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Evo15 Solar Pir Utility Light
Evo15 Solar Pir Utility Light
Price: 17.57

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars water gets in, they go haywire and pack up, 9 April 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Bought two of these last november after reading favourable reviews.Sheer waste of time,water gets in,they go haywire and pack up. mine are now in the bin.they may be ok if you lived in a rain free climate but not the uk.avoid like the plague!


Nameless, The
Nameless, The
by Ramsey Campbell
Edition: Paperback

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Seriously marred by a disappointing ending, 28 Sep 2010
This review is from: Nameless, The (Paperback)
It's a shame that Ramsey Campbell isn't as widely read as many of his peers - he is one of the most literate horror authors living or dead; his powerful scares are framed in a hypnotically paranoid prose which impregnates everything with menace and threat. The Nameless, a relatively early novel shows just how much potential Campbell has in the genre with its occasional flashes of genius - overall, however it isn't entirely satisfying.

Barbara Waugh's infant daughter Angela went missing nine years ago and was presumed dead when a mutilated corpse dressed in her clothes was found near her house. Nine years on, Barbara has gotten over her death and is a successful literary agent; however one day she receives a telephone call from a little girl who seems to be Angela. Initially, suspecting a sick hoax, Barbara tries to put it out of her mind; but as the calls persist she begins to suspect they may be more than a twisted joke. She's eventually sent on a nightmarish chase in search of Angela, and before long realises that a strange cult, obsessed with torture and sadism, may have Angela in their custody.

This pretty short novel is drenched in that classic Campbellian condition, Paranoia; it's written with such intensity, with such a morbid fixation on anything which makes the characters uncomfortable and suspicious, that the reader is constantly on-edge. Every sense is assaulted by the rough, noisy and utterly cheerless world of The Nameless, where it seems everything is dangerous and laden with corruption. There's barely a paragraph of tranquillity among the pages of disorientating prose - for people who normally feast on garbage horror fiction, they may be surprised by how capable Campbell's prose is.

I guess the horror of the novel will be more painfully relevant if you have children; the loss of a child and the almost unimaginable tangle of intense anxiety, desperation and restlessness must be unbearable if you suspected your terrified child was in the company of a cult who get up to terrible acts of sadistic murder. Campbell handles the psychology of Barbara well, and her tortured emotions were very believable. But of course a more traditional type of horror is also offered here; there are two very frightening episodes in the book where a character plunders an abode of the cult - their claustrophobic and shabby interiors are rendered superbly, and the fate of one of the plunderers after gaining a cellar chilled me to my core on a sunny afternoon. Another episode in the midst of a motorway concrete jungle was rich in dark imagery and filled with subtle nods to possible supernatural entities lurking here and there. Oh yes, when Campbell decides to let the horror run freely, his writing packs one hell of a punch.

But that's where a few problems in the book are made apparent. These powerful and disturbing interludes of horror just don't appear frequently enough in the novel. Much of the book reads a bit like a detective novel, with Barbara chasing down leads and tracking down people who may be able to offer valuable information; and even though these portions are suffused with creepy little motifs, episodes of full blown horror occurred just a little too infrequently for my liking. Another mistake was the unconvincing cobweb thing which dispatched a character near the start - one of the few instances where Campbell unintentionally makes his reader laugh.

However, the most galling thing about The Nameless is its utterly shoddy ending. The 20 or so pages up to the very end of the novel were some of the most frightening and compelling passages of horror fiction I can remember reading; the sense of impending doom mixed with betrayal, cruelty and out-right terror really had me glued to the book. But for some stupid reason Campbell chickened out of giving us the full culmination of evil that he'd spent the entire novel setting up and instead succumbed to a load of deus ex machina nonsense to give the novel a quasi happy ending. I felt the book's final act really was steamrollering along into one of the most fittingly nasty conclusions in horror, but Campbell had different plans, and gave the novel a heartbreakingly weak resolution. I haven't read many books which have been marred so strikingly by the mistake of a bad ending. The last 4 or 5 pages were so crushingly disappointing, they alone take a 4 star novel down to a 3 star one.

The Nameless does, however come recommended for its deft use of language, intriguing plot and a few slices of impeccable horror writing; make no mistake, certain areas of this book are very evocative and scary indeed.


