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Deiseach (Waterford, Ireland)

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Sherlock Holmes: Gone in the Fog
Sherlock Holmes: Gone in the Fog
Price: £1.91

5.0 out of 5 stars An entire story from Watson's side, 6 May 2015
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A Sherlock Holmes story without very much of Sherlock Holmes should not, on the face of it, work. But it does, because we get to see Watson and the rest of Holmes' world and friends in more detail than Watson, when recounting one of Holmes' cases, would ever provide. A pastiche that manages to be sympathetic and in tune with the spirit of the original, and that treats Watson with respect as a person in his own right (not merely an appendage of Holmes) is rare enough.

That's not to say the story is without flaws, and if I were giving stars on story quality alone, I'd probably knock one off. Watson at times is rather too much the action hero for the elderly man he now is, one who carries a life-long injury at that. We never really get a thoroughly satisfactory explanation for the goings-on, but we do get most of the loose ends tied. The ending, however, is a little trite and too reminiscent of the typical last scene of a horror movie where just as you thought the monster was dead or the ghost was banished.... really, it could have been dropped or altered without losing anything, and I think the story would have been better for it; it's a cheap effect that is a bit of a let-down rather than an intriguing teaser about "what happens next?"

But I much preferred this story to "The House of Silk" which was a more ambitious production and unfortunately promised more than it delivered. That was a disappointment to me because it was obviously well-intentioned but somehow fell flat in execution (the plot was the problem; a Holmes mystery should leave us puzzled and intrigued up to near the end, not being able to piece together what was going on by the third chapter, and much earlier than Holmes himself).

So yes, I'd recommend this if you want to try something a little different from the run of Holmes pastiches and original stories.


The Mystery of the Dying Woman (The Mysteries of Zillah Harvey Book 1)
The Mystery of the Dying Woman (The Mysteries of Zillah Harvey Book 1)
Price: £0.99

4.0 out of 5 stars A distaff version of Carnacki the Ghost Hunter, 6 May 2015
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Zillah Harvey does seem like she could slot right in as one of the 19th and early 20th century Rivals of Sherlock Holmes (like Hagar the Gypsy Pawnbroker or Lady Molly of Scotland Yard and their ilk amongst the lady detectives) and I mean that as a compliment.

This reads less like a stand-alone story and more as the first chapter of a potential novel. Does definitely leave you wanting more. If Mr Leone decides to develop the character, I would certainly be interested in reading either a short story series or novel(s), and I would certainly recommend such.

I recommend these excerpts only if you want a taster to see if you'd be interested in the character and setting; if you're expecting a full reading experience, I have to say these are not it.


The Mystery of the Carpathian Client (The Mysteries of Zillah Harvey Book 2)
The Mystery of the Carpathian Client (The Mysteries of Zillah Harvey Book 2)
Price: £0.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Snippets of what seems like a proposed novel?, 6 May 2015
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Definitely vignettes, rather than connected stories, here. Something along the lines of a female Carnacki the Ghost Hunter, which is a character I'd love to see expanded and developed. Unfortunately, these excerpts (that is what they feel like) are too bitty to give a good overview of how the character went from the idea of becoming a commercial medium to (what seems to be) an occult investigator with a good reputation in the field.

The Client of the title should be easily identifiable to anyone with even the least knowledge of pop culture, and I appreciated this take on the character. Refreshing to see a contempoary take working with, rather than against, the source material. To me these felt like chapters from a novel or even drafts of a short story series. If Zillah Harvey is fleshed-out into a fully developed character and we get a coherent series of stories or even a novel, I'd have no hesitation in recommending it.


The Architect of Aeons (Count To A Trillion)
The Architect of Aeons (Count To A Trillion)
Price: £17.03

5.0 out of 5 stars Humanity becomes ever more diverse and stranger in response to the challenges of the Galactic Powers, 6 May 2015
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Obligatory disclaimer of bias: I love this series and can hardly wait for each new volume to come out. There really is too much here for me to summarise, and I can only pick out one plum of the entire pudding-full when I say that I love Selene, for one example of something I was not expecting and had no idea was coming.

Menelaus and Ximen continue their rivalry/friendship over the course of a huge span of years, where the long-awaited arrival of the first (it is only the first) of the alien intelligences come to seek payment for Mankind's triggering of the trap at the Diamond Star and the Monument. This takes place off-stage and both The Judge of Ages and The Master of the World arrive in the aftermath. The post-humans of the new world have been defeated with almost insulting ease, and all that can be done is rebuild civilisation yet again to gear up for the next encounter. Huge plans and schemes of ever more intricate and multi-layered planning are put into effect, with as little (or as much) success. Humanity barely scrapes past its evaluation as "possibly of some minor use", and the spur to change is applied ever more sharply. We don't get the vast setpiece battles with the Monument aliens we were expecting; at first this is disconcerting, but as a demonstration of how absurdly easy it is for these gigantic entities to overcome our very best efforts, it works well. Ximen gets a chance to explain himself and we learn more about him and his motives, though these remain opaque to he himself.

