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The Mammoth Book of Monsters (Mammoth Books)
The Mammoth Book of Monsters (Mammoth Books)
by Stephen Jones
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Decent Collection of Stories, 25 Jan. 2008
"The Mammoth Book of Monsters" is a satisfying collection of monsterrific tales of various types. Not every one is a hit, but if you buy this book you will undoubtedly find a few that tickle your fancy. I may as well tell you what my favourites - and least favourites - were.

I particularly enjoyed three stories, which also happened to be some of the longer ones in the collection. The first is THE HILL by Tanith Lee. The language this story is written in is bizarrely old-fashioned given it isn't THAT old, but it is genuinely disquieting and original. The second story I liked was THE FLABBY MEN by Basil Copper. This is a slightly sci-fi story about parasitic blob monsters on a government research island. And the third story, which was probably the best in the collection, was Clive Barker's RAWHEAD REX. Rawhead is an original monster, and this story devotes a good deal of time to his point of view, which was interesting, and it reads quite like a mini-novel, so complete is the story Barker concocts. This story is what this collection is all about.

Other stories which intrigued and entertained me, but not so much as those listed above, were DOWN THERE by Ramsey Campbell (takes a while to get going, but suitably horrific by the end), THE HORROR FROM THE MOUND by Robert E. Howard (a vampire tale from the 1930s which reads surprisingly modern today), THE THIN PEOPLE by Brian Lumley (a weird, largely goreless and non-violent tale, but fun nevertheless), OUR LADY OF THE SAUROPODS by Robert Silverberg (bio-engineered dinosaurs...inspiration for "Jurassic Park", perhaps?)and SOMEONE ELSE'S PROBLEM by Michael Marshall Smith (in which a man sees - or thinks he sees - monkey-like monsters on a train; has a bit of the feel of the classic Twilight Zone episode starring William Shatner on the plane to it). All of these contain fun takes on monsters, although only the first two could be truly said to be horror stories.

As for ones to avoid: don't bother with VISITATION by David J. Schow. It has a reasonable premise - that of a certain hotel which acts as an inter-dimensional gateway for various nasty creatures - but it overwhelms the plot with tons of spiritualist mumbo-jumbo that turned me right off. Also steer clear of Scott Edelman's THE MAN HE HAD BEEN BEFORE; it markets itself as an apocalyptic zombie story, but is really just a story about a kid with a mean daddy. I'm not averse to having character drama and human monsters in stories, but in this case the zombies might as well not have been there, rendering it largely pointless in this collection.

Any other stories that I have not mentioned here (there are eleven others) are ones that simply made no impression on me at all. You may enjoy them; you may not, but I think my above lists of the ones that I enjoyed are sufficient to allow you to decide whether this collection is your cup of tea or not.


Ghoul
Ghoul
by Brian Keene
Edition: Mass Market Paperback

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Childhood Nightmares Come To Life, 23 Jan. 2008
This review is from: Ghoul (Mass Market Paperback)
After the recent apocalyptic horror novels I've read by Brian Keene, "Ghoul" was a nice change (although if you've read his other books you won't fail to notice the way this one ties in with them). This book is much smaller in scope, and is about much more personal horrors. And the ghoul of the title is only part of it. This book is perhaps more about the perils of childhood and the value of friendship than it is about the ghoul. On most occasions, the book would get a really low rating from me just for that. I do not get excited by characterisation; if I buy a horror book I want more monsters and less "human drama". But I actually bought right into the characterisation in this one.

Ghoul's most impressive achievement is that it genuinely made me feel like I was a kid in my early teens again. I sympathised with the kids in the story, and shared their horror and pain, because I felt like I was one of them. Ghoul achieves the same effect as Stephen King's "It", in bringing that realistic, gritty sense of nostalgia to the reader, but does so in only 300-odd pages, while King took over 1000. This is a testament to Keene's talent as an author. He has become one of my favourite horror writers.

Overall, this is a great childhood, "Stand By Me"-esque novel, and a good horror novel. It kept me turning pages because Keene was able to make me suspend my disbelief and believe that I knew these kids. I believed them when they said they were afraid, or upset, or angry, and shared those emotions with them. I hated Barry's dad just as much as they did. I felt devastated along with Timmy when his dad tore up his comic book collection.

And, just for a while, I believed in monsters.


The Conqueror Worms
The Conqueror Worms
by Brian Keene
Edition: Mass Market Paperback

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Erratic but enjoyable, 20 Jan. 2008
Having loved "The Rising" and "City of the Dead", I had high hopes for Brian Keene's next apocalyptic thriller, "The Conqueror Worms". Alas, it never matched up to those other two books, and showed more flaws, but it's fun in its way.