The Stand
The Stand
by Stephen King
Edition: Paperback

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very entertaining, but it ain't no masterpice, laws no., 24 Sep 2010
This review is from: The Stand (Paperback)
Stephen King charts the end of civilisation as we know it in The Stand, his 1978 epic which was expanded in 1990 when the success of the King brand allowed his novel to stray into the 1400+ page territory. It's not typical of his oeuvre in the sense that it's not really a horror novel - it's a mixture of apocalypse and epic dark fantasy, but all the classic King tropes are here and this reviewer found it pretty entertaining.

A superflu is accidentally unleashed upon the world by the US military, and kills way over 90% of the human population - King follows the outbreak from its beginnings, to its end, and beyond. A rag-tag band of characters from all across the US find that they are among the immune, and after they find their local areas chocked with the newly dead, they wonder the country in search of other survivors. Before long, however, through the experience of shared nightmares, they find that their trouble has only just begun.

The novel's style will be familiar to anybody who's read any of King's previous or subsequent fiction. His prose is workmanlike, conversational and very readable, if occasionally bland. For a book of such colossal length, there were surprisingly few truly striking turns of phrase; seldom was I left reeling from an electrifying metaphor, for example; but then King has never been noted for his language.
As with all King novels, the characters are the chief concern here and he spends reams and reams of paper mapping their back-stories and writing `stuff' about them, and in most cases this makes compelling reading. Not all of the characters are particularly memorable or distinctive; Stu Redman is just a functional good guy, an ordinary person with no real idiosyncratic qualities. Larry Underwood is slightly more interesting - he is essentially a decent man, but struggles to contain flashes of petulance and infantilism. Glen Bateman, an aging sociology professor lends some interesting dialogue when theorising the re-construction of society, and the nature of book's supernatural strand. Others include a kind-hearted retard, and a thoughtful deaf-mute. One complete failure is the character of Ralph, who is almost entirely forgettable and is given only the bare bones of a personality. And I couldn't warm to the story's heroine, Fran. The seeds of this coolness were laid near the beginning of the novel, when she treats her boyfriend with contempt in relation to her unborn baby; worse, King seems to be firmly on her side. Furthermore, as the novel progresses, she does little more than whinge, and sit around being uninteresting. Quite what qualified her to sit on the Free Zone's committee is beyond me, as was Stu Redman's infatuation with her. Perhaps she had a good body.

The biggest success story of The Stand is the character of Harold Lauder, an obese and ill-groomed misfit teenager. He's resourceful and intelligent, but has a nasty, arrogant and jealous streak; his descent into all-consuming rage and envy is one of the most riveting story arcs in all of Stephen King's novels and I found myself scanning ahead to see if Harold featured in the next chapter - I really do struggle to recall a more fascinating King character. Another winner is the mysterious Nadine Cross, and there are a few lovely passages concerning her struggle between taking the path of good or evil; even so, I thought King never exploited all the potential this character had. The Trashcan Man is one of King's weirdest creations, and his journey from Indiana to Las Vegas with `The Kid' was a wonderful chapter.

As most readers know, this isn't a typical apocalypse novel, in that King introduces strong religious and supernatural elements. These weren't at all bad, but were explored in only a elementary level of depth and sophistication; this is a pop novel, so I guess any deep musings on these issues would've been misplaced, but I did leave the book with a curious feeling that a lot this stuff was skimmed over and wasn't developed and explained too thoroughly. The evil Randal Flagg was a curious villain; apparently an imp of Satan, he can kill you by just looking at you; but by the end of the novel his powers are on the wane and we're given no satisfactory explanations as to why. Similarly, we're never told why Flagg was so keen to have a son, and what his purpose would have been; King also doesn't bother to give an explanation for the whole Joe (or Leo Rockway) character - why did he have murderous urges? Why did he change? We're never told. For a book of such magnificent length, it's actually quite galling that you feel many strands are left loose and some concepts left half-baked.

But despite these gripes, Stephen King has written a novel which is just immensely readable and entertaining. Nobody else quite writes novels like this man; I was never bored throughout the entire 1421 pages and that says a lot. It's not the best of his novels - I remember being more impressed with IT, Misery, 'Salem's Lot and The Shining, but if you fancy the idea of reading an epic in dark fantasy with one of his most memorable characters, The Stand is recommended.