The stage is set for the rivalry of Blackie and Meany to continue, and the vast distances in space and time only get ever more staggering as the motives and intentions of all our players – Humans, Post-Humans and alien intelligences – become clearer. What perhaps is the most successful element for me is how the driving compulsion of the Hyades is explained to us, so that even though they are more or less enslaving Humanity, they are not acting out of mere selfish interest but in turn are being driven themselves to make reparation for some mysterious and ancient crime.

What also works very well is how the grandiose schemes of both Menelaus and Ximen do not work out as they have planned and hoped. As always, Rania and her mission are the last hope for Mankind. We, too, wait and hope with Menelaus for her return: in triumph? We can only wait to find out!


The Uncanny
The Uncanny
by Nicholas Royle
Edition: Paperback
Price: £15.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing and unhelpful work on the subject, 23 April 2015
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This review is from: The Uncanny (Paperback)
I have to agree with dog in a flat cap; this book is very poor. Not half as clever as it thinks it is, nothing insightful on the topic. The only service it rendered me was quoting some actual Derrida, and the difference between the visible intellectual activity going on there contrasted with the vapidity of his fanboys (such as the author) was astounding.

One star, therefore, for that demonstration that Derrida was not simply a pretentious tosser whose name was being thrown around to show off. I regret purchasing this book and the waste of money it involved. Cannot recommend it at all. Even Freud's essay, outdated as it is, has more useful content to engage with.


The Book of Feasts & Seasons
The Book of Feasts & Seasons
Price: £3.59

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars SF/Fantasy based around the liturgical calendar, 18 Dec. 2014
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This is a collection of stories written about the feasts of the liturgical year, from January 1st (formerly the Feast of the Holy Name) through to Christmas. If that turns you off because you're not religious, hold on a minute. These are not conventional tales of piety - from a ghost investigating his own murder for the Feast of the Eve of All Saints (or Hallowe'en as it is more widely known), to a time-traveller who takes vengeance by dinosaur, to the real Santa Claus being confronted by a grieving mother, these are fantasy/science fantasy stories interwoven with the Christian roots of the holidays.

Even if religion holds no attractions for you, give these stories the same chance you'd give stories set on fictional SF worlds or fictional Fantasy universe where the natives have their own curious rituals.


Transhuman and Subhuman: Essays on Science Fiction and Awful Truth
Transhuman and Subhuman: Essays on Science Fiction and Awful Truth
Price: £3.59

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Controversial topics, 27 May 2014
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In the original sense of "matters that are of public debate or dispute", not the modern sense of "taboo expressions of unpopular thought".

Though there may be some of the latter, as well.

Not being an American, I have a slightly different political slant to my thought, but these are not essays of politics: whether or not you agree with the conclusions Mr. Wright draws, or even the premises he starts from, these are arguments that follow a developed train of thought and require the same in reply.


Innocent Blood (The Order of the Sanguines series Book 2)
Innocent Blood (The Order of the Sanguines series Book 2)
Price: £4.49

4.0 out of 5 stars I have to admit, I'm hooked, 15 Mar. 2014
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I waxed very merry at the expense of the first volume of this series, and although I stand by my criticisms (I do not like the "As you know Bob" tangling up of pop-Gnosticism with traditional Catholicism), I have to give credit where it is due.

Yes, I read the second one. Yes, I will read the third one when it comes out. Congratulations, Mr Rollins and Ms Cantrell, you've got me. Despite the eye-rolling I do at things like "Women were priests and bishops and it was only the Nasty Old Patriarchy that got into the Church and took away their rights", never mind things like "Lazarus was the first Vampire", and that ordinarily a book with an epigraph from the Gospel of Judas would have me "nopeing" back out at lightspeed, I'm following the story with great interest, even though with the move to an Egyptian setting I knew we'd be seeing something from the pseudepigraphical infancy gospels.

However, in its favour, if I'm going to read a book about vampires and accept that Lazarus was the first vampire (for the plot purposes), then to demur at the rest would be to strain a gnat and swallow a camel. Even though the theology is on the level of the "Left Behind" books, the writing is fluid, the prose style unobjectionable (that may sound like damning with faint praise, but often to get a clearly written, non-clunky line of plain descriptive prose is a rarity in books intended for a mass-market genre audience, so good straightforward honest writing is nothing to turn your nose up at), and unlike the better known Dan Brown, the authors are willing to allow the Catholic Church to be acting in good faith and with good intentions regarding secret orders and their activities in the world, as well as the respectful handling of the doctrine of Transubstantiation (they're a little cavalier with splashing around the Most Precious Blood), but they haven't attempted any misuse of the Host, and they don't engage in any symbolic representation or 'it works if you believe in it' psychological explaining-away; they treat it straight-up and, as a traditional Catholic, I appreciate that greatly.