My main problem was that this book simply failed to grip me as well as Keene's zombie novels did. The book is divided into three sections. The first takes a while to really hit anything like top gear, but once it does the novel suddenly cuts away to its second section, which is a flashback devoted to the stories of some characters who were introduced at the end of the first part. I never really got into or cared about this section, at least until the last chapter, and so this whole section of the book really sailed by without exciting me at all. The third section, after we cut back to the present day and situation, was very good, though.

There were also a couple of plot strands which seemed pointless and were never resolved, such as a white fungus that supposedly eats you alive, but we never see this happening and there never seems to be a point to it. All in all, it felt like Keene could have done more with this story than he ultimately did.

Even so, this book is at times entertaining in its campy, B-movie sort of way. But the book also shows how hard Keene will have to work to match or exceed the breathtaking apocalyptic vision of The Rising and City of the Dead.


City of the Dead
City of the Dead
by Brian Keene
Edition: Mass Market Paperback

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Incredible, 7 Jan. 2008
"City of the Dead" follows directly from the excellent "The Rising" - and it exceeds its predecessor.

This book is incredible. It is undoubtedly the best apocalyptic novel I have ever read...yes, it easily beats Stephen King's over-rated "The Stand". The action is non-stop, the suspense never lets up, and among it all the religious themes from the first book are carried right the way through to the end and the character development is top notch. I can hardly think of anything that was wrong with it, and that's not something I say often. Perhaps the only thing was that there was a sub-story of necrophilia in the book which seemed like it was only there for the shock factor, and wasn't necessary.

But this is a rollicking read. Although I must warn those who always desire happy endings: don't expect one.

I felt like it was the end of the world as I was reading City of the Dead. I was drawn into the story; I liked the characters and wanted them to survive. I cheered and groaned in anguish in equal measure. By the time I turned the last page, I was emotionally exhausted by what I had read, and by what had transpired before my eyes.

In case you couldn't tell, I loved this book, and I would recommend it to anyone who likes epic, apocalyptic fiction. If you're worried that you might not like it because it has zombies, don't be: this is not your typical zombie novel.


The Bourne Ultimatum [DVD] [2007]
The Bourne Ultimatum [DVD] [2007]
Dvd ~ Matt Damon
Offered by A ENTERTAINMENT
Price: £1.32

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Edge-of-your-seat stuff, 6 Jan. 2008
"The Bourne Ultimatum" is a fitting end to the Bourne trilogy, and wraps everything up with aplomb. From beginning to end, it buzzes and crackles with excitement and suspense, right the way to the final dramatic moments, where the last pieces of the puzzle are revealed. Paul Greengrass' steady-cam direction and knack for exciting, gritty action scenes stand out here.

Those who enjoy intense spy thrillers should not miss it, or its predecessors (begin with "The Bourne Identity", though).


The Rising
The Rising
by Brian Keene
Edition: Mass Market Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Zombies with rocket launchers!, 5 Jan. 2008
This review is from: The Rising (Mass Market Paperback)
Buying "The Rising" was quite an impulsive purchase for me, and I'm really glad now that I went through with it.

This is an awesome apocalyptic horror novel. The action and suspense come thick and fast, the characters are mostly easy to connect with, and the story is good. Keene shows some originality in his depiction of the zombies: these are not shambling, stupid things. Oh no, they are intelligent and can do everything they could in life, including driving cars and wielding weapons. They are human corpses reanimated and possessed by demons from another dimension, set free after a scientific experiment goes disastrously wrong. How awesome!

I was quite impressed by the religious themes running through the book. It also came to an excellent climax - kind of a mini urban war between living humans and zombies toting rocket launchers and grenades. And at last, it ends on a classic cliffhanger that quite literally leaves you gasping for more in the form of the sequel, "City of the Dead". I can't wait to start that one.


Breeding Ground
Breeding Ground
by Sarah Pinborough
Edition: Mass Market Paperback

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining but incomplete..., 3 Jan. 2008
"Breeding Ground" is a reasonable apocalyptic horror novel, but when I finished it I was left feeling like I hadn't read it all.

The source of the mysterious spider-monster infestation is never explained. This in itself may not necessarily be a problem - it brings to mind Stephen King's apocalyptic zombie novel "Cell": in that book, the exact source or purpose of the Pulse was never explained, and the ending was left open, but throughout the book the characters speculated on what THEY thought was happening, and it was plausible enough that you could accept that it was all what was REALLY happening. The result was that there was enough ambiguity to keep you thinking after you finished the book, but at the same time it gave you enough to work with to allow you the CHANCE to do that thinking. At the end of Breeding Ground, however, we know basically no more than we did at the beginning, and this makes the whole thing seem a little like a waste, especially as there is no resolution to the story, either. And when the characters do speculate on what might be causing all these horrible events, they come up with some really stupid - nay, ridiculous - ideas that I really hope we aren't supposed to take seriously as plausible theories. GM foods? Come on. There were also a few other inconsistencies and unanswered questions that bothered me.

