively told in the form of the psychiatric case-notes of six year old Noel Marcum.
I’m notoriously hard to please when it comes to flesh-eating zombie stories. Frankly, they’re my least favourite sub-division of the horror genre. So it was no huge surprise that ‘The Passenger’, by Edward A. Taylor, didn’t do a great deal for me. It wasn’t awful, just not my cup of tea.
Alexander Williamson’s ‘Angus’ is the tale of a moderately successful rock star, who behaves so badly to everyone he meets that he has no friends, or long-term woman in his life. Not because he’s a total prick, no, it’s because he cares about them. It’s an interesting and original idea.
‘Equilibrioception Revoked’ is about as strange as the title suggests. Adam Millard gives us the story of Daniel, a thief on the run, and what happens to him when he enters the dark and mysterious village of Gristhorpe. This time, it’s the ‘Twilight Zone’, by way of ‘Tales From the Crypt’. I liked this one a lot.
In ‘Ancestral Sins’, by Scathe Meic Beorh, little Bernice Hathaway has done something truly awful. So awful that her father sets her a very harsh punishment. Harsh though it might be, it’s nothing compared to what a vengeful fate has in store for Bernice. “You reap what you sow” is taken to the ultimate extreme in this short, but chilling tale.
Next up is ‘Squatters’, by Todd Outcalt, in which a rancher finds himself in an altercation with the titular squatters, in what would be a fairly ordinary western tale—if it wasn’t for the fact that the ranch was on the outer planet of Betelgeuse.
I guessed early on in my reading of this magazine that there would have to be one, and ‘The Dink, The Donk, and the Poo Pile’, by Douglas J. Ogurek is it. This is the inevitable “WTF?” story. Part nightmare, part acid trip, part irritable bowel syndrome, this is weirdness writ large.
‘And Then There Was Only Us’, by Kenneth Buff brings us back to more normal territory. That is if you consider a tale of a time-travelling, alternate reality hopping couple, who kidnap their alternate selves for S&M sex games before killing them is normal.
The final story is my favourite in the magazine. ‘I Know You’, by Shaun AJ Hamilton gives us a peek into the mind of a stalker—kidnapper—rapist. Excellently written and truly chilling.
Most of the anthologies, collections and magazines that I’ve read recently have tended to be thematic in nature. Morpheus Tales, on the other hand, seems to be more like a travelling freakshow of misfit stories that have banded together for their mutual protection. The reader is invited to come in and look, but I wouldn’t advise prodding and poking, for I have a suspicion that they might bite.
As is usual with this magazine, there is a free supplement, with reviews and articles, which can be read, or downloaded (in pdf form) from the website. The supplement for issue #23 includes a very good piece by Simon Marshall-Jones on horror fiction vs. real-life horror.


Mayhem
Mayhem
by Sarah Pinborough
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £11.94

3.0 out of 5 stars Dr. Thomas Bond has great series potential., 10 May 2014
This review is from: Mayhem (Hardcover)
Having met Sarah Pinborough at a few conventions, I’d long wanted to check out her work. I dipped into her ‘Tales From the Kingdoms’ series recently, but found that the retold fairytale sub-genre, which seems to be so popular these days, simply didn’t appeal to me.
‘Mayhem’, a supernatural murder mystery, which runs contemporary with the Ripper killings, was much more my speed.
It’s possibly more down to my failings as a reader, but I always have trouble when a book skips back and forth between various times and locales. I find I have to force myself to take note of dates, times and places when they’re given at the head of each chapter. It’s a perfectly acceptable storytelling method, when the author wants to reveal information to the reader in a different sequence to that in which the events actually took place, but the fact that I constantly had to skip back to the beginning of chapters to remind myself where and when I was, made it more difficult for me to get into the book.
Once I had trained myself to be aware of where and when each chapter is set in relation to the previous one, I soon found myself caught up in the story of Dr. Thomas Bond, Police Surgeon, as he investigates the case of “The Torso Killer”, based on a series of real murders that were overshadowed at the time by the more famous case of “Jack the Ripper”.
Dr. Bond is a flawed man, who relies more and more on the opium dens to ease his insomnia. There he encounters a mysterious priest, with insane theories about the supernatural nature of the Torso Killer—theories he finds it harder and harder to discount. Eventually he forms an alliance with this priest and a Polish immigrant, Aaron Kosminski, whose previous experiences with the horror at the heart of the novel have left him with such a terror of water that he refuses to either drink it, or bathe.
Eventually, Dr. Bond discovers, to his horror, that he may know the murderer, and our three unlikely heroes have to find a way to prove it conclusively, before they can take the necessary action.
One of the main strengths of the book is that the “monster” is never allowed to become a character in its own right. You witness its actions, but you never become privy to its thoughts and motivations, which is a very effective way of using our natural terror of the unknown to create a chilling atmosphere. It’s based on an obscure slavic vampire variant, albeit Ms. Pinborough has read different versions of the legends than the ones I found online, as there were differences.
Dr. Thomas Bond has great series potential, so I’m hoping we’ll see him again soon.


