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Crabs on the Rampage – Guy N. Smith

CrabsWi'MonkOnThey had come back

One man only saw them and him they killed, hunted him down through the dense reed bed, trapped him, drove him mad with terror before they pulled him to pieces and ate every bloodied shred of his body.

And then it was quiet again for a little while.

Until they came ashore again, in their hundreds, their bodies reeking with a malignant cancerous disease that was within them.  The disease that was driving them mad with pain, mad to kill, t wipe out every living thing in their path.

On that beach were hundreds of men, women and children. Food.

The awkwardness of the blurb both grammatically and in decency is just part of the charm of this series and I have missed getting my fix of those cunning crustaceans that are as big as sheep, cows or horses depending on which book you happen to be face deep in.

My hankering for the resilient sea life started whilst watching Independence Day: Resurgence, which was a terrible sequel.  Adding to that a conversation about a lot of film series having their fourth installments set in space like Critters, Hellraiser and Leprechaun (all of which I enjoyed coincidentally), it was in vain anticipation that I turned to Crabs on the Rampage which I hoped would be (however implausably) set in the infinite black depths.

Being a pulpy horror, it is perhaps not such an outlandish hope but sadly it came to be set in 1980’s Britain where it seems everybody is pretty mean-spirited or downtrodden or wanting sex for the most part.  To this setting, the crabs come to put people out of their misery with gory and somewhat repetitious disembowelling revenge, a lot is repeated from other books of the series but newcomers need not be put off as this installment works well by itself.

The over the top first chapter – which is pretty much the blurb – says it all really and this is the level of profundity you can expect from the rest of the book as well.  If you enjoy character development this is not the book for you, with the huge body count it puts Game of Thrones to shame for wiping people out, although these deaths are all predictable and set up to be so.  Not that returning characters get to develop either, plot is king in this book. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on 26/09/2016 in Horror

 

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Books, Baguettes & Bedbugs – Jeremy Mercer

ExcitementFoodInfestations‘Shakespeare and Company’ in Paris is one of the world’s most famous bookshops. The original store opened in 1921 and became known as the haunt of literary greats, such as Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, George Bernard Shaw, Ezra Pound, Gertrude Stein and James Joyce.

Sadly the shop was forced to close in 1941, but that was not the end of ‘Shakespeare and Company’… In 1951 another bookshop, with a similar free-thinking ethos, opened on the Left Bank and, in 1964, it resurrected the name ‘Shakespeare and Company’ and became the principal meeting place for Beatnik poets, such as Allen Ginsberg and William S. Burroughs, through to Henry Miller and Lawrence Durrell.

Today the tradition continues and writers still find their way to this bizarre establishment, one of them being Jeremy Mercer. With no friends, no job, no money and no prospects, the thrill of escape from his life in Canada soon palls but, by chance, he happens upon the fairytale world of ‘Shakespeare and Co’…

This is my first book review since June 9th, as strange as that sounds so apologies to all if I am a bit rusty at it.

Having just recently come back from being away, it is perhaps somewhat predictable that my thoughts would be on far away (or not in this case) destinations so my first review is of a travel book but in a cunning reversal, it is of a traveller crossing the opposite way over the Atlantic.

Mercer opens the book talking about the type of life he had as a crime reporter and how the job affected him.  By allowing himself to be consumed with his journalistic work, his life choices became somewhat dubious and by choosing to leave that behind, he is able to look at his past mistakes with candour and clarity.

Finding his way to Shakespeare & Company soon enough is one heck of a backdrop for any book, a seeming ideal place for artists to do there work, as legend has it.  It’s a setting that attracts wanderers and the lost and holds plenty of eccentricities down to its primitive toilet and the unconventional owner George, who invites people to stay on a whim.

Drifters and dreamers inhabit the shop, all of whom are characters and few ever seem to get anything creative down on paper.  There is a camaraderie to the communal life, as all are sharing the kindness of strangers and beds in amongst the books.  Life lacks romance for the cash strapped dwellers but that in itself is the allure for the rest of us who aren’t experiencing it.  Looking at the actual day-to-day routine of Mercer’s new friends, it is hard not to feel like they are wasting their time when they have this opportunity to write but the struggle to stave off hunger and bad hygiene is a time-consuming one, as is the need for a bottle of wine or two. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on 22/07/2016 in Life, Travel

 

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Sway’s Demise – Jess Harpley

29739383After making peace with the desolate and stranded alien race, the Priyon, civilization limped on. Humanity occupies but a fraction of the globe at a stagnant abridgement of technology from the Priyon warning: Don’t rebuild, or the darkness that destroyed their world will come to Earth.