The Grin of the Dark
The Grin of the Dark
by Ramsey Campbell
Edition: Paperback
Price: 7.06

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One for the fans of REAL horror fiction., 20 Feb 2009
This review is from: The Grin of the Dark (Paperback)
If Ramsey Campbell's commercial success was as enthusiastic as his critical following, he'd probably equal (if not outstrip) Stephen King as a best-selling powerhouse, feverishly shifting paperbacks by the cubic yard. In my edition of 'The Grin of the Dark', there are 46 glowing comments from various distinguished commentators, singing Campbell's praises and it's a tremendous shame that his books don't line the shelves of book shops in every town up and down the country. However, from the curiously negative response of Amazon reviewers, it seems his latest offering doesn't quite push the right buttons to ensure it'll become a popular success. Perhaps The 'Grin of the Dark' appeals only to those particularly in tune with weird fiction, because I though it was fantastic.

Simon Lester is commissioned to write a study in forgotten actors by an old University lecturer; one such actor is Tubby Thackeray, a comedian who's career has been neglected by the history books; when the snatches of information he's able to gleam from the internet leads him to see some of Tubby's old films he begins to understand why. They're disturbing rather than funny, weird rather than humorous. As his research leads him deeper into Thackeray's world, the clownish imagery which inhabits the flickering old films refuses to stay there and seeps into Lester's world with ever increasing creepiness.

Reading this book, I did get the sense that only people who are really interested in horror fiction would enjoy it. Although there's a considerable amount of `human' drama here, for example Simon's estranged relationship with his in-laws, with his girlfriend and his stepson, these dimensions are the least appealing of the book. They're not terribly compelling and actually disrupt the flow of the novel in places; Simon too is a pretty forgettable character. But none of this matters because they only serve as a frame onto which Campbell can hang his weird imagery; Campbell is careful not to let his novel become a soap opera but establishes these relationships in order to paint Lester as this ordinary guy who gets wrapped up in disturbingly wacky circumstances beyond his ability to understand. The very fact that the book's a present-tense first-person narrative invites the reader to step into Lester's shoes almost as if he's experiencing the horror first-hand - therefore Campbell doesn't need to create some masterpiece of characterisation in Lester because, to an extent, we're inhabiting Lester; what we're concerned with is the here and now, and sucking in the plethora of disturbing occurrences Campbell describes for us. As a weird fiction enthusiast, I'm not so interested in soap-opera esq. dramatics, but the actual horror Campbell has to offer. Perhaps this explains the bad Amazon reviews.

Campbell's scares are not blunt; gore is entirely absent and characters aren't picked off every other chapter in some gruesome way. Instead Campbell crafts a persistent atmosphere of unease and a fear of what lies beyond the next corner or shadow; for example, Lester's family or strangers in the street might suddenly look as if they're grinning too broadly and clownishly; somebody might drop in a phrase or word in a conversation which seems oddly threatening, or maybe a faint giggling might be heard on the other side of a doorway just when some irritating inconvenience has beset Lester - small moments of terror such as these are weaved skilfully into the text throughout the book. S.T. Joshi has suggested that paranoia plays a significant role in much of Campbell's fiction, and I can certainly see why after reading this; there's a sense that Lester is being persecuted by almost everyone he meets, and that he's contending with an evil which he can only vaguely understand and deal with. As the books goes on, the terror becomes more intense, however I thought a relatively early chapter, `It Stirs', was arguably the book's finest hour. The writing here is absolutely superb and thoroughly disturbing; I don't want to give anything away, but it's one of the most masterly sequences I've ever read in horror fiction. Campbell's use of suggestion, disturbing imagery and the odd brilliantly evocative turn-of-phrase here is striking and very frightening, and similar examples are found throughout the rest of the book.

For myself, there's little to criticise here; I think the image of the clown's grin slapped on some ordinary person's face, especially on Lester's stepson Mark, is a little overused and becomes almost monotonous after a while. The book may be a little slow to get started, and there's something to be said for the argument that perhaps that parts of the book are unnecessary, thus making the book a tad overlong. The characterisation, as I've said, is thin, and there's little weight behind the `domestic' elements of the novel, but this didn't deter my interest at all; it's clear from where I stand that Campbell had other things on his agenda - namely, horror. So, as an exercise in pure modern weird fiction, this book performs very well indeed; if you're tired of crude gore-fests filled with cheap scares and slapstick violence and are looking for a disturbing and subtle book that will haunt you after you've closed it, 'The Grin of the Dark' may just impress you as much as it impressed me.