Invent-10n
Invent-10n
by Rod Rees
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly recommended., 10 May 2014
This review is from: Invent-10n (Paperback)
Review based on an ARC, supplied by the publisher.

“Big Brother is Watching you!” This is the first thing that entered my mind when I started reading this book. Except it’s not Big brother. It’s that older kid who used to demand you hand over your lunch money in the school playground. It’s 2030 and Rod Rees has extrapolated from the direction our increasingly surveillance obsessed society is heading.
The story is very effectively told through the alternating viewpoints of Jenni-Fur: a rebellious musician who refuses to submit to cybernetic implants that would enable the government to monitor her every thought, and Sebastian Davenport: an employee of the National Protection Agency. These viewpoints are interspersed with online news service reports, government documents etc.
The real strength here is that Davenport is not the bad guy. In fact he’s a good man, who happens to work for the government. As time goes on, he becomes more and more concerned about the methods his bosses employ to further their cause.
Jenni-Fur (aka: Jennifer Moreau) is a journalist by day, and by night a singer/sax player in a nuBop band. They play a sort of jazz/techno cross. nuBoppers tend to be in their late teens and have developed a patois based on early jazz jive talk. It took me a few pages to get into the style of Jenni-Fur’s journal entries, but it gelled soon enough.
Jenni-Fur is sent to interview a young “Gee”. Gees (obviously a contraction of refugees) are basically anyone not English, blamed by the government media for pretty much anything and everything, they have been forced into ghettos. Peter Ashe, the current BritsFirst Prime minister is pushing forward a referendum to have them all repatriated, despite the fact that this would mean certain death for huge numbers of them. The “Gee” in question is 17 year old Ivan Nitko, who has come to the attention of the public by breaking the World stone-skimming record with a seemingly impossible 75 skips.
Ivan is a genius. He freely admits that his stone had a propulsion device inside it. A device, with no moving parts, which runs on water and produces vast amounts of energy. His stone-skimming record was simply a way of bringing his invention, cleverly named “INVENT-10N” to the attention of the government. INVENT-10N could mean freedom from reliance on fossil fuels with no detrimental effect on the environment. He wants to make a deal. He’ll give INVENT10N to the government in return for the dropping of the Patriot Project—the enforced repatriation of all Gees. Much to the N.P.A.’s disgust, he insists on making Jenni-Fur his agent in the negotiations.
Sebastian Davenport is installed as the N.P.A.’s official interface with Nitko and Jenni-Fur. As time passes, he witnesses more and more things that disturb him about the N.P.A., and becomes ever closer to Jenni-Fur.
INVENT10N becomes a huge success, although the Christian right in Russia refuse to have anything to do with it. Inevitably, things go very wrong. The final chapter of the book, in which we learn the true secret of INVEN-10N is unexpected, and truly chilling.
Rod Rees has invented a very believable possible future in this fascinating novel. We can only pray that he doesn’t share Alan Moore’s experiences, when he saw the many of the things he predicted in ‘V for Vendetta’ become reality not so very long after he wrote it.
Highly recommended.


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