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B. D. Wilson (UK)

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The Skeleton Key [DVD]
The Skeleton Key [DVD]
Dvd ~ Kate Hudson
Price: £2.56

3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, 21 July 2008
This review is from: The Skeleton Key [DVD] (DVD)
"The Skeleton Key" is an interesting film, and provides something a little different from the standard "haunted house" fare. It's not so much frightening as just intriguing, as we gradually learn more about the house Kate Hudson's character has moved to and its strange denizens. There is a unique role for John Hurt in the film - he says nary a word all throughout it, for reasons which we eventually discover.

The film has a clever twist at the end. I've heard some people claim that it is illogical and doesn't make sense, but it makes sense to me. There are a few elements of the mystery which seem to make more sense at the time we see them than by the end, when everything is revealed. These cases are genuine inconsistencies. But the overall plot makes sense.

In any case, this is by no means a magnificent film. It has some minor problems. But it's certainly clever, well-acted, and worth seeing.

Toll The Hounds: The Malazan Book of the Fallen 8
Toll The Hounds: The Malazan Book of the Fallen 8
by Steven Erikson
Edition: Hardcover

12 of 22 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Going downhill..., 11 July 2008
"Toll the Hounds" is far and away the weakest Malazan book since the first one, "Gardens of the Moon". The previous book, "Reaper's Gale", was good in places but overall a disappointment, and this latest volume of the epic saga is another step down.

A big problem is that it's so damn slow. We are introduced to some boring new characters (and the old ones who used to be interesting are now boring). These characters then do very little but talk for approximately 800 pages before seventeen things happen at once. We are also treated to plenty more of the pretentious inner monologues that have marred the series from the start. Steven Erikson also attempts to go "arty" on us by having each chapter begin and end with a windy monologue from Kruppe, who is narrating the entire story. It doesn't work - it gets tedious real fast. We even get whole scenes written from the point of view of an ox - no, seriously.

I should point out that it's not just because the book is slow that I don't like it. Midnight Tides was slow, too, in the first half, but it picked up after that, and ended up being probably my favourite in the series.

There are one or two major, significant events at the end of Toll the Hounds, but the vast majority of it is arbitrary. Mappo and Karsa, two of my favourite characters, are both in it, but get nothing to do except travel for the whole book, and then when they get where they're going they actually don't do very much anyway. This is more of a paperweight - in more than one sense - than a novel.

Now don't get me wrong. I admire the Malazan series as a whole, and think Erikson should be credited for the immense tale he is spinning (even if there are some signs that it's beginning to spin out of his control). But as a writer he can at times be exceptionally poor, and the books have numerous flaws. I have not been satisfied with the last two books. I hope "Dust of Dreams" and "The Crippled God" will make up for this disappointment, but I'm currently hesitant in being too optimistic.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 9, 2008 10:56 AM BST

Legacy of Islamic Antisemitism: From Sacred Texts to Solemn History
Legacy of Islamic Antisemitism: From Sacred Texts to Solemn History
by Andrew G. Bostom
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £26.99

32 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sombre But Important Reading, 3 Jun. 2008
Andrew Bostom's "The Legacy of Islamic Antisemitism" has been written to refute two common misconceptions:

1) That Islamic antisemitism actually does not exist

2) That if it does exist, it was only borrowed from Christian Europe or the Nazis and is not intrinsic to Islam.

Bostom refutes these myths brilliantly and with incredible research and documentation. This is a huge tome - both in terms of physical size and in its significance for the world. It becomes quite depressing to read - one can only take so much hatred, murder, oppression and expulsion - but it is also VITAL that we read it. In the current climate, knowing about all this is the only way to avert a second Holocaust.

The first section is an introduction of about 140 pages by Bostom which essentially summarises all the evidence for Islamic antisemitism, detailing the anti-Jewish motifs in Islamic sacred texts, particularly the Qur'an, as well as their historical manifestations. The next few sections simply reproduce the full texts from the Qur'an, hadith and sira.

There are then two sections devoted to reprinting primary sources from Muslim scholars and writers of the modern and premodern age - including Muhammad Sayyid Tantawi, the current Muslim equivalent of the Pope - which again can be depressing. You are simply exposed to page after page of unadulterated hatred and wild conspiracy theories in which every bad thing that has ever happened in the world is attributed to the Jews. The Muslim historian Tabari, for instance, was convinced that the entire Sunni-Shiite divide was invented by Jews as part of a grand conspiracy to destroy Islam.

The next section is a series of essays on the modern and historical condition of Jewish populations around the world. Contributors include Bostom himself and Bat Ye'or, the pioneering historian of Islam and dhimmitude.

