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Mr. D. Kerr "Fan of horror, steampunk, crime and science fiction. Favourite authors include Clive Barker, George Mann, Mark Hodder and Neil Gaiman." (England)

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Newbury & Hobbes - The Executioner's Heart (Newbury & Hobbes 4)
Newbury & Hobbes - The Executioner's Heart (Newbury & Hobbes 4)
by George Mann
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.39

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars More Excellence from Mann, 27 Jun 2013
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Following hot on the heels of the events in 'The Immorality Engine', George Mann brings us the fourth installment in his highly entertaining Newbury & Hobbes series of novels.
Thrusting us right back into a steampunk London of machines, monsters and madmen, we once again find ourselves in the company of Queen's Agents Sir Maurice Newbury, his assistant Miss Veronica Hobbes and Chief Inspector of Scotland Yard, Sir Charles Bainbridge as they investigate a series of brutal murders. The victims savagely mutilated, their chests ripped open, and subsequently deprived of their still-beating hearts. The perpetrator, a fabled assassin known only as 'The Executioner', seemingly able to act with utter impunity as they leave a trail of blood-soaked crime scenes across the city.
Beneath these events is a backdrop of political intrigue, the potential interference of insidious foreign agents, a demonic cult, the founding of the Secret Service and the ever-present Queen Victoria as she clutches at the tenuous threads of power, and her own life. Other ideas, established in previous novels are also given attention, much to the joy of established fans. Though, to elaborate on such things would certainly deprive the reader of discovering such things for themselves.
Thankfully, Mann's easy, flowing style is once again in full force, but there are also some changes in store as well. Changes that seem to indicate an ever-increasing confidence as a writer. He now appears far more comfortable with the world he has created, letting the story summon the steampunk London to mind, no longer having to stress the numerous facets that make it such. Additionally, there has been a shift in the pacing that has typically been apparent in the series thus far. However, this is not a detrimental change. Mann has always shown a flair for energetic scenes of action, and they do still indeed make an appearance this time around. But, they are now more concentrated to the latter parts of the story. More space has been given over to the characters, and their furthering strengths, gifted the responsibility of holding the story. Which they do, admirably so. We are given the chance to see more of what drives them, what makes them who they are, building further on the progress made in the pages of 'The Immorality Engine'.
In another break with the established format, there are also chapters given over exclusively to the villain of the story, to their past, their actions and motivations. It's another welcome change, showing how Mann can comfortably present us with different viewpoints without changing the narrative in a jarring manner. Each chapter flows effortlessly into one another. You never find yourself becoming aware of the outside world, knocked out from the scene the story has created. It's an immersive experience that grabs you tightly and doesn't want to let go.
I adore every moment I spend with these characters and 'The Executioner's Heart' is no exception. They have become stronger, more intriguing, more real, and, as a result, the novel benefits massively from this. I simply couldn't put this book down. It's the best in the series so far. Mann should be commended once again for having the bravery to try new ideas whilst skilfully keeping important elements that we know and love.
In conclusion, I only have one real complaint: The book's ending. It knocked me so damn hard, I felt exhausted for a whole weekend. Whilst some threads are resolved, the events in the closing scenes raise new and exciting prospects, and will leave you utterly desperate for the next book. I once again find myself consumed with anticipation for more adventures with Newbury & Hobbes.

The Osiris Ritual
The Osiris Ritual
by George Mann
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.39