The Centaur
The Centaur
by Algernon Blackwood
Edition: Paperback

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An important novel of beauty that has little drama or excitement.., 18 Oct 2008
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This review is from: The Centaur (Paperback)
S.T. Joshi calls this novel the `cornerstone' of the entire Blackwood canon, and this seems to be a fair assessment of this intensely philosophical work; this could easily constitute an instruction manual in Blackwood's world-view (if we assume that he had confidence in what he wrote), and therefore is really required reading for anybody wishing to trace the derivation of many of the naturalistic undercurrents in his work; for example the memorable story `The Man Whom the Trees Loved' is essentially the sentiment expressed in this book in a diluted guise.

However, 'The Centaur' is, in reality, divorced from the genre in which Blackwood's fame is the largest - horror. It is a supernatural novel, and could comfortably be placed within the bounds of what Lovecraft called `weird' literature; but fans of Blackwood's horror tales may not necessarily enjoy this novel, it is immensely unconventional, and unlike anything I've read before - in short, it will only satisfy those of a particular taste, and those who wish to enquire further into Blackwood's thought. It is the very opposite of what one might term a `commercial' novel.

'The Centaur' is a practically plotless book; although a skeleton of a narrative does bind the thing together. Terrence O'Malley is a peculiar type of mystic who yearns for a true affinity with the Earth and loathes all the trappings of modern civilisation with its want of genuine content and happiness through nature, a society which favours the acquirement of endless material superficialities in its stead. He meets a strange, outwardly simple man and his son who seem to hold the key which would relieve O'Malley's insatiable desire for lifestyle intimate with that of the Earth, which he believes to be conscious. A spiritual revelation in the Caucasus Mountains inspires him to convert `blind' humanity to his world-view.

'The Centaur' holds absolutely no dramatic import; it relies on its often beautiful imagery and the prose-poetry in which it is written to ignite the reader's interest, and admittedly, it does for a good deal of the book. However, this book certainly was challenging; not intellectually, but actually forcing to oneself to get through a few more chapters of the novel - the complete lack of suspense or any sense of anticipation of some exciting revelation means many parts of the book come very close to plain tediousness. There's also a constant feeling that Blackwood is simply repeating himself in his long philosophical discussions, covering the same ground in a similar mass nebulous language; these tend to dominate the entire work. I would estimate that as much as a third of the book, if not more, could comfortably have been dispensed with, without loosing much of the novel's spirit; it does at times feel like a self-indulgency on Blackwood's part.

Having said that, the novel is successful in many areas, the often gorgeous language and poetry Blackwood is capable of generating is found in abundance here, often did I forget the absence of a real narrative when lost among some lovely turn of phrase or poetic image. His philosophy, though I did not find it plausible, was at times a joy to read and Blackwood's criticisms of our modern, mechanical society are even more relevant today, almost a century after this book's publication.

There is no doubt in my mind that 'The Centaur' would have benefited from a large reduction in its length, and whilst it certainly has its moments, it is a severely flawed work. Although, if you are of the naturalistic or ecological/spiritual persuasion, its merits will surely become more apparent. As it is, if you are to understand Blackwood thoroughly as an author and as a man, The Centaur is an essential read, and I'm glad I've finished it.

I would have rated it 2.5/5


The Devil's Doctor: Paracelsus and the World of Renaissance Magic and Science
The Devil's Doctor: Paracelsus and the World of Renaissance Magic and Science
by Philip Ball
Edition: Paperback
Price: 8.87

12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars As much a survey of the period as a biography., 31 Aug 2008
The history of scientific thought has always been a subject which has enamoured me. The story of how mankind, the most psychologically sophisticated organism to have multiplied under the Sun, reared himself from dark millennia of ignorance, to fashion, in the last two centuries or so, a scientific theory which can explain some of the most eminently complex natural phenomena which encompass him and reside within him, is a fascinating one. And the age which just preludes his expanding comprehension of the universe, the Renaissance, is arguably the most fascinating epoch of this long quest for knowledge; it is a period of transition, when people, like the subject of this biography, began to shun the dogma of long-dead Greek philosophers, and placed increasing value on the methods of empiricism, which, of course, anticipated modern, experimental scientific technique. However, despite this emerging progressiveness, philosophic and scholastic conservatism stubbornly resisted a revision of its outdated teachings. The physician Paracelsus, an opponent to this academic adulation of Galen, Hippocrates and other classical thinkers was a major force of this revolution, and is the subject of Philip Ball's great little biography.