The final section is a series of historical and primary source documents detailing the plight of Jews from early Islam to today. The very last chapter - Chapter 69! - is perhaps the most important of all: it is simply a collection of quotes from Muslim leaders around the world in which they call for the physical annihilation of not only Israel, but the entire Jewish population of the world.

If such a catastrophe is never to come to pass, all who value freedom and abhor genocide must learn the ugly truth about Islamic antisemitism. Andrew Bostom collects everything we need to know in this one, exhaustive volume. Let us hope that people get the message before it's too late, and take action to prevent the stated aims of Islamic jihadists from becoming a terrible reality.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 23, 2013 11:36 PM BST

Defending the West: A Critique of Edward Said's 'Orientalism'
Defending the West: A Critique of Edward Said's 'Orientalism'
by Ibn Warraq
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £25.00

58 of 89 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent. Essential. Edward Said's Nightmare, 30 April 2008
Ibn Warraq's latest book is an eloquent and impassioned defence of the West against the liberal self-loathing and grievance-mongering of liberals and cultural relativists such as Edward Said. With fact after devastating fact, Warraq debunks Said's thesis that every European is by definition a racist, whose sole interest in the Orient is merely to dominate and colonise it.

Part 1 of the book is largely a reprint of an old essay Warraq wrote refuting Said. It serves as a general overview of the whole book.

Part 2 is where it gets really good. Warraq argues that there are "Three Tutelary Guiding Lights" that define humanity, and he demonstrates with countless examples how the West has embodied these principles more than any other civilisation in history. The three guiding lights are rationalism (learning for its own sake), universalism (acceptance, tolerance and admiration of other cultures and willingness to learn from them), and self-criticism, which leads to positive change within cultures (Warraq points out that it was the West which abolished slavery, for example). All the while, however, the author does not denigrate the Orient and Islamic civilisation, and gives them credit where it's due.

I also enjoyed the section later in the book where Warraq outlines the racist attitudes that are prevalent in the Orient, which Edward Said never mentions and the mainstream media never covers, including the surprising revelation that Mahatma Gandhi was a racist and warmonger in his earlier years. And following that, there's an excellent discussion of the pernicious influence liberalism, political correctness and multi-culturalism have had on Western coverage of Islam and the East, leaving many Westerners unwilling to defend themselves against "the greatest threat the West has faced since the Nazis." All of this is done with brilliant erudition, extensive documentation and fairness of mind.

Part 3 of the book is an examination of how Said's smears against Western artists and their portrayals of the Orient has resulted in the "shelving" of some truly great works of art and literature. In this part, the exposing of Said's intellectual bankruptcy is complete.

All in all, this book is a must-read for anyone who is proud of their cultural heritage and wishes to defend it against both armed and ideological attacks. The originality and scope of this work is unsurpassed. Buy it, and Defend the West before it's too late.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 2, 2016 6:04 PM BST

by Stephen Laws
Edition: Paperback

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Classic British horror format, 29 April 2008
This review is from: Spectre (Paperback)
Stephen Laws' "Spectre" is so reminiscent of another British horror writer - Graham Masterton - that it's...well, spooky. It seems to me that there is a particular style that British horror authors tend to go for: that is, fast-paced plots, down-to-earth characters, and primordial monsters once banished from the world and seeking their way back in order to obtain world domination. Spectre has all of those things, and it does them all as well as Masterton ever did. Laws is a top-class writer of suspense and exciting horror, and I am really surprised that he isn't more popular. All of his books are now out-of-print, which is a shame because I have been unable to get hold of most of them.

I can't say that Laws - or this type of horror in general - is particularly scary, but what it lacks in chills it makes up for in thrills. Although I have to say, there was one quite frightening scene in this book involving a ventriloquist's dummy that brought back some childhood fears for me.

Overall, though, top-notch entertainment if you are a horror or dark fantasy fan. If you can get hold of anything by Laws - probably second-hand - I'd say he's well worth the read.

by Stephen Laws
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great but hard to find..., 28 April 2008
This review is from: Chasm (Paperback)
All of Stephen Laws' books are now out of print, which is a great shame because based on what I've read of him, he's a great British horror writer. This one, "Chasm", is his most recent - which is to say it was published ten years ago. I'm not sure what he's been doing since then, but there you go.