4.0 out of 5 stars An Impressive Follow-Up, 24 Aug 2011
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This review is from: The Osiris Ritual (Paperback)
Following hot on the heels of George Mann's entertaining steampunk debut 'The Affinity Bridge' comes 'The Osiris Ritual,' the second in the Newbury & Hobbes investigations.
Once again, we find the duo investigating the nefarious to the downright bizarre against the backdrop of a London filled with all manner of peculiar devices and insidious villains. This time, they have to spread their attentions on three different front: Firstly, a series of ritualistic murders are taking place and on the surface appear to be connected to the recent unveiling of an Egyptian mummy. Secondly, there has been a spate of disappearances involving young women, and Miss Hobbes doggedly pursues the culprit, her suspicions leading her to a magician named 'The Mysterious Alfonso'. And, lastly, Newbury is tasked with bringing in a rogue agent, a man who died once and is now a grotesque marriage of both man and machine.
After Mann's solid start with 'The Affinity Bridge', I was eager to read this, hoping to see certain aspects of its fictional world expanded upon and, thankfully, in this area I was far from disappointed. London now feels like a much broader, more immersive landscape. You really start to get a sense of the grand buildings, grimy alleys and obscure nooks and crannies that cover the city. The world seems far more fleshed out and, subsequently, real.
The plot also shows greater thought and intricacy, the investigations contain greater detail and the pace has been enhanced to accentuate the story's greater sense of adventure. And, as always, Mann writes his action sequences with such energy that the reader is granted a seat right amidst the fray. Particularly during these sections, this book becomes a real page-turner. You know you other things to do but you tell yourself "just a little bit more."
Any criticisms I have of this book are fleeting, and I would only say that I'd definitely like to see this wonderful cast of characters granted more time to be explored and their histories expanded upon. But, having said that, they are still people who you become highly invested in and attached to and they help propel this highly entertaining story from start to finish.
Mann has taken the groundwork of 'The Affinity Bridge' and improved upon it in almost every single aspect. He has successfully created the most enjoyable steampunk adventure I have read to date and one I will no doubt revisit over time.
Given the advancement in style and progress in pacing in the space of just one work, I await the next in the series with great enthusiasm and anticipation. This is a definite purchase for fans of 'The Affinity Bridge' as well as fans of the genre.
George Mann, you've just become one of my favourite authors.

The Affinity Bridge
The Affinity Bridge
by George Mann
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.39

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Promising Start, 24 Aug 2011
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This review is from: The Affinity Bridge (Paperback)
As I sat down to write this review, I found myself wondering what first drew me to this book. Was it my keen interest in the steampunk genre? Was it a familiarity with the previous works of the author? Perhaps it was due to a glowing review I had read? Alas, it was none of these reasons. I first picked this novel up because I think the front cover was kind of cool. Not the most informed or sensible way to make such a choice but, thankfully, it paid dividends.
The Affinity Bridge is an entry in the increasingly popular steampunk genre. It's 1901 London has airships, brass automata, a plethora of steam-driven inventions and an entrenched Queen Victoria, kept alive by numerous contraptions in a life-preserving chair.
Our lead character comes in the form of Sir Maurice Newbury. Whilst officially an authority on paleontology, working out of the national museum, he also happens to be a highly skilled expert on the occult and an agent to Her Majesty the Queen. Newbury has a flavour of Sherlock Holmes about him, even sharing the same opium vice as Conan Doyle's famed detective. Yet Mann's character does seem to make at least some effort to fit into the polite society of the time. Aiding him in his many endeavours is Miss Veronica Hobbes, a strong-willed and socially progressive young woman whose keen mind and determination make her the perfect companion for Newbury. There is a great deal of respect between them, as well as poorly-concealed romantic interest.
Completing the trio of principal characters is Sir Charles Bainbridge. Not only is he Newbury's best friend, but also Chief Inspector of Scotland Yard and another of Her Majesty's agents. He represents a more grounded and traditionally Victorian character in contrast to his friend's brilliant, but slight unstable, mind.
The story begins with them both looking into a series of attacks seemingly linked to sightings of a phantom policeman. However, Newbury's attentions are soon diverted elsewhere when he is commanded to investigate an airship crash on behalf of the Queen. Soon, he and Miss Hobbes find themselves dealing transport magnates, crazed inventors, dastardly machines and a revenant plague that is sweeping through the slums of London.
Whilst the investigation element to the story is not particularly complex, it still succeeds in holding your attention. You quickly find yourself caring for the characters (particularly Newbury and Hobbes) and the story has a pace that, whilst not incredibly fast, is steady and consistent. The action scenes are of particular note, and that are clearly a strength of Mann's. He expertly brings you right into the very centre of the action and these moments certainly have a cinematic quality to them.
Whilst the world in which these characters inhabit feels slightly small, its quirky take on a technologically advanced 'steampunk' society is thoroughly enjoyable and certainly has one hopeful of further adventures in which the scope can be broadened.
Most importantly, for me personally, is the fact that, in spite of a few flaws, this book was just damn good fun. It reflects an author who seems to have had an extremely positive experience in the creation of this novel.
I'd recommend this book to fans of adventures, murder mysteries or just those curious about the steampunk genre.
All-in-all, an entertaining read that shows great promise for the future.