Now eight young men and women from a small community will be the only barrier between the enemy of old, and the survival of the human race. Can they persevere, or will it be their demise?

This year, I have mainly been reading serious stuff so its high time I went for something a little less so and Sway’s Demise was an enjoyable, light palate cleanser that flies along and kept me reading a lot longer than I had planned for.  I read this in two sittings, it would have been one but for my obstinate stomach demanding food, for which it was rewarded with a black coffee.

The clean design of the cover sums up perfectly what the book is about, the reader is treated to an action packed adventure with a high body count in a world gone backwards – but still with some future tech – thanks to war with aliens and the ever-present threat and paranoia that that brings.

There are many things I enjoyed about this book, Harpley’s take on sentient robots is refreshing, as is the human interaction which has become more pronounced due to the seismic shifts of the recent past that humanity finds themselves in.  This straddling of the low-tech personal and wider worlds is a welcome mix with one outlook influencing the other.

Information is given out in great dollops in the first part of the story, allowing the reader to fill in the gaps but with enough left to the imagination, that one wants to know precisely what it is all about.  It’s the good grounding of back story that gives the reader the details up front that which is key because the second half of the book is more like an action thriller than the dystopian sci-fi I was half expecting.  The combat – and there is a lot of it – was very reminiscent of Starship Troopers but with a much more complex enemy and an equally ambitious body count. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on 12/05/2016 in Sci Fi

 

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Look Who’s Back – Timur Vermes

NEOHitlerBerlin, Summer 2011. Adolf Hitler wakes up on a patch of open ground, alive and well. Things have changed – no Eva Braun, no Nazi party, no war. Hitler barely recognises his beloved Fatherland, filled with immigrants and run by a woman.

People certainly recognise him, albeit as a flawless impersonator who refuses to break character. The unthinkable, the inevitable happens, and the ranting Hitler goes viral, becomes a YouTube star, gets his own T.V. show, and people begin to listen. But the Führer has another programme with even greater ambition – to set the country he finds a shambles back to rights.

The premise seems fairly amusing and from that alone possibly worth a decent read, although mainly I was wondering if it would be just a novelty exercise and/or fall into the poor taste trap.  Books like this need to have an underlying message, something they wish to achieve and although this book had some interesting points, it was on the whole forgettable.

It will come as a relief to know that the story has no real explanation for Hitler’s predicament which is still better than the one in that stone cold classic film of the time travel genre, Hot Tub Time Machine.  The story does at least move on in a pacy way without this obstacle and soon gets into its stride.

There is the standard amusement in the form of our narrator being constantly perplexed with modern life and seeing the world through his eyes is interesting up to a point, with all the big chain stores, the internet and different nationalities now inhabiting Berlin and so forth.  Sadly the jokes lose their impact and quite quickly become repetitive and predictable.

Vermes does well to avoid any sympathy one may have for Hitler’s loss of wife and his closest allies which is a relief, as there is a danger in humanising the dictator so that he becomes almost a lovable old grandfather type set in his ways, which just happen to be racist and disagreeable to the modern sensibilities.  Luckily all the characters are two-dimensional and although there is occasion when the story does sail close to the wind, it never becomes particularly offensive unless you are one of the new fangled PC crew that get offended by everything, which I am sure you are not. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on 02/03/2016 in Fiction, Humour

 

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The Rats – James Herbert

397867It was only when the bones of the first devoured victims were discovered that the true nature and power of these swarming black creatures with their razor sharp teeth and the taste for human blood began to be realised by a panic-stricken city. For millions of years man and rats had been natural enemies. But now for the first time – suddenly, shockingly, horribly – the balance of power had shifted . . .

For some reason I’m oddly drawn to animal stories when it comes to the horror genre, I reviewed Guy N. Smith’s Crabs (as big as sheep) series elsewhere on the site and now its vicious rats (as big as dogs).

Whereas Smith’s books have a tongue in cheek feel about them, the same cannot be said for this gruesome which takes itself far too seriously and as such fails as, paradoxically for that reason it can’t be taken seriously at all,

The idea of big rats is horrible, malevolent predators fighting back is an instinctual evolutionary fear, bringers of the appallingly devastating Black Death in a different age and now themselves doing the killing. It does play on that fear fairly effectively up to a certain point but the book is not strong enough to sustain any real horror as the genre has moved on and become more sophisticated.