Anyway, Chasm is a cracker of a roller-coaster ride of a book. The story is somewhat apocalyptic and may at first glance seem to be no different to any post-apocalyptic horror you've read before. But Laws deals with it in a really imaginative and original way, and the twists and revelations are aplenty as we learn just what has happened to Edmonville - and what is stalking the survivors. I can't say the book is scary, but it is pretty exciting, intense and intriguing. If you can get hold of Chasm second-hand, I highly recommend it.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 30, 2008 9:01 AM BST

The Legacy of Jihad: Islamic Holy War and the Fate of Non-Muslims
The Legacy of Jihad: Islamic Holy War and the Fate of Non-Muslims
by Andrew G. Bostom
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £27.95

39 of 42 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Vital If You Can Take It..., 13 Mar. 2008
For anyone who is interested in Islam and jihad, this is a book that you absolutely MUST read. I am pretty sure that regardless of how much you know and have studied about Islam, you will learn things and find sources that you never knew about before. Andrew Bostom's opening essay, which takes up the first 80 pages of the book's 700-odd page length, contains enough information to debunk any cry of "Islam is a Religion of Peace", with a comprehensive look at Muslim views of jihad and dhimmitude and a history of Islamic conquest.

Then, as if that wasn't enough, there follows a series of translated writings from various Muslim scholars and jurists on jihad, from all sects: Sunni, Shi'ite and Sufi. Of these, some were easier to read and more interesting than others. The overview of jihad and acceptable wartime behaviour by the Muslim philosopher and jurisprudence expert Averroes is comprehensive, explaining the views of all the Sunni madhabs on various issues. The work of the great Hanbali jurist Ibn Taymiyya is also highly readable, and I can see why jihadists find his clear and concise exegesis of the Qur'an and jihad so appealing. And then, of course, there are two excerpts in the book from Sayyid Qutb, the man seen by many as the greatest Muslim of the 20th century. As a scholar and writer Qutb is unsurpassed, and his reasoning is thorough, as he passes a damning condemnation against those who have tried to recast jihad as only a struggle for "self-defense", rather than to spread Islam around the world. Again, I can understand why he is so highly regarded based upon the fluency of his arguments. Although, obviously, I oppose his entire argument, and jihad in general.

There are also several detailed historical accounts by great historians of the various jihad conquests over the centuries, as well as first-hand eyewitness accounts of several of the conquests by both Muslims and non-Muslims. These latter often make for grim and disturbing reading.

So there you have it: "The Legacy of Jihad" is a must-have for demonstrating the traditional, orthodox and universal nature of the doctrine of violent jihad and Islamic supremacism. There is so much information here - much of it collected from primary sources that have been translated for the first time into English - that it is almost unbelievable. Bostom has done an astonishing job. All those opposed to the global jihad, as well as writers looking for source material and facts to use in their work, should read it.

Dark Hollow
Dark Hollow
by Brian Keene
Edition: Mass Market Paperback

7 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Up to the author's usual standard, 18 Feb. 2008
"Dark Hollow" is Brian Keene's latest novel, and it is up to the usual level of quality I would expect from the man. The story is gripping, the characters are easy to identify with, and Keene does the themes of friends sticking together and sacrifice as well as anyone.

Keene states that he thinks Dark Hollow is is best book to date. Personally, I still feel that "City of the Dead" is his best book, but this is certainly up there with his best. And for those of you who have been following the rest of his work, you will be rewarded by clear references to his over-arching "Labyrinth" mythos: the universe all his novels are set in, and which he plans to develop and bind all his books the way Stephen King used the Dark Tower to connect all his worlds.

The book also comes with a free extract from his next novel, "Ghost Walk", coming in August this year, which by the looks of it is a sequel to Dark Hollow. It's got me really looking forward to that, and Keene also promises that Ghost Walk will be the book where the Labyrinth is unveiled in full.

So overall, a very good horror novel, as I have come to expect from Brian Keene. It's exciting, fast-moving and great fun. It even had a bit of the feel of Graham Masterton to it. If you are a Keene fan (or a Masterton fan, for that matter), don't miss it.

The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror [17] (Mammoth Books)
The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror [17] (Mammoth Books)
by Stephen Jones
Edition: Paperback

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A couple of good stories but suffers from the same problems as its brethren, 11 Feb. 2008
The problem with these "Best New Horror" anthologies is that they pride themselves on the fact that they claim most horror writing these days is little more than hack cliche, and that they provide an alternative to this which demonstrates that horror can be "intelligent" and "literary". And as a consequence, they have pretty much jettisoned all the horror in favour of these things.

I have read a few of these "Mammoth" titles now, and all of them have this problem: in them, you will find maybe five good stories, out of twenty-five. The rest can barely even be categorised as horror.