Assassin's Creed: The Secret Crusade
Assassin's Creed: The Secret Crusade
by Oliver Bowden
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.39

23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable, but with some issues, 20 July 2011
Having written two commercially successful novelisations of Assassin's Creed titles, Oliver Bowden now brings us Assassin's Creed: The Secret Crusade; the life story of Altaïr, the iconic protagonist from the first of the Assassin's Creed games.
The book itself is split into four main parts. The first two concern themselves mostly with the events as featured in the first game, part three with the story of Assassin's Creed: Bloodlines (a Playstation Portable title) and the final part focuses on the later life of Altaïr.
Bowden is effective at generating a sense of immersion, his use of language is lively, he is able to avoid repetitive use of language and his use of dialogue is well-balanced against more action-driven elements of the story. However, there is a fundamental issue that the author must have struggled with that we, the readers, might find problematic as well. This problem being that for the first two parts in particular, the book is a very rigid re-telling of the events of the first game. It feels stiff, often rushed and fails to engage the reader. Whilst clearly important in telling the tale of Altaïr and his quest for redemption in the eyes of the Brotherhood, these earlier sections will seem all too familiar to fans, with little periphery exploration to make them seem worthwhile. It also feels as though Bowden himself felt overly restricted by the structure and wanted this phase of the story told as quickly as possible, so he might begin to use his talent far more freely.
Thankfully, Part Three starts to show signs of improvement. Whilst it also follows the story of another game, with our hero doing battle against the Templars in Cyprus, the writing is more relaxed and confident, the character of Altaïr is more fleshed out and it does not seem as repetitive in structure as earlier sections. The pacing is far more energetic and fluid and you start to get more of a sense of a writer who's enjoying himself. This evident enthusiasm continues into the fourth part. This final section (excluding the epilogue) is undoubtedly the strongest of the entire novel. It has emotional gravity, peril, tragedy and even a small moment of joy. It is here that we are finally granted an insight into who Altaïr was, as we follow him in the later years of his extraordinary life. For followers of the games, this part makes the novel a worthwhile endeavour, for laymen it brings the tale to a fitting conclusion.
Whilst, initially, this is a book that retreads a lot of ground, the second half adequately compensates for this. Its easy and accessible style make it an effortless read that, eventually, begins to bear fruit and should suitably entertain both fan and casual reader alike.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 20, 2011 9:49 PM BST

Ghosts of Manhattan
Ghosts of Manhattan
by George Mann
Edition: Hardcover

3.0 out of 5 stars Some Good, Some Bad..., 25 Jun 2011
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This review is from: Ghosts of Manhattan (Hardcover)
'Ghost of Manhattan' is George Mann's melding of the pulp genre with that of steampunk. Set in an America embroiled in a cold war with the British Empire, it is a world of coal-powered cars, bi-planes taking off from building tops on rockets, of mobsters and of....The Ghost.
The book centres on the vigilante 'The Ghost' and his attempts to thwart the schemes of the insidious mob boss known as 'The Roman'. Armed with a plethora of customised weaponry, he sets out each night to tackle the criminal element with his particular brand of severe justice. The character is great fun, paying tribute to crime fighters such as Batman, The Spirit and, most of all, The Spider (just look at the character's costume). The loner is soon helped in his mission by honest-cop Detective Donovan, also on a mission against The Roman, for his life depends on it.
Mann really deserves commending for paying homage to the pulp genre without succumbing to much of the now-clichéd dialog that has become synonymous with the pulps. The action is taught, energetic and engaging, often brutal, and downright exciting. The Ghost is also a character that holds your interest to the last page, serving as a excellent catalyst for the story. Credit is also due to the character of Donovan. Mann manages to create someone who gives the reader a more 'everyman' viewpoint to the events that are occurring, so as not to detach the reader from the sense of reality he is trying to create.
The only thing that really brings down my score is the conclusion to the story. For all the frenetic pacing of many parts, the ending seems less energetic and more rushed. One particular aspect in which a main characters' purpose is revealed seems somewhat convoluted and just didn't sit well with me. Very important details are revealed in a matter of a few pages and the final confrontation is over all-too-sudden.
But, putting these criticisms aside, 'Ghosts of Manhattan' is still a very enjoyable book, and the boundless energy that George Mann imbues his work with should be lauded, and I for one greatly admire it. And, best of all, he has created in The Ghost a character I definitely want to learn more about, as there is clearly much more about his past to be revealed. I, for one, am excited about the prospect of a second novel in the series.