But despite all that, this is still an enjoyable, easy to read book that should keep you entertained for a while. The spider monsters don't actually appear as much as you'd think, but when they do they are frightening, and the scenes where our heroes battle them are intense. The human drama also worked well, which surprised me as usually I would want to cut past all that and get to the monsters, but actually the struggles of the characters are quite engaging in this one.

Overall, other books like King's "Cell" are better than this, but it's still a reasonably fun read.


The Blood Knight (Kingdoms of Thorn & Bone)
The Blood Knight (Kingdoms of Thorn & Bone)
by Greg Keyes
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good but anti-climactic..., 10 Dec. 2007
"The Blood Knight" is the best book to date of what is a good - but not great - fantasy series. There are a few revelations to move the plot in new directions, and there is LOTS and LOTS of action to keep it all moving at a fast pace.

Pretty much all of the parallel plotlines are interesting, and Keyes intertwines them excellently, finishing each chapter with a mini-cliffhanger that leaves you wanting more, reading several more chapters just so you can get back to where your favourite character left off. My main complaint character/story-wise is that I'm still not buying the strand about Leoff the composer - to me it just doesn't seem necessary or exciting. No doubt it will tie in well with the overall story in the fourth and final book, "The Born Queen", but I haven't been won over by it thus far.

I also have to say that I am becoming increasingly annoyed by the Briar King, who seems more and more to be becoming entirely pointless in the overall scheme of things. In the first book he was a harbinger of doom for the world; ever since then he has just faded to obscurity and beyond, and at this stage I don't have much hope that he has a purpose at all. One would think that a writer of Keyes' stature could pull something out of the bag with it, but I am skeptical, to say the least, about where he is planning to go with the Briar King.

The book is also slightly windy, and comes to a bit of an anti-climactic conclusion. The promised final battle isn't really a battle but a series of semi-exciting skirmishes, and Keyes conveniently rushes its conclusion by having one of the protagonists knocked out during the fighting, waking up after it's all over and having the outcome reported to him. I found this to be a cop-out. For the amount of time the plot of the re-capture of Eslen was given in the book, it really didn't pay off for me.

But despite all the flaws laid out above, I still think this is the best book in "The Kingdoms of Thorn and Bone" so far, largely because of the developments in the story which are revealed in it, particularly towards the end, with at least one quite surprising revelation coming to the fore.

Now comes the long wait for The Born Queen to be released.


Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End (Two-Disc Special Edition) [DVD] [2007]
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End (Two-Disc Special Edition) [DVD] [2007]
Dvd ~ Johnny Depp
Offered by A ENTERTAINMENT
Price: £3.24

2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Cracking End To The Trilogy, 7 Dec. 2007
The original Pirates of the Caribbean was incredibly good fun. Its sequel, "Dead Man's Chest", was a bit of a let-down, with a pointless first hour and forced humour and plotlines that were a pale imitation of its predecessor.

But I'm glad to say that "At World's End" is a good return to form. We're back to the good old fun of the first film here. Sure, the main villain, Lord Cuttler-Beckett, may be a bit wooden, but the action and excitement are still sufficient, particularly the spectacular final battle which features all the main players, good and bad, of the series to this point. The humour is genuinely funny this time and not forced and cliched as it was in DMC, and the film comes to a surprisingly unconventional ending in which the good guys are victorious, but not everything is warm and fuzzy and happy.

Overall, a great conclusion to the trilogy, and makes up for the rather wasteful and below-par second installment. If you are a "Pirates" fan, you should - and will - buy this.


The Charnel Prince (Kingdoms of Thorn & Bone)
The Charnel Prince (Kingdoms of Thorn & Bone)
by Greg Keyes
Edition: Paperback

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Another entertaining chapter in the saga..., 6 Dec. 2007
I enjoyed "The Briar King", even if I did not love it, and it's pretty much the same story with the follow-up in the four-book "Kingdoms of Thorn and Bone" series, "The Charnel Prince". I think I actually enjoyed this book a little more than the first one, but not enough to significantly raise the star rating.

Why did I enjoy it more? I think it partly has to do with the introduction of more fantasy elements than were present in the first book. Magic is a little more prominent, as are the exotic beasties and monsters. I dug the various chases and fights more than in the first book, too.

One of my complaints was that a new character who is introduced, the composer Leoff, never really clicked for me and I was never particularly interested in his story. Also, I am now wondering what the point of the Briar King is, based on what was revealed about him in this book. He's still around, but I am hoping that he has a relevance beyond what we have seen so far, and that this relevance will be discovered in the next book, "The Blood Knight". As it is, he doesn't seem worth having a whole book named after him, and the world-shattering significance that he held in the first book is not in evidence here.

But this is an enjoyable book, and maybe even a little better than the first one. Despite the fact that I hardly think this series is awesome, I have read enough to recommend it to fantasy fans. Incredible or not, you should find it worth your time.


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