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Jane Aland (England)
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A Matter Of Blood: The Dog-Faced Gods Book One (DOG-FACED GODS TRILOGY)
A Matter Of Blood: The Dog-Faced Gods Book One (DOG-FACED GODS TRILOGY)
by Sarah Pinborough
Edition: Paperback

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Matter of Blood, 14 July 2010
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
The first in the 'Dog-Faced Gods' trilogy, 'A Matter of Blood' appears to be marketed as a horror/thriller gross-genre novel. How it reads for the most part is as a police procedural with a few colourful but slightly ephemeral fantasy trappings thrown in.

As far as the thriller content goes, 'A Matter of Blood' works well. The plot is suitably gnarly and complex, with an investigation into two seemingly unrelated crimes (the drive-by shooting of two schoolboys and the work of a serial killer dubbed 'The Man of the Flies') dovetailing into a larger conspiracy. There are numerous twists and turns along the way, including an additional twist after it appears the novel has already reached one climax, and central character Detective Inspector Cass Jones is an intruiging enough character to sustain the interest throughout. Sarah Pinborough's prose is functional rather than flashy, but she manages to invest enough drama into the proceedings that by the climax you'll be tearing through the pages to find out what happens next. The near future setting is also a nice touch, allowing the narrative to function in a world subtly different from our own.

As for as the fantasy element: its certainly intruiging - but that's about as far as it goes. This isn't necessarily a criticism - 'A Matter of Blood' is the first in a trilogy, and doubtless these elements will be further explored in the two novels to come. As it stands however, whilst we are offered some teasing hints about angelic (or demonic) entities directing the action, the author is still keeping her cards very close to her chest. The result is a novel which works well as an opening installment in a series, but is just too open-ended to be very satisfying when read in isolation.

'A Matter of Blood' is an enjoyable read, but its ultimate impact will depend upon the success or failiure of the 'Dog-Faced Gods' trilogy as a whole. Personally, I'm looking forward to the next installment, and hope that the author can deliver on the promise of this book.


Erasing Sherlock (Faction Paradox)
Erasing Sherlock (Faction Paradox)
by Kelly Hale
Edition: Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars Erasing Sherlock, 25 Jun 2010
'Erasing Sherlock' is the fifth novel in the Doctor Who spin-off Faction Paradox series, though the continuity links are so tenuous (indeed, this novel was first published as a stand-alone novel in its own right) that no previous knowledge is necessary. All you need to know is the basic premise: a modern-day time academic travels back in time to observe the young Sherlock Holmes, going undercover to work as a maid at his Baker Street residence. The novel is probably not one that will be enjoyed by Holmes purists: the novel delights in pushing the character into directions alien to Doyle's original work (romance and sexuality, both herero and homosexual), and the central murder mystery plot is simply too linear and simplsitic to really engage the imagination. Where 'Erasing Sherlock' is succesful is in highlighting the character of Rose and her experiences of living in the Victorian era. The first half of the novel is particularly engaging, but it has to be said that the further it progresses the more it begins to resemble romantic fan fiction, with the breathelessly passionate Holmes bearing little relation to Doyle's cold and analytical creation. Nevertheless, this in an interesting and not wholly unsuccesful experiment in perverting Sherlock Holmes into something new. (3.5 out of 5)


Love Songs for the Shy and Cynical
Love Songs for the Shy and Cynical
by Robert Shearman
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.14

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Love Songs For the Shy and Cynical, 16 Jun 2010
Robert Shearman's second collection of short stories maintains the high quality of 'Tiny Deaths', offering nineteen new tales based around the theme of love. The stories are a beguiling mix of the mundane and fantastic, with Shearman populating the most bizarre scenarios with realistic and believable characters. The author's touch is also light when it comes to the prose, with a deceptively straightforward writing style that only serves to highlight the intensity of the sudden plot twists or intrusions of the bizarre. The result is rather like being led into a back alley by the friendliest of teddy bears, only to find oneself visciously mugged and beaten moments later.

Despite the theme there's nothing cosy about this book, with heartbreak and painful consquences being more prevalent than romantic fulfilment. There is also plenty of humour however, albeit usually of the blackest variety. I don't really want to talk about the specifics of any of the stories themeslves, because to do so would rob the reader of the suprises in store. Suffice to say, 'Love Songs for the Shy and Cynical' is amusing, horrifying and frequently affecting, all at the same time.


One
One
by Conrad Williams
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.63

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars One, 10 Jun 2010
This review is from: One (Paperback)
Whilst diver Richard Jane is below sea working on a Scottish oil rig, a devestating apocalyptic event sweeps across the land destroying all in its wake. Against all reasonable hope Jane begins to walk through the decimated remains of the country, desperate to reach London and his young son...

'One' is very much a book of two halves. The first half, detailing Jane's journey to London is sublime. Williams use of language to describe the post-apocalyptic landscape of Britain is evocative and awe-inspiring. There are no overt supernatural or fantastical elements, just one man's desperate attempts to make sense of the nightmare world he finds himself in. The use of dreams and the fragile nature of Jane's own mental state give this section all the colour it needs, the result being reminiscent of J G Ballard's early extreme environment novels at times.

The second half jumps forward ten years to find Jane one of a pocket of surviving humans scavenging an existence in the remains of London. William's prose is just as assured here, but the change into overt SF/horror territory is marked, with the previously dead returning to life for a variation on the zombie genre. It's still very well written stuff, but somehow the sense of reality is lost along the way, making this slightly less affecting than the devastating first half. As for the complaints about the ending, I'm not sure I see the problem. The novel is ambiguous in some areas, but only to the extent of avoiding pat resolutions to a world-wide disaster, and Jane's story is taken to a satisfying if inevitable conclusion.