The Immorality Engine
The Immorality Engine
by George Mann
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £18.47

13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Worthy Addition to the Newbury & Hobbes Series, 23 Jun 2011
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This review is from: The Immorality Engine (Hardcover)
Following on from his first two hugely enjoyable Newbury & Hobbes Investigations (The Affinity Bridge and The Osiris Ritual), George Man bring us his latest offering in his steampunk-flavoured series; The Immorality Engine.
Once again focusing on the exploits of occult expert, and agent to the crown, Maurice Newbury alongside his assistant, Miss Veronica Hobbes, we find Sir Maurice at a new low. He is despondent and introverted, hiding away in a seedy opium den, slave to his desire for the drug. He has been consumed by addiction, his duties as Her Majesty's agent as much neglected as his own welfare. However, all is not lost: enter Miss Hobbes and Sir Charles Bainbridge, Chief Inspector of Scotland Yard and best friend to Newbury. The pair have come to rescue Newbury from his self-destructive anaesthesia and give him purpose once more. Thus, they bait him with the prospect of a tantalising new case: a series of robberies are being committed. Ordinary in of itself, were it not the fact that the perpetrator continues to ply his trade after his own death, his corpse residing in the police mortuary.
With this intriguing basis for a story in place, Mann goes on to lead us through a tale of mad doctors, crazed cults, sickly prophets and clandestine societies, all of which is injected with his usual, boundless energy. Action sequences crackle with electricity, visceral scenes burn with bloody horror, characters radiate with a sense of truth and the pace steams through every chapter with a focused vision of what shape the story will eventually take.
The cast are also granted more room for development than in previous instalments, much to their credit, and the relationship between Newbury and Miss Hobbes is afforded some much deserved exploration, which helps to shed more light and their thoughts and feelings, and on the kind people they truly are.
The villains are also tremendously enjoyable and it feels as though Mann had as much fun writing them as he did from writing his heroes and heroines. Their motivations add depth and colour to the world in which they exist, broadening the story's scope. It also aids in revealing the true nature and motives of one of the key players in Mann's universe.
I really can't recommend this book enough. I enjoyed every page as it whisked me through the story at break-neck speed as I found myself hungry for the next revelation the story would bring. There is an all-encompassing sense of advancement, of progress, that pushes the characters further and enriches them with new-found depth. You find yourself constantly fascinated and wishing for more.
George Mann has managed to create a work that he should be immensely proud of. It bursts with an enthusiasm that can not fail to pull you in and hold you in its thrall. He is unquestionably one of the most prominent and talented writers in the steampunk genre and I greatly anticipate more from this extraordinarily talented writer.

