Dead Witch Walking – Kim Harrison (Review)

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It took me a long time to get round to reading Dead Witch Walking. The book gets a lot of praise, but it was first mentioned to me as “urban fantasy about killer tomatoes,” and that description did nothing for me. It sounded like comic fantasy, and the list of authors who can manage to do that well is extremely short.

Dead Witch Walking is not comic fantasy, and killer tomatoes don’t really feature. Instead, a weaponised virus used tomatoes as a carrier, eventually wiping out a significant proportion of the human population. In the aftermath of this tragedy, vampires/witches/et cetera revealed themselves to humanity. The book takes place long after this, in a post-masquerade world where monsters are feared but accepted as part of reality.

Rachel Morgan is tired of dealing with bad assignments and unreasonable orders. For years, she’s been an employee of Inderland Security, tasked with solving supernatural problems – rogue vampires, black magic, that sort of thing. Now she’s ready to strike out on her own.

Life outside the I.S. isn’t easy though. With only a pixie and a vampire as backup, Rachel has to find steady work and stay alive, all the while dealing with demons, drug lords, and an agency that really doesn’t like people breaking their contracts.    Continue reading “Dead Witch Walking – Kim Harrison (Review)”

Beck – Mal Peet & Meg Rosoff (Review)

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Beck is the story of an eponymous mixed-race orphan in an uncaring world. After the death of his mother, Beck is shipped off to Canada, where he deals with abusive priests, abusive farmers, and violent mobsters (plus more) while he searches for a place to belong.

This is a book that desperately wants to have an important message. It’s just not clear what that message is. Every event drips with unused significance. He is neglected and abused as an orphan, but it ends there – any larger point about man’s inhumanity to man or poverty fizzle out as he pushed the memories behind him and wanders on. Instead of an exploration of society or identity or anything else, each plot point is simply another event in a series of them with no real purpose. Continue reading “Beck – Mal Peet & Meg Rosoff (Review)”

Darien – C. F. Iggulden (Review)

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The Empire of Salt has declined and fallen. What is left is Darien – a city ruled through a puppet king by twelve noble families. Magic has faded too, and only the wealthy manage to hoard anything more than trinkets. Plague ravages the countryside, and children steal to survive. Society is old and tired, looking back to an earlier age to avoid thinking about the failures and compromises of the modern day. There’s no pride, justice, or nobility left.

Darien focuses on a cast of characters who want something more. A thief who dreams of a treasure hoard, a girl who dreams of justice. A gang leader with memories of a nobler calling and a general tired of pointless orders. Darien has been in placid decline for centuries, but times are changing. Plans and paths converge, beginning a chain of events that will either destroy the city or redeem it.  Continue reading “Darien – C. F. Iggulden (Review)”

Beneath – Kristi DeMeester (Review)

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There’s a village in rural Appalachia where the people’s faith is strong. They speak in tongues, and handle venomous snakes without fear. If their hearts are pure, they will not be harmed.

Cora Mayburn is a reporter sent to interview the village’s charismatic preacher. Her editor hopes for a juicy story of gullible hicks engaged in bizarre rites, and Cora just wants to finish the job and get back to the city as soon as possible. But she soon discovers that the story is about much more than just credulous zealots. Continue reading “Beneath – Kristi DeMeester (Review)”

The Seer of Possibilities – Thomas O. (Review)

41zIUKyWWdLThe Seer of Possibilities and other Disturbing Tales is a collection of short horror stories. All the stories are independent, although there are some hints that suggest a shared universe for some of them.

A young boy gets his Christmas wish. A surveying expedition to a new world has personnel problems. A young artist is taught how to reach her full potential. Those are some of the ideas inside the collection.  Continue reading “The Seer of Possibilities – Thomas O. (Review)”

Who Goes there ? – John W. Campbell (Review)

51Qyo6lkqhLJohn Carpenter’s The Thing (1982) is one of the greatest horror films ever made. It’s a masterpiece of suspense and tension, demonstrating – point by point – the key ingredients of horror. In addition, the skilled use of practical special effects gives it a visceral kick that you very rarely find in later films. It’s brilliant, and I recommend that everyone watches it at least once.

Until recently, I didn’t know it was based on anything. I knew that there was at least one  story inspired by it – Peter Watt’s The Things – but I didn’t know that the film itself was based on a short story. That story is John W. Campbell’s Who Goes There? Continue reading “Who Goes there ? – John W. Campbell (Review)”

January – Peter Edwards (Review)

317R5rel76LI was clearly confused when I bought this book. I thought it was filled with short horror stories, but the reality is very different.

The stories in January are very short – each one less than a page long, and each page has an illustration in addition to the text. But they aren’t horror. Instead, they’re puns. Each story is a snapshot from the lives of bizarre re-occurring characters, and each one builds to a pun.  Continue reading “January – Peter Edwards (Review)”