Although seen by many as a reformer, it is important that we do not over-emphasise Paracelsus's achievements, although there were some notable ones. 15th and 16th century Europe was still a heavily superstitious place, where alchemy was a credible pursuit, where magic, demons and witches were still discussed with the utmost seriousness and candour by respected academics. And all these falsehoods coloured almost every facet of Paracelsus's writings and philosophy, from his chemistry (or alchemy), biology, astronomy/astrology, medicine and theology. This is not to say that he was small-minded or foolish, he was simply a product of his time; the reason his name has fallen out of favour, so to speak, is that his contribution to modern science is, in reality, negligible, aside the likes of Copernicus, Vesalius, who really did shape modern theory.

So why study him? Firstly, he was a central figure in that period of science's history, and that he did challenge scholastic orthodoxy, and proposed reforms to medicine, much of which's spirit survives now, even if his own theories were really as erroneous as those he fought. Secondly, he is an immensely interesting character; bombastic, uncouth, arrogant, proud, but also committed, and propelled by a genuine desire to do good; and Ball's biography does a fantastic job of presenting a fair picture of, I suspect, a seriously misunderstood man.

Ball's lucid, penetrating and richly illustrated study is a pleasure to read; although to regard it as a strict biographical study would be misleading. It is the narrative of Paracelsus's life which binds the book in place, but it is as much a study of the Renaissance itself, with lengthy asides on various topics including Luther and the Protestant movement, medicine and disease, humanism, alchemy and many other digressions. These never become tiresome; indeed, they form a pivotal portion of the book, and all are relevant to the case of Paracelsus. There was hardly a dry moment; the abundant quotations which Ball extracts from Paracelsus's explosive tracts act as a fine illustration of Paracelsus's thought and Ball's analysis of these were informed and insightful. A balanced picture of the mystic is offered; Paracelsus, throughout history and up to today has had many antagonists and supporters, and Ball finds a comfortable position between the two camps, he both sympathises and criticises Paracelsus; loathed by the medical orthodoxy of the time, he was forced to travel around Europe after being banished from various towns, although Ball recognises that, to a large extent, this exile was due in large part to his inflammatory attitude and often immense arrogance; Ball's impartiallity is refreshing and strengthens the credibility of the book. The prospect of this book being bettered seems entirely remote; Ball's execution of this study is impressive indeed.

To anybody interested in this time of mysticism and magic, when demonology and astrology was as respectable a study as chemistry, medicine and astronomy; where eccentrics and wizards toured this tumultuous continent with tales of fantasy and folklore; or even a look at medical, chemical and theological history, look no further than this wonderful and entertaining little book.


Carrie
Carrie
by Stephen King
Edition: Paperback

4 of 9 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Mildly entertaining, but of no real worth, 10 Aug 2008
This review is from: Carrie (Paperback)
'Carrie' was the first novel Stephen King published (April 1974), and from this short novel a career of immense commercial success was cultured which has produced some entirely entertaining and `sound' horror novels; ''Salem's Lot', 'The Shining', 'Misery' and 'IT'; some mediocre (yet still rather good) works; such as 'Christine'; and some complete dross; 'The Tommyknockers', 'Cujo' and many others, I'm sure. Where shall 'Carrie' be placed? Probably between the latter two generalisations.

The novel centres around a sixteen-year-old girl, Carrie White, who is the issue of a religious fundamentalist mother with whom she lives with. She is routinely bullied at school by her peers and generally lives a deeply unhappy life; she does, however, posses the gift (?) of telekinesis which enables her to manipulate objects and people around her. The book is short (just over 200 pages) and is told through the third person and some `academic' book extracts, magazine articles and the like in a tepid hint at realism.