The Damnation Game
The Damnation Game
by Clive Barker
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Take Your Chances..., 7 Dec 2009
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This review is from: The Damnation Game (Paperback)
Marty Strauss is serving time for robbery. Driven to desperation by his gambling debts, he has been whiling away his time in prison, awaiting his chance to join the free world. This chance comes to Marty sooner than he expects when one of the world's richest men, Joseph Whitehead, offers him the opportunity to become a free man, providing he becomes his personal bodyguard. Deciding that whatever is in the outside world can't be as bad as prison, he accepts the job and finds himself in Whitehead's secluded estate; surrounded by fencing and brimming with guard dogs. It soon feels like he's swapped one prison for another. So, unable to leave the estate, he fills his days by running the course of the estate. This soon leads to him discovering Whitehead's reclusive daughter, Carys, who seems intrigued by her father's new employee.
However, what starts as a mundane, job quickly takes a turn for the bizarre. Whitehead is living in deadly fear of someone; his name is 'Mamoulian', a man who claims to be the last original European, who has terrifying powers; he is able to raise the dead from their graves to carry out his will. Mamoulian is coming to collect a debt from Whitehead, one he will not let him forget...
Personally, I found the basic premise of 'The Damnation Game' to be an intriguing one and having read many of Barker's other works, I found myself eager to read this, his first novel.
It is, at it's core, a Faustian tale, with comments on the decadence of the rich and the avarice of man. It talks often about luck and what creates it, chance is a recurring theme throughout.
The characters are, for the most part, very well rounded, Marty is a bit of a 'screw-up' but you can't help liking him all the same, and Carys, Whitehead's drug-addicted daughter, should be someone you dislike given her apathy towards others, but somehow, Barker makes you care for her and want her to survive the impending ordeal. The lead villain, Mamoulian, and his associate, Breer, are suitably disgusting and repellent individuals who you certainly wish a tragic end upon. And you even find yourself emotionally invested in the family of dogs that are kept to guard the estate and its grounds.
It does have some weak points to its structure, the pacing seems occasionally off and the first half of the novel seems somewhat protracted and yet the conclusion seeming unfairly short.
Yet, it also features Clive Barker's trademark strengths; incredibly vivid imagery, a great ability to evoke the macabre, natural dialogue and a wonderful capacity for painting metaphysical journeys in a rich and enticing language.
By all means, it's not a perfect work, but it is an admirable achievement for a first novel, and one I would recommend to any dedicated Barker fan.

This Is War
This Is War
Offered by skyvo-direct
Price: £5.84

24 of 29 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Wait is Over...., 7 Dec 2009
This review is from: This Is War (Audio CD)
Being a fan of 30 Seconds to Mars since their debut album and having seen them in concert, I greatly anticipated the release of their latest work 'This is War'. It's been a considerable wait, with the band being involved in a protracted legal battle with their record label. But, now, the wait is over. So, was it worth it?
'Kings and Queens' is probably the track most people have heard as their introduction to the direction the band has taken and, all-in-all, it's a catchy track and a bold anthem. Unfortunately, it doesn't set the level of quality for the entire album. For a large part, it really is a mixed bag. 'Hurricane', 'This is War' and 'Stranger in a Strange Land' are strong tracks with a distinct feel to each. However, many other tracks seem overly long and uninspired, vocals sometimes seem overly strained and the lyrics lacking in maturity. And, probably most irritatingly of all, there is a chronic over-use of the 'children's choir' vocals. Used in 'This is War' and 'Kings and Queens', it's different and interesting, but I actually reached a point where I sighed and wished I could just stop listening when I'd heard the same technique used for the fifth of sixth time.
I'm not saying this is a terrible album, and clearly the people involved are very proud of their work, but it just seems flat and a tad unimaginative. I wanted to like it more, I really did, but when comparing this to their previous works, it just doesn't reach me in the same way.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 18, 2009 10:25 AM GMT

Masters Of Horror - Series 1 Volume 1 [DVD]
Masters Of Horror - Series 1 Volume 1 [DVD]
Dvd ~ Don Coscarelli
Price: £23.29

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An Intriguing Pick 'n' Mix!, 14 July 2009
In this, the first of the 'Master of Horror' boxed sets, we are presented with seven tales of the macabre from some of the most recognised directors in the genre. Each episode is a self-contained story and plays out in the style of a small movie, showing solid production values for a niche product. The following is a short synopsis and review of the episodes.