Ultimately the plot may be slight, and the direction of the second half open to question, but the quality of Conrad Williams vision and writing is more than worth the price of admission. An essential read for fans of modern British horror.


Doctor Who Storybook 2010 (Annual)
Doctor Who Storybook 2010 (Annual)
by James Moran
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Storybook 2010, 28 May 2010
For a slim volume The 2010 Doctor Who Storybook offers a deceptively large amount of material, with eight new short prose stories and one original comic strip.

Admittedly the stories can get a little samey en masse, with various bizarre situations inevitably ending up revealed as the machinations of another race of alien monsters, but the fast pace and varied illustrations help keep the pages turning. Highlights include the return of 'The Unquiet Dead's Gelth in Mark Gatiss' spiritualist expose 'Scared Stiff'; various inanimate objects coming to life in Matt Jones' 'The Shape on the Chair' and typically bonkers fare from Paul Magrs with the Eath under attack from invading alien doors. It's James Moran though who actually manages to imbue his adventure with some emotion, with the time-slip chaos of 'The Haldenmor Fugue' highlighting a tough but necessary choice for the Doctor.

All in all, the 2010 Storybook isn't quite as strong as the best of the previous volumes, but this is still leagues ahead of the official Doctor Who Annual in terms of quality. If you only buy one hardbacked stocking-filler for Xmas, make sure it's the Storybook!


Doctor Who: Code of the Krillitanes
Doctor Who: Code of the Krillitanes
by Justin Richards
Edition: Paperback
Price: £1.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Code of the Krillitanes, 25 May 2010
The 5th in the series of 'Quick Reads' Doctor Who books, this is a short and pacy 100 page romp written for young or inexperienced readers.

With such a format it's ridiculous to exect anything too extraordinary, but even so 'Code of the Krillitanes' is perhaps a little too formulaic for its own good. Recent full-length BBC novel 'The Krillitane Storm' did at least attempt to do something new with the creatures, whilst this novel seems little more than a variation on the aliens' television debut 'School Reunion'.

Inevitably there are a few good laughs and thrills along the way, but its not quite up to the level of the best of the previous 'Quick Reads'. An entertaining way to kill an hour of your time perhaps, but nothing more.


The Black Post Society
The Black Post Society
Price: £11.23

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Black Post Society, 23 May 2010
This review is from: The Black Post Society (Audio CD)
Eight tracks of electronic noise, sometimes intense but slightly undone by a treble heavy mix lacking in any real bottom. Distorted and eclectic vocals keep things interesting, though ultimately this feels more clinical and less passionate than similar works by the likes of Whitehouse and Sutcliffe Jugend. Interesting art noise that engages the mind rather than the heart.


Doctor Who: The Krillitane Storm
Doctor Who: The Krillitane Storm
by Christopher Cooper
Edition: Hardcover

3.0 out of 5 stars The Krillitane Storm, 22 May 2010
The final 10th Doctor novel finds the TARDIS landing in medieval Worcester, where the populace are living under fear of attack from an airborne terror known as the Devil's Huntsman...

With their one (and so far only) television appearance being limited to a single episode, the monstrous Krillitane's appeared to be ripe for further exploration, but despite good intentions this novel turns out to be a rather formuliac runaround. Perhaps sensing the creature's limitations Christopher Cooper sidelines them for a good portion of the novel, focusing instead on villainous businessman Henk, who is planning to use the Krillitanes for his own financial gain. The author captures the 10th Doctor's mannerisms well enough, and as is standard for these latter day 10th Doctor novels we get another 'one-off companion' substitute in the shape of bounty hunter Emily. Unfortunately whilst the plot is busy and works functionally well enough, the book seems a little fractured and unfocused at times, with too many enemies (first it's the Krillitanes, then Henk, then another batch of Krillitanes, then the Krillitane Storm itself) and medievil England overrun with so many aliens and spaceships that the historical setting becomes somewhat arbitrary.

Not a bad novel, 'The Krillitane Storm' contains enough thrills and adventure to keep the pages turning, but alas this is far from being one of the highlights of the range.


To Desecrate And Defile
To Desecrate And Defile
Price: £18.24

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars To Desecrate and Defile, 20 May 2010
This review is from: To Desecrate And Defile (Audio CD)
On first play this slice of US brutal death metal comes across as rather juvenile, with (admittedly amusing) comedy samples and comedy/gross out lyrics dedicated to the usual themes of sexual deviancy and extreme violence against women. Give it a few spins however and the quality of the songwriting will inevitably win you over - Lividity display a great mix of speeds and dynamic here, with some catchy yet brutal riffing scattered throughout the album (the slightly black metal tinged 'Funerary Chambers' is worth the price of admission alone). The production is crisp yet brutal, ensuring this is a great album to crank up the volume and feel your ears melt. Lividity get no prizes for originality, and the juvenile trappings may offput some, but this is undebiably a great death metal album. Recommended.


The Harm
The Harm
by Gary McMahon
Edition: Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars The Harm, 15 May 2010
This review is from: The Harm (Paperback)
This short but perfectly paced novella follows the aftermath of a shocking sexual assualt on a group of eight year old boys. Now grown up, the three victims find themselves haunted by the events of that day, but the final toll is still to be paid...

Each of the first three segments follows one of the grown up victims, with the crime haunting them in both pyschological and supernatural fashion. The line between what is real and what is imaginary is pleasingly obscure, with McMahon offering some gloriously disturbing moments worthy of Ramsey Campbell at his best. The final segment focusing on one of the victim's sisters doesn't have quite as much impcat, eschewing the supernatural attack for a more mundane summation of the legacy of violence. Nevertheless, as a whole the book is a triumphant success, and an essential slice of modern horror. Dark, disturbing, and very well written.


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