The characters are also interesting and sympathetic, and the authors have managed the extremely difficult feat of making even Elizabeth Bathory vaguely sympathetic (which, if you are aware of her real-life crimes, is indeed a triumph to pull off: it's like making Jeffrey Dahmer sound relatively not that bad, once you get to know the background to his crimes).

I am also pleased that vampirism is described and treated as a curse, as a plague, as something that will warp you and cause you to lose your humanity which is valuable, and that it will make you a predator on others to their woe, unless you have support, wish to make amends, and engage in penitential suffering.

And I am also pleased that a vampire-human love triangle is not presented as a romantic notion, with the heroine sighing over the tortured brooding vampire in preference to a mortal love. Choosing vampirism is a very bad idea, and "vampires in love" works out badly for all concerned, vampire and human alike.

So in sum, I can recommend this for anyone looking for a vampire novel. Not a vampire romance in the current urban fantasy/paranormal romance style, but a return to the older style of vampire novel where vampirism is as bad as smallpox, not a cool means of staying young, hip and beautiful for eternity. If you take Christianity seriously, then your mileage may vary on how you feel about how the themes are handled; personally, I contented myself with a bit of compensatory eye-rolling and a strong invocation of suspension of disbelief, but if you feel that the name and person of Christ have no place in this kind of book, it may put you off. That's my only caveat.


The Judge of Ages (Count to a Trillion)
The Judge of Ages (Count to a Trillion)
Price: £10.15

5.0 out of 5 stars The next volume in the "Count to a Trillion" series lives up to the standard set by its predecessors, 13 Feb. 2014
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Well, he snookered me.

I'm still only half-way through the Kindle version, and I had to leave a review because I am delighted, confounded, and spent my time reading divided equally between laughing and gong "Wait - that's HOW big?????"

Menelaus Montrose, you are the smartest and the luckiest and the stupidest person on Earth, hands-down. I don't know how you're still alive at this stage, and I certainly wasn't expecting one-quarter of the plot convolutions.

Congratulations, you successfully deceived me as well as the rest of the cast of characters as to your motives and the really true "really true" facts of what was going on.

I can see the family resemblance in the other Montrose descendant introduced.

Dear Sir Guiden, if you were not already a happily true-married man, I would be throwing myself at you.

If you want incredibly, insanely, unimaginably huge artificial objects; variant species and sub-species of humanity; double-, triple- and quadruple-crossing back-stabbing intrigue, and good old glorious space opera combined with hard science realistic (if stretched to the limits of what the boundaries of 'theoretically possible' will permit) physics, then this is the book for you.

If you're looking for a subtle character study, probably not. But you can get those ten for a penny - this is the pure quill, the real thing, what got us all into reading SF back when we were snotty-nosed boys and girls. Huge concepts, the fate of worlds and galaxies, dashing heroes, equally dashing villains, and 'start with a volcano and work your way up to a climax' plotting. If you, as I do, love the Golden Age of SF and cut your teeth on authors like Asimov, Bradbury, Heinlein, Lafferty, Zelazny, Silverberg, Ellison, Moore and the like, then this is the series for you.

I'm eating this up with a spoon. I haven't finished this one yet, as I mentioned, and I can't wait to find out What Happens Next! I certainly will be tuning in for Our Next Instalment whenever the publishers (and the author) get the next volume out.


The House of Silk: The Bestselling Sherlock Holmes Novel (Sherlock Holmes Novel 1)
The House of Silk: The Bestselling Sherlock Holmes Novel (Sherlock Holmes Novel 1)
by Anthony Horowitz
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Must admit I was disappointed in this, 18 Jan. 2014
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Let me say one thing first: the book, as a physical object, is absolutely gorgeous. Paper, font, jacket, ribbon, the works. Really a high-quality production and worth the price of a hardback.

The story, however, is a different matter. It's weak, is the best way I can describe it. If you can't figure out for yourself exactly what is meant by "the House of Silk" and their business within the first three chapters - then congratulations, you are the Sherlock Holmes of this version.

I don't like to criticise this, as it's plain Mr Horowitz is familiar with the characters, admires and respects them, and is doing his best to write a proper pastiche and not a parody. But he falls down on the plot and the astuteness that Holmes must demonstrate if we are to believe it is really Sherlock Holmes.

The weakness of the plot revolves around the 'twist', which falls between two stools: Conan Doyle-era Holmes might be expected to be unaware of this particular traffic, but if you are going to use a 'modern' type of crime (I say 'modern' only because although it undoubtedly went on in Victorian times as well, and the police would have known about it, it's only really in recent times that widespread public knowledge can be assumed), then you have to give your protagonists the same kind of basic criminal knowledge.

Police in that era probably knew all too well about these kinds of establishments, so Holmes must also have that knowledge - so if it is so blatantly obvious, as I said, early on what is going on, then by having Holmes (whatever about Watson) racking his brains as to what is going on makes him less than the incisive, keen reasoner we expect.

I respect Mr Horowitz' attempt, but as a Holmes story, it doesn't come off. Perhaps a basic murder would have been better to start off with, rather than try this particular category of crime.


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