Cigarette Burns - Dir. John Carpenter
In order to meet overbearing financial commitments, movie programmer Kirby Sweetman takes a job to locate what is considered to be the 'holy grail' of cinema, a fabled movie named 'Le Fin Absolue Du Monde', a film of such power that at its only showing, it drove the audience mad, resulting in a bloodbath. Tragically, the closer he gets to the film, the more he begins to be dragged down into a seedy world of depravity and violence. This is one of the shining stars of the 'Masters of Horror' series. It has taut pacing, good acting and an intriguing plot that doesn't rely on cheap shocks and gore to instill a sense of unease. Motivations seems clear and understandable and the true nature of the film is a delight to discover. 4.5/5

Incident On and Off A Mountain Road - Dir. Don Coscarelli
After being involved in a car accident, a young woman (Bree Turner) must rely upon all the training from her survivalist husband to prevail over a deranged murderer named "Moonface." Separated between flashbacks to times with her husband, and her current plight; the pace is always consistent and the content engaging. The acting from all quarters is admirable and the story, involving. I personally consider this to be one of the best episodes in the entire series. 4.5/5

Dreams in the Witch House - Dir. Stuart Gordon
Student Walter Gilman is in the midst of his thesis, surrounding the issues of time and space. Upon renting a room in a decrepit house, he soon finds his work taking a turn for the bizarre; coming face-to-face with a rat with a human face, and a malevolent force threatening the lives of others in the building. Stuart Gordon has produced some very entertaining works in his career but, sadly, this is not one of his best. The pacing seems slightly off, the effects don't seem quite up to par and overall, the story doesn't seem to hang together particularly well. Not the low point of the series, but still somewhat disappointing. 3/5

Chocolate - Dir. Mick Garris
Jamie, a lonely man who's work is to create synthetic food flavourings, finds his life starting to take a turn for the strange when he begins to experience a series of random sensory 'flashes.' Soon, he discovers that he is in fact psychically connected to a beautiful young woman, whom he shares the highs and lows of her existence with. Yet things become more complicated when he experiences a vision of brutal murder, and sets out to find the woman who's 'essence' he is sharing. I'd also hold this up as a prime example of what this series is capable of. Chocolate takes a fairly straightforward idea and gets maximum mileage out of the concept without ever seeming dull or contrived. A highly recommended watch. 4/5

Sick Girl - Dir. Lucky McKee
A painfully shy entomologist finds her life taking a turn for the interesting when she both starts an affair with an unusual young woman (Erin Brown) and receives a package containing an incredibly strange insect. The bug soon wreaks havoc and brings down a mutated nightmare upon the two lovers. Well, every series has to have a bad episode, it does, and this really is a terrible one at that. Lots of cheap horror cliches, an implausible and dull story and an overdose of gore make this somewhat torturous to watch. Not one for me I'm afraid. 1.5/5

Deer Woman - Dir. John Landis
World-weary cop Dwight Faraday is stuck riding a desk for most of his day, dealing with animal welfare cases as a way of keeping him out of trouble. However, when a series of brutal murders suggest the involvement of an animal, he finds himself increasingly intrigued by the case. And when he discovers a link between the killings and a Native American legend of a 'Deer Woman', he realises that his prey is neither animal...nor human. An absolutely fantastic episode of the series, and without a doubt the most accessible for non-horror fans. Instead of taking a very serious look at the genre, 'Deer Woman' greets us with some dark and surreal humour in what has to be described as a 'horror comedy'. It's very well acted, it's humorous, and involving. One of the best episodes in the series. 4.5/5

Homecoming - Dir. Joe Dante
Just weeks away from the presidential election, and the USA finds itself being inundated with soldiers who are rising from the dead...soldiers who want their votes to be counted, which puts the Republican administration into a frenzy, desperately trying to find a positive spin on the situation, fearing that these once dead men will having nothing good to say about the way they're running their country. Whilst nothing special, it's a reasonably entertaining satire that had some very relevant points to make at the time of its release. The acting is reliable and quite enjoyable and the story holds together quite nicely. 3/5

All the films are presenting a fairly-rigid cardboard sleeve, the inside being a gatefold affair, with the reverse of each pane carrying a description of the relevant episode. In the set is also a small booklet covering some of the basic information pertaining to the series. The visual quality for each episode holds up well to scrutiny, all of them being in widescreen, and the audio is solid, if not stunning, for each. The special features are abundant, if sometimes a little dry, though the effort involved is certainly admirable. All-in-all, well presented and good value for money, showcasing what I believe to be some of the best episodes in the entire series. Definitely a must for horror fans, but possibly of interest to more casual viewers as well.

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