A distinguishable King theme can be discerned in this early novel: childhood; but unlike some of his worthier latter attempts in this field, his treatment of it in Carrie is a resounding failure in every department. As hinted at in the synopses above, this book is set in that oft exploited institution; The American High-School. Since I am no historian on such matters, I'm not sure if by the mid-seventies the American High-School had become the enormous and monotonous cliché it is by today, but King's adolescent characters fit every stereotype in that on-going banality of popular culture; the tormented and repressed nerd, the brainless jocks, the attractive yet amoral and loathsome girls; the list is endless, and as a result the characters feel very superficial, shallow and terribly dull. Carrie is not a protagonist capable of any sort of believable pathos, and is an immediately dismissible character. Equally bad are the overdrawn caricatures which are handled with such heavy-handedness - some are so hyperbolically overwrought (i.e. Carrie's mother, the lawyer) that they don't exhibit an ounce of believability.

Another shabby aspect of this novel is its dreadful prose; it is about as `functional' as language can get; there is a poverty of description here which makes the dammed thing such a colourless experience to read. The `academia' sounds laughably artificial and there are some truly awful lines of dialogue which inspire one to cringe one's toes; this is pulp trash in its most cheap, festering and bland state. The thematic material (such as religious fanaticism) is also poorly developed, and the whole idea of telekinesis is explored in absolutely no depth at all.

However, as an exercise in sheer page-flippery, Carrie performs in an acceptable manner; it's trash, but at least it's mildly entertaining, rather like watching cheap television, or squashing ants; beyond that it's a miserable example of horror fiction. Quite what respectable director Brian de Palma saw in this book eludes me; perhaps he enjoyed the pig-blood gimmick near the end, or maybe he's deprived of better horror fiction; in any case, do not delude yourself into believing that that the disproportionate fame this novel has achieved raises it anywhere above the lurid depths of the worst examples of best-sellerdom, it's a book I'm sure Stephen King (and I) would rather forget about.
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The Ceremonies
The Ceremonies
by T.E.D. Klein
Edition: Paperback

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A truly excellent, yet flawed, novel., 9 Aug 2008
This review is from: The Ceremonies (Paperback)
I fondly recall beginning this book, Klein's 'The Ceremonies', a little over a week ago; I was sat on the porch on a fulgurous afternoon as the rain and thunder harmonised above the mountains and in the woods; great clouds swirled above, and their mist shrouded the tops of those aforesaid summits, concealing what secrets?, I pondered. Another thought occurred to me: never was there a more appropriate diurnal reflection of the subject of the book I held, and, within the bounds of weird fiction, there was unlikely to be such a thing again; sadly, the prospect of another Klein novel appearing seem equally unlikely, a lamentable situation, given this novel's excellence.
Klein's accomplishments in this book are indeed considerable; it is an exquisite example of a reflective and tentative study of weird phenomena, inspiring horror with chilling subtleties woven through the languidly-paced narrative. Klein operates by a code of sensitiveness; this is not a novel of cheap scares and break-neck speed, but a brooding, slow story, cumulatively creating an atmosphere of unease.

The briefest of plot synopses: New Yorker Jeremy Freirs, a teacher and scholar decides to spend his summer, as part of his job, reading systematically through the complete historical body of horror fiction in Gilead , a rural backwoods community inhabited by a puritan religious sect, staying with the Poroths, a young farming couple. His newly-met girlfriend, Carol, who intermittently visit's the farm, has met an old man named Rosie, who recruits her as a research assistant on a generous wage; although as the novel progresses, one rapidly questions the man's benevolence, and ponders his curious relationship with Poroth Farm.

This isn't the first novel I've read where religious fundamentalism forms a primary theme; Campbell's 'The Hungry Moon', one of the greatest horror novels I've read, and King's woeful 'Carrie' both deal with the topic, although I must say 'The Ceremonies' presents it refreshingly objectively, and seldom in crude and hackneyed manner; it isn't difficult to poke fun at fundamentalist Christians, and their portrayal as ignorant fools has been a cliché in fiction for decades, but Klein never stoops to such predictability. He presents us with two `specimens' from the community, in the form of Sarr and Deborah Poroth, both of whom, and more especially Sarr (the most interesting character in the book), are very well rounded, their staunch faith does not inevitably make them a laughing-stock; our prejudices, when we learn of their lifestyle, prove ill-conceived one we get to know them - Klein's characterisation in this respect is as memorable as it is mature.
The other characters are presented efficiently; and the book's chief antagonist, Rosie, is an haunting conception; his attempts to conduct the ceremonies through Carol in order to awaken his `master' are presented in such a way that the reader knows his malign intent, but the rest of the protagonists see him merely as an eccentric; it's certainly an effective use of dramatic irony. Dark enigma and snatches of the uncanny enrobe this man, as he goes about whistling some ancient un-melodic death song, plotting the end of man.