Being Herbert’s debut novel, it can perhaps be forgiven for lacking in quality and depth somewhat, my overall feeling is that it is a fair effort and one that fans of the genre may appreciate but for the casual reader there isn’t much else here to grab you  If you are looking for a quick gore fest and little depth then this one may be right up your rat infested alley though.

Liberally scattered through the book are plenty of examples of outdated sexism and casual racism, which can be overlooked because of the time it was written in but it does jar these days with its outdated views and poorly phrased language.  It doesn’t help that the characters are cardboard so one can’t even find out their world views  as most are frequently created simply in order to be killed off.  It does make the set pieces very predictable but if you have picked this book up, then it will probably be for the rodent based carnage so this really can’t be seen as a minus. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on 09/02/2016 in Horror

 

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23 Sweet FAs – Andy Sloan

51LY55fxBkL._SX327_BO1,204,203,200_A student joke became reality when Andy Sloan embarked with his football table on a footballing odyssey which would see him shaking hands with the Iranian national team and sitting down for the World Cup final with footballing legend Pele.

Having drawn a route on a world map and written to the football associations of the 23 countries through which the line of travel passed, Andy set out with the intention of getting the table onto the pitches of the great stadiums of each country and interacting with the local people through the common currency of football.

Bursting with enthusiasm, football histories and fascinating trivia 23 Sweet FAs proves that cultural differences is no barrier when it comes to the beautiful game.

I know I recently wrote a football/travel book review but I felt the need to add another so quickly as it felt like a breath of fresh air, not only for celebrating the game but also because it has a certain zest for life which is infectious and makes the book highly readable and thoroughly enjoyable.

Right from page one, Sloan’s passion for football shines through, his madcap adventure, which he quantifies as the inherent Britishness of doing something adventurous for absolutely no reason reinforces the idea that through the shared love of the global game, it can transcend not only language differences but also cultural barriers.  Over and over again through the pages there is a sense of togetherness, of a local language and for a global family.  That may sound a little glib but beyond the differences in politics and religion and so forth, all it takes is a simple set of rules and a round ball to encourage togetherness.

The innocence of the idea tp walk into the national HQ’s of football associations and play a game on the table, together with the responses, or lack thereof from the FAs really does underline how distant the sport has become from the fans that support it, especially in Europe, it’s a strange setup, keeping the loyal masses away from a shared love. The table is an attempt to cut through the bureaucracy and seriousness (some may argue that that is professionalism) and bring the sport back to those who just love the entertainment factor in its pure form. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on 13/10/2015 in Sport, Travel

 

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The Miracle of Castel di Sangro – Joe McGinniss

Castel-Maine-XXXXIn the summer of 1996, in a tiny, impoverished town deep in the remote heart of southern Italy, a sporting miracle took place.  The footballers of Castel di Sangro (population: 5000) won promotion to Serie B, the division directly below the most glamorous league in world football.  In little more than a decade, the team had risen from the lowest depths of regional amateur football to within touching distance of Baggio and Batistuta.

Feeling something of a football curio himself – an American who understood and loved the game – Joe Mcginniss followed their fortunes throughout their first remarkable season in the big time.  Populated by characters only the passionate, frenetic, absurd world of sport can produce, The Miracle of Castel di Sangro dramatically reveals football’s limitless potential for magic, wonder and improbable romance.

For those of you not into football don’t leave just yet, for this book is an opportunity to not only learn the basic rules of the game but also to experience the magical side of the game, those rare, special moments when teams move beyond what is expected of them and provide the jaded public with some romance and an underdog to cheer for.

To misuse the sporting cliché, this was a book of two halves, on the one hand the reader will get to follow a small team as they fight to survive in a notoriously competitive league and on the other you have the author’s voice which didn’t take very long to annoy me.

when picking the book up, I was slightly bothered by the line in the blurb that seemingly assured us that although the author was American, he understood the game.  I know this book was written in the year of Major League Soccer’s inaugural season but it seems a little worrying that the publisher has to go to lengths to assure us the author knows what he’s on about, surely the quality of the writing should speak for itself?

Football fans are a passionate breed and McGinniss certainly seems passionate, although his short list of games watched before embarking on the project isn’t impressive, it is pleasant to hear the story about how somebody fell in love with the sport.  Unfortunately as the book progresses he seems to think he has an innate understanding of the game and of the team, even having the temerity to ask the manager why he doesn’t play with a second striker or a certain formation. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on 26/09/2015 in Sport

 

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