So these are my views on a few select stories from this edition:

Ramsey Campbell's THE DECORATIONS has a genuinely creepy, unsettling atmosphere, but it is executed in a jumpy, incoherent way which brought it down a notch for me. It would have been much better if it had been told in a cleaner, more in-depth style rather than jumping across time every few paragraphs.

THE CUBIST'S ATTORNEY by Peter Atkins is enjoyable in its way. It has a quirky, surreal feel to it which was fun. But, as I mentioned above, it is not a horror story, plain and simple.

The biggest let-down was THE BALL ROOM by China Mieville, Emma Bircham and Max Schaeffer. It, again, has something of a brooding atmosphere to it, but it never really makes the most of this. It is a horror situation, but it is not a horror STORY, because it doesn't really have a coherent narrative. And of its 12-page length maybe only 2 or 3 pages are actually devoted to the horror element. This one had potential, but didn't live up to it.

Easily the best, and most frightening, story of the anthology is WHERE ANGELS COME IN by Adam L.G. Nevill. Why is it the best? Because it has no pretension to it: it is an out-and-out horror story - what I thought this volume was going to be full of. It is genuinely scary, which is more than can be said for every other story in here.

HAECKEL'S TALE by Clive Barker is a ridiculously sick orgy of horror and sex that is certainly not for the squeamish.

I fail to understand why Brian Lumley is so highly regarded as a horror author. I have not read any of his novels, but I have read three of his short stories and two of them were absolutely terrible. Including this one, THE TAINT, which was so boring that I could not even finish it. Think of that: it was so dull that I could not even bring myself to get through 50 pages. I've only ever abandoned one full novel in my lifetime; I never thought it would happen with a short story, but this one was that bad.

If you actually like horror, and not the "literary horror" these Stephen Jones anthologies advertise, I suggest you buy several of these Mammoth books of horror. If you do that, you will probably end up with enough decent stories over your whole collection to justify the purchase of ONE of them, and so it won't be a complete waste of your money.

The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror 18 (Mammoth Books)
The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror 18 (Mammoth Books)
by Stephen Jones
Edition: Paperback

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Reasonable if you like horror; amazing if you like pretentious drivel..., 31 Jan. 2008
Volume 18 of the annual "Best New Horror" anthologies edited by Stephen Jones was the only volume of the series that I was able to get hold of, which annoyed me as there were others that looked considerably better than this.

Even so, there are a few good stories here. And I do mean A FEW. I counted five stories that I really enjoyed, out of 24. They were:

- DIGGING DEEP by Ramsey Campbell. It's a horror situation, all right, but dealt with in a fun, black comedy sort of way. I particularly liked the twist ending.
- THE NIGHT WATCH by John Gordon. Not a terribly original story, as it plays on the well-worn themes of The Creepy Museum That Used To Be A Dungeon kind of story, but it's well executed and enjoyable all the same.
- SENTINELS by Mark Samuels. A story about the unnatural creatures that live in abandoned Tube stations. One of the straightest, "pure", horror stories in the collection.
- WHAT NATURE ABHORS by Mark Morris. Unlike the previous reviewer, I really enjoyed this story and found it to be the most frightening in the book. I think what makes it scary is the fact that we really don't know why the events it recounts are happening. They just are. This ambiguity and confusion adds to the fear, in my opinion.
- SOB IN THE SILENCE by Gene Wolfe. This is your classic haunted house story. I liked it because of its familiarity and the fact that it is purely a horror story and little else.

Aside from this, one other story may be worth recommending: MAKING CABINETS by Richard Christian Matheson. This is undoubtedly a horror story...but it's only two pages long. You might as well read it, but don't expect it to be a really worthwhile addition to the collection.

Aside from all this, there were a few stories which were good ideas but which were executed poorly, largely through dull, overly verbose writing. Sticking out in this category were HOUSES UNDER THE SEA by Caitlin R. Kiernan and THEY by David Morrell.

And then we have the stinkers, the pretentious drivel from the title of this review. David J. Schow once again takes a good idea and makes it unreadable in OBSEQUY. I had no idea what THROWN by Don Tumasonis was supposed to be about. Kim Newman's THE MAN WHO GOT OFF THE GHOST TRAIN is the author's usual "tongue-in-cheek" nonsense that shouldn't be in a horror anthology. And THE AMERICAN DEAD by Jay Lake and Joel Lane's MINE are simply not horror stories at all. I have no idea what the point of them is.

Overall, like I said, I did find five or six stories that I enjoyed here. I have given this collection three stars for them. But I really wish I'd been able to get hold of some of the earlier collections, particularly volume 17. I think I would have enjoyed them a lot more.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 22, 2008 11:15 PM BST

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