Similarly, Poroth Farm and the surrounding woods are beautifully realised; the pastoral setting appeals particularly to my taste, but the mysterious woods and their strange past could hardly fail to induce excitement in any fan of the weird. As the novel progresses and the horror cumulates, one gets the acute impression that something is wrong with Gilead; Klein gorgeously introduces elements of ancient rituals, cults, astrology and elder gods, flavouring the book with folk-lore mythology and occultism. There are some eminently memorable scenes in this book, and among them are the unsettling way in which Rosie persuades Carol to enact some primeval dance to his mellow flute in a shady corner of a wood during twilight - there is something wonderfully elemental about much of this book, and the evil it portends is all the more shocking because of it. The wonders that this book is able to offer are frequently inexpressibly brilliant.

Flaws in this book are few, but it is worth drawing attention two to prominent ones. Firstly, a potentially intriguing character, Sarr Poroth's mother, is underdeveloped and used far too infrequently; she is Rosie's only real opponent, as she possesses the gift of foresight, and sees what may materialise given his success. In a way, I think it would have improved the book to focus to a lesser degree on Rosie's antics (interesting though they are) and give Mrs Poroth more space to develop. By the end of the book, her significance in the novel becomes almost negligible; although it would have been a poorer story had Klein axed her altogether, he really should have made greater use of her.
The other gripe I have is with the ending. This seems to be a recurrent theme in many horror novels I've read; their impoverished conclusions do not fairly represent the rest of the book, and to an extent the same is true here. For the record, I thought the the events leading up to the very end were well written and paced, and the culmination of all these events rendered the final, dreadful act described in the forest unforgettable; it was brilliantly realised and a grotesquely memorable image, surpassing almost everything else I`ve read in its vividness and gristly implication. However, Klein, for reasons which elude me and betray the whole pessimistic tone and inevitability of doom which I felt reading the book `chickens out', and has a meek, unsatisfying, optimistic resolution to this exquisite explosion of cosmic horror. I was immensely disappointed; I was prepared to see a black curtain thrust over mankind, and the reign of benevolent gods replaced by the darkest evil imaginable, and yet, we get a fairly pitiful resolution to the story, topping an utterly marvellous book with a misshapen crown forged from the basest metal conceivable. Although, it must be said that one's attitude to the finale is ultimately a subjective one, and some readers may be pleased with the optimism of the ending, and my warped sentiments may seem foreign to others; however, I must maintain that this book would have been immeasurably enriched with a bleak, apocalyptic ending.

Aside from those complaints, I cannot stress the importance of this book to its genre enough; I would recommend it to all patient and thoughtful readers. It is one of the best horror novels I've read - it is impossible to emerge from this book without brimming with enthusiasm for it, and it places Klein firmly among the greats - Lovecraft, Blackwood, Machen and Campbell - we are all indebted to him. There is an abundance of truly masterly weird imagery in this book, the quality of which is rarely found in other examples of the genre. We must all hope that this is not Klein's final statement in horror in the novel form.


The Ancestor's Tale: A Pilgrimage to the Dawn of Life
The Ancestor's Tale: A Pilgrimage to the Dawn of Life
by Prof Richard Dawkins
Edition: Paperback
Price: 10.00

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A highly recommendable example of popular science, 28 July 2008
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Essentially a history book, albiet one which long out-spans the barely significant spectrum of human history, Richard Dawkins explores our universal family tree, delving in to the past sufficiently deeply to expose what our ancestors must have looked and behaved like; from morphologically-recognisable hominoids, through to animals we would think entirely remote from ourselves, and at last to ancient, uni-cellular beings.
The welcome way in which Dawkins presents this ancestory is by way of a 'pilgrimage'; modern man moves backwards through time, along with every other living organism; and at special epochs in antiquity (from our perspective, at least) we and and another modern pilgrim 'rendezvous' where we share a common ancestor, and at each rendezvous point, the modern pilgrim(s) relates his 'tale', which is usually an essay (of sorts) on some area of evolution, by the author - Dawkins doesn't have the pilgrims themselves telling the stories. It's a quirky and lucid way of presenting the history of life on Earth.

After this lenghty treatment of Evolutionary Biology, Dawkins's recognition as an author capable of writing accessible science is surely intact; my own level of Biological education is still at secondary school level (AS-Level), and I found the majority of the book perfectly comprehendible; he is an emminently articulate writer who makes fairly complex subjects understandable for lay-persons.
Having said that, there are areas of the book which are really rather challenging, and strain the limits of what is classifiable as 'popular' science; I still haven't plucked up the courage to tackle the Gibbon's Tale, and there are similar examples strewn across the 630 pages of this tome; at best Dawkins can be an inspiring, up-lifting and thoroughly entertaining writer who's enthusiasm shimmers in his lovely prose; at worst, the complex nature of some of his Tale's can render his writing rather frustrating and incomprehensible; but, ultimately, the cause of this (as far as I can gather) is deficiency on the part of the reader (incidently, it seems that the most difficult parts of the text are invaribly those co-written by Dawkins' assistent, Yan Wong).

Some reviewers elsewhere have said that this book has been overly politicised by Dawkins; I don't see much reason to support this; there is one tale, The Grasshopper's Tale which is almost exclusively political (it deals with the 'vexed and sensitive topic of race'), but aside from this, political outbursts occur rather infrequently, and I rather think they colour the book positively, even though I don't always agree with Dawkins.
It would be a tall order for a 630-page nonfiction book to consistently sustain the reader's interest, and The Ancestor's Tale doesn't quite succeed; there are areas which feel quite flabby and impoverished of real, memorable import, lenghty descriptions of various animals, and discussions about specifics such as animal classification, whilst necessary, are mind-numbingly boring.

Having read the shorter and far less challenging 'The Selfish Gene', I must conclude that his 1976 publication was a more entertaining read, and, really, a better book; however, The Ancestor's Tale is an immensely readable and commendable work, and has some of the greatest passages of popular science I've read, The Beaver's Tale is a superb example, and one of many. Occasionaly difficult, ultimately rewarding and deeply affecting, The Ancestor's Tale, is a worth while read.


A Gentle Madness: Bibliophiles, Bibliomanes and the Eternal Passion for Books
A Gentle Madness: Bibliophiles, Bibliomanes and the Eternal Passion for Books
by Nicholas A. Basbanes
Edition: Paperback

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An entertaining look at book-collecting., 17 Jun 2008
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That this could have been a subject rendered dryly which would only hold interest to specialists in the field of book-collecting would have been a positively likely scenario. Gladly, Basbanes has written a study which is totally enthralling and the pole opposte from the dreariness one might have expected from such a peculiar subject-matter, even though, ultimately, the book feels at times one of undulating quality.

The book is arranged into two parts, the latter being slightly longer; Part One is concerned with the history of book-collecting from the classical period to the 19th Century, and, to my mind, holds considerably more interest than the over-long Part Two. This section of the book is a wonderfully engaging account of the eccentrics who's passion, the book, and the philosophies, wisdom and wit therein, have built tremendous libraries and have been cultural philanthropists of sorts; the very first Chapter, a summary of sorts of notable past bibliophiles, was an absolute joy.

Part Two is of varying quality; the story of Haven O' More, Stephen Blumberg, and Aaron Lansky are very interesting, but Basbanes sojourns far too long in the modern era, and whilst I would say, 75% of it is perfectly readable, he hoveres dangerously close to simply boring his readers with reams of paper which illustrate fairly similar cases; the entire 'Instant Ivy' chapter, which documents the case of Texas University, was a low point in the book, but it did recover thereafter.

In all, this is a very entertaining book; the only quality assumed on the part of the reader is an interest in books (and not just their contents, but as antique and beautiful objects), and, you should enjoy it tremendously; just be prepared for a narrative of not all too consistent quality and capacity to excite.


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